Blackjack vs. Poker – Which Game Is Better for You?
Last Updated: February 24, 2022
Blackjack and poker are two super-popular casino games, both very exciting and challenging in their own right.
And, while these two games share a lot of similarities, they have even more differences.
In this article, we’ll do a detailed blackjack vs. poker comparison to help you decide which game is more suitable for your playstyle and personality.
We’ll go over the key parts of each game and discuss the pros and cons of both to ensure you know everything you should when picking between blackjack and poker.
Playing Poker vs. Playing Blackjack
Before we go into the pros, cons, and house edges of these two casino games, we should also address the primary and most apparent difference between poker and blackjack.
While both are card games, poker and blackjack are played in two very different ways.
Comparing poker vs. blackjack, the latter game has relatively straightforward gameplay you can pick up on within minutes.
The main goal of blackjack is to get 21 or as close as you can to it without going over. To win, you also need to get closer to this number than the dealer.
Numbered cards are worth their face value, all face cards are worth ten points, and the ace can be worth either one or eleven points.
Depending on the casino and the specific variants, some rules can differ.
For instance, the number of decks used, the rules for doubling, re-splitting, and the dealer’s position on a “soft 17” can all vary depending on the venue you’re playing at.
Blackjack comes in many variants, some exclusive to certain regions and some that you can only find in online casinos.
In this regard, the most popular blackjack variants include Blackjack Switch, Perfect Pairs, Spanish 21, Blackjack Double Exposure, and Progressive Blackjack.
In contrast, poker is a much more complex and complicated game. For starters, there are more poker variations, with two main poker forms being Draw Poker and Stud Poker.
The main difference between these two variations is that Stud Poker variations include some face-up cards being dealt as the betting progresses through the rounds. Opposite to this, in Draw Poker all of the cards are face down.
Most poker games use a standard 52-card pack, in some cases including one or two jokers. Some of the most popular poker variants include Texas Hold’em, Omaha, 7-Card Stud, and 5-Card Draw.
Like any other game, blackjack has its set of advantages that attract gamblers to pick this game over all others. Here are the biggest advantages blackjack has over poker:
- Easier to Learn and Start Playing – If you’re looking for a casino game you can quickly learn and jump into without much research, blackjack has a huge advantage over poker. Moreover, as there’s always a limited number of possible results, you can understand and master blackjack rules much more quickly than the poker ones.
- You Can Reduce the House Edge Significantly – If you use blackjack strategy charts and make careful bets, you can reduce the house edge to a very tiny percentage, allowing you to get the most out of your money long-term.
- You’re Only Playing Against the Dealer – Unlike poker, in which you can go up against a handful of players simultaneously, in blackjack, you only need to pay attention to the dealer’s hand. What’s more, the dealer’s decisions are often limited by the casino rules, so there’s a level of predictability you can rely on.
Despite some of the very convenient and favorable advantages we’ve listed above, blackjack also has its disadvantages. In the context of this blackjack vs. poker comparison, blackjack’s most glaring disadvantages include:
- The Casino Always Wins Long Term – There are a few exceptions, with examples of some players playing blackjack professionally for decades. But, for the vast majority of casino players, blackjack is a losing game long-term.
- Luck is a Major Factor – No matter how optimally you play blackjack, you can’t win without luck. While in poker, skill always trumps luck, in blackjack, luck is often the predominant factor.
- There’s No Way to Have an Edge – When you’re playing blackjack, you can minimize the house edge but can never actually have an advantage over the casino. Of course, you can do so if you engage in card counting, but this often has a negative connotation and will likely lead to you getting banned if you get caught.
Poker is the most popular card game globally and arguably the most popular casino game in general. This is perfectly understandable when you consider the pros of this exciting card game. In view of this, here are the biggest advantages of poker:
- Poker Is Skill-Based – The biggest advantage poker has over blackjack is that you’re actually in control of your fate. It’s a far more sophisticated game, and the better you know it, the better your winning chances are. While luck can decide a small percentage of total outcomes, your skills matter more than anything else.
- Great and Consistent Profits – In line with the previous advantage, poker is the only game in which you can make a consistent profit over your entire life. As it’s a skill-based gambling game that’s massively popular, poker offers you the chance to win multi-million prizes every month.
- It’s Easy to Have an Edge Over Other Players – Since you’re playing against other players and not the house, you can frequently come across less skilled poker players. In such situations, you have a massive advantage and almost certain profits for the session.
Like blackjack, poker is not free from disadvantages, some more serious than others. So, it’s only fair to look at the other side of the coin and highlight the major cons of poker:
- Casinos Always Take A Cut – Unless you’re organizing high-roller home cash games, you can’t avoid giving a cut to the casino. As every casino sets a certain rake percentage, you’re always giving them a part of your winnings.
- Poker Requires Great Patience – Poker is undoubtedly a game of patience. The game itself requires you to wait for the right opportunity and know when you should jump on it. Moreover, you need patience in the long run as well, as this game demands constant learning, reading, and improvement.
- It’s Hard to Break Through – With the popularization of online poker, more gamblers are playing this game than ever before. This also means that there are more top-quality players than ever before. If you’re just beginning, it can be hard to break through with such fierce competition.
Poker vs. Blackjack Casino House Edge Compared
Apart from discussing the most important pros and cons of these two games, we should also address one key element – the house edge.
The house edge is the mathematical advantage that the casino has over the player in every game it hosts. It is always expressed in percentages.
In short, the house edge ensures long-term profit for the house.
This is key to remember, as, in the short run, anything can happen, and the house edge doesn’t play a very important role. However, it’s crucial to consider in the long run, as it heavily impacts your potential long-term winnings.
With this in mind, it’s essential to distinguish between poker and blackjack in this sense. Blackjack has a very favorable house edge, as you can lower it to less than 0.5% with a good blackjack strategy.
Even if you’re a complete beginner and use a fairly poor blackjack strategy, you’ll play with a house edge of just 1.5% to 2%.
To better understand it, let’s take a quick look at an example.
Let’s say you’re playing blackjack with a 1.5% house edge and have a bankroll of $1,000. This means that for every $1000 you wager, the casino takes 1.5%, which in this case is $15.
In comparison, poker doesn’t have a house edge. This is simply because you’re playing against other players and not the casino itself.
So, your long-term winnings primarily depend on the advantage you can get over other players. Needless to say, the more skilled you are compared to your opponents, the bigger edge you will have.
However, while poker doesn’t have a house edge, the casino hosting the poker games still finds a way of making consistent profits. This is because it takes a “rake” from each pot.
This is a predetermined percentage of the pot before the winning player receives it. The rake can be between 2.5% and 10%. That said, in most casinos, the rake is 5%.
So, although poker doesn’t have a house edge in the classic sense, you’re still giving a percentage of your profits to the casino.
Still, as you're not directly playing against the casino, you can neutralize this cost by obtaining a more substantial edge over other poker players.
Key Elements of Blackjack You Should Know
The pros and cons of blackjack are easy to understand, but there are also a few critical tactical and gameplay elements to be aware of.
Having this in mind, here’s a closer look at some of the key elements of blackjack you should know:
- A Basic Strategy Is a Must-Have – We’ve mentioned before how the house edge in blackjack depends on your strategy. With that in mind, if you don’t want to put in the effort to master the optimal blackjack strategy, you should at least always have a basic strategy according to which you’ll bet.
- Always Be Focused When Playing – Blackjack doesn’t require significant skill to play, but it does demand complete focus and attention. So, whether you’re in a casino or playing blackjack from home, make sure to dismiss all distractions and give full attention to the game.
- Be Careful With Card Counting – There are many different card counting techniques, and you can use all of them to a certain extent without getting caught. But, you should be careful when doing so because most casinos don’t make card counters feel welcome.
- Losing Streaks Are Unavoidable – Although this can be said both for blackjack and poker, it’s more important to highlight for blackjack. As this game involves a lot of luck, sometimes prolonged losing streaks are unavoidable and happen even to the pros.
Additional Important Aspects of Poker
Apart from understanding the key pros and cons of poker compared to blackjack, you should also remember a handful of other valuable things when playing this card game. More specifically, here are a few other must-know poker fundamentals:
- Understanding Pot Odds and Bet Sizing is Crucial – One of the most detrimental things you can do in poker is to overvalue or undervalue your cards. And, almost equally as important as knowing how to size bets is to understand pot odds and make the most from every win.
- Folding is a Valuable Skill – While you should also know how to hold your ground and play aggressively, it’s also crucial to know when you should fold. This can save you a lot of money in the long haul.
- There’s No Place for Emotion – We’ve all heard the term “poker face” and this is precisely what you need to have when playing this game. Emotions are a weakness at the poker table, especially if you get to the point of tilting. Other players will always know how to take advantage of it.
- Bluffing is a Subtle Art – Many poker players go deep into every round, even with a weak hand. But, while bluffing can be a very rewarding tactic, it’s also a fine line to tread. It depends on your opponents, the stakes, and of course, your comfort level.
Blackjack or Poker – Which One Do You Choose?
Both blackjack and poker have their distinct features, and we can’t say that either game is better than the other.
Ultimately, it comes down to your personal preference, as poker and blackjack cater to two very different types of gamblers.
A simple rule of thumb you can go by when choosing is whether you want to make a stable living from your gambling activities or if you just want to play for fun and net some big wins along the way.
If you want to play for a living long-term, then poker is undoubtedly a better choice. Since you’re battling it out against other players and not the casino itself, it all depends on your skill.
You can always improve and learn new things as a poker player, so as long as you put in the effort and have the discipline, you can look forward to relatively consistent wins.
This isn’t the case with blackjack. The house wins in the end against most blackjack players, so making a living as a professional blackjack player is challenging to say the least.
With this in mind, blackjack is a better pick if you want to play recreationally, don’t want to engage in mind games against other players, and don’t mind memorizing the basic strategies.