When you are just starting with gambling with cards, you might yourself the most commonly fact conundrum, whether to focus more on blackjack or give more attention to poker (especially Texas holdem).
There’s much in common in these games, but there are plenty of distinctive qualities as well that you should consider when deciding whether to play blackjack or poker.
For easy selection, in this post we are going to highlight the similarities and difference between poker and blackjack and also help you decide which game is best suited for you.
Comparing the House Edge
If you are beginner, you might not be aware of the concept of house edge. Simply put, house edge is the mathematical advantage that the casinos have over the players. It is a percentage that any casino is expected to win from each bet over the long run.
Let’s have a look at an example:
If you say that a game has a house edge of 5% it means that the casino expects to win an average of $5 every time someone bets $100 on that game.
However, that the long-term average. In the short run anything can happen and you can end up making profits.
If we talk about online blackjack, if you are playing the perfect basic strategy the house edge varies from about 0.3% to 1%. Interestingly, this is the lowest house edge figures that you will find in any online casino game.
In poker, you are not playing against the house but you’re playing against other players. If we assume that you and all the other players at the same level of skills as a poker player and there is no edge between the players and in the long run you all will breakeven.
We’re not saying there won’t be up and down during your journey but in the long run you are going to break even.
But the problem is when you are playing a poker game in a casino setting, you will be paying 5% rake to the casino. And the casino’s take 5% from each pot before it’s delivered to the winner. Therefore, we can say that in effect, poker does have a 5% house at roughly.
But it will be rarely that you will ever face 9 or 10 poker players who will have the same skill level as you. Some of your opponents might be better and some might not be as good as you are.
As long as you want to be a successful poker player, your focus must be on gaining an edge over other players.
Advantage Play Opportunities Exist For Both
Have you ever heard someone saying that this particular game is vulnerable to advantage play?
What doesn’t exactly mean for a game to be advantage play?
Simply put, advantage play is a game in which with appropriate strategy a player can get mathematical edge over the others.
In blackjack, there are multiple options that allow you to get an edge over other players. Most common is card counting but dealer tells a shuffle tracking are also methods to get an edge in blackjack.
In poker, you get an ad over other players by simply being more skilled than them. There are certain skills that enable you to do so.
Surprisingly, it is easier to get these skills if you are aware enough.
For getting an edge in blackjack the starting point can be memorising basic strategy. This may sound simple but it is one of the most mathematically correct way to play every hand in every situation. And it is a lot easier to memorise than you think.
That being said, there is no originality in mastering basic strategy in blackjack and it’s not going to be enough by itself to give you an edge. But until you master the basic strategy you are never going to get an edge in the game.
In poker, you have much more flexibility to get in at but the starting point is the analogous strategy. You will find multiple websites that offer general guidelines how you should play your starting hands in poker, but remember that those guidelines vary based on how your opponents play.
Interestingly, if you are able to master the starting hand requirements in poker, then you will get skilled enough to break even most games. It is by learning how to play well in the later betting rounds, that gets you an ad in poker.
Blackjack Have No Scope For Creativity or Psychology
Remember that there is no scope for creativity in blackjack. The dealer plays her hand in a specific way irrespective of her mood or her evaluation of you as a player.
This is why it is that that blackjack doesn’t reward creativity. It poker however, you face players who have various tendencies. There might be no appropriate move that is suitable for every game. For example, check-raise with pocket aces in a Texas holdem game can be a good move in some situations, while in others it is one of the worst moves that a player can make.
In blackjack, you might try to get advantage by sporting dealer tells but unfortunately not many dealers have tells. It entirely depends on the blackjack dealer and if he cares about the outcome or not. Most of them do not care about the outcome as they are not involved in the game. In poker, however, the other players to care about the outcome as they have their own money on the line.
This is why you always have an opportunity to bluff someone in poker but never in blackjack.
Being Great at Poker Is More “Legit” Than Being Great at Blackjack
If you sit down at a poker table and make the best moves mathematically repeatedly, you’ll face no heat at all from the casino. They don’t care. You’re contributing toward the rake – that 5% they take out of every pot – regardless of whether you’re a winning or losing player.
But when you sit down at a blackjack table, you’re entering into a contest with the casino for the casino’s money. If they even suspect you of counting cards and getting an edge, they’ll take countermeasures.
These countermeasures might be as simple as shuffling the deck after every hand. This effectively eliminates any advantage you might be able to get from counting cards.
Other casinos prefer to just back you off the blackjack table. The pit boss will approach you and tell you that you’re just too good a blackjack player for them. They’ll suggest that you try their other casino games, and they’ll make it clear that your action isn’t welcome at the blackjack tables.
In other cases – like if you ignore their warnings to stay away from their blackjack tables – they’ll ask you to leave the casino altogether. If you return after being banned from a casino, you’re breaking trespassing laws.
It’s entirely legal to count cards in blackjack. In my opinion, it’s not even cheating.
The casinos have a different opinion.
They’re absolutely convinced that counting cards is cheating.
Counting your outs at the poker table and betting accordingly isn’t cheating, though.
What It All Boils Down To
Both poker and blackjack offer distinct features that cater to different kinds of gamblers.
It’s not a question of which game is better or even which game has better odds. It’s more a question of which game suits you and your personality better.
The first step in deciding that for yourself is thinking about what your goals are.
Do you hope to make a living from your gambling activities?
You can do that with both blackjack and poker, although it’s easier to make a living playing poker professionally than it is making a living playing blackjack professionally. If you’re a great poker player, you won’t face heat from the casino.
But the casinos are downright unfriendly to advantage players.
- On the other hand, do you prefer competing with the casino for their money?
- Or would you rather battle it out with your peers?
Most of the time, I’d rather get my hands on some of the casino’s money, but I don’t mind taking the money from the fish at the poker table, either.
If you’re a recreational gambler, it boils down even more to your personal preference.
If you’re not trying to get a mathematical edge over the casino, most of the stuff I’ve just discussed doesn’t matter at all. It all boils down to preference.
- Are you interested in trying to outwit other people?
- Are you more interested in an almost purely mathematical endeavor?
There’s plenty of math in poker, and it might even be more math-intensive than blackjack, but there’s not much outwitting of other people in blackjack.
A good recreational blackjack player just memorizes basic strategy and makes in-game decisions accordingly without deviating from them.
A good recreational poker player, on the other hand, has the chance to watch what his opponents are doing and try to take advantage of their mistakes.
Another personal preference has to do with whether you’re an extrovert or an introvert.
If you’re interested in interacting with lots of other people while you’re gambling, you’ll probably prefer poker. In blackjack, if you want to interact with other players, you can socialize at a busy table. But if you’re an introvert, you can just find blackjack tables where you’re heads-up with the dealer, and you don’t have to deal with a lot of people.
My suggestion is that you carefully consider your goals and preferences before deciding. Of course, you don’t have to choose one over the other. I play online poker AND blackjack, and you can, too.