Blackjack and poker are two of the most popular card games today, so many enthusiasts compare them when it comes to profitability. After all, playing card games is all about making money, right? The difference between these two may seem insignificant, but the answer will be surprising for many players.
When you look at the odds of blackjack and poker to make the most straightforward comparison, blackjack is the winner. That’s because you’re only playing against the casino to win. In poker, your goal is to beat the other players, and if you win, the casino still takes a cut from the pot.
However, this comparison is just the tip of the iceberg because there are many things that you need to consider when comparing the two. We’ll cover all of these in great detail to determine which will be more profitable for you.
What Do You Need to Win in Blackjack?
When you’re playing blackjack, you play against the house. An average player needs to deal with one-half percent to two percent house edge whenever they’re playing.
Simply put, if you’re playing blackjack, you’ll win $98 to $99.5 for every $100 that you bet. However, it’s more complicated than simply putting a number on the games you play or the amount of money you bet.
The house edge refers to the percentage that the casino wins over several games. If you’re only sitting at a table for a few minutes, you might hit a lucky hand and beat it. It won’t be a problem for the casino because whatever money you won from your games creates a hook that keeps you on your seat, eventually leading the house to win everything back.
When players who are using more eccentric strategies, such as listening to the spirits they’re working with, sit at the table, the house edge can go up as high as 4%! Blackjack is a risky game if you’re going to sit at a table without understanding its fundamentals or a plan to win.
Sure, there are exceptional blackjack players who can count cards. However, it’s nowhere near anything you saw in the movie 21. Card counting isn’t as rewarding as what the film portrays, and you need to keep your focus in a seemingly endless noise of the casino.
Aside from this, you can’t make small bets to start counting and suddenly make huge bets when the counting calls for it. It’s a rookie mistake that many card counters do, which is only slightly better than telling everyone that you’re counting cards. It’s a situation nobody would do, especially in casinos with strict security protocols.
There’s no law under the federal, state, and local government prohibiting anyone from counting cards.
So you won’t be committing a felony when you start counting. Unfortunately, that’s as far as card counters can go when trying to take down the house.
If casinos believe that someone is counting cards, which you can easily spot when a player makes drastic changes with his bets, they can charge that player with trespassing for not following the house rules. Aside from this, they can also blacklist you in their premises and other casinos within the area.
That’s why counting cards was never a popular option for many card players, and even if they do, the house edge is still against them. Although it will be the best advantage that blackjack players can get, it doesn’t make the game as beatable as what they portray in the movie.
Things to Remember When Playing Blackjack
Here are some of the basics that a card counter needs to understand before he tries to bring down the house:
- Only play at the tables that are beatable. Card counting all by yourself is possible, but it’ll be quicker for the house to spot the drastic changes in your bets. So you need someone who can monitor and spot tables that you can beat. However, this will also reduce the profit that you make at the tables.
- You’ll need a basic strategy and a deep understanding of the game. The biggest moneymaker for casinos are players who are playing games that they don’t understand. Earlier, we mentioned the house edge goes up to four percent for players who use eccentric strategies, including playing blackjack without understanding its basics.
- You’ll need a solid foundation in at least one card counting technique. There are different card counting techniques that you can use, such as Hi-Lo and Speed Count, but you need to master only one of these to reduce the house edge.
- Understand spreading the bets according to the situation of the table. Card counting depends on a player’s ability to minimize his losses when the hand favors the casino and maximize the profits when the hand favors him. So, a basic understanding of betting spread is crucial for a card counter to develop.
- With the right skills, anyone can learn card counting within a year. It takes a lot of practice to become an effective card counter. However, anyone with the right skills can master the game and increase his chances of winning in a relatively short period.
- Focus is a significant skill that a card counter needs to develop. Casinos tend to get very busy at times, and it can be a massive distraction for anyone. A card counter should have an immense focus to keep counting and never lose track of the count regardless of his surroundings.
- The house will always defend their bankroll from card counters. Although it’s legal for you to count cards, don’t expect the casinos to welcome this practice. That’s why players who actively use this strategy when playing blackjack rarely visit the same casino regularly.
- Be confident enough to put a massive bet when the count calls for it. The only way for someone to make a killing at the tables is to take advantage of the count. Whenever the count calls for it, the player should never shy away from making a huge bet.
- Losing streak happens to all card counters. Players who are counting cards for years know that they can also suffer from losing streaks. The skill that separates a player who makes money at blackjack is the ability to control his emotion and always make rational moves to keep the house edge minimal.
Pros of Playing Blackjack
Here are some advantages that you can expect whenever you decide to play blackjack:
- It’s easier to understand with a limited number of results.
- The house edge varies, depending on the player’s skill.
- You make calculations to determine the profitability of the table.
- It has some level of predictability, making it possible for players to exploit.
- You’re only playing against the dealers with a limited number of options.
Cons of Playing Blackjack
Despite all of these advantages, it’s still far from being a better option than poker because of the following disadvantages:
- It leans more towards luck than a player’s skill.
- Even the best card counters can suffer from losing streaks.
- It’s less entertaining when you’re only playing against the casino.
- Casinos make the most money when players don’t understand the game.
- The only edge that you can use against casinos has a negative notion.
What Do You Need to Win in Poker?
Poker is the complete opposite of blackjack in terms of making money. To win this game, you need to beat the other players at the table and take their money. The casino also takes a percentage in every pot that you win, regardless of the amount that you make.
Whatever poker variation you play, the casino will always make money in the form of rake. In online games, you at least get some rakeback which can even bring the majority of your winnings but in live game, for the most part, you can forget about it.
Rake’s the amount the casino takes from every pot or a flat rate that you need to pay to join a table.
So, if we’re only talking about the odds of beating the house, there’s no way for you to beat the casino at poker because they’ll make money regardless of who wins the game.
However, when we’re talking about profitability, it becomes a more complicated comparison because this game’s profitability highly depends on your skills. If you want to make a living playing poker, there’s only one goal that you need to achieve—you have to be the best player at the table.
One of the most common advice professionals give to new poker players is to never play at the table where you are the weakest. Even if you’re the 9th best poker player in the world, which makes you better than millions of other players, and you play against eight players who are better than you, you’ll still lose the game.
Although there’s some level of luck in poker, it’s rarely enough for you to profit from it. Poker is also a very long game that, sometimes, takes more than a year to be profitable. Here’s Daniel Negreanu’s total result for five years of playing poker to serve as an example.
The total profit in a period of 5 years, from 2013 to 2017, was $8,733,074. However, if you look at the results for 2016 and 2017, the numbers aren’t as good as you might expect. In 2016, he lost $1,246,963! In 2017, he had a payout of $2,792,104, but if you deduct all of his buy-ins, his total income was -$86.140!
It’s still far from the real picture because he still needs to pay for his flights, accommodation, and other expenses whenever he participates in tournaments (although a famous poker player like him gets sponsored for many things). Needless to say that he’s up by $8.7 million, which was total accumulated earnings from all of his tournament participation in five years! And he totally deserves to be on our best poker players list.
Unlike blackjack, which only takes a day to be profitable, poker takes years to build a bankroll and play at the high stakes tables that many players are trying to achieve. It also requires constant work to improve because one wrong table can set you back by months or even years!
Things to Remember When Playing Poker
Different poker variants require different strategies that you can use to win. However, poker’s fundamentals are something that we all need to understand regardless of the format we’re playing.
Here are some of the things that you need to remember when playing poker:
Set the Range of Opening Cards That You Play
Playing any hand that you get is the worst way to play poker. There are only so many games that you can play before you run out of chips.
Playing all hands will make you lose all of your chips even before you get a premium hand. So, be sure to set the range that you’re going to play and stick with it.
Understand Acceptable Ranges That Will Give You Better Chances
In most cases, the best hand at the start of the game will be the best hand at the end of the game. So an essential skill that a poker player needs to develop is a deeper understanding of the ranges and how he can take advantage of it to win more games.
Be Adept at Sizing Your Bets
In poker, there are bad hands, good hands, and premium hands. One of the worst things that a player can do is to overprice or underprice his cards. Overpricing means that he’s placing too much equity at the table for weaker hands while underpricing means placing a minimal bet for a more dominant hand.
Bluffing Isn’t Always the Best Way to Win
Bluffing is an excellent way to offset your losses and steal some blinds. However, it’ll still depend on your opponents and the stakes you have on the table.
When you’re playing cash games, many players will call you down with any pair. When you’re up against these kinds of players, bluffing won’t be as rewarding as it should and may even be detrimental to your strategies.
Be an Aggressive Player
The general rule of thumb that many professionals support is never to play hands that you can’t raise or re-raise. If your hands are good enough for you to want to join the pot, but you might hesitate to call as soon as you see action, it would be best to fold and wait for another round.
Never Hesitate to Fold
Regardless of the stage of the game, folding should always be in your options. Even if you already have many chips on the table, folding when in doubt will save you from a devastating hand. Many players fall victim to the equity trap that makes it harder for them to fold a hand when they’ve invested most of their chips.
Master Pot Odds to Overcome Your Losses
Poker players will always have more losing hands than winning hands. Unless you’re running well, it will always be the norm for all of your games. However, one skill that separates professionals from beginners is understanding pot odds. You can use this to offset your losses with huge gains that you’ll get when you have premium hands.
Always Be Unpredictable
One of the worst things that a player can do at the poker table is to be too predictable. In fact, it’s one of the reasons why the majority of the players lose their games.
When playing poker, you don’t want your opponents to read through your strategies within a few minutes. Throwing the right mix of slow plays and fast plays will go a long way, especially when you wake up to premium hands.
Emotion Will Make You the Weakest Player on the Table
Uncontrollable emotions at the table can lead to tilt. It’s the most significant factor that has taken down more poker players than any other facet combined. A player who tilts will play too aggressive, without any regard for logical and sound poker strategies.
Pros of Playing Poker
Poker, with all of its variations, is the most popular card game in the world. It’s understandable if you consider all the advantages you can get from it, such as the following:
- It offers a more sophisticated gameplay that takes years to master.
- It provides a closer look at how people react to certain situations.
- The player’s skills matter more than anything else, making it highly competitive.
- The level of ambiguity in poker makes it perpetually interesting.
- With the right skills, anyone can make massive profits playing poker.
Cons of Playing Poker
Despite all of these factors, poker still suffers from some disadvantages, especially when making money, such as the following:
- Casinos will always make money, regardless of who wins the game.
- Even with years of hard work, players can still have a losing streak that lasts for months.
- More and more players are getting better at the game, making it harder to make money.
- When you put nine players together with different personalities, the game can get very dramatic.
- It requires a trait that many people may not have—patience.
Which Has Better Odds Between Poker and Blackjack?
If we want to make this comparison as simple as possible, blackjack has better odds. Although it’s possible to make a lot of money in poker, blackjack offers many things that ultimately make it a better game for many people.
Here are some of the reasons why blackjack has better odds:
- The house edge is predictable. Even if you employ the most eccentric strategy that you can think of when playing blackjack, the house edge is still at four percent. Although it’s a huge percentage, it remains predictable, and you can calculate the amount of money you can expect to lose over a certain period.
- You have more control over the house edge. You only need months of practice to be adept at counting cards. Although it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll win every game you play, reducing the house edge from two percent to one-half percent is a significant improvement that can help you make thousands overnight.
- You’re only playing against the dealer. In blackjack, you only have to worry about the dealer who has a minimal number of moves. He can’t play against you, and he’s only following a predetermined set of actions. This gameplay makes the game a bit more predictable, allowing players to exploit and make more money.
- It’s more accessible to most players. Since blackjack relies more on luck than skills, anyone can start playing the game and still make money. You don’t have to be the best player at the table because you’ll win even if you only have a basic understanding of how blackjack works.
- It’s not a long game that takes years to build. It is a new night in blackjack every night. You can make thousands overnight and go back the next day to try again. You don’t have to collect all the data that you have throughout your games just to figure out whether you’re profitable or not.
Although blackjack has better odds than poker, it doesn’t mean that it’s the game where you can make more money. In fact, if you’re thinking about starting a career playing card games, blackjack may even end up less profitable for you because of the house edge.
Remember, even if you’re good enough to bring down the house edge to a measly one-half percent, it’d still mean that you’re losing $5 for every $1,000 that you bet.
So, playing blackjack is more of a pastime than a career, while poker offers an opportunity to build a massive bankroll that may take years. If we’re talking about long-term gains, poker has better odds for you because of the following:
- You’ll develop the skills you need through practice. Poker relies more on your skills, and you can quickly improve as you play more games. It gives you more control over your outcome, but it would take months, or even years, of practice to be an exceptional poker player who can crush any table.
- You don’t have to put as much equity on the table to make a lot of money. Unless you hit a blackjack, the most that you can make in this game is twice your bet. In poker, you can join tournaments that multiply your entry fee, allowing you to make more money than what you’ve paid to enter the competition.
- You’ll have more control over the outcome of the games that you play. You can choose the tables where you can play and avoid players that are better than you. It’s also possible to develop the necessary skills, allowing you to have more control with your games instead of relying on a lucky table that can give you more wins.
- The strategies that you use will determine the profitability of your games. Whether you have a bad or good hand, you can use it to your advantage to steal bets or be more profitable. The goal in poker is to offset your losses by winning big pots or stealing blinds, and it will heavily rely on the strategies you’re going to use in the game.
- You can use poker outs and pot odds to calculate your chances of winning. Unlike counting cards, poker outs and pot odds give you the best tell-tale signs as to whether you should stay in the game or wait for the next hand. With the right skills, you’ll avoid devastating hands, which is impossible when you’re playing blackjack.
Despite blackjack offering better odds than poker, many players still find poker more rewarding because of the long-term results they can get from it. Not to mention that poker games can get exciting when the table gets too dramatic or when you’re up against players who are at the same level as you.
If you’re looking for a card game that can help you turn quick profits, blackjack is a better choice for you. Learning how to count cards may take months of practice, but it’ll give you the best chances of beating the house and making thousands overnight. It’s also a more straightforward game because of the limited moves that you can make.
However, if you’re looking for a card game that can be profitable long-term, poker is a better game for you. It gives you more options and control over the games you play, ultimately impacting your profits.
When comparing blackjack and poker for the odds of beating the casino, blackjack is the clear winner. Despite the house edge that it has, exceptional blackjack players can still beat the house. On the other hand, the casino always wins in poker with its rake system. There’s no way around it other than to win more games that’ll allow you to offset your losses.
However, if you’re looking at the profitability of playing both games long-term, poker will give you better returns because of the multiplied earnings you can make. Aside from this, it also gives you more control over your bankroll than blackjack that heavily relies on your luck.
Remember, you can work hard to become a better poker player, but you can never do anything to become a lucky blackjack player.