Blackjack and video poker are two casino games that share a few similarities. They’re among the most popular casino games. They both involve lots of strategy, and they offer really low house edges under the right circumstances.
Blackjack and video poker have each been among the most played casino games for decades. Fans of these games love using in-depth strategy to improve their odds of winning.
Assuming you use perfect strategy on the right blackjack or video poker variation, you’ll be facing less than a 0.5% house edge. These odds are quite good considering that the average casino game features over a 2% house advantage.
The merits behind both video poker and blackjack are easy to see. But which of these is the better skill-based game? I’ll answer this question by discussing the basics of each game along with their pros and cons.
Basics of Blackjack
Real money blackjack gives you more options than most card games. After receiving your initial two cards, you can either hit or stand.
You also have the ability to double down (rules permitting), split a pair (e.g. two 9s), or surrender (rare rule). Your goal is to beat the dealer’s hand without going over a score of 21.
Assuming your first two cards equal 21 (a.k.a. “natural”), you receive either a 3:2 or 6:5 payout on your original bet. The amount depends upon the table rules.
The only way you won’t receive an enhanced payout is if the dealer also has a natural. Your bet will be a push in this instance.
Learning Blackjack Strategy
Blackjack seems fairly complicated at first glance. The strategy can also be difficult to learn when considering the multiple options facing you at each stage.
Luckily, many blackjack strategy resources are available. You can consult articles, books, strategy charts, and trainers.
Unless you’re counting cards, I don’t suggest spending much time with articles or books. These resources are inefficient for studying basic strategy.
A strategy chart is the simplest and most effective tool for learning the basics. You can simply Google “blackjack strategy chart” and quickly find one.
These charts lay out exactly which moves you should make in each situation. If you have 14 and the dealer’s upcard is 8, for example, then the chart will suggest that you hit.
A trainer is a program that offers suggestions while you play blackjack. Much like charts, you can easily find free programs just by Googling “blackjack trainer.”
The trainer will point out when you make strategic mistakes while playing. If you don’t split aces, for instance, the program will alert you to this gaffe.
Trainers aren’t totally necessary if you’re just playing online blackjack. However, they’re great for naturally learning blackjack strategy before heading to a land-based casino.
Pros of Blackjack
Blackjack isn’t the most popular casino card game without reason. It offers several notable benefits, including the following.
Strategy Is Easy to Learn
Again, blackjack strategy appears complex in the beginning. Each decision presents you with multiple choices.
Do you hit or stand with 12 versus the dealer’s up card of seven? Should you double down on 10 when the dealer shows nine?
Strategy charts are especially helpful when you’re playing online blackjack and have time to learn. Trainers are great for when you’ll be playing land-based blackjack and can’t refer to a chart for every decision.
Blackjack doesn’t quite give you a 50% chance of winning hands. You actually only have around a 42% chance to win each round.
However, splitting, double downs, and natural payouts raise your odds tremendously. The dealer, on the other hand, can’t split, double down, or earn natural payouts.
With the right strategy and game, you’ll only be facing around a 0.5% house edge. Taking everything into account, you won’t face much volatility with this game.
Profitable Advantage Play Method
You may feel like a blackjack master after thoroughly learning basic strategy. But you can take things even further by studying card counting, too.
Contrary to popular belief, card counting doesn’t require an MIT degree to learn. You can quickly pick up how to count cards within minutes.
The key obstacle is being able to count well enough to keep up with the dealer amid casino distractions. You also need a large bankroll (e.g. $10,000 or more) to survive the variance.
Card counting is easy in theory but far more difficult in person. Nevertheless, it’s worthwhile if you love blackjack and want to gain an edge.
Cons of Blackjack
While blackjack may be one of the greatest casino games ever, it definitely has some flaws. Here are the serious downsides to consider with this game.
House Edge Varies Widely Between Games
I’ve mentioned multiple times that the blackjack house edge can be around 0.5%. However, you shouldn’t take for granted that the house advantage will be this low.
First off, the rules change from table to table. One game may feature a 0.5% house advantage, while the next can offer a 2% house edge.
You need to learn the different rules that can alter the odds before playing. Natural payouts have the biggest impact. A 3:2 payoff lowers the house advantage by 1.4% compared to a 6:5 payout.
Your skills also weigh into the matter. If you’re a bad player, then you may be facing a 3% house advantage or higher.
High Bets in Land-Based Casinos
Online casinos are typically the best places to play blackjack. They feature the lowest house edge, on average, and also accept small minimum bets ($1 in most cases).
Brick and mortar casinos are a different story. They must pay dealers to run games and cover higher utility bills.
Therefore, land-based casinos can’t afford to accept $1 wagers. They normally require a $10 minimum bet. If you find anything lower than this, you’re probably sitting at a table with bad rules.
Few Chances to Win Big
Blackjack games do offer progressive jackpots and side bets. However, the average game doesn’t feature these extra frills.
The main way to win big with blackjack is to bet big. Odds are, though, you don’t have $10,000 to bet per hand.
Basics of Video Poker
Video poker comes in a large number of variations. But at its core, this game is simply just Draw Poker. You receive a five-card hand to start each round. You must decide which cards you want to keep and discard.
For every card you discard, you must draw a card to replace it. Here’s an example:
- You’re dealt: Ac-10h-As-4h-7c
- You keep Ac-As.
- You must draw three cards to replace 10h-4h-7c.
Your hand will be complete after the draw round. You’ll receive a payout if your hand qualifies for one.
Qualifying payouts differ based on which variation you’re playing. Jacks or Better pays for as little as a pair of jacks, for example, while Deuces Wild requires you to hold a three of a kind.
Your payouts will also be affected by how much you’re betting per round. Standard variations let you wager between one and five coins per hand. You should wager five coins in order to achieve top return to player (RTP) for any game you’re playing.
Learning Video Poker Strategy
Video poker strategy centers on knowing which cards to keep in each situation. You also have to account for which variation you’re playing, too. For instance, Jacks or Better strategy differs from Deuces Wild video poker strategy.
If you’re looking for a place to begin with strategy, then Jacks or Better (JoB) is a good choice. JoB forms the basis for all other variations.
A great deal of strategy charts exist for JoB across the internet due to its popularity. That said, you should have little trouble getting started with this game.
Unfortunately, you won’t be able to find charts for every variation. In these cases, you’ll have to use video poker trainers. Free trainers cover some of the more popular games. However, you’ll have to buy a training program (typically around $50) for other variants.
Video poker trainers are just like those available for blackjack. You play the game and receive suggestions on right or wrong decisions from the trainer.
Pros of Video Poker
Video poker offers a unique combination of large prizes and high payback. You can read about these advantages and more below.
Features Big Payouts
One big benefit that video poker has over blackjack is its top payout. This game pays 4,000 coins for a royal flush on a five-coin bet.
Assuming each coin is worth $0.25, you’ll be risking $1.25 per hand. You’d turn this small amount into $1,000 with a royal flush.
You can also look forward to other solid prizes with a five-coin wager. A straight flush (250 coins), four of a kind (125), and full house (45) also deliver large payouts.
Some Games Offer Over 100% RTP
Video poker is much like blackjack in that it gives you an opportunity to gain an edge. Certain variations offer over 100% RTP to skilled players.
Deuces Wild, for instance, pays back 100.76%. Double Bonus (100.17% RTP) and Double Double Bonus (100.07%) also pay well.
Even if you don’t find one of these games, you can still look forward to high payback with 9/6 Jacks or Better (99.54% RTP).
Video poker isn’t a difficult game to play. In fact, you can quickly dive into video poker without having ever played.
All you need to do is select your discards and draw. As long as you’re not overly concerned with strategy, then you’ll find this game very easy.
Cons of Video Poker
While video poker may offer you a great chance to win, it also requires you to work hard. You should really consider the following downsides before committing to this work.
Strategy Is Difficult to Learn
Unless you find a chart for your chosen variation, you’re going to have a tough time with video poker strategy. Training yourself to make correct plays takes lots of time and effort.
You may find this undertaking to be worth the effort if you love video poker. But if you’re just approaching video poker from a casual perspective, then you may want to consider the slightly easier blackjack.
Strategy for Each Variation Can Be Hard to Find
As if video poker strategy isn’t already difficult enough, it’s not always readily available for each variation. This is especially the case for full-pay versions of Deuces Wild and Bonus Poker.
9/6 Jacks or Better and 8/5 Bonus Poker are the only variants that are featured in charts and trainers galore. You’ll have to spend extra time searching for strategy on most games outside of this scope.
At worst, you’ll need to put $50 or so into buying a trainer. You really want to be serious about the game before dumping money into learning strategy.
High Paying Variations Are Rare
Want to play full-pay Deuces Wild and make solid profits? If so, then you’d better head to Las Vegas, because you won’t find it elsewhere.
The highest-paying variations are tough to find. Downtown Vegas casinos are the only place to spot variants that offer positive-expected value (+EV).
You can find plenty of online video poker games that deliver over 99.5% RTP. You won’t have as much luck, though, in land-based casino destinations other than Vegas.
Which Game Is Better – Blackjack or Video Poker?
You can see that both blackjack and video poker have their high and low points. So, which game reigns supreme when accounting for the pros and cons?
Blackjack. It offers more accessible strategy, easier strategy, and low volatility. You can win frequently in blackjack without racking your brain to do so.
Of course, I’m just offering my personal opinion after looking closely at the matter. You may have a different take based on your personal preferences.
Video poker has its good points, too. You can look forward to large payouts, +EV games, and simplistic play.
However, my biggest issue with video poker is the strategy. You’ll have a tough time finding and learning the strategy for most games.
Both video poker and blackjack have unique benefits. But I feel that blackjack has stronger advantages that appeal to myself and the average player.