Which is the better game to play, poker or blackjack, in order to win money so you can strut throughout the worldwide casino landscape as the winner? Which game is harder to learn, harder at which to become competent and extremely hard in which to become great, but also brings with it the chance to get into the millions in wins without starting out with millions to wager?



I am sure you are all guessing right now and hoping that I have the answer at the end of this article so you can put this subject to rest. Oh, come on, please, of course, it is poker (why should I wait to tell you that?) Poker is a game where big money can be won; where even a little money can be won on a relatively consistent basis by decent (as in competent) players.

It does take a heck of a lot to be good at poker; no doubt about it --- a heck of a lot.

Make no mistake; blackjack is a great game and card counters (those players who can get an advantage by keeping track of the cards) can get edges of up to one percent (give or take). But the chance for one individual to be crowned blackjack king of the world (or at least a tournament) will not have such great players make anything near the millions that great poker players can make.

Winning Poker Play

Let’s take a quick look at what it takes to be a good poker player, which means a winning poker player. Keep in mind that all poker players will theoretically get the same range of opening cards but how they play those cards will often dramatically differ from player to player. And the results of those differences will begin to signal who the good players are and who the bad players are.

Winning Poker Play

Since there are several popular poker games, I will just touch on those elements they all share and how those elements must be executed in order to be playing properly.

  • Some players will stay in on all their opening cards (these are truly the worst of the worst players), and some players will be judicious and only go in on cards that give them the best chance of taking the pot. This factor is the first serious step in becoming a competitive player, which opening cards you play.

  • The best opening hand going into a pot will often be the best hand at the end of the pot. So understanding good cards from bad cards is essential.

  • When you are determining whether to raise or fold, you should have an idea if your cards are worth the amount of money that will be in the pot. This poker maths is called pot odds. Is staying (and winning) worthwhile in the long run? As time rolls on at the poker tables, will your winning hands overcome your losing hands, based on how much money is in a particular pot? If yes, you stay in; if no, you fold.

  • Never be afraid to fold. Discretion is the best form of play in a poker game. In fact, you will be folding most of the time. You are not in the game of poker to have excitement; you are in it to win money.
  • Don’t think of bluffing as a way to win money, especially at low-limit games. Poor players usually don’t fall for bluffs because they are in the game for excitement, and they figure that since they spent “x” amount of money on this round so why not just stay in and see what happens.

  • Finally, always think in terms of raising bets instead of just staying in a hand. Aggressive (read intelligent, aggressive players) tend to be the winners in the long run of poker. If you don’t have a hand worth raising with, then the move is probably to fold.

Those “Other” Poker Players

A major element in poker has to do with how the other players play. Unlike other casino games, poker is played against other players, not against the house. At the conclusion of a pot, the casino will take its “tax” (known as a rake) from the winning player. In low-limit games, the “tax” will be somewhat high; in high-limit games, the “tax” will be relatively lower.

Poker Players

Bottom line with poker? Most players don't win consistently, but if you study and play often enough, or even learn some game theory you can be a winning player. Remember that at every table there will be a good player or two or three and a bad player or two or three. If you can be scraping in that “good player” category then chances are you will win in the long run.

Final comment: Don’t play in games where the monetary limits are over your head. That is a sure way to head for destruction. Play in games that you can afford and against players (most of whom) you can beat.

Blackjack Thoughts

Blackjack is a far less dramatic game than poker. You are playing against the casino house edge and not against the other players. Card counting is overwhelmingly the favoured advantage technique.

The normal blackjack player usually faces a one-half to two percent house edge. If the player uses basic blackjack strategy, which is the computer derived strategy for every player hand against every dealer up-card (there are 13 possible up-cards: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, jack, queen, king, ace), the player will face about a one-half percent house edge. If the player plays an eccentric strategy (perhaps based on spirits of the dead giving him advice), the edge goes higher, sometimes four times higher. The basic blackjack strategy is not very difficult to learn, and it’s easy to find a professional blackjack strategy guide.

So what does a blackjack card counter need to know to beat the game?

  • Picking games that are beatable.

  • The proper basic strategy for each type of blackjack game being offered.

  • A proper card counting technique such as Hi-Lo, Speed Count or the like.

  • The proper betting spread when the hand favours the casino (a low bet) or when the game favours the player (a high bet).

  • Perhaps knowing some changes in the basic strategy based on the count at that moment in the game.

  • Card counting can be learned in several months (more or less).

  • The player must be able to keep the count even in the midst of the seemingly limitless noise in a casino.

Poker Aces

There are three extremely important things to know as well as the above:

  1. First, you are playing against the house, and the house does not view players favourably who can beat them. So a card-counting player has to limit time at the various casinos when playing.

  2. The player must never be afraid to put the big money out when the count calls for it. Shyness in betting can be a losing strategy.

  3. The winning edges that most excellent card counters can get will go from about one-half percent to about 1.5 percent, so losing streaks (both long and short ones) will happen to all card counters.

So, in the epic confrontation between poker and blackjack, poker is harder to learn and harder to become good at while blackjack is probably more accessible for most players.

Still, the sky is (maybe) the limit for poker players while blackjack players face extremely small advantages.

Poker is the champ!

Chad Holloway is a 2013 WSOP Bracelet winner who has previously worked for PokerNews as a managing editor and live reporter