If you wanted to, you could spend all day ruminating about the concept of what makes something better than something else. Here’s a Stanford University page on the philosophy that explains “value theory” if you’re curious about “what is better.”
Asking if blackjack is better than roulette is a lot like asking what a best-selling beer does for you. Some people will scream it “tastes great” while others will argue it’s “less filling.” It’s pretty subjective. The comparison for blackjack and roulette is a lot similar.
It’s all about context, isn’t it?
I’m sure the old adage about sauce for gooses and ganders only works for the casino. They don’t care where the player loses money as long as everyone is having fun.
Since gambling is best enjoyed as entertainment, comparing blackjack and roulette feels like comparing a 5-course meal to an elite buffet. As long as the food is good in both places, everyone should be happy.
Everyone has his or her own preferences. So, when a beginning gambler is trying to decide between the meal of blackjack or the roulette buffet, they’ll have to decide which suits their diet best.
The rules for deciding which game is best in gambling should be simple.
But what is the best way to explain the pros and cons of both games to a beginner?
Imagine taking your kids to the casino on their 21st birthday. They finally get to enjoy a night with the adults. Here’s how I would compare the two games to my kids:
People chat away at blackjack tables, but the conversation is more subdued in my experience. Many players are more relaxed than the folks standing at the roulette tables.
For someone who is taking it all in for the first time, blackjack is a good game where you can explain odds and probabilities. You can’t sit there and count cards out loud for a newbie gambler, but you can explain the game patiently.
I’ve stood next to more than one roulette table where some young guy screamed loudly every time the ball landed in his zone. It’s hard to hold a conversation like that.
Other times the casino may be running slow. You can stand at the roulette table and explain the game to someone because there are no other players. The croupiers are efficient and professional.
I’ve never felt inclined to talk to strangers at a roulette table. I’m more willing to chit with the chatters when seated for blackjack. It feels more intimate.
I once watched a guy place substantial bets on five individual numbers. That was his system. His money didn’t last long.
You can bet the table limit in blackjack and burn through a small bankroll quickly. But comparatively speaking, blackjack players are more conservative than single-number roulette players.
You’re not at the blackjack table to get rich. You’re there to play a game that requires skill. Any fool can drop $100 on a single number in roulette.
The player is responsible for his wagers. I’ve watched people drop a couple thousand dollars on blackjack. I’ve lost as much as $500 myself.
If you take the time to think about the game, you become more cautious. Deciding whether to split 5s is much harder than deciding not to split 10s. (You should never split either, by the way.)
In roulette, I quickly grow bored with placing all my money in 2-for-1 zones. Sometimes I bet $25 on a single number. I’ve never won that bet, but it was fun while it lasted.
If you want an exciting game, then play roulette or craps. Roulette is easier to understand, so introduce your kid to casino excitement through roulette first.
A seasoned blackjack player may catch on quickly when someone else is running the table. Maybe the guy is only lucky, but he wins a lot of hands. There’s a certain quiet excitement in watching someone play so well.
In roulette, if there’s a crowd around the table, everyone may give a shout when a person wins a risky bet. The excitement grows as the croupier pushes a stack of chips toward a player.
Although the gameplay in blackjack can proceed faster than a slow roulette table, roulette seems to take less time to resolve. That adrenaline rush can go on for a while when the crowd is hot, and the table is paying.
With enough players betting on the wheel, roulette looks a lot like the way it’s shown in the movies. Someone is always getting chips, even if it’s not the same player. The crowd loves a winner.
Crowds are drawn to excitement. If people are hanging around a table, there is a reason. I see groups converge on roulette more often than for blackjack. If your newbie gambler likes attention, this may be the game for them.
There are more options in roulette than in blackjack. And unlike blackjack, where the player must wait for cards to be dealt to adjust the risk they take, everything is decided at once in roulette.
The game is entirely passive, but players can choose from a wider variety of options than in blackjack.
How often do you get four or five splits in a single hand of blackjack?
Players who want to throw caution to the winds and challenge the luck gods prefer roulette to blackjack. It’s easier to try a different idea every game. In blackjack, the draw of the cards limits the players’ choices.
Players can also balance their risk in roulette. Place a low-risk outside bet in a 2-for-1 zone and then place a couple of higher-risk inside bets on 4-number points.
This varies by casino. Some casinos place seats around their roulette tables. Even if you can stand and bet, the seats take up space.
Blackjack tables max out at seven players, no matter what. If there is sufficient demand and available staff, the casino will open more blackjack tables.
The same is true for roulette. As the day shifts into evening, more people gravitate toward the roulette tables. Only one wheel may have been active in the slow afternoon, but if a casino has extra, they certainly will open up several more in the evening.
Yet, there is usually no specified limit on the number of players for a roulette table. If 12 people can stand around the table and keep their chips separate, that should be okay.
In a busy casino, roulette may be the easier game to get into. Availability always varies by venue, but it’s been my experience that even on busy nights there’s always room for one more at a roulette table.
And that is where all the yelling and screaming comes from. The bigger the crowd at a table, the more likely they get excited. All they are waiting for is someone to score a nice win.
When comparing the merits of both games, most people start talking about the house edge.
But what is the chance you’ll split five times versus scoring a blackjack on a single draw?
There are multiple edges within each game. The chance of the ball landing on any 1 number ranges from 1-in-37 to 1-in-39, depending on the roulette variation you’re playing. The chance of the ball landing on either black or red is just under 50%.
The payoff odds in both games are adjusted to ensure the house makes a profit in the long run. The real question for me has always been about where I think I have a shot at getting my money back.
That is most often blackjack.
But roulette is a decent fallback game for conservative players who want to take on a little more risk. It’s best to set a limit on how much risk you take before you begin placing your chips.
After all, the night is longer for those who must drive home early than for those who drive home as winners.
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