In a new Motley Fool series, we pit two stocks against each other on five criteria to determine the better buy.

Today's matchup features two companies that have been multibaggers since being left for dead back in March.

It's the down-on-its-luck casino giant, MGM Mirage (NYSE:MGM), versus the one-third-government-owned Citigroup (NYSE:C).

Using five short-of-scientific-but-carefully chosen criteria, let's determine which is the better buy:

Round 1: Balance sheet
MGM is absolutely flooded with debt, but it gets the nod over Citigroup because of clarity. I defy you to read through Citi's financial statements and get any reasonable handle on its portfolio of loans and derivatives. Note that the same could be said for Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC), JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM), or Bank of America (NYSE:BAC), but Citi holds the record for most uttered WTF's: What the financials?!

Round 2: Operations
Operations is a tough call. Like many of the casino companies (See Las Vegas Sands (NYSE:LVS) and to a lesser extent Wynn (NASDAQ:WYNN)), MGM is enamored of growth at an unreasonable price. Citi was as well, but now it must divest itself of assets in hopes of coming out stronger. In theory, both businesses are cash machines, whether through favorable probabilities or favorable interest spreads. I'll give the slight nod to MGM's cash machine since I don't believe the banking sector has learned its derivatives lesson.

Round 3: Safer bet
In other words, which company will put you in a better position to "never lose money" (as super-investor Warren Buffett says)? If you haven't gathered yet, both stocks are risky propositions (especially after their run-ups), but the nod goes to Citigroup because of its "too big to fail" status.

Round 4: Sexier bet
On the flip side of safe is sexy, the upside growth potential. Both companies are already quite large, but MGM continues to try to get bigger while Citi is trying to get smaller. This time Vegas is sexier than Wall Street.

Round 5: CAPS rating
Both Citigroup and MGM rate two stars (out of a possible five) in Motley Fool CAPS. Hence, our community isn't very bullish on either stock's chances of beating the S&P 500 from here. Looking at the raw CAPS data, though, they're liking Citi just a smidge more.

The blow-by-blow recap


MGM Mirage


Balance Sheet






Safer Bet



Sexier Bet



CAPS Rating



There you have it. MGM beats Citigroup 3-2, making it our better buy. But what do you think? Vote in the poll below. Then share your thoughts in the comments section below the poll.

Anand Chokkavelu owns long-held shares of Citigroup. Anand loves playing poker at the MGM Grand and would gladly book a room at Circus Circus for his worst enemy. The Fool has a disclosure policy.