Even if you are not very familiar with the game of blackjack, you have most probably heard of card counting. This system of playing the card game is extremely popular and can even be seen in numerous movies where the action takes place at a casino. Those who are well familiar with blackjack know that card counting is a technique that can give them quite the edge over the house and can repeatedly lead to fruitful results.
While players think of card counting as a strategy they develop for successful but fair gameplay, you will rarely come across a casino that tolerates this technique. In fact, card counting can often be the reason to be kicked out of big casinos, that is if you get caught of course.
Although card counting is a risky endeavour, there are many players who try to develop this skill and try to overcome the house’s advantage at brick-and-mortar casinos. Those who are willing to try this method and do not get caught can enjoy quite the successful blackjack experience. However, this is only true if they play at land-based casinos. Those who prefer to play blackjack online will not have the same luck as this system is pretty much useless at virtual casinos.
To prevent players from getting an advantage over the house, online casinos take various steps that cannot allow players to count cards while playing blackjack. That is why players who are used to making a profit via card counting might want to reconsider their strategy and look for another way to improve their virtual blackjack sessions.
How Card Counting Affects Blackjack Play
When we are talking about card counting, we should mention the term deck penetration as it affects the accuracy of the counting strategy. This describes how many cards have been dealt before the deck is reshuffled. Deck penetration is typically expressed as a percentage and the higher the rate of penetration is, the more accurate the card count is going to be. The fewer decks are used in the game, the higher the penetration rate is going to be, giving players a more accurate card count.
While it is more difficult to count how many cards are left until reshuffling, it is possible to have a proper deck penetration in blackjack variations with four, six, or even eight decks. There are, however, several conditions that must be met to ensure that a multi-deck blackjack game is going to be in favour of the player.
To achieve a good deck penetration, variants with many decks must not reshuffle shoes after every hand that is played. For instance, there are six-deck blackjack options that reshuffle the shoe only after five of the decks have been dealt. In that case, players have the chance to turn the tables by card counting and achieve a rather good deck penetration.
While the deck penetration rule applies to blackjack played at a land-based casino, when the game is played online, card counting is not much of a help to players. You may think that live-dealer blackjack games may allow you to use card counting as they are pretty much identical to the blackjack played at any brick-and-mortar casino. However, this is not completely true as even live-dealer blackjack games feature rules and tools that prevent players from successful card counting.
Is Card Counting Possible While Playing Online Blackjack?
When playing blackjack online, you should be aware that the experience is going to be different than the one you are used to when visiting land-based casinos. Whether you are playing RNG blackjack or you have chosen to play online with a real dealer, you will not benefit from counting cards as the design of virtual blackjack games prevents deck penetration almost entirely.
While live-dealer blackjack is very similar to the game played at land-based casinos, there are still several techniques used to prevent deck penetration from reaching above 50%. Of course, many players still try to come across such live tables but they rarely succeed in finding a live blackjack table with a deck penetration of over 50%.
Even though both live-dealer and RNG blackjack games are designed to prevent deck penetration, the techniques used in the two types of virtual casino games are different. To better understand why card counting does not work with online blackjack variations, you might want to explore the two types of virtual games separately.
RNG online blackjack games and card counting
RNG virtual blackjack games do not have any shoe to penetrate nor there is a dealer who reshuffles the cards at a certain point. Instead, the cards that are dealt are chosen randomly thanks to this software known as RNG (Random Number Generator). The same software ensures that cards are always shuffled, making card counting a useless strategy while playing online blackjack games.
Live blackjack games and card counting
The way live blackjack is played online is different as the game uses a real dealer who deals and shuffles cards in real-time, just as in every land-based casino. However, this type of virtual blackjack variation also does not allow deck penetration, making card counting yet again useless. The shoes used in live-dealer blackjack games are typically shuffled thanks to Continuous Shuffling Machines. If not, games will have dealers shuffle cards after the middle of the shoe is reached, making card counting ineffective.
Other Techniques Used by Online Blackjack Games to Prevent Card Counting
While land-based casinos can often ban players from entering their gaming facility if they are caught counting cards, online casinos cannot actually stop you from using this strategy. Instead, virtual blackjack games take some steps to make card counting inefficient. Gaining no real advantage from counting cards, online blackjack players are often resorting to other types of strategies to gain some advantage in the play.
Fewer rounds played per hour
Compared to land-based blackjack, online blackjack sessions are way slower. Players utilising card counting are used to go through an average of 100 to 200 rounds of dealt cards when playing offline. However, online blackjack is much slower as every choice must be made by tapping on different buttons. Combined with the time every player on a live table is given to make their decision, online blackjack sessions may reach about 50 rounds per hour at best.
Slower gameplay definitely negatively affects card counting as it is difficult to have a deck penetration at such a slow pace.
Monitoring of gameplay through specialised software
To further prevent players from using a card counting strategy when playing blackjack online, virtual casinos utilise monitoring software. As it follows the gameplay, it keeps track of the amount of the shoe used in the game before there is a reshuffle. Many interactive casinos have also invested in the use of AI that can detect card counting by the betting patterns of players using this strategy. If bets of a certain player continuously match the card count, the casino is notified and the player is prevented from making more bets on the game.
Can You Still Make Profit from Counting Cards in Online Blackjack?
While it is not impossible to count cards while playing blackjack online, we believe this will be a very fruitless endeavour. To make your gaming sessions somewhat successful while counting cards, three different factors should be present during the gameplay:
- Favourable rules
- High deck penetration
- Sufficient number of rounds played per hour
As we have already covered, all three of the above factors are rarely present in online blackjack variations. This is why there is rarely any advantage to card counting when you play online. Better deck penetration is possible in land-based forms of blackjack as casinos cannot afford a reshuffle after every hand that is played. As constant reshuffles may slow down the gameplay, this may result in fewer rounds being played and this is the last thing a land-based casino would want.
However, lost time is not a real concern with virtual casinos as they utilise software to automatically reshuffle cards, allowing very little deck penetration. In such a scenario you do not stand a chance of gaining any advantage by counting cards.
If you are playing a live-dealer blackjack variation, you might have a slightly better deck penetration as such games are played with real dealers handling the cards. However, virtual casinos are well aware of players trying to gain a significant advantage by counting cards when playing live blackjack. This is why the dealers who are handling the cards on live tables are trained to reshuffle shoes before more than half of the decks are used in the game. Finding a live-dealer blackjack table with a deck penetration of over 50% is very difficult, making card counting yet again useless.
Another thing to consider when playing online blackjack is that you will need a larger spread to gain an advantage when playing with lower deck penetration. If we take for example a blackjack game with a bet minimum of £5 and you decide to boost your bet size to £75 with a true count of +3. If we divide your increased bet by the minimum wager amount of £5, we will get your bet spread of 1-15.
Professional card counters usually prefer to play with a bet spread ranging between 1-10 and 1-15. That is, however, a bet spread that is often evident for card counting so players must be careful when making their bets. While land-based casinos can be very strict with monitoring players for any card counting, online casinos are typically very forgiving when players attempt to play with suspiciously large bet spreads. This, of course, comes from the fact that they do not allow enough penetration for card counters to actually benefit from playing with big bet spreads.
If you are playing an online blackjack game with merely 50% penetration, then you will need to further increase your maximum bet and play with a bet spread of about 1-30. Using the example above, a table with a minimum bet of £5 would indicate that you will need to increase your bet to £150 with a +3 true count.
It should be mentioned, however, that even if you wong in at a positive count and use a 1-30 bet spread, you will not enjoy a very profitable blackjack game at a live-dealer variation with a deck penetration of 50%. This is just way too low to gain a real advantage by counting cards. Not to mention that you will end up spending way too much time for a very insignificant profit.
Keep Card Counting for Offline Blackjack Games
If you have invested a lot of time in learning card counting, it is just not worth it to use the skill at online casinos. Virtual blackjack games feature rules and conditions that are not beneficial for players who keep a track of the cards that have been already dealt. While it is possible to count the value of cards while playing live-dealer blackjack, this will not end up being a fruitful experience.
While many blackjack aficionados can confirm that card counting is a very profitable skill that can help you gain an advantage over the house, almost none of them would consider using card counting at online casinos. With live-dealer blackjack tables offering an average deck penetration of 50%, this could not help you stack up any significant winnings.
We recommend using a different strategy when playing blackjack online as card counting cannot be of great help in this situation. With rules that are not that reasonable, a very low deck penetration, and fewer rounds per hour, card counting cannot bring you any significant profit when playing virtual blackjack games.