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Online Blackjack and Card Counting: All You Need to Know

Round Head IconJune 21, 2020 - CasinoBloke

If you have played blackjack for a while, you have probably come across the concept of counting cards. The idea behind it is rather simple. By counting what cards the has dealers already drawn, you know what cards remain in the deck. It allows you to predict what cards will be drawn, and it gives you an advantage over the dealer. Is such a thing possible in online blackjack? We take a deep dive on the topic to find out!

What is Card Counting?

The idea of card counting is as old as blackjack itself. It was something you could legitimately do in brick-and-mortar casinos at the time. We know how many cards are in the deck, and how many of each card there is. By keeping track of what cards were drawn and discarded, we know which ones remain in the deck.

Using this correctly does not allow you to predict everything perfectly. However, it does give you a better idea of what cards to expect. This can change the way you wager and gives you an opportunity to push the house edge below zero. As a result, getting caught card counting will usually get you either warned or kicked out of the casino entirely.

Card Counting in Online Blackjack

When playing online games that use random number generators, card counting is downright impossible. You can try: many players have! However, there is a major hurdle stopping you from doing that. Namely, RNG-powered blackjack tables reshuffle their decks after every round! While some high payout blackjack variations invite you to break a few rules, no table is willing to let you break this one!

Of course, you can find games that do not do this, but they are sporadic. Even ones that do will reshuffle them after a few rounds. This function stops players from getting the upper hand over the software provider and beating the RTP. Blackjack already has one of the lowest house edges available on the market. If you could pull off card counting, you could beat the casino, hence why they crack down so hard on it.

As far as online tables go, we advise not even trying to pull off card counting. However, they are not the only blackjack tables we can play. There are also live dealer tables, where shuffling the deck with every round is simply impossible. It would drag down each round, and people would quickly lose interest. Is it possible to pull off card counting on live casino blackjack tables?

Decks and Reshuffling in Live Casino Blackjack

Live dealer blackjack tables may not be able to reshuffle their decks with every round, but they do have other ways of stopping you. In fact, they share one of those ways with online blackjack tables. You will never find a blackjack table that plays with a single deck. All of them play with six or eight decks of cards. All of them are combined. The dealer takes part of the deck randomly and removes a few cards just in case.

This makes it nigh on impossible to know what cards are in the deck and how many are left. Still, if no other measures were taken, you could notice such details at some point. That is why live casino blackjack still reshuffles their cards after a certain point. Of course, nothing online casino software providers do is random. They reshuffle the deck when it reaches around 50% shoe penetration.

It sounds complicated, but shoe penetration is rather simple. If you have eight decks, and the dealer reshuffles at 50% shoe penetration, the dealer will do so after four decks worth of cards were drawn. Most operators and developers will set it to be even less than that, to prevent you from getting any kind of advantage.

Many developers are also starting to use auto-shufflers to speed up the process of playing. In such cases, there will usually be two decks. While the dealer plays with one, the machine reshuffles the other. That way, players are unable to keep track of the differences.

Gameplay Tracking

In our article debunking the biggest blackjack myths, we stressed that you should stick to a strategy instead of your gut feeling. Blackjack follows some fundamental rules, which allows us to create an optimal decision for every set of cards. To make sure this is enforced, gambling regulators force operators and software providers to make fair and genuinely random software.

While these programs make sure things are fair for you, it also works the other way around. Every online casino tells you that how you play is tracked for a variety of reasons. One of them is to prevent people from getting an unfair advantage. Just because you find a game where you can get away with card counting does not mean it is intended. In fact, it is usually an oversight by the developer!

As a result, such exploits will be picked up software used by online casinos eventually. This does not mean you will be banned immediately. However, it will result in an investigation. If you were really exploiting a flaw in the software to make card counting possible, you would be punished severely. You may only lose access to the funds you have won. At worst, your account will be banned for violating the terms and conditions.

Dealer Tells – Are They Real?

This is not strictly card counting. However, many who believe it is useful also believe in dealer tells. The idea is that the dealer knows what cards they have drawn and have in their hand. By carefully watching them, you can see their reactions and make a decision accordingly. It makes sense at first. After all, how many of us unconsciously smile when we get a good hand in any card game?

However, live casino blackjack tables will never have dealer tells. That is because the people you see in front of you do not have actual cards. They have pieces of paper with barcodes on them. When you see them swipe the card in front of the table, it reads the value and displays it on the screen. The dealer gets the information at the same time you do. Watching for dealer tells accomplishes nothing except wasting your time.

Is Card Counting Even Possible?

Card counting is possible to some degree for live casino tables. You can keep track of what cards and how many of them were drawn up beforehand. That said, all the extra additions software providers have made over the years make it not worth doing so. Multiple decks and auto-shufflers are enough to dissuade most people.

Even if you are particularly stubborn, many live dealer blackjack tables have a shoe penetration that sits at 50% or below. By the time you would start seeing the advantages of card counting, the decks are reshuffled once again. This leads to a whole lot of wasted effort on your part for minuscule gain. It is possible, but it is not worth the hassle!

Meanwhile, online blackjack that uses random number generators stops you from card counting completely. Unlike the live casino version, there are no actual decks that need to be shuffled. As all the cards are virtual, they can be reshuffled with every round immediately.

That said, even if it were possible to do card counting, we would advise against it. It was an offence that would get you kicked out from a real-life casino, and online operators are no different. If you have already found a casino that suits you with their promotions and games, you do not want to endanger that. The next time the idea of card counting in blackjack pops into your head, just dismiss it immediately. It is not worth it.

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