deck penetration

It’s pretty much accepted that it’s possible to count cards at land-based casinos. But many players will point out that counting cards are impossible at online casinos. In truth, this isn’t true. It’s perfectly feasible to count cards with online live dealer games. Having said that, much will depend on how often the dealer shuffles the decks. Or, as it’s better known, the deck penetration. This is the most important factor and will decide if you’ll end up making a decent profit over time.

Deck Penetration In Online Blackjack

If you’re a gambler or have an interest in casino games then there’s a good chance you’ve probably seen a Hollywood movie which shows coloured counters making big profits. On the whole, these scenes are very unrealistic. Though it’s perfectly feasible to make a profit playing blackjack, the real game for card counters is more about grinding out small profits over a long period of time.

One thing we can guarantee you’ll never see in a movie is the film star sitting down and playing blackjack on a mobile phone whilst at the same time raking in thousands of dollars in profits. That’s because it’s widely assumed it’s impossible to count cards in blackjack at the best gambling site for blackjack like 22Bet Casino. Unless you understand deck penetration!

Here at, we have a nice little surprise for you. Card counting is actually possible at online casinos! But the real question is whether it’s at all profitable. Today we’re going to look at the stigma associated with online card counting. We’re also going to illustrate that it’s perfectly feasible on some occasions. 

Can You Count Cards in Blackjack?

The main point of counting cards in blackjack is to determine when you have a stronger chance of landing a natural blackjack. Let’s say for the sake of argument that you were playing at a table with favourable rules. In this case, you receive a 3 to 2 payout on your original bet for a natural blackjack. Some tables, especially those in large gambling cities like Las Vegas or Macau offer terrible payouts of 6 to 5.

deck penetration
Picture Source: Pixabay

Now you should consider the chances of getting a natural blackjack increase dramatically when the shoe contains a larger percentage of Aces and tens. When you recognise this, then it’s possible to gain a greater theoretical advantage by increasing your bet size.

If you’re playing a game normally, you would never know so when this situation presents itself. The only way to do so is to count cards. By utilising this technique you’ll be able to figure out when the shoe is richer in tens and Aces. It goes without saying that in order to count cards you need to be accurate. This presupposes that you’re going to use a card-counting system. Many different systems exist, with their differences based on their complexity and accuracy.

The Hi-Lo Blackjack Counting System

One of the easiest to use is the Hi-Lo system as it strikes a happy medium between ease of use and accuracy. Essentially, you’re going to assign values to each card that the dealer presents. The point values increase for each type of card as follows:

  • Aces, face cards, and 10s (high cards) = -1
  • 7, 8, and 9 = 0 (neutral)
  • 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 (low cards) = +1

As you want fewer low cards in the shoe, then your positive count will increase when they come out. You’ll also need to be aware of how many decks remain in the shoe with a “true count.”

deck penetration
Picture Source: Pixabay

You can do this by dividing your “running count” by estimating the number of decks remaining.

Here’s an example:

  • Your running count is +6.
  • You estimate that two decks remain.
  • 6 / 2 = +3 true count

You can increase your bet size as the positive true count grows. A simple way to do this is by:

  • Flat betting with a count of 0 or +1.
  • Increasing your minimum bet 5x with a count of +2.
  • Increasing your minimum bet 10x with a count of +3 or higher.

Why Online Card Counting In Blackjack Usually Doesn’t Work

There’s an important aspect of card counting that veteran players call “deck penetration.” Essentially, this refers to how many decks the dealer deals out before the shoe is reshuffled.

Here’s an example:

  • You’re playing at a table with an eight-deck shoe.
  • Five of the eight decks have been dealt.
  • 5 / 8 = 62.5% deck penetration

It’s a given that in an ideal situation you want a high-tech penetration. This is simply because you’ll be able to place higher bets with greater confidence. A +2 or +3 true count is going to be much more accurate if only one deck remains.

deck penetration
Picture Source: Pixabay

Generally speaking, you’ll find that a 75% deck penetration is pretty much ideal when it comes to placing big bets with a positive true count. The big problem you’re going to face is that many casinos will shuffle the decks before this point as a means of counteracting against card counters.

It’s possible to find online casinos that allow greater deck penetrations simply because by constantly reshuffling, they will slow down the game. Obviously, the slower the game, the fewer bets can be placed. In other words, slowing down the game is detrimental to the casino’s profits. The thinking behind this is that the number of hands they would lose to card counters is going to be much smaller than the amount of money they can gain by playing faster.

Low Deck Penetration Is Not Your Friend 

Playing online is a totally different kettle of fish. After all, online casinos have no worries about losing hands when decks are reshuffled. All their blackjack games are nothing more than software. Meaning the shoes are shuffled automatically with no wasted time. On the whole, most software game providers have programmed their blackjack games so that very little deck penetration is required for reshuffling.

In truth, gaining an advantage in these cases is going to be extremely difficult. Having said that, you could probably improve your odds a little if the casino allowed up to 25% penetration. But even with this, it’s not going to be enough to go to count with any confidence or throw the odds in your favour. No matter what secret blackjack winning tips you employ, it’s this low deck penetration that makes card counting so difficult at virtual tables.

Some Live Dealer Casinos Allow More Deck Penetration

Virtually all the best online blackjack casinos like 22Bet Casino will offer live dealer versions of blackjack. These feature real dealers, sitting at real tables, and playing with real cards. In fact, the tables operate in the same manner as you would find in a land-based casino. The only difference is the action is taking place in a studio whilst streaming over the internet.

deck penetration
Picture Source: Pixabay

If we assume that conditions were perfect, then live blackjack would be the best way to count cards online. As a player, you could simply sit at home and when counting cards, you wouldn’t have the worry of drawing attention from the pit boss or the casino security. Unfortunately for you, and fortunately for the casinos, they realise that they could be beaten by players counting cards during their live games.

To counteract this, the dealers are instructed to shuffle the shoes before any significant amount of deck penetration has taken place. As a given, they’re not going to deal through 75% of the shoe. Having said that, live casinos also worry about over-shuffling. This would lead to the casino having fewer chances for the house edge to take effect. That’s why you’ll find many online casino live games don’t reshuffle until at least 50% deck penetration. This means that as a card-counting player, you could gain a tiny advantage.

What Is the Profitability of Live Dealer Card Counting? 

Even though we can now see it’s possible to count cards with online blackjack, it’s important to recognize that it’s just not as profitable as you would like.

deck penetration
Picture Source: Pixabay

If all goes well, then you could earn a small profit over time. But for this, you need to use a large spread. The spread is the distance from your minimum to your maximum wager.

Here’s an example:

  • You’re playing at a table with $5 minimum bets.
  • You increase your wager to $75 with a true count of +3.
  • 75 / 5 = 15
  • Your bet spread is 1-15.

On the whole, most professional card counters use between a 1-10 and 1-15 bet spread. The problem here is that these betting patterns are easy to recognise and are a telltale sign of a player who’s counting cards. It’s going to be difficult to get around an edge with 50% deck penetration unless you are utilising a 1-30 spread. For example, let’s imagine the minimum table bet is $5. This means we need to be betting up to $150 with a + 3 true count. It may be possible to find an online casino that’s perfectly happy with this. We should point out that the vast majority of casinos will be running software that monitors your play. In which case, it’s feasible you could be labelled as a bad customer.

Another factor to consider is the sheer amount of time you would have to dedicate to playing online blackjack in order to gain a tiny profit. Even if you were playing perfect blackjack strategies. So, though blackjack card counting is possible, it may not be worth your while in terms of either time or profit.

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