Blackjack card counting is easily the most well-known form of advantage play in blackjack. You can find more details here, but it revolves around keeping track of which cards are still in play to push the odds slightly in your favor.
However, online blackjack is a wholly different way to enjoy the game of 21. Some forms of online 21 make counting impossible, while others strive to make it very difficult.
That said, yes – it’s possible to count cards online in blackjack. However, not all forms of the game allow for this strategy. Let’s elaborate.
First of all, we need to make sure you understand the difference between live dealer blackjack and regular online blackjack.
Live dealer blackjack is essentially a video broadcast of a real table staffed by actual players. As such, it contains actual cards that are shuffled, cut, dealt, and possibly counted. Card counting, while you play live blackjack online is quite possible, which we’ll get to later.
However, if your blackjack game does not display an actual person dealing cards, you’re likely playing RNG blackjack. For example, check out American Blackjack by Arrow’s Edge. There is no actual deck of cards hiding in this type of blackjack game. Everything is completely simulated, and the cards only exist on your computer screen.
RNG stands for Random Number Generation, and it describes the system used to simulate the randomness of drawing cards from a shuffled deck. This means there’s no deck penetration nor cards to keep track of. The game simply uses an algorithm to determine which card values and suits you’re drawing.
During regular gameplay, this doesn’t really affect much. In fact, such a system is arguably slightly fairer because all outcomes are truly random.
However, if you try to count cards in RNG blackjack, you won’t get very far. The reasoning is simple – such games do not simulate deck penetration at all. Cards are simply drawn from the exact same pool each round. In practice, the game acts as if the deck was shuffled between each round.
Live dealer casino games strive to simulate real casinos in every way possible. This means that the dealers are handling real cards and using scanning technology to display the results on the game interface. The whole process is more or less identical to actual brick-and-mortar casinos. That’s why card counting is about as difficult as it would be at a real blackjack table.
On one hand, the live blackjack format means that it’s difficult for dealers and pit bosses to see what players are doing. They can track your bets, but they can’t just assume you’re counting cards because you’re winning. That doesn’t mean they’ll make it easy on you, though.
Live casino software providers routinely add certain features that discourage card counting in live blackjack.
For starters, you’ll never find a live game of 21 with less than 6 decks, and 8-deck shoes are even more common. RNG-based single-deck blackjack exists, but single-deck live blackjack doesn’t.
Furthermore, deck penetration is generally severely limited with such titles. Typically, only half or less of the shoe is played through before the shoe is shuffled.
To the uninitiated, deck penetration essentially dictates how much of the shoe passes through the game before it’s shuffled. Most top live blackjack games simply shuffle while half or more of the shoe remains. This is done strictly to make live online blackjack card counting harder.
Moreover, some titles rely on auto-shuffler machines to shuffle cards between every round. Again, this makes card counting impossible.
To sum up, card shuffling in live casino blackjack is quite possible, but you need to temper your expectations. With 8 decks and 50% deck penetration, a perfectly executed HiLo strategy will merely push the probabilities slightly in your favor. Capitalizing on this advantage still takes a lot of time and effort.