Can I Card Count Playing Online Blackjack?

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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The quick answer to this question is no you cannot card count playing Blackjack online. In fact, it is very difficult to card count in land-based casino these days. However, there is one situation where you can use card counting as an option to give you a slight edge, but this is not the same as the way it used to be done.

Why can’t I card count online?

If you are playing a virtual Blackjack game, then behind this is a random number generator (RNG). A random number is a string of code that sits behind the Blackjack table. In effect, this code is your dealer when you are playing at a virtual casino.

Random number generators are what is known as ‘continuous shuffle’. This means exactly what the term suggests. The remaining cards left in the deck are continuously shuffling. You may think that the shuffle stops when the dealer is dealing new cards, but this is wrong.

Even after the first card is dealt, and before the second card is dealt, the pack is in continuous shuffle mode. Between the second card and the third card, the deck is still in ‘continuous shuffle’, and so on. Furthermore, once all the cards are dealt on the Blackjack table, including the dealer, the pack continues to shuffle.

Next, it will be your turn to hit, stand, double down, split etc… During this time the pack will still be shuffling. The only time it stops is for a brief second to deal your card(s) if you choose to hit or split. At this point, the RNG stops for a split second and the card it stops on is placed on the table. As soon as that card is dealt, the deck will continue shuffling until you make your next decision. Once again, It will then briefly stop to give you another card and then continue to shuffle.

As you have already probably guessed, this makes it impossible to count cards while playing a virtual blackjack table. If you are not familiar with how card counting works, then the idea of the ‘continuous shuffle’ may confuse you somewhat. You will need to understand how card counting works, and then you will understand why the continuous ‘continuous shuffle’ makes it impossible.

What is the basic concept of card counting?

Card counting always worked better with single deck Blackjack, but that does not mean people did not master it on 4-deck tables. The basic concept is to know when there are more high cards than low cards remaining in the deck.

When there are more high cards in the deck with a value of 10, then there is more chance of the dealer going bust. This means the player can bet as long as the player is playing what is known as Blackjack’s famous optimal strategy.

What is ‘Optimal Strategy’ or ‘Basic Strategy’ in Blackjack?

The optimal strategy is basically a mathematical concept applied to Blackjack. There are full charts depicting Blackjack's optimal strategy for each variation of Blackjack out there.

You can check out Wizard of Odds basic strategy for an explanation on how to play optimal Blackjack strategy. If you hit, split, double down, or stand according to basic strategy, then you will reduce the house’s odds of winning. This is what all pro-Blackjack players use today since they cannot card count anymore.

Here it is bullet-pointed for you:

  • The dealer will never shuffle the deck – this is the only way card counting will work
  • Card counting tells the player when there are more high cards in the deck than low cards
  • The player will start to bet higher when there are more high cards in the deck
  • More high cards in the deck will mean a higher chance of the dealer busting out
  • Players must know and play Blackjack’s basic/optimal strategy at all times

How do I count cards playing Blackjack?

This is the tricky part. You have to not only master Blackjack’s optimal strategy under the pressure of betting, but you also need to be able to keep count.

In card counting, this is known as ‘The Count’. It is easy to lose track of the count and doing so could cost you a lot of money if you are in fact a card counter. Once you know there are more high cards in the deck than low cards, then you have a ‘player edge’.

What is the player edge?

Card counting does not mean you will win every session in the casino. Sometimes this may not happen for 2 or 3 sessions; hence, low bets and optimal strategy are paramount to keep the house edge down to its lowest percentage. This obviously means that you need to be a very disciplined player.

It is a means of knowing when there are more high cards in the deck than low cards. At this point, you can increase your bets because you know the house edge is no longer the house edge and instead you have shifted this to the player edge.

How do I keep the count?

The count is known as ‘The True Count’.

  1. A value is given to every card
  2. A ‘Running Count’ will need to be kept
  3. The count will give you an eventual ‘True Count
  4. Bets will be made higher or lower according to the ‘True Count’

Assigning a value to each card:

  1. Cards 2 to 6 = +1
  2. Cards 7 to 9 = 0
  3. Cards 10 to Ace = -1

It looks simple enough but takes some effort keeping the true count. Just follow points a. to b. above this paragraph using the concept to keep on subtracting, adding, or doing nothing for every card you see on the table. (Remember the deck is never shuffled so at the end of the betting round, the cards and placed at the bottom of the deck.

  1. As each card comes out, the running count is calculated
  2. Every card that comes out of the shoe will be added to the running count
  3. The running count will be calculated at the end of the betting round
  4. This running count is then added to the ‘true count’

When the True Count is very high, this means that a lot of the lower cards are no longer in the deck of cards. This then means that these cards will not come back into play for a while. In addition to this, it means that the remaining cards in the deck are mostly Tens, Jacks, Queens, Kinds, and Aces. These are all high cards remaining.

“With mostly high cards remaining, the dealer will start to go bust very often, and when the dealer goes bust, the player wins!!!”

This is a very basic explanation of how card counting works. There is a lot more to it and you will need to study the concept of not just mastering how to keep the ‘true count’ and calculate the ‘running count’. You will also need to master optimal strategy. On top of this, you will need to change the calculations of the True Count slightly if you happen to be playing Blackjack versus multiple cards.

Where can I find a place that does not shuffle the deck?

For many of you out there that are already excited about the concept of card counting, then there are a couple of options that will allow you to semi card count. It is not full proof, and therefore it is not overly accurate, but gives you a slight idea of how many high cards are left in the deck.

Surprisingly, there are a few LIVE Dealer Suits out there that do not shuffle their decks very often. Some nights they will consistently shuffle – maybe they have player analysis and know there is a card counter at the table. On other nights, they rarely seem to shuffle making card counting easy. I guess they are just not expecting card counters joining the table – I have no idea why they don’t shuffle sometimes.

You may be able to find some land-based casinos that also do not shuffle their cards often. However, if they suspect you of card counting, then the casino may randomly order a shuffle of the deck. This is considered fair game, so you will not get trouble because the casino knows that the shuffle will have just destroyed your ‘true count’.

Rounding card counting up

Firstly, before you can even apply the concept of counting cards, you will need to be able to play basic strategy; otherwise known as optimal strategy. Even if you are not a card counter, and you are an avid Blackjack player, then all the time you are playing Blackjack, you should be learning optimal strategy. This is the only way you will be able to keep the house edge down to a minimum and become ‘a real season pro Blackjack player’.

Secondly, you will need to learn how to quickly count the ‘running total’ of every hand. Last if all, you will need to keep track of the ‘true count’ and add the ‘running count’ to the ‘true count’ without error!