Counting Cards in Live Dealer Blackjack Games Online
While traditional online blackjack games aren’t good for card counting system, you can use card counting approaches in the live dealer games. You need to know how to count cards but also how to spot games where it will or will not help to lower the house edge, but if you hit the right games, you can actually get an advantage overall.
Introduction to Counting Cards in Blackjack Online
There are movies, television shows, books and other forms of media that center around the idea of an individual or a group of people making tons of money from a casino by playing blackjack. This always involves this mysterious idea of “counting cards” that is probably one of the most misunderstood ideas in all of gambling.
Counting cards is not about knowing exactly which cards are coming. Instead, it’s about understanding a ratio of which types of cards are left in the deck.
A wide range of different types of card counting systems are available for use, but before you learn how it actually works, you have to learn how to spot games where it can even help you in the first place.
In what follows, we’re going to teach you everything you need to know about attacking online live dealer blackjack games with card counting (and other strategies) to put you in a position to potentially get an advantage over the house.
The Basics of How Card Counting Works
We want to be able to spot games where card counting can help to bring down the house edge and hopefully give us an advantage over the casino, but before we do that, we need to have a solid understanding of how counting works on a conceptual level. This will help us to separate which games are vulnerable to this strategy and which are not.
In the vast majority of blackjack games, you’ll have several standard 52-card decks shuffled and put into a plastic device called a shoe that basically just holds the cards in place until they are dealt so that they don’t go all over the place like they would if they were just stacked on top of each other like a normal deck.
The basis of card counting is that you can get an idea of what the composition of the remaining cards in the shoe looks like once most of the cards have been dealt.
When we say composition, we mostly mean the number of small cards compared to the number of high cards. This is important because if there are a disproportionate number of high cards left in the shoe compared to the normal distribution found in the decks at the start, then you get an advantage over the casino.
From there, you’ll have some betting strategies involved, but this is the basic concept in a nutshell.
Things to Look for When Spotting Blackjack Games for Card Counting
With this understanding of how card counting actually works on a fundamental level, we can come up with a short list of things to look for when it comes to finding live dealer blackjack games where card counting is viable.
- The decks have to be shuffled normally before being put in the shoe. You can’t have any cheating involved where they put certain cards in the part of the shoe that doesn’t get dealt, which has happened before with some software providers.
- You need a game where the whole shoe isn’t shuffled after each hand because you need the shoe to be dealt down to only having a fraction of the starting cards left. Note that this excludes most traditional online blackjack games because those titles do have the cards electronically shuffled after each hand.
- Being able to place bets in a fairly wide range is also important, and we’ll get into why that is when we look at the betting mechanics of card counting down below.
After you have these basic characteristics found in a blackjack game, there’s a good chance that card counting will be at least somewhat effective. Keeping in mind that this has to be paired with a good overall level of basic strategy, there are still going to be many live dealer blackjack games in particular where card counting can get you an edge.
How Card Counting Systems Work
The average house advantage you get in a blackjack game is based on the basic 52-card deck. There are a certain number of small cards and a certain number of high cards (middle card don’t affect things much), and they come in a certain proportion.
However, once a lot of cards have been dealt, the proportions of these high and low cards can change, and that can change what the house advantage is later on in the shoe on specific hands.
In general, when the remaining has more high cards than average, your payout rate increases, and when it has more low cards than average, your payout rate decreases. What card counting does is it gives you an idea of what these ratios are like and how that corresponds to whether or not you have a favorable enough ratio to have an edge over the casino.
To do this, we can’t really keep up with each individual card because the vast majority of players don’t have the mental ability required to track all of this in our memories while playing. It’s just beyond the capacities of most human beings, so we have alternative options.
Our alternative is to use a simplified point system, called the “count,” which acts as a running total while we play that gives us an idea of what the remaining ratio of high and low cards is in the shoe relative to the average.
In live dealer blackjack games, you have plenty of time to keep up with which cards have been dealt and which have not, and this can give you a lot of information that can be used to determine when you have an edge.
The Issues With Betting
You’re going to be at a disadvantage a majority of the time, but you still have to make bets to sit at the table. The idea is that you want to make small bets while you’re at a disadvantage so that you can wait on the times that you have an edge against the casino.
Once the count indicates that you have an advantage over the casino in a blackjack game, you switch things up by using a much larger bet size so that you can compensate for the small losses you took waiting on the advantageous situation to come up.
The idea here is that you will get some opportunities here and there where your running count tells you that you have an advantage over the casino, and you need to bet more in those situations to take advantage. This will compensate for the fact that you took a lot of small losses, and if the parameters of the game are right, it can give you an advantage over the game as a whole during your sessions over the long run.
With the ideas of how these systems work out of the way, we’re going to jump into actual specific systems that you can use below.
Popular Card Counting Systems: Hi-Lo
There are a lot of popular card counting systems out there. However, the one that most people keep coming back to is called the Hi-Lo system, and that’s because it has a strong combination of effectiveness and simplicity.
The effectiveness of a system is about how accurate it is about telling you when you have an edge against the casino, and the simplicity is about how much you have to track and keep up with while you’re playing.
The process of using the Hi-Lo system is actually really easy. When a fresh deck or shoe is started, you begin with the number 0 in your head, which is called the count. For each card dealt, there are one of three things you’ll do to the count:
- 2-6 – Add 1 to the count
- 7-9 – Do nothing
- T-A – Subtract 1 from the count
Here’s how this works. The higher the count, the better your payout rate. This happens because having low cards removed from the deck is good for the player, and having high cards removed from the deck is good for the house.
At any given time, you can divide the count by about how many decks worth of cards you estimate to be left in the shoe, and this gives you a number called the “true count.” When the true count is 5 or higher, that’s when you know you have the advantage against the house in this game, and you can drastically increase your bet size safely.
That’s really all there is to this system, but it takes some practice to get good at it.
How to Practice Hi-Lo Card Counting
What you want to have happen is that this style of counting cards becomes an automatic process that you can do without having to think about it. To achieve this, you’ll need some practice.
However, you don’t need some expensive software or training tool. Instead, all you need is a deck of cards.
The Hi-Lo system is known as a “balanced” system, and what that means is that if you count correctly, when you get all the way through a set of decks (even just one deck), you’ll be back at the number zero. You can use this to your advantage to practice by dealing one card at a time to yourself as slowly as you need to in order to practice.
If you get zero at the end, then you most likely did everything correctly. Once you get used to this, you can speed things up while still using one card at a time, and then you can transition to two cards at a time since that’s what you’ll see a lot of at the blackjack tables.
It doesn’t take very much practice to get really good at this, and then you can combine this type of thing with basic strategy in live dealer games to try to get an edge over the casino.
Card counting in blackjack is an approach to trying to beat the house that is tried and true. Unfortunately, it doesn’t do anything for you in the traditional online games where the cards in the decks and shoes are constantly shuffled.
However, the cards are handled in the more typical way with a shoe in most live dealer games, and that means that they can be targets for this type of play.