Online Casino Card Counting
You’re probably eagerly awaiting an answer to the question, “Does card counting work at online casinos?” Card counting may be well worth your while in land-based and brick-and-mortar establishments, but it is trickier to do with online casino games. The main reason is that those games’ algorithms tend to “shuffle the decks” after every hand. Moreover, several decks are often used, making card counting immensely difficult. Note that we said, “difficult” not “impossible”. If you find the right sort of game, such as, say a live dealer title, you are in with half a shout.
- What Is Card Counting at Online Casinos
- Does Card Counting Work at Online Casinos
- Is It Legal to Count Cards
- Card Counting in Blackjack with Live Dealers
- How Casinos Prevent Card Counting in Blackjack
- Tips on How to Count Cards for Newbies
- Card Counting Strategies for Online Gambling
- Why Card Counting Is Most Often Inefficient
- Profitability of Live Dealer Card Counting
- Top Card Counters
What Is Card Counting at Online Casinos
Is card counting a realistic possibility when betting on the internet? Well, let us say that there isn’t a clear answer. Everything hinges on the type of card game you’re attempting to have a crack at. Moreover, it depends on how the algorithm and dealers (AI or humans) handle the game.
Card counting in live dealer games is going to yield a higher rate of success than in algorithmic-centered RNG table games
The process involves keeping tabs on the array of cards (visible) at the table. By doing so, you can, theoretically, maintain a rough idea of what is still in the shoe or deck. This may give you an inkling as to what the dealer is holding and thus allow you to raise or lower your bets accordingly. Of course, there are different ways to count cards. They can vary depending on the size of the shoe and the number of decks used.
Blackjack is the best game to count cards in. Most players can readily understand a simple card-counting strategy. Mastering it is another process entirely. For instance, one basic way to count cards when playing blackjack is Hi-Lo, and it looks like this:
- Cards have to be assigned values that you’ll need to remember. Most players use +1 (for 2-6), zero (for 7-9) and -1 (for 10s, aces and faces).
- When a card is displayed, the player adjusts their count by the desired total, either +1, -1 or 0.
- If the count runs into a negative number, you increase the size of your stake because there are more low-value cards in the deck, and you are less likely to bust. If the count is positive, you lower your bet, as many high-value cards remain, and you could bust.
The HI-Lo is an example of a Running Count. If used effectively, it is thought that you could cut the casino or game’s house edge by 0.5%. Professional card counters can get this down by 1%. That might not sound like much, but it does make a huge difference to how successful you are when playing blackjack. It is possible (but tricky) to put these to use on games with multiple decks, but then you’ll need a True Count. We’ll touch on that later in the article.
Does Card Counting Work at Online Casinos
There is no denying that card counting can yield impressive wins. There have been more than enough verified cases in the land-based casino world to prove that. How do players fare when counting cards online, though? Admittedly, it’s a lot rougher of a ride.
Online games don’t just shuffle the decks after every hand.
They may also utilize timers to ensure that you have to make your move in a limited time frame. This adds an element of stress to your gaming experience and is designed to interrupt your count. Given these parameters, blackjack is the easiest game to count cards in, and even then, you’re going to have to hope that the game isn’t programmed to repeatedly shuffle the deck (most are) and that just a single deck is in use. For this reason, Single Deck Blackjack immediately ticks most card counters’ boxes.
If you want to get around the issue of algorithms designed to shuffle decks repeatedly, it may be worth exploring live dealer blackjack games. There, it is entirely possible that the real-to-life human dealer may make a mistake and forget to shuffle. Adding the element of human error into the mix is always beneficial to card counters.
We’ll look at some of these topics more closely in the following sections. As for a definitive answer to the question, let’s say this: card counting “can ” work for players online, but there are no guarantees. There are just too many variables in play to give you an accurate and definitive answer.
Is It Legal to Count Cards
Any guide to online casino card counting for US players will tell you the same thing – it is legal to count cards, but it is frowned upon by the casino. Some land-based casinos will eject players from the premises who they have caught counting cards. It is a casino’s right to remove players for any reason they deem fit, but you can’t be prosecuted for counting cards. It is not a crime, and there is no law prohibiting it.
Proving that players are counting cards isn’t as easy as you might expect in brick-and-mortar casinos. It becomes a lot simpler when betting online.
Most casinos deploy algorithms that monitor how players raise and lower their stakes. These anti-cheating measures can flag if a player’s betting behavior works in a way that the algorithm seems suspicious.
The worst-case scenario is that you’ll be ejected from the game (you’ll get to keep your winnings), and the casino may not allow you to bet on those games again. This is truly the worst-case scenario, though.
Card Counting in Blackjack with Live Dealers
Anybody who has tried card counting in online casinos in the USA will know that the process is easiest when a single deck is used when you play blackjack and when there isn’t an algorithm ensuring that the shoe is shuffled after every hand. Live dealer blackjack is the game to play if you want to count cards online.
Top-tier providers such as Pragmatic Play and Evolution Gaming lead the way when it comes to live dealer blackjack, but they aren’t the only game developers kitting out casinos with games.
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Precious few live dealer blackjack game developers offer single-deck games. However, it is worth noting that many RNG blackjack games can be played with just a single deck in the shoe.
When playing live dealer blackjack, you will almost certainly be under pressure due to the betting windows. Other players are involved in the game, and the dealer will move things on at a rapid pace. This hinders your chance to count cards properly. However, as touched on previously, there is an aspect of human error that may creep into the game, giving you a chance to pounce, so it is still worth counting cards in live blackjack if the opportunity presents itself.
How Casinos Prevent Card Counting in Blackjack
Casinos go to great lengths to prevent card counting in blackjack, both in the brick-and-mortar gambling world and the online betting scene. Despite casinos preferring to keep their countermeasures secret, we have a relatively good idea of the tricks and measures they deploy to stop you from counting cards. Let’s introduce you to a few of these below. They include the following.
Using Multiple Decks
By using multiple decks, casinos can make things notoriously difficult for you to count cards. The more possibilities there are, the less likely you will be to successfully predict what’s on the table. While it is possible to find quite a few single-deck blackjack games out there on the web, most feature at least four decks, and seeing eight-deck games is not uncommon in the slightest. To count cards with multiple decks, you’ll need a True Count. Again, we’ll get to that shortly.
As touched on already, online blackjack games (specifically RNG or random number generator games) have algorithms which automatically “shuffle the decks” after each hand. Casinos will claim that this is for your benefit, as it ensures that every single hand is random, leading to fairer gameplay for its members. That’s one way to look at it. The other way is to say that the decks are shuffled after every hand to stop you from counting cards.
Most card-counting techniques require the game to move at a steady pace, so that card counters can get through the deck quickly enough. Slowing the game down will often see a counter’s memory lapse, and they will forget just where they are with their count. Therefore, a casino may deploy a strategy where they only play twenty-five to thirty hands per hour. This is not to be confused with casinos speeding up your decision time. This is done to stop you from calculating.
It is perfectly possible for a casino to speed up gameplay during a hand and slow things down in-between hands. This is the worst case scenario for card counters.
Casinos also use algorithms and programs to monitor your bets. Generally, an online casino will see when you raise and lower your bets. They will have an algorithm that is primed to look for raised and lowered bets in certain circumstances. If they believe that your betting follows a suspicious pattern, you may find yourself booted from the game.
Tips on How to Count Cards for Newbies
Newbies are unlikely to master card counting right off the bat. Instead, we’d advise you to use the strategy we listed earlier on in this article. A basic count such as that already described (known as Hi-Lo) will help you learn the basics of card counting. However, that’s not the only tip we have for you. All the following should also be put to good use:
- Try and play single-deck blackjack games wherever possible.
- The fewer decks that there are in use, the easier it will be to count.
- Try playing live dealer blackjack, as this “could” introduce human errors into the mix.
- Avoid playing games that have timers on decision-making, if possible.
- Don’t play blackjack games where only a low number of games take place per hour.
- Never use card counting programs. Algorithms will spot this and eject you from the game. Unlike card counting yourself, this constitutes cheating and could also lead to your account being seized and closed.
- Try and mask your betting habits if things are going well. It is okay to not raise or lower your bet occasionally, as this may throw any betting strategy algorithms out of sync.
Card Counting Strategies for Online Gambling
Aside from basic card counting in online casino games (such as the Hi-Lo strategy we’ve already discussed), there are some more complex card-counting strategies you can deploy. These take a great deal of time and patience to learn but can help you to turn the tables on the casino if practiced properly. Let’s briefly introduce you to each of them below.
Made famous by Bryce Carlson’s Blackjack for Blood book, the Omega II system is not suitable for first-timers. It involves keeping a side count for any aces. Omega II is a two-level system in that you also have +2 and -2 instead of solely +1, -1 and 0. Aces and 8s count as zeros in this system, with the strategy using +1 for 2s, 3s and 7s, +2 for 4s, 5s and 6s, and -1 for 9s and -2 for 10s.
Created by Stanford Wong (John Ferguson), this strategy made its debut in his 1975 book Professional Blackjack. Tens, faces, and aces are counted as -1, 2s and 7s are 0.5, 3s, 4s and 6s are worth 1, 5s are worth 1.5, 8s are zeros, and 9 is -1.5.
This overly complicated system is deemed noteworthy because, if used correctly, it is one of the most accurate to be found anywhere.
Group Play isn’t one card counting system. Instead, it is a technique where several players join forces to count cards. One player will be the card counter but won’t raise or lower their bets. Instead, they’ll signal to other players to do that. Finding a signal that works and isn’t spotted is tricky to do. Moreover, group play is almost impossible to utilize effectively when gambling online, as you’d need several players to enter the same table game at the same time, which is no small feat.
To card count effectively with multiple decks, you’re going to need to pay attention to the True Count. Thus far, we have only looked at the Running Count. That means the count you have in your head as the game is played. The True Count is calculated by dividing the Running Count by the number of decks involved in the game.
Counting Multiple Decks
Assuming that you are extremely good at mathematics, it is possible to use the True Count to gauge what’s left in a shoe. However, you will first need to know how many decks are in play and how many cards have left in the deck, and you’re going to need to calculate both a Running Count and the True Count at the same time. The casino will often deploy no shortage of distractions to stop you from doing this. The slightest break in concentration can ruin a True Count, leaving you clutching at straws until you begin your count again.
Why Card Counting Is Most Often Inefficient
Card counting in online casinos is, for the most part, not something that is going to make a huge amount of difference to you. The casino simply has too many countermeasures to make balanced card counting systems (like the Hi-Lo) rewarding. It is a great deal of brain power expended for little gain. You’ll have a lot more luck with more complex card-counting systems, but these can take years to master.
Instead of counting cards, blackjack players may find it beneficial to use Basic Strategy. This doesn’t involve counting cards at all. Instead, it involves studying a chart to discover what the best move to make is, based on the cards on the table at that time. Basic Strategy is unaffected by shuffling or algorithms monitoring your betting behavior. Moreover, as both AI and human dealers will be using Basic Strategy themselves, it doesn’t have the same negative connotations to it that card counting does.
Profitability of Live Dealer Card Counting
Given that card counting in RNG games is borderline a waste of time, what are the odds of success when playing live dealer casino games? Without any degree of certainty, we would say that your chances of success are “better” than in RNG games. That may not be the answer you were looking for, but it is likely the reality.
Live dealer games are, at times, akin to playing in a real land-based casino, where it is very much possible to count cards. By playing live dealer games, you’ll do away with the algorithm shuffling the deck, you’ll avoid intensive algorithms monitoring your betting, and there is always the off chance that the dealer will make a mistake giving you a chance to take advantage. Of course, there are no guarantees here, and live dealers are impeccably well-trained. However, if we had to choose RNG blackjack or live dealer blackjack games to count cards to, we’d unquestionably choose the latter.
Top Card Counters
We’re not likely to ever really know who the best card counters at gambling sites in the USA are. If someone has discovered the secret to beating the dealer at online casino games or come up with some radical software to help them do that, they aren’t likely to share that information. Would you give up your key to overnight success to help others? We didn’t think so.
However, there have been plenty of historically verified card counters in land-based casinos. It is true that most of them came to light only after they were caught. Others, though, made a killing and disbanded, with their stories transformed into best-selling books, movies and television shows.
MIT Blackjack Team
The mere mention of card counting in blackjack will spring an image into any professional blackjack player’s mind – the MIT Blackjack Team. This group of university students used various card-counting techniques to hammer casinos all over the world. Operating from 1979 to just after the millennium, the exploits of J.P. Massar, Bill Kaplan and others are now legendary. Working as a team, some of their methods saw them gain as much as a 4% edge on the house. Gradually, the casinos cranked up the heat and identified and barred many of them. The MIT Blackjack Team would eventually split into various teams tackling other casinos all over the world before their reign of success ended shortly after 2000.
A member of the aforementioned MIT Blackjack Team, Jeff Ma would leave the team and go on to be a sports consultant. His first book, “The House Advantage: Play the Odds to Win Big in Business”, was published in 2010, and he started in a cameo role in 21, a film based on the book Bringing Down the House that narrated some of his exploits.
The author of The Theory of Blackjack sadly passed away in 1998, but this renowned mathematician took an interest in blackjack after suffering heavy losses in Las Vegas in 1970. He studied blackjack players and their patterns and is credited with first revealing that casinos have an average edge of 2% on players.
Ken Uston was one of the most famous team-based card-counting masters ever to grace the casino world. He took millions from casinos and was known for his lavish betting – upwards of $10,000 a hand at times. Arguably his claim to fame is being the man who took the casinos (who had barred him) to court. The result of his lawsuit was that the New Jersey Casino Commission declared that casinos couldn’t ban players for counting cards. It is this case that reportedly saw casinos introduce more decks and changing rules to increase house edges to stop card counters.
Erica Schoenberg is an active poker and blackjack player. With career winnings of $850,000 and a high finish of eighth in the WSOP, her pedigree is exceptional. A regular on the Ultimate Blackjack Tour, this living legend was a member of the MIT Blackjack Team (in its later years) before graduating to poker after the millennium. She can still be found gambling (and often winning) in major tournaments across the US every year.