Counting Cards Playing Live Dealer Blackjack

July 13th, 2010 by admin Leave a reply »

The futility of counting cards playing online blackjack at an RNG (random number generator) casino has been well discussed and understood for some time now. Just in case you missed the mail on this old chestnut, then it goes something like this; there is no point counting playing RNG blackjack because each new deal is from a full, shuffled virtual deck/shoe.

But what about live dealer blackjack? Live dealer blackjack, as the name suggests is blackjack played online but not against a virtual RNG dealer, but rather against a real live dealer dealing cards via video stream. It’s a game format that is relatively new to the online casino industry, but one that seems to be gaining player traction if the number of adopting casinos is anything to go by.

And just like in terrestrial casinos, the cards are dealt from a real shoe, typically consisting of 8 decks of cards. And just like in terrestrial casinos there is no re-shuffle each deal. So can you effectively count cards playing live blackjack online? Before answering this question, lets first quickly revisit how card counting works.

There are many ways to count cards in blackjack. The premise of all of the methods is that a high card rich shoe, played optimally gives rise to a mathematical player edge. This is because a high card rich shoe makes for more pat hands for players as well as an increased likelihood of dealer busts when forced to hit on 16 or less.

Counting is a means to gauge at what point during a deal you have a high card rich shoe remaining to be dealt, and therefore an edge over the house for optimal play. And contrary to popular belief, being able to gauge the nature of remaining cards in the shoe doesn’t require a photographic memory – just the ability to add and subtract the number one.

A popular count method is the Hi-Lo method. To employ this method, assign the value +1 to all 2s, 3s, 4s, 5s, 6s; 0 to 7s, 8s, 9s; and -1 to 10s and picture cards. As each card is dealt add the assigned value to a running count. If towards the end of the shoe the count is high then the remaining cards are higher than average and bets are increased accordingly (maintaining basic strategy decision making). If the count is low (-ve) then bets should be decreased or stopped altogether.

So turning back to our original question – is counting cards an effective strategy playing blackjack at live dealer casinos? Well as you probably guessed, the answer is no. And the reason for this can be found on perusal of the blackjack rules set out at any live dealer casino. Sample rules from one well known live casino states:

“We offer eight deck Live Blackjack …The cards are shuffled when there are approximately four decks left in the shoe.”

So while the basis of any blackjack card counting strategy is to determine whether the remaining cards are ‘high’ towards the end of the shoe and bet accordingly, the rules of live blackjack provide that the shoe is re-shuffled well before it nears its end, precluding the possibility of an effective count.

Milton Shaw has written numerous online gambling related articles for online casino sites like Live Dealer Casinos

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