Deck penetration is one of the key elements of successful card counting. It refers to how far dealers go into the shoe before they shuffle.
Some land-based casinos offer the type of deck penetration needed to make consistent profits. After all, skilled card counters have been beating brick and mortar casinos for decades.
Do online casinos also allow enough deck penetration? The following guide answers this question and discusses why real money online blackjack is or isn’t susceptible to card counting.
What Is Deck Penetration?
Deck penetration is the percentage of the shoe that’s dealt before the dealer shuffles. Here’s an example of this concept:
- You’re playing at an eight-deck table.
- The croupier deals five of the decks before shuffling.
- 5 / 8 = 0.625
- The deck penetration is 62.5%.
Deck penetration is easy to understand in theory. However, casinos don’t feature a display above blackjack tables that shows the exact penetration percentage.
You need to visually estimate this variable. When playing at a six-deck table, for example, you might estimate that the dealer stops dealing at around four decks (66% penetration).
Why Is Deck Penetration Important?
Many novice gamblers think that card counting is all about skill. They believe that a card counter will make profits so long as they’re good enough.
However, successful long-term counting is impossible without enough deck penetration. The latter determines the confidence that you can place in a count.
Here’s a comparison to illustrate this point:
- You play at a 6-deck table.
- You have a +3 true count (true count is used with Hi-Lo system).
- The dealer goes through three decks before shuffling.
- 3 / 6 = 0.50
- You’re facing 50% deck penetration.
- You play at a 6-deck table.
- You have a +3 true count.
- The croupier deals five decks before shuffling.
- 5 / 6 = 0.833
- You’re facing 83.3% deck penetration.
- You can be much more confident in the accuracy of this count.
You want at least 70% to 75% penetration to make reasonable profits. Anything outside of this range adds more volatility and reduces the chances that you’ll be a profitable player.
Online Casinos Shuffle After Every Hand
The big reason why land-based casinos don’t shuffle more often and reduce deck penetration is because they can’t afford it.
Blackjack games are designed to give the house an advantage. Casinos stand to win more long-term profits by dealing more hands per hour.
Stopping to shuffle the shoe every other hand greatly slows down the game. This scenario would also greatly cut down on the casino’s profits.
With that said, land-based establishments must toe the line between shuffling too much and not shuffling enough. The latter case leaves them more susceptible to card counters.
Online casinos don’t face the same dilemma because their software shuffles the shoe with no time wasted. Therefore, mobile casinos can cut deck penetration down to zero with ease.
Card counting is futile at gaming sites. Given that the shoe is shuffled following every hand, you have absolutely no chance to count cards at online casinos.
Live Dealer Blackjack Allows Some Deck Penetration
Many mobile casinos also offer live dealer blackjack. The latter is a blend of online and land-based blackjack that’s streamed out of a casino studio.
Live dealer casinos are much like brick and mortar casinos in that they need to keep games moving to make money. They can’t expect to make much profit by continually stopping to shuffle.
With that said, live dealer casinos do offer some degree of deck penetration. You can expect somewhere between 30% and 50% penetration in live dealer blackjack.
Furthermore, you could improve your chances by card counting at live casinos. Even with up to 50% penetration, though, you’re not going to make long-term profits.
Again, you need enough deck penetration to have confidence in your count. While 50% penetration is certainly better than zero, it’s still not enough to ensure long-term wings.
Should You Still Play Online Blackjack?
You can see that internet blackjack isn’t suitable for card counting. Nevertheless, you should still consider playing this version. Here are some points to keep in mind when deciding whether online blackjack is right for you.
Online Casinos Offer the Best Chance to Win
Unless you’re a skilled counter playing under the right conditions, you’ll be facing a house edge. You want to look for every opportunity to lower this house advantage and boost your odds of winning.
Online casinos typically provide a lower house edge and, subsequently, better chance to win. The average online blackjack game only gives the casino around a 0.5% advantage.
By comparison, many land-based tables feature between a 1% and 1.5% house advantage. With that said, you’re facing double or triple the theoretical losses at the average brick and mortar casino.
You Can Play for the Lowest Possible Stakes
Online blackjack doesn’t require much money to play. In fact, mobile casinos allow you to enjoy this game for just $1 per hand.
Therefore, you can play mobile blackjack for much cheaper than what the average land-based casino requires. Brick and mortar establishments can require anywhere from $5 to $25 minimum bets.
Here’s a comparison between your theoretical losses at the minimum online and land-based stakes:
$1 Minimum Online Bet
- You play 150 hands per hour (online games are much faster).
- 150 x 1 = $150 wagered an hour
- The house edge is 0.5%.
- 150 x 0.005 = 0.75
- You’ll theoretically lose $0.75 per hour.
$10 Minimum Land-Based Bet
- You play 75 hands per hour.
- 75 x 10 = $750 wagered an hour
- The house edge is 0.5%.
- 750 x 0.005 = 3.75
- You’ll theoretically lose $3.75 per hour.
Blackjack Bonuses Are Available
Many online casinos feature blackjack bonuses. In these cases, you can use the bonuses to pump up your bankroll.
Here’s an example on how a blackjack bonus works:
- A mobile casino offers a 100% match bonus worth up to $200.
- You deposit $200.
- You’re now qualified for a matching $200 bonus.
The downside to blackjack deals is that they require higher rollover than slots bonuses. The reason why is because blackjack features a lower house edge. Therefore, casinos want more play out of you when earning a bonus.
Even still, these offers are worth pursuing whenever you play real-money blackjack. They can sometimes add hundreds of dollars to your bankroll.
Great Place to Learn the Game
A brick and mortar casino isn’t always the best place to learn the game. You’ll feel added pressure from the dealer and other players if you’re not well-versed in blackjack.
Online casinos, meanwhile, don’t feature this additional pressure. After all, it’s just you and the software.
Going further, you can play free online blackjack after registering. The free version allows you to learn the ropes without risking anything.
You’ll Need to Visit a Land-Based Casino to Count Cards
So far, I’ve harped on the positive points to online blackjack. As a card counter, though, you’re not going to get anything out of the mobile version.
You’ll have to play in a brick and mortar casino if you want to successfully count cards. Online casinos just don’t offer the kind of deck penetration needed.
Of course, card counting isn’t an easy endeavor. You must be skilled enough to keep an accurate count amid the casino distractions.
Additionally, you’ll need a large enough bankroll to survive the volatility. Card counting can be quite volatile due to the fact that you’ll only have around a 1% advantage over casinos.
Furthermore, you have to increase bets significantly with a favorable count. These higher wagers, in turn, increase the risk factor.
Provided you’re really serious about counting cards, though, then you might still go ahead with this pursuit. Again, you’ll have to count in a land-based casino for any chance of profits.
Online blackjack doesn’t offer any deck penetration at all. Therefore, you’re not going to make money by counting cards on cyber tables.
Live dealer blackjack can offer up to 50% penetration. Even this figure, though, isn’t enough to deliver consistent profits.
Assuming you’re set on becoming a pro player, you’ll need to live out these aspirations in Las Vegas casinos. After all, some brick and mortar establishments offer the kind of deck penetration you need.
For all other purposes, online blackjack is definitely worthwhile. It offers the powerful combination of low stakes, bonuses, and a low house edge.