Can You Count Cards In An Online Casino?

Playing Cards

In this article about card counting online, we’ll discuss several different topics and look to answer following questions, among others:

  • What is card counting?
  • Is it profitable to count cards?
  • Can you count cards in an online casino?
  • Is card counting legal?

So if you want to find out everything about counting cards, keep reading this article!

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What Is Card Counting?

Back in the 1960s, a mathematician named Edward O. Thorp realised that it was theoretically possible to gain an edge while playing blackjack. By assigning a simple numerical value to each card, you can keep track of which ones have already been played. This allows you to adjust your bet sizes to maximise returns and minimise losses.

If there are many high value cards left in the shoe, this is to the player’s advantage. By raising your bet size when the odds are in your favour, you can increase your profits. Similarly, if there are more lower value cards left, you can reduce your bet size or simply leave the table.

Card Counting AdvantagesCard Counting Disadvantages
Blackjack can be turned into a profitable game by counting cards to overcome the house edge.Casino staff do not like card counters and you may be asked to stop playing.
Even if you are just a casual player, counting cards can help to prolong and protect your bankroll.Card counting requires extreme concentration and patience, removing much of the fun from playing blackjack.
Card counting strategies are surprisingly simple to learn. You do not need to be some kind of mathematical genius.Card counting alone is not enough to turn a consistent profit. You need to play perfect basic strategy and even then, you will still experience losing sessions.
Profit margins are extremely thin. The effort to reward ratio is not great.
Card counting online is difficult at live casinos and impossible with random number generator software

Is Counting Cards Legal?

Card counting is perfectly legal. We are not aware of any country in the world where it is considered against the law to count cards in a casino, either land-based or online.

The reason behind the common misconception that card counting is illegal, is that casinos simply do not like it. After all, they are not in the business of losing money. But if you are caught counting, it’s more than likely that nothing will happen to you. They will monitor your play to keep an eye on you, but they may not take any action at all.

Counting Cards In Indian Casinos

Just like everywhere else in the world, it’s perfectly legal to count cards while playing blackjack in Indian casinos. If you are a small to medium stakes player, the casino staff may ignore you completely. They know that they can’t be beaten for very much money and that you still need to rely on luck in order to win.

If you are a slightly higher stakes player, the dealers may shuffle the shoe more often to reduce the effects of the counting. At the very highest stakes, especially if you are on a big winning run, you may be asked to leave the premises. Or if card counting online, you could potentially have your account limited to a maximum stake. But for the majority of players, nothing will happen.

How To Count Cards In Blackjack

There is no single way to count cards. Many strategies exist and some are more complex than others. But all card counting systems share a common feature, in that cards are assigned values to help the player keep track of what is remaining in the shoe.

Because the high value cards are statistically shown to be beneficial to the player, you need to increase your bet sizes when there are many left in the deck. You subtract a value from the running count each time a high value card appears and add to the count when low cards appear. When the count is high, that means there are many beneficial cards remaining and it’s time to raise the stakes.

Common Card Counting Strategies

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There are lots of different card counting strategies out there. Here are just a few of the most common examples.

  • Hi-Lo
  • Hi-Opt I
  • Hi-Opt II
  • Knock Out
  • Red 7
  • Wong Halves
  • Zen Count

For beginners, it might be advisable to try the Red 7 or Knock Out systems as these involve less complex calculations. But let’s take a look at the commonly used Hi-Lo card counting system in a little more detail, to provide an example of card counting in action.

The Hi-Lo Card Counting System

As we previously explained, the idea with counting is to assign values to certain cards. With the Hi-Lo method of counting, we break the cards into three groups, which are as follows:

Group nameActual Card ValuesHi-Lo System Values
High CardsAces and Tens-1
Neutral Cards7, 8 and 90
Low Cards2, 3, 4, 5 and 6+1

Every time a card appears on the table, add or subtract the relevant amount in accordance with the table above. It doesn’t matter whether it’s in your hand, or that of either the dealer or another player. You need to take note of every card, which is why counting cards online requires such extreme concentration levels. The number you are keeping track of is called the running count.

With the Hi-Lo technique, you need more than just the running count, because most blackjack casinos use multiple decks. Taking one Ace out of a 52 card pack is obviously a big change, reducing the number from 4 to just 3. But if we are playing with 8 decks, removing a single Ace still leaves 31 others to hit.

To counteract this effect, you need to convert the running count into what we call the true count, by dividing it by the number of decks remaining in the shoe. You can never truly know this figure, so you’ll need to make an estimation.

Can You Make A Profit Counting Cards?

Absolutely. It is possible in theory to turn a profit counting cards, either online or in a physical casino. But you need to be extremely disciplined and you must first master basic strategy. If you don’t know how to play the game optimally, limiting costly mistakes, no amount of card counting online is going to help you win at blackjack.

Blackjack Basic Strategy

If you want to make a profit playing blackjack, it’s not just a case of learning to count cards. You first need to understand basic strategy.

For decades, people have been working with computer simulations to find the most optimal way to play the game. Back in 1957, a book called “Playing Blackjack to Win” was published, containing the first blackjack strategy proven to be profitable. As technology has improved, we have devised increasingly refined strategies.

Although basic blackjack strategy varies slightly depending on subtle changes in game rules, the basics are fairly standard. Here are the key points:

  • Always stand on hard 17. If your hand is 17 or higher, the dealer’s card is not relevant. You should always stand on hard 17.
  • If the dealer shows 2 through 6, stand on 12 to 15. The house is more likely to bust when holding lower value cards. So with hands that are tricky to play, such as 12 through 15, it’s better not to risk going bust yourself. Let the dealer bust instead.
  • Take a card with 8 or less. It makes absolutely no sense to stand on 8, even if there’s a good chance the dealer might bust. With 8 or less, no card could make your own hand higher than 21. So it’s always worth taking at least one card and trying to improve your position.
  • Double with 10. If your starting hand is a card worth 10, you should double down most of the time. The exceptions are when the dealer also shows a 10, or if they are holding an Ace.

Counting Cards Online vs Land Based

A common question on this topic concerns counting cards online. Is it any different to card counting in a land-based casino? The answer is, it depends on the type of game.

If the cards are real and physically shuffled, such as in a live dealer blackjack game, then you will indeed be able to count cards. That’s because these live casino games play out just as those inside a bricks and mortar casino do. But if it’s software that uses a random number generator, as in the more traditional online casino games, there is no point in counting cards.

Another thing to take note of is the concept of deck penetration. This refers to the number of cards that will be dealt before the croupier reshuffles. There may be anywhere between four and eight decks in a blackjack shoe. But if they reshuffle quickly and don’t penetrate too far into the shoe, you will not have enough time to make online card counting effective.

Counting Cards In Poker

In short, counting cards in poker is not possible. When we talk about card counting, we are exclusively referring to the game of blackjack.

In casino poker, a standard deck of 52 cards is used, which is shuffled after every single hand. Therefore tracking the cards which have already been dealt is pointless. It’s also difficult to calculate basic strategy for casino poker games, for this same reason.

Card Counting Online: Conclusions

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