Why Card Counting in Live Dealer Blackjack Can Make You Lose More

Written By Barbara Nathan on August 16, 2017 - Last Updated on April 6, 2018

This post is about card counting. Many of you may be wondering if the casino will let you use this technique in Live Dealer Blackjack and, if so, it actually works. Keep reading for the answer to these questions.

Live Dealer Blackjack is a Good Game for the Player

Blackjack–either the electronic game or with a live dealer–is not only the most popular casino table game. It is also the game which, played as it should be, with good rules and using the proper basic strategy, has the lowest house edge of all of the casino games. However, when electronic blackjack is played online day in and day out, after a while it can become tedious. This is particularly the case if the player misses the social interaction that’s one of the built in pleasures of playing table games in a real brick and mortar casino. Live Dealer Blackjack helps bridge this gap between online play and real casino play. It is a very entertaining engaging way to play blackjack.

Some of the rules of Live Dealer Blackjack, like the dealer hitting soft 17, make this game not as good as some of the blackjack games you will find elsewhere, However, when playing online, Live Dealer Blackjack is still one of your better options.

For example, most of the NJ online slot games have a house edge of about 5%, compared to less than 1% with correct basic strategy for Live Dealer Blackjack. Live Dealer Blackjack is also clearly superior to Live Dealer Roulette. If you want to play roulette at all,  you should stick to European or French Roulette with just a single zero. You can play the latter online, but not as a Live Dealer Game. Live Dealer Roulette is American Roulette with both a single and double zero, which increases the house edge. Live Dealer Blackjack, on the other hand, while not a great game, is a fairly good game.

Card Counting in Live Dealer Blackjack?

As small as the house edge is in Live Dealer Blackjack, it still exists. So if you play long enough and often enough, you are bound to see some significant variation in your results. Using correct basic strategy will help you optimize your results, but it won’t remove the house edge completely, nor can it guarantee you will always wind up winning.

Card counting is one way, in some games, but Live Dealer Blackjack isn’t one of them, to shift the edge slightly in favor of the player. And even then, winning is not guaranteed.

Movies like Rainman and 21 paint an exaggerated picture of card counting that bears little resemblance to how it works or doesn’t work in reality. Unfortunately, in Live Dealer Blackjack, the strategy doesn’t work.

Yes, it’s true that in Live Dealer Blackjack, the dealer only shuffles the cards once, when the cut card card comes up, rather than the cards being reshuffled after every hand, as in other online blackjack games. However, that condition alone is not sufficient to make accurate tracking of high and low cards possible.

What Card Counting Entails

Card counting involves keeping track of both high cards (10s, picture cards, and aces) and low cards (2-6) as they are dealt. Different counting methods exist ranging from simple to complex, but one of the simplest and most common is to count high cards as -1 and low cards as +1 and keep adjusting the running count accordingly. Since there are equal numbers of each type in every deck, prior to any cards being dealt, the running count is always 0. However, as more and more cards are dealt, this number can turn either positive (which improves the player’s chances) or negative.

In a single deck game, even a small deviation can be significant. However, Live Dealer Blackjack uses eight decks, rendering a running count of + or – 1 or 2 meaningless. A better indication is the running count divided by the number of decks still in play, which gives you the true count. For example, if two of the eight decks have been played and six remain, a running count of +12, which doesn’t happen often, would be required for a true count of +2 and a distribution of cards that could give a skilled blackjack player a bit of an edge.

Why Card Counting in Live Dealer Blackjack is a Waste of Time 

Keeping track of the running count, then figuring out the true count, and then using that information correctly to alter both your bet size and playing strategy within the space of a few seconds takes a lot of concentration and skill. For many players, it is too tall of an order, but even if it weren’t, in Live Dealer Blackjack, the minimal benefit is not worth the effort. These are the reasons.

  1. Live Dealer Blackjack is a social game. Much of the appeal comes from interacting with and carrying on a conversation with other players. That’s what they will be doing, and you will feel awkward if you don’t join in. But actively socializing while simultaneously focusing closely enough on the game to maintain an accurate count is virtually impossible.
  2. The cut card is placed in the middle of the shoe. With only four of the eight decks being dealt out, even if you get what you think is a good positive count, it is entirely possible that most of the extra tens and Aces appear after the cut card, so you’ll never get to see them.
  3. In a brick and mortar casino, sometimes it is possible to gain an additional edge via an advanced technique called shuffle tracking. The player not only has to hope part of the previous shoe is very rich in 10s and Aces, but remember exactly where. Then the player must be able to follow the repositioning of those cards in the shuffle and be given the cut card in order to cut them to the top. In Live Dealer Blackjack, these capabilities do not exist.
  4. Live Dealer Blackjack is usually played at a full table. Full tables are great for socializing, but terrible for card counting because instead of many of the good cards going to you (some may also go to the dealer), they get dispersed among all of the players.

Another problem is that in between the time you make your bet and the hand is decided, a large number of new cards come out, which can affect both the count and your probability of winning.

Acting first puts the card counter at a disadvantage in having to use a count based on the end of the last round for both your bet size and strategy decisions. Yet there are other players who will be dealt cards and acting on their hand after you. On the other hand, if you’re last to act, you can factor in the other players’ cards in the round in deciding how to play your own. However, if you already bet too much or too little based on what you thought was the count, there is nothing you can do about it. Either way, your bet could be based on a count that no longer exists.

Of course, if you ignore the aforementioned pitfalls and want to try to count cards while playing Live Dealer Blackjack anyway, the casino won’t stop you. It has no reason to, since the strategy can’t help you win. More importantly, you will learn the hard way, that card counting is not only ineffective in Live Dealer Blackjack, but the inevitable erroneous calculations you keep making could cost you big time.



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Written by
Barbara Nathan

Barbara Nathan is a professional writer with a Master’s degree in psychology and expert knowledge of casino, poker, and sports betting. In 2012, just prior to the official launch of New Jersey regulated online casino and poker gambling, she relocated from NYC to Absecon, NJ in order to keep tabs on important developments in the industry from day 1. Barbara is very familiar with each NJ online casino and what it has to offer, making her comprehensive, unbiased reviews and game analyses must reading for any online player interested in maximizing his or her bankroll. Barbara is also a certified literacy tutor and enjoys volunteering in the Atlantic City community.

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