By John May
Can you count cards online? Don't the online casinos shuffle-up after every hand?
Well, no actually. Several casinos offer token penetration (penetration is the term card counters use to describe how many cards are dealt out). Cryptolgic casinos deal 2 virtual decks out of 8. Stanley Acropolis deal 2 of 6.
Unfortunately that really is token penetration. Technically you can get an advantage at these games by card counting but the fluctuations are enormous. You would need a bankroll of $100,000 or more and you'd have to be prepared to have losing streaks of up to a decade or more!
Global Player, one the best online casinos around, does have a slightly more playable game. It offers a "Baden-baden" 2-deck game with bog-standard European rules. They deal out only 30-40% of the cards. Ordinarily this would be very poor game, but unlike a real-world casino you can exit the game and re-enter with a fresh virtual shuffle. That means you can shuffle away negative decks without any noticeable loss of time.
In April I participated in Global Player's monthly tournament, coming fourth (Guess where the prizes stop? Yes, you guessed it, third.). However, I won a little money in the process, and this left me with $100 left in the account which I decided to experiment with. Using a 1-8 spread and leaving all negative counts I quickly built up my account to $160. Then I lost it all.
So much for counting online.
For those of you who think that all online casinos cheat online, let me add that losing a $100 bankroll is really quite likely in a perfectly fair game. There was nothing about the card distribution that suggested this was nothing more than a standard negative deviation. In fact, I am more convinced of Global Player's integrity than I was previously, since the number of blackjacks, dealer busts, etc. were all within the mathematically expected boundaries of normal fluctuation.
However, my overall impression of counting online is that if the game is playable there is probably a good reason for it. Either the game is not honest, or they have no intention of paying you, or, in the majority of cases I suspect, the game is too poor to be beaten significantly by even the most talented of counters.
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