What is Deck penetration in card counting

As it is well known, Blackjack is a game which can be tackled with skill as much as its reliance on the factor of chance. It has been found that the game’s house edge can be reduced with the use of a proper Blackjack strategy.

One such strategy is the card counting technique which is also the most efficient one. Along the time needed to master the technique, it also relies on another factor called deck penetration.


About Card Counting

Card counting is considered to be a mental exercise in which the player keeps a record of cards as they are played. Some cards are more helpful for the player than the dealer, and other cards are the opposite. By keeping track of what cards are used and what’s left, a player can vary their bets so that they wager more when the game is advantageous to them and less when it is disadvantageous. That means bigger wins and smaller losses.


Those of whom have done some research on the Blackjack strategy would have come across the term Deck-penetration. It is nothing but the number of cards that have been dealt before the deck is reshuffled by the dealer in Live Blackjack. This term expressed as a percentage rate is quite important for card counting.

It has been noticed that the card counting tends to be more accurate with the higher percentage of the deck penetration. As such, the knowledge of card counting tells us that it is based on the cards that have been dealt and the number of cards that remain in the deck.

Interestingly, low penetration could actually be better for players who are not using card counting. The more often the cards are shuffled, the lesser games can be played, meaning that when you gamble at a low penetration table you’ll have less opportunity to lose money.

The single and double-deck Blackjack games have a higher deck penetration percentage than the Blackjack games using 4, 6 or 8 card decks.

When playing Blackjack online

It is quite often that we find players paying attention to the Blackjack rules and the table minimum. Blackjack gameplay simulation using software has revealed that deck-penetration is an undervalued factor in online Blackjack.

As the dealer keeps dealing into the shoe, the variability of the count will gradually increase, getting wider and wider as the penetration increases, presenting an opportunity for the card counter to increase his bets when he has a healthy edge over the house (or take a break if the count becomes very negative, meaning the counter is at a great disadvantage).

The general rule is that the shallower the penetration, the larger the betting spread you must use to beat the game. With a bad set of rules and poor penetration, you may not be able to beat the game with any spread.

Gaining advantage with deeper penetration

For a double deck game to be favourable for the card counting players, the deck penetration should be greater than 50%, ideally 60% or greater. For the card counting to work in multi-deck games like six-deck and eight deck games, the penetration has to be at least 75% and 80% respectively.

Before playing, it is advisable to see which casinos and which dealers offer good depth penetration, after which you can play to win by combining that knowledge with card counting.

As noted, in order to use depth penetration to your advantage, you will have to couple this with card counting.

However, if you’re playing a blackjack game with basic strategy, then depth penetration won’t make a difference to your winnings. With basic strategy, it’s more about money management than counting or knowing how many cards are left in the pack.

Also, depth penetration is only useful in a Live Blackjack game rather than online Blackjack as the possibility to use card counting in online blackjack is rendered irrelevant by random number generators. This means that the virtual deck is reshuffled after each hand, so card counting is impossible, compared to the live dealer blackjack games, where your chances are optimized.

Depth penetration can be used to maximize your chances of winning since it can give your card counting skills an edge to obtain a true count and take your gameplay to another level.


Name: What is Deck penetration in card counting
Author: Helen Stratford
Published Date: 30/05/2019