Blackjack: Deck Penetration . March 2001

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Blackjack: Deck Penetration

by Ralph Stricker

Once you have learned how to play blackjack using a counting system, Deck Penetration becomes one of the most important aspects of the game. It is defined as how many cards of a deck or shoe the casino will dispense to the players. To the basic strategy player it does not have any serious consequences.  To the knowledgeable card counter it is a powerful bit of information.

In blackjack, "all things being equal," single deck is the most advantageous game for the counter. Double deck being next and followed by multiple deck (4,6,8 decks). The problem is, all things are not equal in blackjack. For example if the dealer in single deck is shuffling up after 3 rounds with 2 or 3 players at the table. The counter will not see enough cards that enables him/her to place the top bet which is how the counter makes money. Betting large when the count favors the player and betting small when the count favors the casino. A 4,6,8 deck game can therefore be a better situation than the single or double deck game. If in a multiple deck game the casino is dispensing approximately 75% of the cards in the shoe, that becomes a better game for the counter. Therefore, it is not the amount of decks that determines the favorable game, it is the amount of DECK PENETRATION.

Most casinos have a reference point of how much they want their dealers to place the "cut card." Some even have a mark on the shoe to assist the dealers find the correct placement for the card. The good news is that we are dealing with the "human element" of the game. Most dealers after they have gained some experience, realize that the farther back they place the cut card, the less they have to shuffle. Most dealers do not like to constantly shuffle. Therefore they start "fudging" on the placement of the card. A knowledgeable/experienced counter will make note of these dealers. They will either remember them or as in my case, have a log book of the dealers name, badge number and casino that they deal in.

Any experienced card counter will not immediately sit down and play with any dealer even if the table is empty. They will observe the dealer shuffling and see where the card is placed after the player has cut the cards. This is what is done if the counter is playing in a new casino that he/she hasn't played at previously or a dealer that is not familiar from previous play. Other wise the player already knows which dealers are going to give good deck penetration.

Every card counter should be aware of what constitutes a good game. To play just for the sake of playing does not make sense. If the table conditions are crowded (another subject) and the deck penetration is not to the counter's advantage, DON'T PLAY. Remember, no one glues you to a seat at the table.

Ralph Stricker, also known as the Silver Fox, is an expert gambler selling books and tapes called the Silver Fox Blackjack System.