Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when video card games started to make their way into casinos, there was some thought that video blackjack was going to be the big hit game. After all, blackjack was and is the most popular table game in casinos. There was some surprise when video poker became a casino staple and video blackjack was left on the fringes as a niche game.
There is a key difference in play between table blackjack and single-player video versions. Most single-player video blackjack machines pay only even money when the player wins with a blackjack – a two-card 21 --- as opposed to the 3-2 payoffs players can expect at most tables.
My email brought a question from a reader who thought there might be a way to make up the difference. “Isn’t video blackjack dealt from a single deck?” he wrote. “Could you make up the difference on blackjack payoffs by counting cards? No one is watching.”
It is true that most one-player video blackjack games are dealt from a single electronic deck, but that deck is shuffled for every hand. The edge players gain by counting cards at the tables comes from increasing their bets when there is a high concentration of high cards remaining to be played. There is no such edge to be gained when the cards are shuffled after every hand.
Even if you could count cards on single-player video blackjack, the 2.3 percent added to the house edge by even-money payoffs on blackjacks is too steep for card counting to overcome.