Chapter 3. Data by Depth

The first hand after a shuffle is not that much different for a card counter or Basic Strategy player. As we travel more deeply into the shoe, the game becomes more interesting. Let us take a quick look at different depths before we start talking about penetration.

" It is not length of life, but depth of life." — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Why is depth important in Blackjack?

The deeper the dealer has dealt, the more information we have about the remaining cards. However, the main reason that depth improves advantage is the increase in count range. At the start of a shoe, the count is always zero unless the dealer shows burn cards. The advantage is negative. At the start of the second hand in a shoe, there is a small chance that the count has increased enough to raise your bet. The deeper we travel in the shoe, the more likely the count is out of the ordinary presenting an opportunity to raise the bet. In this chart we see the range of possible true counts by section of a six-deck shoe in quarter-deck increments. We can see that the range increases in both positive and negative directions. We have no information at the start of the shoe. Later a positive count is an opportunity to increase the bet and a substantial negative count signals time for a bathroom break.

What about unbalanced counts?

Running count strategies like KO, Red7 and KISS work essentially the same except that the ranges move very differently. One weakness of these strategies is the lack of opportunities near the start of the deck where the count underestimates the advantage. However, this is not as large a problem as many people believe because there are not really that many opportunities in the early cards anyway. From an Initial Running Count (IRC) of -20, we see that the upper range of the count increases much more quickly than the lower range as the imbalance in the card count values nudges the count upward. Unlike the true count ranges, these ranges expand and then start contracting again near the end of the shoe. This is because there is a smaller range of possible running counts when the number of remaining cards is low. There is a larger range of true counts at deep penetrations because you are dividing by a smaller number.


Sim details

  • Six decks, S17, DAS, LS, Heads-Up, Hi-Lo, truncate, exact cards resolution, 90% Penetration
  • Six decks, S17, DAS, LS, Heads-Up, KO-P, 90% Penetration
  • Four hundred million rounds each


copyright © 2007, Norm Wattenberger, All rights reserved