There's a notion out there that card counting is dead these days due to hostile game rules. That you're looking at an hourly rate of $10/hour - barely worth the drive to the casino.

Let's take some real games running today on the Strip in Las Vegas, run them through blackjack simulation software and see if there's any truth to that statement.

The 6 deck game at The Mirage in Las Vegas has the following rules:

- Deck penetration: 5/6 or 83.33%
- Double after split
- Late surrender
- No resplitting aces
- Minimum bet: $25

We can run a simulation using blackjack-simulator:

```
$ blackjack-simulator simulate --minimum-bet '$25' --deck-count 6 --allow-late-surrender --penetration 0.83 --hands 10000000000
Table Rules: $25–$2,500 6D 3:2 H17 DAS LS NRSA
Penetration: 83.00%
Bet Spread: TC 0–1: $25, TC 2: $100, TC 3: $175, TC 4+: $250
Spots Played: TC 0+: 1
Strategy: Basic Strategy + Illustrious 18 + Fab 4
Simulating 10B hands...
Expected Value: $42.21/hour
Bankroll Rqd: $61,868.22
Risk Of Ruin: 5.00%
Std Deviation: $91.34/hand
House Edge: -0.40%
Hands Played: 10B
Amount Earned: $2,019,854,150.00
Amount Wagered: $500,190,816,625.00
Hands Lost: 4.9B
Hands Pushed: 796M
Hands Won: 4.3B
Time Elapsed: 2681.52 seconds
```

This shows that playing at a $25 minimum 6 deck table, where we spread $25-$250,
using perfect basic strategy , Illustrious 18 and Fab 4 deviations, we can earn
**$42.21**/hour. That's pretty significant assuming we can keep the count over
six decks.

Off-strip, any Station casino has a double deck game with the following rules:

- Deck penetration: 1.5/2 or 75%
- Double after split
- No resplitting aces
- No late surrender
- Minimum bet: $25

```
$ blackjack-simulator simulate --minimum-bet '$25' --hands 10000000000
Table Rules: $25–$2,500 2D 3:2 H17 DAS NLS NRSA
Penetration: 75.00%
Bet Spread: TC 0–1: $25, TC 2: $100, TC 3: $175, TC 4+: $250
Spots Played: TC 0+: 1
Strategy: Basic Strategy + Illustrious 18 + Fab 4
Simulating 10B hands...
Expected Value: $144.21/hour
Bankroll Rqd: $30,437.92
Risk Of Ruin: 5.00%
Std Deviation: $118.41/hand
House Edge: -1.06%
Hands Played: 10B
Amount Earned: $6,899,810,087.50
Amount Wagered: $648,355,766,900.00
Hands Lost: 4.8B
Hands Pushed: 814.3M
Hands Won: 4.4B
Time Elapsed: 4553.78 second
```

That's a **$144.21**/hour EV spreading $25-$250.

Double deck at Strat has similar rules at a $50 minimum table:

- Deck penetration: 1.5/2 or 75%
- Double after split
- No resplitting aces
- No late surrender
- Minimum bet: $50

```
$ blackjack-simulator simulate --minimum-bet '$50' --hands 10000000000
Table Rules: $50–$5,000 2D 3:2 H17 DAS NLS NRSA
Penetration: 75.00%
Bet Spread: TC 0–1: $50, TC 2: $200, TC 3: $350, TC 4+: $500
Spots Played: TC 0+: 1
Strategy: Basic Strategy + Illustrious 18 + Fab 4
Simulating 10B hands...
Expected Value: $287.62/hour
Bankroll Rqd: $61,035.09
Risk Of Ruin: 5.00%
Std Deviation: $236.81/hand
House Edge: -1.06%
Hands Played: 10B
Amount Earned: $13,761,825,275.00
Amount Wagered: $1,296,638,236,600.00
Hands Lost: 4.8B
Hands Pushed: 814.3M
Hands Won: 4.4B
Time Elapsed: 2483.81 seconds
```

We see that playing at a $50 minimum table, where we spread $50-$500, using
perfect basic strategy and Illustrious 18 deviations, we can earn a whopping
**$287.62**/hour.

Of course, the caveat here is that we need a 61K bankroll to survive the swings of the game at a 5% risk of ruin.

The other assumption with all simulations in this post is that we are playing alone with the dealer at a rate of 200 hands per hour. That's not too uncommon at a higher table limit like $50 (or on the graveyard shift).

The issue with card counting is not the hourly earnings rate. It's being able to reach a large enough sample size of hands to overcome short-term variance. We can run the same simulation 10 times with 400 hands (roughly 1-2 hours of play):

```
$ for i in $(seq 10); do blackjack-simulator simulate --minimum-bet '$25' --hands 400 | ack Earned; done
Amount Earned: $3,762.50
Amount Earned: $712.50
Amount Earned: -$50.00
Amount Earned: -$3,575.00
Amount Earned: $2,325.00
Amount Earned: -$1,537.50
Amount Earned: $5,850.00
Amount Earned: $1,812.50
Amount Earned: -$1,375.00
Amount Earned: $2,437.50
```

We can see that in one session, the result is roughly a coin flip - only half the time we go home profitable. That makes sense because a card counter can only expect an edge of 1.5% over the casino.

Let's run it again with 100K hands:

```
$ for i in $(seq 10); do blackjack-simulator simulate --minimum-bet '$25' --hands 100000 | ack Earned; done
Amount Earned: $69,900.00
Amount Earned: $29,250.00
Amount Earned: $106,862.50
Amount Earned: $165,025.00
Amount Earned: $39,425.00
Amount Earned: $120,275.00
Amount Earned: $85,262.50
Amount Earned: $88,600.00
Amount Earned: $77,500.00
Amount Earned: $126,225.00
```

After 100K hands, we're almost guaranteed to go home with a profit (in this sample it ranges from 39K to 165K).

Again with 1 million hands:

```
$ for i in $(seq 10); do blackjack-simulator simulate --minimum-bet '$25' --hands 1000000 | ack Earned; done
Amount Earned: $607,600.00
Amount Earned: $676,237.50
Amount Earned: $623,775.00
Amount Earned: $695,450.00
Amount Earned: $754,250.00
Amount Earned: $634,462.50
Amount Earned: $580,037.50
Amount Earned: $565,362.50
Amount Earned: $841,175.00
Amount Earned: $635,362.50
```

We can see that the more hands we add, the more the outcome approaches the theoretical EV (expected value). So the main issue with card counting is putting in the hours.

In practice, the average time to back-off or trespass from a casino seems to be around 5 hours. To get to the long run of 500 hours (estimated using 200 hands per hour), one would need to travel and rotate through 100 casinos.

Many blackjack games today are in fact unbeatable. This article assumes that you already know to avoid games with 6:5 blackjack payout, continuous shuffle machines, ante or shallow penetration. Many games are unbeatable but some are still vastly profitable - even on the Strip.