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Blackjack Shuffle Tracking Fundamentals

Definition

shuffle tracking is a blackjack strategy with which the gambler keeps track of cards or series of cards during shuffles. These series of cards are called "clumps" so shuffle tracking may also be called card clump tracking. It is an advantage gambling technique that derives from card counting. Shuffle tracking works best in multiple deck games, especially the 6-8 deck shoe games.

Theory

The premise behind shuffle tracking is that the location of cards in a shoe can to some degree be predicted. It can be predicted because according to the theory, shuffling is not quite as random or thorough as the casinos want us to think.

Shuffling Decks

In all card games, the decks are regularly shuffled to change the order of the cards. But the reality is that casino dealers do not have the time to shuffle the decks that well. It's not that they can't; they can. But to do so every time would take too much time, time that could otherwise be spent playing games and taking bets from players. Thus, longer shuffling = lower profits. No casino wants that. So instead, the casino instructs its dealers to shuffle quickly using the casino's shuffling guidelines.

Shuffling methods vary in style and thoroughness, meaning some mix up the cards more than others. As you may imagine, it is easier to track cards when the shuffles are simple than when they are complex. So it is the simpler shuffles that advantage players prefer. Simple shuffles can be found in 6-8 deck shoe games, where it would take too long to shuffle the multiple decks thoroughly.

Shuffle Tracking Basics

Shuffle tracking begins with card counting. In blackjack, high cards -the 10's and aces - are better for the player since they give more blackjacks and higher scores. Low cards are better for the dealer since they prevent busting and fewer blackjacks are paid to the player. Card counting tells the gambler when there are more high or low cards left in the shoe as the game progresses. Usually, each low card dealt is given a positive value and a high card a negative value. When the total count gets high, it means most cards left in the shoe are high cards; the opposite is true if the total count is low.

Using the simple Hi/Lo system, if the shuffle comes when the count is -5, we know that the cards left at cutoff total +5 (since the Hi/Lo always totals the deck at 0). That means the remaining cards before cutoff were mostly low cards.

As the cards are shuffled, one can track this clump during the cutting and shuffling. When you know that +5 clump is near, you know it's mostly low cards. The odds favor the dealer then and you should bet small. If it was a negative clump instead, it would be high cards and you'd bet bigger.

Shuffle tracking lets you predict when portions of a shoe will come up so you can adjust your strategy as needed. Shuffle tracking also lets you put certain cards out of play when you get to cut the decks.

Note: In shuffle tracking, you want to see more high cards than low cards—the opposite of card counting! Why? Because in card counting, you count the discarded cards; in shuffle tracking, you keep track of cards not yet played. You want to see low cards discarded, and you want to see high cards dealt. Get it?


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