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The Mystique of Professional Blackjack Players

A Real Casino War

Professional blackjack players are the good bad guys of the casino. The house fears them, but other players admire and envy them when they are successful. And why not? Blackjack card counters and shuffle trackers appear to be these mysterious individuals with extraordinary mental capabilities. They are the bandits of the gambling world, lone gunmen waging an underground battle against a money-hungry behemoth. At least from the outside, professional blackjack seems to be a very cool profession indeed.

Cat and Mouse

Of course, the real picture of things isn't all that rosy for the blackjack players. Actually, professional blackjack with its advantage playing techniques is something of an endangered species. Casinos are incessantly studying these techniques to come up with counter-measures. It is only a matter of time before casinos catch up with these blackjack players.

Actually, they have already begun to do that. Proof of this is the fact that it is much more difficult to practice card counting now than it was decades ago when it first came to popular use. Edward Thorp introduced card counting to the world in the 1960s. Casinos have had more than 40 years to adapt to it and they have. Today you will rarely find single-deck blackjack games which favor card counting; you see only 4-8 deck games with low penetration (early cut-off). Because of this and other measures, card counting is no longer as profitable or as easy as it used to be.

The Threat of shuffle tracking

Shuffle tracking isn't quite as bad off as card counting—yet. It is a fairly new technique and both blackjack players and the casinos are still researching it. Shuffle tracking is actually card slug tracking. You track the favorable regions of a shoe (decks of cards used in a game) and bet high when you know these regions are in play. Shuffle trackers also make use of the cut card to put unfavorable slugs out of action. The player advantage here can rise from 1% to 4% according to studies.

Does shuffle tracking offer a real threat to casinos? Well, as far as the casinos are concerned, yes. Shuffle tracking may be a difficult art to master, and few are wiling to invest the time and energy into it; but no threat is too small for the casino. You can bet they are looking for ways to render this new trick of the pros useless.

For the time being, casinos do not know enough about shuffle tracking to fully neutralize it. Shuffle trackers are harder to spot than card counters since they can make decisions contrary to what a dealer might expect from a card counter. But any blackjack player who wins consistently still runs the risk of being banned. So discretion is still the key to staying in the game (literally).

Perhaps the best advice to professional blackjack players who want to try shuffle tracking is, "Strike while the iron is hot." Advantage playing in the casino is always a race against time. If you can get t the money before the rules for the games are changed, you win.