Blackjack Shuffle Tracking
Almost everyone has heard of card-counting as a premier, hard-to-master blackjack strategy that works. Shuffle tracking is card counting's lesser-known sibling. Shuffle tracking — also known as "cluster tracking" — is derived from card counting but it's much harder to master, while at the same time being potentially more advantageous.
A really good shuffle tracker is also an expert card-counter. But a shuffle tracker needs more than a great memory; he also needs a really keen eye. As blackjack strategies go, shuffle tracking is more complex than card counting in that it involves more intense concentration and a focused attention span. To most people, blackjack card counting alone is hard enough to grasp; add shuffle tracking to the mix and winning at blackjack becomes a huge challenge.
Here's an example of how shuffle tracking works: Let's say you're playing in a multiple-deck black jack game and, through your great card-counting skills, it's clear to you that most of the valuable face cards haven't been played yet (i.e., they're still in the shoe). If you could somehow visually "track" those remaining cards during the next shuffle and see if they stay together and where in the shoe they end up, you would have a real advantage in the next round of blackjack. If it sounds difficult, it's because it is.
Card counting is hard enough to learn and master, but shuffle tracking is a real mystery and, as such, scares most casinos to death. Blackjack casinos have more or less managed to crack down on most serious card-counters but shuffle trackers are an elusive bunch and a relatively new type of gambler, as well. Shuffle tracking is not a science - basically what is means is looking for big bunches of tens and face cards and keeping track of them through subsequent shuffles. Since the prevalence of ten-value cards increases the odds that the dealer will bust and thereby tips the probabilities in the player's favor, a good shuffle tracker will then bet big when it's time for that clump of tens to surface. In theory, it sounds simple; in reality, it's close to impossible.
But in order to take shuffle tracking seriously as a blackjack strategy, one would have to know how much of an edge it can give a good tracker. The truth is that it's really hard to say. Like card counting, shuffle tracking is based on probability. Still, shuffle tracking is far from a science and there are many variables involved. Supposedly, a great shuffle tracker can increase the edge by a few percentage points. But remember, there are very few great shuffle trackers. Blackjack shuffle tracker is far from a recommended career choice.
A myriad of things can go wrong for a shuffle tracker. Shuffle tracking is unpredictable — where that clump of tens ends up is anyone's guess at the end of the day. And shuffle tracking depends greatly on the human factor, as well — every dealer is a different type of shuffler. Finally, in the heat of the moment, even a good shuffle tracker can be off in his guess of where that valuable bunch of cards will end up.
A word must be added here about shuffle tracking and online blackjack. Unfortunately, they are mutually exclusive. Shuffle tracking does not work in an online blackjack casino because the online blackjack software tends to reshuffle cards after each round of black jack in ways far more even and fair than a human dealer ever could. Shuffle tracking takes advantage of shuffling flaws that human dealers tend to make; computer shuffling cannot be exploited in the same way. And so, while there are still many advantages to playing blackjack online, shuffle tracking is not one of them. The blackjack basic strategy remains the only truly viable strategy for the online blackjack player.
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