by Arnold Snyder
Table of Contents
Initial Practices, Drills & Requirements
Cutting a Standard Deck
6-Deck Card Numbers
Cutting a Lying Stack
Estimating the Discard Stack
Part I: The Theory of Shuffle Tracking
Let's Map a Shuffle
The Tops and Bottoms Map
Estimating Your Advantage
Author's Comments Today on Part I
Part II: Mastering the Mysteries of the Map
How Much Can You See?
The Properties of Riffles
The Fan Riffle
Other Shuffle Actions
Burying the Tops/Bottom Jump
Bottom Pile Cut/Burying the Bottoms
Author's Comments Today on Part II
Part III: Trade Secrets of the Shuffle Trackers
The Second Pass
Mapping Multiple Passes
4-Pile Criss-Cross R & R
The Lopsided Break
"Strong Hand/Weak Hand"
The Best Counting System
Keying the Aces
Steering the Aces
# Cards Between Keys
Steering to the Dealer
How Many Key Cards to Use
Keying With Counting
Sequence Tracking Teams
Identifying the Keys
Remembering the Keys
Author's Comments Today on Part III
The Cost of Steering
The Value of an Ace
Lay-and-Pay vs. Pick-and-Pay
Part IV: Estimating Your Advantage
6 Decks, 26-card Slug, Hi-Lo
6 Decks, 26-card +Count Slug, Hi-Lo
6 Decks, Hi-Lo, Running Count Distributions
6 Decks, Hi-Lo, Post-Marriage Values
What does a second pass do?
6-Deck Chop and Flat Values, Hi-Lo Count
Estimating Your Advantage Within a Slug
6 Decks, 52-card +Count Slug, Hi-Lo
A Quarter-Deck Off
More is More
Part V: The Value Charts
How to Read the Charts
6 Decks, Hi-Lo Count, Slug Values
8 Decks, Hi-Lo Count, Slug Values
4 Decks, Hi-Lo Count, Slug Values
2 Decks, Hi-Lo Count, Slug Values
Shuffle tracking is an advanced form of card counting. Think of it as gourmet card counting. “Recipes” work very well for card counting. Recipes do not work well for shuffle tracking. Counting cards is like making a can of chicken soup. The label says add one can of water and heat for five minutes on medium heat. No problem. Shuffle tracking is like making a fine bouillabaisse. It doesn’t come out of a can. You must start by selecting the freshest shellfish, and you finish by serving it at the moment that it has cooked to perfection. In between the start and finish, you will make dozens of decisions on quantities and timing, tasting as you go.
In this “Shuffle Tracker’s Cookbook,” you will find a lot of information about the ingredients needed to cook up a profit. But always remember that you cannot simply learn a “recipe” and win. Your own skill at judging the ingredients of any specific shuffle, and using those ingredients to your advantage, will ensure your success. Any lack of skill on your part will work against your success, and if you attempt to rely totally on recipes, even the best ingredients will not save the dish from disaster.
A few months ago, James Grosjean, author of Beyond Counting (RGE, 2000), told me he found it amazing that more than forty years after Thorp so little analysis has actually been published on strategies for beating the game of casino blackjack. He said he had reams of data on advantage play techniques at blackjack, based on his own mathematical analyses and computer simulations, that he had produced because he had been unable to find the information he was seeking in any of the literature.
His comment surprised me because I also had reams of data on blackjack I had produced in order to answer unanswered questions, and I knew very few others still working on innovative approaches to blackjack. In fact, more than one blackjack “expert” has stated that the game has already been analyzed to death, and that there could not be any more findings of significant value!
Most of the legal ways that players may get an edge at blackjack have barely been hinted at in the literature. Traditional card counting strategies have been analyzed to a great extent, at least insofar as the most common published approaches, but most of the methods of the pros have never seen print.
This report compiles a good amount of data on shuffle tracking gleaned from my hitherto unpublished reams. Stuff Thorp never dreamed about. The hard data is organized into simple charts, and explained. In publishing this new material, it is my sincere hope that some players will be enlightened to think about the game from a new perspective, and that they will discover for themselves new ways to beat the house based on these findings.
My three-part Shuffle Tracking Series was first published in Blackjack Forum in September 1994, December 1994, and March 1995. An edited version, consisting primarily of Parts I and II, was published in the 1998 edition of Blackbelt in Blackjack. All of these materials are now out of print. I am reproducing the complete original series in this report, along with a lot of new material based on research I have done since. The new material falls mainly into two categories: practice and testing methods for those who want to learn shuffle tracking; and methods for analyzing the potential gain from shuffle tracking in various casino shuffles.
I am NOT beginning this report with Part I of the original Series. I am beginning with a chapter on “Practices, Drills, and Requirements.” There is a good reason for this …
Based on my experience with training players to track shuffles profitably, it is my belief that most people do not have the visual acuity necessary to accomplish this objective. It is also my belief that most of those who have learned to track shuffles successfully have combined a higher than average visual acuity with obsessive practice, far beyond that required to be a successful card counter.
Visual acuity is not based on your intelligence, nor is it a function of memory. You do not need a high degree of visual acuity to be a talented card counter, but you do need this innate talent to be a successful shuffle tracker.
For example, a card counter using a balanced count needs to be able to estimate the number of remaining decks in order to adjust his running count to a “true” count. This is generally done by estimating the number of decks already in the discard tray in order to ascertain the number of decks still in the shoe. Regardless of the count system in use, if in a 6-deck game you estimate that 3 1/2 decks are in the discard tray, so that 2 1/2 decks must remain in the shoe, it will make very little difference to your true count estimate if, in actuality, 3 3/4 decks are in the discard tray, leaving 2 1/4 decks in the shoe. In fact, most card counters round off to the nearest 1/2-deck when making true count adjustments anyway, and extensive computer simulations have shown that this rounding off is of little overall consequence.
A shuffle tracker, on the other hand, who makes 1/4-deck errors with any frequency is unlikely to be playing with any advantage at all. Once you understand the theory of tracking, I can show you why this amount of error will destroy your edge. For now, suffice it to say that card counting is very crude compared to shuffle tracking, and crude “ballpark” estimates are not serious errors for card counters. But if you want to track shuffles, you must be far more precise.
A talented card counter who thinks he can track shuffles just because he can count cards is like a little league pitcher who thinks that because he can see the strike zone, he can throw strikes. For most counters, as for most little league pitchers, there is a rude awakening once the game starts. Neither the shuffle tracker, nor the pitcher, however, will ever know if he can be successful, unless he practices, drills, and practices some more. If you’ve got the talent, it will surface. If not … hey, try bowling.
I have known many highly skilled counters, pros among them, who acknowledge that they simply have been unable to track shuffles, despite a thorough understanding of the mathematics and principles involved. Many have given it up because, “When I try to cut to the high-card slug, the high cards often just aren’t there.”
So, before you waste six months studying charts and theory, let’s find out if you even have a chance at succeeding as a tracker. And, if you are a failed tracker, then you may find that the drills and practices included herein will identify your problems and help you on your way to success. But, be forewarned … shuffle tracking may not be a learnable skill for many players.
When I initially published the Shuffle Tracking Series nine years ago, I really did believe that shuffle machines might take over. As it turned out, some casinos use shuffle machines, primarily as a time-saving device, but Nevada remains a shuffle tracker’s paradise, and most other states that offer blackjack also continue to offer hand-shuffled games. Trackable human shuffles are the norm all over Las Vegas. What the casinos learned from the Shuffle Tracking Series was that it doesn’t matter that their shuffles are not impenetrable. Advantage players simply can’t track shuffles. Many can count cards. A few can find dealers flashing hole cards. But virtually none of them can track shuffles for beans. Most of the big teams tried it for awhile … and quit.
I suspect many casino game protection personnel will read this new report. And a few of them may conclude that a new shuffle tracking threat is about to hit the industry. Most of them, however, will note that the mechanics of tracking have not changed in nine years, and they will recall that despite the thousands of card counters who read the initial Series, no notorious shuffle tracking teams ever rose up to plague the casinos. The casinos are not even looking for shuffle trackers today. Many believe the skill itself to be more mythical than real—and they are not that far from wrong.
One assumption I will make … I will assume that you already understand basic strategy at blackjack and card counting. Shuffle tracking is an advanced card counting strategy. It does not replace card counting; it enhances card counting. If you are not currently a card counter, this book is not the place to start. However, you are in luck. Assuming you have a computer, there is a complete card counting course of instruction online at www.bjfonline.com. There is no charge for the course, and it is open to the public. First learn to count cards, then return to this material. I suggest you learn the Hi-Lo Lite counting system, as that is the most useful for shuffle trackers.
Finally, at the end of each of the three installments of the original Series, I have placed “Author’s Comments Today.” If you skip over the original Series material because this is material you have already learned, don’t neglect this newly added commentary.
This isn’t your mother’s cookbook. Instructions in The Shuffle Tracker’s Cookbook don’t cover pastry recipes and browning techniques, but new research on things like slug values, tracking e.v., exploding slugs, danger zones, edge work, overbetting in tracking, and updated ace location techniques.
In this 110-page Blackjack Forum Professional Report, Arnold Snyder gives the down and dirty inside story on this powerful, but dangerous, form of card counting, known as shuffle tracking. (Hint: Card counting is to shuffle tracking as opening a can of chicken soup is to making a perfect bouillabaisse—shuffle-tracking is a gourmet form of play.) Shuffle tracking is also a highly advanced discipline, at which most blackjack professionals have been unable to make money.
Snyder explains why in detail. In addition, he explains why “recipe tracking” simply doesn’t work, and why it is disastrous to your bankroll. Snyder first published his findings on shuffle tracking in Blackjack Forum in 1994. This 100-page-plus report incorporates in its entirety that early information, but also goes much farther, providing techniques never-before disclosed.
Included are numerous practice and testing methods for players who want to learn shuffle tracking; methods for analyzing and comparing the profit potential of various shuffles; the cost of errors; why shuffle tracking is way below all casino radar; and why Las Vegas is still a skilled shuffle-tracker’s promised land. Check out the Table of Contents and read the full introduction provided here to get the whole picture of what’s included in this startling new report.