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Cluster Counting

Another method for determining the probablity of a higher than normal percentage of high point cards being dealt (which is an edge to the player) is known as cluster counting, or shuffle tracking.

This method is based on the observation that cards tend to "cluster" in certain parts of a multi deck shoe, and that the shuffling of the cards at the conclusion of a shoe can be tracked by a player so that he can determine which portions of the next shoe will be high in player friendly cards. A breakdown of this method follows.

  • When playing a new shoe make note of the flow of cards while mentally dividing the shoe into sections equal to one deck.

  • Now you need to observe which portions of each section that are high in Aces and ten-point cards.

  • Rate each section as being rich or poor in high cards and then make note of how the cards are placed in the discard box.

  • At the end of each shoe, watch how the dealer shuffles the new shoe. Keep track of where the clusters of high cards are located, and where they will surface in the dealing of the next shoe.

  • When playing this next shoe, increase your wager when you reach those sections of the shoe that are rich in high point cards, and decrease your wager when the deck is rich in low point cards.

Unfortunately, shuffle tracking is very hard to master, and casinos have taken measures to defeat its effectiveness. Some counter measures used by casinos include using two discard racks, changing the pattern of the shuffle, and by using automated shuffling machines. You may still run across blackjack tables where this method can be used, and if you are willing to practice and learn the technique, it can be effective.