blackjack shuffling machines
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Introduction: Blackjack Shuffling Machine

Way back in 2000, the very first automatic continuous card shuffling machine (CSM) was introduced by the company Shuffle Master. It was called “The King”. Its main job was to make the life of card counters that much more difficult. As a matter of fact, the ads for “The King” all proclaimed, “The King continuous shuffler is the card counters worst nightmare.”. They were not wrong.

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The Bane of Card Counters

The thing is, card counting per se, is not illegal. You can’t really stop people from counting at the games table. Of course, the casino isn’t happy about it and therefore they tend to take a dim view of the activity. On the whole, if you’re caught counting cards, the worst that can happen is that they ask you to leave. As the casino is technically private property, then you have no choice but to be going on your way. In Las Vegas, casinos can bar you from entering if they suspect you of having counting cards. In Atlantic City, they are not quite so heavy, but will certainly limit your bet sizes and also perform more shuffles. And be watching your every move.

Blackjack Shuffling Machines: Be Cool

So, if you’re gonna count cards, then the trick is to disguise the fact. After all, do it right and you can make good money without attracting too much attention from the dealer or the pit boss. It’s really a cat and mouse game. And it’s the one weakness in the whole casino game, that they just can’t seem to completely eliminate permanently.

The Rise of the Machines

The manufacturer of the new CMS’s spent a lot of time and money lobbying the casino companies about the benefits of their new product. They claim that the CSM has a number of points that would help in the fight against blackjack card counters. These include the elimination of card counting altogether and helping speed up the gameplay by eliminating manual shuffling. Also, it offers substantial cost savings thanks to its use of four, not six or eight, decks of playing cards.

blackjack shuffling machines
A lot of gamblers prefer the original way of shuffling

Blackjack Shuffling Machines: No One is Happy

Well, six years on and now virtually all casinos have a CSM in use for their blackjack pits. Of course, neither the players or the dealers are overly happy about this situation. For dealers, the CSM takes away the physical and mental break that they get from manually shuffling the decks. Also when they are shuffling, it’s natural to chat with the punters. And it’s the one on one interaction that leads to good tips. We can only imagine what card counters think of these new contraptions.

How A CSM Works

When a hand is over, then the cards are put into the CSM to form a mix with other cards already in the shoe. The Shuffle Master King has an elevator system that moves the cards in a continuous motion upwards from where they are randomly put into one of 19 shelves. At the same time, the shuffler is taking cards at random and inserting them into a new shoe which is then presented to the dealer for the next round. Though Shuffle Master claim their machine is superior to others on the market, they all do the same thing in more or less the same manner. The main point is that the dealer has no contact with the cards at all.

Blackjack Shuffling Machines: The House Edge

As you can imagine, these continuous card shuffling machines are not popular with players. They even dub them “the uncomfortable shoes”. This process eliminates any card counting skills back down to a big fat zero. The other major disadvantage is that it speeds up the gameplay. Interestingly enough, many players naturally assumed that these machines would substantially increase the house edge. But in a study done by Michael Shackleford, the author of “The Wizard of Odds”, this isn’t exactly true. He found that there was only a slight reduction in the house edge.

But the Games are now Faster

In a normally dealt four-deck game there’s a 0.034 % edge. In an eight-deck game that changes to 0.014%. But the kicker is that the speed of play increases by 20% when using a continuous shuffling machine. So the regular player is going to be losing more in the long run. That’s because they are exposing more money to the house.

Blackjack Shuffling Machines: You Don’t Have to Play

Visiting the casino is great fun. And many players like the system of the dealer shuffling whilst they all have a chat about this and that. There is a kind of informality to playing. It goes to the heart of all table games. Players are not just there to part with their money. To that end, many players regard these machines as just another de-humanizing factor that is creeping into many businesses. And because of that, there is an increasing number of players, who simply refuse to play when they spot a continuous shuffling machine.

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