Beating Blackjack Shufflers

One 2 Six Automatic Shuffle Machine
One 2 Six Automatic Shuffle Machine. Photo Courtesy (Nevada Casino History)

Many players hate the shuffle machines they find at casinos when they want to play blackjack, but that's the direction most casinos have gone. Instead of being frustrated, it's much better to plan your attack and concentrate on the good aspects of shuffle machines.

Continuous Shufflers

Blackjack isn't the only casino game that you can improve at, but it's the only one you can actually learn to beat on a regular basis.

Players who learn basic strategy have a much better chance of having winning sessions at the blackjack table. And, after playing some sessions and getting a feel for the game, a few hearty souls decide that they want to really learn the game and progress to card counting.

While learning a system like the Aces and Fives Count isn't for everyone, it can turn the table on the casinos by giving the player a slight advantage over the house. That's the great thing about blackjack. Unfortunately, Continuous Shufflers put a real squeeze on card counting. Since the machines hold a number of decks and are constantly refilled with cards from the last hand, a counter can't take advantage of most of their skills. However, there are still some things an observant player can do!

While there are several different types of Continuous Shuffle machines, the leading manufacturer of machines (Shuffle Master) has a specific product called the One 2 Six shuffler that can be set for any number of decks, from one to six.If you didn't know it, the house has a smaller edge on a single deck game.

The fewer the decks, the better for the player.

However, the make-up of this particular machine can give the observant player a good chance to have a winning session. In fact, contrary to the idea that shuffle machines might not be fair to the player, the opposite is true. Some casinos offer six-deck shoe games as well as five-deck continuous shufflers.

The five-deck game is already slightly better than the six-deck game, but the automatic, continuous shuffler offers what is similar to off-the-deck odds, so the game is even stronger.

The One 2 Six shuffler has what amounts to an internal Ferris wheel inside with many slots to hold the cards. When used cards are added to the machine, they are randomly inserted into the slots. Then, a preset number of cards are dropped into the dealing section so the dealer can give them to the players. The point of all this is that while you can't know the exact cards that will be disgorged for the coming hands, you will know that exact cards you see on the layout won't be dealt out in the next hand or two.

This means that you can look at the cards on the table and get a feel for whether you might have a tiny edge over the house or not. As you may have learned by reading the Aces and Fives count, when there are lots of aces left in the shoe and many small cards (especially fives) have been played, you should bet more.

Those extra aces and 10's in the deck mean you've got a good chance of making a blackjack on the next hand. The dealer has the same advantage, but you'll get paid 3 to 2 for your blackjack, the dealer only gets even money from you!

Multiple Deck Shufflers

Shuffle Master also makes the majority of the multi-deck shufflers in casinos found throughout the United States. Most are used for six or eight-deck games. It's not the machine's fault that those games are worse than single-deck games. However, because the blackjack tables usually have one color deck in action and one shuffling, there are a lot of hands dealt per hour. The more hands, the more you'll bet per hour and the more costly your hourly blackjack entertainment is.

That all makes learning basic strategy and even card counting more important. And, you'll want to make sure you take advantage of any Player's Club rewards offered by getting a card and using it when you play to earn comps.

Multiple Deck Odds

The more decks used on the blackjack table, the higher the house percentage.

  Some casinos use as many as eight-decks. Compared to eight decks, the odds improve for the player by these percentages:

Six decks is .02% better for the player

Five decks is .03% better for the player

Four decks is .06% better for the player

Two decks is .19% better for the player

Single Deck is .48% better for the player

If given a choice, the single deck game is the best. Unfortunately, the rules offered may be different.  At large Strip casinos in Las Vegas, single deck is only offered in the high-limit room, with minimum wagers of at least $25. Players are often restricted to doubling down on only 10 or 11 at single-deck games, while on multi-deck games more favorable rules are offered.

Multi-Deck Magic

Beating the multi-deck games takes some skill. You really need to take advantage of any possible rule changes or streaks that come along. You will likely see games with “double down on any two cards” as well as double after split and perhaps the option to resplit on Aces. Those certainly help. Surrender may also be offered on multi-deck games. These rules can reduce the house odds to close to one-half of one-percent. That’s a very favorable game for the player.

Take advantage of the times when a shoe gets hot by keeping your wagers moving upwards when you are winning, and start dropping your bet when you encounter several losing hands in a row.

Streaks on Blackjack Shoes

Any game of blackjack can be streaky - cards run hot and cold - and sometimes it seems like the game is rigged. Fortunately, good streaks do happen.

Unfortunately, streaks can’t be predicted. However, observant players can certainly take advantage of the times they do show up . When the cards seem to be against you, keep your wagers as low as possible. When you catch a few winners, increase your wagers.

Raising your bet incrementally as you are winning is the best way to beat the game of blackjack. Although there is no specific evidence that winning streaks happen, experienced players will tell you that the times they really put a hurtin’ on the casino is when they were catching winners.

That may seem self-evident, but you won’t win any substantial money if you don’t raise your wagers. And, you’ll bust your bankroll quick if you try raising your wagers during a losing streak!

If you want a formula, consider raising your wagers about 25-percent each hand during a streak of winning hands, even if they don’t all come in a row. When you lose a few, drop back to the basement and bet the minimum.

Multiple Deck Shufflers and Card Counting

Card counting is a skill that only a few people can really master. Counting cards requires a player to keep a running count of numbers assigned to specific cards so it can be ascertained when the deck is good for the house, or for the player. When the player actually has an advantage, bets are raised. And, keeping track of the true count on a single-deck game can yield great results. It’s also easier than doing so on a multi-deck game.

However, since most casinos have multi-deck games, card counters must practice until they can maintain a true running count and adjust their wagers against 4, 6 and even 8-deck shoes.

The payoff is that even a simple Plus Minus Count can offer the counter an advantage over the house and can be fairly easy to implement on a shoe game.

When the count is negative and the house has the advantage, counters get down to their lowest possible wagers and stay there. A shoe can go cold for a long time, so occasionally you can take a phone call, go to the bathroom, or just take a break and sit at the table and watch. You’ll probably have to wait to play until the next shoe, but that’s good. Waiting keeps you from having to wager on a bad shoe.

The automatic shuffler will have the next set of cards ready to deal as soon as the shoe is done, so you can get started again. When the count goes positive you can quickly get your larger wagers into action. Having the multi-deck shuffler on the table will be to your advantage because you will see more shoes per hour, thus increasing your overall win rate.