Blackjack Continuous Shuffling Machine

The Uncomfortable Shoe

Playing cards on Blackjack table in casino, close-up
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In 2000 Shuffle Master introduced the first Continuous Shuffling Machine (CSM) for the game of Blackjack. Their machine was called “The King” and its main purpose was to help the casino's foil card counters. In fact, the ads for Shuffle Masters Continuous Shuffling Machine proclaimed, “The King continuous shuffler is the card counters worst nightmare.”

For years the casinos have been trying to thwart card counters who gain an advantage at blackjack by using expert play.

Card counting is not illegal but the casinos don’t take kindly to any players who take the time to learn a counting system and use their brains when they are playing.

In Las Vegas, the casinos are allowed to bar players they suspect of counting. In Atlantic City casinos can not ban players but they can limit the size of their bets and shuffle up on any player suspected of counting. Card counters all over the country do their best to disguise their skills to avoid getting caught. It has become somewhat of a cat and mouse game between the players and the casinos. The casinos would like nothing better than to find a way to eliminate card counting permanently.

Shuffle Master heavily lobbied the casinos to the benefits of using CSMs for their Blackjack games. They claimed the advantage of a continuous shuffler is actually three-fold for the casino. 1. It eliminates card counting 2. Speeds up the game by eliminating shuffling time.

3. Offers substantial cost savings because it uses four decks instead of six or eight in the shoe.

Six years later many of the casinos around the World have adopted the Continuous Shuffling Machines for use in their blackjack pits much to the displeasure of many players and dealers alike. While the casino executives probably hail the use of Continuous Shuffling Machines as the best thing since the "eye in the sky", most players and dealers do not share their enthusiasm.

I spoke with several dealers and was told the consensus among them is a strong dislike for the automatic shuffler. Shuffling gives them a welcome physical and mental break from the game. While shuffling they can talk and interact with the players. A little friendly conversation can also help their tips.

How A CSM Works.

After a hand is over the cards just used are placed back into the shuffler to be mixed with the other cards in the shoe. Shuffle Master’s King uses an elevator system to randomize the cards. As the elevator is moved up and down, cards are randomly inserted into one of the 19 shelves in the elevator. The shuffler randomly selects a shelf of cards to deliver into the shoe. Because of the non-linear process, every discard re-inserted following a hand has a chance of appearing in the next round.

Although Shuffle Master says The King differs from their competitor's continuous shufflers because the others use a linear design most CSMs so the same thing. They put the discards back into play and does away with the dealers having to stop to physically shuffle the cards at the end of a shoe.

The House Edge

The continuous shufflers have no benefits for the player and have been dubbed the "uncomfortable shoes".

It eliminates card counting for the skilled player and will also have a major disadvantage for the basic strategy player. It speeds up the game!

When the CSM was first introduced many players felt it would probably increase the house edge. As it turns out this is not entirely true. Michael Shackleford, The Wizard of Odds did a mathematical analysis of the Continuous Shuffling Machines and found that there was a very slight reduction in the house edge.

In a four deck game the edge is 0.034 percent and in an eight-deck game is tis0.014 percent. Before you get excited about a slight reduction in the house edge you have to realize that when the casino uses a CSM the speed of the games is increased by about 20 percent. The basic strategy player stands to lose more in the long run because they are exposing more money to the house edge.

As a player, I feel it’s a treat to visit a casino that offers double and single deck games. I would hate to see these games eliminated altogether. Even a multi-deck shoe game is preferable to the Continuous Shuffling Machines. The best way you can let the casinos know this is by refusing to play Blackjack at the casinos that use a CSM for their Blackjack games.

Until Next time remember:
Luck comes and goes.....Knowledge Stays Forever.