Beating Blackjack Shufflers

Dealer with players at a blackjack table
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Many players hate the shuffle machines they find at blackjack tables, but that's the direction most casinos are going. Instead of being frustrated, plan your attack and concentrate on the good aspects of these machines.

Continuous Shufflers

Blackjack is the only game you can learn to beat on a regular basis. Players who learn basic strategy have a much better chance of winning sessions at the blackjack table and, after getting a feel for the game, more experienced players tend to 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 and give 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 up to six decks. If you weren't aware, 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 still provide the observant player with an advantage. In fact, contrary to the idea that shuffle machines might have unfair leverage, 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 odds similar to off-the-deck shuffles, so the game is even stronger.

The One 2 Six shuffler has what amounts to an internal Ferrispercent wheel inside with many slots to hold the cards. When used, cards are inserted randomly 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 advantage is that, while you can't know the exact cards that will be distributed for the coming hands, you will know that the cards in that layout won't be dealt out in the next couple hands.percent

This means that you can look at the cards on the table and get a feel for what's coming next. If you are adept at card counting, you may already know that 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 several 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 card counting more important. Additionally, 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 percent better for the player.
  • Five decks is .03 percent better for the player.
  • Four decks is .06 percent better for the player.
  • Two decks is .19 percent better for the player.
  • Single Deck is .48 percent 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 and you 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 "re-split on aces." 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.

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. While those streaks can’t be predicted, 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 quickly 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 down to the minimum.

Multiple Deck Shufflers and Card Counting

Card counting is a skill that only a few people can 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.