Blackjack Continuous Shuffling Machine

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 casinos 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 casinos have been trying to thwart card counters who gain an advantage at blackjack by using expert play. While card counting isn't illegal, casinos don’t take kindly to it. In Las Vegas, casinos are allowed to bar players they suspect of counting. In Atlantic City, casinos can't 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 and casinos would like nothing better than to eliminate card counting permanently.

Shuffle Master heavily lobbied casinos for the benefits of using CSMs for their Blackjack games. They claimed the advantage of a continuous shuffler is three-fold:

  1. It eliminates card counting.
  2. It speeds up the game by eliminating shuffling time.
  3. It offers substantial cost savings because it uses four decks instead of six or eight in the shoe.

Six years later many casinos around the world have adopted the Continuous Shuffling Machines for use in their blackjack pits, much to the displeasure of players and dealers alike. We spoke with several dealers and 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 and 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 do the same thing. They put the discards back into play and do away with the dealers having 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 has a major disadvantage for the basic strategy player: it speeds up the game!

When the CSM was first introduced, many players felt it would likely increase the house edge. As it turns out this is not entirely true. Michael Shackleford--The Wizard of Odds--did a mathematical analysis of 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 it is 0.014 percent. Before you get excited about the slight reduction remember that when casinos use 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.

It’s a treat to visit a casino that offers double and single deck games and it would be unfortunate to see them eliminated altogether. Even a multi-deck shoe game is preferable to the Continuous Shuffling Machines. The best way to make yourself heard is by refusing to play Blackjack at casinos that use a CSM for their Blackjack games.