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What is a Continuous Shuffling Machine?
Continuous Shuffling Machines, abbreviated to CSMs are sophisticated devices employed at casinos for the express purpose of automatically shuffling cards to ensure random outcomes. These electro-mechanical devices continually shuffle cards while games are in progress to keep the stack fresh and to prevent fraudulent activity from taking place at the casino. It is important to differentiate between the different types of card shuffling techniques that are used at casinos across Atlantic City and Las Vegas, et al nowadays, before delving into the intricacies of CSMs.
Method #1 – The Casino Dealer Hand Shuffle
As its namesake suggests, the casino dealer hand shuffle is the manual shuffling of cards by the casino dealer, typically the blackjack, baccarat, or poker dealer. The dealer physically collects the cards at the table and shuffles them as best as possible, cuts the cards, and then stacks the cards in the shoe. The shoe is the ‘card box’ from where the dealer draws cards to be used during the game. Cards are placed face down in the shoe, and dealt to each player in turn. The casino dealer hand shuffle technique is naturally preferred by blackjack card counters since it is the easiest way to gauge the running count.
Method #2 – Automatic Card Shuffling Machine
The automatic card shuffling machine bears similarities to a continuous shuffling machine, with the exception being that it does not shuffle cards continuously. The dealer physically collects all the cards that will be stacked into the machine, places them in the machine, and the machine randomly shuffles them. Once the cards have been shuffled, the dealer will physically remove the decks of cards from automatic card shuffling machine and place them in the shoe. Then, the casino dealer will deal cards to each player in turn at the table. It is a multi-step process to shuffling and dealing cards.
Method #3 – Continuous Shuffling Machine
Unlike the automatic card shuffling machine, the continuous shuffling machine (ergonomically placed near the dealer’s hand for quick and easy access) always shuffles cards. After every round of play has taken place, the cards are placed into the CSM and automatically shuffled by the machine. The dealer does not have to remove the cards from the CSM and then place them in a blackjack shoe – the CSM continually shuffles the cards and serves as the vestibule from where they are dealt. It is worth pointing out that after every round of play, when a CSM is used, cards are removed from the table and placed in a discard box. After several rounds of play, the discards are placed back into the CSM.
Commercial and Personal Use of Card Shuffling Machines
Commercial casinos utilize high-end card shuffling hardware and software to ensure the lowest possible risk for the casino. These robust devices are routinely serviced by experienced technicians, licensed and regulated by the respective authorities such as the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB), or the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE). The machines are inspected to ensure no tampering, malfunctions, or bias. The purpose of a card shuffling machine is to obviate risks inherent in human card shuffling such as loaded decks, dealing from the bottom, or other manipulations. With credible card shuffling machines in use, players can rest assured that the casino does not have any unfair advantage against the players.
Casinos around the world make extensive use of card-shuffling machines. The mechanics of these machines are beyond the paygrade of most casino goers. For example, card shelf shuffling machines work by having decks of cards dropped into a box. They are then sequentially dealt from the bottom of the deck of cards and slotted onto shelves. The shelves are randomly selected by an RNG (random number generator), with individual cards being randomly placed on top of, or beneath other cards on the shelf. Probabilities are assigned to each action, to limit the likelihood of any type of bias taking place. At the end of the deal, each shelf contains approximately 10% of the deck, and once all the shuffling has taken place, statistical measures are employed to determine the randomness of outcomes.
The purpose of creating a card shuffling machine is to ensure randomness of outcomes. Casino shelf shuffling machines are one such method of shuffling the cards. A full, automatic card shuffler has an elongated box where decks of cards are placed. Whether it's blackjack, baccarat, or poker doesn't matter. The machine shuffles the cards automatically, without dealers having to physically shuffle the cards that were placed into the shoe. The cards are then fed into a circular wheel which houses the cards – it spins randomly to accept cards from the shoe – one card per slot. The wheel with the cards housed in each slot then deposits the cards into a bottom shoe which is ready to be dealt to players.
For home usage, many different companies manufacture card shuffling machines, such as the following:
- Shuffle Tech Professional Card Shuffler – $599.99
- Melo-Bell Electric Automatic Card Shuffler – $147.68
- 2 in 1 Electric Automatic Card Shuffler – $123.70
- Biliten Professional Card Shuffler– $120.04
- ZABB Automatic Card Shuffler – $105.54
These and many other card shuffling devices are designed to shuffle the cards without human interference. Depending on the way that the cards are shuffled, one can expect varying degrees of randomness to result. Sophisticated shuffling technology relies on specialized computer programming systems to eliminate the likelihood of patterns developing from card shuffles.
The Importance of Card Shuffling Machines
As a cardplayer, you want to be 100% sure that every card you are dealt by the casino dealer is the result of completely random shuffling. The raison d'être for the introduction of card shuffling machines was precisely to combat the advances of card counters in blackjack. Believe it or not, many high-stakes poker tables are actually sophisticated computer devices which can track every card on the felt by way of electronic chips in the cards. This is how poker fans on the rail, or at home, can see all the cards that each of the players is holding on their TV screens, with the attendant percentages (statistical odds) of each player making the best poker hand. Even without chip technology in cards – which actually eliminates the probability of a card being slipped into the game – card shuffling machines do a great job for casinos.
While manual shuffling is okay, it is tainted by the fact that a dealer is handling all of the cards and using a practiced technique that may not necessarily generate a random outcome. Rather than risk error-prone shuffling, automatic shuffling machines are better suited to random outcomes. There are other benefits to using shuffling machines for casino card games– notably the fact that the dealer doesn't have to shuffle cards in between hands. This is automatically done while a round is in play. This speeds up the action at the casino tables, and players don't have to wait an interminable amount of time between games. As soon as a round of blackjack or baccarat has been completed, the dealer simply retrieves a deck of cards from the shuffling machine and inserts the ‘old’ deck that were already used.
Card counting is virtually impossible, or at the very least largely ineffective with CSMs. The net effect of using CSMs in games of blackjack is a slight decrease of the house edge. Stats show that for every 6 decks of cards used with a CSM, the house edge is reduced by 1/10 of a percent. Why? Because the cards are shuffled continuously, the probability of a player receiving a 10-value card actually increases. These 10-value cards raise the player’s odds of winning. With speeded up games in play, the house also collects more money per gaming session. So, at the end of the day, the house always wins. As a rule, online blackjack and online baccarat games are shuffled after every hand. With CSMs, you may well see the same cards appearing in the next hand since they’re continually cycling through the machine.
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