by Henry Tamburin
I receive questions from players about continuous blackjack shufflers,
therefore this lesson is offered at Learn to Play
Players want to know if the odds are better or worse with a continuous
shuffling machine (CSM).
let’s understand what a CSM is because players often confuse them with
automatic blackjack shufflers. The latter have been around a long time
Generally, a casino will use two sets of multiple decks of cards on a
While one set of cards are used to play the game the other set is being
blended offline by the automatic shuffler.
the cut card appears, the round is completed and then the dealer will
swap the cards in the automatic blackjack shuffler while the already
shuffled decks that were in the machine are put into play. The purpose
of the automatic shuffler is to eliminate wasted time having the dealer
manually shuffle the cards.
The odds against the player do not
change when an automatic blackjack shuffler is used. If the casino were
using 6 decks of cards, they will usually deal 4.0-4.5 decks and then
place the entire 6-decks into the automatic shuffler for blending while
continue to play with the second set of 6-decks of cards.
automatic shuffler, about 70-75% of the cards are dealt out before the
cards are reshuffled. This is important to remember.
The CSM was invented primarily to discourage card counting at
blackjack. But it also has a negative effect on average players.
A CSM is a combination automatic blackjack shuffler and dealing shoe.
Casinos usually place 5 decks of cards into the CSM.
a betting round is completed, the dealer will scoop up the just played
cards (discards) and instead of placing them into a discard tray will
insert the cards back into the CSM for shuffling with the remaining 4.5
or so decks of cards.
Some casinos will place the discards from
several rounds into a small discard tray and then scoop up the discards
and place them back into the CSM.
Now we see the difference between a CSM and automatic shuffler.
the latter most of the cards are played (ca. 70%) before the discards
and unplayed cards are reshuffled. With a CSM, the discards are
immediately returned to the shuffler to be randomly blended with the
Therefore, it is possible that a specific card from the round just
played might wind up being dealt in the next round.
the odds change when a CSM is used? The answer is yes, they change very
slightly in favor of the player with the house edge against a basic
strategy player in a typical 6-deck game reduced by about 0.1%.
The reason the CSM causes the house edge to go down ever so slightly is
because of a phenomena known as the “cut card effect”.
This increases the probability slightly of getting tens and blackjack
when a CSM is used.
Now before you rush out and play blackjack on a table that uses a CSM,
listen to the rest of the story.
though the house edge goes down slightly with a CSM, this is more than
negated by the increased speed of the game. Remember that with a CSM
dealt game, there is never any downtime for shuffling cards. So on
average the casino can deal about an extra round or two per hour
resulting in about 20% more hands played per hour with a CSM.
Because they have the edge against the vast majority of players, who
play blackjack their hourly revenue goes up by 20%.
the player’s perspective, you will lose 20% faster on average playing
against a CSM dealt game compared to a game dealt manually or with an
Casinos love to spin the tale that the reason they use a blackjack
shufflers is to foil card counters.
will rarely see a CSM used at high limit tables where most of the pro
card counters would play. The reason is that most high rollers are
suspicious of the CSM and they insist that blackjack should be played
the old fashioned way or they will take their business elsewhere.
most casinos, you will find CSM’s on the main casino floor where the
table minimums are lower. Located at the $5 and $10 tables where the
casino grinds out its 20% more revenue per hour against average low
Casinos also like blackjack shufflers (CSM’s)
because it allows them to have the edge. By using a CSM, blackjack
becomes virtually unbeatable much like roulette, baccarat, 3-Card Poker
and other table games.
CSM’s are not cheap. In some casinos, the
devices were removed because of player complaints or because the extra
revenue did not justify the extra cost. Casinos keep putting CSM on
their tables in the hopes that the playing public will get accustomed
My advice is to stay away from any blackjack table that
uses a CSM. If more players do this casinos will reluctantly have to
remove the machines and return to the more player friendly automatic
blackjack shufflers (or manual shuffles). Blackjack is tough enough to
beat without introducing devices that cause average players to lose
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