Continuous Shuffling


There are many factors that go into developing a proper blackjack strategy. However, one that you may not have immediately considered is the different types of shuffling. It may not seem like a big deal, but the way in which the cards are shuffled can have an effect on the house advantage and, in turn, the players’ odds of winning. Introduced in 2000 to combat card counters, continuous shuffling machines have completely transformed the game of blackjack, affecting the strategy of players the world over.

What is a Shuffling Machine?

Shuffling machines have a long history, and several different varieties, including automatic shufflers, have emerged over the years as technology has improved. These machines are used to more effectively randomize cards than manual shuffling.

Automatic shufflers have been around for some time, and they shuffle one or more decks of cards while a separate deck is being used by the dealer. When using this device, the dealer does not have to pause to shuffle decks between rounds. Once a round is complete, the dealer can simply retrieve a deck from the automatic shuffler and replace it with the cards that were just used.

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A batch shuffling machine.

Continuous shuffling machines (CSMs) are devices used by casinos in an effort to thwart card counters. CSMs randomize the cards and allow games to play out more quickly because the dealer does not waste time shuffling cards. It should be noted that continuous shuffling is a form of automated shuffling.

How Does Continuous Shuffling Work?

Continuous shuffling machines essentially takes discards and randomly reinserts them into the deck after each hand. Generally, five decks are placed into CSMs. Because the shuffling is continuous, cards that are placed into the CSM have a chance of appearing in subsequent hands, making any attempts at card counting ineffective.

Shuffle Master machines – the original CSMs – employ an elevator system to randomize the cards. As the elevator moves up and down, the shuffler randomly inserts cards into one of the shelves in the device. The machine then randomly selects a shelf to put into the dealing shoe. The process is completely random, which means that every discard inserted into the continuous shuffling machine has a chance of appearing in the next round. While there are several different types of continuous shuffling machines, they also essentially generate a random shuffle.

How Does Continuous Shuffling Affect the House Edge?

As all avid blackjack players know, the object of the game is to beat the dealer (not to get as close to 21 points as possible, as many mistakenly believe). When playing blackjack, even small changes in odds can affect your winnings in the long run. This is why any device or method that has an effect on the house edge should be considered seriously and taken into account when engaging in game play.

You may be surprised to know that most continuous shuffling machines actually slightly diminish the house edge, although this doesn’t necessarily mean that they give players’ odds of winning a significant boost. The effect of a CSM on the odds of the game depends on how many decks are being used. In a typical six-deck blackjack game, the house edge is reduced by approximately 0.1 percent. This phenomenon occurs because the probability of players getting cards worth 10 points increases slightly when a continuous shuffling machine is used.

However, it is important to remember that the increased speed of the game that comes with the use of a continuous shuffling machine also affects your total winnings. Because the dealer does not have to waste time shuffling, CSMs are able to speed up blackjack games by approximately 20 percent. That translates into another round or two being played every hour, which increases the amount of money the house is likely to gain (players are exposing more money to the house edge).

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Continuos shuffling makes it more difficult to count cards than hand shuffling.

How will Continuous Shuffling Affect My Strategy?

When a continuous shuffling machine is used, there are two major factors that must be considered when developing your blackjack strategy. Firstly, cards are randomly inserted back into the deck as the game is played. Secondly, the house is able to play more hands each hour. As you develop your blackjack strategy, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • When playing blackjack with traditional shuffling methods, once a card has
  • been played and discarded it will not appear again in the same shoe. This is not the case when using CSMs. Because cards are immediately inserted back into the shoe, the probability that you will receive a certain card does not necessarily change as the game progresses. In other words, attempting to count cards when a CSM is being used generally isn’t going to give you an edge.
  • However, if the continuous shuffling machine slowly integrates cards back into the deck, shuffle tracking may be possible. This is a form of card counting by which players monitor and predict which clumps of cards are likely to be bunched together. Whereas in card counting players keep track of the cards that have been discarded, shuffle tracking requires players to keep track of the cards that have yet to be played.
  • Continuous shuffling machines will not alter your basic blackjack strategy because your strategy is always based on a freshly shuffled shoe. For more information, read our guide to basic blackjack strategy.
  • The distribution of ranks in a blackjack game where a continuous shuffling
  • machine is used is slightly weighted toward large cards. This differs
  • from the even distribution that is seen in a cut card game.
  • Because of the sheer volume of hands that are dealt when using a continuous shuffling machine, the house will win more in the same amount of time. This means you may be able to reduce your losses by playing the same amount of hands that you would when traditional shuffling methods are used.

Ultimately, continuous shuffling machines do not greatly alter the odds of blackjack.

If I’m Playing Online Blackjack, How Do I Tell What Type of Shuffling is Used?

When playing online blackjack, it can be a little tricky to tell what type of shuffling is being used and, thus, to adjust your strategy accordingly. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Most online casinos shuffle after every hand.
  • If you see the same card appear twice between shuffling announcements, this means traditional shuffling methods are not being used. For example, with traditional shuffling, it would be impossible for an ace of diamonds to appear twice in one hand because cards are not immediately placed back in the shoe. This is not the case with CSMs.
  • Many online casinos use random simulation programs. Because shuffling is not done manually, it is less likely to be biased.