Casinos have gradually introduced more technology into gambling over the years. For example, they now use RFID tech to track chips and gamblers’ rewards at table games.
The masses don’t protest RFID being used in casino chips. However, players do voice complaints about the technology being used in other parts of gaming.
Available on blackjack tables, Continuous shuffling machines (CSMs) are among the most-polarizing tech ever in gambling.
Casinos love CSMs, some gamblers don’t care, and certain players absolutely hate these machines. You’ll find out why the latter crowd is so passionately against these gadgets below.
What Is a Continuous Shuffling Machine?
Blackjack is traditionally a hand-dealt game. Regardless of how many decks are used, the dealer shuffles the shoe at a certain point.
Most dealers shuffle after anywhere from 60% to 75% of the shoe has been dealt. They don’t typically go much further than this, because more deck penetration gives card counters a bigger edge.
A continuous shuffling machine prevents dealers from stopping the game to shuffle. It handles all of the shufflings for the croupier.
The dealer simply places decks into the top of the machine. From here, the CSM randomly shoots cards into different slots located inside of it.
Once the machine has finished spitting all of the cards into slots, it pushes the deck up to the top. This process lets the dealer keep games running without ever needing to top the action.
Why Do Casinos Use Continuous Shuffling Machines?
If gambling establishments had their way, they’d use CSMs every chance they get. Here are the main reasons why they love machine-shuffled games so much.
Speeds up the Action
A blackjack table can see anywhere from 50 to 100 hands dealt per hour. The number of hands varies based on the dealer’s speed and how many players are sitting down.
A table with a fast dealer and 1-2 players will easily see more than 100 hands an hour. Meanwhile, tables with a slow dealer and 6-7 gamblers will only feature around 50 hands.
CSMs don’t dramatically alter the number of hands being dealt, but they do increase the number somewhat. These machines prevent dealers from having to halt the action every 40-60 minutes just to shuffle.
Leads to More Casino Profits
Continuing off the last point, quicker blackjack games mean more profits for the casino. After all, the house holds the advantage over amateur players.
Here’s a comparison to show how much more casinos make with a faster game:
Table A (No CSM)
The table sees 70 hands per hour.
5 people are playing.
The average bet size is $25.
70 x 5 x 25 = $8,750 in betting action
The house edge is 1%.
8,750 x 0.01 = $87.5 in winninggs for the house
Table B (w/ CSM)
The table sees 80 hands per hour.
5 people are playing.
The average bet size is $25.
80 x 5 x 25 = $10,000 in betting action
The house edge is 1%.
10,000 x 0.01 = $100 in winnings for the house
An extra $12.50 isn’t going to propel the house into a profitable quarter. But when adding more tables, hours, and days, casinos figure to make quite a bit more with CSMs.
Reduces Dealer Mistakes
Most dealers are well-trained and rarely make mistakes. However, even the best croupiers make the occasional gaffe here or there.
Shuffling adds another component that leaves margin for error. A dealer could fumble cards and require longer to shuffle or unknowing expose cards.
Such mistakes aren’t overly common. Nevertheless, a continuous shuffling machine ensures that they don’t happen.
Thwarts Card Counters
Deck penetration refers to how much of the shoe is dealt before a dealer shuffles. If six out of eight decks are dealt before the shuffle, for example, then the table is getting 75% penetration.
Card counters like more deck penetration so that they can get a more accurate count. A +3 count is much more reliable at 75% through the shoe versus 50%.
CSMs prevent counters from getting the deck penetration they need to make consistent profits. As a result, pit bosses don’t have to waste time watching for potential card counters.
Reasons Why Blackjack Players Don’t Like CSMs
The biggest deterrent from casinos using CSMs at every table is the players’ feelings about them. Below, you’ll see just what irks players about these machines.
Ruins Authentic Feeling
Many gamblers like the traditional feel of blackjack tables. They want a croupier in formal wear hand shuffling the games.
Continuous shuffling machines move blackjack tables one step closer to a lifeless, automated environment. Most players don’t enjoy the thought of technology completely taking over casinos.
Sure, the latest tech is welcome in slot machines. However, it’s not so appreciated in a classic casino game like blackjack.
They Worry that CSMs Increase the House Edge
For the record, CSMs actually lower the house advantage—not increase it. In an eight-deck game, the house edge decreases by 0.014% with a CSM present.
This slightly lower house advantage is by no means any reason to jump on every CSM table you see. Furthermore, you’ll actually be losing more money in the long run.
Continuous shuffling machines speed up the action by around 15% to 20%. By being exposed to the house edge more, you lose more money on average.
Some players take this to mean that CSMs boost the house edge. They don’t, but they’re still subject to this stereotype.
They Worry that CSMs Rig Games
Another common misconception regarding CSMs is that they allow casinos to rig blackjack. This belief also stems from how these machines speed up play and cause more losses on average.
Blackjack regulars have a good feel on how much they win/lose in the average session
When the losses mount more quickly, though, they look for someone or something to blame.
The machine that rapidly and mysteriously shuffles the cards makes for a good scapegoat. As can be seen by the many slots myths, gamblers don’t entirely trust machines. They don’t give CSMs a break in this regard either when they lose faster than usual.
Crushes Any Chance of Card Counting
Around 10% of blackjack players fancy themselves card counters. The majority of this lot aren’t really successful, but they still believe that they’re beating the casino.
Some of these players also realize that CSMs stamp out any chance of counting cards. Again, a CSM doesn’t allow counters to get enough deck penetration.
Whether successful or not, a card counter wants a chance to beat the house—even if their skills aren’t really up to the task.
They Miss the Breaks
Many blackjack players enjoy their time at the table. However, they also appreciate a break every hour or so.
Hand-shuffled games provide this break. The dealer needs a few minutes to separate the shoe into different piles and riffle through each one.
Meanwhile, the players can relax mentally and chat with each other while waiting for the croupier to finish. Friends who play together will especially find this bonding time important.
A continuous shuffling machine takes away these breaks. The croupier only needs tiny breaks to load decks into the CSM.
Should You Avoid Blackjack Tables with CSMs?
Whether you do or don’t play at tables with continuous shuffling machines is all based on personal preference. You need to decide whether you’re perfectly comfortable playing a quicker game that lacks the same charm of hand-shuffled games.
Exposes you more to the house advantage (through more hands)
Lacks the same personality of traditional games
Eliminates the possibility of card counting
As you can see, more cons than pros exist. But the cons may not bother you when you’re looking for more action and not worried about counting cards.
You need to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of CSM tables. Ultimately, you may find that you don’t really care if they’re being used or not.
Some casinos use continuous shuffling machines at their blackjack tables, while others don’t. Therefore, you have options when playing in land-based casinos.
CSMs aren’t necessary a bad thing when considering that they lower the house edge. But they also speed up games, expose you more to the house advantage, and make blackjack more machinelike.
Casinos love CSMs for the fact that they increase the pace and create more profits. However, you don’t have to love them and can cast your vote by not playing at such tables.
Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. ...
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