Card counting is already a tough endeavor. However, it becomes impossible when continuous shuffling machines (CSMs) are involved.
CSMs help casinos in a variety of ways (covered later). One advantage that a shuffling machine provides is the ability to hinder card counters.
A CSM is supposed to stop any possibility of counting cards. But one instance exists where you can make profits when a continuous shuffling machine is present. I’m going to discuss this case below and what your chances are of actually beating a CSM.
What Are the Main Purposes of Continuous Shuffling Machines?
The gaming world didn’t invent CSMs with the idea of stopping advantage players in mind. Instead, these machines speed up games and improve casino profits.
Under normal circumstances, the dealer must halt a game and shuffle the shoe. However, a continuous shuffling machine prevents the croupier from having to do so.
A dealer simply takes a clump of dealt cards and inserts them into the machine. In turn, the machine shuffles the cards randomly and pushes them back to the top.
The croupier can take the clump of cards and begin dealing them. They never need to stop the game for shuffling purposes as a result.
CSMs speed up play by an estimated 20%. Therefore, a table that normally sees 100 hands dealt per hour would actually see 120 hands.
Here’s a look at how this impacts casino profits:
- 4 players are at a table.
- The average gambler’s bet size is $10.
- 100 hands are dealt per hour.
- 4 x 10 x 100 = $4,000 wagered per hour
- The casino holds a 1.5% advantage over each player.
- 4,000 x 0.015 = $60 in hourly casino profits
- 4 players are at a table.
- The average player’s bet size is $10.
- 120 hands are dealt per hour
- 4 x 10 x 120 = $4,800 wagered per hour
- The casino holds a 1.5% advantage over each gambler.
- 4,000 x 0.015 = $72 in hourly profits
An extra $12 isn’t much to the house. However, an additional $12 multiplied over an entire day across multiple tables does benefit the casino’s bottom line.
First and foremost, CSMs boost the house’s winnings over the average recreational player. Hampering card counters is only an added bonus.
Why CSMs Normally Kill Any Prospects of Counting Cards
A card counter needs deck penetration to consistently win. Deck penetration refers to how far the dealer goes into a shoe before shuffling.
More penetration is good from an advantage player’s perspective. It gives them more confidence when raising bets later in a shoe.
For evidence, consider the following two situations:
- A player has a +3 count.
- The table features an 8-deck shoe.
- Only 2 out of 8 decks have been dealt.
- The player again has a +3 count.
- The table features an 8-deck shoe.
- 6 out of 8 decks have been dealt.
The counter has a theoretical advantage in the first example. Therefore, they may still decide to raise their bets and capitalize on the favorable count.
But they’re also looking at only 25% deck penetration (2/8 decks). Their +3 count is shaky as a result and doesn’t offer much guarantee on profits.
The second example presents a much-better situation with 75% penetration (6/8 decks). The player can have much more confidence in their count thanks to only 25% of the deck remaining.
Unfortunately, the second scenario almost never happens with a CSM involved. These machines allow almost 0% deck penetration.
A dealer never has to stop the game with CSMs. They need only waste a few seconds to grab card clumps and insert them into the machine.
Why Don’t Dealers Just Shuffle More?
Perhaps you’re wondering why croupiers don’t just shuffle more frequently. After all, frequent shuffles would accomplish the same goal as a CSM—without the need for a fancy machine.
However, stopping the game more often causes casinos to lose serious profits. The house wants to see as many hands as possible so it wins more from recreational players.
This is the main reason why some dealers allow adequate deck penetration in the first place. They simply don’t want to halt the action several times an hour to keep shuffling.
You Can Beat CSMs on One Rare Occasion
You normally have no chance to beat blackjack with a CSM present. These machines constantly shuffle cards and prevent you from successfully counting cards.
However, one rare event can help you win profits off the casino. You’ll still be able to count cards if the dealer forgets to insert card clumps into the machine.
In this case, the croupier is allowing deck penetration. You, meanwhile, can keep counting cards like normal and capitalizing later in the shoe.
The hope is that you’re privy to at least 75% deck penetration before the dealer realizes their mistake. This kind of penetration gives you a realistic—although not guaranteed—chance to make money.
What Are the Chances of This Occurrence Happening?
Blackjack dealers receive extensive training. Part of this training includes remembering to insert cards into a CSM (if applicable).
A dealer is highly unlikely to forget to put card clumps into the machine. Assuming they do, this slip-up will be a rare occurrence.
It’s not completely unfathomable that, after a long shift, a croupier would occasionally forget to insert cards into a CSM for a while.
However, you just won’t see this event very often. The average dealer is a trained employee who’s rarely—if ever—going to surrender this kind of advantage to counters.
How Many Casinos Use Continuous Shuffling Machines?
No exact data exists on how many casinos nor gambling tables worldwide employ CSMs. However, plenty of gaming establishments use these machines in some capacity.
Many casinos enjoy the advantage that they get from delivering more hands to players. They also appreciate not having to watch for card counters.
However, not all gaming venues use continuous shuffling machines. The main reason why is that they realize many amateur players don’t like nor trust CSMs.
Contrary to what some gamblers think, a shuffling machine doesn’t rig the game for casinos. But just the myth alone keeps players away from machine-shuffled tables.
In reality, CSMs just cause more hands to be dealt. This increased hand rate is what makes the typical player to lose more money—not a rigged machine.
Another reason why casinos forego using CSMs is that they don’t want to ruin the classic feeling. Many gamblers enjoy a hand-shuffled game because it feels more authentic.
Taking everything into account, some casinos will always offer traditional blackjack games. The latter give you an actual chance to win profits.
More Realistic Ways to Beat Blackjack
You can see that relying on a dealer to forget loading the CSM isn’t a feasible strategy. That said, you might consider trying the following routes for a more-realistic chance at winning money.
Choose Tables Without CSMs
Some gambling establishments resist the urge to use continuous shuffling machines. These same casinos provide an opportunity to win through advantage play.
You can perform simple research to find relevant casinos. Check out forums and updated articles to see which venues don’t employ CSMs.
Atlantic City, Las Vegas, and Reno are three primary spots with traditional blackjack. Vegas is especially worth a visit for CSM-less blackjack.
In contrast, certain gambling destinations use shuffling machines across all of their casinos. Macau and Monte Carlo are two of the worst offenders in this regard.
Search for Casinos/Cities That Don’t Bring the Heat
Reno, for example, watches closely for card counters. This Western Nevada city offers such favorable blackjack rules that it doesn’t want pros gaining an even bigger edge.
Atlantic City and Vegas, on the other hand, are typically more lenient towards suspected counters. They’ll wait longer to kick a potential counter off the tables.
Of course, any casino can use different policies than those around it. Generally speaking, though, you can get away with higher bet spreads in Vegas and Atlantic City.
Master Shuffle Tracking
One telltale sign of card counting involves increasing one’s bet towards the end of a shoe. Again, raising wagers with more deck penetration increases the odds of consistent profits.
Pit bosses look for players who suddenly spread their bet from $10 to $100, or higher, later in the shoe. Ace sequencing, however, helps you avoid tipping off pit bosses.
This advantage gambling method begins with card counting. You count cards until the dealer stops to shuffle.
At this point, you know which part of the shoe has the favorable and negative count. Here’s an example on using this information:
- The dealer shuffles after 75% penetration.
- Your count is -2.
- This means that the other 25% of the deck offers a +2 count.
Knowing this info, you can visually track the card clumps from the favorable part of the shoe. Assuming you’re able to successfully track the clumps, you’ll know exactly when they come out of the deck.
The advantage here is that you don’t necessarily wait until later in a shoe to bet big. Instead, you place larger wagers whenever the clumps come out—thus making it appear that you’re randomly raising bets.
Continuous shuffling machines don’t offer any leeway to card counters. As long as the dealer loads the CSM consistently, you can’t gain a long-term advantage.
You’re at the mercy of an inept dealer who forgets to put cards into the CSM. This doesn’t happen often, meaning you stand almost no chance of beating a machine-shuffled table.
Luckily, enough casinos offer hand-shuffled games that you still have a chance to win. You just need to perform research beforehand and choose the right cities and casinos.