Shuffling Machines, Blacklists & Card Counting
Nov 20, 2015
Shuffling machines can be seen as the embodiment of the casinos’ fear of distinguished blackjack card counters.
- The history of shuffling machines
- Their effect on card counting
- Professionals’ opinion and advice
- How do CMSs affect casinos?
The casinos’ continuous fight against blackjack card counters has produced many interesting solutions over the years. Though card counting is not illegal, opinions vary whether it’s a form of cheating or not. One thing is sure: card counters reduce the profit of casinos, and they’re not happy with that. Blacklists were probably the most commonly used form of prevention, amassing the names of infamous strategists. The standard is the Griffin Book (Black Book) that was maintained and distributed by Griffin Investigations. Founded in 1967, this renowned private investigation company had a major role in the MIT Blackjack Team’s elimination too. Face recognition systems are also popular nowadays but their effectiveness is questionable.
From the Black Book to the Shuffle Machine
They’re not only ineffective, but a rather insulting to the intelligence of professional card counters. All it takes to bypass them is a realistic wig, fake beard plus some make-up. Of course, the people working at casinos are not stupid either. That’s why they moved on to card shuffling machines, also known as CSM’s. Shuffle Master machines might be the most known of their kind, developed by John Breeding. After reading an article on smart strategies in blackjack, Breeding quit his job as truck driver to work on a device that would diminish the card counters’ advantage. He built a company, which in 2000 introduced the Continuous Shuffling Machine.
Known as ‘The King’, this shuffling machine was advertised as the card counters’ nightmare. It had another benefit on top of frightening away professionals. The King reduced the time of game-play, as it’s much faster than manual shuffling. To the players’ displeasure, the machine became really popular, appearing at numerous casinos around the world. This was a pretty natural reaction, as the industry was famished for something that would chase away their(!) worst nightmare – card counters. Where there’s CMSs, the discard tray is unnecessary because the played cards are put immediately into the machine. This means that the Blackjack cards are constantly shuffled and therefore randomized, lessening or obliterating the effectiveness of card counting.
Insiders and card counters on the continuous shuffling machines
The professional’s opinion on the CSM’s is pretty varied. “In blackjack the general punter has got no hope of beating the casino because of the continuous shuffling machines,” says Ron Parsons, one of the most famous high-rollers in Australia. Mike Aponte, one of the MIT Blackjack Team’s leaders declares that “if you play perfect basic strategy CSM’s actually lower the house advantage by a tiny bit.” However, “where CSM’s really hurt the average gambler is that they allow the house to deal more hands per hour because there is less downtime.” This means that there’s more time to play and consequently more chances to lose.
However, researches explored that CSM’s don’t affect the house edge considerably. But they do affect the number of visitors and players. As CSMs are avoided like the plague, the casinos can’t use them too often or at all tables. “If you do too much of that, the customer says, ‘I hate this place’ “ says George Joseph, who worked as surveillance director at numerous Las Vegas casinos.
The best way to overcome Continuous Shuffling Machines is to avoid them. This way, you’ll encourage casinos to discard their use and therefore the advantage provided by them.