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Automatic Shuffle machines. Is it a rigged game?
After 24 months of researching the Automatic Shuffle machines, we have concluded that they should be avoided.
by Casino King
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*NOTE: An automatic shuffler is a machine that incorporates 2 shoes. One shoe is in play while the other being shuffled for the next game. Not to be confused with the continuous shuffler where the cards are constantly being dealt from a machine.

If you walk into any casino in Mississippi or Louisiana, you'll likely find these notorious smart shufflers on many tables. Some casinos will actually have them attached to all their blackjack tables. They're flush with the table and sit to the dealers left. Anytime a deck is played and ready to be shuffled, the dealer will push a button and the machine resembles a toaster where a multideck shoe pops up. The dealer takes the new shoe of cards out for play and puts the already played shoe back into the machine so that it can be shuffling while the game goes on.

I have players ask me all the time about these contraptions and their ability to let's say, "Manipulate" the game. After a couple of years of close speculation and research of these machines we were not surprised at what we found.

Searches on google about this subject left us amazed at all the so called credible sources that chimed in with nothing more than the same old cliches without looking at the true science and math behind the subject. The so-called experts claim that in order to have a manipulated deck in favor of the casino, there would have to be some type of conspiracy on the part of the casino floor. Furthermore, they also make the same old cliche that, Why would a casino have to cheat since they already have a huge advantage over the players? And the last conclusion they pose is that once the cards are in motion, the players control the deck by cutting the cards and making individual plays, therefore it is statistically impossible.

These are ridiculous amateur statements and are simply parroted and echoed through message boards and gambling sites. The fact is, the floor personnel, dealers, etc. more than likely don't have a clue of what goes on inside an automatic shuffler. In fact, with all the electronic smarts and technology built into the entire pit from the tables to the shufflers to the databases that handle all the data, there is any wonder that anyone there has to even think at all anymore!

In order to explain how manipulating a shoe can be done while maintaining some type of random order, we must first look at what it takes for a table to turn the advantages further to the house. There is a such thing as a count on any running shoe in play at a blackjack table. The higher the count left in a deck, the more chances the players have to win. The high count depends on how many low cards have been played vs. high cards. The higher this number gets, the more the advantage the players will gain. The reason for this is that no matter what, the dealer has to hit on all 16s and in some cases soft 17s. The high cards statistically increase the houses chance of busting. The higher cards also increase the players abilities of getting more predictable hands where splits and double downs occur.

Average hand shuffles can sometimes produce great shoes for the players with swings that can produce extremely plus or negative values. With an automatic shuffler, the notion that the technology built into this machine could prevent the count from getting too high or low is perfectly logical. And this can be done in such a manner that it would seem perfectly random. With exponential numbers, the number of combinations would be mind boggling to the human brain,... but not to technology.

As a programmer of 20+ years, I know what can be easily programmed into a computer. Lets say that a machine walks through a shuffle and starts to add cards up, it detects a high spot in the shoe. In order to move the count lower, it could simply switch places with a "randomnly" selected lower value card, it could even move a "randomly" selected number of neutral cards before or after these spots. Through simple programming it could do this a randomly selected number of times so that the counts vary but never amount to more than what could hurt the house.

Another scenario is backed up by the legendary Ken Uston. Ken was probably the most intelligent and successful blackjack players of all time. He was a mathematical genius that wrote many books on the game as well as earned a great fortune from it. Ken passed away in the late eighties, well before the computer age took the casino pits by storm. So what did someone say way back in 1981 that is relevant to the subject at hand? Ken wrote in his book, Million Dollar Blackjack, about an incomplete shuffle that he witnessed at the MGM Vegas.

An unshuffled deck was brought to the table where the dealer made a fresh shuffle. Since the cards were all in order when the shuffle started, like valued cards stayed closer together during the shuffle. This mathematically creates a game where stiff hands will be prevalent while maintaining at time, a decent count. So as to how this would correlate to an automatic shuffler, it is simple. Simply put like valued cards closer together within the shoe. Again, this can be done in programmming with minimal effort and still retain a high level of visible random numbers.

Also bear in mind that the reason the house has such a great advantage is that even though they have to always play their hand the same, they get to play it last. This means if a dealer busts, so what!, they still beat every player at the table that busted before them. So the goal isn't to make the dealers hand better, the goal is to create tough hands for everyone. This also remedies a pit boss wasting time looking for a counter. The bad hands can't target one player, they target them all, including the dealer.

So it's not so much the randomness of the cards, that part is easily achieved, it's what type of patterns they are producing that counts. And obviously no dealer, floor person, etc. would ever have to understand any of this in order for it to be super effective. And also note that since there is no down time in the game to wait for a shuffle, your losing potential goes up even further.

If you look up the patents online on these shufflers, you will see it speak of a RNG. This means random number generator. If the machine isn't capable of doing any special functions, then there would be no need for a RNG. Also it states that shoes can be sorted in any predetermined order. Further note that they also mention Optical Card Recognition. This is the ability to read any value of any card.

That is enough evidence to show what they are capable of and how easy it is to create scenarios of truly random cards while maintaining unbeatable patterns. Keep in mind that "true" random numbers are only attainable in nature, which is real life. A computer, no matter how sophisticated can never truly produce a random number. A human shuffling the cards by hand is the only way a truly random shuffle can be achieved.

A casino is like any other type of business, they go with whatever seems to take in the most profits. So the notion that casinos always make the big bucks and never have their bottom line threatened is a notion made by amateurs. Casinos hit hard times like any other business, for reasons such as the economy, fierce competition with other casinos, etc. And one of the only games in a casino that is sometimes unpredictable in it's earnings is the game of blackjack when dealt from a hand shuffled shoe. And if a casino is willing to take the life savings of the little old blue haired lady from Pasadena, they will stop short of nothing as long as it is legal. And although the AutoShufflers are in my opinion, extremely unfair, they are also perfectly legal.

My best advice is to get into a game you know 100% is a fair game by always avoiding the automatic shufflers. If the casino doesn't have anything but the Automatic shufflers, then find another casino. If not, you will only be making a hefty donation over time. Casinos love to get feedback via opinion or suggestion slips found usually at or around a players club. It may be worthwhile to express your opinion by filling out a card and noting that you refuse to play cards with a machine and will only play where you know a human is shuffling the cards.

We feel strong enough about what we have seen through our research that we now deduct heavily from a casinos ratings at Navisino, if the casino does not offer hand shuffled low wager tables where we know people have an honest chance.

(The above data was compiled from actual table play, computer simulations and articles based on biased shoes and a knowledge of technologies associated with random numbers and odds.)
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