A Rare Look Inside a Casino Automatic Card Shuffler

If you’ve played a card game in a Las Vegas casino, you’ve probably had your cards shuffled by an automatic card shuffler. These mysterious black boxes do their job, quietly and effectively, making sure the cards come out randomly, to protect both the casino and the player. Mostly the casino.

We were given a rare glimpse into the inner workings of an automatic card shuffler at a Strip hotel during some routine maintenance. Our mind still hasn’t stopped being blown.

It's complicated. Like prostitution in Las Vegas.

Automatic card shufflers are complicated. Like Las Vegas prostitution.

The shuffling machine’s a lot more complicated than we’d imagined. Wheels and gears and belts and motors move the cards around with robot-like efficiency, dispensing them based upon the game being played.

The machine we saw the innards of was being used at a three card poker table, so the cards were coming out in batches of three.

We grabbed some sweet video of the automatic card shuffler in action. Which we’re pretty sure we weren’t supposed to do. We’re not a big fan of rules. It won’t take long for you to learn this about us. Let’s watch.

Amazing stuff, don’t you think? It’s like capturing footage of a Sasquatch, or something even more rare, like video of Criss Angel solving a math problem.

Most automatic shuffling machines you see in casinos were made by Shufflemaster, a company now called SHFL Entertainment for reasons lost on us. In the SHFL offices, there’s a wooden prototype of their first automatic shuffler, from 1983, made mostly of wood.

A random discovery at SHFL headquarters. See what we did there?

Imagine a global company being based on wood. You know, like Playboy Enterprises.

The history of card shufflers is riveting, so naturally, you won’t find it here. Go here if you care to learn more.

We’re endlessly fascinated by how casinos do what they do. And you?

27 thoughts on “A Rare Look Inside a Casino Automatic Card Shuffler

    1. Frankc

      Guys I have read thru all these notes and for the most part you are both correct in your thinking!
      Let me explain, I have been professionally gambling for over 42 years! Although I play poker I also play with the house and grind money out! We will leave that for another topic!
      But I want to address the shuffle master and what is called the sort mode.
      A great example of this casino edge/ control,can be found in Pai Gow, a game were the dealer is always positioned at 8 or 15 spot as the cards get dealt . There is only one house in the USA who still uses a dice shaker with the three dice in this shaker to determine who gets the first cards from the shuffle master and that is Harrahs AC. This now tends to allow a randomness to the game.
      In other houses they use what is call “verify” which is a 7 inch display which calls out the first cards position before the cards are they are given out to the player
      Like I said if you or the shuffle master knows the dealers position of either 8 or 15, then the dealer or house can get the better of the hands dealt leaving the house rake at a constant flow and win! Think about that and I’m here to further discuss!

      Reply
      1. thomas smith

        How do you feel about time given to call a hand. I guess it is different at various casinos. however I think at least a minute and a half should be the least. If you look at the online games the time is insufficient and doesn’t allow a player to think thru the hands. Less time gives less control to the player, I feel.

        Reply
  1. Nathan Osier

    Why can’t they shuffle the cards by hand I do not trust this machine and has a photo I in it somewhere to give the odds to the house

    Reply
    1. Richard Harney

      Why would that machine give the house an edge? The machine doesn’t know which hand is going to be the dealers hand. You might say that the machines will churn out more hands per hour which will increase the house earnings based on that, but don’t misconstrue that to mean the house will win more often.

      Reply
      1. Dung Tran

        it does give the House an edge… let’s take at Black Jack with Lucky Lucky bonus that pays out 6-7-8 or 7-7-7 suited or non-suited… it looks obvious that the 6s, 7s, 8s card are dealt next to each other or in other words the shuffle machine intentionally splits the 6s,7s, and 8s cards… how could you possibly get triples 777s when 3 players in a row each gets 1 7 card? the chance is very minimal.. the shuffle machine has to make sure that the House has an edge on the game but not totally impossible for players to win the bonus. When you go to play regular BJ with no bous bets like that, you will see you get 6,7,8s quite often? How come?

        Reply
        1. Richard Harney

          You will not get 6,7, and 8’s more often. You only notice them more often when you want to fit your example.

          Reply
          1. Dung Tran

            Mine is an observation not example… the machine does not know which card is dealt to the dealers… Let me explain you about the side bet… If your first 2 cards and the dealer’s face up card is in the combinations of 6-7-8 or 7-7-7 you win the bonus… the machine just makes sure that it groups 6,7,8 cards together to secure the edge for the House… You can observe it yourself and you will see that Player1 gets 6, Player 2 gets an 8, players 3 get a 7 or any of that sequence… It is obvious that the machine groups those 6,7,8 cards together so when it is dealt, the 6,7,8 cards are splits to the players…
            One more thing is that I had a chance to get close enough to the machine and I read the CODES printed on the machine that says: CODE 1 is for Baccarat, CODE 2 is for Black Jack… WHY so?
            Like any other games, the House MUST SECURE THEIR EDGE….

          2. Richard Harney

            The house already has their edge secured. The different codes on the shufflers let the machine know how many decks are in the shuffle and other criteria of the game being dealt. The machine needs to know if you’re playing Spanish 21 so it knows that there shouldn’t be any 10’s in the machine. If the shuffler is a baccarat shuffler and can read the cards then it will only deal the cards that the dealer is allowed to pull. Your observation is only true when you want it to be true. If it were really true then no one would ever get a 6,7,8 combination. The machine also doesn’t know who is betting the side bet and who isn’t. It doesn’t know how many players are in the hand. What if it were 1 on 1? Grouping the 6,7 and 8’s together would give the player the bonus extremely often. Have I mentioned that I actually work as a dealer at the casino and know these machines very well. There is no secret to them.

          3. Dung Tran

            The machine does not need to know how many decks in the shoe to shuffle. In fact, if 1-1, the odds to have is more often… that is why i often play 1-1… once the machine does not need to know who bets on bonus or not, it just secure the edge for the House by grouping 6,7,8s… and how often do you the table with 1-1? How come when you go to Reno where casinos still shuffle by hands, the players often win on BJ, they lost in the end because simply they do not stop after winning or because of their greedy.

          4. Alex Kumlin

            Your an idiot because Richard is right. You come up with some random half ass concoction of a story to try to prove your briefs but if that is true then all you have to do is buy one of their machines new for 8-10 grand prove it will take the odds on purpose and sue all casinos that have side bets for millions. Why would a casino when it already has the upper hand advantage make their machine cheat when if it was proven it would mean they’d lose millions in a lawsuit and pretty much all their client base since theres other casinos to go to that wouldnt cheat them for a few extra dollars. Its like a 1 to 200 payout so technically you have to win at every 200 hands with the other way against you even if you were hand shuffling but if you add in all the other things still have slightly worse odds than playing Blackjack correctly.

          5. Dung Tran

            I’m talking to 1 idiot right now! Casinos are controlled by Vegas and nobody can do anything about them! The idiot is the one that does not recognize that! They turn Gambling into Gaming! Likewise, all sport betting are also set up! What in the world that caused the delay 40 minutes in the Superbowl between 49ers and Ravens? Vegas did that,Idiot! Billions of USD!
            Remember you cannot sue Vegas or casinos because you cannot win! The rich and powerful take what they want! Again, you are the moron!

          6. Alex Kumlin

            Yet another excuse, they arent controlled by vegas they don’t all go a 100 CEO personal meet to decide we want to steal money by cheating. Besides its not explaining the point that there are more casinos outside vegas in the us than inside

          7. Dung Tran

            Alex, you need to understand the concept of Gambling and Gaming! The outcome of Gambling is not controlled! Meanwhile, Vegas turned Gambling into Gaming that has its outcome controlled! Now, when you bet on any games in casinos, Vegas needs to be able to control the outcome! The casino winners are the lucky ones that hit right spot at the right time! Like you purchase a scratcher ticket or play at slot machines, the outcome has already been set! when the outcome is not preset, Vegas needs to be able to predict the outcome! There is no case in the world that the very first moment they bring out the slot machine that there is a person hits the Jackpot. No way! the slot machine needs to collect more $ than it pays out!
            Likewise, Vegas need to collect more from side bet before they pay out! so they set up the shuffle machine does exactly what they want. It may not be cheating but when the outcome of the game is preset or predictable, it is no longer Gambling but Gaming!
            It is funny you do not realize that outside the USA, Vegas still in control! Sport betting Houses from all over the world re-insured thru Vegas!
            remember, anything that deals with $ is in control by the rich and powerful! Not only casinos, but sports betting too!

          8. Alex Kumlin

            Your talking about completely different things than a card shuffling machine. They don’t need it control the outcome it’s just like Counting Cars it’s not based on the amount you win in one hand it’s amount of hands you play because you win a theoretical percentage of the total bet you place and the more hands the more money you would receive. When the percentage is lower than the outcome you again over many poles of a slot machine they would come out ahead every time you don’t need to have control besides a slot machine it’s not like you have a 49% chance of winning you have like a 20-40 based on social deals and bonuses they can be running to attract more people. They make their money quickly since every hand if you placed $100 down can a slot machine you would technically be losing 10 on theoretical averages.

          9. Scott Roeben

            Name-calling won’t be tolerated in these comments. You’re welcome to have opinions, but this community is about having fun and treating others with respect. First and final warning.

          10. Dung Tran

            I’m totally ok with people calling me “idiot”, at least in my own culture! If it is not accepted, your “warning” should be given to Alex who called me “idiot” first. I’m leaving this topic here; I want more freedom of speech! Nice words sometimes are just lies! Donald Trump used words like “ugly”…. I like him! He is truly speaking for me! Sometimes we have to express ourselves! Again, I’m totally fine with Alex’s calling me! See you Alex!

          11. Scott Roeben

            I’m not singling you out. I’ve asked both of you to be civil and not resort to name-calling. Thank you for contributing, but these threads aren’t about freedom of speech. They’re about telling me how great my blog is. Or at least that’s what it should be. “)

          12. Scott Roeben

            As mentioned to Dung, name-calling won’t be allowed in the comment threads of this site. Appreciate your comments, but would appreciate the discussion remaining civil.

  2. SEG 1

    The machine knows exactly where the dealer cards are. First the machine knows how many players are at the table. This occurs by the dealer delivering the player cards then his group of cards. The dealer now pushes the button to extract the stub of cards. The machine actually reads each card and sorts the cards for the dealer spot on the next deal. As players come and go it resets accordingly. The feature of card sorting is publisized by the company and a selling point for the casino to lease.

    Reply
  3. Cindy williams

    My question is: can the Pai Gow machine for example, be programmed to read a bonus hand but then shuffle so it is not delt. Can it be programmed to give out fewer bonus hands on one night and then programmed to give out more bonus hands on another? I think it is worth exploring.

    Reply
  4. Mark

    Cindy. I am wondering the same thing. I have played enough to of theses card games and it just seems odd that you can go 1 time and people win and loose, and another people just loose. I believe these machines can be manipulated.

    Reply
  5. Dave Simpson

    As a long time player of the “let it ride”carnival game , I played for almost 3 years before the shuffle machines were used. The difference is dramatic. I have sat at a table where all 6 players were regularly dealt 10 to 12 hands and no one won at all. That virtually never happened with hand shuffling. Today, in most deals, only one player, if any, on the table wins. In the past it was not unusual for 2 to 3 players to win something if just a pair of 10’s in most every hand. Even with the addition of the bonus 3 card spot on the table I see only about 1 in 200 or more hands dealt winning the bonus. I know that the shufflers have cameras in them and are remotely controlled. There is NO WAY you are going to convince me that these machines are not rigged. The table is a giant slot machine! I tried to convince my wife just this last weekend of it. By the way, in talking with many, many dealers, they hate these machines because they are tipped by customers who WIN and their customers usually DON’T anymore. Many of them believe that the machines are rigged too! That’s why you don’t see me at the tables anymore.

    Reply
  6. DR Hameed Teh

    from my observation in the casino ,any card games especially Baccarat games ,there is no way to predict the outcome anymore.Before one can still win one out of every 3 shoes but no more.the casino has programmed the decks in a manner to entice and lure you to bet and 99 percent of the time you would lose.They set unbelievable patterns which are impossible to attain by hand shuffle.The trends the create at time are too good to be true.That is why most people lose. I recommend that everyone should boycott baccarat games in any casino until they switch back to hand shuffling.Remember united we stand ,divide we fall. Twenty years ago by playing Baccarat I made millions in months out of few thousand dollars but with the introduction of automated shuffling machines and programmable type ,no more money can be made.

    Reply
  7. thomas smith

    Im glad I found this site. I feel poker (holdem if you will aswell as real poker) is in jeopardy . It appears that in many casino’s the locals win and those going at times don’t. I feel there are the chosen winners for tournaments . If a combination of skill and card combinations used to tell the winner when to play . Then skill and skill of reading combinations becomes the best player. I hope not, but the young often change things by going along with something they think is great only to find out later they chose their on screwing.

    Reply

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