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Best of John Grochowski
The Casino Answer Man14 February 2001
In the wake of my recent series on the basics of playing blackjack in my newspaper column, a couple of readers phoned with the same question, from different perspectives.
"What do you think of the new continuous shufflers?" they wanted to know. "Do you think they're here to stay?"
The shuffler they're referring to is called the King, and it's made by leading automatic shuffler manufacturer Shuffle Master. The King is a product Shuffle Master promotes heavily. Last month, when I phoned game developers and manufacturers to ask what they would be pitching at the annual World Gaming Congress and Expo in Las Vegas, Shuffle Master made the King a focal point.
With most automatic shufflers, cards are placed in a discard tray until the dealer reaches the cut card that signals it's time for a shuffle. All the cards then are placed into one side of the shuffler. Another shuffled deck is taken out of the other side, and play continues.
With the King, discards are not stored in a tray, and the dealer never reaches a cut card. Instead, discards are fed back into the King and shuffled back into pack.
My first caller is trying to learn to count cards, and to card counters the King is an enemy to be avoided. That's part of the idea, of course. If all the cards are continually shuffled together, it does no good to count cards. The card counter might as well move to another table, or another casino.
Whether it's worth the casino's while to go to such lengths to discourage card counters is another matter. Automatic shufflers are an added expense. And the corps of players who can actually beat the casino by counting cards is pretty small.
Playing a winning game not only requires the knowledge and discipline to apply the count, it takes sufficient bankroll. Most of the gains made by card counters come from increasing their bets as the count indicates increasing likelihood of being dealt a blackjack for a 3-2 payoff. If a counter's base bet is $10 and the count indicates a bet of $50, the counter must be prepared to lose that $50 wager.
That means a player with $100 for a session can't just walk up to a table and expect to make big gains by counting cards. He'd be risking too great a percentage of his bankroll on one hand if the count went positive. One losing hand at the wrong time, and he'd be out of the game.
Some operators don't worry much about low-rolling counters, saving their concerns for the big shooters. They know most would-be counters won't really be able to beat them, and that the idea the game can be beaten is good for business.
Others want to pinch every nickel, and make it their business to be as tough on counters of any level as possible. For them, the King seems a godsend.
Of course, most players will never even try to count cards, and that's where my second caller came in.
"How does the continuous shuffler affect the average player," he asked. "I don't count cards. Does it affect basic strategy at all?"
For the non-card counter, continuous shuffling does not affect odds and percentages at all. Basic strategy for hitting, standing, doubling down and splitting pairs is based on long-term percentages assuming a normal composition of cards in the deck.
If you're playing basic strategy, your decisions are the same whether you walk up to a table for the first hand, last hand, the middle of the shoe or to a continuous shuffle.
Still, the continuous shuffler does give the house a little extra advantage over non-counters.
Why? Because the house doesn't have to stop play to shuffle the cards. Anything that increases the number of hands per hour favors the house and is tougher on our bankrolls.
That, as much as any role it might play in stopping card counters, is why you'll see more casinos trying out the King. And that brings us to the other question posed by both callers.
"Do you think the continuous shufflers are here to stay? Is there any chance the casinos will take them out?"
That depends on the reaction from players. On any casino innovation, whether it's video slots, a new table game such as Three Card Poker, or a change in slot club points, we vote with our wallets.
If blackjack players accept continuous shufflers, if they stay and play, the shufflers are here to stay. If players move on, looking for a better deal, the shufflers will go as casinos try to win the players back.
For more information about blackjack, we recommend:The Casino Answer Book by John Grochowski
Best Blackjack by Frank Scoblete
The Morons of Blackjack and Other Monsters! by Frank Scoblete
Winning Strategies at Blackjack! Video tape hosted by Academy Award Winner James Coburn, Written by Frank Scoblete
This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Best of John Grochowski