Blackjack, when boiled down to its most basic elements, is a very simple game. Get a higher hand total than the dealer without going over 21. However, there are a lot of variations in the game that changes the odds and can have an effect on your bankroll.
The most obvious odd-changing blackjack variations involve whether the dealer hits a soft 17, whether you can resplit, whether there is late surrender, and other decisions. The number of decks also impacts your odds, as the house edge increases as the number of decks increases (it also makes it more difficult to count cards).
One thing that people normally don’t think of, though, is how the cards are shuffled. Believe it or not, how the cards are shuffled has an effect on your bankroll. Though the house edge does not change, different shuffling methods can cause you to lose more money simply by allowing you to play more hands.
Casinos want the game of blackjack to be played as fast as possible. Since there is a house edge to the game, the more hands that are played, the more money the casino makes. Therefore, they want to play as many hands as possible. Hand-shuffling, for that reason, is not a preferred method for casinos, but if you can find a table where the dealer shuffles by hand that offers you chance to keep the most money.
There are also different kinds of shuffling machines. For years, casinos have been using automatic shufflers. The traditional automatic shufflers randomized a deck or several decks and then the cards were discarded into a pile after being played. This is much faster than shuffling by hand and, due to the house edge, costs the players more money. Recently, however, many casinos have turned to the newer continuous shuffling machine (CSM). These work even faster and instead of creating a discard pile, the discarded cards are immediately returned to the deck.
This does two things: It makes it so that the dealer doesn’t have to stop to shuffle cards and it makes counting cards virtually impossible. Therefore, a blackjack table that uses a continuous shuffling machine will cost you more money in the long run.
Or does it?
As the renowned gambling mathematician Michael Shackleford explains, a continuous shuffling machine actually lowers the house edge. In simulated tests, Shackleford showed that a CSM reduces the house edge by 0.014-0.113%, depending on the number of decks in use. In blackjack, high cards favor the player and low cards favor the dealer. Tens especially help the player. With a CSM, since there are already more 10-value cards than any other value, the tens are more likely to be reshuffled into the deck than any other value card. Therefore, in the long run, continuous shuffling machines result in more high cards being in play.
So CSM’s are good for the players then, right? Well, no. Using a CSM may reduce the house edge by 0.014-0.113%, but it also increases the amount of hands played in an hour by 20%. That means a lot more hands that are exposed to the house edge. For that reason, despite the lowering of the house edge, CSM’s are still not beneficial to the player.
CSM’s are only used in brick and mortar casinos, but when playing online blackjack, since the dealing of the cards is controlled by a random number generator, it is in effect like having the deck shuffled after every card is dealt. That makes card counting impossible, but it does give you the possibility of receiving more tens.