Tuesday, January 31, 2012

ShuffleMaster 8-deck Shuffler

If I don't publish a blog post tonight, the whole moth of January will go by without a single blog post. So, I better do it before the clock strikes midnight.

I've been meaning to blog about a casino scam that involved beating an automatic ShuffleMaster card shuffler. The scam is already old news, but since I'm not in the breaking news business I guess there's no harm blogging about it.

Automatic card shufflers are designed to accomplish two things, for the casino: make the games more secure and increase efficiency. The security is increased by eliminating the human element, i.e. the dealer who can make mistakes and/or cheat, while performing a manual shuffle. And the efficiency is increased by substantially cutting down on any down time. At least that's the idea.

Below is a picture of the ShuffleMaster 8-deck baccarat shuffler. The machine is easy to operate. You place an 8-deck pack of cards into one tray, press the button and the machine does the rest. When you want to retrieve the shuffled pack you press another button and the shuffled cards come out of the other tray. The dealer doesn't wait for the machine to perform the shuffle, which takes quite a while from start to finish. Instead, the dealer works with two 8-deck packs; while one deck is in use, the other deck is being shuffled. So, by the time the players go through an 8-deck shoe the other pack is already shuffled and ready to be retrieved by the dealer. All that the dealer needs to do is to exchange the packs and continue dealing from the fresh pack. That all sounds nice in theory. I'm not going to say that this is not a good idea. Perhaps communism is also a good idea, the only issue is the implementation.

ShuffleMaster 8-deck Casino Shuffler
In recent years casinos have been flooded with all kinds of electronic gadgets that are supposed to perform the jobs that were once assigned to skilled croupiers. In fact, some casinos are starting to resemble the Toyota assembly line, with robotic arms doing all the work and no humans in sight behind the pit. My point is, gadgets don't only bring solutions (often solutions to problems that never existed in the first place) they also bring a false sense of security and, of course, new problems that never existed before these solutions were implemented.

Many casinos that started using gadgets also started using less skilled, and cheaper, labor. Casinos basically started hiring cheap labor with minimal training. I think that's more or less the recommendation of many gadget makers. You'll save money cause you'll no longer have to spend a fortune paying skilled staff. Yes, our machines are expensive, but you'll make that money back in no time cause now you'll be able to hire minimal skill labor and you'll also increase efficiency.

That's the attitude that currently prevails amongst many corporate casinos. And some of them have already paid for their own ignorance and stupidity.

The ShuffleMaster 8-deck shuffler that you see here has already been compromised in at least one casino that we know of. From what I understand, the scam was so simple there's hardly anything to tell. The dealer simply didn't exchange the two packs of cards. Instead of placing the used pack into the machine and then taking the newly shuffled pack out, he simply placed the used pack next to the machine and then put it back in the shoe. I guess he also pressed a button on the machine to make it less obvious that he just recycled the same pack of cards, but that's not the point. The point is that if the casino had proper procedures, a scam as obvious as that one could never have happened. The casino simply put too much faith in the technology, forgetting that the people handling the machines needed to be watched as closely as if they were performing manual shuffles.

What is there to be learned from this scam? The scam is basically a variation of the good old baccarat slug scam. For those not familiar with the scam, the idea is to have one of the players log a sequence of cards, then having the dealer avoid shuffling that slug and then having a group of players bet the maximum on known outcomes.

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