Before a blackjack player decides to sit down at a game inside of a casino they consider two things.
Players will obviously look at the rules of the game to see what they’re playing. Before looking at the rules some players will look at where the dealer takes the cards from when sending them to the players.
We cover different blackjack rules and how they impact the house edge of a game fairly often. Today, we’ll look at the other decision a player makes when choosing a blackjack game inside of a casino.
There isn’t much time spent on how the cards are delivered to a player. Some could argue that the latter is just as important.
Different Card Delivery Systems
Personally, I look at where the dealer takes the cards from before even checking out the rules of the game. There are three ways cards are situated before the dealer sends them to players. I prefer two of the three methods.
- Shoe: This is the most common way for cards to be held for the dealer. This is the long device on the table that can hold up to eight decks of cards. Blackjack dealt from a shoe is the most common setup in a casino.
- Pitch: This is another traditional method of dealing cards. This is when the dealer holds the cards and “pitches” them to the players. These games have one or two decks.
- Continuous Shuffle Machines: Over the past 10-15 years, casinos have started using Continuous Shuffle Machines (CSMs). As the name states, the cards are in a constant state of being shuffled. These machines are used for many different casino games nowadays.
Many blackjack players – pro and recreational – often have a preference on how they prefer the cards are shuffled and dealt.
While the house edge of a blackjack game is affected by the number of decks, the delivery system has little impact.
Does It Matter?
The type of card delivery systems may have a small effect on the house edge. The difference for recreational gamblers is minimal.
A CSM will slightly change the house edge for a blackjack game. While the difference is negligible, it’s in favor of the player.
The rules of a blackjack game are more meaningful to a recreational blackjack player than how the cards are dealt. That said, blackjack players have preferences.
If all rules are equal, I’d rather play a blackjack game with fewer decks.
Pitch blackjack is my personal preference but it’s not a deal breaker. Playing a blackjack game from a shoe is my second preference.
The house edge is slightly lower with fewer decks in play. That’s a bonus but isn’t the only reason that I prefer pitch blackjack.
I don’t mind waiting for a dealer to shuffle the cards in pitch blackjack. It’s nice to have a short break.
The (non-continuous) automated shuffle machines for a blackjack shoe game also offer a brief reprieve for players. Just moving six or eight decks from the machine to the shoe offers a minute or two for a player to reset.
I can’t count cards but pitch and shoe blackjack allow me to attempt some form of tracking if I’m in the mood. I never prefer to play a blackjack game with a CSM.
Even though the house edge difference isn’t significant, this always feels wrong to me. Blackjack dealt from a shoe or hand just feels natural. That’s how I learned to play blackjack. My preference is more psychological than analytical.
Even though the CSMs keep the game moving, it’s not a pace I enjoy and there’s some discomfort in that.
Continuous Shuffle Machines
Casinos already have an advantage against recreational blackjack players. The CSMs increase their revenue by allowing a dealer to push out more cards faster.
Using a CSM allows casinos to deal up to 20% more hands per hour. No thanks. I can barely keep up with the pace of blackjack without a machine speeding up the game.
Unfortunately, CSMs are becoming more prevalent in Las Vegas casinos for low rollers. These blackjack games with a low minimum bet often have worse odds.
Casinos speeding up the blackjack games with the largest house edge makes sense for the business looking to increase revenue. It also makes sense for me not to play those games.
I’m not a slave to playing blackjack games with only the best rules. That said, I know how to limit my exposure to blackjack games with unfriendly rules for players.
Playing blackjack games with a CSM increases the expected loss for players. I’ll always look for a blackjack game without a CSM with hopes there’s an affordable option to avoid the machine.
While on the topic of machines at blackjack games, I don’t mind when there’s an automated shuffle machine for the dealer. It’s the continuous part of CSM that changes the flow of a blackjack game.