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# Automatic shufflers and hand pays

8 May 2016

QUESTION: Do automatic shufflers change the house edge on blackjack? My father-in-law always wants to see the cards shuffled by hand. Does it really make a difference?

A. The house edge on blackjack is the same with most automatic shuffling machines as it is when the cards are shuffled by hand. Continuous shufflers, in which cards are inserted back into the machine after they are played and shuffled back into the deck, are an exception. Michael Shackleford, on his website www.wizardofodds.com, calculates that continuous shufflers actually decrease the house edge by a small amount — although it’s really no bargain for players.

In a six-deck game in which the dealer stands on all 17s, players may double down after splitting pairs and there are no exotic rules, the house edge against a basic strategy player is 0.41%, if the game is shuffled by hand or by most automatic shufflers. If a continuous shuffler is used, the house edge drops to 0.39%.

However, when continuous shufflers are used, dealers don’t have to stop to shuffle the cards. There is no down time on the game, and you’ll play more hands per hour. Because of the speed of play, on the average you’ll lose more money per hour on a game with a continuous shuffler than on one with other automatic shufflers, and more on a game with automatic shufflers than on a hand shuffled game.

The faster the game, the more it favors whoever has the mathematical edge. Card counting doesn’t work against continuous shufflers, but counters get more chances per hour for the math to work in their favor with automatic shufflers than on a hand-shuffled game. The vast majority of players are best off in the slowest possibility — a game in which the cards are shuffled by hand.

QUESTION: This doesn’t happen as often as it used to, because \$1,000 jackpots like a royal flush on a video poker game are just added to the credit meter instead of being paid by hand. That started when ticket printers came in, right?

But for years and years now, whenever I have won a hand-paid jackpot, the attendant has asked me to spin-off the winning combination.

I feel like I’m being required to make a bet that I otherwise might not make. I don't mind doing it, but what if a player refused to make that one, last, final bet to spin-off a winning combination? Does the player still get paid? Does the casino employee do it? What happens?

ANSWER: To answer your first question, yes, hand pays did become less frequent when slot and video poker machines began to be equipped with ticket printers for payoffs. In the past, a \$1,000 jackpot had to be paid by hand because the coin hopper didn’t hold enough coins to make the payoff at the machine.

Today, hand pays usually are reserved for jackpots of \$1,200 or more where the player must sign a tax form before being paid.

As for spinoffs, the casino still has to pay you if you refuse to spin off the winner. When a player refuses, a casino employee usually spins once so the jackpot combination no longer shows on the reels or screen.

That’s because some players will refuse to play a game with a jackpot combination showing. They think the recent jackpot makes it less likely they will win. Actually, results are random and you’re no less likely to win after a jackpot than at any other time, but casinos don’t want to discourage the play of customers who read jackpot combos as “keep away” signs.
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John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.