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# Continuous shuffle machines and Wheel of Fortune

31 January 2013

The effect of the continuous shuffler on the house edge is tiny. On his website, www.wizardofodds.com, Michael Shackleford calculates that in a six-deck game, it decreases the house edge by two one-hundredths of a percent. However, because there is never a stop to shuffle the cards or even to cut the cards, you play many more hands per hour with a continuous shuffler.

That gives the house edge more chances to work against you, so your average losses per hour increase despite the very slight reduction in the house edge.

You play the fewest hands per hour on a hand-shuffled game, more with an automatic but not continuous shuffler where there is a stop to change decks and cut the cards, and the most with a continuous shuffler. That's the order in which the game is best for a non-card counter -- hand-shuffled first, then automatic but not continuous, with the player worst off with a continuous shuffler.

Card counters are better off with a faster game, giving their edge over the house more chances to work for them, but you can't count cards against a continuous shuffle. Therefore, the best game for a counter is with an automatic but not continuous shuffler, followed by a hand-shuffled game. No counter would play against a continuous shuffler.

All players would be better off to avoid continuous shufflers, and let the market tell the casinos the machines should disappear.

Those Wheel of Fortune Machines:

There are 22 equal spaces on the wheel, but the low ones come up over and over, and you hardly ever see the big ones. Why is that?

The wheel is programmed just like a slot machine reel, with numbers mapped onto a virtual wheel. I’m not privy to the exact numbers IGT uses, but I can make up an example to show you how it works.

Let’s say you and I are setting up a game with a wheel divided into 22 segments, ranging from a \$20 payoff to \$1,000. We don’t want to be paying out \$1,000 once per 22 spins, so we program a virtual wheel with 1,000 numbers. We map it so that every time our random number generator spits out number 1, the wheel stops on the \$1,000 space. We map four numbers that will make the wheel stop on the \$500 space, and so on until we use 100 numbers to make it stop on a \$20 space.

Now instead of paying out \$1,000 once per 22 spins, it will pay the grand only once per 1,000 spins. And instead of paying \$20 once per 22 spins, it’ll be one out of 10.

The game is still random, but it’s skewed toward smaller payoffs.

If game manufacturers were not able to program virtual wheels in that way, the wheel spins either would have to come A LOT less often in order to keep payoffs within profitable parameters for the casino, or would have to offer much smaller payouts. With the virtual wheel, the spins can come up often enough to keep the game fun and interesting, while leaving the possibility of a big payday.
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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.