In the casino cheating method known as selective shuffling, casino dealers shuffle early after low cards come out. Casino cheating expert Sam Case discusses how selective shuffling raises the blackjack house edge.
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Casino Selective Shuffling as a Card Counting Countermeasure

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The First Line of Defense: Selective Shuffling

By Sam Case
(From Blackjack Forum Vol. IV #1, March 1984)
© 1984 Blackjack Forum

I recently talked with a long time professional blackjack player who's seen the game change over the years. He told me that false shuffles and second deals--all the cheating moves--used to be much more common than they are today. He said he used to see dealer cheating at blackjack in casinos all the time. Now it's pretty rare. I asked him what he thought is the most common cheating technique nowadays and he said, "Shuffling up."

I must agree with that. Generally, the first thing a pit boss does to discourage a card counter is have the dealer shuffle up. This happens much sooner than it used to. In fact, whatever ways I've used to get an edge at the blackjack tables (besides counting), the pit bosses will often order more frequent shuffles as a first line of defense.

These days a dealer will often be instructed to "shuffle up after three hands;" unlike the old "shuffle up when he ups his bet." They've wised up to that one. You can't usually get a dealer to shuffle away those bad decks by simply raising your bet anymore. That ruse looks like a thing of the past.

To make matters worse, many dealers now know that if a lot of low cards come out, the player has the advantage. So even if you've got a great act, you may find that your sweet 39-card dealer shuffles after two rounds if the cards are all low. This hurts not only counters, but non-counters as well. It's a neat little percentage play. It forces all of the players at the table to play at a greater disadvantage.

I've seen a good bit of selective shuffling. I've also seen what it does to beginning counters. They will frequently sit through deck after deck, cursing their luck, just because they occasionally get a 75% shuffle point (on negative decks, of course!). Also, they get so bored by all of the negative counts and small bets that they jump their bets when they get the slightest edge. They wind up increasing their fluctuations more than their bankrolls.

Who's behind selective shuffling? According to Anthony Curtis, publisher of the Las Vegas Advisor, no Las Vegas casinos appear to be using selective shuffling as a standard operating policy. As publisher of a monthly report on Las Vegas casino conditions, Curtis says he's heard many reports of selective shuffling, and has witnessed it himself on numerous occasions. His observations indicate it's never house policy -- just enterprising dealers doing it on their own.

Dealers who shuffle selectively probably don't do so for personal profit. Although the casinos do their best to promote an image of relaxed, easy going fun, there's lots of pressure.

Statistics are kept on all dealers, pits, etc. When the pit falls short of expectation -- even from normal fluctuation -- the heat gets turned on. Pit bosses get pressure, and they pass it on to dealers. Dealers soon learn that all goes well when the players lose. They're the only ones in position to do anything about the pressure, so it's not surprising that some of them are tempted to up the house advantage.

Is Selective Shuffling Cheating?

Is it cheating? I think so. It's an intentional manipulation of the cards to lessen a player's advantage. Could a casino be successfully prosecuted for selectively shuffling? I doubt it. First, the casino would argue that it's not to blame. Secondly, it is nearly impossible to prove that the shuffle point changed with the count. You'd need hours of movie film to prove anything, and they have the cameras, you don't.

You may feel it's possible to get a quick-shuffling dealer to deal deeper by toking him. It may be possible - but it probably won't be worth your while. A couple of years ago, I used to toke for this purpose. I thought it was damn clever, too. Then the good Bishop told me how much money I was wasting (see Chapter 12 of Blackbelt in Blackjack -- "Toking Guidelines"). Now I just walk. I always figure there's a better game somewhere else.

I don't want you to get too paranoid about dealers who shuffle away those positive decks. Since rounds that are composed mostly of low value cards tend to use up lots of cards, shuffles often follow after fewer hands when low cards come out. The trick to catching a dealer who's cheating you with a shuffle-up is to watch the shuffle-point, not to count rounds. If you notice a large difference in the depth of penetration, with a deeper deal when your count is negative, that's the tip-off. You should find another game.

Along the same lines--when I was just starting out as a card counter, I noticed this guy would pop over when the count got high, and leave during the shuffle. I hadn't heard of table-hopping yet. I learned, though, after about 10 minutes. Not knowing what to do, I quietly left.

As it turns out, that's the right move. You can't sit through dealers who shuffle-up or table-hoppers who consistently eat your high counts. To earn your percentage, you must get in the expected number of good hands. ♠

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  Sam Case Describes a Casino Cheating Method Known as Selective Shuffling
In this Blackjack Forum article, casino cheating expert Sam Case describes how selective shuffling raises the house edge at blackjack.