The Not-So-Ideal iDEAL Shuffler


The Ace automatic shuffler has many game security problems, the most serious of which is its propensity to encourage hole-card exposure by even highly trained dealers. (See my blog post "Little Ace of Horrors.") After many years of fighting that battle, Shuffle Master finally gave up the cause. In its place, Shuffle Master created the iDEAL automatic shuffler, pictured here correctly installed on a Three Card Poker table (picture from Shuffle Master web site):

iDEAL automatic shuffler installed on a Three Card Poker table

The Ace shuffler drove hole-card exposure due to the physics of dealers having to lift the cards over a lip at the edge of a cradle sitting 3 inches above the felt. By doing away with the lift-up/drop-down mechanism, the basic idea appears much more secure in theory. With the shuffler cut into the table, the cards could be gently lifted up to table level then slid at table level to each player and to the dealer with nearly complete confidence the hole-card would not be exposed. At least in theory, this is a sound idea.

The first problem with this theory is that the natural motion of the dealer's hand is up.  In a blackjack shoe, or when dealing blackjack from a pitch game, the natural motion is down towards the table. Down means towards safety. With the iDeal the motion is up, away from safety. According to Newton's First Law, the cards will continue up until the dealer acts to change the direction of his motion.

The second problem is the position of the shuffler, cut into the table. Tables are an expensive purchase. Unless a game is there to stay (and none are), it is costly to cut a piece out of a table in order to fit the iDEAL into place. Moreover, there is no guarantee that the iDEAL is there to stay either. What if a new shuffler comes out that requires a different set up? What if the table is converted back to ordinary blackjack (or some other game)? For this reason, it is common for casinos to attempt to use the iDEAL without making the recommended physical alterations to the table.

Put these two problems together and what have you got? A problem just as bad as the Ace shuffler, if not worse.

Below are two recent pictures I snapped. Each of these shows a casino that didn't install the iDEAL properly into its Three Card Poker table.  In both, the iDEAL sits in a way that forces the dealer to lift the cards up and over one or more obstacle before they are delivered.

In the first picture, the dealer has to raise the cards from off the table, lift them over the rail on the table, then over the discard tray. Because the dealer's natural motion is "up," Newton's Law virtually guarantees hole-card exposure on this table.


iDEAL not properly installed into its Three Card Poker table

The second picture is a bit better for the casino, but the discard tray clearly sits in the way. Up/over/down.

iDEAL not properly installed into its Three Card Poker table 2

These two images show an iDEAL shuffler being used on a Three Card Poker table. There are many other proprietary games that are vulnerable to hole-card exposure. Any time the iDEAL shuffler is installed incorrectly, regardless of the game, the risk to game security is extreme.

The point is, once again, that no amount of technology is going to replace a thorough understanding of advantage play, skilled employees, pointed training and strong supervision. Whatever the next gadget is, unless its weaknesses are thoroughly understood, the hall of shame will get another inductee.