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Shuffle Master
Shuffle Master Slot Machines

While many brands have made their way from the world of land-based casinos to the virtual felt of online gambling sites, there are still some that are focused entirely (or almost entirely) on brick-and-mortar play. Obviously, this is still a very lucrative market, and making products for real world gamblers is very different from producing content for the Internet, so it makes sense that some developers would want to work almost entirely with physical products.

One such brand is Shuffle Master. Formed in 1983 in Minneapolis, the company was the brainchild of a former truck driver named John Breeding. After reading about how card counters could gain an advantage over casinos – and taking the time to understand that it was deck penetration that allowed them to do so – he came up with an idea for a continuous shuffler that would allow every hand to be dealt from a virtually 100% “fresh” shoe.

Breeding raised $30,000 in order to work on his device, and though it took some time to bring it to market, it finally began appearing in casinos in 1992. That very year, the company went public, as the device immediately proved popular with casino personnel who saw it as a sure way to stop advantage players.

Branching Out

Unfortunately for Breeding, casinos also wanted to utilize other options, including using shoes with multiple decks in order to make card counting a bit less effective. While multi-deck automated shufflers would eventually be developed, the company needed other games that could potentially use their device in the meantime.

The answer came in the form of Let It Ride, a single-deck table game that allowed players to make several bets and potentially huge payouts if they could make strong enough poker hands. The game was an immediate hit, and by 1995, it was actually the company’s most profitable product, surpassing their shuffling technology.

Over the years, the developer would make efforts to try to diversify their products, offering up a line of slot machines and other games. While that never really made sense for the group, they did create some popular games that would later be sold off to companies with more of a slots focus, such as IGT and Bally.

Their greatest successes, however, would be in the world of table games. In 1999 they acquired the rights to Three Card Poker, which is generally considered to be the most successful proprietary table game of all time. They have also manufactured versions of games like Blackjack Switch and Casino War, both of which have generated plenty of interest from players over the years.

In 2012, the name of the firm was changed to SHFL Entertainment in order to make it clear that they weren’t just about their signature shuffler product. In 2013, Bally Technologies acquired the firm for $1.3 billion, and today, both brands exist as a part of Scientific Games, one of the largest gaming conglomerates in the industry.

Products in Demand at Every Casino

Chances are that if you’ve played at a live casino that features modern equipment in it over the last couple of decades, you’ve dealt with Shuffle Master products in your gaming career. To this day, the firm is best known for their deck shufflers, which are now used for blackjack, baccarat, poker, and many other games. They even create specialty versions that can be programed to follow the rules necessary for dealing just about any game that can be imagined.

The company is also quite involved in the creation and servicing of gaming tables. If you’ve ever seen those automatic chip sorters at a roulette table, chances are they came from SHFL. They have also created lines of electronic tables that offer up versions of baccarat, roulette, and Sic Bo, the large banked Playboy Bonus Blackjack machine, and hybrid tables with electronic system that assist live dealers.

For players, the most famous contribution made by this developer is likely their extensive range of proprietary games. Some of these are simply new side bets that can be used on classics: games like blackjack, baccarat, and craps can benefit from new bonus bets like “Bet the Set”, “House Money,” or “King’s Bounty.”

Of course, the company has also created some of the most popular proprietary tables in the industry, including both well-known games and some more obscure ones you might not be familiar with. For instance, we’re sure you know Three Card Poker, Let It Ride, Four Card Poker, and Caribbean Stud.

On the other hand, you might not be as familiar with games like Discard Inferno. This is a game in which players try to make a better five-card hand than the dealer out of six-card hands that are initially dealt. Based on a series of rules, the dealer might be forced to discard several cards from their hand, making thing much easier on the player.

Another title that has found its way into many casinos is Triple Shot Rummy. Players compete with the dealer head-to-head in order to make the lowest score possible, with aces counting as one point, face cards counting as 10, and numbered cards counting for their pip value. There are also ways to reduce your score: pairs or trips count as 0, as do consecutive suited cards. With action very similar to Three Card Poker, this can feel like a unique twist on a familiar game.

A Lasting Impact on the Industry

Because they don’t offer up any products directly for Internet play, online gamblers might not think a lot of Shuffle Master, or at least not feel as though they’ve had an appreciable impact on the iGaming world. This is a mistake, however, as many of the games that the company first made popular have found their way online – even if not always in their licensed versions. Games like Three Card Poker and Let It Ride can be found at most online casinos, often with slightly tweaked names or rules in an effort to avoid copyright concerns.

That means that even iGaming players should appreciate just how much this company brings to the table (no pun intended). And if you play at live casinos, Shuffle Master is likely a major part of your enjoyment if you play anything other than slots, as they are a huge factor in what makes games run so smoothly and quickly today. Sure, card counters might rue the day that they brought the continuous shuffler to the market, but for the most part, players have benefitted greatly from this company’s contributions.

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