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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I received one of the first production models of the new ShuffleTech shuffler a couple of weeks ago. I loaned them the use of one of our poker tables for the WSOP Gaming Life Expo, so that put me near the top of the list for production models. In the interest of full disclosure, I am a distributor for ShuffleTech. You can be the judge about whether this is a fair review or not, but I'll try not to pull any punches.

I'm posting a couple of photos that I shot with my cell phone camera that show the shuffler installed in one of my poker tables. As you can see, it is mounted with a flush mount kit so that the top of the shuffler is flush with the top of the felt. The flush mount is black, and so is the felt, so it's a little hard to make out. Sorry about that. The shuffler can also be operated as a stand-alone unit on a table. In that case, you can choose to either insert and remove the cards from the top of the unit, or you can flip a switch and the cards will eject out the side of the unit.





The top of the unit has two buttons on the left side and a green/red LED. There is also a clear plastic door that opens to permit the insertion and removal of the deck of cards. The buttons select how many times you want the deck shuffled, 3 or 7. The green light tells you when the shuffler is ready to go. The rest of the machine resides below the table. The shuffler connects to a DC power brick, which provides the proper voltage to run the machine.

Shuffler Operation

Operating the shuffler is simple. Inside the unit there is a tray in the middle that moves vertically during shuffler operation. After opening the lid by pressing down on it, you place the deck on the tray, close the lid, then press the 3 or 7 button. The first operation is a riffle, so the shuffler cuts half the deck to one side tray, then the other half of the deck to the tray on the opposite side of the machine. The vertical tray lowers itself to the bottom of the machine, then little wheels spin on both sides of the machine, riffling the cards back into the center tray. After all cards are returned to the tray, the tray returns to the top position for the next operation.

Pressing the 3 button causes the shuffler to riffle the deck twice, strip it once, and then riffle it one final time. Remove the deck, cut the cards for good measure, and you're all set. Press the 7 button and the shuffler riffles and strips it a lot more. I would assume it riffles 7 times and strips it once or twice, but honestly, I didn't keep count. Obviously, the 7 setting takes longer to shuffle the cards than the 3.

The Shuffler in Action: Pros & Cons

We used the shuffler in our regular game the day after it arrived. Our regular game is typically an 8- or 9-person NLHE SNG that usually lasts a few hours, followed by a few more hours of low-limit NLHE. We typically have two decks working, one deck in play and the other being shuffled by the player on the button, which is kind of a pain if a player is shuffling while playing.

The main advantage of the shuffler is that it definitely made for quicker play at the table, and it made the game more enjoyable for everyone since nobody had to shuffle the deck. One guy in the "dealer" seat was responsible for operating the shuffler, which was no big deal. The flush mount kit worked well; we didn't have any cards get stuck on or around the shuffler, which is smoother/slicker than the felt itself. In our SNG, we typically play 20 minute rounds.When hand shuffling ,we are lucky (especially in the lower blinds levels) if the table completes a full orbit in a round. After installing the ShuffleTech shuffler, we were easily making at least one orbit per round or more. If I were running a card room, the ROI on one of these shufflers would be calculated in days, if not hours. One more plus is that it looks cool in the poker table.

In operation, the shuffler worked nearly flawlessly all night. We had a card get hung up once inside the unit in about 5 hours of constant play and use. Removing the card from one of the side trays in the machine was done easily by hand and the card re-inserted in the deck. That compares favorably with ShufleMasters that I've sat next to in use in casino poker rooms, and certainly was better than hand shuffling.

ShuffleTech recommends using Copag's poker-sized cards with the shuffler and sends a new double-deck of Copag acetate cards with every shuffler. I ran the new cards through on both the 3 and 7 settings. A brand new deck of cards is best run through on 7 for the first time or two, but after that (and especially with a wash before inserting the used deck into the shuffler and a cut after retrieving it and before dealing it), I felt like using the 3 setting was sufficiently randomizing the cards. For testing purposes, I also ran both Copag bridge-sized cards and Dal ***** poker-sized cards through the shuffler, and both worked just fine. The bridge-sized cards were a little sloppier since they are narrower than poker-sized cards and the trays are all sized to use poker-size cards. Unless you're really wedded to using bridge-size cards for some reason, it would be better to use poker-sized cards with this shuffler.

The main disadvantage of the shuffler is that it is not silent. It's hard to compare it with a ShuffleMaster shuffler like the ones they use at the casinos because the ambient noise levels in a casino poker room and my poker room at home are completely different. But I've sat at the 9 position at enough casino tables -- right in front of a ShuffleMaster shuffler -- to note that the ShuffleMaster seems to make very little noise. That is not the case with the ShuffleTech shuffler. It isn't loud, but it isn't quiet, either. You can definitely hear the shuffling going on inside the machine, but it doesn't compare with the buzzsaw sound and crappy operation of the cheap battery-powered shuffler that you can buy at WalMart.

Conclusion

With their shuffler, the ShuffleTech guys have built a good product that does what it is advertised to do and does it well. It is compact, far more affordable than the competition, and is easily installed in the poker table. The guys at my game all really appreciated it and felt like it kicked the game up a notch. For a first effort from a brand new company, the ShuffleTech shuffler is a solid base hit.
 

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when are they shipping and how can we get some? also is there going to be a forum discount? I want at least 2 of them. ;)
 

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mikey - I too am a dsitributor. I can put you on the books for two if you would like. I can call Rick tomorrow to find out when my shipment is to be sent out.
 

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I gotta say, these things look great for the price. However, in a rotating deal game, it kinda sucks to have the unit mounted in a fixed position. That's the one draw back that I see.

Great price, though.

EDIT: Poker size recommended? Ewww? Any plans to develop a bridge size version, or at least a mod for bridge sized cards?
 

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Very strange they went with the poker sized. Guess they are targeting the home game. Since most cardrooms used bridge size. that price is still a little high for me. I still have quick hands, so I will pass... too bad. Those things are sexy.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Guma's got the pricing right. I didn't mention it before because I couldn't remember.

The bridge-sized cards worked fine in the unit. Everything's sized for the poker-sized cards, I suspect because you can use both poker- and bridge-sized cards if everything's sized for poker-size cards, but if you sized it for bridge-sized cards, then you couldn't use poker-sized cards.

The shuffler comes with a brand-new double deck of Copag plastic cards in poker size. That's included in the purchase price. But I ran a set of plastic Copags in bridge-size through the machine several times and they worked just fine too.

I'm going to try wrapping the unit in foam tonight to see if that takes care of any of the noise issues and will report back tomorrow.
 

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Pat, have you given any thought to Guma's modifications and recommendations regarding the flush mount kit? If so, any thoughts about it?
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Ok, results of further testing are in.

First, the noise test. It's difficult to determine how loud it is without some sort of sound meter, and I don't have one of those (tell me if Harbor Freight sells one). So I found this chart that lists common sound items and their decibel value. My wife and I gave it a listen as it was running through a deck of cards and decided it's probably somewhere between 50 and 60dB. You can hold a conversation over it, but you might have to speak up a little bit. Of course, in most poker games I'm in, things being too quiet is rarely the problem.

Second, the foam test. We took some leftover HD rail foam and wrapped it around the bottom of the shuffler to see if that reduced the sound. It did not reduce it appreciably. It still seems to me like most of the noise is emitted through the top of the unit, rather than under the table.

Third, bridge-sized cards. I ran a deck of Copag bridge-sized cards through the shuffler again. For whatever reason, the bridge-sized cards definitely have a problem with getting jammed at the stage where the shuffler combines the cards back into the center tray. So if you are absolutely wedded to using bridge-sized cards for some reason, this probably is not the best option for you. If you run a card room that uses bridge-sized cards, I guess the question is if you would rather keep using bridge-sized cards or if you would rather make more money. By my conservative calculations, depending on how many hours the room is open, one of these shufflers in a card room would pay for itself in between a couple of days and a week just in extra hands dealt. In my tournament game, we were easily dealing between 8-10 more hands per hour. If you are raking $5/hand on average and you can get in 10 more hands per hour, well, you do the math.

I can see why ShuffleMaster can sell their units at $15k to the casinos and everybody still comes out ahead.

RyGuy, I just read Guma's ideas about the flush mount kit, but I have to confess that I wasn't exactly sure what he was talking about in terms of the modifications. The racetrack table with the cupholder drawers that this shuffler is mounted on uses a base layer of 3/4" plywood and a 1/2" thick sheet as the mounting board for the cloth & foam. I beveled the underside of the 1/2" sheet to provide clearance for the sloped sides of the shuffler, then cut back the base layer just enough for the sides to clear when the unit was mounted. I didn't bevel the base layer.

I'd be interested to see what Guma has in mind. From my conversations with the ShuffleTech guys, the final flush mount kits will be essentially the same as the prototype ones. The main change will be that the studs on the underside of the flushmount will be a little larger than on the prototype units.

Cheers, guys.
 

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In my tournament game, we were easily dealing between 8-10 more hands per hour. If you are raking $5/hand on average and you can get in 10 more hands per hour, well, you do the math.
Okay.. I have done up a little math to help me here.. I am having a hard time with the ten hands an hour bit.. Assuming a medium 4/8 limit game, or a looser 1/2 NL game

Average hand of "Play time" 1:45...
Average hand shuffle time and deal time :35
For a hand shuffled average of 2:20, or 24.. Sound good?

Average hand of "play time" still 1:45
Average auto shuffle and deal time :20
For an auto shuffled total time of 2:05, or 28.

So, I will grant you four hands per hour, but ten would require an no dealing time at all, and clearly that is impossible since you still have to wash, load, cut, and dispense.

I like the product, just don't like the inflated efficiency claims.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I didn't intend to inflate anything. Here's how I figured out 10 hands an hour. In my tournament game, we play 20 minute levels. Before the shuffler, we would be lucky to see 8 hands per level in the lower levels before there are bustouts. Depending on how many guys were playing on a given night and the action, we might not complete an orbit before the blinds went up.

After the shuffler, we never saw fewer than 10 hands/level and were often getting 11-12 hands/level. I took a rough average and figured that we were seeing about 3 hands more per level than before. 3 hands more in a 20 minute level equals 9 hands an hour, and that's on average. So it doesn't seem a stretch to me to say that you could see 8-10 hands more in an hour of cash play. I understand that tournament play and cash play aren't exactly the same; on the other hand, in NL cash play it's not that unusual to see hands folded preflop or on the flop.

But whether it's 4 more hands in an hour or 10, the point is the same: increased efficiency results in additional profit for the same or less effort. Even if you only get 4 more hands/hour, that's $20/hour, so you've paid for the unit and flushmount in 30 hours of play.
 
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