Preferential shuffling is a method the casino can use at Blackjack to increase the house advantage. Here, the casino counts cards as a Blackjack card counter does. But, when the dealer sees that the advantage is in favor of the player (i.e. there are an unusual number of high cards left in the shoe,) he/she shuffles. Normally there are times that the advantage is the casinos and sometimes the advantage is the players. But, the odds are more often for the casino. That’s fine. But by preferentially shuffling, the casino removes those times that the advantage is for the player altering the house edge. In essence, the casino is removing Tens and Aces from play. The odds of the player receiving an Ace or a Ten are less than advertised by the rules.
Is this illegal? Let us look at the relevant Nevada Statutes:
NRS 465.083 Cheating.
It is unlawful for any person, whether he is an owner or employee of or a player in an establishment, to cheat at any gambling game.
NRS 465.015 Definitions. As used in this chapter:
1. “Cheat” means to alter the elements of chance, method of selection or criteria which determine:
- (a) The result of a game;
- (b) The amount or frequency of payment in a game;
- (c) The value of a wagering instrument; or
- (d) The value of a wagering credit.
In a casino game the dealer can make no choices. Only the player can make choices. The player is allowed to alter his expectation. For example on Craps he can bet Pass or Don’t Pass which have different expectations. At Blackjack the elements of chance are set up. The player can do his best to increase his advantage by making playing and betting decisions according to the rules. But if the dealer preferentially shuffles, he is altering the elements of chance. I am not a lawyer, but this certainly sounds like cheating. Further, since the odds of receiving an Ace are not the same as the odds of receiving a Five, this appears to be false advertising.
Whether or not this is illegal under the law; I certainly believe that it is a scam. The odds have been changed such that they are worse than the rules suggest.
Note: Some casinos will also shuffle when a bet has been raised without counting the cards. This is also sometimes referred to as Preferential Shuffling. While this hurts everyone at the table, it is less clear that this is a ‘scam.’