An Introduction to Blackjack Machines

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Published: 11/11/2013

Until rather recently, machine versions of blackjack looked a lot like slots or video poker games. They were housed in boxy-looking consoles that portrayed the dealer’s hand and the player’s hand as flat cards on a flat screen. The graphics were boring and the rules were poor. IGT’s Game King version, for example, paid only even money for a natural blackjack, doubling down was restricted to hard counts of 10 or 11, and no more than one split could be taken. But all that is swiftly changing, thanks to a completely new generation of blackjack machines.

Blackjack for Multiple Players

One of the leaders in the development of the next big thing in blackjack is Shuffle Master. The game maker recognized that players enjoy the social aspects of the game almost as much as they do the card play, so they set about creating multiple seat blackjack machines such as “Royal Match 21” and “Bet Set 21.” These completely automated games offer minimum bets starting at just €1.00 along with virtual dealers and side bets intended to tease more wagers out of the players.0.

Joining Shuffle Master in the realm of virtual dealer formats is game-maker Aruze with its “Dealers Angels Blackjack.” It features seating for five and an attractive cyber dealer projected on a huge video screen; the look and feel is quite similar to an online experience. Similarly, IGT has introduced a six-player version called “Enchanted Blackjack,” with floating hands to deal virtual cards and paying 6:5 for natural blackjacks.

Meanwhile, a line-up of electro-mechanical “21” products has been introduced by InterBlock; the games are part of a line called “Organic Blackjack” that shuffles and deals from eight real decks of cards. The game seats one to seven players and has a “Lucky Aces” side bet with wagers that start at just €0.50.

All of these electronic blackjack machines offer casinos a way to reduce labor costs. They can track every wager automatically when customers insert their player’s club cards. Machines also eliminate dealer mistakes in making payouts, and they can deal more hands per hour than any human, which means greater profitability.

Blackjack of the Future

Some believe the next step in machine blackjack could be 3-D holographic imaging. Others say helmet-like devices could allow players to enter into virtual reality, role-playing-type blackjack games. Quite recently, at the Automate 2013 trade show held in Chicago in January, Yaskawa Motoman Robotics of Ohio presented its SDA10F “Dexter Bot” to the world—the first blackjack-dealing robot.

Attached to Dexter’s rotating torso are two arms and bulb-like “hands” with suction cups to move the cards around. Each of the robot’s arms has seven axes of rotation, capable of moving at one-half to one rotation per second and thus giving it fast, flexible motion—well beyond human capability. Dexter also has a vision recognition camera and software to be able to read the cards that are dealt. Accommodating up to three players at a time, the prototype plays by some unusual House rules—no splits, no double downs, the dealer stands on all 17s and the player wins all ties.

Although Dexter has proven that robot dealers are no longer just a theoretical possibility, it is unlike his clones will be seen in casinos soon. Most players still prefer to see a human face, even if it is a virtual one. The novelty would likely wear out rather quickly, before the costs of installation could be recovered. What’s more, high-limit salons will keep their live dealers in any event. The move toward blackjack machines is driven by economics, and it is really at the low-end of the market that technology can have the greatest impact.

Published on: 11/11/2013

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