POKER LIFESTYLE

Should You Use An Automatic Poker Dealer?

By David Huber
January 28, 2024

An automatic poker dealer machine can turn your casual home poker game into a more serious get together. Not only will your guests be impressed by an automatic playing card dispenser, they will also get to see more hands per hour thanks to the automatic shuffling machine features that some of the top-end products offer.

In this article, we’ll explore why an automatic poker dealer, or card dealing robot device is inferior to an automatic card shuffling machine. We’ll also look at some of the flaws that make an automatic poker dealer robot untenable for almost any home game.

automatic card dealer

What is an Automatic Poker Dealer?

An automatic poker dealer is a machine that dispenses cards to players at a poker table. These machines typically require a human dealer to grab each card as they are dispensed, and physically deal them to each player.

However, one of the main features of almost every high-end automatic poker dealer machine is the ability to automatically shuffle cards. This can be a huge time saver in between hands, especially if you are using more than one deck of poker playing cards.

Once a hand has concluded, simply place the entire deck in the machine and let it shuffle all 52 cards while you grab the already-shuffled deck from the top of the machine and start dealing the current hand.

What is a Rotating Automatic Poker Dealer Robot?

A rotating automatic poker dealer is a genuine, card dealing robot that can be placed at the center of any table and programmed to physically deal cards as it rotates.

Also known as a smart dealer or an automatic playing card dispenser, there are some serious limitations to what these devices can do in the current calendar year of 2024.

Yes, these machines DO actually rotate as they deal cards, but the technology and hardware limitations may cause poker home game hosts to pause before implementing these machines into an actual real money poker home game.

Limitations of a Rotating Automatic Poker Dealer Machine (Robot)

Small Playing Card Size

First, these machines may require a special playing card size in order to work (these decks might come with the product itself, or you may need to purchase customized deck sizes separately. The playing card size that the few rotating machines on the market can accommodate are often smaller than your standard poker deck size.

So, any wear and tear on these smaller playing cards will force the poker game host to seek out more specialized cards, which will be more difficult to find than standard poker deck sizes. Trying to fit a standard deck into these machines will result in the rotating machine not working at all.

Machine Must Be Pre-Programmed

A rotating automatic poker dealer machine will be demanding in its need to be pre-programmed before a poker game. And guess what? Any time one player leaves that game or one player enters the game, you’ll need to manually reprogram the whole scheme using the machine’s small buttons, small user interface, and hardware.

By hardware, I mean you’ll have to physically pick up the machine and place it in your hands in order to see what you’re doing and make sure the small buttons you’re pushing are registering on the small screen. Wear and tear on these machines will probably result in needing to purchase a new one altogether.

Think of this as a comparison to early generation personal computers that had small, sensitive buttons to turn the power ON/OFF for monitors and hard drive towers. If either of those power buttons became useless due to wear and tear, the cost to replace those buttons was excessive.

This is why so many early PC owners kept the power toggles ON in perpetuity for these pieces of hardware while attaching them to a separate power strip. The relatively cheap power strip hardware would be much easier (and cheaper) to replace if it failed due to human use or electrical surges.

Ultra Low “Wristpower”

Imagine an experienced human poker dealer and/or card slinging performance artist who is very adept with his or her craft.

Let’s imagine a (completely made up by me) metric for measuring a human’s “wristpower.”

Now let’s assign a metric of 1 wristpower to describe a card slinging guru who can cut a carrot with a single throw of a card. And then let’s assign a wristpower that is less than 1 wristpower to your favorite human dealer who can distribute cards to a lot of players from a single physical point that could be as much as a few feet away.

A skilled human dealer can loft cards, nimbly deal them at angles, and also measure different distances through muscle memory. Let’s assign a (completely arbitrary) number of 0.3 wristpower for the largest amount of physical distance that a human dealer will need to deal a card for it to reach its intended player target.

The point I’m trying to make here is that the current technology associated with automatic, rotating card dealing machines is nowhere near what it needs to be in order to match the competence of a bonafide human dealer.

Automatic playing card distributors have a very short range (or wristpower number of less than 0.1), which means your players will need to be physically enclosed in a boxed-in area that is much smaller than a normal, oval-shaped or round poker table.

Additionally, the automatic poker dealer machines on the market at this time are incapable of varying distances when shooting out playing cards. This means that all players at the table will need to be huddled around a small round table in order to receive their cards without having to reach out for them after they have already been dealt.

Card Dealing Machines Will Occupy the Center of Your Table

An automatic card dealing machine will take up crucial physical space that would otherwise be used for poker chips that are in a pot, community cards, or even a table’s logo. And as explained above, you’ll need to use a relatively small round table for automatic card dealing machines to begin with.

The reason why these machines will need to use the exact center of a round table is because of their limitations regarding how they rotate. These machines rotate at the same angle degrees without being able to decipher if a player is slightly to the left/right of that angle or farther away.

Rotating Card Dealing Robots: A Product Destined for Irrelevancy

Remember the old-school Personal Data Assistants (PDAs) that were heavily marketed before personal computers became so mainstream?

Remember the tiny screens? The tiny buttons? The lack of online connectivity? The low, non-rechargeable batteries? The finicky power cords? The tiny, fickle on-device inputs for those power cords? The ease in which the device could be dropped during a split-second lack of attention? The risk of losing all stored data at once if the devices ran out of battery charge?

This, in my opinion, is the destiny of rotating card dealing robots – irrelevancy.

Without a real time “human mind meld” function (to assign a number of players and their physical positions/distance relative to the device for each hand), internet connectivity, larger data storage, higher performing hardware, and more reasonable user interfaces, rotating card dealing robots are a fad at best; a nuisance in practice at worst.

These devices have fatal hardware and software flaws that cannot be overcome in their current market product packaging.

Save your money, use a human dealer, and/or purchase a real, automatic card shuffler and dispenser machine that still requires a human for the best results if you wish to increase the amount of hands seen per hour in a live setting.

Human Dealers Remain Vitally Important for Poker Games

The great thing about even low-end automatic card shufflers (not to be confused with a rotating robot card dealer) is that they still require a skilled human dealer.

Compare this to the rotating card dealing robots. Do they calculate chips within a pot, request blinds from players, and divide pot amounts in accordance with how many players showed down the best hand? Can they deal face-up community cards? Can they award a pot to a specific player and physically move that pot towards the winner? Can they adapt on-the-fly to accommodate more or fewer players seated at the table once a hand starts? No, no, no, and no.

A card dealing robot does nothing to eliminate the need for a skilled human dealer. A high-end automatic card shuffler won’t either, but there are a number of advantages to a shuffling machine that dispenses cards to a dealer when compared to a robot that attempts to eliminate the human dealer role altogether.

Even if you’re participating in a casual, micro-stakes poker home game where one or more players are tasked with dealing to their opponents, a rotating card dealing robot will be less precise and require more tinkering that’s separate from actual poker play.

The Advantages of a Card Shuffling Machine (Dispenser)

An automatic card shuffling machine can:

  • Shuffle cards automatically and accommodate multiple decks (higher end products)
  • Use standard playing card sizes
  • Function without having to be reprogrammed every time a player sits in or sits out
  • Truly increase the number of hands players will experience per hour
  • Defer to a human dealer regarding seating positions, distance from device, and face-up community cards
  • Be placed in an area of the table near the human dealer that is not used for other necessary and vital poker actions such as pot placement, community cards placement, or table logo.
  • Minimize physical wear and tear on actual playing cards when compared to a rotating card dealing robot
    Be networked via internet connectivity to a database or command device that registers and keeps track of all cards dealt (higher end products)

Online Reviews of Rotating Card Dealing Robots

Upon searching, I’ve come across a couple of rotating card dealing robot reviews on YouTube.

If you choose to watch these reviews, see if you can spot some of the flaws with these devices that have been mentioned within this article.

How to Have Non-Poker Fun with a Rotating Card Dealing Robot

Perhaps the most entertaining option for a rotating card dealing robot machine is an impromptu game of 52 Pickup.

Step 1: Place your rotating card dealing robot device on top of a pedestal within a large gaming space.
Step 2: Program the device to deal to the maximum allotted number of players.
Step 3: Use a ladder (if necessary) to push to START button.
Step 4: Enjoy the show (then go find all 52 cards and pick them up).
Step 5 (optional): If you know what you’re doing, fasten the device to a ceiling fan and make sure the fan is ON before pressing the START button on the device.

Automatic Card Shufflers/Dispensers are Better Than Rotating Robots

Hopefully by now you are convinced that an automatic card shuffler that requires a human dealer is a far superior product relative to a rotating, card dealing robot.

If you truly want to increase the amount of poker hands that poker players can see per hour, invest in a multi-deck automatic card shuffler machine that dispenses cards, but leaves the actual “dealing” motion to a human.

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David Huber poker author
Written By.

David Huber

David Huber has been involved in the poker industry for close to two decades: initially as a professional online poker player and later as an editor, consultant, writer, and forum manager. Known as “dhubermex” online, David’s poker-related work has been heavily published across numerous websites since 2004.

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