Dealing Machine Hands

As I understand it , dealing machines can be programmed to deal " unusual " hands. At most of our league matches hands are hand dealt . At a particular club the hands are machine dealt and I strongly suspect that a non-standard programme is used. If so , should the visiting team be informed?


  • Usually when players talk of machine-dealt boards being extreme, all that is really happening is that the hands are truly random unlike the poorly-shuffled hand-dealt ones they are used to, which are far flatter than random hands would be.

    However, if they really are manipulating the machine settings, they should not be doing so for a league since it is contrary to the laws which say:

    Law 6A. The Shuffle
    Before play starts, each pack is thoroughly shuffled. There is
    a cut if either opponent so requests.
    B. The Deal
    The cards must be dealt face down, one card at a time, into
    four hands of thirteen cards each; each hand is then placed
    face down in one of the four pockets of the board. No two
    adjacent cards from the deck shall be dealt into the same
    hand. The recommended procedure is that the cards be dealt
    in rotation, clockwise.

    Law 6E4. The Director may require a different method of
    dealing or pre-dealing to produce the same wholly
    random expectations as from A and B above.

  • As a Bridge teacher, I will use some of the software configurable parameters (machine settings) to generate a particular shape of hand and points for the topic I'm about to teach. For example, when I'm talking about slams, it's useful to have a set of boards with slams and 'near-slams' in them.

    For general club play, where near total randomness (or as near total as computer algorithms can produce) is required, I can't see why any of the 'manipulation' parameters would need to be applied; however I have come across clubs who sill use some of the inconsequential 'shaping' options that (I believe) are just a hangover from the old dealing machines which weren't as good at achieving the level of randomness that is achieved from modern dealers.

    There is a difference between machine-dealt boards and hand-dealt boards and members will comment on it when their club moves from hand-dealt to machine-dealt. As Gordon says, hand-dealing will generally provide flatter hands - it because we simply don't shuffle enough.

    The following was lifted from the EBU and formed part of a briefing note to club members when I was last involved in introducing mechanical dealing.

    • It has been calculated that a deck of cards needs to be given a proper 'riffle' shuffle at least six or seven times for the deal to be quite random.
    • Overhand shuffling mixes the cards poorly, and it requires some 200 overhand shuffles to approach randomness in the card order.
    • So most hand deals at the club are far from random.
    • On average, hand dealing results in flatter distribution than one would get with a truly random pack.

    Hope the above complements comment from Gordon and helps promote better dealing.

  • With a perfect riffle shuffle, the pack can be returned to the state it was already in after 8 shuffles. I prefer a mix of overhand and riffle, three or four of each.

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