Proper Poker Shuffle

Posted on 2015-02-19 | Comments (0)

'If you shuffle 10 or 11 times, it's not worth the wear and tear on your shoe leather standing there in the casino if you're counting cards. It's just as close to random as it could be.' If you use what Diaconis calls the 'smooshing method' (below), you should probably mix the cards for about a minute. Cut the deck into two halves of equal size and shuffle one last time. Pick up the top half of the deck and set it down on a cut card alongside the bottom half. Then, place the former bottom half on top of the former top half before mixing them up again. You’re now ready to begin dealing.

Shuffling is one of those things that people often learn at a young age, when they first start playing card games. Usually, though, whenever your parents taught you how to shuffle cards, they didn’t teach you the way that the casinos use. And that’s a bad thing—most players shuffle cards in a way that threatens game integrity, by exposing cards while they shuffle or not adequately randomizing the cards. If you host regular card game nights—especially poker nights—learning to shuffle correctly is a valuable skill that will ensure that your games go smoothly.

How to shuffle

The standard casino shuffle consists of the following procedure:

  • A wash (for the first hand of the game)
  • Three riffle shuffles
  • A strip shuffle
  • One more riffle shuffle
  • The cut

The wash

A wash or scramble is typically only used in a casino at the beginning of a game, when the deck of cards is still in the order it was packaged in. In a home game, you should, at the very least, perform a wash at the beginning of the game or whenever the cards have been recently verified. You should consider performing a wash more frequently when playing a game like Crazy Eights that tends to result in the cards ending up in some sort of identifiable pattern. In a game with quick hands and frequent shuffling, like poker, you should skip the wash for most shuffles to avoid bogging down the game.

Proper Poker Shuffle

The riffle shuffle

The riffle shuffle is the element of shuffling that most people are familiar with, and forms the bulk of the actual shuffling procedure. Yet it’s the element of shuffling that most people get wrong. Many people shuffle too dramatically, with exaggerated movements that unnecessarily expose cards.

The number one key to avoiding the exposure of cards is to keep the cards low to the table. The cards should never be more than an inch or so off the table. The intuitive method by which someone squares up, say, a pile of papers is to lift it off the table and tap its edges against the table. Keep yourself from falling into this habit when dealing with cards. It shows off the bottom of the pack to anyone who cares to look, and many of the other cards sticking out at odd angles will expose their indices. Develop the habit of squaring up the pack with your fingers without picking it up off the table.

The riffle shuffle begins by splitting the pack into two. Hold the bottom half of the pack in landscape orientation (long edge parallel to the edge of the table closest to you), keeping it flat against the table and secure with one hand. Then slide the top half of the pack off with your other hand, keeping it close to the other half of the pack, and pulling it in the direction of the long edges of the pack, until you have two half-decks sitting side by side next to each other.

Next, orient the two half-decks in an inverted V (the point of the V pointing away from you). Move the decks toward one another, keeping them square with your index fingers on the short edges of the deck opposite you, your thumbs on the long edges of the deck inside the V, and your other fingers on the long edges of the deck on the outside of the V. Then, perform the actual riffle by arching the corners of the cards closest to one another, bending them between your index fingers, which are moved to rest on top of the deck in the corners of the cards, and your thumbs, which remain in the same position. Gradually release the pressure from your thumbs, which will cause the cards to begin falling off the bottom of the deck, pressed past your thumbs by your index fingers. If the two packs are close enough, their corners should interleave. With practice, the cards will naturally alternate between the two packs, thoroughly intermixing the two packs.

Now, complete the shuffle by rotating the two interleaved packs so that they are parallel to one another (but still intermixed). Push the two packs together until you can square them up into one shuffled pack. Do not perform the “bridge” maneuver, where the entire pack is arched to push the two halves together, as this can unwittingly expose cards.

Perform three riffle shuffles in this manner.

The strip shuffle

The strip shuffle is, on its own, not a very powerful shuffling technique. In combination with the riffle shuffle, however, it helps to further randomize the deck by rearranging blocks of the deck, helping to break up runs of cards that remained together through the three riffles.

The strip shuffle is, essentially, the beginning of a riffle shuffle. Hold the pack in landscape orientation, then pull the top fifth or so of the deck off the top, keeping it close to the remainder of the deck, and set it down next to the pack. Then do the same with the next fifth of the deck, placing it on top of what was the top fifth, and so on, until the entire deck has been gone through in this way.

After completing the strip shuffle, do one more riffle shuffle, and then you’re ready for the cut. After that, it’s time to deal!

See also

  •, a site with more in-depth shuffling information and videos

Posted in Hosting Tips | Tags: card games, dealer procedures, playing cards, shuffling

Looking like an expert with a deck of cards must start from the moment you pick them up. It’s an essential skill for any worthwhile magician.

Fail at shuffling and you might ruin your reputation as a skilled magician before you’ve even started any tricks. Avoid this problem by mastering these professional shuffling techniques.

You’ll want to practice all of these shuffles with a relatively new deck of cards, as they will be slightly slicker and stiffer, making the deck easier to work with.

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#1 – The Riffle Shuffle

This popular shuffle is easy to do, shuffles cards well and looks great!

Proper Poker Shuffle Game

I often take for granted how great this shuffle looks, but when doing it before playing games with my friends, someone always points out how cool it looks.

How to do it

Step 1

Put your entire deck of cards in one hand. Hold the deck at the top with your thumb.

At the bottom, rest the cards on the top joints of your middle, fourth and pinky fingers.

Keep your pointer finger bent and behind the cards.

This is what it should look like.

Got it? Good!

Step 2

Holding the cards just tightly enough that they don’t fall out, use your bent pointer finger to apply pressure from the back of the deck, causing it to arch.

You’ll want to let half of the deck go by allowing them to riffle out from your thumb and catch them in your other hand.

Proper poker shuffle card game

Practice this step a few times.

Once you have cards in your other hand, you want to set them up in the same way that you set up the full deck.

Riffle both parts of the deck onto the table at the same time so that they overlap slightly.

Proper Poker Shuffle Rules

Step 3

Hold the cards at the top and in the center with your thumbs.

Place index fingers around the top edge of the cards on each side.


Apply pressure from the bottom, causing the cards to arch as you release the pressure from your thumbs.

Once the bridge is complete, push them all together and repeat from the beginning!

Watch it in action!

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#2 – The One-Handed Shuffle

Another, more impressive shuffle to learn is the one-handed shuffle.

How to do it

Let’s start with the grip again…

Step 1

The grip for this shuffle will feel very unnatural at first, but with practice, you’ll find that you can hold a deck this way with ease.

Place your thumb and your pinky on the bottom edge of the cards when holding them horizontally, and your remaining three fingers on top, as shown below.

Step 2

Lift up with your thumb to divide the deck in half, and release your middle and ring fingers at the same time.

Move your thumb counterclockwise and your pinky clockwise at the same rate, pushing the cards into two piles next to each other, as shown below.


Step 3

Apply pressure with the middle and ring finger to lower this half of the deck to be even with the other half.

Hold the pinky steady while applying pressure with the thumb to the other half. This will cause the ends of the deck closest to your body to shuffle together. This will be the hardest part to master, as the cards will need to be loose enough to shuffle but not so loose that they scatter to the floor.

Proper Poker Shuffle Ball

Practice till you get it perfect!

Proper Poker Shuffle App

Mastering these two shuffling techniques will be the perfect beginning to set up all card tricks that you plan to share with your audience.

If you fumble with the shuffle, your audience will be looking for mistakes in your performance, so learn professional shuffles like these ones to become the best entertainer out there.

Watch it in action

Don’t worry about failing

As with any craft, your hands and muscle memory will begin to get extremely comfortable with handling cards over time.

As a magician, you probably have a deck of cards in your hand at all times. Doing this is good!

It will make any new skill you learn, like these shuffles, much easier to learn.

So if the cards feel uncomfortable at first, don’t worry and just keep playing around with them.

It’s inevitable that you’ll become an expert sooner or later.