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What is a 'Shoe'?

A shoe is a device used in casinos to deal cards at the gaming table. Each shoe holds more than one deck of cards, reducing the amount of time required for shuffling between games. Increasing the decks of cards also has the advantage of increasing the house advantage in games like blackjack.Prior to 1961 all casino card games were dealt by hand using a single deck of cards. This made some practices such as card counting, front loading and spooking in blackjack, easier for players to carry out.The solution was to deal cards from a covered shoe which can hold multiple decks of pre-shuffled cards. Depending on the game being played, a shoe can contain anything from two to eight decks.In many European casinos the shoe is known as the sabot, which is French for clog.

'Shoe' explained

The most popular card games dealt from a shoe are baccarat and blackjack. Baccarat can be dealt from either a three or six deck shoe, while blackjack can be played with one to eight decks.When a single deck is used a shoe is not needed; this type of blackjack game is known as a handheld game. Handheld games often pay less odds (6-5) than conventional six-deck shoe games (3-2). The odds are lower because the chances of winning are higher with a single deck. There is also the opportunity for skilled players to front load handheld games, increasing their chances of winning even further.When a shoe is used the cards are pre-shuffled, typically using an automatic shuffling machine (ASM). Once shuffled the cards are placed into the shoe and dealt face down onto the table where they cannot be seen by any player until they are turned over. This reduces the risk of “spooks” spotting the dealer's hole card as it is dealt.In larger casinos the shoe has been replaced by continuous shuffling machines (CSMs) on blackjack tables. CSMs contain four decks of cards which are continuously shuffled with discarded cards being put back into the machine to be shuffled with unused cards.When the hands are dealt by CSM, the player actually has a slightly greater chance of winning compared to a conventional six deck shoe game. However, because CSMs reduce the need for the dealer to shuffle the cards and refill the shoe, they can deal up to 20% more hands per hour. This negates your slight advantage by making you play more games.