Shuffling Cards in Poker

Guide to learn when to shuffle cards in poker, and how to do it properly so as to randomize the deck of cards perfectly. Watch and learn!

In poker (and all of its variants), shuffling cards is very important to randomize the cards. Meaning that no advantage can be gained by paying attention to the cards that were played in the previous hands.

There are more combinations of a deck of cards than there are atoms on Earth.

Times When the Deck is Shuffled

In common poker rules, there are four situations in which the deck of cards is shuffled:

  1. at the start of each hand,
  2. in case of a misdeal,
  3. if the flop, turn, or river, is dealt too early, and
  4. when a stud poker dealer runs out of cards.

The most common situation in which cards are shuffled is the beginning of each hand. This randomizes the card order which means that no advantage is gained if you were watching which cards were shown at the end of the hand and where they were put in the deck. This is the reason that counting cards don’t work in poker as the order is changed every hand.

The deck is also reshuffled if there is an error when the cards are being dealt (often called a ‘misdeal’). If a card goes off the table or the order of the deal is messed up then the cards are all taken back in by the dealer who goes through the shuffle process from the beginning before dealing the hand as if it’s new.

However, there are a couple of other, far less common situations where the deck is shuffled.

One is if the flop, turn, or river is dealt too early. For example, if the dealer thinks that the last player to act has completed their action on the flop and they deal the turn without the in-position player making their action. In this scenario, the turn is put back into the deck and the deck is shuffled so the in-position player doesn’t get to make their action knowing what the turn card is.

There is a situation, most commonly found in the stud games, where the dealer runs out of cards to give to the players left in the hand. This can happen in full-ring games where multiple players seeing the later streets as 7 Card Stud requires a lot of cards! When this happens, the dealer will take the previously mucked or burned cards and shuffle them to act as the new deck. Once these cards have been shuffled the dealer will continue to deal from where they left off.

Dealing and Shuffling in Poker

For those who haven’t played a live game or are wondering what the proper dealing method is for their home games, we’ll go through a step-by-step on how to deal Texas Hold’em poker. 

Phases of card shuffling and dealer in Poker.
Phases of card shuffling and dealer in Poker.

Determine the Turn Order

The first thing we need to do is determine who is going first. When the game starts cards are drawn to see who will start with the button, the highest card winning and in the event of a tie it’s determined by suits (spades being highest, then hearts, then diamonds, then clubs). The two players to the left of the button post the small and big blind. 

Check if All Cards are Present

At the start of each dealer’s shift at the table, they will bring a new deck of cards and fan them face up for all the players to see. They should then count through the cards, making sure there are exactly 52 in the deck. Some dealers will count down the deck at the end of each hand but it is common practice for this to only be done at the start of each dealer’s visit to the table.

Shuffling

Once all the cards have been accounted for, the dealer will then start the shuffle. Shuffling the cards is a multi-stage process. First of all the dealer will ‘wash’ the cards which means spreading them across the table and mixing them all together. This is generally seen as an amateur way to shuffle the cards but is standard practice in casinos!

Shuffling cards like a professional poker dealers!

Riffling & Stripping

The next stage is riffling and stripping. The dealer will split the cards into two piles and riffle them together, putting one card from each pile on top of the other in succession and bringing them together. After one or two riffles the dealer will strip the deck, taking groups of 5-10 cards from the top of the deck and putting them in reverse order on a new pile. After stripping the deck the dealer will then start another riffle shuffle. The dealer will go through the riffle and stripping of the deck 2 or 3 times until the deck is fully shuffled.

Cutting

Finally, the dealer will cut the deck, taking the top half of the deck and moving it to the bottom. They will usually place the ‘cutting card’ (a protector at the bottom of the deck so people can’t see the bottom card) in front of the deck and move the first half onto that card before putting the remaining pile back on top.

Now the deck is ready to deal.

Distributing the Cards

Dealing starts with the small blind, each player getting one card at a time going clockwise around the table until everyone has two cards, finishing with the button. After each hand, the button is moved one seat clockwise and the next hand begins.

It’s important when you’re playing a live game that the deck is shuffled, so make sure you don’t forget when playing in your home-games! Keep it fair, keep it random, keep shuffling.