Shuffling

Label Pangolin

Label Pangolin

One of the more common elements of card games in general is the method and concept behind shuffling. Shuffling is the process of randomizing the deck or decks of cards that either the player or players by mixing the order of the cards in said deck or decks of cards. Many card games share this mechanic, as it relies on the shuffling of cards in order to bring an element of chance to the player’s experience when using or drawing cards from shuffled decks.

Types of Shuffling

Since the method of shuffling is very important to achieve randomness in card games before and during games, it is also important to know some of the common methods of shuffling that card game players use. Some methods of shuffling are better at randomizing the order of a deck of cards than others, and some have more utility outside of randomizing the cards in a deck. With these things in mind, here are some of the common methods of shuffling that can be seen in the trading card game community:

  • Riffle Shuffle. This method of shuffling involves taking halves of a card deck and letting the card cascade into each other in such a way that the cards in the two halves interweave each other at the end of the shuffle.
  • Overhand. Shuffling in this way involves continuously taking a portion of the deck and moving it to the top of the deck, which rearranges groups of cards to achieve the shuffle.
  • Mash. Like the riffle shuffle, this method involves taking halves of the card deck and pushing the two halves together in such a way that the two halves interweave and combine into a singular pile of cards.
  • Pile. This shuffle consists of separating cards in equal piles one card face down at a time until the deck is all separated into equal or semi-equal piles, which are then combined into one pile after sorting. Although this seems like shuffling, card players in other games do not see this as a effective way to randomize one’s deck.

Best Way to Shuffle Cards?

With all of these options for shuffling that the player could choose, which one is best for tournament and casual play? When looking for the best shuffle that the player should choose, it seems logical to choose the shuffling method that is the most effective at randomizing the order of the cards in a deck. With a little bit of research, the riffle shuffle seems to be the best of the methods mentioned above, which takes takes 7-8 times to randomize a 52 playing card deck 2,3,4,5. The overhand shuffle may be good at randomizing groups of cards, but some statistical research showed that it takes 10,000 times to mathematically randomize a 52 playing card deck 1. Mash shuffling can replicate the randomizing power of the riffle shuffling, but only if done correctly. Although not as effective as a riffle shuffle, the mash shuffle can be seen, as Escapist writer Joshua Vanderwall said, as a “general approximation of a riffle shuffle”6. Pile shuffling is good at counting the cards in the deck in the beginning of the game, but is not seen as an effective way to randomize a deck of cards, whether by outside sources 9 or rulings in other games such as Magic: The Gathering. Although this is the case, pile shuffling is recommended in order to make sure all the cards are present in your deck at the beginning of the game 8.

I hope this helped clear up a few things about shuffling in card games for those who wanted a general overview. To view the sources referenced, please reference the list below. Please leave questions and comments in the comments section.


List of Sources

  1. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF01048267
  2. http://www.nytimes.com/1990/01/09/science/in-shuffling-cards-7-is-winning-number.html
  3. http://www.mtgsalvation.com/forums/magic-fundamentals/magic-general/334934-shuffling-the-truth-and-maths-primer
  4. http://projecteuclid.org/DPubS/Repository/1.0/Disseminate?view=body&id=pdf_1&handle=euclid.aoap/1177005705
  5. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AxJubaijQbI
  6. http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/tabletop/columns/hexproof/9430-Shuffling-is-Not-a-Formality
  7. http://www.starcitygames.com/article/8565_The-Beginner-s-Guide-to-Shuffling-and-Deck-Randomization.html
  8. http://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/news/magic-tournament-rules-release-notes-2017-01-16
  9. http://www.starcitygames.com/magic/misc/4832_What_Was_Mike_Long_Doing_In_The_Last_Round_or_Why_Pile_Shuffling_Isnt_Random.html

Images of cards came from http://cardfight.wikia.com/wiki/Cardfight!!_Vanguard_Wiki. These images may have been re-sized.

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