For poker tables, casinos generally use the Shufflemaster Deck Mate shuffling machine. It is built directly into the surface of the table, usually near the center of the table surface. In the event of breakdown, the machine can easily be lifted out of the table and replaced with a fresh machine. There is a single power cable coming out of the Shufflemaster machine; this power cable is similar to those found in a home PC. For all the background, check out the patent.
When cards need to be shuffled, the dealer presses a button on the machine and a door flips up, revealing a rising tray which contains a shuffled deck, ready for dealing. The dealer places the to-be-shuffled deck into the machine, removes the already-shuffled deck, and the Shufflemaster machine then lowers its tray, closes its door, and begins shuffling the deck beneath the table surface.
It takes approximately 60 seconds for a Shufflemaster poker-shuffling machine to fully shuffle a deck. While it is being shuffled, the dealer cannot push any button to cause the machine to stop; if the dealer needs to get a freshly-shuffled deck faster than 60 seconds (for instance, if a shorthanded hand is folded to the blinds, who choose to chop), the dealer must instead simply reshuffle their current deck by hand (or wait until the Shufflemaster is done, but that is often frowned upon by management).
Shufflemaster does not generally sell their machines to poker rooms; instead they lease them (though recently they have begun offering the machines for sale). Card rooms pay some sort of per-shuffle fee to Shufflemaster. The fee is low enough that rooms find it to their advantage to use the machine over paying a dealer their hourly wage to shuffle the cards; shuffling machines speed up game play significantly and result in many more hands per hour being played (and hence more rake for the house).
Shufflemaster is also the company that invented and now licenses a number of casino house-banked card games, including Three-Card Poker and Let It Ride, both poker-themed house-banked gambling games. These games are copyrighted by Shufflemaster, and casinos wishing to spread it must pay royalties to Shufflemaster.
Hand versus machine shuffling
Some players prefer hand-shuffled games to machine-shuffled, since they feel that machine shuffling is by nature "not random enough". Some superstitious or conspiracy-minded players even believe that machines "deal them bad hands", or "always deal me the same cards", both of which concepts are of course not really possible. Some just prefer "the old fashioned way" of shuffling, and like the slower pace to the game that hand-shuffling provides.
Other players prefer machine-shuffled hands solely due to the increase in game speed: more hands per hour for winning players yields more money per hour. Some players prefer machine-shuffling on the theory that it is more random than human shufflers, since inexperienced or lazy dealers can often shuffle poorly.
- What's the point of shuffling a new setup w/auto shufflers? (2+2, May 2006) - good survey of issues regarding randomness as regards B&M poker