Few companies in the gaming sector can truly be said to have reached iconic status, but without a double, Shuffle Master – now known as SHFL Entertainment – is one of them. Since their founding in 1983, the firm has developed some of the most important products in the land-based casino market, including everything from proprietary table games to slot machines and automated shufflers, which have been one of the most important gaming innovations of the past few decades.
The story behind the company began in 1983, when former truck driver John Breeding read an article about the problems casinos were having dealing with blackjack card counters. Realizing there was an elegant solution that casino operators could implement, he borrowed money in order to build a prototype of what we now know as a continuous shuffler – a device that insured that every single hand would be dealt from fresh shoe, nullifying the ability of advantage players to count the remaining cards.
In the years to come, the company would develop a number of table games, including popular variants like Let It Ride and Three Card Poker. In addition, they developed a fair number of slot machines, both by themselves and throughout partnerships with other gaming titans. In 2013, the company was acquired by Bally Technologies, making it part of one of the larger gambling firms in the world.
While this all shows that Shuffle Master has been a major player on the land-based side of the industry, the developer hasn’t had much of an interest or an impact on the online world. That is beginning to change, though, as there are now at least a couple of their games appearing online through their parent company.
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Few Official Titles, Many Knockoffs
Make no mistake: Shuffle Master is a major developer, regardless of how few titles of theirs you’ll find online. In fact, their influence on Internet casinos has actually been fairly large, though not in the way that we typically talk about software providers.
First, though, let’s talk about the official titles from SHFL that you’ll be able to enjoy at some sites. We know of at least two of the company’s slot machines that have been released over the Internet, although we expect that more will show up over time.
One of these games is 88 Fortunes. Released in 2016, this Asian-themed slot machine features an extremely busy layout with a whole lot happening on the screen. As with many games that attempt to evoke a Chinese aesthetic, the screen is mostly build in red and gold, but there are also a lot of informational tidbits floating around the screen: the jackpot amounts, bet level, and credits per play, among other areas.
The game itself is a five-reel machine that uses the 243 Ways system, meaning that you can win on any left-to-right combination across the reels without worrying about what constitutes a payline. Players are hoping to hit a variety of icons, starting with the always popular poker rank symbols, in this case ranging from nines through aces. For bigger wins, you’ll want to find the thematic symbols like turtles, ships, coins, and bowls.
There are also a number of special symbols and features that can be triggered throughout this game. For instance, the Fu Bat symbol is a wild, which can substitute for any other symbol in the game to make winning prizes. The Gong acts not only as a big prize winning icon, but also can award 10 free spins should you hit three or more in a row. In addition, you’ll have the opportunity to bet additional credits to turn more of the thematic symbols gold, which does two things. First, these golden versions pay out at a higher rate; secondly, the more credits you play, the more jackpots you are eligible for, which can be awarded at random when the Fu Bat symbol appears on screen.
Another title created by Shuffle Master that now appears at some online casinos is Cats, Hats, & Bats, a Halloween-themed slot. Originally developed for land-based casinos, this one can now be found at a number of social gambling sites that take part in the Play4Fun Network. This is a bright and colorful game considering the theme, and you’ll see plenty of thematic symbols like owls, pumpkins, and cats on the screen while you play.
But there’s a lot more hidden among the five reels and 50 paylines of action this machine has to offer. For instance, there are wild mansions that can substitute for the other winning symbols, as well as a doorknocker scatter icon that can earn you 13 free spins. What’s especially exciting about this special feature is the fact that multipliers of up to 16x are possible on each game, potentially earning you some unbelievably large winnings.
While these are the only slots from Shuffle Master that you’ll find online, at least for the moment, that’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what they’ve contributed to iGaming. The company is best known for their table games, including such proprietary classics as Let It Ride and Three Card Poker. If you’ve played at more than a few sites in your gambling career, then you’ll know that these games are commonly spread at casino websites across the industry.
However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that SHFL Entertainment is getting credit for their hard work. While they may have developed these classics, you’ll often see them in unlicensed, unauthorized versions that carry slightly different names and/or small variations on the normal rulesets you may be used to. Still, these games are all based on the creations designed and perfected by this studio, showing just how ubiquitous these titles have become throughout the gaming industry.
Partners With Some of the Biggest Industry Names
As we mentioned at the top, Shuffle Master is now a subsidiary of Bally Technologies, a relationship that on its own makes the brand part of a highly respected and widely-trusted group. Both of these developers, along with others in this corporate family, are constant fixtures at most of the world’s largest gaming trade shows and are well-known to casino operators around the world.
But even before this acquisition, this firm was well known for working with some of the biggest brands in the sector. For instance, the company once had a slots division that consistently partnered with heavyweights like Bally and IGT in order to gain distribution for their titles. These partnerships last through today, as some of the licensed versions of SHFL Entertainment games still appear in the IGT software, including relatively new creations such as Mulligan Poker.
A Legendary Name to this Day
There’s no doubting that Shuffle Master is one of the most influential names in casino game development today. Head to just about any land-based resort, and you’ll find a number of their tables spread throughout the gaming floor, not to mention dozens of their card shufflers: this is a company that is the bane of any card counter’s existence, as they’re more or less the only name in shuffling technology today.
So far, this massive influence hasn’t transferred over to the Internet. In some ways, it can’t – the automatic shufflers, obviously, have no place in the virtual market, where random number generators are used for the same purpose. But nonetheless, players should appreciate just how much SHFL Entertainment has contributed to the modern gambling industry. And if more of their games appear at Internet casinos, you can feel certain that these will be quality products that are safe, innovative, and most of all fun to play.