People have been trying to figure out ways to cheat at gambling since gambling became A Thing in the first place, and while casinos have mastered the art of warding off (and catching) unscrupulous patrons, there are still plenty of ways to gain an edge—as evidence by a new development involving the most popular card shuffling machine on the planet.
Casinos have historically relied on dealers to take care of that particular aspect of poker, blackjack, and other card games, but putting that power in the hands of a person has the ability to create cracks in a system that could theoretically be exploited by eagle-eyed players (or, in rare circumstances, employees on the take).
In 2002, a company decided to address that issue with the release of a machine dubbed the “DeckMate,” which allowed dealers to dump the cards into a device that could shuffle them in 45 seconds before spitting them back out.
The original model was tweaked prior to the release of the DeckMate 2, which cut the shuffling speed down to 22 seconds and boasted the addition of the camera that ensures every card in the deck is present before being put in play.
As things currently stand, that machine is viewed as the gold standard in the industry, as it’s currently the “Official Shuffler of the World Series of Poker” and is basically the only automatic card shuffler you’ll encounter if you walk into casinos around the world.
The DeckMate was tangentially involved in the poker scandal we were treated to in 2022 after Garrett Adelstein accused Robbi Jade Lew of cheating thanks to the fairly inexplicable matter in which she played a hand she really had no business holding onto in the first place.
The machine was being used to shuffle the cards during the game in question and was featured in the report detailing the results of the investigation that ultimately cleared her of any wrongdoing.
According to Wired, that report stated the card shuffler “is secure and cannot be compromised”—a claim that apparently came off as a challenge to some hackers who decided to see if that was indeed the case.
The outlet reports security expert Joseph Tartaro linked up with a couple of his colleagues at the consulting firm IOActive to see if they could infiltrate the DeckMate 2, and it seems like the answer is a resounding “Yes” thanks to a pretty glaring flaw: a USB port that anyone could theoretically access in order to commandeer the machine.
While you obviously need to have a fair amount of knowledge to whip up the program Tartaro and Co. uploaded to the DeckMate after connecting it to a USB drive, they were still able to “hijack” the machine to the point where they could interfere with the shuffling process and even gain access to the internal camera that allowed them to see the order the cards would be dealt.
The endeavor (which was recently detailed at a security conference in Las Vegas) was intended to show how more nefarious hackers could exploit the machine, and while the company that produces it asserts no one has ever been able to do so in an actual casino, it also acknowledged the issues and pledged to address them in the near future.