In a trick-taking card game such as Bridge, the luck of the draw can have a significant impact on a player’s success. Thus, most tournaments are played in Duplicate Bridge format, where card hands are determined in advance and the same distribution is played at each table. Scoring, then, in Duplicate Bridge is based on performance relative to those playing with the same cards, rather than strictly on the number of tricks taken or games won.

But with four hands of 13 cards spread over potentially dozens of tables and multiple rounds, sorting cards in to duplicate hands can be a time-consuming chore. Thus were born machine card dealers. These are devices that will sort a deck of cards in to four preset hands. Typically, they interface with computer databases or shuffling programs and sort the cards in to standard boards (that is, plastic trays designed to hold and lock hands for North, East, South, and West players).

Among the machines available are:

  • The Duplimate Mk. 4.5, which for $2,970 can deal a deck of bar-coded cards in 5 seconds.
  • The PlayBridgeDealer4+ with built-in memory and touch-screen operating panel for $4,750.
  • The $345 HandyDup, which scans bar-coded cards as they are dealt but requires the human hand to place them in the correct piles.

Of course, old-school paper kits are still available. But so are third-party software interfaces, which claim to provide truer random deals and better security.

Nor is the development of Bridge dealing technology finished. High-level professional Poker player, Gus Hansen, is said to be investing millions of dollars in “Bridge+Dealer“, a new dealing system that will also incorporate advanced analysis features for tabulating tournament results.