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Publication numberUS20020063389 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 09/957,665
Publication dateMay 30, 2002
Filing dateSep 20, 2001
Priority dateAug 9, 1994
Publication number09957665, 957665, US 2002/0063389 A1, US 2002/063389 A1, US 20020063389 A1, US 20020063389A1, US 2002063389 A1, US 2002063389A1, US-A1-20020063389, US-A1-2002063389, US2002/0063389A1, US2002/063389A1, US20020063389 A1, US20020063389A1, US2002063389 A1, US2002063389A1
InventorsJohn Breeding, Attila Grauzer, Paul Scheper, James Stasson, Nicholas Kukuczka
Original AssigneeBreeding John G., Attila Grauzer, Scheper Paul K., Stasson James B., Kukuczka Nicholas W.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Card shuffler with sequential card feeding module and method of delivering groups of cards
US 20020063389 A1
Abstract
An automatic card shuffling machine including a dealing module is disclosed The apparatus is capable of forming at least one hand of randomized cards. The device includes: a card infeed tray; a card shuffling mechanism that randomizes a group of cards fed from the infeed tray; a card feed mechanism for moving cards from the infeed tray into the card shuffling mechanism; a programmable microprocessor that controls operation of the apparatus, including a number of cards per hand and a number of hands to be formed; a hand receiving tray; a card removing mechanism for removing cards individually from the card shuffling mechanism and delivering a preselected number of cards to the hand receiving tray; and a sensor for sensing the presence or absence of cards in the hand receiving tray. When a formed hand of cards is removed, and when fewer than all of the predetermined number of hands have been formed, the card removing mechanism is activated to form an additional randomized hand of cards. A method of dealing hands of cards utilizing a card dealing module is also described.
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Claims(35)
What is claimed is:
1. A method of forming hands of cards from a larger group of cards, comprising:
feeding the larger group of cards into a card shuffling apparatus;
shuffling the group of cards until the cards form a randomized group of cards with individual cards forming two opposite ends of the randomized group of cards;
sequentially removing a preselected number of at least two single cards from an end of the randomized group of cards; and
forming a single hand of cards with the preselected number of sequentially removed cards.
2. The method of claim 1 wherein forming a hand of cards is effected by combining the preselected number of removed cards to form a hand of cards.
3. The method of claim 1, wherein cards are individually fed into a card shuffling area within the card shuffling apparatus.
4. The method of claim 3 wherein cards are individually fed from a card holding area into the card shuffling area.
5. The method of claim 1, wherein the card shuffling apparatus divides a deck of cards into two stacks, arranges the two stacks so that adjacent corners are brought together, and a mandrel is raised beneath the adjacent corners, riffling the cards.
6. The method of claim 3, wherein the riffled cards are pushed together into a single stack.
7. The method of claim 5, wherein the cards are riffled and pushed together multiple times to form a shuffled deck of cards.
8. The method of claim 1, wherein the end from which the cards are removed is a bottom end of a stack.
9. The method of claim 8, wherein a lowermost card is individually moved to a card receiving tray by means of a card moving mechanism.
10. The method of claim 9, wherein the card receiving tray includes a sensor for sensing the presence of card(s).
11. The method of claim 10, wherein the card shuffling apparatus comprises a microprocessor, and when the preselected number of at least two single cards is removed from the card receiving tray, the microprocessor instructs the card moving mechanism to deliver another group of cards to the card receiving tray.
12. An apparatus for forming at least one hand of randomized cards, comprising:
a card infeed tray;
a card shuffling mechanism that randomizes a group of cards fed from the infeed tray;
a card feed mechanism for moving cards from the infeed tray into the card shuffling mechanism;
a programmable microprocessor that controls operation of the apparatus, including a number of cards per hand and a number of hands to be formed;
a hand receiving tray;
a card removing mechanism for removing cards individually from the card shuffling mechanism and delivering a preselected number of cards to the hand receiving tray; and
a sensor for sensing the presence or absence of cards in the hand receiving tray, and when a formed hand of cards is removed, and when fewer than all of the predetermined number of hands have been formed, the card removing mechanism is activated to form an additional randomized hand of cards.
13. A card dealing module, comprising:
a card staging area for retaining a group of randomized cards;
a card moving mechanism for removing a preselected number of cards individually from the card staging area to a card removal tray;
a card removal tray comprising a card receiving surface and a sensor mounted beneath the card receiving surface for sensing the presence or absence of cards in the card removal tray.
14. The card dealing module of claim 13, wherein the card dealing module is operatively coupled to a card shuffling device.
15. The device of claim 13, wherein the card moving mechanism comprises a pick off roller that contacts a lowermost card located in the staging area.
16. The device of claim 13, and further comprising at least one speed up roller assembly for moving cards moved by the pick off roller into the card removal tray.
17. The device of claim 13, wherein a card supporting surface of the card removal tray is substantially horizontal.
18. The device of claim 17, wherein the card removal tray includes an upstanding edge for retaining cards being fed by the card moving mechanism.
19. The device of claim 13, wherein the sensor is a n optical sensor.
20. The device of claim 14, wherein the shuffler is controlled by a microprocessor, and wherein the sensor generates a signal that is received by the microprocessor and is used to determine whether additional hands of cards are to be delivered to the card removal tray.
21. An apparatus for forming at least one hand of randomized cards, comprising:
a card infeed tray;
a card shuffling mechanism that randomizes a group of cards fed from the infeed tray;
a card feed mechanism for moving cards from the infeed tray into the card shuffling mechanism;
a programmable microprocessor that controls the operation of the apparatus;
a user interface for selecting at least a number of cards per hand or an identity of a game;
a hand receiving tray;
a card removing mechanism for removing a selected number of cards individually from the card shuffling mechanism and delivering the selected number of cards to the hand receiving tray to form a single randomized hand of cards; and
a sensor for sensing the presence or absence of cards in the hand receiving tray, and when the formed hand of cards is removed, and when fewer than all of the desired number of hands have been formed, the card removing mechanism is activated to form an additional randomized hand of cards.
22. The apparatus of claim 21, wherein the sensor is an optical sensor.
23. The apparatus of claim 21, wherein the card shuffling mechanism forms a stack of randomly associated cards, and the card removing mechanism comprises a pick off roller located beneath a lowermost card in the stack.
24. The apparatus of claim 23, wherein the card removing mechanism further comprises a pair of speed up rollers for advancing individual cards moved by the pick off roller into the hand receiving tray.
25. A method of forming a preselected number of randomized hands of at least two cards from a larger group of unrandomized cards, wherein at least two cards in each hand is preselected, comprising:
placing a group of cards to be randomized into a card randomizing apparatus, wherein the card randomizing apparatus is controlled by a microprocessor and includes a randomized card receiving location;
collecting randomized cards delivered to the randomized card receiving location until the preselected number has been reached, thereby forming a randomized hand of the preselected number of cards, wherein fewer than all of the cards in the larger group are used to form all of said at least one randomized hand.
26. The method of claim 25, wherein the number of cards in each hand is inputted by a user.
27. The method of claim 25, wherein a number of hands to be formed from each larger group of unrandomized cards is inputted by a user.
28. The method of claim 25, further comprising a step of sensing when a randomized hand of cards is removed from the apparatus.
29. The method of claim 28 further comprising reactivating the card randomizing device when the sensor senses an absence of cards in a hand delivery area, and when the microprocessor determines that fewer than all of the selected number of hands have been formed.
30. The method of claim 25, wherein the number of cards in each formed hand is equal.
31. The method of claim 23, wherein the number of cards in at least one formed hand is unequal to a number of cards in the remaining formed hands.
32. A method of forming hands of cards from a larger group of cards, comprising:
feeding the larger group of cards into a card handling apparatus;
feeding random cards, one-at-a-time into a hand receiving area to form a first single hand of at least two cards in the hand receiving area with a preselected number of cards;
removing the single hand of at least two cards; and
then forming a second single hand of at least two cards in the hand receiving area with the preselected number of cards.
33. The method of claim 32, and further comprising a shuffling mechanism capable of randomizing a deck of cards.
34. The method of claim 32, and further comprising a shuffling mechanism capable of randomizing multiple deck s of cards.
35. The method of claim 34, wherein the shuffling mechanism includes three compartments, and the shuffling mechanism cuts the cards into two groups and then interleaves the two groups to form a shuffled stack of cards.
Description
RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] This application is a continuation-in-part of pending U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/521,644, filed Mar. 8, 2000, which is a continuation-in-part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/932,852, filed Sep. 18, 1997, now U.S. Pat. No. 6,068,258, which in turn is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 08/892,742, filed on Jul. 15, 1997, now U.S. Pat. No. 6,139,014, which is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 08/504,035, filed Jul. 19, 1995, now U.S. Pat. No. 5,695,189, which is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 08/287,729, filed Aug. 9, 1994, now abandoned. Applicant also claims continuation status of case Ser. No. 43,413, filed Apr. 6, 1993, now U.S. Pat. No. 5,417,430 and for case Ser. No. 4,557, filed Jan. 14, 1993, now U.S. Pat. No. 5,275,411.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] 1. Field of the Invention

[0003] The present invention relates to devices for shuffling playing cards used in playing games. In particular, it relates to an automatic mechanical or electromechanical machine for shuffling playing cards, wherein the machine includes a card dealing module.

[0004] 2. Background of the Art

[0005] Wagering games based on the outcome of randomly generated or selected symbols are well known. Such games are widely played in gambling casinos and include card games wherein the symbols comprise familiar, common playing cards. Card games such as twenty-one or blackjack, Pai Gow poker, Caribbean Stud® poker and others are excellent card games for use in casinos. Desirable attributes of casino card games are that they are exciting, that they can be learned and understood easily by players, and that they move or are played rapidly to their wager-resolving outcome.

[0006] One popular casino game is twenty-one. As outlined in U.S. Pat. No. 5,154,492 (LeVasseur), conventional twenty-one is played in most casinos and involves a game of chance between a dealer and one or more players. The object is for the player to achieve a count of his hand closer to 21 than the count of the hand of the dealer. If the count of the player's hand goes over 21 then the player loses regardless of the final count of the dealer's hand.

[0007] At least one standard deck of playing cards is used to play the game. The game is most commonly dealt as a multiple deck game. Each card counts as its face value, except aces, which have a value of one or eleven as is most beneficial to the count of the hand. Each player initially receives two cards. The dealer also receives two cards. One of the dealer's cards is dealt face down and the other of the dealer's cards is dealt face up.

[0008] A player may draw additional cards (take “hits”) in order to try and beat the count of the dealer's hand. If the player's count exceeds 21, the players “busts.” The player may “stand” on any count of 21 or less. When a player busts, he loses his wager, regardless of whether or not the dealer busts. After all of the players have taken hits or stood on their hand, the dealer “stands” or “hits” based on pre-established rules for the game. Typically, if the dealer has less than 17, the dealer must take a hit. If the dealer has 17 or more, the dealer stands.

[0009] After the dealer's final hand has been established, the numerical count of the dealer's hand is compared to the numerical count of the player's hand. If the dealer busts, the player wins regardless of the numerical count of his hand. If neither the player nor the dealer have busted, the closest hand to numerical count of 21, without going over, wins; tie hands are a “push.”

[0010] As used in the preceding description and in this disclosure, the terms “conventional twenty-one” and “the conventional manner of play of twenty-one” mean the game of twenty-one as described herein and also including any of the known variations of the game of twenty-one.

[0011] Twenty-one has remained remarkably popular and unchanged over the years. Because of its popularity, the rapidity of play, and the need to reduce or eliminate card counting by players, twenty-one is usually played with multiple decks that are frequently shuffled. Thus, from the perspective of a casino, the play of a round of twenty-one takes a predictable length of time. In particular, the time the dealer must spend in shuffling diminishes the excitement of the game and reduces the number of wagers placed and resolved in a given amount of time. Modifications of the basic twenty-one game, including the LeVasseur modification, have been proposed to speed play or otherwise increase the number of wagers made and resolved, but none of these modifications have achieved a large measure of popularity, probably because they change the game.

[0012] Casinos would like to increase the amount of revenue generated by the game of twenty-one in the same time period without changing the game or simply increasing the size of the wagers of the player. Therefore, another approach to speeding play is directed specifically to the fact that playing time is diminished by shuffling and dealing. This problem is particularly acute in games such as twenty-one, but in other casino games as well, for which single or multiple shuffled decks are used and has lead to the development of electromechanical or mechanical card shuffling devices. Such devices increase the speed of shuffling and dealing, thereby increasing playing time, adding to the excitement of a game by reducing the time the dealer or house has to spend in preparing to play the game.

[0013] U.S. Pat. No. 5,000,453 (Stevens et al.) discloses an apparatus for automatically shuffling and cutting cards. The Stevens et al. machine includes three contiguous magazines with an elevatable platform card supporting means in the center magazine only. Unshuffled cards are placed in the center magazine and spitting rollers at the top of the magazine spit the cards randomly to the left and right magazine where they accumulate. This amounts to a simultaneous cutting and shuffling step. The cards are moved back into the center magazine by direct lateral movement of each shuffled stack, placing one stack on top of the other to stack all cards in a shuffled stack in the center magazine. The order of the cards in each stack does not change in moving from the right and left magazines into the center magazine. The Stevens et al. device does not provide a distinct cutting step in the shuffling procedure. Cutting is a traditional step taken before shuffling cards and provides a sense of security for card players. In a further departure from “normal” manual or hand shuffling, the Stevens et al. device shuffles cards by randomly diverging cards from an unshuffled stack of cards. Normally, cards are cut and then randomly merged to interleaf them into a single stack of shuffled cards.

[0014] Other known card shuffling devices are disclosed in Breeding U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,807,884 and 5,275,411 (the latter two patents issued to John G. Breeding, a co-inventor of the present invention, and commonly owned). The Breeding patents disclose machines for automatically shuffling a single deck of cards including a deck receiving zone, a carriage section for separating a deck into two deck portions, a sloped mechanism positioned between adjacent corners of the deck portions, and an apparatus for snapping the cards over the sloped mechanism to interleave the cards. They are directed to providing a mechanized card shuffler whereby a deck may be shuffled often and yet the dealer still has adequate time to operate the game being played. U.S. Pat. No. 4,807,884 describes a machine that delivers a randomized deck, while U.S. Pat. No. 5,275,411 delivers randomized hands of cards. Additionally, the Breeding shuffling devices are directed to reducing the chance that cards become marked as they are shuffled and to keeping the cards in view constantly while they are being shuffled.

[0015] One reason why known shuffling machines, with the exception of the Breeding machines, have failed to achieve widespread use is that they involve or use non-traditional manipulation of cards, making players wary and uncomfortable. Although the devices disclosed in the preceding patents, particularly the Breeding single deck card shuffling machines, provide significant improvements in card shuffling devices, their use is limited to single deck games such as single deck blackjack, Caribbean Stud® poker, Let It Ride® stud poker, and the like. Typically, these single deck games deliver the same number of cards to each player and optionally the same number of cards or a different number of cards to the dealer or as common cards. Some games require the intermixing of multiple decks of cards.

[0016] Wagering games utilizing a single deck of cards and which are based on the outcome of randomly generated or selected symbols are well known. Such games are widely played in gambling casinos and include card games wherein the symbols include the familiar, common (or “standard”) playing cards. Card games Such as single deck Black Jack, Pai Gow poker, Caribbean Stud® poker, Let It Ride® stud poker and others are excellent card games for use in casinos. Desirable attributes of casino card games are that they are exciting, that they can be learned and understood easily by players, and that they move or can be played rapidly to their wager-resolving outcome.

[0017] One of the above-mentioned single deck games, Pai Gow poker, has all the desired attributes of a casino game and is increasing rapidly in popularity. Broadly, the game involves up to six players, each player and the dealer receiving a seven card hand, one hand being dealt completely before the next. The first player to receive a hand is randomly selected, bets are placed, and the hands are distributed, set and shown. The bets are resolved based upon the well know hierarchy of poker hands and against the dealer's hand. Because of the number of cards in each hand, the number of players, and the rapidity of play, Pai Gow poker requires frequent card shuffling, diminishing the excitement of the game and reducing the number of wagers placed in a given amount of time.

[0018] The fact that playing time is diminished by shuffling and dealing, particularly in games such as Pai Gow poker, but in other casino games as well, has lead to the development of electromechanical or mechanical card shuffling devices that shuffle a first deck while the second deck is in play. Such devices increase the speed of shuffling and dealing, thereby increasing playing time, adding to the excitement of a game while reducing the time the dealer or house has to spend in preparing to play the game.

[0019] U.S. Pat. No. 4,513,969 (to Samsel Jr.) and U.S. Pat. No. 4,515,367 (to Howard) disclose automatic card shufflers. The Samsel, Jr. patent discloses a card shuffler having a housing with two wells for receiving two reserve stacks of cards. A first extractor selects, removes and intermixes the bottommost card from each stack and delivers the intermixed cards to a storage compartment. A second extractor sequentially removes the bottommost card from the storage compartment and delivers it to a typical shoe from which the dealer may take it for presentation to the players. The Howard patent discloses a card mixer for randomly interleaving cards including a carriage supported ejector for ejecting a group of cards (approximately two playing decks in number) which may then be removed manually from the shuffler or dropped automatically into a chute for delivery to a typical dealing shoe. Neither of the Samsel, Jr. or Howard patents discloses a dealing module for dealing hands of a predetermined number of cards depending on the rules and procedures of the game being played.

[0020] U.S. Pat. No. 4,586,712 (to Lorber, et al.) discloses an automatic shuffling apparatus directed toward reducing the dead time generated when a casino dealer manually has to shuffle multiple decks of playing cards. The Lorber, et al. apparatus has a container, a storage device for shuffling for storing shuffled playing cards, a removing device and an inserting device for intermixing the playing cards in the container, a dealing shoe and supplying means for supplying the shuffled playing cards from the storage device to the dealing shoe. The dealing shoe is typical, being designed to dispense or allow the dealer to extract and deal one card at a time. The Lorber, et al. apparatus is designed to intermix cards under the programmed control of a computer, but does not disclose or suggest how to provide a dealing module for automatically, sequentially dealing or forming hands having a predetermined number of cards.

[0021] Other known card shuffling devices are disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 2,778,644 (to Stephenson), U.S. Pat. No. 4,497,488 (to Plevyak et al.) and U.S. Pat. No. 4,807,884 (issued to John G. Breeding an inventor of the present invention, and commonly owned). The Breeding patent discloses a machine for automatically shuffling a deck of cards. The apparatus includes a deck receiving zone, a carriage section for separating a deck into two deck portions, a sloped mechanism positioned between adjacent corners of the deck portions, and an apparatus for snapping the cards over the sloped mechanism to interleave the cards. The Breeding patent is directed to providing a mechanized card shuffler whereby a deck may be shuffled often and yet the dealer still has adequate time to operate the game being played. Additionally, the Breeding shuffling device is directed to reducing the chance that cards become marked as they are shuffled and to keeping the cards in view constantly while they are being shuffled.

[0022] Although the devices disclosed in the preceding patents, particularly the Breeding card shuffling machine, provide significant improvements in card shuffling devices, such devices could be improved further if they could be equipped with a dealing module for receiving shuffled cards and for automatically dealing from the shuffled cards a number of hands one after the other, wherein each hand dealt by the module contains a predetermined, selected number of cards. Shuffling machines could also be improved if they could be adapted to facilitate playing a specific game selected from a group of different wagering games, and to display game-related information to the players.

[0023] Accordingly there is a need for shuffling machine for shuffling playing cards, wherein the machine is adapted for facilitating the playing of a selected card game by including a durable, efficient means for dealing hands of cards automatically, hand after hand, each hand containing a selected, predetermined number of the shuffled cards, and by including an automatic display means for displaying game information to players.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0024] An object of the present invention is to improve the art of card shuffling by providing a card shuffling machine for randomly shuffling together multiple decks of cards, just as the devices disclosed in U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,807,884 and 5,275,411, the disclosure of which patents is incorporated herein by reference, to provide for the automatic, random shuffling of a single deck of playing cards. The entire disclosure of U.S. Pat. No. 5,275,411 is herein incorporated to this specification to further facilitate a clear understanding of the method and device of the present invention.

[0025] According to the present invention, an improved playing card shuffling machine is provided for randomly shuffling playing cards, for dealing the shuffled playing cards into hands, and for optionally displaying game information to game players, thereby facilitating the playing of certain wagering games such as Pai Gow poker, Caribbean Stud® poker, Let It Ride® stud poker, and the like.

[0026] One example of an embodiment of the present invention comprises an automatic card shuffling machine similar to the apparatus disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 4,807,884, the disclosure of which patent is incorporated herein by reference. The machine of this embodiment of the present invention includes a microprocessor or computerized controller, including at least two randomness functions that may be provided by one or two random number generators, one related to shuffling procedures and the other related to display functions. The shuffling means of the machine includes a card-receiving shuffling station into which a deck of cards is deposited initially. A carriage mechanism provides for separating the deck into two deck portions, rotating the two portions to a relative angular relationship with a corner of each in close proximity, and combining the two deck portions into a single shuffled deck. A vertically movable mandrel member is adjacent to the proximal corners of the deck portions, as is a shuffle monitoring detector, and a shuffled deck delivery means is provided for delivering a shuffled deck to a dealing module.

[0027] One example of the dealing module of the present invention comprises a shuffled deck receiving and dealing station, deck braking means for holding the deck in the dealing station, a hand holding shoe, and a card picker and accelerating means for moving a single card from the deck of cards located in the dealing station into the hand holding the shoe. Sensors are provided for monitoring the passage of cards in the dealing module, for counting the single cards being removed from the deck to form a hand containing a selected number of cards, and to operatively couple the dealing module to the shuffling module, as well as to an optional display.

[0028] The display of an example of the machine of the present invention comprises a player readable display board operatively connected to the dealing module through the controller of the machine. The display is adapted to display game information to players, and is particularly suited for playing Pai Gow poker, wherein a player designating symbol, a number from one through seven, is randomly selected as part of the game.

[0029] An aspect of the present invention is to provide an automatic mechanical or electromechanical card shuffling device for shuffling cards, wherein the machine includes a dealing module for dealing shuffled playing cards into hands and a display module for displaying game information to game players, thereby facilitating and improving the casino playing of wagering games, particularly Pai Gow poker.

[0030] Another aspect of the present invention is to improve the card shuffling device disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 4,807,884 by providing a dealing module operatively coupled to the device for automatically dealing or forming hands containing a selected number of cards and an optional display operatively coupled to the device for displaying game information to players.

[0031] Important advantages to the present invention are that it makes automatic shuffling machines adaptable for playing any one of a group of casino wagering games, and facilitates the use of such machines in casinos by making the selected game more exciting.

[0032] In use, one embodiment of the machine of the present invention is operated to shuffle a deck of playing cards repeatedly, move the shuffled deck into the dealing module, deal hands containing a selected number of cards, and to select and optionally display game information to players. An unshuffled deck of cards is placed in the card-receiving shuffling station. Under the control of the integral microprocessor in one example of the invention, the machine separates the deck into two deck portions and rotates the two portions to a relative angular relationship with a corner in close proximity. The mandrel member is driven upwardly as the deck portions are urged toward each other slightly, raising or riffling the adjacent corners and interleaving the cards. The deck portions are aligned and pushed together to provide a single, randomly shuffled deck. The deck is delivered automatically to the dealing module upon demand and held in place while the bottom-most card, and each subsequent bottom-most card, is separated from the deck and moved sequentially to a hand holding shoe. While the machine is dealing, it is also optionally randomly selecting and displaying game related information upon which players may make side bets, as is useful in the game of Pai Gow Poker.

[0033] When a hand, made up of a certain number of cards depending on the game being played, has accumulated in the shoe, the machine stops dealing. When the dealer simply removes the hand from the shoe for distribution to a player, a sensor senses that the group of cards has been removed, and the microprocessor uses this information to instruct the machine to automatically deal another hand into the shoe. The machine automatically moves repeatedly through this entire outlined sequence, until the predetermined number of hands has been reached. In the case of Pai Gow Poker, a total of seven hands are dealt, six to the players, and one to the dealer. Forty-nine cards are used to play the game, and the remaining cards in the deck (three) remain unused.

[0034] The present invention in its broadest sense is a method of forming randomly arranged hands of cards from a larger group of cards utilizing a dealing module operatively connected to a card shuffling apparatus. The method of the present invention includes the steps of: feeding a large group of cards (typically one or more standard decks of cards), into a card shuffling apparatus, shuffling the group of cards and recombining the large group to form a randomized group of cards with two opposite ends. The method further includes the steps of sequentially moving a preselected number of at least two single cards (usually one-at-a-time) from an end of the randomized group of cards, and transferring those cards, one at a time into a hand holding shoe, forming a single hand of cards with the preselected number of sequentially removed cards. The method of the present invention is effected by combining the preselected number of removed cards to form a hand of cards. It is also possible to randomly select cards, one-at-a-time, from the large group of cards and then directly form random hands that are removed, one-hand-at-a-time from a hand collection area. In this manner, cards need not be formed into a shuffled stack before sequentially moving the preselected number of at least two single cards into a hand holding shoe.

[0035] The method of the present invention is preferably accomplished by providing a hand-dealing module and combining this module with a card shuffling apparatus capable of forming a randomized group of cards. The shuffler includes a card feeding area (also referred to as a card holding area) and a card shuffling apparatus. The method includes feeding cards individually from the card feeding area into the card shuffling apparatus.

[0036] One card shuffler of the method of the present invention has a card shuffling apparatus that divides a deck of cards into two stacks, arranges the two stacks so that adjacent corners are brought together, and provides a mandrel that is raised beneath the adjacent corners, riffling and interleaving the cards. The two stacks are then brought together, forming a randomized deck. This process is repeated multiple times in one example of the invention to form a sufficiently randomized deck of cards.

[0037] In one form of the invention, the card shuffling apparatus forms a randomized large group of cards, typically the entire deck or multiple decks. Although cards may be taken one at a time from either end of the deck, in one example of the invention, the randomized large group of cards is vertically stacked, and cards are removed from the lowermost end of the stack.

[0038] A card moving mechanism such as a pick off roller assembly with an adjacent pair of speed up rollers is provided to remove each card from the bottom of the stack. Equivalently, a card ejection system may be used to randomly remove cards from any position within the stack. The weight of the stack provides sufficient force against a pick off roller to overcome the static force between adjacent cards, causing the bottom card to advance horizontally. A pair of speed up rollers helps to advance the card to the card receiving tray, also referred to as a hand holding shoe. The tray preferably includes a sensor operatively coupled to the microprocessor for sensing the presence or absence of cards.

[0039] In one aspect of the present invention, the microprocessor is programmable by the user. Regardless of whether the number of hands to be delivered is preprogrammed or inputted by the user, according to the invention, when the group of at least two single cards is removed from the card receiving tray, the microprocessor instructs the card moving mechanism to deliver another group of cards to the card receiving tray.

[0040] The present invention is a method of forming a preselected number of hands of at least one randomized hand of at least two cards from a larger group of unrandomized cards, where the number of cards in each hand is preselected, and is equal to or greater than two. One method according to the present invention includes the step of placing a group of cards to be randomized into a card randomizing apparatus, the card randomizing apparatus being controlled by a microprocessor. The card randomizing apparatus includes a randomized card receiving location, such as a platform or a tray.

[0041] This one embodiment of a method according to the invention further includes the step of collecting randomized cards delivered to the randomized card receiving location until the preselected number has been reached, thereby forming a randomized hand of the preselected number of cards. According to the invention, fewer than all of the cards in the larger group are used to form all of said at least one randomized hand. In the example of a card randomizing apparatus capable of dealing Pai Gow Poker (e.g.—a single deck card shuffler), the total number of cards dealt is forty-nine in seven groups (6 player hands and one dealer hand of seven cards each), with four cards left over (the deck contains 52 cards plus one joker).

[0042] If the device used to practice the invention is programmable, the number of cards in each hand (or the identity of the game, which defines the number of cards), and/or the number of players, for example, may be inputted by a user (such as a casino card dealer).

[0043] The method of the present invention may further include the step of sensing when a randomized hand of cards is removed from the apparatus. When the card randomizing apparatus is programmed to deliver multiple hands, and when the cards are removed, the microprocessor would then instruct the dealing module to deliver another hand of cards. The microprocessor may be preprogrammed or programmed by a user to form hands of cards that are all equal in number. Alternatively, the device may deliver randomized hands that are unequal in number. Alternatively, after removal or individual hands, the dealer may activate the device (in the absence of an active sensor) to deal the next hand.

[0044] The present invention is an apparatus for forming at least one hand of randomized cards. One embodiment of a device of the invention includes: a card infeed tray, a card shuffling mechanism that randomizes a group of cards fed from the infeed tray, a card feed mechanism for moving cards from the infeed tray into the card shuffling mechanism, a programmable microprocessor that controls operation of the apparatus (including a number of cards per hand and a number of hands to be formed), a hand receiving tray, a card removing mechanism for removing cards individually from the card shuffling mechanism and delivering a preselected number of cards to the hand receiving tray, and a sensor for sensing the presence or absence of cards in the hand receiving tray. According to the invention, when a formed hand of cards is removed, and when fewer than all of the predetermined number of hands have been formed, the card removing mechanism is activated to form an additional randomized hand of cards.

[0045] Another embodiment of a device of the invention includes: a card infeed tray, a card shuffling mechanism that random feeds cards from the infeed tray, a card feed mechanism for moving random cards from the infeed tray into a hand receiving tray, a programmable microprocessor that controls operation of the apparatus (including a number of cards per hand and a number of hands to be formed), a hand receiving tray, and a sensor for sensing the presence or absence of cards in the hand receiving tray. According to one aspect of the invention, when a formed hand of cards is removed, and when fewer than all of the predetermined number of hands have been formed, the card removing mechanism is activated to form an additional randomized hand of cards. According to this embodiment, random hands would be formed directly from the large set of unrandomized cards without the intermediate formation of a randomized large set of cards.

[0046] An embodiment of the present invention also includes a card dealing module that is operatively connected to a card shuffling apparatus. The card dealing module of the present invention includes: a card staging area for retaining a group of randomized cards, a card moving mechanism for removing a preselected number of cards individually from the card staging area to a card removal tray, a card removal tray comprising a card receiving surface and a sensor mounted beneath the card receiving surface for sensing the presence or absence of cards in the card removal tray.

[0047] The card moving mechanism in one example of the invention includes a pick off roller that contacts a lowermost card located in the staging area. A speed up roller assembly in one example of the invention is provided for moving cards moved by the pick off roller into the card removal tray.

[0048] The card receiving surface of the card removal tray in one example of the invention is substantially horizontal, and includes an upstanding edge for retaining cards being delivered in the tray. The card removal tray in one example of the invention includes an optical sensor.

[0049] When the card dealing module is operatively coupled to a card shuffling mechanism controlled by a microprocessor, and when the sensor generates a signal that is received by the microprocessor corresponding to the presence or absence of cards, this information is used to determine whether additional hands of cards are to be delivered to the card removal tray.

[0050] An additional feature that may be combined with the shuffler/hand provider of the present invention is scanning or reading of cards to provide information to a central processing unit. This feature offers advantages with regard to game security, casino security, assistance in identifying winning hands, assistance in identifying player activity, assistance in identifying bonus awards, assuring completeness of decks, and the like. The scanning systems are well know, and may be used with specially marked cards to facilitate card reading (as in U.S. Pat. No. 5,374,061, which pertains to a card-dispensing shoe having a device that reads cards as they are dealt in a hand from the shoe, using specially coded cards, indicating the value, the suit, and the deck identity of each card, this device enables the operator to read the cards being dealt) or having a program and system that enables reading of standard cards with standard indicia (as in German patent application No. P44 39 502.7 sets forth a computerized device that reads cards as they are dealt from a shoe and also senses when a hand is receiving cards at a position on a game table. The computer tracks each hand and records the value and suit of each card in each player's hand. The computer senses when a dealer has a blackjack and immediately issues a signal. This approach electronically surveys each game and minimizes manual inspection of the game. These computers can be linked by various means to a central computer so that numerous hands played at numerous remote locations can be exactly monitored. Additional card reading systems are shown in U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,117,012; 6,039,650; 5,989,122; 5,722,893; and 5,431,399. Any card reading system, and especially systems with optical scanning that read images from card surfaces to identify the rank and suit of cards and relay that information to a microprocessor or computer. That information may be used, as noted above, for a wide variety of purposes in combination with the card handling apparatus of the present invention.

[0051] One embodiment of the present invention is an apparatus for forming at least one hand of a selectable number of randomized cards. The apparatus includes: a card infeed tray, a card shuffling mechanism that randomizes a group of cards fed from the infeed tray, a card feed mechanism for moving cards from the infeed tray into the card shuffling mechanism, a programmable microprocessor that controls the operation of the apparatus, a user interface for selecting at least a number of cards per hand or an identity of a game, a hand receiving tray, a card removing mechanism for removing the selected number of cards individually from the card shuffling mechanism and delivering the selected number of cards to the hand receiving tray to form a single hand of cards, and a sensor for sensing the presence or absence of cards in the hand receiving tray. According to the invention, when the formed hand of cards is removed, and when fewer than all of the desired number of hands have been formed, the card removing mechanism is activated to form an additional randomized hand of cards.

[0052] In one example of the invention, the sensor is an optical sensor. The card shuffling mechanism according to one aspect of the invention forms a stack of randomly associated cards, and the card removing mechanism comprises a pick off roller located beneath a lowermost card in the stack. In this example of the invention, a pair of speed up rollers is provided for advancing individual cards moved by the pick off roller into the hand receiving tray.

[0053] Other aspects and advantages of the present invention will become more fully apparent and understood with reference to the following specification and to the appended drawings and claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0054]FIG. 1 is a front perspective view depicting the present invention as it might be disposed in a casino adjacent to a gaming table.

[0055]FIG. 2 is a fragmentary perspective view showing the invention from the opposite side of that depicted FIG. 1.

[0056]FIG. 3 is a rear elevational view of the shuffling machine of the present invention with the exterior shroud removed.

[0057]FIG. 4 is a front elevational view of the present invention with the lower front exterior shroud and the clear plastic door of the shuffling chamber removed.

[0058]FIG. 4a is a front elevational view of the present invention with portions broken away for clarity and with the drive motors shown in phantom.

[0059]FIG. 5 is a top plan view taken along line 5-5 in FIG. 4.

[0060]FIG. 6 is a sectional plan view taken along line 6-6 in FIG. 4.

[0061]FIG. 7 is a sectional elevation view taken along line 7-7 in FIG. 4.

[0062]FIG. 8 is a sectional elevation view taken along line 8-8 in FIG. 4.

[0063]FIG. 9 is a sectional elevation view taken along line 9-9 in FIG. 8.

[0064]FIG. 10 is a sectional elevation view taken along line 10-10 in FIG. 4.

[0065]FIG. 11 is a sectional elevation view taken along line 11-11 in FIG. 5.

[0066]FIG. 12 is a schematic diagram of the electrical control system.

[0067]FIG. 13 is a schematic diagram of the electrical control system.

[0068]FIG. 14 is a schematic diagram of the electrical control system with an optically-isolated buss.

[0069]FIG. 15 is a detailed schematic diagram of a portion of FIG. 14.

[0070]FIG. 16 is an exploded perspective assembly view of the shuffling machine of the present invention showing all of the major component parts or sub-assemblies of the machine.

[0071]FIG. 17 is a partially exploded perspective view depicting the assembly of portions of the shuffling machine of the present invention.

[0072]FIG. 18 is an exploded perspective view depicting the transport assembly exclusive of the transport rollers at the top of the shuffling machine, and specifically shows the shuffling chamber.

[0073]FIG. 19 shows a series of stages that illustrate the movement of cards in one embodiment of the present invention.

[0074]FIG. 20 is a flow diagram depicting the sequence of operations carried out by the electrical control system of the present invention.

[0075]FIG. 1A is a top plan view of the shuffling machine of the present invention with portions cut away for clarity;

[0076]FIG. 2B is a view similar to FIG. 1, depicting a deck of cards being shuffled in the machine of the present invention;

[0077]FIG. 2A is a perspective view of the present invention;

[0078]FIG. 3A is a right side elevational view of the dealing module of the shuffling machine of the present invention with parts cut away for clarity and depicting parts of the module in functional positions;

[0079]FIG. 4B is a fragmentary enlarged sectional view taken along line 4-4 in FIG. 3A;

[0080]FIG. 5A is a slightly enlarged fragmentary perspective view taken from the area encircled at 5 in FIG. 3A; and

[0081]FIG. 6A is a block diagram of the components of the present invention randomly select the symbol designating the first player to receive a hand.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

[0082] This detailed description is the original disclosure of pending case U.S. Ser. No. 09/521,644, filed Mar. 8, 2000 and U.S. Ser. No. 09/004,557, filed Jan. 14, 1993, now U.S. Pat. No. 5,275,411, the disclosure of which was incorporated by reference into U.S. Ser. No. 09/521,644.

[0083] Multiple Deck Batch Shuffler Example

[0084] This disclosure is intended to be read and understood in conjunction with Appendices A, B, C and D, appended to the end hereof and specifically incorporated herein by reference. Appendix A provides an identification key correlating the description and abbreviation of certain motors, switches and photoeyes or sensors with reference character identifications of the same components in the Figures. Appendix B sets forth steps in the sequence of operations of the shuffling machine in accordance with the present invention. Appendix C describes the homing sequence, broadly part of the sequence of operations, and Appendix D sets forth the manufacturers, addresses and model designations of certain components (motors, limit switches and photoeyes) of the present invention.

[0085] With regard to means for fastening, mounting, attaching or connecting the components of the present invention to form the shuffling apparatus as a whole, unless specifically described as otherwise, such means are intended to encompass conventional fasteners such as machine screws, rivets, nuts and bolts, toggles, pins, or the like. Other fastening or attachment means appropriate for connecting components include adhesives, welding and soldering, the latter particularly with regard to the electrical system.

[0086] All components of the electrical system and wiring harness of the present invention are conventional, commercially available components unless otherwise indicated. This is intended to include electrical components and circuitry, wires, fuses, soldered connections, circuit boards and control system components.

[0087] Generally, unless specifically otherwise disclosed or taught, the materials from which the various components of the present invention, for example the shroud and the plates for forming the frame for supporting the shroud and other components, are selected from appropriate materials such as aluminum, steel, metallic alloys, various plastics, fiberglass or the like. Despite the foregoing indication that components and materials for use in and for forming or fabricating the shuffling machine of the present invention may be selected from commercially available, appropriate items, the Appendices and the following detailed description set forth specific items and steps for use in the present invention, although it is possible that those skilled in the state of the art will be able to recognize and select equivalent items.

[0088] In the following description, the Appendices and the claims any references to the terms right and left, top and bottom, upper and lower and horizontal and vertical are to be read and understood with their conventional meanings and with reference to viewing the shuffling apparatus from the front as shown in FIGS. 4 and 4a and from the player's perspective as the apparatus is disposed in FIG. 1, which is a front perspective view of the machine 20 as it might be disposed in use at a typical casino gaming table T.

[0089] Referring then to the drawings, particularly FIGS. 1, 2 and 16, the shuffling machine 20 for shuffling together multiple decks of playing cards in accordance with the present invention has an exterior shroud 24 including a rear cover 26 with vents 27, lower front cover 28 with vents 29 and top portion 30. The cover portions forming the shroud 24 are suitably mounted on a supporting framework comprising a flat, generally horizontal base 32 carrying four non-slip feet 33 on its underside and a vertically oriented and extending main base plate 34 fixedly and generally perpendicularly attached to the base 32 and supported by a pair of support brackets 36.

[0090] Together the shroud 24 and the framework define the three broad operating chambers of the machine 20: a rear drive and control chamber 38, a lower, front door and elevator transmission chamber 40, and a card-receiving shuffling chamber 42.

[0091] With continued reference to FIG. 16, and to FIGS. 3 and 4a, the rear chamber 38 houses the control system 46 for controlling and operating the machine 20 and a plurality of stepper motors, as set forth in Appendix D. The motors include a left elevator motor 48, a center elevator motor 50 and a right elevator motor 52. A second set or bank of stepper motors is attached to the main base plate 34 and includes a left feed motor 54, a center feed motor 56 and a right feed motor 58. A left speed-up stepper motor 60 and a right speed-up motor 62 are also mounted on the main base plate 34. A door operating stepper motor 64, shown in phantom in FIG. 3, is attached to the front of the main base plate 34 in the lower front chamber 40.

[0092] Referring to FIGS. 4, 4a and 17, in the lower front chamber 40 the main base plate 34 carries a plurality of limit switches, including a left elevator bottom limit switch 68, a center elevator bottom limit switch 72 and a right elevator bottom limit switch 76. At the top of the shuffling chamber 42, a transport assembly, indicated generally at 67, carries corresponding elevator limit switches including a left elevator top limit switch 70, a center elevator top limit switch 74 and a right elevator top limit switch 78. Door bottom and door top limit switches, 80, 82, respectively, are mounted in the lower front chamber 40.

[0093] Referring to FIGS. 4, 4a, 6 and 17, a horizontal central, generally flat floor plate assembly 86 separates the lower front chamber 40 from the shuffling chamber 42, defining the bottom floor of the shuffling chamber 42. The floor plate assembly 86 carries a left elevator empty photoeye 88 (the term photoeye is intended to be synonymous with photosensor and optical sensor), a center elevator empty photoeye 90 and a right elevator empty photoeye 92. The floor plate assembly 86 also carries three fans, a left magazine fan 94, a center magazine fan 96 and a right magazine fan 98, each including a motor 100 and concentric blades 102.

[0094] With reference to FIGS. 4, 4a, 5 and 17, the top of the shuffling chamber 42 includes the transport assembly 67. The outer sides of the chamber 42 are formed by a pair of parallel side plates 112, 114. Adjacent to their upper inside edge, each plate 112, 113 carries at least one card stopping groove 115 (see FIG. 8). Preferably three parallel grooves are provided. The grooves help ensure that cards come to rest horizontally and face-down in the chamber 42. The chamber 42 is divided into three adjoining, vertically extending card magazines, a left magazine 116, a center magazine 118 and a right magazine 120 by two substantially similar left and right center magazine plate assemblies 122, 124, respectively. Adjacent to the upper edges of the sides of the plate assemblies 122, 124, on the side facing into the center magazine 118 are card stopping grooves 123. The left plate assembly 122 carries a left outer counter photoeye 128 and a left inner counter photoeye 130. Similarly, the right plate assembly 124 carries a right outer counter photoeye 132 and a right inner counter photoeye 134. With continuing reference to FIG. 17, and to FIGS. 8-10, each of the left and right center plate assemblies 122, 124 carries a floating pinch roller assembly 140, 142 centered on its top edge. Both roller assemblies 140, 142 are substantially identical so only the right roller assembly 142 will be described. The assembly 142 includes a non-driven or idler pinch roller 146 supported on a shaft 148 and by a set of typical roller bearings 150. As shown in FIG. 9, the roller 146, shaft 148 and bearing 150 assembly is received in and supported by a spring block 152, in turn mounted on a pair of linear pinch roller shafts 154, each concentrically within a coil springs 156. This assembly is received by bushings 160 in the upper region of the plate assembly 142. The spring block 152 also carries a pair of card guides 162 with uppermost rounded shoulders 164, each being fixedly attached adjacent to the ends of the spring block 152. Along the forward facing edge of the plate assemblies 122, 124, a wire housing channel 170 (see FIG. 9), covered by a wire cover 172, is provided to receive a wire (not shown) which operably couples the card gap counting optical sensors or photoeyes 128, 130, 132, 134 to the control system 46.

[0095] Referring to FIGS. 3, 4, 5, 7, 8 and 11, as well the assembly drawing FIG. 17, the transport assembly 67 is mounted at the top of the side plates 112, 114 and effectively closes or defines the upper region of the shuffling chamber 42. The transport assembly 67 comprises a bearing plate 180 and three card moving pickoff assemblies including a center pickoff assembly 182, a left side pickoff assembly 184 and a right side pickoff assembly 186. As shown in FIG. 5, the pickoff assemblies are generally centrally positioned above the open top of each respective magazine. The center pickoff assembly 182, including a pickoff roller 190 carrying at least two sticky pickoff fingers or tabs 191 one hundred-eighty degrees apart, is connected to a center driven pulley 194 and, (referring to FIG. 3) via a belt 196, to the center feed motor 56. The shaft 192 extends through a center pickoff rocker block 198 pivotally mounted on the bearing plate 180, and its ends rest in an open-topped channel 199 in the bearing plate 180 (see FIG. 5).

[0096] Similarly, each of the left and right pickoff assemblies 184, 186 include a pickoff roller 200, 202, respectively, carrying pickoff tabs 191. The rollers 200, 202 are mounted on shafts 204, 206, respectively connected to driven pulleys 208, 210 and, via belts 212, 214, to the left and right feed motors 54, 58. The shafts 204, 206 extend through rocker blocks 220, 222 which are pivotally mounted on the fixed shafts 224, 226 of the speed-up assemblies 228, 230.

[0097] Each speed-up assembly 228, 230 includes a driven, floating speed-up roller 232, 234, respectively, fixed on a shaft 224, 226. Each roller 232, 234 is above and aligned with the rollers 146 of the pinch roller assemblies 140, 142. The shafts 224, 226 are coupled to speed-up pulleys 236, 238, in turn coupled to the speed-up motors 60, 62 via belts 240, 242.

[0098] Referring to FIGS. 4, 4a, 5, 11 and 17, the transport assembly 67 includes a plurality of leaf-spring card deflectors 248 fixedly mounted on spring blocks 250. The deflectors 248 are generally over the speed-up assemblies 228, 230 and the arms 249 of the defectors extend generally downwardly into the magazines 116, 118, 120 to contact cards moving in the cutting and shuffling movements described below, thereby directing cards into proper position in the magazines and helping to avert jams in the shuffling process. It should be understood that block-type deflectors (not shown) with appropriately curved or angled surfaces could be mounted on the transport assembly 67 and substitute for or be used in conjunction with the spring deflectors 248 depicted.

[0099] Referring to FIGS. 4, 4a, 7, 16, 17 and 18, each magazine 116, 118, 120 contains a vertically movable elevator 260, 262, 264, respectively. The elevators 260, 262, 264 are substantially similar comprising a vertically disposed platform mount 270 and a generally horizontal platform 272. The platform mount 270 for each elevator 260, 262, 264 is mounted on a pair of vertically spaced mounting brackets 304, in turn slidably received on elevator track 305. The track 305 is fixed to base plate 34 in track receiving grooves 307 (see FIG. 18). The platforms 272 of the elevators 260, 264 are substantially identical, each having a generally U-shaped relieved area 276 on its forward facing leading edge, but the U-shaped area on the leading edge of the platform of the center elevator 262 extends more deeply rearwardly into the platform 272. Each platform 272 carries a belt clamp assembly 280 beneath and adjacent to its lower edge. The belt clamp assembly 280 (best seen in FIG. 4) is clamped to elevator belts 282, as best seen in FIGS. 7 and 4. The belts 282 extend around idler pulleys 284 mounted on the main base plate 34. The belts 282 are coupled to drive pulleys 286, in turn and respectively connected to the elevator motors 48, 50, 52 (FIG. 3).

[0100] With reference to FIGS. 16, 17, 18 and 4, the lower front chamber 40 houses an operating mechanism for the transparent front shuffling chamber door 290, including the motor 64 operably linked via belt 292 to a door pulley 294 keyed to a door shaft 296 supported by a pair of door shaft bearing blocks 298. The bearing blocks 298 support or contain a set of conventional roller bearings (not shown). Referring to FIGS. 16 and 17, each end of the door shaft 296 carries a pinion wheel 302. The sides of the door 29 are provided with a plurality of in-line holes to receive the pinions, 302, respectively, and a pair of door blocks 306 is connected to the T-shaped columns 308 of the framework of the machine 20 to support and guide the door 290 as it travels up and down.

[0101] Referring to FIGS. 1, 2 and machine assembly FIG. 16, controls 320 for operating the shuffling machine 20 are mounted between the transport assembly 67 and the top portion 30 of the shroud 24. The controls 320 include an alarm light 322, an open door command button 324, a reset command button 326, and a start button 328.

[0102]FIG. 12 shows a block diagram depicting the electrical control system in one embodiment of the present invention. The control system includes a controller 360, a bus 362, and a motor controller 364. Also represented in FIG. 12 are inputs 366, outputs 368, and a motor system 370. The controller 360 sends signals to both the motor controller 364 and the outputs 368 while monitoring the inputs 366. The motor controller 364 interprets signals received over the bus 362 from the controller 360. The motor system 370 is driven by the motor controller 364 in response to the commands from the controller 360. The controller 360 controls the state of the outputs 368 by sending appropriate signals over the bus 362.

[0103] In the preferred embodiment of the present invention, the motor system 370 comprises nine motors that are used for operating the multi-deck shuffler 20. Three elevator motors 48, 50, 52 drive the left, center, and right elevators 260, 262, 264; three feed motors 54, 56, 58 drive the left, center, and right feed rollers 200, 190, 202; and two motors 60, 62 drive the left and right speed-up rollers 232, 234. A ninth motor 64 is used to open and close the door. In such an embodiment, the motor controller 364 would normally comprise one or two controllers and driver devices for each of the nine motors described above. However, other configurations are obviously possible.

[0104] The outputs 368 include the alarm, start and reset indicators, described above, and may also include signals that can be used to drive a display device (e.g., a seven segment =not shown). Such a display device can be used to implement a timer, a card counter, or a shuffle counter. Generally, an appropriate display device can be used to display any information worthy of display.

[0105] The inputs 366 are signals from the limit switches, photoeyes, and buttons described herein. The controller 360 receives the inputs 366 over the bus 362.

[0106] Although the controller 360 can be any digital controller or microprocessor-based system, in the preferred embodiment, the controller 360 comprises a processing unit 380 and a peripheral device 382 as shown in FIG. 13. The processing unit 380 in the preferred embodiment is an 8-bit single-chip microcomputer such as an 80C52 manufactured by the Intel Corporation of Santa Clara, Calif. The peripheral device 382 is a field programmable microcontroller peripheral device that includes programmable logic devices, EPROMs, and input-output ports. As shown in FIG. 13, peripheral device 382 interfaces the processing unit 380 to the bus 362.

[0107] The series of instructions stored in the controller 360 is shown in FIG. 13 as program logic 384. In the preferred embodiment, the program logic 384 is RAM or ROM hardware in the peripheral device 382. (Since the processing unit 380 may have some memory capacity, it is possible that some of the instructions are stored in the processing unit 380.) As one skilled in the art will recognize, various implementations of the program logic 384 are possible. The program logic 384 could be either hardware, software, or a combination of both. Hardware implementations might involve hardwired controller logic or instructions stored in a ROM or RAM device. Software implementations would involve instructions stored on a magnetic, optical, or other media that can be accessed by the processing unit 380.

[0108] It is possible in some environments for a significant amount of electrostatic energy to build up in the shuffling machine 20. Significant electrostatic discharge can affect the operation of the machine 20 and perhaps even cause a hazard to those near the machine 20. It is therefore helpful to isolate some of the circuitry of the control system from the rest of the machine. In the preferred embodiment of the present invention, a number of optically-coupled isolators are used to act as a barrier to electrostatic discharge.

[0109] As shown in FIG. 14, a first group of circuitry 390 can be electrically isolated from a second group of circuitry 392 by using optically-coupled logic gates that have light-emitting diodes to optically (rather than electrically) transmit a digital signal, and photodetectors to receive the optically-transmitted data. An illustration of the electrical isolation through the use of optically-coupled logic gages is shown in FIG. 15, which shows a portion of FIG. 14 in detail. Four Hewlett Packard HCPL-2630 optocouplers (labeled 394, 396, 398, and 400) are used to provide an 8-bit isolated data path to the output devices 368. Each bit of data is represented by both an LED 402 and a photodetector 404. The LEDs emit light when forward biased, and the photodetectors detect the presence or absence of the light. Data is thus transmitted without an electrical connection.

[0110]FIGS. 1 and 2 depict a typical installation of the machine 20 of the present invention. Typically the machine 20 will be supported on a pedestal type table, T, located immediately adjacent to and behind a typical gaming table, T. The shroud 24 includes an adapting flange 330. The flange 330 helps connect the machine 20 to the gambling table, T, to reduce the chance that a dealer standing generally centrally behind the table T with the machine 20 on his left will drop cards between the table and the apparatus 20 to the floor. FIG. 2 shows the location of the power connection 332 for the machine 20.

[0111] The following description of the use and operation of the machine 20 of the present invention should be read and understood in conjunction with Appendix B which outlines the sequence of operation of the machine 20 and correlates the operative steps with the state of the various motors, sensors and other components of the machine 20. In use, the power is turned on and the machine 20 goes through the homing sequence (set forth in Appendix C). When the start button lights, the dealer loads a selected number of decks of cards, up to eight decks, into the center magazine. The cards should be pushed all the way into the back of the magazine; the U-shaped relieved area 276 in the forward or leading edge of the elevator platform 272 assists the dealer in accomplishing this. The start button is pushed to initiate the shuffling sequence and, after a three to four second delay, the clear plastic door moves upwardly closing the shuffling chamber.

[0112] The cutting and shuffling operations are then carried out, as shown in the various stages of operation shown in FIG. 19. Stage 1 of the sequence shows the cards in their starting position in the center magazine. The cards are initially moved to the left magazine as shown in stage 2. After roughly half of the cards (e.g., 45%-55%) are moved to the left magazine, the remaining cards in the center magazine are then moved to the right magazine. Stage 4 shows the state of the machine 20 after the cutting phase of the sequence of operations has been completed.

[0113] A clump of cards (e.g., 5 to 50 cards) from the left magazine is then moved into the center magazine. After this clump of cards moves into the center magazine, cards from the right magazine also begin moving into the center magazine so that cards from both the left and right magazines are simultaneously being moved into the center magazine. The cards are thereby shuffled into the center magazine. The shuffled deck is shown in FIG. 19 as stage 7.

[0114] The clump of cards is moved from the left magazine to the center magazine before any cards are moved from the right magazine to ensure that both the top and bottom cards are buried in the deck after the shuffling operation. Since the card order is reversed when cards are transferred from one magazine to another, the top card in the center magazine at stage 1 will normally be the bottom card in the left magazine at stage 4. Similarly, the bottom card in the center magazine at stage 1 will normally be the top card in the right magazine at stage 4. To ensure that these cards are buried in the deck at stage 7, cards from the left magazine are moved into the center magazine before the top card from the right magazine is moved into the center magazine. This ensures that the bottom card in stage 1 is not again the bottom card at stage 7. And since cards are taken first from the left magazine, the left magazine will very likely be empty before the right magazine. If the left magazine does empty first, the top card in stage 2 will not be the top card in stage 7.

[0115] Stages 2-7 are repeated a random number of times (e.g., four to seven times) to ensure that the cards are thoroughly shuffled. For four decks, 4-6 cycles are appropriate, and for six or eight decks, 5-7 cycles may be appropriate. After stage 7 is completed for the final time, the cards are moved into the left magazine (stages 8 and 9) for removal. The start light lights again, indicating that the cycle is complete. The dealer presses the start button and the door opens downwardly. Unshuffled decks may be loaded into the center magazine, and the shuffled decks are removed for use. After three to four seconds, the door will automatically close and the machine starts another shuffling cycle automatically.

[0116] The foregoing sequence of operations is carried out under the control of the electrical control system 46. The electrical control system 46 controls and/or monitors the photoeyes, the stepper motors, limit switches and display devices. The sequence of operations carried out by the electrical control system are set forth in FIG. 20.

[0117] As shown in FIG. 20, after receiving the command to begin shuffling, the control system 46 does not commence with the shuffling operation until cards are in the center magazine 118 and until the left and right magazines 116, 120 are empty. The control system 46 checks for this condition by evaluating the state of the center, right, and left elevator photoeyes 88, 90, 92.

[0118] The control system 46 then causes the center elevator motor 50 to move the center elevator 262 up into an appropriate position for sending cards to the left magazine. The control system 46 properly positions the center elevator 262 by monitoring the center elevator top limit switch 70. The control system 46 then commences the clockwise, simultaneous rotation of the center feed pick-off roller 190 and left speed-up roller 232 and the upward movement of the center elevator 262. This sequence of operations moves cards into the left magazine 116. (Theoretically, 0.010 inch of elevator travel (i.e., one card thickness) corresponds to one card being transferred.) When the first card goes through the left speed-up roller 232, the left outer photosensor 128 is blocked. The control system 46 recognizes this and begins moving the left elevator 260 down while the center elevator 262 is moved upwardly at the same speed. The cards from the center magazine 118 are thereby distributed to the left magazine 116.

[0119] The control system 46 continues to monitor the left outer counter photoeye 128 to determine when approximately half of the cards have been moved to the left magazine. (Alternatively, a timer, weight sensor, or any other indicator could be used to sense this condition.) After this determination is made, the center feed roller 190 reverses and begins turning counterclockwise. The control system 46 also stops the movement of left elevator 260 and starts the right speed-up roller 234 rotating counter-clockwise. When the control system 46 determines that the left outer counter photoeye 128 is clear of cards, the left speed-up roller 232 is stopped.

[0120] Two sets of photoeyes (inner and outer counter photoeyes) are used on each side of the speed-up rollers because the cards line up in partially overlapped condition up-stream of the speed-up rollers before they are picked up by the speed-up rollers. The gap between consecutive cards therefore does not materialize until the leading card is picked Up by the speed-up roller and kicked out into the downstream magazine. Consequently, two photoeyes are provided for each speed-up roller so there is a downstream counter photoeye that can be used to register the gap in the card sequence, regardless of the direction of travel of the cards.

[0121] When the control system 46 determines that the first card has passed through the right speed-up roller 234 by monitoring the right outer counter photoeye 132, the right elevator 264 is moved downward. Cards are delivered from the center magazine 118 to the right magazine 120, each card passing before the right outer counter photoeye 132.

[0122] When the center magazine 118 is empty, the control system 46 will sense this condition via the center elevator empty photoeye 90, and then stop the center feed roller 190. The control system 46 also stops the downward movement of the right elevator 264 and the upward movement of the center elevator 262. After the control system 46 determines that the right outer counter photoeye 132 has been cleared of cards, the right speed-up roller 234 is also stopped. At this stage, the cards are cut: approximately half of the cards are in the left magazine 116, and approximately half of the cards are in the right magazine 120. The center magazine 118 is empty.

[0123] To begin the shuffling phase, the control system 46 begins rotating the left feed roller 200 and left speed-up roller 232 in the counter-clockwise direction. The control system 46 moves the left elevator 260 upward a random distance, thereby distributing a random number of cards from the left magazine 116 to the center magazine 118. As the first card from the left magazine 116 blocks the left inner counter photoeye 130, the center elevator 262 begins moving down. The random grouping of cards moved into the center magazine 118 is called a “clump.”

[0124] After this clump is moved to the center magazine 118, the control system 46 begins rotating the right feed roller 202 and the right speed-up roller 234 in the clockwise direction. Both the right and left elevators 260, 269 are then moved upward in a random fashion to thereby distribute cards from both the left and right magazines 116, 120 into the center magazine 118. When a card from the right magazine 120 blocks the right inner counter photoeye 134, the left elevator 260 stops. Similarly, when a card from the left magazine 116 blocks the left inner counter photoeye 130, the right elevator 264 stops. The elevators 260, 264 continue to stop and start randomly until all the cards have been distributed to the center magazine 118.

[0125] Since a clump of cards is taken from the left magazine 116 before any are taken from the right magazine 120, the left magazine 116 will generally be empty before the right magazine 120. When the control system 46 determines that the left magazine 116 is empty when the left elevator empty photoeye 88 is unblocked. The left elevator 260 is then reversed and lowered to a predetermined position, and the left feed roller 200 is stopped. After the control system 46 determines that the left inner counter photoeye 130 is cleared of cards, the left speed-up roller 232 stops rotating. Meanwhile, the remaining cards from the right magazine 120 are being distributed to the center magazine 118. When the control system 46 senses that the right elevator empty photoeye 92 is not blocked (indicating that the right magazine 120 is empty), the control system 46 moves the right elevator 264 to a predetermined position and the right feed roller 202 is stopped. When the control system 46 senses that the right inner counter photoeye 134 is clear of cards, the right speed-up roller 234 stops rotating. In the event that the right magazine 120 becomes empty before the left magazine 116 does, a parallel procedure is followed that mirrors the one described above. See FIG. 20.

[0126] At this stage, the cards are in a shuffled state in the center magazine 118. The machine 20 then proceeds to repeat the described cutting and shuffling operations a random number of times (e.g., six to eight cycles). At the end of the final cycle, the cards are transferred from the center magazine 118 to the left magazine 116 for removal by the dealer, and the center elevator 262 goes to its ready-to-load position. The dealer can open the door by pressing the start button. Unshuffled cards may be loaded into the center magazine 118 and the shuffled cards may be removed from the left magazine 116. After a few seconds, the door will automatically close and a new shuffle commences.

[0127] Occasionally a jam may occur during the cutting (the movement of cards from the center to the left and right magazines) or shuffling (the random movement of cards from the left and right magazines 116, 118 to the center magazine 120) operations. The control system 46 is capable of sensing such a jam, and in the event of a jam, a recovery routine is carried out as described below.

[0128] When the cards are being cut from the center magazine 118 to the left magazine 116, the left outer counter photoeye 128 is alternatively blocked and unblocked as each card goes through the left speed-up roller 232. At a known delivery speed, the time interval between the blocked and unblocked states of the photoeye 128 is predictable. The control system 46 can therefore sense a jam by monitoring the left outer counter photoeye 128 for prolonged blocked states. A prolonged blocked state will suggest that a jam has occurred, and the control system 46 then initiates a “left-cut” recovery routine.

[0129] The left-cut recovery routine commences with the control system 46 stopping the center feed roller 190 and left speed-up roller 232. The center elevator 262 is reversed and moved down slightly (e.g., 0.25 inches). The left speed-up roller 232 is reversed so that it is rotating in the counter-clockwise direction, and it continues rotating counter-clockwise until the left inner counter photoeye 130 is clear for a short period of time (e.g., 0.5 seconds). The left speed-up roller 232 then resumes the normal clockwise rotation. The center feed roller 190 is rotated in the clockwise direction, the center elevator 262 moves up, and the cutting operation resumes. The left elevator 260 does not move down until a card goes through the left outer counter photoeye 128.

[0130] The control system can similarly recover from a jam that occurs when the cards are being cut from the center magazine to the right magazine. The right recovery routine commences with the control system 46 stopping the center feed roller 190 and the right speed-up roller 234. The center elevator 262 is reversed and moved down slightly (e.g., 0.25 inches). The right speed-up roller 234 is reversed so that it is rotating in the clockwise direction, and it continues rotating clockwise until the right inner counter photoeye 134 is clear for a short period of time (e.g., 0.5 seconds). The right speed-up roller 234 then resumes the counter-clockwise rotation. The center feed roller 190 is rotated in the counter-clockwise direction, the center elevator 262 moves up, and the cutting operation resumes. The right elevator 264 does not move down until a card goes through the right outer counter photoeye 132.

[0131] If a jam occurs during the shuffling operation, the control system 46 stops the left and right speed-up rollers 232, 234 and the left and right feed rollers 200, 202. Both the left and right elevators 260, 264 are lowered a small distance, such as about 0.25 inches, and held in that position. The control system 46 rotates the left speed-up roller 232 in a clockwise direction and the right speed-up roller 234 in a counter-clockwise direction. When the control system 46 senses that the left and right outer counter photoeyes 128, 132 are clear, left feed roller 200 and the left speed-up roller 232 resume rotating in the counter-clockwise direction, and the right feed roller 202 and right speed-up roller 234 resume rotating in the clockwise direction. The control system 46 then moves the left and right elevators 260, 264 upwardly, thereby resuming the shuffling operation. The control system 46 waits until it senses a card passing before either the left or the right inner counter photoeye 130, 134 before moving the center elevator 262 downward.

[0132] The shuffling machine 20 attempts to recover from jams automatically, without human intervention. However, if after several attempts, the shuffling machine 20 is not able to recover, the control system 46 will suspend the operation of the machine 20 and will flash the red alarm light. The control system 46 will then await intervention. The operator intervenes by pressing the “open Door” button at the control panel. The control system 46 will move the door down and will move the elevators down about two inches. The operator can then manually clear the jam, and leave the cards in the machine 20. The green “Start” button is pressed to resume the shuffling operation. The machine 20 will go through one complete cycle after manual intervention no matter when in the shuffle cycle the jam occurred.

[0133] If it is determined that, after a jam, a minimum of three shuffle cycles are desired, the “Reset” push button on the control panel should be pushed. The “Reset” feature is only active after the “open Door” push button has been activated. The machine 20 will go through the homing sequence and, when the green “Start” button lights, will be ready for a minimum of three shuffle cycles.

[0134] For a complete reshuffle, the power button should be turned off, all cards removed, the power turned back on. The machine 20 will go through the homing sequence and, when the green “Start” button lights, the machine 20 is ready for a new shuffle.

[0135] Single Deck Batch Shuffler with Dealing Module Example

[0136] Referring to FIG. 2A, the card shuffling machine 510 in one example of the present invention includes a card shuffling module 512, a card dealing module 514, an information display module 516.

[0137]FIGS. 1A and 2B depict the components of the card shuffling module 512. The shuffling module 512 includes a housing 518 carrying a start switch 519 (see FIGS. 2A and 6A), programmable microprocessor 520, including optoisolators 521 (see FIG. 6), motor 522 operably powering certain deck cutting functions, motor 524 for powering the shuffled deck unloading function and motor 26 for operating mandrel 527, which moves vertically to “riffle” and interleave the cards. Another motor 528 drives other deck cutting operations, including the generally horizontal movement of a cutting probe 529. A hold down arm assembly 530 includes hold down arms 532 a, 532 b, which hold down two deck portions or sub-decks 534 a, 534 b, respectively, while they are being riffled by the mandrel 527.

[0138] The shuffling module 512 includes a shuffling and carriage area 536 having a deck receiving nest 538 and a sub-deck receiving nest 540. A generally horizontal deck supporting floor 542 is in the deck receiving nest 538 and is enclosed on three sides by first wall 544, backstop 546 and swinging parking gate 548. The tongue-like cutting probe 529, probe mounting block 552, probe moving means 554, and a spring-loaded hold-down thumb 556 are operably mounted in the shuffling and carriage area 536. A belt and drive means 558 is provided for moving the probe 529 along its longitudinal axis toward and away from the floor 542, which is also movable, but in a generally vertical raising and lowering motion with respect to the probe 529, i.e., in a direction transverse to the generally horizontal movement of the probe 529.

[0139] With continued reference to FIG. 1A and referring to FIGS. 3A and 5A motor 524 is operably connected to a shuffled deck delivery system 560 for delivering a shuffled deck “D” (in FIG. 3A) from the shuffling module 512 to the dealing module 514 of the present invention. The delivery system 560 includes a long, flexible transfer pusher blade 562 having plurality of in-line apertures 564. At one end, a blade carries a transfer pusher head 566 attached at its back side 568 to the pusher blade 562. The pusher head 566 has a curved shovel face 570 with a lower edge 572 offset forwardly with respect to the upper edge 574. The delivery system 560 includes a cog wheel 576 operatively coupled to the motor 524. The cog wheel 576 operatively carries a plurality of raised cogs 578 equally spaced about it circumference and designed to be received in the apertures 564 of the pusher blade 562. A guide block and slot arrangement 580 for guiding the pusher blade 562 is mounted and adjacent to the first wall 544.

[0140] Referring to FIGS. 1A and 3A, the dealing module 514 is integrated with the shuffling machine 510 of the present invention. The module 514 includes a base plate 582 an a housing 584 substantially enclosing the module 514. At the free end 586 of the module, opposite the end which it is connected with the shuffling portion 512 of the present invention, the dealing module 514 includes a hand holding shoe 588, including a generally flat, horizontal terminal stage 590 and a generally vertical terminal stop 592. Along the top of the module 514, the module includes a shuffled deck and card pathway, indicated generally at 594, extending along the longitudinal axis of the module 514 from the shuffling and carriage area 536 to the hand holding shoe 588. A portion of the pathway 594 is covered by a hood 596 detachably mounted to the housing 584 of the dealing module 514. A pair of parallel, upstanding side card guides 598, 600 are provided, one on each side of the pathway 594. A motor 602 is mounted inside the housing 584 adjacent the free end 586 of the module 514. The motor may be selected from the appropriate motors such as regular AC gear or gear head motors, including those manufactured by the Oriental Motor Co., of Tokyo, Japan. The motor output 604 is operably connected in a typical fashion to a dealing discharge drive controller 606 by a continuous belt 608. A second belt 610 extends from the dealing discharge drive roller 606 to the larger dealing belt drum 612. A broad, continuous dealing friction belt 614 is mounted around the drive drum 612 and dealing belt idler drum 616. The drive and idler drums 612, 616, respectively are carried by drive belt carriage 618, including an adjustable, uppermost dealing anvil 620 whereby uppermost surface of the belt 614 is generally coplanar with, but slightly above, the upper surface of the card pathway 594. The belt 614 extends in-line with the length of the pathway 594, and is generally centered therein.

[0141] The dealing module 514 includes a card picker and speed-up mechanism 621 adjacent the end of the belt 614 closest to the hand holding shoe 588. The speed-up mechanism 621 is mounted substantially in and under the hood 596, but could be mounted on the side guides 598, 600 as well. The speed-up mechanism 621 comprises a pivot shaft 622 on which a rigid discharge link 624 is movably mounted. A discharge idler roller 626 is mounted adjacent to the free end of the discharge link 624. A torsion spring 628 is provided to bias the idler roller 626 downwardly toward the dealing discharge drive roller 606. A brake link 630 is also pivotally mounted on the pivot shaft 622, but extends in a direction substantially opposite to the discharge link 624. A brake idler roller 632 is rotatably mounted at the free end of the brake link 630, and another torsion spring 633 is provided to bias the roller 632 downwardly.

[0142]FIG. 4B shows additional details of the brake roller 632. The roller is rotatably supported on the brake link 630 by an axle 634 held in place by a snap retainer ring 636 on each side. A wrinkle or wave washer 638 is mounted between each end of the roller 632 and the inside of the link 630 to create an axial force inhibiting the free spinning or rotation of the brake roller 632. Although the brake roller 632 is depicted as cylindrical and rotatable, a non-rotatable rectangular deck brake or holding block could be substituted. Referring back to FIGS. 1A and 3A, a deck weight 640 is pivotally mounted by weight pivots 642 to each side guide 598, 600 in line with and above the card pathway 594 generally between the speed-up mechanism 621 and the shuffling area 536.

[0143] The dealing module 514 includes a plurality of photo or optical microsensors including a deck passing sensor 644 in the card pathway 594 beneath the deck weight 640. A second sensor, the card counting sensor, 646 is located adjacent to the dealing discharge drive roller 606 in the card pathway 594 between the single card speed-up mechanism 621 and the hand holding shoe 588. A third optical sensor 648 is located in the hand holding shoe 588.

[0144] Referring to FIG. 2A, the machine 510 of the present invention includes the display module 516, including a player readable display screen 650, an upright standard 652 and typical electrical connecting means 653 which links the display module 516 to the machine 10, specifically to the microprocessor controller 520. The upright standard 652 may be mounted directly on the housing 518 of the card shuffling module 512, to the surface 656 of a gaming table or support surface on which the machine 510 is resting, or it could be supported in any appropriate manner adjacent the area where a game is being played as long as the players of the game can view the display. The actual numerical or symbol LED display 658 may be provided by a lighted display system typified by the display means known as “digi-lites”, (the LDS-AD series) manufactured by LUMEX, Inc., of Palatine, Ill. FIG. 6A depicts the components of the microprocessor 20 that randomly select the player designating number that will be displayed by the display 658. When the machine 510 is switched on an internal timer in the microprocessor 520 is started. The amount in the timer is progressively increased, i.e., changed 1,000 times per second, in effect providing a rotating random number register for randomly selecting a number from the numbers 1 through 6. After a set period of time, relating to the start of the retraction of the pusher head 566 after it delivers a shuffled deck to the dealing module 514, the microprocessor 520 retrieves the current number in the register and communicates it to the LED display 658. The electrical circuitry coupling the display module 516 to the controller 520, and thus to the shuffling module 512 and dealing module 514, may be of the type that is well known in the art.

[0145] In use, the shuffling module 512 of the machine 510 of the present invention may be operated as outlined hereinabove in the “Summary of the Invention”. After the deck of cards is shuffled, the shuffled deck “D” (shown in FIG. 3A) is held in the first deck receiving nest region 538. When the deck delivery sensor 644 indicates to the machine 510, through the microprocessor 520, that the portion of the card pathway 594 under the deck weight 640 is empty, the shuffled deck delivery system 560 is activated. The packing gate 548 is dropped and the pusher blade 562 is driven by the cog wheel 576 to move the transfer pusher head 566 in the direction of the hand holding shoe 588, thereby moving the shuffled deck “D” into the card pathway 594. The pusher head 566 is then retracted and the retraction initiates the random selection of the numbers (from 1 through 7) designating the first player to receive a hand. A delay period, substantially equal to the time it takes for the dealing module 514 to deal the first hand, is started and may include a “wheel-of-fortune” display on the display means 516.

[0146] As the shuffled deck “D” enters the dealing module 514, the bottom most card of the deck “D” contacts the dealing belt 614, and the entire deck is carried underneath the deck weight 640 until the deck “D” contacts the brake roller 632 as depicted in FIG. 3A. As the belt 614 moves in the direction of the hand holding shoe 588, the bottom most card “C” of the deck “D” is drawn by the belt 614 toward and beneath the brake roller 632. Sufficient bias is generated by the torsion spring 633 biasing the brake roller 632 downwardly toward the belt 644 to allow only the bottom most card “C” to be moved toward and into the pinch area 660 formed between the discharge roller 626 and the discharge drive roller 606. As a card “C” enters into the pinch area 660, it is accelerated and pulled through to be deposited in the hand holding shoe 588. The card counting sensor 646 counts the gap or space between each subsequent card as the cards pass one at a time through and past the pinch area 660. Approximately when the passage of the fourth card is sensed by the sensor 646, the controller 520 operates the display portions of the program as outlined above, including a one-fourth second delay period during which a “wheel-of-fortune” display which starts fast and slows down can be provided, retrieves the current number in the rotating random number register, and causes the LED display 658 to display the selected random number.

[0147] In the meantime, the dealing module 514 has continued to move single cards into the hand holding shoe 588. As the last card of the first hand enters the shoe 588 (the seventh card if Pai Gow poker is being played) the symbol or number selected randomly by the microprocessor 520 to designate the first player to receive a hand number is displayed by the display module 516. If a side bet was made on which symbol would be selected it may be resolved at this time or the dealer may immediately remove the first hand from the hand holding shoe 588 for distribution to the designated player. The removal of the hand from the shoe 588 causes the third sensor 648 to note the absence of a cards and triggers the dealing module 516, specifically the motor 602, reactivating the belt 614, to pull the bottom most card “C” into the pinch area 660 and move it into the hand holding shoe 588. Again, the gap between the cards or the cards themselves are counted to ensure that the desired number of cards is deposited in a hand in the hand holding shoe 588. This cycle is repeated until the cards of the shuffled deck are exhausted. The deck weight 640 is provided so that even when only a few cards remain to be moved into a hand, there will be adequate friction between the belt 614 and the bottom most card “C”, thereby ensuring that a hand of the desired number of cards is formed in the hand holding shoe 588. When the shuffled deck “D” is exhausted, the first sensor 644 signals the microprocessor 520 to activate the delivery system 560 to push another shuffled deck, shuffled by the machine 510 while the previous deal and hand were taking place, into the dealing module 514.

[0148] Suitable specific components, and materials, for the shuffling machine 510 of the present invention may be selected from commercially available components including the following:

Component Specification
Microcontroller-20 Part No. 80C32,
Intel Corporation,
Santa Clara, CA
All motors VEXTA ™ low speed, synchronous motors or
direct drive AC gear head motors, Oriental
Motor Co., Tokyo, Japan
Optoisolators Optoisolators-Part No. MOC 3042
Motorola Semiconductor Products, Inc.
Phoenix, AZ
Photosensors Sensors 144, 148-Model EE-SPY401 by
OMRON, Schaumburg, IL. Sensor 146-Model
OPB981T51. by Optec, Carrollton, TX

[0149] It should be understood that the microcontroller 520 of the machine 510 of the present invention is programmed with a representative, standard set of program choices, and that other functions, choices, limits and parameters could be programmed easily to change or modify the outlined operational flow of the machine 510. For example, the number of times a deck of cards is shuffled may be changed, as can the number of cards the dealing module 514 deals to each hand. Thus, the machine 510 can be adapted to facilitate the play of any wagering game.

[0150] The present invention in its broadest sense is a method of forming randomly arranged hands of cards from a larger group of cards utilizing a dealing module operatively connected to a card shuffler. Although the use of a dealing module has application in connection with a single deck shuffler in the example above, a dealing module has utility for shufflers that deliver multiple decks of cards in batches, multiple decks of cards continuously, and double deck batch process shufflers. For example, the dealing module of the present invention when combined with the multiple deck batch shuffler described above is capable of dealing out hands of cards, or dispensing cards individually from the shuffled batch of cards.

[0151] The method of the present invention includes the steps of: feeding a large group of cards (typically a standard deck of cards), into a card shuffling apparatus, shuffling the group of cards and recombining the group to form a randomized group of cards with two opposite ends. The method further includes the steps of sequentially moving a preselected number of at least two single cards from an end of the randomized group of cards, and transferring those cards, one at a time into a hand holding shoe, forming a single hand of cards with the preselected number of sequentially removed cards. The method of the present invention is effected by combining the preselected number of removed cards to form a hand of cards. Although the shuffling step in the example described above is accomplished by cutting a deck into subdecks, riffling the two decks and recombining the subdecks, other shuffling methods can be used to accomplish the randomization of cards, such as the stack separation method described in Johnson et al. U.S. Pat. No. 5,683,085, or the random ejection method described in Sines U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,584,483 and 5,676,372. The stack separation method includes delivering cards into a chamber, gripping the stack of cards at a randomly positioned location along the height of the stack, lifting a portion of the stack at or above the grippers, and inserting a card below the stack portion. The random ejection method includes inserting a stack of cards to be randomized, ejecting cards at random locations along an edge of the stack, and collecting the ejected cards in a collection tray. The disclosures of Johnson et al. U.S. Pat. No. 5,683,085 and Sines U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,584,483 and 5,676,372 are herein incorporated by reference. Although three different randomization methods are disclosed herein, it is to be understood that virtually any card randomization method and apparatus can be used to practice the invention.

[0152] The method of the present invention is preferably accomplished by providing a hand-dealing module and combining this module with a card shuffler capable of forming a randomized group of cards. The card shuffler can be one of the apparatuses described above, or can be another type. The shuffler includes a card feeding area (also referred to as a card holding area) and a card shuffling apparatus. The method includes feeding cards individually from the card feeding area into the card shuffling apparatus for the purpose of randomizing the order of the cards.

[0153] One card shuffler of the method of the present invention has a card shuffling apparatus that divides a deck of cards into two sub-stacks, arranges the two sub-stacks so that adjacent corners are brought together, and provides a mandrel that is raised beneath the adjacent corners, riffling and interleaving the cards. The two stacks are then brought together, forming a randomized deck. This process is repeated multiple times in one example of the invention to form a randomized, shuffled deck of cards.

[0154] In one form of the invention, the card shuffling apparatus forms a randomized large group of cards, typically the entire deck. Although cards may be taken one at a time from either end of the deck, in one example of the invention, the randomized large group of cards is vertically stacked (with each individual card disposed along a horizontal plane), and cards are removed from the lowermost end of the stack, one at a time.

[0155] A card moving mechanism such as a pick off roller assembly with an adjacent pair of speed up rollers is provided to remove each card individually from the bottom of the stack. The weight of the stack provides sufficient force against the pick off roller to overcome the static force between adjacent cards, causing the bottom card to advance horizontally. In another example of the invention, the randomized group of cards is delivered into a feed mechanism that picks cards individually off of the top of the stack, or if the stack is positioned on its side, from a side of the stack.

[0156] A pair of speed up rollers is provided to help advance the card to the card receiving tray, also referred to as a hand holding shoe. The tray preferably includes a sensor operatively coupled to the microprocessor for sensing the presence or absence of cards. In one example of the invention, the card receiving tray is substantially horizontal, or at a declining angle with respect to the horizontal with a substantially vertical stop. The sensor is an optical sensor, but could be another type of sensor, such as a weight cell.

[0157] In one aspect of the present invention, the microprocessor is programmable by the user. A number of parameters might be programmed by the user, such as the number of players at the table, the identity of the game, or the number of cards to be dealt into each hand. Regardless of whether the number of hands to be delivered is preprogrammed or inputted by the user, according to the invention, when the preselected number of at least two single cards comprising the hand is removed from the card receiving tray, the microprocessor determines if additional hands are to be delivered, and if so, instructs the card moving mechanism to deliver another group of cards to the card receiving tray. In one example of the invention, the maximum number of players per table is preprogrammed, and the shuffler delivers that many hands, plus a dealer hand if the game requires the dealer to receive cards. In another example of the invention, hands up to a maximum predetermined number are formed unless the dealer presses the “discard” button, signaling the microprocessor to unload all remaining cards from the shuffler.

[0158] The present invention comprises a method for forming random distributions of cards out of a large set of non-randomized cards by either directly forming hand sets of randomized cards from a first large set of cards or by forming a second set of randomized cards from the first large set of non-randomized cards and then removing cards from the second set of randomized cards to form individual hands. The present invention includes a method of forming a preselected number of at least one randomized hand of at least two cards from a larger group of unrandomized cards, where the number of cards in each hand is preselected, and is equal to or greater than two. The method includes the step of placing a group of cards to be randomized into a card randomizing apparatus, the card randomizing apparatus being controlled by a microprocessor. The card randomizing apparatus includes a randomized card receiving location.

[0159] The method further includes the step of collecting randomized cards delivered to the randomized card receiving location until the preselected number has been reached, thereby forming a randomized hand of the preselected number of cards. According to the invention, fewer than all of the cards in the larger group are used to form all of said at least one randomized hand. In the example of a card randomizing apparatus capable of dealing Pai Gow Poker (e.g.—a single deck card shuffler), the total number of cards dealt is fourty-nine (6 player hands and one dealer hand of seven cards each), with three cards left over.

[0160] If the device used to practice the invention is programmable, the number of cards in each hand (or the identity of the game, which defines the number of cards), and/or the number of players, for example may be inputted by a user (such as a casino card dealer).

[0161] The method of the present invention further includes the step of sensing when a randomized hand of cards is removed from the apparatus. In one example of the invention, the card randomizing apparatus is programmed to deliver multiple hands, and when the cards are removed, the microprocessor instructs the dealing module to deliver another hand of cards. In another example of the invention, the microprocessor is programmed to deliver hands until either a predetermined maximum number (such as seven hands) is reached, or the dealer presses a “discard” button, that tells the microprocessor that no more hands are needed. The microprocessor may be preprogrammed or programmed by a user to form hands of cards that are all equal in number. Alternatively, the device may deliver randomized hands that are unequal in number. For example, in the game of Let It Ride® stud poker, each player receives three cards. The dealer typically receives three cards and discards or “burns” one card to form a two card hand. According to the method of the present invention, the microprocessor could be preprogrammed or user programmed to deal seven three card hands, and one two card hand for the dealer.

[0162] An embodiment of the present invention is an apparatus for forming at least one hand of randomized cards. The device of the invention includes: a card infeed tray, a card shuffling mechanism that randomizes a group of cards fed from the infeed tray, a card feed mechanism for moving cards from the infeed tray into the card shuffling mechanism, a programmable microprocessor that controls operation of the apparatus (including a number of cards per hand and a number of hands to be formed), a hand receiving tray, a card removing mechanism for removing cards individually from the card shuffling mechanism and delivering a preselected number of cards to the hand receiving tray, and a sensor for sensing the presence or absence of cards in the hand receiving tray. According to the invention, when a formed hand of cards is removed, and when fewer than all of the predetermined number of hands have been formed, the card removing mechanism is activated to form an additional randomized hand of cards. In the alternative, the device is programmed to continue to form hands until a predetermined maximum number has been met, or until the dealer presses the “discard” button, instructing the machine to unload the rest of the cards.

[0163] The present invention also includes a card dealing module that may be operatively connected to a card shuffling apparatus. The card dealing module of the present invention includes: a card staging area for retaining a group of cards that have been randomized (either manually or mechanically), a card moving mechanism for removing a preselected number of cards individually from the card staging area to a card removal tray, a card removal tray comprising a card receiving surface and a sensor mounted beneath the card receiving surface for sensing the presence or absence of cards in the card removal tray.

[0164] The card moving mechanism in one example of the invention includes a pick off roller that contacts a lowermost card located in the staging area. A speed up roller assembly in this example is provided for moving cards moved by the pick off roller into the card removal tray.

[0165] The card receiving surface of the card removal tray in one example of the invention is substantially horizontal, and includes an upstanding edge for retaining cards being delivered in the tray. The card removal tray in one example of the invention includes an optical sensor, although other object sensors, such as a weight cell, ultrasonic sensor, etc. could be used.

[0166] When the card dealing module is operatively coupled to a card shuffling mechanism controlled by a microprocessor, and when the sensor generates a signal that is received by the microprocessor corresponding to the presence or absence of cards, this information is used to determine whether additional hands of cards are to be delivered to the card removal tray.

[0167] The present invention is an apparatus for forming at least one hand of a selectable number of randomized cards. The apparatus includes: a card infeed tray, a card shuffling mechanism that randomizes a group of cards fed from the infeed tray, a card feed mechanism for moving cards from the infeed tray into the card shuffling mechanism, a programmable microprocessor that controls the operation of the apparatus, a user interface for selecting at least a number of cards per hand or an identity of a game, a hand receiving tray, a card removing mechanism for removing the selected number of cards individually from the card shuffling mechanism and delivering the selected number of cards to the hand receiving tray to form a single hand of cards, and a sensor for sensing the presence or absence of cards in the hand receiving tray. According to the invention, when the formed hand of cards is removed, and when fewer than all of the desired number of hands have been formed, the card removing mechanism is activated to form an additional randomized hand of cards.

[0168] In one example of the invention, the sensor is an optical sensor. The card shuffling mechanism according to one aspect of the invention forms a vertical stack of randomly associated cards (each card being in a horizontal plane), and the card removing mechanism comprises a pick off roller located beneath a lowermost card in the stack. In this example of the invention, a pair of speed up rollers is provided for advancing individual cards moved by the pick off roller into the hand receiving tray.

[0169] The present invention is a method of forming a preselected number of at least one randomized hand of at least two cards from a larger group of unrandomized cards. The number of cards in each hand is preselected, and is two or greater. The method comprises the steps of: placing a group of cards to be randomized into a card randomizing apparatus. The card randomizing apparatus is controlled by a microprocessor. The method includes providing a card receiving location for receiving randomized cards. The method further includes the step of collecting randomized cards delivered to the randomized card receiving location until the preselected number has been reached, forming a randomized hand of the preselected number of cards. According to the invention, fewer than all of the cards in the larger group are used to form all of said at least one randomized hand.

[0170] The number of cards comprising each hand is either preprogrammed or inputted by a user. The number of hands to be formed is also preprogrammed or inputted by a user. The method includes the step of sensing when a group or hand of cards is removed from the randomized card receiving location, and delivering an additional group or hand of cards if the desired number of cards has not yet been delivered. The apparatus may be manually or automatically reactivated to deliver an additional hand of cards. When the sensor senses the absence of cards in a hand delivery area, and when the microprocessor determines that fewer than all of the selected number of hands have been formed, an additional hand is dealt. The number of cards in each hand may be equal, or unequal.

[0171] The present invention may be embodied in other specific forms without departing from the essential spirit or attributes thereof. It is therefore desired that the described embodiments be considered as illustrative, not restrictive, reference being made to the appended claims to indicate the scope of the invention not restrictive, reference being made to the appended claims to indicate the scope of the invention.

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Classifications
U.S. Classification273/292, 273/149.00R
International ClassificationA63F1/12, A63F3/00
Cooperative ClassificationA63F1/12, A63F3/00157
European ClassificationA63F1/12
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Dec 26, 2001ASAssignment
Owner name: SUFFLE MASTER, INC., NEVADA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:BREEDING, JOHN G.;GRAUZER, ATTILA;SCHEPER, PAUL K.;AND OTHERS;REEL/FRAME:012404/0289;SIGNING DATES FROM 20011101 TO 20011113