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Publication numberUS20030003997 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 10/179,605
Publication dateJan 2, 2003
Filing dateJun 25, 2002
Priority dateJun 29, 2001
Publication number10179605, 179605, US 2003/0003997 A1, US 2003/003997 A1, US 20030003997 A1, US 20030003997A1, US 2003003997 A1, US 2003003997A1, US-A1-20030003997, US-A1-2003003997, US2003/0003997A1, US2003/003997A1, US20030003997 A1, US20030003997A1, US2003003997 A1, US2003003997A1
InventorsSon Vuong, Binh Vuong, Vinh Vuong, Liem Vuong, Craig Shinners
Original AssigneeVt Tech Corp.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Intelligent casino management system and method for managing real-time networked interactive gaming systems
US 20030003997 A1
Abstract
A system and method for intelligent management of an interactive gaming system and casino games played by both local and remote players is described. The present invention tracks the play of local and remote players and dealers, provides a real-time inventory of wagers and players stakes, and provides casino management and regulators visibility of real-time play throughout the casino. The present invention also enables casinos to identify and reward loyal players regardless of whether the player is on-site or remote or playing a table game or a slot machine.
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Claims(27)
We claim:
1. A method for conducting interactive gaming where a plurality of local and remote players may participate in at least one selected casino game conducted by a casino staff member, said method comprising the steps of:
Establishing a stake for said remote players who are participating in said selected casino game;
Accepting a wager from each of said local and remote players;
Detecting the value of at least one gaming object associated with said selected casino game to determine winning and losing wagers for each of said local and remote players who are participating in said selected casino game;
Remotely monitoring a series of plays of said selected casino game, said remote monitoring including monitoring the rate of play, the wagered amount and the results of each play of said selected casino game; and
Maintaining a historical database for each play of said casino game, said historical database having a time stamp, the value of all gaming objects for completion of said play, associating a wager determination with each of said participating players, associating a video signal displaying the play of said casino game with said time stamp.
2. The method of claim 1 further comprising the step of determining when at least one of said participating player qualifies for a casino comp.
3. The method of claim 1 further comprising the step of maintaining a player profile up-dated in real-time for each of said local and remote players.
4. The method of claim 1 further comprising the step of establishing a stake for at least one of said local players.
5. The method of claim 4 further comprising the step of determining whether said local and remote players owe income taxes based on a change in said stake.
6. The method of claim 1 further comprising the step of determining whether said remote players owe income taxes based on a change in said stake.
7. A method for conducting an interactive casino game having a plurality of local and remote players, said method comprising the steps of:
Establishing a communication link between a smart table and a network manager;
Initiating play of said interactive casino game;
Transmitting a request for wagers to each remote player to initiate a period for placing wagers;
Determining and announcing the end of said wager period; and
Detecting the value of said gaming object associated with each player;
Determining the result of said play;
Communicating the result of said play to each remote player; and
Retaining a historical record of each player's wager, the gaming objects associated with each player and the result of said play.
8. The method of claim 7 further comprising the steps of:
Transmitting a request for an intermediate decision from at least one of said remote players;
Initiating a response period;
Detecting whether a response to said request is received;
If said response is timely received, continue play of said game; and
If said response is not received, determining the end of said response period and invoking a rules engine for generating a response for said remote player.
9. The method of claim 8 wherein said recording step further comprises the step of retaining a historical record of from said at least one of said remote player's intermediate decision; said historical record associated with said at least one said remote player.
10. The method of claim 8 wherein said rules engine invoking step includes the step of determining a profile for from at least one of said remote player.
11. The method of claim 7 further comprising the step of generating an alarm in response to an alert condition.
12. The method of claim 11 wherein said alert condition includes an increase in the amount wagered, a wager settlement above a selected threshold, a request for credit, winning wagers in excess of a selected threshold or a security concern.
13. The method of claim 7 further comprising the step of monitoring a plurality of casino games;
Collecting statistics for said plurality of monitored casino games; and
Verifying the odds and payouts for said monitored casino games.
14. The method of claim 7 further comprising the step of providing a communication network for exchange of video, text and audio signals between said plurality of remote players.
15. The method of claim 14 further comprising the steps of:
Providing a communication network for the exchange of video, text and audio signals between said plurality of remote players; and
Distributing said collected statistics to said plurality of remote players.
16. The method of claim 7 further comprising the steps of:
Transferring an amount from said stake to an account associated with said casino employee, said amount selected by said player as a gratuity for said casino employee; and
Displaying said gratuity to said casino employee.
17. In a casino environment, a casino network management system for monitoring the play of casino games by local and remote players, said system comprising:
A network manager coupled to a public communication network for establishing a secure communication link with remotely located players;
A first level network coupled to said network manager;
A backend manager coupled to said network manager by said first level network, said backend manager adapted to maintaining a log file of all communication between said network manager and said floor manager and a rules engine to detect and resolve problems encountered in playing said game of chance in accordance with a set of rules;
A video manager coupled to said network manager by said first level network for managing a stream of video data captured by a plurality of video cameras distributed throughout said casino environment; said video manager adapted to transmit selected video data to said floor manager, said selected video data associated with wagers placed by said remote players.
A plurality of casino game servers; and
A floor manager coupled to said network manger by said first level network for conveying communications between said network manager and a selected one of said casino game servers; said floor manager adapted to associate wager information for said remote players with said video data.
18. The system of claim 17 wherein video date is transmitted as a series of discrete frames of video.
19. The system of claim 17 wherein said rules engines comprises an executable module of computer code executed in response to a selected operational event.
20. The system of claim 19 wherein said rules engine is coupled to said casino game server; said rules engine invoked when status information from said casino game server indicates a non-responsive remote player.
21. The system of claim 19 wherein said rules engine withdraws said non-responsive remote player's pending wager.
22. The system of claim 19 wherein said rules engine completes the play for said non-responsive remote player using a set rules to determine a response.
23. The system of claim 22 wherein said remote player may define a personalized set of rules.
24. The system of claim 17 wherein said remote player may place a plurality of wagers on more than one of said games of chance and said rules engine determines the outcome.
25. The system of claim 24 wherein said remote player may communicate a request to said floor manager to display the results of said plurality of wagers.
26. The system of claim 17 wherein said network manager further comprises means for monitoring the operation of said network management system, monitoring the total value of the wagers at each of said plurality of casino games and assigning new players to a selected one of said plurality of casino games.
27. The system of claim 17 further comprising a second network, independent from said first network, coupling said floor manager with said plurality of casino game servers.
Description
(1) PRIORITY APPLICATION

[0001] This application claims priority under pending Provisional patent application Ser. No. 06/301,939 filed Jun. 29, 2001 entitled Intelligent Casino Management System and Method for Managing Real-Time Networked Interactive Gaming System, the disclosure of which is incorporated herein for all purposes.

(2) RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0002] This application relates to U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/782,833 filed Feb. 14, 2001 and U.S. Provisional Patent Application serial No. 60/283,807 filed Apr. 13, 2001 (both of which are assigned to VT TECH Corp., the assignee of the present invention) the disclosures of which are incorporated herein for all purposes.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0003] 1 . Field of the Invention

[0004] The present invention relates to a system and method for intelligent management of remote and local gaming played at a casino and more specifically a method and system for managing the play of both remote and local players participating in a casino game.

[0005] 2 .Background

[0006] Casino games, often referred to as games of chance, are a popular form of adult entertainment. While such games have been played for centuries, playing casino games over the Internet is a relatively recent phenomenon. Indeed a recent report indicates that more than 1,200 “on-line” casinos attract a large number of players who are unable to travel to a physical casino to play their desired casino game on-site. These Internet casinos comprise one or more computers that execute computer software replicating a casino game for remote players. For example, the computer software could replicate the game of roulette, baccarat, craps, blackjack or pai gow (an Asian poker game) depending on what each player desires to play. Thus, when the player requests to play, the player is playing one-on-one against a computer program.

[0007] While software generated casino games may closely replicate the odds of winning, many players would prefer to play at an actual casino. For this reason, an interactive gaming system (IGS) was described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,762,552, assigned to VT TECH Corp., the assignee of the present invention. This IGS permits remote players to participate in live action games of chance. By way of example, a remote player selects a game server, which may be a table game located on the floor of a casino. A game server in the IGS environment may either be a card table with a live dealer or banker, a craps table or a roulette table that permits players to place a wager on either the table or a virtual bet board. Alternatively, the game server may be a computer program that generates a sequence of plays of the selected game of a chance with the results conveyed to a plurality of players, many of whom may be playing at a position remote from the casino. The IGS transmits a broadcast quality signal to the remote player to monitor play at the selected table. The IGS is particularly well suited to games of chance such as baccarat, roulette and craps where a virtually unlimited number of players may place electronic bets on a virtual bet board with the outcome determined by the cards opened on the baccarat table, the play of the roulette wheel or the roll of the die on the crap table. Advantageously, the baccarat table, the roulette wheel and the craps table are all located on the casino floor, so the remote player is provided with the same game just as if they were at the gaming table in the casino. The IGS is also well suited for other games of chance, such as a slot machine or for other card games such as blackjack or poker, by way of example.

[0008] For casino card games, such as black jack, Pai gow poker, poker, craps and others, it is necessary to detect certain intermediate results. However, when cards are dealt face down, it is difficult to determine the value of the cards for remote players. Accordingly, a system for detecting the value of a gaming object (for example, the value of a card, the value of a die) was described in a related U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/782,833 filed Feb. 14, 2001 the disclosure of which is incorporated herein for all purposes. This application is also assigned to VT TECH Corp., the assignee of the present invention.

[0009] The automatic detection of both intermediate and final outcome of the game eliminates the need for a casino employee to view the result and manually enter the value into the IGS for distribution to remote players. Automatic detection also enables a large number of remote players to participate in a casino game conducted at a casino with live players. However, what is needed is an improved system and method to monitor the play of the large numbers of remote and local players without disrupting the game's results or rate of play.

[0010] In addition to automatic detection of game results, casinos must also be able to monitor play of both local and remote players. As used herein, local players are players who are physically present at a game server while remote players are players who participate from a location remote from the game server. What is needed is a system and method that enables automatic detection of gaming objects (chips, cards, dices, roulette balls, by way of example), the value of wagers placed by both local and remote players and that associates wagering information with specific players, dealers and other casino employees.

[0011] As will be appreciated by one familiar with the operation of a casino, casino management is interested in identifying players who generate the most profit for the casino. To obtain this information, casinos typically employ a pit boss to monitor the size of the bet that each player is making. However, it is not possible for the pit boss to accurately determine the size of the bets and the duration of play for each and every player. Accordingly, what is further needed is an intelligent automated management system that automatically tracks the play of both local and remote players. Further the intelligent management system needs to maximize utilization of casino resources, minimize management time and cost, improve reliability and quality of service, make available valuable data for improving gaming and gaming business strategy and customer service. What is also needed is a system and method for gaming service and management that is scalable and secure that provides the casino management with a real-time data indicative of the operation of the casino.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0012] The present invention relates to a system and method for intelligent management of an interactive gaming system and casino games played by local and remote players. The present invention tracks the play of players, both local and remote, and dealers, provides a real-time inventory of casino chips and players stakes, and provides casino management and regulators visibility of real-time play throughout the casino. The present invention enables casinos to identify and reward loyal players regardless of whether the player is on-site or remote.

[0013] In one preferred embodiment, the intelligent casino management system of the present invention comprises a plurality of smart tables, a plurality of table controllers that interface the smart tables to a local (wireless or wireline) network, and a gaming network manager for data collection. The smart tables comprise a plurality of tables each configured for play of one of a variety of casino games and adapted for both local and remote play of both live or virtual casino games. Typically, each smart table includes the familiar bet board for one of a variety of different casino games and at least one detector for detecting the value of each gaming object on the table. Gaming objects on a smart table may include: (i) the game generation object for generating game result, e.g. playing cards, roulette ball, or dice; (ii) the chips in the dealer's tray, (iii) the chips for each player's bet and accumulated chips maintained by each player. Each gaming object provides a unique value that, upon detection, is communicated to the table controller. One preferred non-contact method of gaming object detection is disclosed in a related U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/782,833 (filed Feb. 14, 2001), and assigned to VT TECH Corp., the assignee of the present invention, the disclosure of which is incorporated herein for all purposes.

[0014] Gaming objects will vary depending on the selected casino game. For example, if the casino game is a casino card game, the gaming objects comprise a deck of cards having 54 unique values. If the casino game requires dice, as in the craps game, the gaming object comprises the dice. Each die has six unique values corresponding to the six sides of die. If the casino game is roulette, the gaming generation object is the steel, ceramic or plastic ball whose position on the roulette wheel will determine one of the 38 (or 37) values. Each gaming object is adapted to generate at least one unique signal that is detected by a detector (e.g. non-contact reader) that relays the signal to the smart table controller.

[0015] The table controller is responsible for transmitting detected values to 1) the network manager over the casino local network, 2) a game result display, 3) a local table monitor display and/or 4) a pit monitor display configured to monitor a group of smart tables. The local table monitor allows the dealer to verify the correct amount of chip collection and payout for each player for each game. The pit monitor enables the pit boss to automatically monitor all gaming activities in the pit, including instantaneous tracking and rating of all players, correct play of the game by the dealers and the instantaneous amounts and the statistics of wins and losses at each table in a pit.

[0016] The present invention detects the value of gaming objects at each table or game server during play of each game. The present invention also tracks the manner and rate of play for each player, tracks the efficiency of each dealer, verifies the correct calculation of payouts, maintains chip inventory, and enables a higher degree of real-time operational management (by way of example, cash management and resource management) throughout the casino. The tracking and management system advantageously enables interactive gaming for an unlimited number of players without degrading the rate of play or increasing errors by casino employees. Advantageously, with the present invention, it is possible to implement the use of casino-based proxies for remote players in the manner described in pending U.S. Provisional Application Serial No. 60/283,807 filed Apr. 13, 2001 now pending U.S. non-provisional application Serial No. 10/121,621 filed Apr. 11, 2002. Further, with the present invention, the casino operator may load balance, that is distribute remote players among the available tables and also to distribute the average amount wagered so that new players are assigned to tables having a low average wager for each of the previous “n” games.

[0017] The system and method of the present invention integrates the management of internal functions relating to operation of a casino encompassing both real-time interactive gaming and traditional gaming business.

[0018] Advantageously, the present invention enables the efficient, reliable and secure management of a casino's operation thereby saving costs and increasing revenue. Further, the present invention allows reduction in overhead and maximizes the utilization of the gaming resources resulting in improved customer service. Further still, the present invention expands potential marketing strategies based on the higher degree of visibility afforded by the information generated by play by local and remote players. The casino management system and method of the present invention is more clearly described in the following detailed description of a preferred embodiment.

DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0019]FIG. 1 shows a block diagram of one embodiment of an exemplary prior art computer-based networked system for practicing the invention.

[0020]FIG. 2 illustrates a top view of a gaming table in accordance with the present invention.

[0021]FIG. 3 illustrates a user console associated with the gaming table of FIG. 2.

[0022]FIG. 4 illustrates one embodiment of a table controller associated with the smart gaming table of FIG. 2 and coupled to a plurality of non-contact readers

[0023]FIG. 5 illustrates a method for monitoring the play of a player of a casino game.

[0024]FIG. 6 illustrates one embodiment of an intelligent casino management network system architecture.

[0025]FIG. 7 illustrates one embodiment of shared memory configuration.

[0026]FIG. 8 illustrates a three-level casino management network system architecture in accordance with the present invention.

[0027]FIGS. 9A and 9B illustrates one embodiment of a database and network map, respectively, associated with the casino network environment for monitoring play of a plurality of casino games by a plurality of players.

[0028]FIG. 10 illustrates an operational flow diagram for play of a casino game in the casino network environment of the present invention.

[0029]FIG. 11 illustrates an operational flow diagram for the table controller.

[0030]FIG. 12 illustrates an operational flow diagram for operation of the pit manager and floor manager.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF A PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

[0031] The present invention relates to a system for enabling remote play of a live action casino game. More particularly, the present invention relates to an improved gaming table that incorporates a plurality of gaming objects in a manner that enables an unlimited number of players to participate in a live action casino game. In the following description of the preferred embodiment, reference is made to the accompanying drawings that form a part hereof, and in which is shown by way of illustration specific embodiments in which the invention may be practiced. It is to be understood that other embodiments may be utilized and that changes may be made without departing from the scope of the present invention.

[0032] Reference will now be made in detail to the preferred embodiments of the invention, examples of which are illustrated in the accompanying drawings. Wherever possible, the same reference numbers will be used throughout in the drawings to refer to the same or like components.

[0033]FIG. 1 illustrates the hardware components of an exemplary computer-based networked system 110 for practicing the invention. In one embodiment, the present invention comprises a plurality of smart gaming tables 112 at a first casino 114. At each table 112, a sequence of plays of a particular casino game is conducted. Each table 112 is connected to a local area network 116. A plurality of gaming machines 118 is also connected to network 116. By selecting one of said plurality of tables 112, a remote player (not shown) positioned at one of the gaming machines 118 can participate in the play of the casino game conducted at the selected table. Other players may play while physically present at the smart table. Such players are referred to herein as local players. Thus, at any smart table, there may be both remote local players playing the game of chance. In some embodiments, the number of players at each smart table 112 may far exceed the number of seats or player positions around the table A network manager 120 is also connected to network 116. Network manager 120 acts as a portal to a public or private network 122, which may be a telephone, satellite or Internet network or any other worldwide communication network. Additional casinos or gaming sites, such as casino 124, may be coupled to network 122 via network manager 126. Casino 124 is essentially a mirror image of casino 114 in that it comprises a plurality of gaming tables 128 and gaming machines 130 each of which are coupled by a local area network 132 to network manager 126. Gaming machines 130 are identical to gaming machines 118 except that they is located at a site remote from casino 114. Similarly, gaming tables 128 are identical to gaming tables 112 except that they too are located at a different site. Additional gaming machines 134 may couple into either casino 114 or 124 directly through the network 122. Gaming machines 134 may be, by way of example, web enabled cell phones, home or portable computers or other such devices. Since such devices are typically mobile and outside the control of a casino, it is preferred that gaming machines 134 include circuitry such as global positioning system (GPS). With GPS, the casino may interrogate gaming machines 134 to determine the location of the gaming machine so that the casinos may limit remote access to the casino to those jurisdictions where such play is legal.

[0034] Referring now to FIG. 2, a top view of a smart gaming table 112 is illustrated The smart gaming table system 112 and gaming objects are described more fully described in a related U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/782,833 (filed Feb. 14, 2001), and assigned to VT TECH Corp., the assignee of the present invention, the disclosure of which is incorporated herein for all purposes.

[0035] Table 112 comprises a flat playing surface covered with felt on which is typically printed a bet board for a particular game. The printed felt could delineate where the cards are dealt and where the bets are positioned. Typically there are a total of six playing positions 202 if the table is used for blackjack or pai gow poker and a dealer position 204. Other card games may have more or fewer playing positions or may omit the dealer's position. Associated with each playing position 202 is a bet slot 206 where a player may place a bet for the next to occur casino game. Also associated is a defined position 208 where the cards are dealt.

[0036] At each playing position 202, a reader 210 is coupled to table 112 closely proximate to at least one of the playing positions 202. In the illustrated embodiment, each playing position 202 is provided with a reader 210 although it has been eliminated from one position in FIG. 2 so as to more clearly illustrate additional features of each position 202. One skilled in the art will appreciate that each table may have any number of playing positions 202 and is not limited to merely the six positions 202 that are illustrated.

[0037] Each reader 210 is configured to have a relatively short range as indicated by the dashed lines 212 surrounding each player position 202. Again, the range indicator has been omitted from two positions to more clearly illustrate the reader and other features at these positions.

[0038] Table 112 also includes a reader 214 positioned proximate to the dealer position 204 and more particularly proximate to the defined position 216 where the dealer's cards are initially positioned. As with readers 210, readers 214 are configured with a relatively short range, as indicated by dashed lines 218 so that there is no overlap in detection field with the other readers. It will be further appreciated that a single reader 214 may be positioned proximate to a card shoe to detect the value of each card as it is dealt. This configuration is particularly useful for card games such as baccarat because readers 210 need not necessarily be accessed.

[0039] Each table 112 includes a reader network 220 that couples a table manager 222 to each of the readers. Specifically, each reader 210 and 214 is coupled to reader network 220 so that information from readers 210 and 214 may be transferred to table manager 222. Table manager 222 is responsible for coupling reader network 220 to a local area network (LAN) 224. Table manager 222 is the local manager responsible for linking and managing access to the network manager 120 (FIG. 1) via LAN 224.

[0040] Table 112 further comprises in one embodiment a chip tray 230 proximate to the dealer's position 204. The chip tray 230 is coupled to reader network 220 such that the total number of chips in the tray may be counted and the value transmitted to a monitoring server coupled to LAN 224.

[0041] Gaming objects will vary depending on the selected casino game. For example, if the casino game is a casino card game, the gaming object is a deck of cards having 54 unique values. If the casino game requires dice as in the craps game, the gaming object comprise the dice, each having six unique values corresponding to the six sides of die. If the casino game is roulette, the gaming generation object is the steel or plastic ball whose position on the roulette wheel will determine one of the 38 (or 37) values. Each gaming object is adapted to generate at least one unique signal that may be detected by readers 210 or 214.

[0042] It is to be understood that the smart table 112 may be useful to a local player (one who is playing on-site) who is not otherwise comfortable with playing a live action card game, roulette or craps. Accordingly, as shown in FIG. 3 and as an aid to such players who are physically present at the gaming table 112, each playing position 202 includes not only a bet slot 206, defined position 208 for the cards and at least one reader having a reading range indicated by dashed lines 302 but also a user console 304. In this manner, even though physically present at the gaming table, the casino may treat the player as a “remote” player with the player's hand and bets determined automatically by the casino. Advantageously, the smart playing position can display instructions to teach players how to play a casino game, increase the rate of play by suggesting possible strategies or implement casino management functions such as the display of casino advertising, discounts to shows or game statistics.

[0043] User console 304 may be a LCD display having a touch sensitive screen for entry of information by the local player. Alternatively user console 304 may be an array of LEDs, a CRT or other display device together with an optional keyboard 306 When cards or other gaming objects are positioned in defined position 208 with a bet positioned in bet slot 206, the results, such as the value of the cards in position 208, may be obtained from table manager 222. Thus, a local player may obtain visual confirmation of the value of their cards and their bet from the user console. The dealer may also receive determinations or instructions from the remote players on user console associated with the dealer's position. The determination, collection and pay-off are automatic for remote players thereby relieving the casino employees from having to manually settle their wagers.

[0044] The present invention provides additional significant benefits for operators of a casino. Specifically, the ability to automatically determine the value of a stack of chips, tokens or playing card enables the automatic counting of all bets played at a gaming table with instantaneous monitoring of the play at the gaming table via the IGS. The present invention also enables the broadcast of a casino game and the outcome for each player and the dealer via the IGS without requiring the dealer to assume additional tasks during play. The present invention contributes to detecting counterfeit cards or chips and minimizes mistakes in calculating the value of the outcome of a casino game or the proper payoff of a wager. Because the gaming object includes a memory area in the embedded semiconductor circuit, it can be reprogrammed and encrypted by the casino to thwart counterfeiters or cheats. Finally, use of the gaming objects enables an automated audit trail for both dealer and players at the gaming table so that game results, historical wins and losses, and as a training system can be readily implemented by the present invention.

[0045] Using user console 304, a player may automatically log into a player's position to begin play of a casino game. Specifically, the player may place a player's identification card over the reader to establish their identity and access their stake or credit line. The player uses keyboard 306 to enter any private codes or passwords to verify their identity. Alternatively, the player places a credit card over the reader to establish a stake. Rather than using physical casino chips or tokens, the player may place bets by moving tokens displayed on user console 304 from a stakes region to a wager region displayed on the user console 304.

[0046] As shown in FIG. 4, table controller 222 comprises a reader driver interface 402 that manages the local reader network 220. Interface 402 is responsible for acquiring the value of each card (or RFID chip) positioned within the detection range of each reader 210 and 214. Once acquired, CPU 404 executes control instructions stored in memory 406 to interpret the information. Memory 406 also serves as a local store for the information acquired by each reader 210 and 214. Memory 406 may comprise a combination of both volatile (RAM) for data storage and non-volatile memory (ROM or Flash, a type of updateable read only memory) for program storage. A LAN driver interface 408 operates under control of CPU 404 and couples table manager 222 to LAN 224. As will be appreciated, since a plurality of tables 112 are coupled by LAN 224 to network manager 120, each controller 222 is responsible for indicating to network manager 120 intermediate results and completion of each casino game. Table controller 222 further comprises a universal power supply 410 dedicated to the operation of network controller and reader network 220.

[0047] Referring now to FIG. 5, a method for monitoring the play of a player is illustrated. Initially, as indicated at step 502, each new player begins play by opening their personal account and establishing a stake. In one preferred embodiment, players use a casino player identification card to quickly identify themselves. Such identification cards are well known in the art and are widely used by casinos to collect information regarding their players. If the player wishes to begin play without using an identification card, the player must either be on-site so that they can buy casino chips or tokens for use at the game server or use an approved credit card. Casino employees may identify themselves by logging onto the system using their employee identification card as indicated at step 504. The table manager is responsible for executing code to establish player accounts for local players.

[0048] Once a local player has established a stake, the table manager conveys this information to the network manager as indicated at step 506. Remote players establish their account directly with the network manager using either a gaming machine 118, 130 or 134. Typically, the accounts for remote players are established using a credit card or a previously established casino account. The network manager uses the information to establish and maintain a separate real-time account for every player regarding his or her play. In an alternative embodiment, network manager and the table controller pass the account information to a protected or secure server. This server maintains the player's and employee accounts in real-time. Since the secure server is not directly accessible from outside the casino internal network, it is more difficult to gain access to the accounting information. For each player, the account includes identifying information, such as the name, address, age of the player, player preferences for food, lodging and entertainment and other information the casino may deem of value for their marketing efforts.

[0049] As indicated at step 508, a log file that lists the game server (or servers) played by the player, the amount of each wager, the amount of the players' stake and the average size of the wager. The network manager, the secure server or other managers in the casino environment, may maintain this log file. Network manager also collects statistical information regarding the location of the player, the won/lost percentage and the duration of play for each player and on a cumulative basis. This information is updated while the player plays at the game server (or servers) by logging the information to the log file. As each player terminates play, the network manager closes the player's account by crediting winnings, deducting losses and saving the log file as indicated at step 510. The statistical information may be updated at this time or at selected intervals throughout the day. When the player subsequently returns, the player's account may be re-opened so that new information may be added to the log file.

[0050] With smart table 112, maintaining the history log associated with each player is greatly facilitated compared to manual entry casinos currently use for rating play by each player at a table game. The log files and the statistical information may be mined for information for calculating casino profit or loss information in real time. If the log file indicates that the anonymous player has won a substantial amount of money, the network manager can initiate an alarm as indicated at step 512. This alarm alerts casino employees that the player should pay the appropriate withholding amount for tax purposes or be monitored for improper playing techniques. At the end of each accounting period, the casino may provide an account statement to each registered player on a monthly, quarterly, semiannual or annual basis as indicated at step 514. The account statement may be useful for the player when calculating their personal income tax return.

[0051] By accessing a selected player's log file detailing the series of plays for the player, a casino pit boss and the marketing staff will be able to determine in real time whether the player is eligible for casino comps. Since the log file contains significant information regarding each player, the casino may sort the information to determine their most loyal players for purpose of providing casino comps. By way of example, casino comps may include discounts on food, entertainment, lodging, travel to the casino and the like. By associating each player's log file with account information, the comps can be tailored to the specific needs or desires of the player. Further, the information may be used to automatically rate the play of each player in terms of wagered amounts, duration of play or individual strategies/habits for each player.

[0052] The accumulated statistical information provides a comprehensive database that is useful in determining game odds and strategy simulations. Further use of the accumulated statistical information may also be useful in training casino employees in a manner where performances of dealers and players can be tracked in real-time.

[0053] In addition to tracking players while they are playing a casino game, the present system also provides information regarding the casino employee or employees conducting the casino game. For example, with smart table 112 and the smart gaming objects, the log file can include a field to associate a casino employee conducting each casino game with each wager. Thus, the casino can readily mine real-time information to verify that the game is being played properly, wagers are settled correctly and that their employee is properly conducting the game. By way of example, smart table 112 tracks the casino chips wagered and the casino chips in the dealer's tray to generate a real-time audit trail. Smart table 112 also tracks the cards to verify that no card has been removed from the table or that no additional cards have been injected surreptitiously into play. Further, each gaming object includes an encrypted security code so that the table controller is able to verify that a gaming object is genuine. Security information is preferably maintained at a computer that is separate from the table controller, such as by way of example, the network manager.

[0054]FIG. 6 illustrates one embodiment of an intelligent casino management network system. The casino management network system is hierarchical in nature so that separate computer systems are responsible for various tasks associated with conducting a game of chance with both local and remote players or with just remote players. This hierarchical structure provides important safeguards that are necessary due to the public's access to casino computer and the risk of hackers or cyber-criminals improperly manipulating accounting information, wager amounts or game results.

[0055] In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 6, network manager 602 provides a public portal through which players are provided access to casino environment 600. More specifically, remote players access network manager 602 over a public or private communication network 604, which may be the Internet, public telephone network, a local area network (LAN) or a wide area network (WAN). Players who are remote from casino environment 600 access network 604 using a telephone, such as a web-enabled cell phone, computer or some other computer-based communication device (not shown).

[0056] Network manager 602 is responsible for maintaining the exchange of information between the remote players and the casino environment 600. Typically, the casino environment will comprise at least one game of chance played at a smart table. Network manager 602 is preferably a computer server system configured to maintain communication threads with a plurality of remote players. Information transferred over network 604 by each remote player is received and interpreted by network manager 602 placing the information in shared memory 606. A casino backend manager 608 and a pit manager 610 access the information stored in shared memory 606. In this manner, information flow from network manager 502 is restricted to transferring information between remote players and shared memory 606. This restriction isolates the casino environment 600 from outside attacks. Network manager 602 does not have any direct communication with either pit manager 610 or casino backend manager 608 to minimize the ability of hackers to infiltrate the casino environment 600.

[0057] When network manager 602 receives information from a remote player, it does not have access to information databases to verify the player's identity or authorization to participate in a game of chance. Accordingly, network manager 602 writes information received from the remote player to shared memory and requests casino backend manager 608 to authorize the player. Preferably, backend manager 608 periodically verifies that each player currently playing is authorized to do so. If a previously unauthorized player is detected, appropriate security measures are instituted. By way of example, the player's authorization is suspended and the player's accounts frozen pending resolution of the security issue.

[0058] If backend manager 608 verifies the remote player, the pit manager 610 is notified of a new remote player. Simultaneously, backend manager 508 posts acceptance of the remote player to shared memory 606. Network manager 502 acknowledges acceptance by reading shared memory 504 and sets up a remote player's account in either shared memory or in other memory associated with network manager 602. During the course of play, backend manager 608 maintains a detailed log of play by each authorized player until that player terminates play. Backend manager 608 may include a set of rules, embodied in a rules engine 614, to determine how to arbitrate play, suspend play or terminate play should there be a disruption of communications or if unauthorized activity is detected. Backend manager 608 is also responsible for notifying network manager 602 and pit manager 610 of the status for each remote player. By way of example, a remote player's status may be either authorized to play, currently playing one or more games of chance, inactive, terminated.

[0059] Backend manager 608 maintains a separate list log file 616 for each remote player together with the status of the player and each wager placed at a game of chance. The advantage of list log file 616 is that it enables revenue sharing between different casino properties. This is particularly advantageous if a player begins play at a first casino but then, by way of the IGS of the present invention, selects a game at a different casino property. To encourage a large number of casino properties to link to the IGS and provide a vast array of available casino games, it is desirable to provide a means for casinos to share revenue. Thus, backend manager 608 may periodically transfer to a second casino account information regarding play of a remote player affiliated with the second casino. Based on this information, the two casinos may share both the profit and the loss associated with this remote player.

[0060] To minimize disruption due to failure of the backend manager 608 or a component thereof, one or more computer systems, represented as backend manager 608A, are provided. Backend manager 608A operates in parallel with backup manager 608 so there is always on-line redundancy. For higher levels of reliability (and to minimize the likelihood of improper manipulation of data in real-time), a third redundant backend manager (not illustrated) enables the collective backend managers to conduct periodic votes as to whether the plurality of list logs is in agreement. If there is a disagreement between the plurality of backend managers: (1) the majority will prevail; (2) the losing system will be flagged as operating in an error state; and (3) system administrators will be notified of the error.

[0061] Pit manager 610 is a computer server system responsible for monitoring shared memory 604 to determine if one or more remote players have timely placed a wager on a next to occur game of chance. Pit manager 610 may only accept wagers from players authorized by backend manager 608 to place such wagers. Thus, when network manager 604 places a bet in shared memory, a flag is set to notify pit manager 601 that a new wager has arrived. Pit manager 610 is responsible for passing the wager to the appropriate table controller (that is, table 6-1, table 6-2 or table 6-3) and resetting the wager flag. During the transfer operation, pit manager 610 verifies that the player is listed on log list 618 and updates list log 618 to reflect the new wager. Also associated with pit manager 610 is a rules engine 620 so that pit manager 610 can respond to a variety of situations regarding the rules of play at each game of chance.

[0062] As with the backend manager 608, redundant pit managers, illustrated as pit manager 610A, are provided. Pit manger 610A is responsible for minimizing disruption due to failure of the pit manager 610 or a component thereof. Pit manager 610A operates in parallel with pit manager 610 so there is always on-line redundancy. For higher levels of reliability and to minimize the likelihood of improper manipulation of data in real-time, a third redundant pit manager (not illustrated) enables the collective backend managers to conduct periodic votes as to whether the plurality of list logs 618 are in agreement. If there is a disagreement between the plurality of pit managers: (1) the majority will prevail; (2) the losing system will be flagged as operating in an error state; and (3) system administrators will be notified of the error.

[0063] Table controller 612 is responsible for monitoring each play of the game of chance at a table, illustrated as table 6-1. Other table controllers 612A and 612B, associated with tables 6-2 and 6-3, respectively, are also coupled to pit manager 610, with each having a selected game of chance being played on the respective table. It will be appreciated that there may be a mix of both local and remote players playing at any given table as well as a plurality of proxy players. Accordingly, table controller 612 recognizes if a player is local or remote and, if remote, whether playing by way of a proxy. The concept of proxy players is described in U.S. Patent Application Serial No. 60/283,807, filed Apr. 13, 2001 and assigned to the assignee of the present invention, the disclosure of which is incorporated herein for all purposes.

[0064] Once the play of the game is complete, table controller 612 passes the result for each remote player to pit manager 610 together with an accounting for each wager made by each remote player. If an intermediate result is required, table controller passes intermediate results to pit manager 610 and waits for a selected period of time for instructions from the remote player. To track the plurality of wagers, table controller 612 maintains a list log for each player, whether local or remote, and their respective wagers. Pit manager 610 transfers final or intermediate results for each play of a game of chance received from each table controller 612 to shared memory 604 and notifies network manager 602 that action is required.

[0065] One embodiment of shared memory 604 is shown in FIG. 7. Specifically, shared memory 604 comprises a list of players 702, a list of their current status 704, a list of wagers associated with each player 706 and a list of pending action or actions 708. These lists may be maintained either as a flat file or in a plurality of linked hierarchical files.

[0066] One or more flags may be associated with each player and maintained in a flag list 710. Flag list 710 is maintained to indicate which manager is responsible for acting on the information in shared memory 604. By way of example, a ‘snap-shot’ in time of representative real-time information is illustrated. Specifically, the flag value “n” associated with the first pending wager for “player-52” indicates that the network manager 602 has a pending result from table 6-1 that needs to be transmitted to the identified remote player. Once this result is forwarded to the remote player, the pit will transfer wagering information to shared memory 604 and set the flag to notify network manager 602 that new information has arrived. While network manager 602 services this transaction, other managers process information from shared memory. By way of further illustration, other information in shared memory indicates that pit manager 610 currently has a player response waiting to be transferred to table controller 612B for table 6-2. Further, a wager in the amount of $8 placed by “player-52” is ready to be placed at table 6-3. Pit manager 610 also monitors shared memory waiting for a response from “player-645” and since the flag is still set to an “n”, it indicates that the network manager has not yet received the response from the player. Similarly, a player request has gone out to “player-10679” who has not responded in a reasonable period of time. Thus, the network manager has requested backend manager 608 to intervene and resolve the request in accordance with the rules set associated with backend manager 608.

[0067] Shared memory 606 also indicates that “player-75” is inactive and “player-129” is in the process of terminating play. The backend processor is responsible for updating the status of these players (either removing them from the list log or permitting them to remain on the list log). Specifically, when backend processor finishes the termination process for “player-129” the list in shared memory 604 will be updated to remove reference to this player. Concurrently therewith list log 614 for this player will be updated by moving the information in the log to long-term storage, which by way of example may be a disk drive or a storage area network (SAN) (not shown). Long-term storage permits the sequence of plays to be retained for analysis or for resolving disputes raised at a later period of time. Concurrent with the termination process for the player, backend manager 608 notifies pit manager 610 that player-129 is no longer approved for play. Accordingly, pit manager 610 moves the information associated with player-129 to long-term storage, which again may be a disk drive or a storage area network (SAN) (not shown).

[0068] Depending on the rules set, backend manager 608 may also initiate the termination process for “player-75” or, if the player places another wager prior to completion of the termination process, the backend processor 608 will permit pit manager 610 to accept the wager.

[0069] Referring now to FIG. 8, another preferred embodiment of a casino network environment in accordance with the present invention is illustrated. In this embodiment, a three-level network architecture utilizes a scaled approach to achieve a casino network environment that can process communication with a large number of remote players while maintaining the security to ensure proper results are achieved for both the players and the casino. This embodiment includes network manager 602 as the portal through which remote players access the casino environment over network 604. However, instead of reporting communications to a shared memory as illustrated in FIG. 6, network manager 602 acts an intermediary reporting each communication out to the first level network 802 in the present embodiment.

[0070] As illustrated, network manager includes a secure socket layer 804 to provide players a secure environment to transfer account and wager information over network 604. The use of secure socket layer 804 is common in the art of network communications and will not be further discussed herein. Network manager 602 may include data storage space for retaining a record of the communication traffic with each remote player in a list log file (not shown).

[0071] Although not illustrated, network manager 602 may comprise a plurality of computer server systems configured to balance the number of players on each system. Further, network manager may include a plurality of redundant computer servers configured to operate in tandem so as to provide a high degree of fault tolerance and reliability.

[0072] On the casino environment side, network manager 602 communicates over network 802 through a secure socket layer and firewall 806 to maximize secure communications with backend manager 608, floor managers 808 and video manager 810. In the preferred embodiment, backend manager 608, floor managers 808 and video manager 810 are each provided with a firewall and means for establishing a secure socket layer 812. Floor managers 808 and video managers need not be physically present in a single casino. Rather, each floor manager 808 may consist of a plurality of games of chance at a particular casino with a plurality of casinos coupled together by the networks.

[0073] When network manager 602 receives communication from a remote user, the information is transmitted to the backend manager 608 and floor managers 808. Backend manager 608 generates a log file maintained on a storage area network (SAN) 814 of every message sent by network manager 608 to one or both of the floor managers 808. Further, backend manager 608 also maintains a copy of every message sent by floor managers 808 to network manager 608. As in the embodiment of FIG. 6, backend manager 608 maintains a set of rules, stored on SAN 814 so that when either network manager or floor managers 808 detect a problem, backend manager 608 may resolve the problem in real-time in accordance with the rules.

[0074] Video manager 810 is a computer server system dedicated to managing the stream of video data captured by a plurality of video cameras (not shown) distributed throughout the casino environment. Typically, video data is saved to a tape backup system 816 associated with video manager 810. It will be appreciated that the video data will include the ambient noise of the casino environment although some video data may be associated with a specific microphone (not shown) positioned to capture audio associated with a specific dealer or casino employee. Video manager 810 also transmits video data to floor managers where segments of video data are selectively stored on SANs 818 and 820 and matched with wagers placed by each remote player.

[0075] Floor managers are responsible for conveying communications from network manager 602 to a selected game of chance associated with one of a plurality of pit managers 624A-624F. When a result is available from the selected game of chance, the respective pit manager transfers the result to the respective floor manager where it is associated with one or a plurality of the video data provided by video manager 810. The result and the video data are provided to network manager 602 for transmission to the remote players. In some embodiments, where communications bandwidth limits the ability to transmit video data in real time without buffering, the results may be transferred without the video data. The video data may be transmitted at the maximum rate together with a displayable warning that the video is not real-time and that the remote player should not depend on the video data to determine the rate of play at a selected game of chance. In one preferred embodiment, the video warning is a video overlay displayed in combination with the video data at the remote player's video display.

[0076] Although not shown in FIG. 8, it is to be understood that each pit manager communicates with a plurality of table controllers. The actual number of table controllers reporting to a particular pit manager depends on many engineering factors and will vary from casino to casino. By way of illustration, the number of tables that a pit manager can interface with depends on (but is not limited to) the number of players at each table, the rate of play, the number of unique wagers that must be processed for each play, the communication bandwidth, the response rate of remote players and the processing capability of the table controller and the pit manager.

[0077] Rules engines 826 comprise an executable module of computer code executed by floor manager 808 in response to specific operational circumstances. For example, when play at a table requires a response from a remote player that has not arrived at network manager 602 within a predetermined time period, floor manager 808 invokes the rules engine 826. Rules engine 826 accepts status input from the pit manager associated with the table, communication status from the network manager and the average response time for the remote player on a historical basis. Rules engine 826 determines how to proceed, using the available status information. For example, in some circumstances, the wager may be withdrawn and the remote player is flagged as being inactive. In other circumstances, the rules engine may complete play for the remote player using a set of “house rules” that dictate the response in the player's absence. Each player may be associated with a personalized set of rules based on their individual preference. By way of example, if the remote player is non-responsive in a game of black jack, the rules engine may be invoked to determine whether to accept an additional card, double down, or stand with the current cards. The decision may be based on the player's cards and the dealer's up card. The rules engine may select a manner of completing play that is dependant on many factors, such as the size of the remote player's stake, the size of the current wager, the recent result history or other individualized criteria.

[0078] One significant advantage of enabling the rules engine is that a remote player may remotely place wagers on more than one game of chance without having to remain accessible for providing intermediate instructions. Another significant advantage arises from the ability of a remote player to quickly transfer instructions to a selected floor manager to place wagers for a sequence of plays at one or more games of chance and then log off prior to the start of the individual games. At a subsequent time, the remote player may return and request the floor manager to display the results, including a video replay of one or more selected games.

[0079] The embodiment FIG. 8 may further include a casino network control manager 828. Network control center 828 is responsible for system administration functions associated with the networks 802 and 822 within the casino environment. Specifically, each active table controller must register with its assigned pit manager prior to operation. Each pit manager then informs network control center 828, network manager 602, backend manger 608 and the respective floor manager. Network control center provides the capability to instruct network manager to assign new players to a specific table or tables so as to spread the number of players over a larger number of tables. Further network manger continuously monitors network and system load factors to minimize loading on a particular floor manager or pit manager. Load balancing enables the casino to spread the risk associated with having a disproportionate number of players at a single table. Network control center may also monitor the total value of the wagers (or average wager value) to determine if the players at a particular table are betting at a rate that approaches the casino's upper limit. Again, if the wagered amount is too high at one table, network control center may instruct network manager and the floor managers to restrict entry of new players to that particular table.

[0080] Refer now to FIG. 9A where one embodiment of a database 900 associated with the casino environment of the present invention is illustrated. More particularly, the database is preferably maintained with either the backend manager or the network control center depending on the allocation of computer resources for the various tasks. In one embodiment, database 900 is maintained on SAN 814 and shared among network control center 828, floor managers 808 and backend manager 608. In alternative embodiment, database 900 may be distributed among SANs 814, 818 and 820 in a redundant manner so that loss of access to one SAN permits continued operation.

[0081] Database 900 comprises data 902 associated with each player, whether remote or local, data 904 associated with each play of each game of chance at every active table, performance monitoring data 906, statistical data collection and analysis associated with games played over a period of time 908, data made available to national, state and internal regulators 910 and video library 912.

[0082] Data 902 includes a Player ID to uniquely identify each player. Personalized data associated with each Player ID includes personal information such as name, address and age. Data 902 includes casino credit information which may include player deposits or may be based on the casino's historical association with the player or on the player's credit information obtained from a third party financial institution by way of a credit card charge or bank draft. With this information, casino may selectively provide a player with a credit line during the course of play. Data 902 also includes a rating factor assigned by the casino to identify its valuable repeat customers.

[0083] For each player, personalization information is collected and retained as a part of data 902 so that the casino will know the player's preferences in terms of promotional interests or in the particular games of chance that he or she likes to play. Personalization information also includes a set of instructions that are invoked by the rules engine to generate gaming results should the player be unable to participate. Personalization information is collected either on-line using a profile form collected from each player or information derived by analyzing the player's play over a period of time.

[0084] Data 902 may also include a historical summary of each visit the player has made to the casino, either in person or by using the IGS such as described herein. Historical information includes data indicative of the player's average rate of play for each game of chance and for each visit.

[0085] Data 902 further includes a stake for each player. This amount will increase or decrease as the player participates in one or more games of chance. When a wager is placed, a portion of the stake must be allocated to cover the wager in the event of a loss. A wager list is maintained to trace each wager place, the game ID and the result. Winning wagers are credited to the stake and losing wagers are deducted therefrom. It will be apparent to one familiar with database management that data 902 will include the above-described information associated with literally millions of individual players.

[0086] Data 904 includes a Game ID to uniquely identify each game played at a particular smart table 112. Data also includes a table ID that relates to a specific table controller. Data 904 further includes the pit ID and the floor manager ID associated with the table ID. This information is useful in managing loading information and for reconstructing wagers placed for each play of a game. Data 904 further includes a casino ID because it is possible that a remote player could enter the casino environment at a first casino and then transfer to a second casino to play at a different table. The casino ID is useful to determine revenue allocation when a remote player at one casino places a bet at another casino.

[0087] Game Status data indicates the current status of the play of the game of chance at the related table controller. Network manager determines if wagers may be placed on the next to occur game of chance using this data in real-time. For example, if the game status is currently “Waiting for Next Game” then wagers may be accepted. If the game status is “Play In Progress” then new wagers will be held for the next to occur game.

[0088] In order to track the efficiency of casino staff associated with each play of the game of chance. Specifically, a dealer ID and a Pit ID are stored as a part of data 904 together with Players IDs for both the physical and remote players. For each player, an available stake and wager amount is also associated with each game ID. The stake amount must be verified prior to each wager being accepted because the player may be playing at more than one game of chance.

[0089] Performance monitor data 906 comprises data useful for managing casino operations. More specifically, data 906 includes casino staff member IDs, an average rate of play rating for the staff members conducting the game of chance, for example, the dealers, bankers, croupier, pit bosses, a summary of how well the casino staff conducts the game and the number of players served at the table. A portion of the performance monitor data 906 includes information that is useful for providing a high level of customer service, such as efficiently approving and providing casino comps, and for marketing new games and services to the players. Finally, performance monitor data 906 also includes real-time accounting information that is useful for determining profit or loss for each table for each game or for a period of time.

[0090] The data retained in database 900 represents comprehensive fine grain statistical data that enables the casino to drill down to obtain complete perspective of casino operations in real-time including the average response time of dealers and players. Alternatively, the collected information enables a broader perspective for refining casino operations based on a complete set of data. The data in database 900 is useful for verifying that both casino staff members and the players properly conduct the games of chance. Network control manager 828 can set alarm points indicative of potential fraudulent conditions and link to corresponding video clips so that casino security can match statistical data with the relevant video images.

[0091] The data retained in database 900 provides governmental regulators and internal casino security staff an improved perspective on the conduct of each game of chance, detection of illegal strategies and identification of suspicious players.

[0092] In FIG. 9B, a network map 912 is illustrated. The network map is useful for load balancing and game monitoring. The map provides an address for each table on the network as illustrated in column “Address Map” 914. For example, there is a table referred to as T1 that is associated with pit manager P2 and floor manager F1. There are three additional tables T2, T3 and T4 that are also associated with pit manager P2. Further, as illustrated in map 912, there are three tables associated with pit manager P1 and floor manager F2. Floor manager F2 may be at a second casino physical remote from the casino where floor manager F1 is located. In addition, a plurality of additional tables, represented as Tn, is illustrated as being associated with pit manager Pm and floor manager Fx.

[0093] In column “Table Status” 916, the status of each table is maintained. As illustrated, table T1P2F1 is an active table, which means that it is currently conducting a casino game such as Blackjack. Other tables, such as T4P2F1, T2P1F2 and TnPmF2, are also active. The network map 912 also denotes that some tables, such as T2P2F1, T3P2F1, T1P1F2 and TnPmFx, are inactive, which means that these tables are not presently available for play.

[0094] With respect to the active tables, the “Player Status” 918 column denotes the players currently playing at a table. By way of illustration, at table T1 P2F1 there are currently five players, p1-ID-L, p2-ID-R, p3-ID-R, p4-ID-R and p5-ID-L where p1 denotes a player, the ID denotes a unique player identification code, and the letter R or L denotes whether the player is a remote or local player. For each player, a wager is denoted in the “Wager” 920 column. Further, each wager is associated with a time stamp as illustrated in the “Tme Stamp” 922 column. The time stamp indicates when each wager was received either at the network manager by the remote players or by the local players.

[0095] In the “Game ID” 924 column, a unique game identification number is associated with the table, pit manager and the floor manager. The game ID is assigned for each play of a game. In the “Game Object ID” 926 column, a list of each gaming object associated with each game and each player is identified. By way of example, if the casino game at table T1P2F1 is blackjack, the gaming object comprises, at a minimum, the two initial cards dealt to each player. This is indicated by the “2-Card-ID” for player p1-ID-L. This means that the player has elected to stay with the initial cards. Other players, such as p2-ID-R, p3-ID-R and p5-ID-L, have all elected to draw additional cards, which are indicated as having four, three and three cards respectively. Each gaming object has a unique encoded identification number.

[0096] At the other active tables, such as table T4P2F1 where Baccarat is being played, the gaming objects are denoted as 2P-Card-ID (i.e., the player cards) and 2B-Card-ID (i.e., the banker cards). As with the blackjack table, each of the cards is encoded with a unique identification number. Referring back to the “Wager” column, the player wagers are denoted as being placed on the Player's cards, the banker cards or on a tie. At table TnPmF2 where Pai Gow Poker is being played, each player is dealt seven cards, each with a unique identification number.

[0097] Associated with each table is a video segment obtained from a video camera. Each camera has a unique identification number as indicated in the “Video Segment ID” 928 column. Although only one camera is illustrated, it will be appreciated that each table may have a plurality of cameras associated therewith.

[0098] Using the information in network map 912, the network control manager 828 can detect when additional tables need to be brought on-line. Based on the loading illustrated in network map 912, it appears that table T1P2F1 is operating at about ⅚th capacity. Accordingly, network control manager will issue an alarm to casino staff to activate an additional blackjack table. Since the other two active tables are lightly loaded, several additional players may begin playing the respective games before a capacity limit is reached. It should be apparent that the present invention provides real-time view of casino operations.

[0099] Refer now to FIG. 10 where, in conjunction with FIGS. 2, 6 and 8, an operational flow diagram for play of a casino game in the casino environment of the present invention is illustrated. When a table is first activated, the table controller registers with its pit manager as indicated at step 1002. As part of the registration process, the table controller and pit manager will verify the operational status of the components of the table and the communication channel. Once the initialization process is complete, the pit manager then broadcasts to network manager, backend manager and network control manager that the new table controller is on-line and available for accepting wagers for the particular game of chance played at the table as indicated at step 1004.

[0100] The table remains quiescent until a player selects the table for play by registering for play as indicated at step 1006. The player may be either remote or physical. If the player is physical, registration may be as simple as placing a bet in the indicated bet slot 206 on the table, in which case the player is playing as an anonymous player. Alternatively, the local player may place a casino identification card over the bet slot 206 to automatically establish their identity. Local players may wish to establish their identity in order to qualify for casino comps based on their rate of play and the aggregate amount wagered. The table controller notifies its pit manager of the local player so that the pit manager may monitor their play. As part of the registration process, pit manager notifies the backend manager and the network manager of the local player. When a remote player selects the table, the network manager passes the registration request to the pit manager, the backend manger and the network controller so that each manager may monitor subsequent play.

[0101] When players are registered, the casino staff member (for example, the dealer or the banker) initiates play of the game of chance, as indicated at step 1008 by requesting players to place a wager. Simultaneously, a game ID is generated by the table controller and communicated to the pit manager. Once a first wager is placed, the pit manager generates a request to remote players and local players with a count down indicator of the time available to place a bet. The remote players view the count down indicator on their respective game machine while local players view the count down indicator on user console 304.

[0102] While the count down indicator is decreasing, pit manager checks with network manager for receipt of wagers from remote players. When the count down indicator reaches zero, the pit manager will not accept late arriving wagers for the current game ID. Instead, the wager will be reserved for the next to occur game at the table. If a wager is timely received, the pit manager transfers the wager to the table controller.

[0103] The table controller is tasked with generating a wager list of all accepted wagers (both physical and remote) as indicated at step 1010. This information is combined with the wager information distributed by pit manager to the other managers (other than network manager).

[0104] The table controller is tasked with detecting game results, either intermediate or final. If the game result is intermediate, the table controller transmits the intermediate result for each remote player to the pit manager. The intermediate result is tagged with a time stamp. This information is then transferred to the remote player via the network manager. The pit manager notifies the backend manager of the pending response due from one or more remote players. The backend manager watches for a response from the remote player by monitoring shared memory 606 or floor manager 808. If no response is timely received, the backend manager authorizes a response, generated by the rules engine, to be sent to the table controller. The rules engine response is tagged to indicate that the remote player did not provide it. When the game result is a final result it is tagged with a time stamp, staff ID, current player IDs and a list of current wagers. This information is transferred to the pit manager and to the other managers on the network as indicated at step 1012.

[0105] As indicated at step 1014, play continues at the table by beginning play of the next to occur game of chance. If new players have been previously registered, they will be authorized to place a wager on this play of the game. When several of the players terminate play and the system load factor is low, the table may be decommissioned, as indicated at step 1016. Decommissioning means that the table is removed from the list of tables available to accept wagers. Network control manager is responsible for initiating the decommissioning process and for verifying with each manager that the table is no longer considered an active table.

[0106] Operation of the table controller is illustrated in FIG. 11. Specifically, after the table controller has registered with its respective pit manager, the casino staff member initiates play by requesting wagers to be placed as indicated at step 1102. If no local player places a wager, play will only start when a remote player places a wager. Once a wager is placed, the table controller will initiate a timer that determines how long to wait before activating the gaming objects. More specifically, activating the gaming object means that the cards are dealt, the dice tossed or the roulette wheel activated. Simultaneous with activating the timer, the table controller generates a status message that is transmitted to all registered players whether local or remote.

[0107] Once the timer times out, pit manager will not accept any additional remote wagers and the table controller will not accept any additional local wagers. As indicated at step 1106, table controller detects the wagers placed by each local and remote player and generates a wager list. The wager list is transmitted to the pit manager. In turn, the pit manager passes the wager list to the floor manager, the backend manager and a partial list of wagers associated with remote players is transmitted to the network manager. The list is distributed to the managers to minimize the likelihood that a remote hacker can infiltrate each manager and modify the respective wager lists.

[0108] As indicated at step 1108, the table controller detects intermediate decision points during play of the game. For example, if the game of chance is black jack each player must make an intermediate decision based on their cards and the cards of the other players. Accordingly, at step 1110, table controller pauses for a decision to be made by the player. For local players, the casino staff member can directly solicit the player's instructions. However, for remote players, it may be difficult to solicit a response due to the remoteness of the player where visual signals may not be exchanged, language difficulties or the like. Further, remote players may not even be present when the request for input is solicited or the communication connection may have been lost. In such instances, table controller starts a countdown timer and notifies pit manager that a request for instructions has been issued. Pit manager passes the request to the network manager and the backend manager. If a response is not timely received, the backend manager invokes the rules engine to determine a response. Of course, if the remote player submits their instructions that are received at the network manager prior to the termination of the response period, the remote player's instructions will be accepted.

[0109] Thereafter, as indicated at step 1112, the table controller continues the play of the game, detects the outcome and provides the information for display to remote players. Finally, the table controller at step 1114 settles the wagers and updates the wager list. This information is distributed to the pit manager and, in turn, to the backend manager, network manager and to the network control manager.

[0110] Operation of the pit manager and floor manager are illustrated in FIG. 12. As indicated at step 1202, pit manager establishes a communication link with the floor manager that in turn maintains a communication link with network manager over the internal casino network. This link is maintained for so long as the pit manager is active, which means that at least one table controller is active. The floor manager monitors the network manager for new remote players or wagers from previously registered remote players as indicated at step 1204. The floor manager then passes new wagers to the selected pit manager. When the pit manager receives a new wager, the time stamps applied by the network manager and the floor manager to verify that it was timely delivered relative to the status of the table controller as indicated at step 1206.

[0111] The pit manager monitors play at each table controller assigned to the pit manager. The pit manager remains in communication with floor manager so that when floor manager detects activity directed to a specific table, the appropriate pit manager will be promptly notified. This activity is illustrated at step 1208.

[0112] In step 1210, the floor manger monitors wagering patterns for each player or for groups of players to identify inappropriate wagers. The floor manager also generates statistical data based on the information gathered from the plurality of pit managers.

[0113] As indicated at step 1212, the pit manager transmits game outcomes to the floor manager, the backend manager and the network manager. This information is then transmitted to remote users. Finally, as indicated at step 1214, game statistics are transferred to long-term storage and linked to the video stream obtained from the plurality of cameras located throughout the casino.

[0114] It should be apparent to one skilled in the art of casino operations that the present invention is readily adaptable to use within a casino environment that may include adjoining restaurants, lounges, hotel rooms or special gaming arenas. Further the present invention implements an interactive gaming system that is secure, redundant and distributed in a manner that permits load balancing among a plurality of tables. Due to the distributed nature of the casino network environment, a wide variety of casino games (such as slots, roulette, craps, card games etc.) may be adapted for play by both local and remote players without degrading the playing experience for either.

[0115] In summary, the above-described aspects of the present invention enable the casino to operate at a level that provides a higher degree of service to the player regardless of where located. The present invention also enables the casino to manage operations more efficiently and to identify games, players or staff employees that are acting in an improper manner and to generate substantive evidence to support subsequent investigations. These and other advantages are described below and in the claims. Specifically, the present invention describes a method for conducting interactive gaming where a plurality of local and remote players may participate in selected casino games conducted by a casino staff member. The method comprises the steps of: 1) Detecting the value of all gaming objects associated with each selected game; 2) Identifying players participating in each casino game; 3) Monitoring the performance of said casino staff member; 4) Transmitting the final results of each of said casino games to each participating player; and 5) Maintaining a historical database for each play of said casino game, said historical database having a time stamp, the value of all gaming objects, associating at least one gaming object with each of said participating players, associating said wager by each of said participating players and a video/audio stream displaying the play of said casino game.

[0116] The present invention further includes a method for determining when at least one of said participating player qualifies for a casino comps.

[0117] The present invention further includes a determining a profile for each player and for updating said profile for each player in real-time.

[0118] The present invention further includes a periodically or on-demand determining whether said player owes income taxes based on said historical wagers.

[0119] The present invention further includes a method for conducting an interactive casino game having a plurality of local and remote players, said method comprising the steps of establishing a communication link between a smart table, a pit manager and a network manager; Initiating play of a casino game; Transmitting a request for wagers to each remote player; Initiating a wager period that may or may not depend on detection of a first wager; Determining the end of said wager period; Detecting the value of said gaming object associated with each player; Determining the result of said play; Communicating the result of said play to each remote player; and Retaining a historical list of each player's wager, the gaming objects associated with each player and the result of said play.

[0120] The present invention further includes a method for transmitting a request for an intermediate decision from at least one of said remote players; Initiating a response period; Detecting whether a response to said request is received; If said response is timely received, continue play of said game; and If said response is not received, determining the end of said response period and invoking a rules engine for generating a response for said remote player.

[0121] The present invention further includes a method for associating a video and/or audio stream with said play; and Transmitting said video/audio stream with said result to each of said remote players. The present invention further describes a method of transmitting video/audio from at least one remote player to the pit manager or dealer as well as other remote players to support of interactivity and/or player verification.

[0122] The present invention further includes establishing communication means such as an Internet-based network for exchanging text messages and/or video/audio images between each remote player and the dealer.

[0123] The present invention further includes a method for determining a profile for each dealer (or casino staff) and for updating said profile for each dealer (or casino staff) in real-time.

[0124] The present invention further includes a method for periodically or on-demand generating a corporate report and for updating said corporate report in real-time.

[0125] The present invention further includes a method for periodically or on-demand generating a casino gaming network status report and for updating said casino gaming network status report in real-time.

[0126] The present invention further includes a method for generating in real-time appropriate alarms that require immediate attention from the casino staff, on exceptional win, e.g. Jackpot, excessively high wager or total wagers, request for increase in wager limits or credit, or security concern.

[0127] The present invention further includes a method for periodically or on-demand monitoring selected games and collecting game statistics for various games to verify the odds and payout decisions as well as planning for new games and for updating said corporate report in real-time.

[0128] The present invention further includes a method for automatically or manually configuring the casino gaming management system so as to monitor user-selectable subsystems and parameters for data collection, filtering, real-time online and offline analysis and report.

[0129] The present invention further includes a method for providing an environment for the players to chat, socialize and to exchange ideas on gaming, e.g. games strategy, game selection, wagering, and proxy play.

[0130] The present invention further includes a method for providing an environment for the players to chat, socialize and to exchange ideas on gaming, e.g. games strategy, game selection, wagering, and proxy play.

[0131] The present invention further includes a method for collecting game statistics and making the statistics available in real-time to the players to help in determining their gaming decisions, possibly at some charge.

[0132] The present invention further includes a method for allowing each remote player to give tip at each game to be deducted from the player's credit and of determining and displaying said tips to the dealer and maintaining a tip inventory to enable management to determine a tip amount to pay to each dealer from the pool, and to monitor which dealer earns the most tips from the players.

[0133] The present invention further includes a method for enabling proxy play in which a remote player can select a physical player or another previously registered remote player to represent his/her betting decision and for allowing the network manager or backend manager (or other server) to regulate the proxy play so as to limit the total amount of wager and to perform load balancing in terms of the number of players and the amount wagered on each play of a game of chance. (Note that in the case fixed non-interactivity as in PaiGow Poker, where there may be multiple options of arranging the two hands, remote players associated with a proxy should be allowed to select his/her own option. For interactive game such as Blackjack where different classes of remote players can be established depending on their different choices of decisions; in order to avoid remote players affecting the card outcomes, we can provide an option to allow remote players to draw random virtual cards.)

[0134] The present invention further includes a method for periodically or on-demand determining the inventory of chips at each game table and verifying against the expected figures calculated from total payout in the interval, in real-time without interrupting ongoing games.

[0135] While certain exemplary preferred embodiments have been described and shown in the accompanying drawings, it is to be understood that such embodiments are merely illustrative of and not restrictive on the broad invention. Further, it is to be understood that this invention shall not be limited to the specific construction and arrangements shown and described since various modifications or changes may occur to those of ordinary skill in the art without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention as claimed.

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Classifications
U.S. Classification463/42
International ClassificationG07F17/32
Cooperative ClassificationG07F17/3255, G07F17/3239, G07F17/3234, G07F17/32
European ClassificationG07F17/32, G07F17/32K10, G07F17/32E6D2, G07F17/32E6B