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Publication numberUS20050082750 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 10/948,962
Publication dateApr 21, 2005
Filing dateSep 24, 2004
Priority dateSep 28, 2001
Also published asWO2006036460A2, WO2006036460A3, WO2006036460B1
Publication number10948962, 948962, US 2005/0082750 A1, US 2005/082750 A1, US 20050082750 A1, US 20050082750A1, US 2005082750 A1, US 2005082750A1, US-A1-20050082750, US-A1-2005082750, US2005/0082750A1, US2005/082750A1, US20050082750 A1, US20050082750A1, US2005082750 A1, US2005082750A1
InventorsAttila Grauzer, Oliver Schubert, James Kelly
Original AssigneeShuffle Master, Inc.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Round of play counting in playing card shuffling system
US 20050082750 A1
Abstract
A casino table card gaming system comprises: at least one gaming table; and at least one playing card shuffler on or proximate to the gaming table. The shuffler provides a status signal associated with a specific stage of use of the shuffler in a casino table card game. The status signal is forwarded to a database that uses the signal as a basis for registering that a round of play of a casino table card game using playing cards from that shuffler is to be counted in a record of game usage for at least one of that shuffler or that casino table.
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Claims(28)
1. A casino table card gaming system comprising:
at least one gaming table;
at least one playing card shuffler on or proximate to the gaming table, the shuffler providing a status signal associated with a specific stage of use of the shuffler in a casino table card game, and
forwarding the status signal to a database that uses the signal as a basis for registering that a round of play of a casino table card game using playing cards from that shuffler is to be counted in a record of game usage for at least one of that shuffler or that casino table.
2. The system of claim 1 wherein an intelligent data collection module senses the status signal from the shuffler as data, the intelligent module acting as a finite state machine capable of date stamping the data and transmitting the date stamped data to a database over a network.
3. The system of claim 1 wherein the status signal is selected from among commands given within the shuffler to denote shuffling activity.
4. The system of claim 1 wherein the nature of the commands relates to events occurring in the shuffler selected from the group consisting of: start of card feeding, start deal, start shuffle, end shuffle, end dealing, shuffling complete, platform full, platform empty, compartment full, compartment empty, shuffler unloaded, dealer activated signal, and shuffler loaded.
5. The system of claim 1 wherein the signal is transmitted by a wireless network.
6. The system of claim 1 wherein the status signal is an internal shuffler command relating to starting or completing dealing of a round of play in a card game.
7. The system of claim 2 wherein the nature of the commands relates to events occurring in the shuffler selected from the group consisting of start deal, start shuffle, end shuffle, end deal, shuffling complete, platform full, platform empty, compartment full, compartment empty, shuffler unloaded, dealer activated signal, and shuffler loaded.
8. The system of claim 2 wherein the intelligent data collection module comprises a chipboard.
9. The system of claim 2 wherein the data collection module does not store signals or data contained in the signals after date stamping and forwarding the signals.
10. The system of claim 2 wherein the intelligent data collection module does not store signals.
11. The system of claim 7 wherein the intelligent data collection module does not store signals.
12. The system of claim 1 wherein date stamped signals are received by a central database that organizes data relating to at least one of the group consisting of: counting of rounds, counting of hands, rate of rounds and rate of hands for at least one of a table and a dealer.
13. The system of claim 2 wherein date stamped signals are received by a central database that organizes data relating to counting of rounds, hands and a rate of rounds and hands for at least one of a table and a dealer.
14. The system of claim 1 wherein the collected data is transmitted via an Ethernet.
15. The system of claim 1 wherein the network communication method is selected from the group comprising UDP and TCP.
16. The system of claim 7 The system of claim 1 wherein date stamped signals are received by a central database that organizes data relating to counting of rounds and a rate of rounds for at least one of a table and a dealer.
17. A method of collecting data on a casino gaming table, comprising the steps of:
providing at least one shuffler that provides a status signal relating to a state that can be related to a specific round of play in a casino table card game;
providing at least one intelligent controller dedicated to collecting information from one or more shufflers;
the intelligent controller receiving a status signal from the at least one shuffler;
the intelligent controller date stamping and/or time stamping data collected from the at least one shuffler;
the intelligent controller broadcasting the date and/or time stamped data over a network; and
recording the broadcasted information in a database.
18. The method of claim 17 wherein the database receives date stamped signals over a period of time and the data is used by an external processor to compute a number of rounds played over a period of time, the time being based upon use of the date stamping received.
19. The method of claim 17 wherein the original signal from the shuffler contains no indication of date or time thereon.
20. A hardware component on a casino card table that senses signals from a playing card shuffler that indicates a state of activity in a shuffling process, wherein the hardware component adds time and or date stamps information to the signals, and forwards the time stamped signal to a database, via a network.
21. The component of claim 20 wherein the component is constructed so that it cannot store time stamped signals after forwarding the time stamped signals.
22. A method of controlling a live casino table card game; comprising:
sensing wagers by players at least two player locations and communicating the sensing to a table game control computer in real time and communicating the sensing to a central control computer in real time;
controlling an automatic card shuffling device with a microprocessor in the card shuffling device and communicating information relating to card shuffling to the game table controller computer in real time and to the central control computer in real time;
electronically measuring betting information and transmitting information to the central game controller computer in real time, said electronic measuring including use of data transmitted to the central game controller computer from the table game controller computer and the shuffler;
wherein information transmitted from the shuffler includes at least one datum relating to completion of a shuffling event that occurs only once during a complete shuffling and card removal sequence.
23. The method of claim 22 wherein an intelligent data collection module senses the information from the shuffler as data, the intelligent module acts as a finite state machine by date stamping the data and transmitting the date stamped data to a database over a network.
24. The method of claim 22 wherein the shuffler has a data port and a programmable controller, and wherein data is fed from the card shuffler via the data port to a programmable controller in the shuffler, and/or data collected by the programmable controller in the shuffler is fed outside the card shuffler via the data port.
25. The method of claim 22 wherein information is provided from both the shuffler and the table game controller computer to the central game computer and the central game computer identifies or records at least one event selected from the group consisting of
Hands dealt per unit time, and
Rounds of play/unit time.
26. An automatic card shuffler, comprising:
A programmable controller;
A card randomizing mechanism; and
A data port;
wherein data relating to a specific single occurrence event that occurs only once within a single complete randomization or playing card hand delivery received by the controller is fed outside the card shuffler via the data port to at least one of a microprocessor, a central game computer, a table game computer and a G-Mod.
27. The shuffler of claim 26 wherein data received by the programmable controller is fed into a programmable table game controller.
28. A security system for a casino table card game comprising:
a) a casino table with i) indicia thereon for the placement of wagers, ii) a data entry system with an associated computer, and iii) sensors that can detect the placement of at least one specific category of wager;
b) a shuffling device with a microprocessor integral to the shuffler for providing information regarding a specific single occurrence event that occurs only once within a single complete randomization or playing card hand delivery;
c) a central table gaming computer that receives information from the shuffler, receives information from the sensors, and receives information from the data entry system;
the associated computer, the microprocessor and the central table gaming computer communicating data among each other.
Description
RELATED APPLICATION DATA

This application is a continuation-in-part of both U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/967,500 filed Sep. 28, 2001 and U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/880,408, filed Jun. 28, 2004.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to the field of casino gaming, casino table gaming, casino table card gaming, and the tracking and monitoring at least one parameter of that gaming environment based upon shuffling events.

BACKGROUND OF THE ART

To encourage higher gross levels of wagering by players, casinos often extend complimentary goods and services to players in exchange for more active wagering. This is conventionally known as “comping” and the casino operators award players “comps.” Comps can be any redeemable forms of currency and/or currency equivalent typically issued (for promotional purposes) by casinos to their players in exchange for active, table game patronage. Such comps include points, club points, premium points, player club points, coupons (e.g., free meals, free rooms, free shows, free gifts, etc.), comp dollars and/or any other form of redeemable coupon, voucher, cash rebate, goods, service or gift. An essential component in the comping system for players or the rating system for players or dealers is information regarding game play. There is a vast variety of information that can be used in the necessary analyses performed to generate the ratings, including but not limited to play rate, number of hands/player, wagering rate, average or session play time, wagering structure, time/hand played, and the like. It is necessary that this information is accurate, and to assure this, it may be desirable or even necessary for there to be redundant sources of the same information. Certain casinos offer players slot club cards. Players can insert the club card into a conventional slot machine and as the player plays the slot machine, tickets (or other comp credits) may be issued based upon the gross wagers made during the time the player plays the slot machine (e.g., one ticket whenever the accumulative wager equals $100). This is an example of one stand-alone comp awarding approach wherein the comp determination and the delivery of tickets are made at the slot machine.

A player entitled to comps or attempting to earn comps identifies himself/herself upon initiation of a gambling session (i.e., the period during which the player participates actively in a form of gambling). Typically a player i.d. card is inserted into a slot to identify the player. The casino then determines the player's “gross session wager” (i.e., the total currency value put at stake by the player over the course of the gambling session). The casino multiplies the gross session wager by the house advantage (i.e., the percentage of total amount wagered that the casino can expect to win in accordance with the inherent statistical probability of a given game type), thus producing a theoretical expected win (i.e., the product of gross session wager multiplied by house advantage and usually expressed in units of currency). The casino then expresses the theoretical expected win as a currency value and multiplies the theoretical expected win by an internal percentage known as the comp factor (i.e., the percentage of theoretical expected win which the casino is willing to return to players in the form of complimentary goods and/or services—a typical range is fifteen to forty-five percent of theoretical expected win), thus producing available comp (i.e., the product of theoretical expected win multiplied by the comp factor which may be expressed as units of currency or point equivalents). The player then requests goods and/or services in exchange for his or her play at the gaming sessions. The casino determines the value of the goods and/or services requested and the player's available comp and provided that the available comp is sufficient, the good and/or service is delivered. The available comp is adjusted to reflect the value of the good and/or service delivered.

In conventional automated game machines such as slot machines, an accurate determination of available comp conventionally occurs. The player inserts the club card into a card-reading device at the gaming machine. The card reader communicates with a remote game machine management system (computer) and updates the specific player file in a system database. The player conducts the gaming session at the gaming machine and, during the gaming session, the processor updates the player file with the currency value of each game. The currency values accrue within individual player files, resulting in either periodic or real-time, positive adjustments to the gross wager balance for the player. When a player requests goods and/or service, the values of gross wager and house advantage (fixed percentage in slot machines) are inserted into the theoretical expected win equation. The comp factor (configurable by the casino) is then applied to the theoretical expected win, thus resulting in available comp for the player. The system determines the value of the goods and/or service requested, as well as player's available comp. Provided that the available comp is sufficient, the good and/or service is delivered to the player and the available comp balance is decremented to reflect the value of the good and/or service delivered. Typical slot management and casino management systems that operate in the manner described above are conventionally provided in the gaming industry.

When attempting to determine available comp for live card table game players, however, casinos are dependent upon human assessments of both gross wager and house advantage. As a result, casinos approximate these variables. The player notifies casino personnel of his/her presence at the game table and presents a club card. A casino employee takes the club card and inputs it at a remote terminal, thereby updating the specific player file in the table system database. The player conducts the gaming session. A casino employee, usually a pit person, surveys the player's wagering activity periodically, making handwritten assessments of average wager on paper slips or cards. The player concludes the gaming session and leaves. Once a casino employee notices that a player has departed, the handwritten assessments of average wager are summed and divided by the number of manual assessments (e.g., $75+$50+$25/3 games=$50 per game). The casino employee updates the player file with average wager information by inputting it into the system and closes the pending gaming session for the player. The resident system establishes a gross wager by multiplying the observed average wager by session duration and a decisions/hour constant. To establish a surrogate measure of a player's gross wager, casinos multiply estimated average wager by both the number of hours played and a decisions per hour constant. This constant represents the casino's best guess as to the average number of decisions made by the average player over the course of an hour. Expressed mathematically, therefore, this process appears as follows: Gross Wager ($)=Average Wager ($) X Time X Decisions Constant. These wagering values accrue within individual player files, resulting in either periodic or real-time, positive adjustments to the gross wager balance. When determining a theoretical expected win, most represent house advantage with either a “worst case” or a “middle-of-the-road” percentage. In Blackjack, for example, the house advantage against a player of exceptional skill (worst case) is approximately 0.5% whereas the house advantage over a player of poor skill may be as high as 3.0%. Although some table systems do provide for the manipulation of house advantage on an individual basis, this manipulation seldom occurs and house advantage becomes a constant in practice. The predefined comp factor is then applied to the theoretical expected win, thus resulting in available comp for the player. The resident system then determines the value of the good and/or service requested, as well as the player's available comp. Provided that the available comp is sufficient, the goods and/or services are delivered and the available comp balance is adjusted to reflect the value of the good and/or service delivered.

A need exists to fully automate the player rating process at a live card gaming table in a casino to accurately rate the player automatically and to reduce labor costs. Without question, player ratings based only on human observations are inaccurate. Supervisors can easily over-assess or under-assess a particular player's rating. Furthermore, the labor costs for the supervisors are expensive.

Systems are conventionally available to assist operators in player rating determinations. However, these systems are still dependent upon subjective assessments of time played, average wager, and house advantage. A need exists to eliminate the subjectivity in these assessments. The more factual data that can be input, the more objectivity is found in the final results.

Some systems provide automated equipment for tracking a player's betting activity. Examples of manufacturers who offer such automated equipment include Precision Resource Corporation product trademarked PITRAK (U.S. Pat. No. 5,613,912) and Grips Systems Inc. product trademarked GOLDEN EYE (WO 97/10577). These systems provide rail-based card reading units in order to allocate accurately the length of time the player is at the gaming table. However, these systems are still dependent upon the subjective assessment of average wager and house advantage. A need exists to completely automate this feature.

Traditionally, the master gaming controller has performed all game functions including the calculation of the game outcome, coin handling, communications with external devices, lighting control, operation of the slot reels, etc. for the slot machine. As the slot machine has evolved, the features offered to players have become more complex and the potential combinations of gaming devices available to a gaming machine have increased. For example, video animations, combined with digital audio have been added to the basic game play of the spinning reel slot machine. To execute these complex game features and perform all of the game functions, a microprocessor with significant computational capabilities is required. Further, to accommodate all of the gaming devices within the gaming machine, the motherboard containing the microprocessor must have the necessary circuitry and wiring needed to communicate with the all of the devices operated by the master gaming controller.

In the past, instead of designing one motherboard that could accommodate communications with all of the potential gaming devices, a number of different motherboards were designed, each accommodating communications with some subset of the available gaming devices.

Typically, on a live gaming table, a central gaming machine computer controls various combinations of devices. The features of a given device, including card reading, game status detection and the like are usually controlled by a “master gaming controller” in communication with the casino table gaming table monitoring equipment. For example to control payouts during a game, the master gaming controller might perform many different operations including electronically comparing player hands with a pre-programmed pay table of winning combinations and payouts, confirming that a side wager was made prior to paying out a side bet payout to a player, instructing a stepper motor on a card delivery system to access cards within the device, deliver cards to the dealer and then stop card movement/delivery at a certain position, verify that the correct number of cards are present in the shuffler, instructing lights on the table reel to go on and off in various patterns, or instructing a speaker connected to the table to emit various sound patterns, for example. For the master gaming controller to perform these operations, connections from the casino table are wired directly into some type of electronic board (e.g., a “back plane” or “mother board”) containing the master gaming controller.

Casino Table Games (such as blackjack, poker, poker variants such as Let It Ride® poker, Three Card™ poker and Four-Card™ poker, baccarat, Casino War™ game, also require some security control, and more highly automated systems are being described in the literature and introduced to the marketplace. There are, for example, numerous U.S. Patents assigned to MindPlay LLC (e.g., U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,712,696; 6,688,979; 6,685,568; 6,663,490; 6,652,379; 6,638,161; 6,595,857; 6,579,181; 6,579,180; 6,533,662; 6,530,837; 6,530,836; 6,527,271; 6,520,857; 6,517,436; 6,517,435; and 6,460,848) that describe systems and components of systems that are used to more fully automate casino table card games, and especially blackjack. These systems include deck readers, optical bet sensing devices (e.g., chip sensors and counters), software to evaluate the games after they are played, and the like. One feature of the MindPlay system is a central processor.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,803,808 (Strisower) describes a device to be utilized in live casino gaming that will count the number of “hands” (described as “rounds”) of a given card game played per given period of time. The information is used by a separate database system within the casino to determine theoretical win/loss based upon historical and theoretical outcome data related to probability of winning/losing any given hand and then factoring in the number of hands (rounds) played. Preferably this device is polled by a database system to collect this information. In a preferred embodiment, the device could be utilized with an automatic tracking and information management system. The automatic tracking and information management system (ATMS) automatically determines various player transactions associated with a device in a gaming establishment. The ATMS includes an automatic tracking and management unit (ATMU) which transmits and receives information between all gaming tables in all pit areas and the gaming establishment database system.

The ATMU provides for the interactive determination of various transactions within the pit area. Through the automatic tracking and management system the manual paper tracking, activities associated with the pit area are eliminated, thereby freeing pit personnel for other tasks. The device could also be generically connected to any tracking and information system through any standard serial interface.

Various other U.S. Patents that include automation enhancing technology for casino table card games include U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,582,301; 6,299,536; 6,165,069; 6,117,012; 6,093,103; 6,039,650; 5,722,893; 5,605,334. As can be seen from these disclosures, the computing structural and component structures of gaming systems follows the traditional format of a main processor driving peripherals, and where one feature demands a significant amount of computing power, two processors may be added, with one processor still tending to be the dominant main processor sending commands to the peripherals. In proposed table systems, peripheral devices (such as a hand sensor or round counter or bet sensor provides the signal and sends the signal to the gaming table processor and/or to a main processor. These signals are sometimes logged in with a time stamp for noting when it was received and/or logged in. The systems in other gaming table operations tend to be structured in the same manner, with systems described as comprising a main computer, central computer or the like, and various peripherals such as card readers, chip readers, cameras, lighting elements, shufflers, bet sensors, movement sensors, motion sensors, jackpot incrementers/decrementers, game status indicators (e.g., jackpot registers, blackjack indicators, symbol indicators and the like) and any other elements of the table game. Examples of such systems include method, apparatus and articles for verifying card games, such as playing card distribution as described in U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,638,161; 6,595,857; 6,5,79,181; 6,579,180; 6,533,275; 6,530,837; 6,530,836; 6,527,271; 6,520,857; 6,517,436; 6,517,535; and 6,460,848 (the Soltys' patents). Other gaming table systems that operate on the basis of a central programmer commanding peripheral devices (that may or may not have some data collection and processing capability of their own) include U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,299,536 and 6,039,650 (Hill); U.S. Pat. No. 5,779,546 (Meissner) which describes touch screens and player entry features at each player position, U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,093,103 and 6,117,012 (McCrea) which describes card sensing systems at each player location as well a card reading shoe; and U.S. Pat. No. 6,126,166 (Lorson) describing a card control and recognition system and method. U.S. Pat. No. 6,629,894 (Purton, Dolphin Advanced Technologies, Ltd.) describes a card inspection device including a first loading area adapted to receive one or more decks of playing cards.

The Dolphin device includes a drive roller located adjacent the loading area and positioned to impinge on a card if a card were present in the loading area. The loading area has an exit through which cards are urged, one at a time, by a feed roller. A transport path extends from the loading area exit to a card accumulation area. The transport path is further defined by two pairs of transport rollers, one roller of each pair above the transport path and one roller of each pair below the transport path. A camera is located between the two pairs of transport rollers, and a processor governs the operation of a digital camera and the rollers. A printer produces a record of the device's operation based on an output of the processor, and a portion of the transport path is illuminated by one or more blue LEDs. A printer is also provided as part of the system driven by a central computer.

Crown Casinos in Australia has recently provided a device that assists in counting rounds of play by using a card-sensing component on a table that responds to the blockage of ambient light into a hole and the forwarding of the sensed data to a central computer. The data is logged in as it is received to indicate a time element associated with each piece of data received.

Disadvantages of the current casino table game architecture include at least the following. First, the number of types of motherboards needed to accommodate all of the potential combinations of gaming devices has become large. Second, the computational capability of the motherboard needed to drive all the devices has become large. Third, when devices are added to augment the features of the gaming table or when devices are replaced for maintenance the steps necessary to rewire the device onto the motherboard and load the appropriate software onto the motherboard can be time consuming and require significant shutdown time for the gaming table. Accordingly, it would be desirable to provide casino gaming table architecture and components that are compatible with a standard communication protocol and/or connection system for installing or removing devices controlled by a local, central or other master gaming controller.

A casino table gaming peripheral (also referred to for purposes of this disclosure as a “module”) that is compatible with a standard communication protocol and/or connection system may reduce the number of types and sophistication (expense) of motherboards that are needed for the casino table gaming machine and may reduce the amount of maintenance time when any electronic component is replaced. Further, it would be desirable to have the casino table gaming peripheral control some of its own functions rather than having all the functions controlled by the master gaming controller. This feature reduces the load on the computational resources of the master gaming controller and reduces competition for system resources.

Central control of gaming devices is the typical control format in the gaming industry. The most important concept is that all existing peripherals are under the control of a main processor sends commands to peripherals to perform specific functions.

The systems in live gaming table systems tend to be structured in the same manner as the slave master-formats of slot machine devices, with systems described as comprising a main computer, central computer or the like, and various peripherals such as card readers, chip readers, cameras, lighting elements, shufflers, bet sensors, movement sensors, motion sensors, jackpot incrementers/decrementers, game status indicators (e.g., jackpot registers, blackjack indicators, symbol indicators and the like) and any other elements of the table game.

As can be seen, even where there is some processing intelligence distributed around a gaming table, the underlying operation of the system remains a central command and response structure, which both requires high component costs and limits the operation of the system. A gaming system with different control structure would be desirable if it could reduce costs and add flexibility to the system and enable ease of component replacement.

The LET IT RIDE BONUS® poker system is one commercial system that provides live table game security. The system includes a general purpose game computer (typically shared by multiple tables), a programmable keypad computer and an intelligent card shuffler. Each computer component, however, has limited communication capacity among each other and the intelligence of the shuffler has been limited. A description of the components and their operation is provided below as an admission of prior art.

Keypad Computer & Controls—When a player achieves a preselected winning bonus hand, the dealer inputs this information into the keypad controller. The keypad allows the dealer to start/end a game. The keypad controller receives signals from the side bet detectors (e.g., sensing that a side bet has been placed) and transmits the information to the central game computer. The keypad controls verify security keys. Physical “keys” are inserted by the dealer into the keypad controller as an extra security measure prior to paying a large payout. Often, the pit boss carries the keys and must physically verify the hand and payout before the key is used. The use of the “key” system allows verification of selected high-ranking bonus hands (i.e., a royal flush). When a winning bonus hand is achieved, the dealer inputs the position number of the winning hand into the keypad. The keypad computer verifies that an original bonus bet (side bet wager) was registered to that position. Chip sensors in the table area associated with the side bet wagers communicate with the keypad only. The keypad controls currently can communicate over fiber optic or copper cables to the game computer. The keypad computer can communicate with other hardware devices (such as a progressive meter, CRS (card revelation system for display of symbols such as a card to be matched or indication of a wild card) system, with a random number generator, a sign or a game computer. During setup, the keypad computer can be programmed for different games, pay tables, etc. During setup, the keypad computer is set to select music (on/off) that may indicate a bonus award. The keypad sends this information to the game computer, and the game computer controls the audio system.

Shuffler—The currently marketed technology permits the shuffler to communicate only with the keypad controller. The shuffler tells the keypad in real time how many cumulative hands have been dealt. Misdeal information is also transmitted from the shuffler to the keypad. The presence of the shuffler is verified by sending a signal to the keypad controller. The keypad controller continually polls for the presence of the shuffler. Once the presence of the shuffler is confirmed, control of some aspects of shuffler operation (such as when to deal cards) is taken over by the keypad controller. The keypad computer tells the shuffler when it is time to deal another round, and tells the shuffler when all bets have been placed and when dealing can proceed.

General Purpose Game Computer—This computer is typically shared by multiple tables. It receives no information from the shuffler. It receives on/off line status of game from the keypad controller. Key code information (to verify a high ranking winning hand) is verified on the central computer. The central computer assembles reports of data, including the number of hands/bets/rounds (or games), game identification (that is, what game is being played on the shuffler), table identification (that is, which table is being used), bonus hands won, win/(unit time), hands/(unit time), and bets/(unit time).

Each of these areas of security and capabilities at casino gaming tables have been independently provided, or provided as grouped features. The failure to appreciate the interrelationship of some of these individual tasks and the failure to integrate them into a single piece of table game equipment has weakened the overall benefit to the casino.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

A casino table card gaming system comprises: at least one gaming table; and at least one playing card shuffler on or proximate to the gaming table. The shuffler provides a status signal associated with a specific stage of use of the shuffler in a casino table card game. The status signal is forwarded either directly or via a microprocessor or G-Mod to a database. The database uses the signal as a basis for registering that a round of play of a casino table card game using playing cards from that shuffler. The signal is the basis for creating a record count of rounds and/or hands of games played for at least one of that shuffler or that casino table. When the data is received by a microprocessor or G-Mod, the data is first date stamped in real-time prior to being sent to the database.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURES

FIG. 1 shows a casino table as might be used in a specific practice within the generic practices described herein.

FIG. 2 shows a flow chart of a system operating according to one species of the generic process and generic apparatus described herein.

FIG. 3 shows a schematic of distributed architecture information flow in casino-type gaming machine.

FIG. 4 shows a flow diagram of distributed architecture information flow in a gaming table environment.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

A casino table card gaming system comprises: at least one gaming table; and at least one playing card shuffler on or proximate to the gaming table. The shuffler (also referred to as a card randomizer or card mixer) can perform its primary shuffling function by a wide variety of different shuffling techniques or formats, which separate formats are not essential to the practice of the described technology. Among the various formats of shuffling are interleaving of separate portions of a single set (e.g., one or more decks) of playing cards, random insertion of cards from a first set of cards into separate vertical compartments (as shown in U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,149,154;6,254,096; 6,588,750; and 6,655,684), random ejection shufflers (e.g., U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,299,167 and 6,019,368), carousel or fan format shufflers (e.g., U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,683,085; and 6,267,248) and the like.

The shuffler of the present invention provides a status signal associated with a specific stage of use of the shuffler in a casino table card game. The status signal is forwarded either directly or via a microprocessor or G-Mod to a database that uses the signal as a basis for registering that a round of play of a casino table card game. A signal representing a start of a shuffling cycle may be counted to create a record of game usage for at least one of that shuffler or that casino table. The status signal may be a signal that exists within the shuffler that is a command (e.g., “start randomization process”), but its transmittal from the microprocessor or G-Mod to a data receiver is effectively only a status or state signal to the external receiver, as it cannot execute the command. Signals transferred from the G-Mod's to the database are typically only data and are not commands. The signal sent by the shuffler should be a unique event in the operation of a cycle of the shuffler, as opposed to a signal relating to events that are performed more than once during the entire cycle of randomizing a first set (e.g., one or more decks, unshuffled, shuffled, new, used, etc.) of playing cards. For example, the shuffler may provide an internal status signal stating (in effect, and not necessarily literally) “all cards to be shuffled have now been inserted.” This is a unique, separate and single event signal that occurs during one complete shuffling of a set of playing cards. An event such as “rotate rollers,” “move one card,” raise elevator,” “unload a compartment,” or the like, would not be easily used as a status signal, as the event occurs multiple times during the randomization cycle of a single set of cards. Non-limiting examples of the types of unique events from which a status signal may be selected would be from among commands given within the shuffler to denote a unique event during shuffling activity. The nature of the event, signal or command may relate to events occurring in the shuffler selected from the group consisting of start card feeder, start deal, start shuffle, end shuffle, platform full, platform empty, compartment full, compartment empty, shuffling complete, end dealing, shuffler unloaded, dealer activated signal, stop dealing hands, all compartments unloaded, card count verified, deck content verified, and shuffler loaded.

The technical disclosure of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/967,500, filed on Sep. 28, 2001, and U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/880,408, filed on Jun. 28, 2004 and U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/880,410, filed on Jun. 28, 2004 are incorporated herein by reference, as are all materials cited in the specification.

Round Counting using Shuffler with Central Control of Gaming Table

The card table game monitoring and security apparatus of the present disclosure may comprise at least one or at least two distinct computers, preferably at least three computers associated with specific elements and communicating in real time. The systems of the present disclosure include a main table game controller, a shuffler with its own intelligence and a keypad with or without its own intelligence, communicating directly with a main table game controller and possibly other table game controllers. The table game controller communicates with a main controller. The main controller is a general purpose computer and collects data from a group of game tables and/or groups of games and their tables in real time. In one form of the invention, the table game controllers share information and are in direct communication, or communication through the central controller. Typically, multiple table games of the same or of a different type are connected to the main controller. The main controller in the practice of this invention receives data from each of the table controllers, including player tracking, betting information, card identification, dealer information, player information, table location, and on a progressive system, the shared progressive amount.

The system and its use may be variously and generally described as a method of providing information, storing information, evaluating performance and contributing to the control of a live casino table card game. The system may comprise a process including at least some of the steps of sensing wagers by players at least two player locations and communicating the sensing to a table game control computer in real time and communicating the sensing to a central control computer in real time; controlling an automatic card shuffling device with a microprocessor in the card shuffling device and communicating information relating to unique events occurring during card shuffling to the game table controller computer in real time and to the central control computer in real time; and electronically measuring betting information and transmitting information to the central game controller computer in real time, said electronic measuring including use of data transmitted to the central game controller computer from the table game controller computer and the shuffler. Again, the term “unique event” should be so considered during a single randomization process for a single set of cards. This process has emphasized the practice of the technology on a batch shuffling system, that is a system that shuffles or randomizes a complete set of a first group of cards, and then that group of randomized cards is used in the play of usually a single round of play of a casino table card game. For example, a single 52-card poker deck is shuffled and the cards dealt for play of Let It Ride® stud poker, Three Card™ stud poker, Four Card™ stud poker, Pai Gow poker and variations of these and other games where a single round of play exhausts the ability of the deck or first set of playing cards from being used. It is possible to modify the described system for use with a continuous shuffler, but this would inherently add some amount of subjectivity in determining a conclusion of a round of play.

In one embodiment, when the shuffler loading process begins, a state signal is sent to the external game controller indicating a round of play has begun. The signal increments the running count of rounds by one. The shuffler preferably has a switch operable by the dealer, which stops the shuffler from dealing out hands when the desired number of hands has been delivered. If the shuffler has this feature, another state signal can be sent to the game controller indicating the number of hands, and the number of rounds and hands per round can be stored in the database.

Alternative general descriptions include a method providing information, storing information, evaluating performance and contributing to the control of a live casino table card game; comprising: providing a live gaming table with at least two player locations and at least one sensor in each player location for sensing bets; providing a computer controlled automatic card shuffling device; providing a table game controller; and providing a central game controller; electronically measuring betting information, wherein the card shuffling device receives game related data from and/or transmits data and a status signal to the table game controller in real time and wherein the table game controller transmits and/or receives game related information in real time to and/or from the central game controller.

Another aspect of the invention includes an automatic card shuffler, comprising: a programmable controller; a card randomizing mechanism; and a data port; wherein data and a status signal is fed from inside the card shuffler via the data port to the central game computer and/or a back end computer system. The table controller will allow tracking of at least one of the dealer identification, the dealer efficiency and/or productivity, table usage/idle time, table location and identification, dealer errors/cheating, chip tray accounting, multi-denomination betting tracking, universal (multiple different games) progressive table games, player activity, player strategy, player win/loss activity, card counting activity, player identification (although this can be specifically performed by the main controller, as may some of the other activities, even at this stage of development), etc.

Examples of the types of data that can be captured with this system include:

    • Hands dealt per unit time
    • Identification of when a service call should be made
    • Automatic service call generation
    • Jam detection/recovery and reports of jams/clears in real time to main controller
    • Rounds of play/unit time
    • When cards are scanned for rank/suit, the value of the hand can be automatically ranked and the payout can be displayed, eliminating dealer errors.
    • When cards are scanned for rank/suit and the correct payout is displayed, reports of dealer error/cheating are generated when wrong payouts are made.
    • The signal from the bet sensors may be input into the shuffler itself to enable the shuffler to deal only the number of hands needed to cover the bets, speeding play of the game.
    • The signal from the bet sensors can be transmitted directly to the central controller to collect betting data.
    • The table controller will communicate with the player tracking system, permitting the system to measure player bets placed, player efficiency (how far the player deviates from “optimal” strategy), time at the table, frequency of visiting property, etc.
    • The table controller will continually pole the chip tray to verify that the correct number of chips is in the tray. Count of chips on the table can also be determined by sensors and included in the total count. Balances are fed to the central computer in real-time so that errors in paying are detected immediately.
    • Data on the amount of time the table is in use, the time of day the table is in use, the table identification number, the table location, the times when the tables are most filled and the times when the most bets are made may be collected by the table controller and transmitted to the central controller so that management can optimize usage of personnel, the arrangement of equipment and choice of games/equipment. Management can determine when table should remain open, and when it should be closed.
    • Data on a hand pitched game vs. the same game dealt through an automatic shuffler (at equivalent locations in terms of table usage/min and max bets, etc.) can be compared to measure productivity improvements gained through automating a table or automating the shuffling process.
    • Dealer identification number or name may be input into the table controller at the beginning of a shift. The dealer can be asked to sign out at the end of shift. Verification of hours worked, and associating data collected during this period of time with a particular dealer. Data can be used to detect dealer cheating, dealer training needs and for implementing dealer recognition awards and special compensation for rewarding and/or recognizing exceptionally good dealers that are reflected in higher holds and longer retention at the table.
    • An identification number corresponding to the shuffler can be inputted into the table controller to track the location of each shuffler. This i.d. information can also be transmitted to the main controller directly from the shuffler or into the table computer and then to the main controller.
    • Reports on shuffler swap outs (replacements when performance of a shuffler is less than optimal) can be generated, to assist service personnel in servicing the right shufflers, and to improve the chances that back-up units are in working order.
    • The central controller will generate reports such as rounds of play/shift, the number of players/shift, the average amount of time spent at the table/player, the handle, player reports that assist management in determining rating of a player, analysis/reports to use for player comping, etc.
    • The table controller can be programmed so that it will alert the dealer and pit boss via the central controller that a card counter is playing on the table. When the system is reading the rank and value of each card, the table controller will know the count of each hand. If player bets increase when the shoe is rich in 10 and Ace value cards, the system will alert the dealer and management that the player is counting cards.
    • Data collected at each table controller can be transmitted in real time to the central controller, allowing management to thwart card counting, cheating schemes, dealer mistakes, etc. as the events occur.

In FIG. 1 shows a game table system 10 for a game table 20 on which a live card game is played. The system 10 uses a central controller. The system can be applied to any of the non-limiting following list of known or conventional table games: Baccarat and variants such as Grand Baccarat, Mini Baccarat, Midi Baccarat, Chemin de fer and Puncto Banco; Blackjack and variants such as Progressive Twenty One, Triple Action Blackjack, Super Seven's Blackjack, Spanish Twenty One, Vingt et un and Pontoon; Big Wheel, Big Six and variants, In Between and variants such as Red Dog and Catch-A-Wave; Poker and variants such as Caribbean Stud® Poker, Caribbean Draw® Poker, Let It Ride® poker, Tres Card Poker, Pai Gow Poker, and Wheel and Deal, Three Card Poker, Four Card™ poker. Oklahoma Three Card™ stud poker, etc. The form, type, and variation of the game played on table 20 are immaterial to the teachings of the present invention and does not limit the teachings contained herein.

The game table 10, in one general exemplary embodiment, is adapted for Let It Ride Bonus® stud poker and, in FIG. 1, seven player positions 18 a through 18 g are shown. At each player position is a card position 19 a through 19 g, respectively, and three individual player betting positions 22 a, 22 b and 22 c. A side bet (e.g., jackpot or bonus) wagering position 23 a through 23 g is shown at each player position. A position for dealers or community cards 21 is shown in front of the dealer's position 20.

A card shuffling or card randomizing device 32 is provided on, next to or beneath the upper surface of the table 10. The shuffling device 32 preferably has its own separate computer/microprocessor 33 integral with or electronically associated with the shuffler 32. The table controller 37 controls the operations of the shuffler in another example of the invention. A card delivery shoe 35 is shown, from which shuffled cards, randomized cards, randomized hands or shuffled hands (not shown) are provided to the dealer to distribute. A sensor 36 is shown within the card delivery shoe 35, although it may be positioned elsewhere within the card shuffler, as is well known in the art. A sensor or sensors (not shown) may also be positioned on the table 10 so that cards are read and a unique status signal are provided to one of the computers (33, 37 and 39, or as later identified) to provide information for analysis. The game computer 37 or game controller is shown as associated with a key pad system 20. The key pad system contains a key pad 74 (supported by attaching element 34 to the table) for entering data, various rows of buttons 72 and 78 for inputting data, and player position indicator buttons 76 for assigning data input to specific player positions (although other identification systems for individual player positions are within the choice of the ordinarily skilled artisan). The side bet wagering positions 23 a through 23 g are provided with sensing or counting devices B at the side bet wagering sites 23 a through 23 g. In another form of the invention, the base game bet sensors 22 a, 22 b, 22 c are also equipped with electronic bet sensors and/or counting systems.

The side bet detection device B (as well as the devices located at positions 22 a, 22 b and 22 c) may be any sensing system such as, but not limited to a proximity detector, magnetic card reader, photo-optic or acoustic detector, RF responsive indicator/sensor, optical scanner, weight sensing device or the multiple security system described in U.S. Pat. No. 6,254,002. The card reader 36 is shown to be located in the shuffling device 32 of FIG. 1 on the game table 10, but could also be located on the surface of the table 10 or any suitable location including in the shoe element 35 of the shuffler 32, inside the shuffling device 32 when cards are moved one-at-a-time within the shuffler, or in any other strategic location near the gaming table 10.

Any commercially available card reader, especially those adapted for the gaming industry, could be utilized under the teachings of the present invention to read player data, available credit and any other information carried on player tracking cards. Each card reader may form part of an array of card readers that are responsible for the collection of programmed data present on a card-based magnetic strip or in reading the images or other data on the cards. The present technology is not limited to magnetic or bar code card readers and it is to be expressly understood that the card utilized could be a smart card and that the device could write data into a smart card. Furthermore, any equivalent device could be utilized under the present invention which at least reads player identification data from a data medium carried by the player.

The game table computer 37 serves as an intelligent processor and communications hub for the game table 10. The game table computer 37 contains software and coordinates all recognition, display, mathematical, diagnostic and communication routines and functions associated with the transfer of data between itself and the other table-based and distal components as will be explained in the following. The table-based computer 37 may also interface with computer-based systems (e.g., 33 and 39) remote from the game table 10, and in one example of the invention, also communicates with other table-based computers on the property, or between properties via a network connection.

FIG. 1 also shows a dealer's keypad 74 at dealer location 14, which serves as a communication device between the dealer and the system 10 of the present invention. It enables the dealer to enter commands and/or selections of commands from predefined menus. Also at the dealer location 14 may include a dealer visual interface (not shown, may be located on the table 10 or on the shuffler 32) that displays game information, chip tray inventories, personnel identification, casino chip values, and wager values summed by player position 18 a through 18 g. In addition, component status and/or miscellaneous messages from the computers 33, 37 and 39 and/or remote computer-based systems can be displayed.

In the practice of the present technology, commercial components and subcomponents may be used to build the architecture of the system. For example, in use and operation, the invention may include processor boards, intelligent boards, unintelligent boards, a main board, microprocessors, a graphics system processor, an audio processor, the boards and components including memory in the form of ROM, RAM, flash memory, EPROM, NVRAM and/or EEPROM (electrically erasable programmable read only memory). The central gaming control computer or the table game controller computer may include a system event controller, the random number generator, a win decoder/pay table, status indicators, a communications handler, encryption system for signals, hardware and peripherals (e.g., lights, displays, buttons, coin acceptors, key switches, doors switches, change systems, credit validators, play reporting systems, currency validators, hopper controls, diverters, lamps, auxiliary outputs, printers, handles, magnetic strip readers, optical scanners, credit card scanners, joy stick, touchpad, light wand, signal system, and other active or interactive controls). Software may be provided with any operating system, either proprietary, public, open key or closed key such as the many variations of Windows® operating systems, Mac operating systems (e.g., MAC OS), LINUX, UNIX, and the like.

In one example of the invention, the shuffler 32 is a single or double deck batch shuffler. A “batch” shuffler for purposes of this disclosure is a card randomization device that randomizes all cards in a set of cards used to play a game at the conclusion of each round of play. For example, a single-deck hand-forming shuffler would be a desirable choice for providing cards for the game of Let it Ride® stud poker. The structure and function of this type of shuffler is disclosed in U.S. application Ser. No. 09/060,627, filed Apr. 15, 1009, now U.S. Pat. No. 6,145,154, the content which is hereby incorporated by reference into the present application. Another batch shuffler that could be used to practice the present invention is a single or double deck batch shuffler that delivers a randomized set of cards for hand-dealing, such as the shuffler disclosed in U.S. application Ser. No. 09/967,502, filed Sep. 28, 2001, now U.S. Pat. No. 6,651,981.

The particular signal that causes a state change when a new round is identified is typically the same signal that causes the card feeder to begin feeding cards. Other signals may be used, such as the signal which causes the cards to unload, followed by a signal causing cards to reload, with a maximum defined time interval there between.

As shown in FIG. 2, an example of one signal that represents a shuffling cycle is a shuffler state signal that is transmitted when the card feeder begins operation, i.e.—the cards are placed in the card infeed tray and the shuffler commences feeding either automatically or in response to a dealer input. The beginning of the shuffling cycle 100 commences when a unique event such as the activation of the card feed rollers 102 begins. In response to cards being fed, the microprocessor generates a signal unique to the commencement of card feeding. The shuffler broadcasts this signal either directly to an external computer with an associated data storage system, or to a host computer.

Use of a Shuffler as a Round Counting/Hand Counting Data Acquisition Module

In the examples of the invention described above, a central controller coordinates the activities of the table monitoring system. In another example of the invention, the intelligence is decentralized, and only data (as opposed to commands) travels from the shuffler to an external computer. Similarly, no commands are received from a central computer to the shuffler, except initialization and set up commands, and the like.

The displays used on the various components may be in the form of monitors (i.e., CRT displays), plasma screens, light emitting diode (LED) panels, semiconductor displays, liquid crystal displays, and the like.

Multiple intelligent data collection modules (consisting of at least one data collection device and an associated G-Mod) act as finite state machines. Each G-Mod or microprocessor and associated memory is communicatively interconnected with a sensing device to collect data, date stamp the data and send it to a central data repository via a direct line (as in the case of the use of a microprocessor) or via a network (when a G-Mod is used). The processing unit, referred to in this application as a “G-Mod” in one example of the invention is a microprocessor with associated memory that is capable of being programmed, and is capable of broadcasting data over a network (wired or wireless). In another form, the G-Mod is a hard wired as a FPGA (field programmable gated array). The G-Mod/data acquisition unit performs data acquisition; date stamps and sends sensed data via a direct line or network such as an Ethernet to an external computer that contains a database. In contrast to systems that provide an exclusive main computer to command all or most individual sensors and peripherals, in the presently described technology, the G-Mods detect activity in the sensors and peripherals. The G-Mods date stamp and broadcast the information over an Ethernet to a central database. One preferred mode of communication is UDP but others such as TCP and TCP/IP are alternate communication protocols. In a preferred form of the invention, the G-Mods broadcast information over a network but do not issue commands to other G-Mods to perform operations. Less powerful techniques (as compared to typical main processor systems used in gaming apparatus) may be distributed to monitor each peripheral. The use of these separate intelligences for each peripheral eliminates the need to reprogram old modules as new modules are added, and allows the manufacturer to offer customized hardware and software packages capable of collecting only the information that the casino operator wants to collect.

Casino table card games can be provided with a wide variety of sensors. One such sensor is an optical position sensor for detection signal initiated by a dealer to indicate approximate beginner or final completion of a round of play of a casino table card game. The dealer's round count sensor is located at the dealer position. The dealer covers the sensor with the cards at the conclusion of a round of play, for example. The sensor is read by the distributed intelligence table subcomponent (a G-Mod) that has a time/dating capability. The signal is time/date stamped (referred to herein as “Date Stamping” or “date stamping” for simplicity. The date stamped data is then transmitted generally through a communication line to an external computer that contains database management software and a database interface. The number of rounds stored in the database then increments by one round. This cumulative value is typically stored in the database but can also reside in memory associated with the G-Mod or microprocessor. The data in the database can then be accessed by programs used to analyze the data, if needed. The database interface allows casino management to extract the data in a usable form. The collected data retains its date stamping at least through storage, analysis, data entry or other treatment of the data after transmission away from the table, and the date stamping is typically provided by the separate intelligence, although in some cases may or may not be provided by the sensor itself.

FIG. 3 shows a casino card gaming table 200. The table 200 has a surface 204 with seven player positions 206 (three positions labeled 206) 208, 210, 212 and 214 thereon. A round sensor 216 may be provided for the dealer cards 218. The sensor 216 is connected by a communication system (preferably a wire system, but RF or other wireless systems could be used) to a finite state machine 222 (a G-Mod) for the table 200. The finite state machine 222 is on a communication line 224 to a data collector (not shown). The G-MOD may also perform as a microprocessor that performs the specific task of date stamping upon receiving any status signal, forwarding the date stamped status signal directly to a database as previously described.

The table 200 also includes an automatic card shuffler 226 with its own associated internal processor 227. The processor 227 is in communication with an associated G-Mod 228. G-Mod 228 transmits data through data line 230, 224 or both, either directly to a central database or via a network connection to a central database.

In one form of the invention, when the shuffler 226 is activated, the change in state is sensed by the G-Mod. The G-Mod time/date stamps the data and transmits the “round” increment information to a data repository. When the shuffler is capable of delivering only the number of hands of cards needed for a round of play (i.e. when there are only three players present at the table), a signal corresponding to the number of hands delivered is also sensed by the G-Mod. The G-Mod 228 senses the value and sends this data to the database. The database then increments the cumulative number of rounds by 1 and the cumulative number of hands by 3. It may also have the capability of identifying the particular round as having three players. In one example of the invention, the total cumulative number of rounds counted is stored in the G-Mod memory and is used as a comparison value to detect errors in counting.

In the event of a card jam or other interruption on operation, and after the shuffler has broadcast a state signal indicative of a new round, the shuffler can be programmed to detect a fault and broadcast another signal that represents a failed attempt at a round, causing the round count in the database to decrement by 1. Similarly, the hand count, if it is being recorded is similarly decremented.

FIG. 4 shows a flow diagram of data transmission in the system of FIG. 1. The components of a casino table gaming apparatus might include a coin acceptor, bill validator, a drop box capable of sensing the input of currency, ticket in/ticket out sensing/reading, lighting, video displays, card reading sensors, chip counters, security sensing, dealer input controls, player input controls, dealer identification card scanning, player tracking, round counting, hand counting, shuffle counting and the like. In the present technology described herein, a round counting system is also described, wherein the number of rounds of plays are determined (one round at a time) by a determination of when a dealer's play has been completed, as by complete removal of cards from the dealer's position. The sensor at the dealer station is active 300. When there is no activity, ambient light is sensed 302. After a round of play, the dealer collects all cards and places the stack on the sensor, blocking 304 the ambient light. A signal representing blocked light is sent 306 to a central computer (now shown), a microprocessor 308 or a G-Mod (not shown) and the data is time stamped and transmitted 310 to the database where it is retained 312.

In the practice of the described technology, communication to a data collection system with at least some peripherals may be performed by general broadcast communication of game status (which may also be referred to as generated information or data) over a table-specific network, from more than one distributed intelligence source within the system, each of which is associated with at least one peripheral. Each distributed intelligence (a local processor) sends its own the game status communication over the network, but does not respond to game status information of other G-Mods. Each local processor (hereinafter G-Mod)) is capable of sending date stamped information to a database where the information is stored and can be accessed by the same computer that holds the database or by another external computer. This is a significant element in the practice of the invention, as that information may be generally sent (essentially at the same time as a single, generally dispersed signal) over a network from multiple distributed intelligences.

In one form of the invention, the state of each G-Mod is broadcast over a network that contains all of the sensors and G-Mods associated with one gaming table. As the state of each G-Mod changes, the signals being broadcasted to all of the G-Mods is changed, and each G-Mod independently transmits information to the central data collection point.

One conceptual way of visualizing or understanding a method of implementing an intelligence system for the operation of a gaming system according to the present invention is as decomposing the tasks of previous constrained (central processor commanded) systems into orthogonal or unrelated sensing events running on independent processors. The term “orthogonal” for purposes of this disclosure means no commonality in function. The provision of orthogonal or independent intelligence functionality and individual performance capability allows the various system components to operate independently, and timely transfer the date stamped data to a database for further processing. Such a system functions more efficiently because there is no central processor prioritizing the execution of functions.

As noted above, there are many different elements of the gaming system that can be considered as peripherals or data acquisition devices. Some more important examples of table-game related peripherals include: bet presence, bet recognition, bet separation, shuffling, hand counting, round counting, card identification, card tracking, player tracking and employee tracking. Other components might include (in addition to those described above) random number generation, I/O detection and response, audio signals, video signals, currency handling, coin acceptors, bill acceptors, paperless transactions, ticket-in and ticket-out crediting, security systems, player accounting functions, door locks, signal lighting (change/assistance), player input (e.g., button controls, joy sticks, touch screens, etc.) and any other functions that my be provided on the gaming apparatus.

The units (which may be elsewhere referred to herein as gaming modules or G-Mods) are operated substantially independently of each other, although some interdependencies could exist. In the event of interdependencies, they are not subject to the classic control model but operate by finite state machine changes that are broadcast and then react with intelligence. For purposes of this disclosure, the term “finite state machine” (or a FSM) is a theoretical device used to describe the evolution of an object's condition based on its current state (or condition) and outside influences. The present state of an object, its history, and the forces acting upon it can be analyzed to determine the future state of an object. Each state then may have a “behavior” associated with it. An FSM is a very efficient way to model sequencing circuits. Ultimately the table game control system is nothing more than a complex sequencing unit, branched as appropriate for the game functions. All finite state machines can be implemented as hardware, software running on a processor or combinations of the two.

By assigning specific data collection controls to local architecture, the design of the system places system tasks into lower computing power manageable units. The manageable units (e.g., the peripherals) can then be each handled (or small groups handled) by dedicated controller modules. Some design care should be taken to combine control of peripherals under a single intelligence to assure that such accumulating demands for processing power are not being required as to merely reconstruct a main processor in a different physical location with the system. The intelligence requirement for such an assistance function is so low that its addition to almost any other function would be barely noticed. In the distributed intelligence structure, the G-Mods or individual intelligences have enough intelligence on board to handle the details of how the G-Mod itself handles the details of operation of the peripheral device.

Although this specific example of the generic concepts described herein has been described largely in terms round-counting and hand counting modules that send date-stamped information to a central database, it is to be understood that multiple modules could be present in one system to send collected data to a data repository. In a preferred form of the invention, the data stamped data is broadcasted over an Ethernet specific to the table game, and that the data in this format is collected and recorded by the central data repository.

Each G-mod is collecting, date stamping and transmitting data as the data is collected from the table to a central database, but the G-Mods are not influencing the operation of one another. The database does not issue commands to the G-Mods, except to reset, reboot and send and receive configuration information. In effect, each G-Mod is a freestanding microprocessor that runs independently of the any other intelligence, except that it receives limited operational information from the database computer and state signal information from other G-Mod's.

A card swipe module could be added to the table system, for example, with an associated G-Mod. This G-Mod could not only transmit time-stamped data to the data repository, but could also transmit player I.D. information to the player tracking system residing in the casino computer system, and possibly broadcast a state to the other G-Mod's indicating a player position is active.

One or more sensors could sense information transmitted through an output data port of a shuffler, for example, or a keypad control used to issue commands to a shuffler. The shuffler would have it's own G-Mod and is capable of transmitting date stamped information such as number of cards per hand, number of hands per hour, number of cards dispensed per unit time, number of cards re-fed into a continuous shuffler per unit of time, number of promotional cards dispensed per unit of time, the number of rounds per unit of time, the gross number of rounds played, etc. At the same time, another indicator attached to a G-Mod could transmit date stamped data about bonus awards granted at a certain time, and the like. This information could be collected in a central database.

It is important to note that in a preferred form of the technology, all of the G-Mod's are in communication with the same database. Also, the data repository does not issue commands to the G-Mods, with the possible exception of requesting configuration data and resetting/rebooting the G-Mods. The central database merely organizes the data in a manner that allows for easy access and analysis by external computers or another application program residing on the same computer as the database. In this respect, the G-Mod's are self-executing and do not require central intelligence to perform their individual functions. The data may be analyzed and used to make decisions about awarding redeemable points and free rooms to players, etc., scheduling pit labor, promoting pit personnel, closing and opening tables, determining optimal betting limits for given periods of time and other important managerial functions.

Each G-Mod may be in data communication with an interface device such as one or more specialized circuit boards to allow the data from multiple G-Mod's to be fed into a standard port of the computer that serves as the data repository. Also, multiple sensing modules may be fed into a single G-Mod if the particular G-Mod has the capacity to process the extra information.

A software interface can be provided to directly access data in the data repository and to manipulate and organize the data so that it can be outputted onto a display, written report or formed into a data stream so that the data can be further manipulated. In one example of a software interface program, the operator can obtain reports of rounds of play per hour per actual table, per pit, or per property, as determined by the user.

The information in the form of a data stream may be further analyzed. In one example, the data is fed into a host computer or can be analyzed in the same computer system where the database and interface resides or on a host computer. For example, the data from one or more of the round counting module, the shoe sensor, the card swipe, card reading module, the shuffler data port sensor, and the bet interfaces can be used to create a report of rounds played per unit of time, the number of players at the table per unit of time, the number of hands played at each round, the maximum bet per player in a given unit of time, the average bet per player in a unit of time, the number of shuffles per unit of time, the number of cards removed from and placed into the shuffler in a unit of time, hand composition and other information considered important to the casino manager.

Because all of the G-Mod's work independently, the casino operator can choose the modules and resulting data that is most important to them for a given environment, and only purchase those modules. For example, one casino might want to reconstruct individual hands, track betting and associate the information with a particular player on a high stakes table, while tracking only rounds and the identification of the employees on low-stakes games.

By using a modular approach to intelligent data collection, only the equipment and reports that are wanted can be provided at the lowest possible cost. Since none of the G-Mod's are issuing direct commands to one-another, it is not necessary to rewrite any code when additional modules are added.

Applicants have discovered that there are potential inaccuracies in data that is transmitted prior to date/time stamping. When signals are stamped in by the main computer, this is merely indicative of when the signal arrived. Also by providing the stamping function at the receipt site (such as the main processor, or central gaming location), the information is more easily subject to manipulation or change by an operator. Also, when there is a line breakdown (e.g., some casinos may still use telephone line connections which can be busy or interrupted, or the communication system to the main computer breaks down), the accuracy of the stamping is adversely affected. The value of the data decreases in some necessary transactions and casino oversight if the time data is inaccurate. A gaming system with different architectural structure and informational structure would be desirable if it could reduce these issues.

As noted earlier, round counting is one service or data component that can be important to a table. For example, round completion can be important for evaluating rates of play at tables, player rate performance, dealer rate performance, and even disputes over time of completion of hands at different tables or different casinos where priority might be an issue (as in competitive events or qualifying events).

Round counting requires some form of signal generation at a table that is indicative of approximate completion of a round and preferably absolute completion of a round. This can be done in a number of ways for signal generation. For example, video cameras can be placed to observe the dealer's hand. When the motions of a dealer or the dealer's cards indicate that the dealer's cards have been removed from the playing area, a signal is sent “round completed” or “dealer's hand removed” or some functional equivalent. A sensor can be placed on the table over which the dealer's cards are placed. It is preferred that this sensor not be as movement limiting as the sensor in U.S. Pat. No. 5,803,808, where cards appear to have to be specifically fitted into at least a right angle abutment with a card reading ability. Upright extensions on the card table can interfere with card movement, can interfere with chip movement, can cause accidental disclosure of cards, and are generally undesirable. A sensing system with a relatively flat or slightly indented or slightly raised surface is more desirable. The system could comprise a transparent or translucent panel approximately flush with the table surface that allows light (e.g., ambient light or specially directed wavelengths of light for which a sensor is particularly sensitive) to pass to a sensor. The absence of light in the sensor for a predetermined period of time and/or intervals of time can be the original signals themselves, which are interpreted by an intermediary intelligence on the table that has the time sensing capability for evaluating the signal. The original signals are then time stamped before being forwarded to the central database and can be analyzed by accessing the collected data.

Particularly in games where batch shuffling is used, such as poker or even single deck blackjack, the signal could also be originated by cards being placed in a shuffler and a shuffling process initiated, the shuffler sending a start-shuffling signal to the date stamping component on the table. The dealer could even activate or press a button provided on the table, but this would tend to leave the results under the control of the dealer, which could be manipulated by the dealer to improve results on dealer play, or could suffer from forgetfulness.

The application of this technology to gaming tables follows similar architecture and application of design and performance. Gaming tables would include typical casino tables such as those used for blackjack (Twenty-One), baccarat, roulette, poker, poker variants (Let It Ride® poker, Three-Card Poker® game, Caribbean Stud® poker, etc.), craps, and the like. These latter systems, unless they are completely electronic without any physical implementation (such as physical playing cards, dice, spinning wheel, drop ball, etc.) will need sensing and/or reading equipment (e.g., card reading for suits and/or rank, bet reading sensors, ball position sensors, dice reading sensors, player card readers, dealer input sensors, player input systems, and the like. These would be the peripherals in the table systems. Also, newer capabilities are enabled such as moisture detection (e.g., for spilled drinks), smoke detection, infrared ink detection (to avoid card marking), shuffler operation, dealer shoe operation, discard rack operation, jackpot meters, side bet detectors, and the like.

The description above is to be considered examples of the invention, and is not intended to limit the spirit or scope of the invention.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
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Classifications
U.S. Classification273/149.00R
International ClassificationG07F17/32, A63F1/18
Cooperative ClassificationG07F17/3293, G07F17/3237, A63F2250/58, G07F17/32, A63F1/18, G07F17/3234
European ClassificationG07F17/32, G07F17/32P6, G07F17/32E6D, G07F17/32E6B
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Mar 11, 2011ASAssignment
Owner name: SHUFFLE MASTER, INC., NEVADA
Free format text: RELEASE BY SECURED PARTY;ASSIGNOR:DEUTSCHE BANK TRUST COMPANY AMERICAS, AS COLLATERAL AGENT;REEL/FRAME:025941/0313
Effective date: 20110302
Dec 21, 2004ASAssignment
Owner name: SHUFFLE MASTER, INC., NEVADA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:GRATRZER, ATTLLA;SCHUBERT, OLIVER M.;KELLY, JAMES V.;REEL/FRAME:016096/0801
Effective date: 20041026