US 20060183540 A1
A casino table card gaming system in which messages are communicated from at least two or three distinct sensors without date stamping to a first intelligent microprocessor component that at least date stamps the signal and forwards the date stamped signal to a distal memory component that stores the date stamped signal. The system may comprise the at least two signals originating from at least one dealer card sensor and at least one discard rack sensor. The system with at least three signal sources may comprise a casino table, at least three distinct sensors that send an undated signal, and a first intelligent microprocessor component, wherein the at least three distinct sensors comprise at least one bet sensor, at least one dealer card sensor, and at least one card sensor in a discard rack.
1. A casino table card gaming system in which messages are communicated from at least two distinct sensors located on the table without date stamping to a first local microprocessor that date stamps the signal and forwards the date stamped signal to a distal memory component that stores the date stamped signal, the system comprising a casino table, at least two distinct sensors that sends an undated signal, and the first local microprocessor.
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8. A casino table card gaming system in which messages are communicated from at least two distinct sensors without date stamping to a first intelligent microprocessor that at least date stamps the signal and forwards the date stamped signal to a distal memory component that stores the date stamped signal, the system comprising a casino table, at least two distinct sensors that send undated signals, and the first intelligent microprocessor, wherein the at least two distinct sensors comprise at least one dealer card sensor, and at least one shuffler card sensor.
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16. A method of providing data within a casino wagering table comprising automatically providing an original sequence of signals from at least three distinct signal originating sources, sending that sequence of signals without date stamping thereon to a first intelligent microprocessor component, the first intelligent microprocessor component date stamping the signal and then forwarding a date stamped signal to a distal memory component, wherein the at least three signal sources comprise at least one bet sensor, at least one dealer card sensor, and a card sensing discard rack.
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28. A casino table card gaming system in which a message is communicated from at least two sensors without date stamping to a first intelligent microprocessor component that date stamps the signal and forwards the date stamped signal to a distal memory component that stores the date stamped signal, the system comprising a casino table, at least two sensors that send undated signals, and the first intelligent microprocessor component, wherein the stored signals are used to count rounds of card games played, and the at least two signals originate from at least one dealer card sensor and at least one discard rack sensor.
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1. Field of the Invention
The present invention relates to the field of gaming systems, particularly gaming systems that have elements of play, reward, monetary/credit transactions and/or monitoring that are performed by processing systems, and including casino table card games.
2. Background of the Art
Wagering games, such as those played in casinos and card clubs, have traditionally been played with only mechanical implements such as cards, dice, wheels, balls and the like. One of the reasons for this is to make the wagering game open for inspection, including the implements that are used to provide the chance occurrences upon which the wagers are made.
The creative minds of players and wagering institutions have devised ways of manipulating implements or calculating probabilities of events that have affected the odds in the favor of the manipulator. Cards have been marked, ‘sleeved’ for timed use, stacked in a deal, bottom dealt, or otherwise altered in characteristics or location to enable cheating. Sophisticated players are able to read decks by counting cards, and have been able to calculate changes in the probability of success at different times in the game of blackjack, altering overall odds more in favor of the player. The use of limited portions of decks, efficient card shuffling devices, restrictions on players' handling of cards, and continuous shuffling devices have alleviated some of the card problems.
Dice have been weighted or counterfeited to influence the occurrence of specific values, chips have been switched or amounts altered on the tables in craps. This has been addressed by the presence of many persons in the pit crew that supervise elements of the game and the close surveillance of activities on the table by proximal personnel at the table or distal personnel watching cameras or tapes of activities.
Processing equipment and computers have become an increasingly important part of the gaming industry, but the introduction of the technology has been sporadic, inconsistent, and often ill designed. In addition, the direction of improvement in the processing apparatus used in casinos has consistently been heading in the direction that bigger and more powerful is better, attempting to mimic the home computer market. The original gaming machine processors introduced into the market were hardwired, unique designs that performed all command functions from a central controlling processor or actually performed within a single computer that sent signals to all mechanical operating elements.
Traditional gaming devices are based around a main processor unit (which may include a random number generator), an accounting function operatively coupled to the main processor or embedded in the main processor, and more recently a processor or EPROM having stored therein the important gaming functions. In addition, these gaming devices include gaming displays, coin acceptors, player identity recognition, bill validation functions, ticket-in-ticket out controls and the like operatively coupled to the main processor. These casino table gaming devices and systems have been relatively simple and limited in scope, usually consisting of a few executing programs utilizing straight forward interrupt schemes and detection loops for asynchronous events for simple evaluation. There have been a simple external program validation devices that can be coupled to the EPROM or main processor (through a line connection or port) for providing effective regulatory validation of critical gaming functions to preclude unauthorized tampering or modification of the system through software. In addition, an external device validation process for suspicious results or disputes may be validated by simply reading the stored data that has been generated from the table gaming systems and associated with the main processor.
Today's trend in gaming devices is towards automation and an increasing utilization of LINUX or personal computer based gaming platforms. Personal computer based platforms are being employed by designers to make use of real time operating systems which allow for multi-threaded/multi-tasking processes and the use of many “off the shelf” device drivers.
There are a wide variety of associated devices that can be connected to or serve as part of a gaming machine such as a casino table gaming system. These devices provide gaming features that define or augment the game(s) played on the gaming machine. Some examples of these devices are player location or player order indicators, lights, ticket printers, card readers, speakers, bill validators, coin acceptors, display panels, key pads, and button pads. Many of these devices are built into the table or into associated components carried on the table. Often, a number of devices are grouped together in a separate box that is placed on top of the gaming table.
U.S. Pat. No. 6,071,190 (Weiss) describes a gaming device security system which includes two processing areas linked together and communicating critical gaming functions via a security protocol wherein each transmitted gaming function includes a specific encrypted signature to be decoded and validated before being processed by either processing area. The two processing areas include a first processing area having a dynamic RAM and an open architecture design which is expandable without interfering or accessing critical gaming functions and a second “secure” processing area having a non-alterable memory for the storage of critical gaming functions therein.
Casino Table Games (such as blackjack, poker, varietal poker 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. These systems may include card recognition devices, bet sensing devices (e.g., chip sensors and counters), player and dealer identification systems, software to evaluate the games as and after they are played, biometrics for identification and analysis, and the like.
U.S. Pat. No. 5,803,808 (Strisower) describes a device to be utilized in casino gaming that will count the number of “hands” (read “rounds”) of a given card game played per given period of time. The information is used by a 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.
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 an apparatus 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.
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 disclosure, 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 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 article 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 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 a progressive jackpot system including card sensing systems at each player location as well a card reading shoes; 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) describes a card inspection device including a first loading area adapted to receive one or more decks of playing cards. A drive roller is 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.
Applicants have found that there are potential issues involved in the method of date stamping provided for and taught by these references and as known to be used in the art. 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.
A concept of operative control among processing units should be appreciated to appreciate the performance of the present technology. It is believed that existing systems perform by a single main processor sending commands to peripherals to perform specific functions, and that date stamping is usually done at the point of receipt of the data by a gaming processor, especially the main processor. For purposes of discussion, the initial main emphasis of the description will be directed towards the performance of casino table card games with a live dealer, but the system is equally applicable to the use of a fully automated (live dealer-less) gaming apparatus. This emphasis is not intended to narrow the scope of the invention, but is rather intended to simplify the description.
In a standard casino table card game, different events are sensed (usually visually by a live dealer and/or combinations of video cameras and personnel who review images from the video cameras and the system provides information from these observations. Where there is automated review of information (provided by manual or automatic input), a central processor evaluates this information and commands another element to perform a procedure or initiates a sequential event, including an analytic review of data or providing an alarm or message/report relating to analysis of the data or in response to identification of meaningful data.
Signals are sent from the main processor to the table game control system and the game play (which may in more automated systems be driven by a random number generator) to perform the tasks necessary to effect a play event. This could be as little as indicating to a dealer that the game is ready for dealing. The cards or the random number generator provides the results to or within the main processor (or a more local game table controller or pit game controller) and the main processor or other processor identifies the cards or other symbols to be provided in the play of the game (or which symbols have been dealt, by reading values, suits, ranks, etc. of cards dealt) and determines the existence of the status of the wager (win, lose or draw). In the event that the processor is used to determine whether a winning event has occurred, the processor then signals the credit display to indicate the total amount of credits won and commands the system to display or otherwise identify any winning alerts and the like. As can be seen from this analysis, the individual peripherals send signals to the main processor and the main processor provides specific commands to the various peripherals that specific functions are to be performed. There are a couple of concepts that are of interest to consider in this performance. First, a fairly sophisticated and powerful processor is needed to control all of the peripherals, such as a PC grade processor. Second, the processor must order events to send out separate signals to each of the peripherals, slowing down game performance. Any slow down in receipt of data may affect the value and treatment of data, including round counting functions.
The units or subcomponents on the gaming table or within the table gaming system can be operated substantially independently of each other, although some interdependencies may exist. In most systems substantially all performance of the peripheries is done only at the command of the gaming control processor or central computer.
A complete modular system for measuring the efficiency of a table game pit is provided. Casino table card games are provided with modular elements, for example sensors for detection of an indicator initiated by a dealer to indicate approximate or final completion or beginning of a round of play of a casino table card game. The signal is read by a table subcomponent and eventually a time/dating stamp is provided. The signal is time/date stamped (referred to herein as “Date Stamping” or “date stamping.” The date stamped signal is then transmitted from the table (including from a subcomponent, if that is how date stamping is provided) to a processor (e.g., gaming table processor or pit processor or main casino processor and/or central processor for multiple casinos, directly or through middleware). The data, in at least one location, 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 may or may not be provided by the sensor itself. The system also allows for the date stamping or other status information to be sent to a data bank or repository of information (e.g., security bank or security room) for storage of the information, without necessarily any game-play related function. The data may be processed in real time at this bank or repository, or may me reviewed and analyzed at a later time.
The present invention is an arrangement of at least one of sensing component, a dealer i.d. module and at least one form of local intelligence capable of date stamping data collected from the at least one sensing device and dealer i.d. module.
The specific sensing components may be varied, depending upon the requirements of specific games. For example, in games that utilize a card shuffler capable of delivering a predetermined number of hands of cards, the number of hands played per unit time and rounds played per unit time can be correlated with a particular dealer using a local form of intelligence. The local intelligence serves several functions. First, the local intelligence collects and date stamps data from the sensing components and the dealer i.d. module. The local intelligence is also equipped to send data to a data repository via a network connection.
Examples of other suitable sensing components include bet present sensors, card present sensors and discard rack sensors.
The bet present sensors may be used as part of a data monitoring system for a shoe game such as blackjack or to identify “live” hands in a card game that delivers all hands to the table regardless of players present, such as in Pai Gow Poker.
In some instances, round counting and/or hand counting information is collected along with dealer identification information so that data relating to the productivity of a table can later be correlated with the identity of the dealer.
By using the various hand and/or round counting data collection methods outlined below and dealer i.d. methods, the overall productivity of a live game pit can be measured and attributed to pit employees.
Numerous examples of such data collection systems are provided below.
Round counting is one service or data component that can be important to a table. For example, round completion is 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 gaming intelligence (e.g., game table computer, pit computer, main or central computer so that the receiving intelligence interprets the signals (light sensed/light not sensed and the accompanying time stamping) to determine if a round should be counted.
For example, when a dealer card sensor is used to count rounds, before the dealer's hand is dealt, the signal being sent by the sensor is that light is being received. When the dealer's hand has been dealt or during the process of dealing the dealer's hand one-card-at-a-time, the dealer places the dealer's cards over the aperture. A signal or state is then sent that light is not being received. If the lack of light signal is of too short a duration (e.g., 1-2 seconds), the receiving intelligence, based on the time stamp for a light admission signal changing to a light blocking signal and back again, will be programmed to interpret this as a non-round event, such as a dealer leaning on the table or a player throwing away cards, or some article being misplaced over the light-sensing system. Similarly, if the light blocking event is too long (10-15 minutes), the intelligence will be programmed to interpret this as a non-round event, such as an inactive table with cards spread over the table and the sensor. The upstream processor receiving the time stamped signal will be programmed to interpret the data on this basis. The processor can poll the signal stamping component on a regular basis or wait for a signal or state change information to be received before it acts. By having the date stamping on the original signals at the table before being sent to any computer that analyzes or tabulates or permanently stores the information, a good level of quality information is maintained.
There are numerous formats and protocols that may be followed with regard to the hand counting procedure executed by the dealer. The protocols may depend, at least in part, upon the specific modules, components and sensors provided, as well as the game that is played. A description of certain preferred protocols for blackjack and Let-It-Ride® poker are in order.
In blackjack, the dealer position may be provided with, by way of a non-limiting example, one or two card presence sensors. In the format with two card sensors, as shown in
There may also be some time requirements associated with the sensors to assure that only intended events are indicated. For example, a card might have to remain over a sensor for a full predetermined time period (e.g., 2 second, 5 seconds, 10 seconds, etc.) for the signal to be sent, and the sensor might have to have a similar required time period of sensing the absence of a card(s) to send a “no dealer card present” signal. This time period may be of a similar time frame as the card presence time frame, but does not have to be the same time. This signal time dependency may tend to be more important, as the dealer may be likely to remove both cards while disclosing one card face, or the dealer may have a habit of bouncing cards into position, which could cause cards to cover and uncover the sensor for insignificant time periods.
In another embodiment useful for blackjack, a single card sensor is present. For example, the first dealer card signal would again be a good starting point for a signal sequence to indicate round initiation, but all dealer card presence or absence signals would have to originate from the single sensor, and a more complicated card handling protocol might be required. For example, the protocol might include the following: a) the dealer places a first card over the single sensor and provides a first recognized signal (e.g., equivalent to dealer cards are present, indicating at least a beginning to a potential round counting event); b) a first clearing event where the dealer removes both initial dealer cards from over the sensor to reveal one of the dealer cards, then reinserts the cards over the sensor (comprising a “no dealer card present” signal followed by a “dealer card present” signal); and c) at least a second “no dealer card present” signal (performed after all players have concluded their Hit/Stay activity and the dealer removes the two initial dealer cards to complete the dealer hand Hit/Stay activity. This series of signals may also have a confirmation signal from a discard rack or tray as indicated above. To indicate a blackjack (particularly where there is an confirmation of blackjack before players exercise their Hit/Stay options), the dealer receives a signal that a blackjack is present (e.g., a visual signal or an automated read signal), the dealer removes the cards to inspect them and display the blackjack to the table, and reinserts the cards over the sensor (a signal similar to what occurs when the dealer exercises the Hit/Stay event). The dealer would then resolve wagers, remove the dealer cards and sweep the player cards in order. This last step would again be part of a signal sequence that would be indistinguishable from the signal sequence when there is no blackjack. A confirmation signal may again be used or not.
In the play of a game such as Let It Ride® poker or other games, distinct protocols would again have to be prepared. Again, in this exemplary analysis, the table may be provided with one or two dealer sensors. In this game, there is no dealer hand, as such, but rather, community cards are handled by the dealer. The dealer provides three cards to each player and then deals 2-3 community cards to a dealer controlled position. The dealer removes one card if three are dealt, leaving two community cards face down. Play involves the dealer revealing community cards one-at-a-time. The signal protocol could involve any of the following sequences. Initial sequence step is the dealer positioning the common cards over one or two sensors (with one card each over a sensor when there are two sensors). A second signal step in the sequence would occur when the first community card is revealed. With two sensors, the first community card could be removed from a first sensor (causing a “no dealer card present” signal from one sensor), and the revealed card placed on top of the remaining community card. Upon time in the game for revelation of the second card, both cards would be removed and displayed away from the sensors (the signal now being two signals that neither sensor has a community card present), or by revealing the cards away from the sensor and then replacing both cards over the sensors. These steps would provide a distinct set of protocols that could not be recreated except by intentional events at the card table, and would provide an essentially definitive indication of the end of a round. The system would then recognize that a round had been played and store that record. The indication of the end of the round could be provided by software in a storage/processing system, or the effect of the specific sequence of signals could trigger a specific device ( apart of a round counter module) to send a signal that a round has been completed.
A process according to the present disclosure is therefore inclusive of providing at least one sensor on a casino card gaming table, requiring a dealer to perform physical positioning events of cards on the gaming table with respect to the sensors, and when a specific sequence of physical positioning events of cards on the gaming table produces a required sequence of signals from the sensors, the system recognizes completion of a round at the gaming table. The protocol may involve at least indicating the presence of initial cards controlled by the dealer (e.g., a dealer's hand or community cards) in sensed area(s), change of status or location of the initial cards in sensed area(s), and/or removal of all dealer controlled cards from sensed area(s).
Particularly in games where batch shuffling is used, such as single deck 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. If the shuffler forms hands of cards, signals representing hands per round and rounds played could be forwarded to local intelligence, date stamped and stored remotely.
Gaming tables for games such as blackjack (Twenty-One), baccarat, roulette, poker, poker variants (Let It Ride® poker, Three-Card Poker® game, Caribbean Stud® poker, etc.), craps, and the like can be equipped with monitoring devices of the present invention. 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 (or sensing devices) 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 signals and information, when date stamped, do not have to be sent directly, indirectly or even eventually to a main game computer. The term “time stamping” is meant any relatable time entry, such as just time, all the way to time and date. Time and/or date stamping can also include other types of identification information, such as the source of the data, i.e., table 3, bet sensor 2. The “time” does not even have to be actual local or standard time of day, but can be time from when machines are turned on or when shifts begin, or when dealing starts at a table, etc. As the date stamping of some information, such as the counting of rounds, number of shuffles per hour, number of rounds per shuffle, and the like do not have any direct and underlying effect on the play of individual rounds of the game, the information may be sent to a data bank or information repository directly from each table (e.g., on a network directly from tables, through a table computer, or central networked computer, etc.). The information need not even be directly sent to a specific repository, but can be placed on a network as information status (as well as a specific signal or data package) such that when it is received by the data bank or storage repository, the recipient memory device will appropriately log-in and/or store the data or signal that is received from each table. This information can be analyzed and stored in real time or stored for later analysis upon command or upon regular intervals.
A G-Mod is a game module that supports specific functions on the gaming table or associated peripherals (e.g., shuffler). A G-Mod is a form of local intelligence at a gamin table. To understand a G-mod and its function, is desirable to understand the concept of operative control among processing units. It is believed that existing systems perform by a single main processor sending commands to peripherals to perform specific functions, and that date stamping is usually done at point of receipt of the data by a gaming processor, especially the main processor. For purposes of discussion, the initial main emphasis of the description will be directed towards the performance of casino table card games with a live dealer, but the system is equally applicable to the use of a fully automated (live dealer-less) gaming apparatus. This emphasis is not intended to narrow the scope of the invention, but is rather intended to simplify the description. A G-Mod is an electronic hardware element that performs its task independent of direct control from a main or central game processor. The device may have sufficient intelligence to read data and make a decision on data, but its primary task is not to receive and obey commands. For example, it may receive status signals or status data and determine whether it is to respond to the signal or data, but is not commanded by the data. Equally importantly, it is capable of sending out status data and/or signal data.
Some of the G-Mods may have more than one function associated with them, and some may have no game function to them, but only peripheral function.
The units or subcomponents on the gaming table or within the table gaming system can be operated substantially independently of each other, although some interdependencies may exist. In most prior art systems substantially all performance of the peripheries is done only at the command of the gaming control processor or central computer.
One such format of use of this information would be for each table to have a rabbit (or G-Mod) receive the original signal from the dealer's card sensor or other sensor, preferably date stamp the signal and broadcast that signal over a direct line or network to an information repository or data bank. The data bank would periodically (or immediately) evaluate the data in that signal, determine the frequency of rounds being played (e.g., rounds per hour) and enter that formal data into a database. There could be an immediate or periodic review of the data by software so that anomalies can be identified and reported appropriately.
Although the present invention has been described largely in terms of a single round-counting module that sends date-stamped information to a central database, other modules also could send data to the same database.
For example, a blackjack gaming table that is equipped with a round counting sensor and G-Mod may also be equipped with a sensor at the output of the dealing shoe for counting cards dispensed from the shoe. This information can be used in combination with the round counting information to deduce the number of cards dealt in a given round of play. If the number (and possibly value) of cards coming out of the shoe is counted the number of players at the table can also be determined for certain games. If there are bet present sensors (and one or more associated or non-associated G-Mod(s)) for the bet sensors, the number of hands played per round of play (e.g., the number of players) can be determined.
Each G-Mod is collecting, date stamping and transmitting data as the data is collected from the table to a central database, but in one example of the invention, none of the G-Mods on the same table are in communication with each other except to broadcast state changes, and the database does not issue commands to the G-Mods. In effect, each G-Mod is a freestanding local microprocessor that runs independently of the any other intelligence.
A card swipe module could be added to the table system, with or without an associated G-Mod. This G-Mod could not only transmit time-stamped data to the data repository, but could also transmit dealer and/or player I.D. information to the player tracking system residing in the casino computer system or dealer I.D. to link a specific dealer to a specific table and to evaluate the specific dealer.
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 its own G-Mod (either internal or external) and would be 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 player positions occupied, number of cards re-fed into a continuous shuffler per unit of time, number of promotional cards dispensed per unit of time, bonus awards granted at a certain time, and the like. This information could be collected in a central database, data bank or information repository (e.g., any electronic memory or storage system).
A bet interface module could also be provided. Known techniques for measuring wagers include optical and metal detection type bet present sensors for fixed bets, and camera imaging, radio frequency/identification technology and the like for measuring the amount of the bet, as well as the presence of the bet. Outputs from these measurement devices are fed through a dedicated or shared G-Mod and the data is date stamped and delivered to the central data depository. A shared G-Mod for purposes of this disclosure is a device that receives signals from two or more like or unlike data acquisition devices. For example, one G-Mod might manage data acquired from a dealer swipe, multiple card present sensors and a discard rack sensor, for example.
Another possible G-Mod could control a card reading camera located in either the card shuffler, the dealing shoe, the discard tray or combinations of the above. Information about the specific cards dealt to each player could be obtained by feeding date-stamped information about cards dealt and returned. In one form of the invention, the G-Mod sends date-stamped information to the database and an algorithm residing in the same computer or house computer uses this information as well as round counting and betting information to determine the composition of a hand of blackjack, for example.
Another G-Mod might be in communication with an identification system for tracking the movement of employees in and out of the pit, or more preferably when the dealers arrive at and leave the table. This information could be collected and reported along with rounds of play per hour to determine which dealers deal the most hands in a given period of time.
In a roulette application, a sensor and associated G-Mod can record the number of spins of the wheel in a unit of time, for example. This information could be associated with the player swipe card information from another or the same G-Mod by merely comparing the time stamping of the data to determine how long a particular player stayed at a table. A sensor or G-Mod may “listen in” to communication to the reader board on a roulette table, and send that information to a data bank, so that a distinct sensor is not needed to read the position of the ball separate from existing components.
It is important to note that none of the G-Mods are issuing commands to other G-Mods (although data or signal transmission from one G-Mod may pass through the communication network of one or more other G-Mods, without the signal being a command to any other G-Mod) on the same gaming table. Also, the data repository does not issue commands to the G-Mods. The central database merely organizes the data in a manner that allows for easy access by external or other associated 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 comping players, 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. Or the interface device can allow data to be sent over a network to a remote database.
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 on demand onto a display, written report or data stream so that the data can be interpreted and used as a management tool. In one preferred 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. 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, while saving valuable resources by only purchasing the sensing/data analysis packages they need. For example, one casino might want to reconstruct individual hands, track betting and associate the information with a particular player in a high stakes game, while tracking only rounds and the identification of the dealer/employees on low-stakes games.
By using a modular approach to 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 in command communication with one-another, it is not necessary to rewrite any code as additional modules are added.
Examples of Table Efficiency Packages
A. Blackjack Table Efficiency
Bet sensors are provided to determine the number of active player positions at the table. The type of sensors are, for example, proximity detectors, RFID systems, resistive sensors, field sensors, optical readers, weight sensors, magnetic detectors, drop boxes or the like, as are known in the art. The Dealer Card Sensors I and/or II may individually be optical light detectors (e.g., located in the table), optical imaging systems (e.g., digital cameras and imagers), magnetic detectors, mechanical actuators (e.g., with cards pushing levers or switches), and the like. The dealer swipe may be a magnetic swipe system, RFID system, keypad input, biometric system, pit boss input pad, or the like. The Discard Rack Sensor may be an edge reading sensor, face reading sensor, bar code reading sensor, optical sensor (detecting only the presence of at least one card, rather than specific cards or numbers of cards), weight sensors, and the like.
In other forms of the invention, additional sensing equipment could be added to provide more detailed information on the game. For example, card reading/counting shufflers and/or card dispensing shoes can be added into the systems.
All of the various formats available for shuffling cards may be used. Certain existing models already having signal transmission capability and others are readily capable of modification to provide the signals that are needed. For example, shuffling mechanisms can be used to randomize the cards, either before or during hand formation or delivery of a pack of shuffled cards. For example, Random Ejection Shuffler™ devices (e.g., as disclosed in U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,722,974; 6,551,985; 6,299,167; 6,270,404; 6,165,069; 6,019,368; 5,676,372; and 5,584,483, Sines) could be used to randomize either all or part of the group of cards (e.g., one or more decks) to be shuffled, and then a hand of a pre-determined numbers of cards could be formed by removing cards individually or as a group from the randomized all or part of the group, or by feeding random numbers of cards to a delivery tray. Other examples of useful formats of shufflers have been described above, including but not limited to U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,275,411 (Breeding), U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,655,684; 6,651,982; 6,651,981; 6,588,751; 6,588,750; 6,567,678; 6,325,373; 6,254,096; 6,149,154; 6,139,014; 6,068,258; and 5,695,189 (Grauzer et al.), and U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,683,085 and 6,267,248 (Johnson). These embodiments include speeding up shuffling time and hand delivery time by having hands either simultaneously formed ad shuffled or formed from a smaller sub-set of randomized/shuffled cards. These techniques eliminate or reduce the waiting for a complete group of cards to be randomized before hands are formed and can be modified if necessary to transmit data and or signals in raw and/or in enhanced form via a G-Mod to a network database.
If instead of shufflers, card delivery shoes may be provided (with cards manually or mechanically shuffled and inserted into the shoe. These delivery shoes are known in the art or can be readily modified with signaling devices and/or card readers to provide the necessary or desired functions. It is possible for signaling devices and components on the table to be provided for communication (ultimately) with a computer by providing the function in a separate component (such as a G-Mod) in network or other form of communication with the shuffler or other devices. G-Mods and other formats of architecture are described in copending U.S. patent application Ser. Nos. 10/880,408; and 10/880,410, both filed on Jun. 28, 2004, which are incorporated herein by reference. For example, a gaming table might contain an automatic shuffler, hand forming device (integrated with or separate from the shuffler), a Random Number Generator, and/or a plurality of bet sensors, each communicatively connected to an external micro-processor or field programmable gated array with network or system or individual component communication capability.
The bet sensor interface 104 is provided for polling the individual optical sensors and dealer card sensor 108 and transmitting the information to the I/O interface 112. The components may communicate by standard serial ports. A discard rack sensor 116 may be a triggering component for activation of the round count system, especially in most standard formats of casino play. For example, in blackjack and baccarat, the dealer “burns” a single card after the deck is prepared for dealing. This burn card is placed into the discard rack. The state of the sensor changes resulting in an activation of the remaining sensors. In other games, excess cards are placed into a discard rack prior to players being allowed to view their cards. This would then activate the system, sending a state change signal that a card has been placed into the discard rack, and other components will interpret that signal according to their functions, or merely awake from a rest period of low energy state. Typically an optical or light emitting sensor in the discard rack would be used as the trigger.
The dedicated Microprocessor 112 may be any microprocessor or processor capable of performing the signal retrieving and/or data conversion functions described herein. An example of a commercially available microprocessor that is satisfactory is Model WCR3227-533 from ID Tech, Inc. It may be connected to all of the sensors and devices of this system, even as a module. It contains logic to process the state changes of the sensors and devices. The collected data is time stamped and sent to the Middleware 124 and/or the network database 128.
The Interface Assembly 104 (e.g., multiple ports), is plugged into directly or indirectly plugs by the input devices, for example, using Molex I/O ports and 9 pin serial ports. The I/O interface assembly may, for example, be mounted underneath the table and powered by an external power supply (to avoid the need for replacement of an internal power supply), as with a 12 Volt external power supply (not shown). An RJ-45 network jack may be used to send the data from the modules (using TCP/IP protocol) to the user interface software installed on a server (e.g., via CAT 5 or WIFI connection). The I/O interface assembly contains a programmable CPU tailored for use with the individual connected modules and the user interface software. By having a network connection, the I/O interface assembly can be updated over the network or by direct interface programming.
The user interface that displays information may be a thin client user interface (not shown) as well as a conventional full access system. An example of the components, needs, operation and enablement of such as system is described in copending U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/957,537, filed Oct. 1, 2004, titled THIN CLIENT USER INTERFACE FOR GAMING SYSTEMS, which application is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety. The user interface software, known as the “ITS Server Suite,” is a program that gives the casino the ability to generate reports on demand from the data collected by the I/O interface assembly (e.g., GM1021). The UI is a web-based Microsoft Windows® system compatible application that is installed on the casino's server within its network and maintained by the casino's IT staff. The UI allows users to log on from their office PC or handheld PDA or any other network-enabled remote device to access and create standard and/or customized reports based on the data provided by the individual modules.
Information such as number of bets per unit time per table position, number of hands played per table position, number of hands played per number of rounds per unit time, number of rounds per dealer, number of wagers placed per unit of time per dealer, the number of hands played per dealer per shift and other useful efficiency information can be collected. This information can be used to make decisions important to the efficiency of a pit operation. For example, a casino can easily determine the games that get the most play, and the dealers who hold players at the table the longest.
B. Table Efficiency Package for Pai Gow Poker and Let It Ride® Poker
A sequence could be a dealer swipe to initiate the presence of the dealer at a table followed by any unique event sensed in the operation of the shuffler, such as a signal that all cards have been removed from the shuffler, that a new deck has been placed in the shuffler, that the dealer has initiated a deal cycle, that the shuffler indicates a correct count of cards have been delivered to or from the shuffler (possibly in the absence of a special event such as a verify deck cycle in which cards would not be dealt and no hand would be played), or even a button on the shuffler pressed by a dealer to indicate the beginning or end of a hand.
The dealer swipe may be a part of the sequence that has to occur only once for each individual dealer, such that when a first dealer comes to the table, the swipe will be the first signal in a sequence, and then each subsequent shuffler signal would be an individual count-effecting signal. Alternatively, after the dealer swipe signal, the shuffler would provide two signals from different sensors to effect a round count. Such separate signals could comprise initiation of shuffle and delivery of a correct amount of cards; insertion of a next deck of cards and delivery of an earlier randomized set of cards; initiation of card delivery to a delivery tray and completion of delivery of the full set of cards; and the like. As some if not most specialty games are played with a single deck of cards for each round, the use of insertion of a deck or complete delivery of a deck of a specific number of cards is a useful and singular event to provide a signal in each round. Where the term “distinct” is used with respect to the sensors or sources of signals, it is meant that each distinct sensor or source of a signal originates from a distinct function, rather than a duplicate of a function. For example, even though there are numerous individual bet placement sensors, they are not distinct, as they sense the same event at similar times, the placement of wagers. A bet sensor, a card senor, a dealer swipe sensor, a shuffler hand delivered sensor, a shuffler initiate deal sensor, and a shuffler all cards delivered sensor are distinct, individually and collectively.
In the game of Pai Gow Poker, all hands are dealt to the table positions, regardless of whether or not a wager has been made. It is therefore desirable to provide bet sensors 400 a-g to identify live hands. This system uses a card shuffler to identify rounds, but not hands per rounds played. In the Let It Ride® system, only the number of hands used are dealt, so the shuffler can send signals that represent both hand count per round and rounds played.
C. Three Card Poker® Table Efficiency System
All of the apparatus, devices and methods disclosed and claimed herein can be made and executed without undue experimentation in light of the present disclosure. While the apparatus, devices and methods of this invention have been described in terms of both generic descriptions and preferred embodiments, it will be apparent to those skilled in the art that variations may be applied to the apparatus, devices and methods described herein without departing from the concept and scope of the invention. More specifically, it will be apparent that certain elements, components, steps, and sequences that are functionally related to the preferred embodiments may be substituted for the elements, components, steps, and sequences described and/or claimed herein while the same of similar results would be achieved. All such similar substitutions and modifications apparent to those skilled in the art are deemed to be within the scope and concept of the invention as defined by the appended claims.