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Publication numberUS20060287067 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/419,902
Publication dateDec 21, 2006
Filing dateMay 23, 2006
Priority dateMay 23, 2005
Publication number11419902, 419902, US 2006/0287067 A1, US 2006/287067 A1, US 20060287067 A1, US 20060287067A1, US 2006287067 A1, US 2006287067A1, US-A1-20060287067, US-A1-2006287067, US2006/0287067A1, US2006/287067A1, US20060287067 A1, US20060287067A1, US2006287067 A1, US2006287067A1
InventorsGehrig White, James Crawford, Jon Lester
Original AssigneeWhite Gehrig H, Crawford James T Iii, Jon Lester
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Hospitality feature of an electronic gaming system and method of operation
US 20060287067 A1
Abstract
An electronic gaming system has a plurality of tables each having a plurality of electronic player interaction areas (EPIA's) spaced preferably about a table periphery so that a gaming player locates oneself in front of a respective EPIA to play a game. A computer-based controller of the system assigns any one of preferably a variety of games to any one table. The player is then free to choose what game he/she desires to play by picking a particular table. The gaming system has a host console that communicates with each EPIA via the controller for managerial control of the plurality of tables. A software-based hospitality feature is integrated into the electronic gaming system for logging players in and out of a game, monitoring and recording of game play, enabling efficient waiter service, assisting security personal and preferably establishing confidential communications with the floor manager or host.
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Claims(33)
1. An electronic gaming system for control of a game in a gaming establishment, the electronic gaming system comprising:
a computer;
at least one electronic player interaction area having a user interface;
a host console being in communication with the at least one electronic player interaction area through the computer; and
a software-based hospitality feature integrated between the at least one electronic player interaction area and the host console for the transfer of information between at least one game player of each respective one of the at least on electronic player interaction area and at least one host of the gaming establishment.
2. The electronic gaming system set forth in claim 1 further comprising:
an account of the hospitality feature established for each respective one of the game players; and
a personal identification number of each account for entering by each one of the respective at least one game players into each respective one of the electronic player interaction areas.
3. The electronic gaming system set forth in claim 1 further comprising:
an account of the hospitality feature established for each respective one of the game players;
a card reader of the hospitality feature integrated into each respective one of the at least one electronic player interaction areas; and
a computer readable at least one player card of the hospitality feature wherein each one of the at least one player cards is associated with the account of a respective one of the at least one game players.
4. The electronic gaming system set forth in claim 3 wherein the at least one player card identifies and accounts for funds in the account of the respective at least one game player.
5. The electronic gaming system set forth in claim 4 wherein the at least one player card identifies and locates the respective at least one game player through the host console.
6. The electronic gaming system set forth in claim 3 further comprising a personal identification number of each account for entering by each one of the respective at least one game players into the user interface of each respective one of the electronic player interaction areas.
7. The electronic gaming system set forth in claim 6 further comprising government reporting forms of the hospitality feature viewable by the at least one player on the user interface and being constructed and arranged to accept an electronic signature of the at least one game player.
8. The electronic gaming system set forth in claim 1 further comprising:
an electronic gaming table;
the at least one electronic player interaction areas being a plurality of electronic player interaction areas spaced about the gaming table from one-another;
a leave table button of the hospitality feature integrated into each respective one of the plurality of electronic player interaction areas that permits a respective one of the at least one players to leave the electronic gaming table during play of a game.
9. The electronic gaming system set forth in claim 8 further comprising a sit-in button of the hospitality feature integrated into each respective one of the plurality of electronic player interaction areas that permits a new player to sit-in for the respective one of the at least one players that has left the electronic gaming table.
10. The electronic gaming system set forth in claim 9 wherein the sit-in button is de-activated unless the leave table button is initiated.
11. The electronic gaming system set forth in claim 1 comprising an electronic signal of the hospitality feature received at the host console when a first player logs in to a respective one of the at least one electronic player interaction areas.
12. The electronic gaming system set forth in claim 11 wherein the hospitality feature tracks the frequency of play of the first player and stores in a database.
13. The electronic gaming system set forth in claim 12 wherein the hospitality feature tracks a history of play of the first player and stores in the database.
14. The electronic gaming system set forth in claim 13 wherein the history of play includes games, wagering and how each hand is played.
15. The electronic gaming system set forth in claim 12 further comprising a trigger of the hospitality feature received at the host console if the identification of the first player appears in the database for alerting the at least one host.
16. The electronic gaming system set forth in claim 11 further comprising an options button of the hospitality feature integrated into each one of the at least one electronic player interaction areas, the options button having a drink request option for selection by the at least one player for ordering drinks.
17. The electronic gaming system set forth in claim 16 wherein the drink request option is communicated to the host console for tracking of drinks consumed.
18. The electronic gaming system set forth in claim 11 further comprising:
an electronic gaming table;
the at least one electronic player interaction areas being a plurality of electronic player interaction areas spaced about the gaming table from one-another; and
an options button of the hospitality feature integrated into each one of the at least one electronic player interaction areas, the options button having an anonymous alert selection communicating with the host console for alerting the host of undesirable behavior at the electronic gaming table.
19. The electronic gaming system set forth in claim 9 further comprising an unseat button of the hospitality feature integrated into the host console for selection by the host when a player has left a game without logging out.
20. A method of operation of a hospitality feature of an electronic gaming system comprising the steps of:
creating an account for a player in a gaming establishment;
assigning a personal identification number to the account;
funding the account by the player;
selecting an electronic player interaction area by the player;
entering the personal identification number by the player into the electronic player interaction area;
sending a signal to a host console alerting a host of the gaming establishment of the player; and
monitoring play of the player; and
downloading of the monitored play into a database of a computer.
21. The method of operation set forth in claim 20 comprising the further step of selecting a service request button of the electronic player interaction area by the player for ordering of a drink.
22. The method of operation set forth in claim 21 comprising the further step of sending a signal to the host console upon the selection of the service request for monitoring drink consumption.
23. The method of operation set forth in claim 20 comprising the further steps of:
selecting an anonymous alert selection of the electronic player interaction area by the player; and
sending of an alert signal to the host console to alert the host.
24. The method of operation set forth in claim 20 comprising the further step of assigning a computer readable playing card to the player when creating the account.
25. The method of operation set forth in claim 20 comprising the further step of:
monitoring the rate of play of a game at a table having the electronic player interaction area;
comparing the rate of play to a minimum threshold value by the computer; and
sending a signal to the host console by the computer if the rate of play falls below the minimum threshold.
26. The method of operation set forth in claim 20 comprising the further step of:
alerting the player as to available funds by the electronic player interaction area; and
converting at least a portion of the funds to electronic chips.
27. The method of operation set forth in claim 26 comprising the further step of:
logging out from the game by the player; and
crediting any game winnings to the account by the computer.
28. The method of operation set forth in claim 27 comprising the further step of displaying government forms on a user interface of the electronic poker interaction area by the computer if the player has winnings.
29. The method of operation set forth in claim 28 comprising the further step of providing an electronic signature on the government forms by the player.
30. The method of operation set forth in claim 20 comprising the further step of retrieving the downloaded monitored play for evaluation.
31. The method of operation set forth in claim 30 comprising the further step of evaluating the retrieved monitored play to establish player collusion.
32. The method of operation set forth in claim 31 comprising the further step of evaluating the retrieved monitored play at the request of a player.
33. The method of operation set forth in claim 20 comprising the further step of selecting a history button of the host console by the host; and
reviewing past game play by the host.
Description
CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

The present application claims priority to U.S. Provisional Patent Application 60/683,810, filed May 23, 2005, and U.S. Provisional Patent Application (Ser. No. Not Available; Atty. Docket No. 60,667-091), both of which are hereby incorporated by reference in their entirety.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates generally to an electronic gaming system and method of operation and more particularly to a hospitality feature of the system and method of operating the same.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Gaming is an increasingly popular form of entertainment. Games, particularly, games of chance and skill where one or more players play and place wagers on a desired and/or predicted outcome can be played in a variety of ways and in a variety of places, including at a casino or other venue or on the Internet. Of the various forms of games that are available for play, many utilize playing cards. Of these, poker is arguably the most popular.

Traditionally, poker is played at a table with several players wagering paper or coin money on a series of playing cards dealt from a deck of fifty-two cards. This deck is comprised of four suits at thirteen cards per suit. This form of poker requires a human dealer to coordinate the game, including dealing, wagering, folding, and the like. In “social” card games, especially poker, the players take turns acting as the dealer, but in licensed commercial gaming establishments, such as casinos, the dealer is typically a non-playing employee. Unfortunately, traditional poker is potentially prone to human dealer error. Moreover, human dealers in casino type establishments must be trained and paid a salary sufficient to retain them.

One alternative form of gaming, with particular reference to poker, has flourished on the internet. Internet gaming has become quite successful in that it provides many choices for the players. In particular, internet gaming is fast and convenient, with registration, betting and payouts available from almost any computer with internet access and with payments typically arranged via a credit card. Yet further, poker or other card games may also be provided by stand-alone machines similar to slot machines.

One major drawback of internet and stand-alone type games is the lack of the human element. Many people prefer to play poker against other players face-to-face, because of the drama associated with “live” gaming. Undoubtedly, an elevated level of competition exists when people compete directly against one another and face-to-face. In gaming establishments, experienced players are trying to hone strategy and read other players' intentions through their movements and style of play to be more competitive.

In U.S. Patent Application Publication number US 2005/0090304 A1, filed Sep. 13, 2004, and disclosed herein by reference in its entirety, an electronic gaming system and method of displaying and obscuring electronic playing cards is disclosed and assigned to the same assignee of the present invention. Generally, this electronic gaming system replaces the human dealer with a computer capable of simulating the deal and simulating the playing cards via video displays. The system has a plurality of tables with each table having a plurality of electronic player interaction areas or stations (EPIA's). An individual interested in playing a particular game can locate oneself in front of a particular station of a table (or can be assigned) and upon logging-in, can play the game.

Although the electronic gaming system and related software has unique advantages of particular benefit to the gaming establishment, it does not fully conceive of potential benefits for the players.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

An electronic gaming system has a plurality of tables each having a plurality of electronic player interaction areas (EPIA's) spaced preferably about a table periphery so that a gaming player locates oneself in front of a respective EPIA to play a game. A computer-based controller of the system assigns any one of preferably a variety of games to any one table. The player is then free to choose what game he/she desires to play by picking a particular table. The gaming system has a host console that communicates with each EPIA via the controller for managerial control of the plurality of tables. A software-based hospitality feature is integrated into the electronic gaming system for logging players in and out of a game, monitoring and recording of game play, enabling efficient waiter service, assisting security personal and preferably establishing confidential communications with the floor manager or host.

Operation of the hospitality feature preferably begins with the creation of a player account and the funding of the account after assignment of a personal identification number for the player. Once assigned, the player is free to choose an electronic player interaction area that is programmed to play a particular game. Once chosen, the player logs in by entering their personal identification number into the electronic player interaction area. The player can then divert at least a portion of their funds into electronic chips for play of the game. When logging in, a signal is sent to the host console for alerting the host of a new player. While playing, the players actions are generally monitored and recorded into a database of the computer. Also, by logging in, the player is in selective communication with the host and/or waitering staff for further hospitality services.

Benefits and advantages of the present invention include an automated electronic gaming system that enhances communication between game players and the host of a gaming establishment, alerts the host of potential problems before they occur, enhances security, better detects possible collusion between players for the benefit of the remaining players, improves beverage and food service and decreases outside distractions for the benefit of the players during the game. Other advantages include a simplification of funding player accounts and the general elimination of cumbersome, physical, chips.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Other advantages of the present invention will be readily appreciated as the same becomes better understood by reference to the following detailed description when considered in connection with the accompanying drawings wherein:

FIG. 1 is a diagrammatic illustration of a gaming system embodying the present invention and in a casino environment;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of an electronic poker table of the gaming system;

FIG. 3 is a top view of the electronic poker table of FIG. 2;

FIG. 4 is a front and back view of an electronic playing card;

FIG. 5 is a plan view of a player interface of an electronic player interaction area of the system with hole cards of the electronic playing cards hidden;

FIG. 6 is a plan view of the player interface of FIG. 5 with the hole cards revealed;

FIG. 7 is a partial block diagram of the gaming system associated with one poker table;

FIG. 8 is a partial block diagram of the gaming system associated with a plurality of poker tables;

FIG. 9 is a perspective view of the electronic player interaction area in a module form with headphones;

FIG. 10 is a perspective view of a modified electronic player interaction area embodied in a hand-held module with headphones;

FIG. 11 is a block diagram of software components of the gaming system;

FIG. 12 is a simplified block diagram of the gaming system;

FIG. 13 is a block diagram of the gaming system with a host console;

FIG. 14 is a flow diagram of a method of operating the gaming system;

FIG. 15 is a first table tab image displayed on a video screen of the host console;

FIG. 16 is a second table tab image displayed on the video screen of the host console;

FIG. 17 is a third table tab image displayed on the video screen of the host console;

FIG. 18 is a fourth table tab image displayed on the video screen of the host console;

FIG. 19 is a hand dialog displayed on the video screen of the host console;

FIG. 20 is a minutes dialog displayed on the video screen of the host console;

FIG. 21 is a fifth table tab image displayed on the video screen of the host console;

FIG. 22 is a sixth table tab image displayed on the video screen of the host console;

FIG. 23 is a seventh table tab image displayed on the video screen of the host console;

FIG. 24 is an eighth table tab image displayed on the video screen of the host console;

FIG. 25 is a first wait list tab image displayed on the video screen of the host console;

FIG. 26 is a ninth table tab image displayed on the video screen of the host console;

FIG. 27 is an account number dialog displayed on the video screen of the host console;

FIG. 28 is a time limit dialog displayed on the video screen of the host console;

FIG. 29 is a tournament chop page image displayed on the video screen of the host console; and

FIG. 30 is a flow chart of a hospitality feature for recording history of play.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF INVENTION

In the illustrated embodiment and as best shown in FIGS. 1-4, an electronic gaming system 10 and method of operation embodies the present invention. The system 10 utilizes electronic cards 76 or electronic chips and electronic playing cards 76 to provide an automated card game for play by one or more players. It should be noted that the description that follows is directed towards a gaming system 10 which utilizes electronic cards and chips (for wagering). However, the system 10 may also provide a non-wagering (without electronic chips) automated card game. Preferably, a human dealer is not required, thus the system 10 handles all dealer functions. For the purposes of illustration, the system will be described as applied to an electronic poker game known as Texas Hold'em. However, the present invention is not limited to any particular card game.

I. The Game

Referring to FIGS. 3-6, in Texas Hold'em, each player at an electronic gaming or poker table 18 is electronically dealt a number of cards, e.g., two cards, face down. These are known as a player's “hole” cards 28 and are generally placed directly in front of the respective players. A number of cards, e.g., three or five, are dealt face-up and displayed in a common display area 26. These are known as community or common cards 30. A player's hand, thus, consists of the player's hole cards 28 and the common cards 30. At the end of play of a particular hand, whichever player holds the highest poker hand is the winner of that round or hand of poker.

The electronic playing cards 76 may be used in any sort of electronic card game, and even in such games where the player chooses when to reveal their hole cards 28 to themselves or to the other players. The electronic poker tables 18 are preferably capable of playing any variety of card games. Each card game, whether poker or otherwise, will generally have its own set of rules, including the number of cards, how the cards are dealt, the number of betting rounds, the structure of permissible wagers, and the like. Thus, while the present invention may be described below in the context of an electronic poker game (and more specifically, with respect to a player's hole cards 28 in a Hold'em style poker game), the present invention is not limited to such a card game.

Furthermore, the poker or card game can be a timed game wherein the players have a predetermined time period to complete each turn. For example, the players have a set period of one minute to complete each turn. Furthermore, this period of time may vary; for instance, the first turn may have a period of completion of one minute, while the second turn may have a shorter or longer period of completion. During a given betting round, the players have a predetermined period of time to either fold, check, or make a wager. If no action is taken during the predetermined time period, a default action is taken where the player preferably must fold or check. Generally, the time period for response during a betting round will decrease as the hand of the electronic poker game progresses. Parameters, such as the predetermined time period for each betting round may be automatically modified by the system 10.

More specific to the electronic playing cards 76, as best shown in FIG. 4, each card has visual image or graphical representation of a front side 76A and a back side 76B. The back side 76B of each card 76 has an identical pattern or image such that the cards cannot be individually identified with respect to any other card when viewing the back side 76B. The electronic playing card 76 is typically one of a set or deck of standard playing cards. The deck may be a standard deck of fifty-two cards, with each card having an individual designation. The designations have a first component being assigned values of two through ACE, and the second component being four groupings or suits (hearts, diamonds, clubs, spades). The value and suit of each card is indicated on the front side 76A of each playing card 76.

In a traditional card game with physical cards, the player's hole cards are dealt “face-down” so that they are not revealed to any other player. The dealt player must then discretely view their own hole cards without revealing them to other players. To do this, the player typically lifts the hole cards close to their bodies, fanning them out, and shielding them with their hands, so only the dealt player can see the front side of their cards. Alternatively, the dealt player may leave the cards face down on the table and lift one side or corner revealing at least a portion of the front side, while shielding the cards with their hands. Similarly, and with electronic hole cards 28 of cards 76 (as best shown in FIGS. 5 and 6), lifting of the corners of the cards 28 can be computer simulated upon a triggering event initiated by the respective player.

The image displayed on the back side 76B of the playing cards may be a logo, a random image (chosen from a set of predetermined images), or may be advertising directed at the player. The image may include a video or a cycling through of a set of predetermined images. Alternatively, the image may be selectable by either a player or an employee of a casino 12.

II. The Casino

Referring to FIG. 1, the gaming system 10 is preferably situated in a gaming environment, such as a casino 12. Typically, the casino 12 is divided into specialized or designated areas such as a poker room or poker area 14 each containing a plurality of tables 18, or five tables as illustrated. The poker area 14 is often cordoned off by, for example, a railing 16. While the casino 12 is one example of an environment for the gaming system 10, the present invention is not limited to any such location or environment and may also include a generally virtual casino environment and the like.

III. The Table

Referring to FIGS. 2-3, each table 18 has a table top 20 supported by at least one base 42 at floor level, and a plurality of substantially vertical legs 44 projecting between the base 42 and the table top 20. The table top 20 includes a playing surface 22 and a plurality of electronic player interaction areas (EPIA) 24 for in-part the display of the respective hole cards 28. Each table 18 seats a plurality of players, and for example and as illustrated, is preferably capable of seating a maximum of ten players, hence, each table includes ten EPIA's 24A-24J and ten chairs 40 (see FIG. 1). For the game of Texas Hold'em, the table top 20 also preferably includes one central or common display area (CDA) 26 for the display of the common cards 30.

Although the EPIA's 24 and CDA 26 are generally computer generated visual displays, thus authentic playing cards are not utilized, the electronic poker tables of the gaming system 10 are aesthetically designed to convey and retain the overall sense and ambience of a standard poker room with non-electrical poker tables. The playing surface area not taken up by the EPIA's 24 and the CDA 26 is preferably covered in a traditional material such as felt having any variety of colors. Moreover, logos, game information, or other information may be printed on the material. Alternatively, the EPIA's 24 and the CDA 26 is a single display that covers a substantial portion or all of the table top 20. The EPIA's 24 and the CDA 26 can be set apart from the rest of the table top 20 by virtual or computer generated borders. The areas of the display around the EPIA's 24 and the CDA 26 are preferably used to simulate the playing surface 22 of a standard poker table by, for example, providing an electronic image of a felt material. Furthermore, logos, game information, other information, advertisements, announcements, pictures, videos, or other information may be displayed and rotated, cycled, or shown for a limited period of time on the table top 20.

IV. Electronic Player Interaction Areas

Referring to FIGS. 3 and 5-6, each EPIA 24 has a player interface 54 used to convey game information directly to a player assigned to the respective EPIA 24, and to effectuate interaction or input from the player to the system 10. Each EPIA 24 can be part of one large display monitor, such as a LCD or plasma monitor, that includes the CDA 26, or the EPIA's preferably have separate and distinct monitors and computers networked together as required to play the game. The player interfaces 54 can be implemented on the table top 20 or in a module 34 (see FIG. 9). Alternatively, the player interface 54 may be implemented on a hand-held device 58, such as a personal data assistant (see FIG. 10).

With reference to FIGS. 2 and 5-6, the player interface 54 of the EPIA 24 is preferably a touch-screen display. Each display 54 is preferably housed in respective modules 34. In one embodiment, each module 34 incorporates a fully-functional computer (not shown) and is thus easily removable and replaced from the poker table 18. The computer includes a processor capable of running an operating system, such as Windows XP or Windows CE, both available from Microsoft Corporation of Redmond, Wash. Alternatively, the EPIA's 24 may be driven by one or more computers (not shown) located in the proximity of the table 18 with a server or server computer 50 or within the table 18.

a) Controller

A controller that is either the module 34, the personal computer (not shown), the hand-held device 58, the server 50 or a combination thereof, controls the player interface 54 (i.e. controls the information components of the player interface 54), detects touches if the player interface 54 is a touch-screen display device, and interprets the touches as trigger or touch events. The controller preferably controls the display device 54 including obscuring or hiding the player's hole cards 28 such that the player may controllably display and view the cards, while maintaining them secret from the other players.

b) Visual Player Interface

Referring to FIGS. 5-6, preferably the player interface 54 includes a graphical representation 56 of a poker table. Each player in the poker game is represented by a user graphic or icon 62 that lists their names as well as their chip totals. The pot of the current hand may be represented in the center of the poker table representation 56 by stack(s) of chips 64 and/or a number 66 representing the value of the current pot. Each player's contribution to the pot may be represented by stack(s) of chips 68 and/or a number 70 adjacent their user graphic 62.

In one embodiment, not only is the EPIA 24 capable of controllably displaying and/or obscuring a player's hole cards, the EPIA 24 is also capable of providing an indication of the player's current highest hand based on the player's current hand and the common cards 30. The highest hand may be shown textually, e.g., two-pairs, and/or graphically, pictures of the five cards which make of the highest hand. The highest hand may be triggered and shown using the same trigger event associated with the hole cards 28. Alternatively, a separate trigger event, such as a touch-event on another location on the EPIA 24 may be used to show the highest hand.

The player interface 54 preferably includes a series of game buttons 74 that allow the player to signal their game play decisions to the gaming system 10 during the play of the game, and thus preferably include a fold button 74A, a call button 74B and a raise button 74C. The game buttons 74 are active when it is a player's turn in the poker game and preferably inactive when it is not. Moreover, the EPIA 24 only activates those buttons 74 that are appropriate, given the rules of the game being played, during the current turn. For example, if the maximum number of raises for a particular game has already been made, then the wager or raise button would be inactive. The raise button 74C may be replaced with one or more buttons (not shown) which allow the player to make a wager of a predetermined or allowed amount, e.g. $10. In addition or alternatively, a keypad (not shown) may be provided which allows the player to key in a wager amount.

Preferably, the player interface 54 also displays the common cards 30. Other information that can be displayed on the player interface include, but is not limited to, an indication (visual icon and/or audio) of the player whose turn it is to act, a total of chips for each player, any cards of the other players that are face-up, and/or messages to the player, such as advertising.

Moreover, in the casino 12 environment, preferably a portion of each pot goes to the house for running the poker game. This portion of the pot is known as the rake and is preferably displayed on each EPIA 24. The rake may be shown as an amount in dollars and may include a graphical representation of virtual chips. Similarly, the EPIA 24 preferably displays a graphical representation of the chips and/or a dollar amount indicative of the amount of chips each player at the table has remaining and the amount of the current pot.

In addition, or alternatively, to the common cards 30 displayed by the CDA 26, each EPIA preferably includes a graphical representation of the common cards in the middle of the graphical representation 56 of the poker table 18. Graphical representations of the other player's card may also be shown (face-down during the current hand and face-up at the end of the hand). The common card 30 displayed in the graphical representation 56 are preferably smaller than the display of the hole cards 28 for the player of the specific EPIA 24. The display of the common cards 30 in the CDA 26 are preferably larger than the display of the common cards 30 in the EPIA representation 56.

Other attributes of the EPIA's 24 may include:

    • utilization of Surface Acoustic Wave touch screen technology
    • utilization of Multi Touch touch screen technology
    • a secure process for returning a player to a game after missing a number of blinds by pressing the button that temporarily removes the player from the game
    • method to obscure player pre-selection of one or several bet options (Poker is a sequential game. Situations exist where a player will know what action they want to take prior to it being there turn. Allowing the player to make that decision in advance of their turn in a way that allows players seating close to observe this action would provide an unfair advantage to some players and not others. This feature allows a player to make a pre-selection while observing his hole cards in such a way that other players will not be able to observe that pre-selection.),
    • ability to display live and pre-recorded video, and
    • ability to replay a previous hand (may be limited to showing the end result of the last hand and may only be available for a short period of time).

c) Audio Player Interface:

Preferably, the EPIA 24 includes a player sound generation device that generates sounds audible to the player assigned to the EPIA 24. The player sound generation device may be implemented as an earpiece (60) or headphones (see FIGS. 9 and 10) or one or more speakers. Player sounds are generally meant to be heard by a specific player alone and may include a reminder or indication of a player's turn or if the game is timed, an indication of the time remaining or that time is running out, an audible signal indicating the player's hole cards 28 or the highest hand of the player or a winning percentage associated with the player's hand. The audio signals or sounds can be any series of beeps, chimes, a simulated voice, and the like.

d) Physical Structure of the EPIA:

As best illustrated in FIGS. 2 and 3, the modules 34 are removably mounted to the table top 20, and preferably such that the touch-screen display 54 is substantially parallel and flush with the playing surface 22 of the table top 20. Moreover, the playing surface 22 of the table top 20 can be an overlay with selected cut-outs or openings for exposing the player interface or touch-screen display 54. The overlay preferably covers the outer edge of the display for aesthetic appearances. Moreover, the touch-screen display 54 can be mounted at an angle with respect to the table top 20 and below the playing surface 22 thus partially shielding the player's hole cards 28 from adjacent players. Similarly, the display 54 can be mounted at an angle with respect to and above the table top 20 wherein the angle can be adjustable for player viewing convenience.

V. Central Display Area and Audio

As best illustrated in FIGS. 3 and 5-6, the CDA 26 is used to display information such as common cards 30 for all players to see and is thus located further from the players than their respective EPIA's 24. Consequently, the display of the common cards 30 is preferably larger than the display of the hole cards 28. That is, the hole cards 28 are displayed at a first predetermined ratio from the standard size playing card, and the common cards 30 are displayed at a second predetermined ratio from the standard size playing card. Preferably, the first and second ratios may be defined such that the common cards 30 are displayed larger than the hole cards 28. Alternatively, the first and second ratios can be the same.

As previously described, the CDA 26 is preferably separate from the plurality of EPIA's 24, and is implemented preferably utilizing a LCD or plasma monitor or similar device. The CDA 26 preferably indicates which player's turn it is and which player is the designated “dealer” for the current hand. These indications are provided by respective visual signals such as an icon, arrow or the like, and/or an audio signal such as a beep, musical tone, and/or voice message. This indication of a player's turn and dealer designation CDA 26 can also be in addition to the indication provided on the respective EPIA 24. With audio indication, the CDA 26 can utilize integrated “transducer sound emitting technology” thus eliminating the need for separate speakers.

In other card games other than Texas Hold'em, common cards 30 may not exist, hence, during play of these games, the CDA 26 can be used to display advertising messages instead. The advertising messages may be from the casino or third parties and may consist of graphics, pictures, animations, video and/or audio. The advertising may be presented at predetermined locations on the central display 38 for varied durations as the CDA cycles through a plurality of advertising messages.

In general, the CDA 26 is preferably capable of displaying and/or animating:

    • blinds,
    • common cards 30,
    • bets placed and player chip stacks,
    • an indication of players who have folded and not folded,
    • winning hands,
    • wining hand percentage estimates in situations where all remaining player hold cards are exposed, and
    • rake in dollars or virtual chips.

Preferably, the gaming table 18 includes a table or system sound generation device (as oppose to the player sound generation device previously described) that is used to generate sounds audible to all the players. The table sound generation device may be implemented by one or more speakers mounted to the table 18. Alternatively, the table sound generation device may include one or more speakers adjacent to or integral with each EPIA 24 as previously described. For example, system sounds may include sounds imitating the shuffling of cards, the dealing of cards, chips thrown into the pot, sounds related to the winning of the jackpot. Player sounds may include a reminder or indication of a player's turn or if the game is timed, an indication of the time remaining or that time is running out. Generally, player exclusive sounds will not be played through the system sound generation device.

VI. Server Computer

As best illustrated in FIGS. 7 and 8, each EPIA 24, in the illustrated embodiment, preferably includes a dedicated computer (not shown), and the CDA 26 has a dedicated CDA computer 52. Both the EPIA computer and the CDA computer 52 for any given table 18 communicate with the server computer 50 that preferably plays/controls the card game, and preferably over an Ethernet network 48. The same server 50 communicates or is networked in a like manner to preferably all of the tables 18. One skilled in the art would now know that more than one EPIA 24 could operate off of one computer or that the computer 52 for the CDA 26 could also control the EPIA's 24 and/or replace the server 50 altogether. However, having a multitude of dedicated computers simplifies software and maintenance issues and due to the relatively inexpensive costs of computers, reduces manufacturing costs of the gaming system 10.

The server 50 is preferably used to implement and facilitate player tracking, ticket in ticket out (cashless) wagering, assigning player's to the seat 40 at a particular table 18, tournament play, table set-up (including turning the tables on and off and modifying table parameters), and progressive jackpots. In general, the server 50 runs the game wherein the server 50 electronically “shuffles” the playing cards, deals the cards, controls the players' turns, receives the player's inputs and acts accordingly; tracks, manages, and awards the pot, and tracks the rake. Game data is stored in a database preferably of the server 50 with each input, wager, play, and the like stored in the database. Other functions implemented by the server 50 are:

    • electronically shuffling the playing cards 76
    • dealing cards,
    • controlling players' turns,
    • receives the player's data input,
    • player tracking,
    • cashless wagering,
    • defining and modifying table parameters, including, turning the tables 18 on and off, setting the poker game being played at the table 18, setting wager parameters, and the like,
    • defining and managing jackpots, including the house percentage or rake,
    • defining and managing progressive jackpots,
    • establishing and managing a queue for players and assigning players to seats 40 and/or specific tables 18 from the queue, and
    • establishing and managing tournament play, including assigning player seats, collapsing tables, and the like.

In addition, other devices may be connected to the server 50 for providing additional features and/or functions. For example, a queuing system can be provided utilizing its own dedicated computer. However, in some systems these additional features or function could be provided, at least in part, by the server(s) 50.

VII. Host Console

With particular reference to FIGS. 7-8 and 13, the system 10 preferably has a host console 102 in electrical communication with the server computer 50 for configuring the EPIA's 24 and/or the CDA 26 and for establishing parameters of the electronic poker game. Preferably, the host console 102 is embodied in a separate computer, such as a personal computer, connected or networked (wired or wirelessly) to the server computer 50. The host console 102 may be integrated into a console, such as a kiosk. The host console 102 may also be embodied in any type of suitable device, such as a handheld computer, a personal digital assistant (PDA), notebook or laptop computer, or tablet computer. Preferably, the host console 102 provides interaction with a host or floor manager of the casino 12 via a host interface 120 of the host console 120 that is preferably a touch-screen similar to the player interface 54.

In general, the host console 102 is an administration device that can be used to create and edit game profiles including setting the game type, limits, play timing, and/or number of required players. The host console 102 allows the host or casino employee to start, pause, and stop games and to monitor table play. Additional electronic tables 18 can be activated or opened, and ring or tournament games (see below) can be easily started. Preferably, the host console 102 provides the ability to turn any one or all of the poker tables 18 on and off by communicating with the EPIA computers and CDA computer 52 via the server 50.

The host console 102 may enable a casino employee or host to:

    • select or change one of the plurality of poker games to be played on one or more of the electronic poker tables 18,
    • select the betting or wager structure to be used (For example, the poker games may have one of a limit, no-limit, or pot-limit wagering structure. The host console 102 enables the employee set the wagering structure for a given electronic poker table 18.),
    • select or change other parameters of the electronic poker games, including, but not limited to time parameters, wager limits, amounts associated with a big blind and a little blind,
    • select whether the electronic poker game is a timed game or a non-timed game,
    • modify the predetermined time period for each betting round in a timed game,
    • monitor the number of drinks ordered by a player through the EPIA 24,
    • add notes with information related to a specific player,
    • initiate a replay of a previous hand graphically, textually or numerically,
    • lock out and remove one of the players from the electronic poker table 18,
    • adjust the stack of electronic chips for one or more of the players (Possibly for correcting any deficiencies and/or settle any disputes with regard to operation of the electronic poker table 18 or play of one of the other players)

Additionally, the host console 102 allows the casino host to pause play at one of the electronic poker tables 18, for example, to allow the host to discuss any issues any of the players have with regard to the electronic poker game and/or one of the other players. The employee may re-start the electronic poker game when finished. In another aspect of the present invention, the host console 102 may allow the host to restart the electronic poker table 18 after a fault or fault condition. For example, the host console 102 may allow the host to restart the EPIA's 24 and/or the CDA 26. Additionally if the EPIA's 24 include a separate computer or a separate computer is provided to drive the central display area 26, the host console 102 may be adapted to restart or reboot these computers. Moreover, the host console 102 enables the host to “hibernate” a game. This may be used for example, to pause a game until the next day. A hibernated game may be re-started at the same or any other table.

Referring to FIG. 15, the host console 102 is programmed with two main sections referred to on the touch screen 120 of the host console 102 as a table tab 122 and a wait list tab 124. When activating or booting-up the host console 102, or when the host selects the table tab 122 if the console is already activated, a default or home screen of the system 10 generally depicts graphically the tables 18 as table representations 180 (see FIG. 18). This depiction generally marks the beginning of all the table pages 126 generally programmed under the table tab 122 option. Selection of the wait list tab 124 displays a wait list page 128 (see FIG. 25). Each one of the pages 126, 128 on the touch-screen 120 provides a multitude of options for the host to select. When selected, the home pages 126, 128 will generally change the display configuration providing additional information for the host and often additional options to choose from. For the sake of explanation, and although each page 126, 128 may have a multitude of screen displays, all the screen displays with respect to the table tab 122 will be referred to as one common table page 126. Similarly, each screen with respect to the wait list tab 124 will be referred to as one common wait list page 128.

With particular reference to FIG. 15, each table 18 may be selected and diagnostic information and options are shown on the table page 126 that includes a table component list 130, a component parameter list 132, a reset connection button 134, a restart software button 136, a reboot button 138, a calibrate screen button 140, a back button 142, and a refresh button 144. Because the table page 126 is preferably one of many screen displays linked to that illustrated in FIG. 15, the back and refresh buttons 142, 144 provide the host with the ability to generally scroll through various screen displays of the table page 126 such as that also illustrated in FIGS. 16 and 17.

The table component list 130 includes a list of all components of the selected table 18, each personal computer 50 (i.e., the “Table Client”) and each module 34 (i.e., the individual seats). Table Client 2 is a backup to Table Client 1 and is optional. Selection of one of the components of the table 18 in the table component list 130 displays information regarding the selected component in the component parameter list 132.

The table component list parameter list 132 preferably includes a:

    • 1. Description Field (e.g., “Table 13, Seat 4”);
    • 2. Client Type Field (e.g., Player or Table);
    • 3. Client Status: (Active or Inactive);
    • 4. Connection Status: (Connected or Disconnected);
    • 5. Seat Number (where appropriate);
    • 6. Seat Status (e.g., Open, Reserved, Active);
    • 7. Player Name (when available); and,
    • 8. Player Status (e.g., Active or In-Active).

The reset connection button 134 is active when the connection between the server computer 50 and the component selected in the component list 130 is disconnected. Selection of the reset connection button 134 may be used to “ping” the selected component and attempt to restart the connection therebetween. The restart software button 136 may be used to restart the software on the selected component if the component is inactive. For example, either the client software or the operating software may be restarted, i.e., a soft reboot. The reboot hardware button 138 may be used to restart the selected component, i.e., turn off the selected component and turn the selected component back on.

Because the player interface 54 of the EPIA 24 is preferably a touch-screen display, it requires running of a calibration routine for first time use and periodic calibration routine re-runs thereafter. The selection of the calibrate screen button 140 will run the calibration routine for the selected EPIA 24. Selection of the back button 142 will return the screen 120 to a previous state or view. Selection of the refresh button 144 will refresh all of the information contained on the current screen.

The table page 126 also includes a stop/pause parameter selection area 146, a move game button 148, a pause game button 150, a stop game button 152, an auto deal check button 154, a closed seating check button 156, a use wait list check button 158, an information/status area, a pair of navigation buttons, and a clear alert button 164. The stop/pause parameter selection area 146, located toward the lower left hand corner of the screen, is used with either of the pause game button 150 or the stop game button 152 if the host wants to pause a game or electronic table 18 to make a change or perform some other function. The stop/pause parameter selection area 146 includes the three options of “No Delay,” “Minutes,” and “Hands.” The game or table will be resumed when the host is finished. A stopped game ends the play at the table typically at the end of the day.

In the lower right hand corner of the screen illustrated in FIG. 15, the auto deal check button 154, the closed seating check button 156, and the use wait list check button 158 are used to turn on/off the corresponding function. The information/status area 160 provides additional information about the selected component or a just completed action. The navigation buttons 162 may be used to cross between messages in the information/status area 160. The clear alert button 164 is used to clear alerts generated by players at their respective EPIA's 24A-24J.

Referring to FIG. 17, the table page 126 also displays information regarding the game being played at the selected table of the plurality of tables 18A-18J. Preferably, the tables 18A-8J are used to provide a variety of electronic card games, such as poker, and the host console 102 provides a list of the predefined or selected card games. When providing game information, the table page 126 preferably has a general section 168, a game play section 170, a rake section 172, and a live action setting section 174. The general section 168 includes the current game and a description of the current game being played on the selected table of the plurality of tables 18A-18J and any other needed information associated with the current game. In FIG. 17, the selected game is “Limit Hold'em $1/$2”. The general section 168 includes: type, variation, stakes, and jackpots. The game play section 170 describes parameters that affect game play. In the illustrated embodiment, the game play section 170 includes: maximum raises per hand, action time limit, minimum number of players, and maximum number of players. The rake section 172 includes information regarding the current rake. The live action section 174 includes information regarding wagering. For example, the defined game is “Limit Hold'em $1/$2” and the live action section 174 includes information related to the blinds, permissible wagers, and the minimum and maximum stakes allowed.

Referring to FIG. 18, the seven table representations 180A-180G of the table page 126 is illustrated and preferably includes:

    • 1. The name of the table shown;
    • 2. The game being played at the table (e.g., Limit Hold'em $1/$2 or no game);
    • 3. The number of hands being played per hour.

Each graphical table representation 180A-180G may also include the status of each EPIA 24, for example inactive (indicated by a red “X” or marked as “No Game”), active, reserved or out. A reserved EPIA 24 or seat, means that it has been assigned to a player and can only be used by that player. The player must log in to the reserved or assigned EPIA 24 to begin playing. Typically, the player has a predetermined amount of time to log-in to the assigned EPIA 24 or the seat 40 becomes available again.

Referring to FIG. 23 and more particularly to pausing and/or stopping a game via the host console 102, the stop/pause parameter selection area 146 is used to select how the game will be stopped or paused. To do so, there are three options: “no delay,” “by minutes,” and “by hands.” If “no delay” is first selected, then if the pause button 150 or the stop game button 152 is selected, the game is immediately paused or stopped, respectively. Once a game has been paused, the pause button 150 will be replaced with a resume button 150′. Alternatively, if “by minutes” is selected, then a minute dialog 184 is displayed (see FIG. 20). The minute dialog 184 allows the host to enter when the game will be paused or stopped (in minutes) after the appropriate buttons are selected. Yet again, if “by hands” is selected, then a hands dialog 186 is displayed (see FIG. 19). The hands dialog 186 allows the host to enter when the game will be paused or stopped (in number of hands of play) after the appropriate buttons are selected.

As best illustrated in FIGS. 21 and 22, each table representation 180A-180G of the tables 18 can generally be zoomed in upon to display additional or more particular information. The screen 120 has a zoom button 188 and a second set of navigation buttons 190. With particular reference to FIG. 21, with the graphical table representations 180 being displayed, a selected table is highlighted by a colored or yellow banding 182. The navigation buttons 190 may be used to cycle or move through the table representations 180. To zoom in on a table representation 180 of a table 18, the host preferably double-clicks on the desired table representation 180 or selects the zoom button 188 to zoom in on the selected table representation 180.

Referring to FIG. 22, once a table representation is zoomed in on, the table page 126 displays a larger and more detailed graphical table representation or table enlargement 192. The table enlargement 192 has a central information area 192A and a plurality of player information areas 192B. The central information area 192A generally includes information about the actual table 18, which may include: table identifier, status, game type, pending status, average pot, hands per hour, average wait time to get a seat at the table, and a start time of the current game. The player information areas 192B generally include the seat number, the status (reserved, occupied, etc), player name (where appropriate), the player's stake, the player's wins/losses for the current game, and the time player entered the current game.

Referring to FIG. 26, the table page 126 preferably includes a reserve (or reserve for player) button 194, a game info button 198, and a diagnostics button 202. Selection of the game info button 198 and the diagnostics button 202, will result in game information and diagnostics information being displayed. As shown in FIGS. 26-28, the table page 126 may also include a reserve empty button 204 and a penalize button 208. The reserve empty button 204 may be used to reserve a seat without designative a specific person. The penalize button 208 may be used to adjust a player's stack or otherwise penalize a player. An adjust pot button 230 may be used to adjust the pot of the current hand.

The reserve button 194 allows the host via utilization of the host console 102 to reserve a seat 40 for a specific player. In order to use this button, the use wait list check box has to be off and the restricted seating check box has to checked. This allows the host to place the specific player ahead of those players on the wait list, while not opening the seat 40 to anyone who may attempt to log-in or use the unoccupied seat. When the reserve button 194 is selected, an account number dialog 210 is displayed (see FIG. 27). The account number dialog 210 allows the host to enter the account number of the person for whom they are reserving the seat 40. After the account number has been entered, a time limit dialog 212 is shown. The time limit dialog 212 (see FIG. 28) allows the host to designate how long the reservation will last before the player logs into the EPIA 24 to secure the seat 40. Once a seat has been reserved, the reservation and the player's name will be reflected at the corresponding graphical representation (see FIG. 26 that shows seat 7 reserved for “Greg”).

With particular reference to FIG. 24, the screen 120 includes a drop down list 214. The drop down list 214 includes a list of all games which may be played on the tables 18. Selecting “all” on the drop down list will display graphical representations of all of the tables 18. Selecting one of the games in the drop down list 214 will display graphical representations of only those tables which are playing that selected game.

With particular reference to FIG. 25, the wait list page 128 includes an information section 216 for each type of game that may be played on the tables 18. Each information section 216 includes information related to the game and the wait list for that game. In the illustrated embodiment, the information section includes:

    • 1. the number of tables playing the game;
    • 2. the number of players sat in a given interval; and,
    • 3. the number of players in the queue (i.e., the wait list).

The information section 216 may also include a queue active check box and an allow entry check box, which allow the employee to turn the wait list on/off for given game and to allow/disallow additional players to be added to the wait list for a given game, respectively.

With particular reference to FIG. 29, a tournament chop page 218 is illustrated which is used only during tournaments and allows the host to stop tournament play prematurely, i.e., before only one player is left, and split the remaining pot or table stakes. The tournament chop page 218 includes a series of check boxes 220 that allow the host to designate how the pot or jackpot will be split. In the illustrated embodiment, there are three options: split manually, split even, or split by table stakes. If split manually is chosen, the corresponding amounts are entered in a virtual key pad 222. The tournament chop page 218 may also include a refund rake check box 224. A cancel button 225 allows the employee to cancel the current operation and return to a previous screen. A stop & chop now button 226 stops the current tournament and splits the pot as designated.

Additional features of the host console 102 are described in the following concurrently filed U.S. patent applications all of which are herein incorporated by reference in their entirety:

    • U.S. patent application Ser. No. N/A (Atty. Docket No. 60,667-062);
    • U.S. patent application Ser. No. N/A (Atty. Docket No. 60,667-063);
    • U.S. patent application Ser. No. N/A (Atty. Docket No. 60,667-064);
    • U.S. patent application Ser. No. N/A (Atty. Docket No. 60,667-065);
    • U.S. patent application Ser. No. N/A (Atty. Docket No. 60,667-067); and
    • U.S. patent application Ser. No. N/A (Atty. Docket No. 60,667-068).
      VIII. Hospitality Attributes and Peripheral Features

Generally, because the EPIAs 24 and the host console 102 of the electronic gaming system 10 are software-based, various attributes and features not common in traditional forms of gaming are obtainable. For instance, the need for a player to approach a traditional cage with cash or personal credit to obtain physical and sometimes cumbersome playing chips from a cage manager is no longer a necessity. Moreover, during the course of a game, player diversions such as a player's desire to attract a waitress for a drink or food can be reduced or substantially eliminated. Furthermore, inappropriate behavior from fellow players can be anonymously reported to floor managers by fellow players, or even prevented before they occur by monitoring alcohol consumption. Yet further, monitoring of players and the game can better detect potential collusion and cheating by selected players that would be to the disadvantage of other players. In essence, novel hospitality and peripheral features 232 of the present invention can increase the efficient and pleasurable playing of a game for the benefit of the players and the casino or establishment that provides the gaming environment.

a. Logging-in/Out and Controlling Player Accounts:

As best illustrated in FIG. 30 and in operation, the gaming system 10 will implement a player-account based cash in/cash out system of the hospitality feature 232. The hospitality feature 232 will create a user account 234 for each player. Once an account is established for the player, the player is preferably issued a player card 236 having an associated personal identification number or PIN 238. Once the player has been issued the card, their account may be funded 240. The player card is used to both fund and identify the player at the tables 18. The player may fund their account by bringing cash to a cage, where the cash is accepted and credited to the player's account. Printed receipts are given to the player and maintained by the casino 12. To bring electronic chips to the table 18, the player chooses 241 an EPIA 24 and sits down at an associated seat 40, swipes their player card 242 and enters their PIN 244. The hospitality feature 232 informs the player of their account balance and allows them to convert all or a portion of the account balance to electronic chips 246 to bring to the game.

Referring to FIGS. 9 and 30, the module 34 preferably has a card reader 36 for reading the player card. As previously described, the player may log into the gaming system 10 through the EPIA 24 preferably by swiping the card 242 through the card reader 36. Additionally, the card reader 36 may be integrated into the bezel (not shown) located around the module 34. The EPIA 24 may also require entry of the personal identification number 244 into an attached keypad or virtual keypad displayed on the player interface 54. Alternatively or in addition, the player may log-in using a biometric parameter, such as a fingerprint, sensed by a sensor and a RFID card or chip. Once a player's identity is established, the player can access a preferably required player account and purchase chips 246 using the account balance communicated over the network. The player account may have an associated balance that contains a dollar amount based on an amount of money deposited by the player and/or any winnings that they have collected, either through poker or some other game. Additionally, information regarding the player's play at the table 18 may be tracked and recorded 248 to the player's account.

In one aspect of the present invention, the gaming system 10 may utilize a cashless system, such as Ticket-In Ticket-Out (TITO), that is constructed and arranged into each EPIA 24. Alternatively, a preferably bar-coded ticket, magnetic card, RFID card, or some other media jointly referred to as a TICKET) may be inserted in the EPIA 24. The TICKET may have an associated value that is either printed and/or encoded thereon or that is associated with the TICKET in the gaming system 10. Additionally, once the player decides to leave the table 18, any remaining chips they have, may be instantly converted back into dollars and stored 250 in their player account and/or a new Ticket preferably generated at the table 18.

The player interface 54 of the EIPA 24 preferably includes a series of player buttons 72. The player buttons 72 include, for example, a sit-in button 72A, a leave table button 72B, and an options button 72C. Generally, only one of the sit-in button 72A and the leave table button 72B would be active at any time. The options button 72C allows the player to access an option menu or screen (not shown) that allows the player to modify certain parameters of the player interface 54, such as for example, to choose between different formats of the player interface 54 (i.e. graphical display or text display). The player buttons 72 are preferably implemented on the touch screen display 54, or alternatively, can be embodied in electromechanical switches or buttons (not shown).

Regarding the leave table button 72B, a player may decide to activate/select 255 this feature when the player decides to change seats or move to another table altogether 252 but without necessarily logging out from the game itself (i.e. cashing in chips). For example, if another player or players have left the table 18 leaving fewer players at the table and the player does not like to play at a table with that few of players, the player may request through the EPIA 24 another seat assignment at which point the player leaves 257.

Typically, a player who has left the table to take a break or for any reason may return as long as they pay any missed blinds. Moreover, a player who intends to leave temporarily can have another player generally sit-in for the departing player by selection of the sit-in button 72C, thus avoiding the payment of any missed blinds. As shown in FIGS. 26-28 and 30, when the departing player selects 255 the leave table button 72B, the hospitality feature 232 activates 259 the sit-in button 72A. The new or replacement player may then select 261 the activated sit-in button 72A and begin play of the game until the departing player returns 263. For instances where the departing player does not return and does not have a sit-in replacement, the table page 126 of the host console 102 preferably includes an unseat button 206. If the departing player does not return to the table in a prescribed amount of time or number of hands, the host may choose to replace 254 the departed player and thus select 265 the unseat button 206.

Preferably, after a jackpot is won by a player 256 or the player chooses to log-out 258, one or more government reporting forms may be presented 260 to the player on their EPIA 24. The form may accept the player's electronic signature (if permissible) or may notify the player of the requirements and direct them to a location where they can fill out the form. The device may be a personal, notebook, or tablet computer, handheld computer, PDA, or other suitable device.

b. Monitoring Players:

Other functions may be provided by the hospitality feature 232 through the host console 102. For example, as discussed above, players may choose 241 or be assigned to one of the EPIAs 24. The system 10 may require that the assigned player log-in 242, 244 to the assigned EPIA 24. The hospitality feature 232 of the system 10, possibly through the host console 102 or the server computer 50 allows the host to list previous or current players in a database. When any player logs in to a game, a signal is sent 245 to the host console 102. This signal causes the feature 232 to search 247 the database. If the player is located in the database 249 the host console 102 or server computer 50 initiates a trigger event 262 based on the particular player found. The trigger event preferably alerts the host through the host console 102 who may then choose to act 251 accordingly. Depending upon this action, the player listed in the database may continue with play of the game as the system records the history of play 248. Even if the host chooses 251 not to act upon a triggering event, the host is at least aware that the listed player is currently located and playing at the respective EPIA 24. If the player logging in is not found 253 in the database, the player merely continues with play of the game and the system records the history of play 248 without alerting the host to potential problems.

In one aspect of the present invention and as stated above, the hospitality feature 232 of the system 10 tracks each transaction, wager, card dealt in a database. The feature 232 also tracks the players which are playing at each table 18. This information is stored 248 in the database, summarized, and may be presented in any numerous forms of reporting formats. Any information regarding the player's, the games, and how each hand is played may be tracked. This available data may also be analyzed for purposes of determining the frequency of poker hands (per hour) for a table or all games in which a particular player or players played or detecting, e.g., collusion between players.

c. Monitoring/Recording the Game:

The hospitality feature 232 through the host console 102 is preferably used to monitor play 264 at any one of the electronic poker tables 18 and establishes a value associated with the rate of play of hands at the associated table 18. This may be done by establishing when a hand of the electronic poker game is dealt and the time a winner is determined and the pot awarded to the winner. If the rate of play of hands is below a predetermined value 266, then the host via the host console 102 can be signaled via a message or alert (audio and/or visual) 268 on the host console 102. In response, the host may wish to observe play 270 at the electronic poker table 18.

Referring to FIG. 16, the table page 126 displays the game history of a selected table of the plurality of tables 18A-18J preferably displayed in a list 166. The list 166 includes a line item for each action that has occurred on the selected table with a time stamp.

Referring to FIG. 26, the table page 126 preferably includes a history button 200 that when selected displays history information of past play.

d. Summons Request by the Player:

Preferably, the EPIA 24 provides a player with virtual buttons that summon or direct specific employees of the casino 12. For example the player may request a host/hostess to order a drink. Additionally, the player may anonymously request that an employee review something that occurred or is occurring at the table 18 (e.g. possible collusion). The alert may be anonymous, and is a request for the host to come and observe a table 18. The alert appears on the host console 102. If the alert is anonymous, there will preferably be no indication of which player created the alert on the host console 102.

IX. General Process and Software

With particular reference to FIG. 14, in another aspect of the present invention, a method 110 provides an electronic poker game to a plurality of players on at the electronic poker table 18 using the host console 102 and the server computer 50. In a first step 112, the host console 102 preferably configures the EPIA's 24 and the central display area 26 and establishes parameters of the electronic poker game. In a second step 114, the electronic poker game is administered by the server computer 50 using electronic cards and chips.

From a software perspective, the gaming system 10 may be implemented using six program groups: a table server, a game engine, a table client, a player client, a table manager, and a cage manager. The table server implements the network communication, control and authentication as well as inter-table functions (seat reservations, multi-table tournaments). The game engine is responsible for all game functions, e.g., electronic playing card deck generation, dealing, betting, determining winners and awarding pots. The table client is the graphical control for the CDA 26. The player client implements the user interface for the EPIA 24 and the logic for capturing player input and communication the player input to the table client server. The table manager contains the host interface for setting user, network, and game parameters, for starting, pausing, and stopping games, and for monitoring game activity and responding to system or user generated alerts. The cage manager provides the ability to create and fund player accounts and to create the Player Cards.

If there are no seats 40 available, the player is placed in a queue, until a seat opens up. In one embodiment, players are taken off of the queue and assigned a seat on a first come, first served basis. However, the system 10 may allow the casino 12 to implement special rules for players to bypass the queue or list. For example, the casino may present vouchers to players under certain conditions, such as a win in a tournament, to be placed at the head of a queue.

The system 10 allows jackpots, i.e., progressive jackpots, to be generated by and won across multiple hands and/or multiple tables. A progressive jackpot may increase based on the amounts wagered and/or won at the included tables. The progressive jackpot may continue to increase until won under a set of predetermined conditions. Alternatively, it may be active until only for a predetermined time period. The conditions for winning the jackpot that it is won by one or more players at the end of the time period.

The system 10 allows a progressive jackpot to be funded in multiple ways. The way in which a progressive jackpot is funded may be funded through a computer program application on the server 50 or other device. For example, the progressive jackpot may be funded by taking a set percentage from every jackpot, every other jackpot, or every nth jackpot. The amount of the progressive jackpot may be displayed on the CDA 26 and/or a remote display.

The progressive jackpot may be initiated randomly, under certain definable conditions, and/or for a specific event, i.e., a marketing event. The progressive jackpot may be a single hand, a predetermined number of hands at one table or across multiple hands, for a predetermined time period, and the like.

X. Tournament Play

The system 10 facilitates tournament play. In a tournament, a predetermined number of tables 18 having a predetermined number of players are involved. A buy-in, e.g., $100 is required. Typically, after a player loses all of their money, they are eliminated from the tournament.

Under predetermined rules, players may register for a tournament and be assigned to seats at a table. During play, under predetermined rules, tables may be broken down and the players distributed to other tables. The system 10 facilitates the tournament by providing one or more of the following features:

    • a) registration
    • b) tracking tournament information
    • c) display of tournament information on central display and/or remote display
    • d) tournament set-up, e.g., buy-in
    • e) re buy-in
    • f) tournament jackpot, cash or entry voucher for entry another tournament (specific tournament or expiration date)
    • g) Process for breaking tables:
      • (1) message that table is breaking
      • (2) convey new seat assignment
      • (3) determination of breaking order
      • (4) display of breaking order
    • h) display information on status of other tables and players at other tables
    • i) System to monitor and adjust hands per hour of an individual table during a tournament: During a poker tournament it is important that each table play roughly the same number of hands per hour as all other tables. This can be accomplished by pausing a game and/or slowing a game down with out pausing.
    • j) multi-site tournaments
    • k) system for automatically paying players tournament winnings based on tournament pay tables and their final position in the tournament
    • l) automatic posting of blinds and method to turn on and off of automatic posting of blinds/missed blinds
    • m) method for automatically calculating allowed bet amounts in pot-limit and no-limit betting structures
    • n) automatic varying of rake based upon number of players, time of day, type of game and/or other criteria
    • o) ability to offer rake discounts to individual players
    • p) transferring a player from one seat to another at the same table, or to another: Situations exist where are forced to (“must move”) or desire to move seats. This feature provides automatic notification and movement of player information from one seat to another.
    • q) database and network architecture allowing single and multi-site networking and management of a plurality of automated poker
    • r) tracking and reporting of player statistics: Data and method of display over the internet and/or other methods for player to analyze their previous play statistics. In another embodiment date and method of display is utilized to determine player rankings for a given game and/or over a given time period
    • s) ability to view available tables and register for live tables and/or tournaments via a remote connection such as the internet or an automated voice response unit
    • t) options adjust speed of play (speed of card shuffling, dealing, discarding, betting, etc.)
    • u) electronically transfer money from an account to the table
    • v) electronically transfer money to another
    • w) use of “cash card” to bring money to the table
    • x) ability for operator to view details of any and all tables
    • y) ability for operator to view details of any and all players
      XI. Virtual Gaming

In one aspect of the present invention, remote or virtual games may be provided by the system 10. The remote or virtual games may be provided on wireless devices and may be played at predetermined locations.

Virtual games may also be provided through the EPIAs 24. For example, the virtual or remote games may be played by the poker players when it is not their turn. The virtual or remote games may be another poker hand, played against other players, at the table or at other tables, or played against virtual players. Alternatively, the remote or virtual games may be other types of games, including, but not limited to blackjack, keno, slot machines, and the like.

In addition to running other casino games on EPIA 24 or other terminals, system can be run on other gaming devices throughout the casino. For example, a virtual poker game can be run on an existing electronic bingo terminal or an electronic race book terminal.

XII. Alternative Embodiments

While the forms of the invention herein disclosed constitute presently preferred embodiments, many others are possible. It is not intended to mention all the possible equivalent forms or ramifications of the invention. It is understood that the terms used herein are merely descriptive rather than limiting, and that various changes can be made without departing from the spirit or scope of the invention.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US8529328Aug 10, 2011Sep 10, 2013Elis Rocco TarantinoGaming devices with dedicated player RNG and time share features
US8529342Mar 14, 2011Sep 10, 2013Elia Rocco TarantinoGaming system with dedicated player gaming devices
US8641522Sep 20, 2011Feb 4, 2014Elia Rocco TarantinoMethod and system for online poker play
US8808077 *Sep 3, 2013Aug 19, 2014Novel Tech International LimitedTable game tournaments using portable devices
US8834253Aug 10, 2011Sep 16, 2014Elia Rocco TarantinoGaming devices having player assigned random number generators and time share feature
US20100240446 *Mar 3, 2010Sep 23, 2010Universal Entertainment CorporationGaming system
Classifications
U.S. Classification463/25
International ClassificationA63F9/24
Cooperative ClassificationG07F17/32, G07F17/3239, G07F17/3255
European ClassificationG07F17/32, G07F17/32K10, G07F17/32E6D2
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
May 24, 2006ASAssignment
Owner name: POKERTEK, INC., NORTH CAROLINA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:WHITE, GEHRIG HENDERSON;CRAWFORD, III, JAMES T;LESTER, JON;REEL/FRAME:017668/0550;SIGNING DATES FROM 20060517 TO 20060522