BACKGROUND OF INVENTION
The presentation or exhibition of a card tournament, particularly a poker tournament, heretofore, card tournament, is an extremely popular spectator event. Live tournaments are often taped for later broadcast (via television, internet, and other media). Card tournaments have gained in popularity with the application of methods to display to the audience the “down cards” of the players. This allows spectators to observe strategy and better understand the progress of the game.
However, the currently utilized methods for displaying “down cards” have several drawbacks which interfere with the ability of spectators to obtain and observe information. Current methods utilize electronic-optical means to view down cards via “lipstick” cameras placed along the inside edge of the table, or by “under table/through table” cameras placed underneath the table with the cameras observing the “down cards” through a clear pane of glass or plastic. Both these methods require players to place their “down cards” in specific locations in order to allow the cameras to obtain an adequate image. These images can be obscured by items placed on the table, such as chips, card caps, or anything else a player may have near his cards. Furthermore, a player may “cup” or “cover” his cards while looking at the cards which can reduce the light available for the electronic-optical image. Lastly, a player may intentionally or accidentally forget to expose their cards to the camera, resulting in no image what-so-ever.
RFID stands for Radio-Frequency IDentification. The acronym refers to small electronic devices that consist of a small chip and an antenna. The RFID device serves the same purpose as a bar code or a magnetic strip on the back of a credit card; it provides a unique identifier for that object. In this case, the identifier can be the rank and suit of any playing card as well as a method to differentiate one deck of cards from another.
Just as a bar code or magnetic strip must be scanned to get the information, the RFID device must be scanned to retrieve the identifying information. A radio-frequency identification system has three parts:
- A scanning antenna
- A transceiver with a decoder to interpret the data
- A transponder—the radio-frequency tag—that has been programmed with information
The scanning antenna puts out radio-frequency signals in a relatively short range. The RF radiation does two things; it provides a means of communicating with the transponder tag (the RFID chip) and (in the case of passive RFID tags) it provides the RFID device with the energy to communicate. The RFID tags are extremely small and can either be embedded within a standard playing card or even printed upon a card with no noticeable change to the size or ‘feel’ of the card. The scanning antennas can be affixed to a surface, such as underneath a poker table, and can take whatever shape is needed. When an RFID tag passes through the field of the scanning antenna, it detects the activation signal from the antenna.
That “wakes up” the RFID chip, and it transmits the information on its microchip to be picked up by the scanning antenna.
“Rabbit Hunting” or “To Rabbit Hunt” are terms commonly used by poker players and refers to a desire to have the dealer expose community cards that would have come out after the action of the current hand has ended. It allows players to know ‘what would have happened’ if a hand was played to a final ‘showdown’. Generally speaking, rabbit hunting is not allowed during tournaments, but it is often information desired by the audience.
- SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
It is therefore an object of the present invention to provide an apparatus and method to obtain “down card” information of a card tournament in a manner that the audience, but not the players, can observe the unseen cards, including rabbit hunting, through the use of RFID tags, eliminating many of the drawbacks of electronic-optical means.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
In accordance with the invention there is provided an apparatus and a method to obtain real time information about the “down cards” of a card tournament for exhibition to an audience. The apparatus includes a playing table having a plurality of playing positions, a deck of playing cards with passive RFID tags embedded within or imprinted upon each card, each playing position having a RFID antenna/transceiver to identify the cards placed face down at the table, a separate location for rabbit hunting of un-played cards, an apparatus to transmit the information collected by the RFID antenna/transceiver to other devices for display.
FIG. 1 is an under-table view incorporating apparatus in accordance with the present invention.
FIG. 2 is an overhead view of the table of FIG. 1.
FIG. 3 is an enlarged perspective of the RFID antenna/transceiver
DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
FIG. 4 is a block diagram of the information generated by the apparatus and its interaction with other display devices.
In accordance with the invention there is provided an apparatus and a method to obtain real time information about the “down cards” of a card tournament for exhibition to an audience. The apparatus includes a playing table having a plurality of playing positions, a deck of playing cards with passive RFID tags embedded within or imprinted upon each card, each playing position having a RFID antenna/transceiver to identify the cards placed face down at the station, a separate station for rabbit hunting of un-played cards, an apparatus to transmit the information collected by the RFID antenna/transceiver to other devices for display.
It is assumed that play of the card tournament takes place in a controlled environment where measures are taken to prevent players from receiving messages from outside the room and where radio signals that might interfere with the RFID antenna/transceiver are prevented.
The playing cards (1 of FIG. 1) consists of a 52 playing card deck used for poker tournaments. The deck is divided into 4 suits (commonly referred to as Spades, Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds). Each suit contacts 13 ranks of cards (numbers 2 through 10, Jack, Queen, King, Ace). The deck may also contain additional cards such as one or more Jokers that are used in certain variations of the game. Each playing card has a passive RFID tag either embedded into the card or printed directly onto the card. This RFID tag contains information that uniquely identifies that card, what deck of cards it belongs to, its suit and rank.
The table (6 of FIG. 1) is configured for seven players, but a greater or lesser number can be accommodated by re-configuring the table. The table includes positions A to G at which the players are to be seated. Additionally position X is available for an optional, non-playing dealer. Each position is provided with a RFID-reading RFID antenna/transceiver base hereafter referred to as a BASE (2 of FIG. 1).
Each BASE (2 of FIG. 1) contains an antenna (2(a) of FIG. 3), transceiver (2(b) of FIG. 3) and a power source (2(c) of FIG. 3). While the antenna is shown as a trapezoidal shape in the illustration, the antenna can be any shape necessary to meet the specific configuration of a given table. The power source can be either battery powered or hard-wired electrical. The transceiver receives “down card” information through radio waves (wireless) and can communicate that information to a central receiving unit (3 of FIG. 1) via either wireless or hard-wired communication. The central receiving unit stores all information received from the each BASE in addition to time-code information to identify each specific hand. This information is then transferred through hard-wired or wireless communication (4 of FIG. 1) to other display units (5 of FIG. 1) for further viewing or editing.
The scanning area of the BASE is localized to a small area of the table (7 a-7 g of FIG. 2) so one player's “down cards” are not received by another BASE, nor will they interfere with (8 of FIG. 2) the area reserved for community cards in play during a hand. The “Rabbit Hole” (2(x) of FIG. 1) operates in the same manner of all other BASE locations, but is reserved for the non-playing dealer to “rabbit hunt”. This is achieved by having the dealer place the appropriate cards over the “rabbit hole” area (7 x of FIG. 2).
The pentagon shapes shown for 7 a-7 g and 7 x do not represent the actual shape of the radio field, but generally demonstrate the localized range of the RFID antenna. They also represent one of any number of shapes that may be printed on to the table top to designate the general area which each player should place his “down cards”.
FIG. 4 demonstrates how the information collected (9 of FIG. 4) by each BASE and stored in the central receiving unit is time synchronized (10 of FIG. 4) to accurately track each played hand. That information can then be combined with other optical/video or graphic information (12 of FIG. 4) edited (11 of FIG. 4) in a manner commonly used for broadcasting of poker tournaments.
While there has been here described what is believed to be a preferred embodiment of the invention, those skilled in the art will recognize that modification may be made thereto without departing from the spirit of the invention and its indented claim. All such modifications fall within the scope of the invention.