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Publication numberUS20090131151 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 12/249,771
Publication dateMay 21, 2009
Filing dateOct 10, 2008
Priority dateSep 1, 2006
Also published asWO2009061618A1
Publication number12249771, 249771, US 2009/0131151 A1, US 2009/131151 A1, US 20090131151 A1, US 20090131151A1, US 2009131151 A1, US 2009131151A1, US-A1-20090131151, US-A1-2009131151, US2009/0131151A1, US2009/131151A1, US20090131151 A1, US20090131151A1, US2009131151 A1, US2009131151A1
InventorsRoger William Harris, Harold E. Mattice, Binh T. Nguyen, Nevin A. Burrill, Timothy W. Moser, Eduardo Samuel Meza, Steven M. Pankas, Gavin McPhail
Original AssigneeIgt
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Automated Techniques for Table Game State Tracking
US 20090131151 A1
Abstract
Techniques are disclosed for facilitating game state tracking of gaming activity conducted at a gaming system including a first live casino gaming table. In at least one embodiment, the system may be operable to: control a wager-based game played at the first gaming table; enable a first active game session to be conducted at the first gaming table; automatically detect a first table game state change event for triggering a change of state of the first active game session; and automatically update the state of the first game session using at least a portion of information relating to the first table game state change event. According to specific embodiments, the first table game state change event may include (or may correspond to) at least of the following events: an event relating to a first player's physical gestures or movements; an event relating to a first casino employee's physical gestures or movements; an event relating to the first player's verbal instructions; an event relating to a casino employee's verbal instructions; and/or an event relating to wagering activity which occurs outside of officially designated wagering zones at the gaming table. In at least one embodiment, the first table game state change event may be analyzed and/or interpreted with respect to selected criteria, and the state of the first game session may be automatically advanced (and/or updated) in response to the analysis and/or interpretation of the first table game state change event.
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Claims(31)
1. A gaming system in a casino gaming network, comprising:
a first live casino gaming table;
a gaming controller;
memory;
the system being operable to:
control a wager-based game played at the first gaming table;
enable a first active game session to be conducted at the first gaming table;
automatically detect a first table game state change event for triggering a change of state of the first active game session, wherein the first table game state change event includes at least one event selected from a group consisting of: an event relating to a first player's physical gestures or movements; an event relating to a first casino employee's physical gestures or movements; an event relating to the first player's verbal instructions; an event relating to a casino employee's verbal instructions; and an event relating to wagering activity which occurs outside of officially designated wagering zones at the gaming table; and
automatically update the state of the first game session using at least a portion of information relating to the first table game state change event.
2. The gaming system of claim 1 being operable to:
analyze the first table game state change event; and
automatically advance the state of the first game session in response to analysis of the first table game state change event.
3. The gaming system of claim 1 wherein the first table game state change event corresponds to a first event relating to a first player's physical gestures or movements, the system being further operable to:
interpret the first event with respect to a first set of criteria; and
advance the state of the first game session based upon the interpretation of the first event.
4. The gaming system of claim 1 wherein the first table game state change event corresponds to a first event relating to a first casino employee's physical gestures or movements, the system being further operable to:
interpret the first event with respect to a first set of criteria; and
advance the state of the first game session based upon the interpretation of the first event.
5. The gaming system of claim 1 wherein the first table game state change event corresponds to a first event relating to the first player's verbal instructions, the system being further operable to:
interpret the first event with respect to a first set of criteria; and
advance the state of the first game session based upon the interpretation of the first event.
6. The gaming system of claim 1 wherein the first table game state change event corresponds to a first event relating to a casino employee's verbal instructions, the system being further operable to:
interpret the first event with respect to a first set of criteria; and
advance the state of the first game session based upon the interpretation of the first event.
7. The gaming system of claim 1 wherein the first table game state change event corresponds to a first event relating to wagering activity which occurs outside of officially designated wagering zones at the gaming table, the system being further operable to:
interpret the first event with respect to a first set of criteria; and
advance the state of the first game session based upon the interpretation of the first event.
8. The gaming system of claim 1 being further operable to:
determine a current state of the first game session at the gaming table; and
interpret the first table game state change event based at least in part upon the current state of the first game session at the gaming table.
9. The gaming system of claim 1 being further operable to:
determine an active game type of the first game session at the gaming table; and
interpret the first table game state change event based at least in part upon the active game type of the first game session at the gaming table.
10. The gaming system of claim 1 being further operable to:
determine an active game theme of the first game session at the gaming table; and
interpret the first table game state change event based at least in part upon the active game theme of the first game session at the gaming table.
11. The gaming system of claim 1 being further operable to:
determine at least one rule associated with game play activity relating to the first game session; and
interpret the first table game state change event based at least in part upon the at least one rule.
12. The gaming system of claim 1 further comprising:
a first gesture input interface device operable to detect gestures associated with one or more persons; and
a first gesture interpretation component operable to process selected gestures detected by the first gesture input interface device, and operable to generate gesture interpretation information relating to interpretation of the selected gestures;
the gaming system being operable to:
automatically detect a first gesture by a first player participating in the first game session at the first gaming table, wherein the first gesture includes at least one gesture selected from a group consisting of: the first player's physical movements, and the first player's verbal instructions;
interpret the first gesture with respect to a first set of criteria;
generate gesture interpretation information relating to the interpretation of the first gesture; and
advance a state of the first game session using at least a portion of the gesture interpretation information.
13. The gaming system of claim 1 further comprising:
a first gesture input interface device operable to detect gestures associated with one or more persons;
a first gesture interpretation component operable to process selected gestures detected by the first gesture input interface device, and operable to generate gesture interpretation information relating to interpretation of the selected gestures;
the gaming system being operable to:
automatically detect a first gesture by a first player participating in the first game session at the first gaming table, wherein the first gesture includes at least one gesture selected from a group consisting of: the first player's physical movements, and the first player's verbal instructions;
interpret the first gesture with respect to a first set of criteria;
generate gesture interpretation information relating to the interpretation of the first gesture; and
advance a state of the first game session using at least a portion of the gesture interpretation information;
associate the first gesture with at least one first game play instruction relating to the first game session; and
advance the state of the first game session in accordance with the at least one first game play instruction.
14. The gaming system of claim 1 further comprising:
a first gesture input interface device operable to detect gestures associated with one or more persons; and
a first gesture interpretation component operable to process selected gestures detected by the first gesture input interface device, and operable to generate gesture interpretation information relating to interpretation of the selected gestures;
the gaming system being operable to:
automatically detect a first gesture by a first player participating in the first game session at the first gaming table, wherein the first gesture includes at least one gesture selected from a group consisting of: the first casino employee's physical movements, and the first casino employee's verbal instructions;
interpret the first gesture with respect to a first set of criteria;
generate gesture interpretation information relating to the interpretation of the first gesture; and
advance a state of the first game session using at least a portion of the gesture interpretation information.
15. The gaming system of claim 1 further comprising:
a first gesture input interface device operable to detect gestures associated with one or more persons; and
a first gesture interpretation component operable to process selected gestures detected by the first gesture input interface device, and operable to generate gesture interpretation information relating to interpretation of the selected gestures;
the gaming system being operable to:
automatically detect a first gesture by a first player participating in the first game session at the first gaming table, wherein the first gesture includes wagering activity conducted by the first player which occurs outside of officially designated wagering zones at the gaming table;
interpret the first gesture with respect to a first set of criteria;
generate gesture interpretation information relating to the interpretation of the first gesture; and
advance a state of the first game session using at least a portion of the gesture interpretation information.
16. A method for facilitating game state tracking of gaming activity conducted at a gaming system including a first live casino gaming table, the method comprising:
controlling a wager-based game played at the first gaming table;
enabling a first active game session to be conducted at the first gaming table;
automatically detecting a first table game state change event for triggering a change of state of the first active game session, wherein the first table game state change event includes at least one event selected from a group consisting of: an event relating to a first player's physical gestures or movements; an event relating to a first casino employee's physical gestures or movements; an event relating to the first player's verbal instructions; an event relating to a casino employee's verbal instructions; and an event relating to wagering activity which occurs outside of officially designated wagering zones at the gaming table; and
automatically updating the state of the first game session using at least a portion of information relating to the first table game state change event.
17. The method of claim 16 comprising:
analyzing the first table game state change event; and
automatically advancing the state of the first game session in response to analysis of the first table game state change event.
18. The method of claim 16 wherein the first table game state change event corresponds to a first event relating to a first player's physical gestures or movements, the method further comprising:
interpreting the first event with respect to a first set of criteria; and
advancing the state of the first game session based upon the interpretation of the first event.
19. The method of claim 16 wherein the first table game state change event corresponds to a first event relating to a first casino employee's physical gestures or movements, the method further comprising:
interpreting the first event with respect to a first set of criteria; and
advancing the state of the first game session based upon the interpretation of the first event.
20. The method of claim 16 wherein the first table game state change event corresponds to a first event relating to the first player's verbal instructions, the method further comprising:
interpreting the first event with respect to a first set of criteria; and
advancing the state of the first game session based upon the interpretation of the first event.
21. The method of claim 16 wherein the first table game state change event corresponds to a first event relating to a casino employee's verbal instructions, the method further comprising:
interpreting the first event with respect to a first set of criteria; and
advancing the state of the first game session based upon the interpretation of the first event.
22. The method of claim 16 wherein the first table game state change event corresponds to a first event relating to wagering activity which occurs outside of officially designated wagering zones at the gaming table, the method further comprising:
interpreting the first event with respect to a first set of criteria; and
advancing the state of the first game session based upon the interpretation of the first event.
23. The method of claim 16 further comprising:
determining a current state of the first game session at the gaming table; and
interpreting the first table game state change event based at least in part upon the current state of the first game session at the gaming table.
24. The method of claim 16 further comprising:
determining an active game type of the first game session at the gaming table; and
interpreting the first table game state change event based at least in part upon the active game type of the first game session at the gaming table.
25. The method of claim 16 further comprising:
determining an active game theme of the first game session at the gaming table; and
interpreting the first table game state change event based at least in part upon the active game theme of the first game session at the gaming table.
26. The method of claim 16 further comprising:
determining at least one rule associated with game play activity relating to the first game session; and
interpreting the first table game state change event based at least in part upon the at least one rule.
27. The method of claim 16 further comprising:
automatically detecting a first gesture by a first player participating in the first game session at the first gaming table, wherein the first gesture includes at least one gesture selected from a group consisting of: the first player's physical movements, and the first player's verbal instructions;
interpreting the first gesture with respect to a first set of criteria;
generating gesture interpretation information relating to the interpretation of the first gesture; and
advancing a state of the first game session using at least a portion of the gesture interpretation information.
28. The method of claim 16 further comprising:
automatically detecting a first gesture by a first player participating in the first game session at the first gaming table, wherein the first gesture includes at least one gesture selected from a group consisting of: the first player's physical movements, and the first player's verbal instructions;
interpreting the first gesture with respect to a first set of criteria;
generating gesture interpretation information relating to the interpretation of the first gesture; and
advancing a state of the first game session using at least a portion of the gesture interpretation information;
associating the first gesture with at least one first game play instruction relating to the first game session; and
advancing the state of the first game session in accordance with the at least one first game play instruction.
29. The method of claim 16 further comprising:
automatically detecting a first gesture by a first player participating in the first game session at the first gaming table, wherein the first gesture includes at least one gesture selected from a group consisting of: the first casino employee's physical movements, and the first casino employee's verbal instructions;
interpreting the first gesture with respect to a first set of criteria;
generating gesture interpretation information relating to the interpretation of the first gesture; and
advancing a state of the first game session using at least a portion of the gesture interpretation information.
30. The method of claim 16 further comprising:
automatically detecting a first gesture by a first player participating in the first game session at the first gaming table, wherein the first gesture includes wagering activity conducted by the first player which occurs outside of officially designated wagering zones at the gaming table;
interpreting the first gesture with respect to a first set of criteria;
generating gesture interpretation information relating to the interpretation of the first gesture; and
advancing a state of the first game session using at least a portion of the gesture interpretation information.
31. A gaming system in a casino gaming network, comprising:
a first live casino gaming table;
a gaming controller;
memory;
means for controlling a wager-based game played at the first gaming table;
means for enabling a first active game session to be conducted at the first gaming table;
means for automatically detecting a first gesture by a first person at the first gaming table, wherein the first gesture includes at least one gesture selected from a group consisting of: the first player's physical movements, the first player's verbal instructions, the first casino employee's physical movements, the first casino employee's verbal instructions, and wagering activity conducted by the first player which occurs outside of officially designated wagering zones at the gaming table;
interpreting the first gesture with respect to a first set of criteria;
generating gesture interpretation information relating to the interpretation of the first gesture; and
advancing a state of the first game session using at least a portion of the gesture interpretation information.
Description
RELATED APPLICATION DATA

The present application claims priority under 35 U.S.C. 119 to U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/986,507 (Attorney Docket No. IGT1P430CP/P-1256CPROV), naming Burrill et al. as inventors, entitled “AUTOMATED TECHNIQUES FOR TABLE GAME STATE TRACKING,” filed on Nov. 8, 2007, the entirety of which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety for all purposes.

This application is a continuation-in-part, pursuant to the provisions of 35 U.S.C. 120, of prior U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/870,233 (Attorney Docket No. IGT1P430A/P-1256A) entitled “AUTOMATED DATA COLLECTION SYSTEM FOR CASINO TABLE GAME ENVIRONMENTS” by MOSER et al., filed on Oct. 10, 2007, which claims benefit 35 U.S.C. 119 to U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/858,046 (Attorney Docket No. IGT1P430P/P-1256PROV), naming Moser, et al. as inventors, and filed Nov. 10, 2006. Each of these applications is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety for all purposes.

This application is a continuation-in-part, pursuant to the provisions of 35 U.S.C. 120, of prior U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/515,184, (Attorney Docket No. IGT1P266A/P-1085A), by Nguyen et al., entitled “INTELLIGENT CASINO GAMING TABLE AND SYSTEMS THEREOF”, filed on Sep. 1, 2006, the entirety of which is incorporated herein by reference for all purposes.

This application is a continuation-in-part, pursuant to the provisions of 35 U.S.C. 120, of prior U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/825,481, (Attorney Docket No. IGT1P090X1/P-795CIP1), by Mattice, et al., entitled “GESTURE CONTROLLED CASINO GAMING SYSTEM,” filed Jul. 6, 2007, the entirety of which is incorporated herein by reference for all purposes.

BACKGROUND

Various aspects of the present disclosure generally relate to player tracking and player rating services implemented in table game environments.

In general, casino operators have an interest in collecting the information relating to their patrons (e.g., players). Conventionally, such information may include player tracking data relating to individual player activities and/or other characteristics. As an incentive to get players to elect to have their game play activities tracked, casino operators typically offer players membership in player tracking programs which provide various rewards to the players.

Typically, player tracking programs provide rewards to players which are commensurate with each player's level of patronage (e.g., to the player's playing frequency and/or total amount of game plays at a given casino). Player tracking rewards may include free meals, free lodging and/or free entertainment. These rewards may help to sustain a game player's interest in additional game play during a visit to a gaming establishment and may entice a player to visit a gaming establishment to partake in various gaming activities.

In general, player tracking programs may be applied to any game of chance offered at a gaming establishment. In particular, player tracking programs are very popular with players of mechanical slot gaming machines and video slot gaming machines. In a gaming machine, a player tracking program is implemented using a player tracking unit installed in the gaming machine and in communication with a remote player tracking server.

SUMMARY

Various embodiments described herein are directed to methods, systems and/or computer program products for facilitating game state tracking of gaming activity conducted at a gaming system including a first live casino gaming table. In at least one embodiment, the system may be operable to: control a wager-based game played at the first gaming table; enable a first active game session to be conducted at the first gaming table; automatically detect a first table game state change event for triggering a change of state of the first active game session; and automatically update the state of the first game session using at least a portion of information relating to the first table game state change event. According to specific embodiments, the first table game state change event may include (or may correspond to) at least of the following events: an event relating to a first player's physical gestures or movements; an event relating to a first casino employee's physical gestures or movements; an event relating to the first player's verbal instructions; an event relating to a casino employee's verbal instructions; and/or an event relating to wagering activity which occurs outside of officially designated wagering zones at the gaming table. In at least one embodiment, the first table game state change event may be analyzed and/or interpreted with respect to selected criteria, and the state of the first game session may be automatically advanced (and/or updated) in response to the analysis and/or interpretation of the first table game state change event.

In at least one embodiment, the gaming system may include a gesture input interface device operable to detect gestures associated with one or more persons; and a gesture interpretation component operable to process selected gestures detected by the gesture input interface device, and operable to generate gesture interpretation information relating to interpretation of detected events and/or gestures. Additionally, in at least one embodiment, the gaming system may be operable to automatically detect a first gesture by a first person at the first gaming table, wherein the first gesture includes (or corresponds to) at least one of the following gestures: a gesture involving a player's physical movements, a gesture involving a player's verbal instructions, a gesture involving a casino employee's physical movements, a gesture involving a casino employee's verbal instructions, and/or a gesture involving a wagering activity conducted by a player which occurs outside of officially designated wagering zones at the gaming table. In one embodiment, a detected gesture may be automatically interpreted and used to generate gesture interpretation information relating to an interpretation of the gesture. Additionally, a state of the first game session may be automatically advanced (and/or updated) using at least a portion of the gesture interpretation information.

Additional objects, features and advantages of the various aspects of the present invention will become apparent from the following description of its preferred embodiments, which description should be taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 shows an example of a gaming table system 100 in accordance with a specific embodiment.

FIG. 2 shows an example of a gaming table system 200 in accordance with a different embodiment.

FIG. 3 shows an example of a specific embodiment of an intelligent gaming table system 300.

FIG. 4 is a simplified block diagram of an exemplary intelligent gaming table system 400 in accordance with a specific embodiment.

FIG. 5A shows a flow diagram of a Gaming table Player Tracking Session Management Procedure in accordance with a specific embodiment.

FIG. 5B shows a flow diagram of a Gaming Table Player Rating Session Management Procedure in accordance with a specific embodiment.

FIG. 6 illustrates a block diagram of the components of a smart card 650 that may be used in the present invention.

FIG. 7 shows a simplified block diagram of various components which may be used for implementing a personal player device (PPD) in accordance with the specific embodiment.

FIG. 8 is a simplified block diagram of an intelligent gaming table system 800 in accordance with a specific embodiment.

FIG. 9 shows a block diagram illustrating components of a gaming system 900 which may be used for implementing various aspects of example embodiments.

FIG. 10 shows a flow diagram of a Table Game State Tracking Procedure 1000 in accordance with a specific embodiment.

FIG. 11 shows an example interaction diagram illustrating various interactions which may occur between a gaming system (e.g., gaming machine, game table, etc.) and a player's PPD in accordance with a specific embodiment.

FIG. 12A shows a poker table that includes wireless readers in accordance with one embodiment of various aspects described or referenced herein.

FIGS. 12B and 12C illustrate a portable RFID token in accordance with one embodiment of various aspects described or referenced herein.

FIG. 13 shows an exemplary arrangement of RFID reading devices at one casino gaming table embodiment.

FIG. 14 shows an alternate embodiment of a gaming table system 1400 which may be used for implementing various aspects described herein.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE EXAMPLE EMBODIMENTS

One or more different inventions may be described in the present application. Further, for one or more of the invention(s) described herein, numerous embodiments may be described in this patent application, and are presented for illustrative purposes only. The described embodiments are not intended to be limiting in any sense. One or more of the invention(s) may be widely applicable to numerous embodiments, as is readily apparent from the disclosure. These embodiments are described in sufficient detail to enable those skilled in the art to practice one or more of the invention(s), and it is to be understood that other embodiments may be utilized and that structural, logical, software, electrical and other changes may be made without departing from the scope of the one or more of the invention(s). Accordingly, those skilled in the art will recognize that the one or more of the invention(s) may be practiced with various modifications and alterations. Particular features of one or more of the invention(s) may be described with reference to one or more particular embodiments or figures that form a part of the present disclosure, and in which are shown, by way of illustration, specific embodiments of one or more of the invention(s). It should be understood, however, that such features are not limited to usage in the one or more particular embodiments or figures with reference to which they are described. The present disclosure is neither a literal description of all embodiments of one or more of the invention(s) nor a listing of features of one or more of the invention(s) that must be present in all embodiments.

Headings of sections provided in this patent application and the title of this patent application are for convenience only, and are not to be taken as limiting the disclosure in any way.

Devices that are in communication with each other need not be in continuous communication with each other, unless expressly specified otherwise. In addition, devices that are in communication with each other may communicate directly or indirectly through one or more intermediaries.

A description of an embodiment with several components in communication with each other does not imply that all such components are required. To the contrary, a variety of optional components are described to illustrate the wide variety of possible embodiments of one or more of the invention(s).

Further, although process steps, method steps, algorithms or the like may be described in a sequential order, such processes, methods and algorithms may be configured to work in alternate orders. In other words, any sequence or order of steps that may be described in this patent application does not, in and of itself, indicate a requirement that the steps be performed in that order. The steps of described processes may be performed in any order practical. Further, some steps may be performed simultaneously despite being described or implied as occurring non-simultaneously (e.g., because one step is described after the other step). Moreover, the illustration of a process by its depiction in a drawing does not imply that the illustrated process is exclusive of other variations and modifications thereto, does not imply that the illustrated process or any of its steps are necessary to one or more of the invention(s), and does not imply that the illustrated process is preferred.

When a single device or article is described, it will be readily apparent that more than one device/article (whether or not they cooperate) may be used in place of a single device/article. Similarly, where more than one device or article is described (whether or not they cooperate), it will be readily apparent that a single device/article may be used in place of the more than one device or article.

The functionality and/or the features of a device may be alternatively embodied by one or more other devices that are not explicitly described as having such functionality/features. Thus, other embodiments of one or more of the invention(s) need not include the device itself.

FIG. 1 shows an example of a specific embodiment of an intelligent gaming table which may be used for implementing various aspects in accordance with one or more embodiments. As illustrated in the example of FIG. 1, a casino gaming table environment 10 is illustrated which includes intelligent gaming table 1, casino attendant (e.g., dealer) station 13, and player stations (e.g., 15, 17). In at least one embodiment, the intelligent gaming table 1 may include a plurality of electronic displays (e.g., within player station regions 11 a-e and/or dealer region 11 f). In one embodiment, the plurality of electronic displays may be implemented as separate physical displays which have been mounted on top or into (or onto) the body of a conventional-type casino gaming table. In an alternate embodiment, the entire top surface (or selected portions thereof) of the intelligent gaming table may be implemented as a continuous display, and regions 11 a-f may be implemented as specific display regions within the continuous display. Other embodiments of the intelligent gaming table in accordance with one or more embodiments may resemble conventional-type casino gaming tables (e.g., felt-top type gaming tables) which do not include any electronic displays.

According to specific embodiments, the intelligent gaming table 1 can be of a variety of common constructions. For example, table 1 may include a table support trestle having legs which contact an underlying floor to support the intelligent gaming table thereon. The intelligent gaming table may have a table top and perimeter pad which extends fully about a semicircular portion of the table periphery. The straight, back portion of the periphery is used by the dealer 13 and can be partly or wholly padded as may vary with the particular table chosen. In the example of FIG. 1, the semicircular or “D-shape” gaming table surface top shape is particularly well-suited for use with various types of wager-based table games such as, for example, blackjack, baccarat, etc. However, other embodiments of intelligent gaming table systems contemplated herein may include various different types of shape configurations (e.g., circular, oval, square, rectangular, C-shaped, etc.), which may be preferable and/or suitable for different types of casino table games (e.g., such as, for example, roulette, craps, etc.)

In one embodiment, a playing surface is provided upon the upwardly facing surface of table top upon which participants of the table game play. For example, in one embodiment, a plurality of players (e.g., players at stations 15, 17) sit or stand along the semicircular portion and play a desired card game, such as the popular casino card game of blackjack. According to other embodiments, other table games are alternatively possible such as, for example, craps, poker, baccarat, roulette, pai gow, sic bo, fantan, etc.

In at least one embodiment, table 1 can support a system, or form a part of a system for playing wager-based table games which is constructed in accordance with one or more embodiments.

According to specific embodiments, the intelligent gaming table may include a plurality of electronic displays. In one embodiment, the plurality of electronic displays may be implemented as separate physical displays which have been mounted into (or onto) the body of a conventional-type casino gaming table. In an alternate embodiment, the entire top surface (or selected portions thereof) of the intelligent gaming table may be implemented as a continuous display. Other embodiments of the intelligent gaming table in accordance with one or more embodiments may resemble conventional-type casino gaming tables which do not include any electronic displays.

According to a specific embodiment, one or more of the electronic displays may form part of a presentation system which, for example, may be supported upon the upper or playing surface of the intelligent gaming table. This allows the system to be easily installed upon a variety of differing intelligent gaming tables without extensive modifications being performed. Alternatively, the presentation system can otherwise be mounted upon the intelligent gaming table in a manner which allows participants to view one or more of the displays which form a part of the presentation system.

According to a specific embodiment, the presentation system may be adapted for use by a dealer (e.g., at 13) and multiple players (e.g. at 15, 17, etc.) who are in attendance and positioned about the intelligent gaming table.

In at least one embodiment, the intelligent gaming table may optionally include a plurality of electronic displays (e.g., within player regions 11 a-e), herein termed player displays, which are capable of displaying changeable display content including, for example, text and/or graphical images. In at least one embodiment, each player display may be operable to display graphical representation representing game play information, wagering information, and/or bonus information associated with one or more players at the intelligent gaming table.

Additionally, in at least one embodiment, the intelligent gaming table may include one or more common displays which may present information for the exclusive use of a casino host/dealer and/or other information to be viewed by the dealer, players, spectators, and/or other persons. Various types of information which may be displayed at the common display include, for example: dealer cards, ante information, common or shared player cards, individual player cards, wager information, etc.

In at least one embodiment, the player displays may be arranged adjacent to each player seating position. For example, region 11 c of FIG. 1 may include at least one player display for use by a player at position 15.

In at least one embodiment, the intelligent gaming table displays may include touchscreen functionality for facilitating user interaction. For example, the player displays may include a touchscreen and/or other input mechanisms for allowing the player to provide input relating to game play, preferences, wagering, player tracking activity, etc.

In at least one implementation, the intelligent gaming table may include one or more sensors or other security mechanisms which, for example, may be used for a variety of purposes such as, for example, controlling the display of a player's cards; preventing accidental exposure of player cards; providing additional security features with respect to information displayed on the player's display; etc.

Although not shown in the example of FIG. 1, the intelligent gaming table 1 may also include, one or more of the following (or combinations thereof):

    • A wager token tray which allows the dealer to conveniently store betting chips used by the dealer in playing the game.
    • A money drop slot may be further included to allow the dealer to easily deposit paper money bills thereinto when players purchase betting chips;
    • A table control console for use by the dealer and/or other casino employees. In one implementation, the table control console may be used to facilitate and execute game play operations, table configuration operations, player tracking operations, maintenance and inspection operations, etc.
    • One or more common displays which may be operable to present information for the exclusive use of the dealer and/or other information to be viewed by the dealer, players, spectators, and/or other persons. Various types of information which may be displayed at the common display include, for example: dealer cards, ante information, common or shared player cards, individual player cards, wager information, etc.
    • One or more speakers which, for example, may be used to provide various types of audio information such as, for example: game related information (e.g., instructions to players and/or dealer, sound effects, etc.), casino related announcements, gaming table status information, music, attracts, promotions, bonus information, communication information (e.g., for speakerphone or two-way radio communications), etc.

One aspect of at least some embodiments disclosed herein relates to processing input relating to gaming table systems, particularly live casino gaming table systems such as those typically located on the floor of a casino establishment (e.g., in which live players are physically present at a physical gaming table, and engage in wager-based gaming activities at the gaming table). For example, one embodiment relates to input systems and input processing techniques for serving multiple users (e.g., players, hosts, etc.) via a common input surface (input area) and/or one or more input device(s).

In accordance with one embodiment, one or more input detection systems can be provided. For example, in at least one embodiment, an intelligent, live casino gaming table may include an input detection system having various types of features/functionalities such as, for example, one or more of the following (or combinations thereof): a user-identifier functionality for detecting or determining the identity of a particular user who has provided input to a common area of the gaming table which is accessible to multiple users; an input-locator functionality for concurrently detecting the respective locations of multiple different input events associated with input data provided from different users at the gaming table; etc.

In one embodiment, the user-identifier mechanism(s) may be operable to function in a multi-player environment, and may include, for example, functionality for: concurrently detecting multiple different input data from different players at the gaming table; determining a unique identifier for each active player at the gaming table; automatically determining, for each input detected, the identity of the player (or other person) who provided that input; and/or automatically associating each detected input with an identifier representing the player (or other person) who provided that input.

In the specific example of FIG. 1, gaming table 1 is illustrated as a blackjack table embodiment. However, according to different embodiments (not shown) gaming table 1 may be configured for a variety of different types of table games such as, for example, blackjack, poker, roulette, craps, baccarat, and/or other types of casino table games generally known to one having ordinary skill in the art.

In at least one embodiment, the gaming table system may include (or be communicatively coupled to) a system for tracking play of players at the table. Additionally, in at least one embodiment, the gaming table system may include one or more media readers. In one embodiment, the media reader(s) may be any type that is capable of reading or obtaining information from cards, media or other devices issued by the casino. For example, according to specific embodiments a media reader may include for example, a magnetic reader for reading magnetic stripes on cards; an electronic card reader for reading electronic cards and/or for detecting wireless signals (such as, for example RFID signals); a port for receiving electronic keys; or any combination thereof. In an alternate embodiment (not shown), a separate media reader may be provided at each of the different player positions/stations at gaming table. Each media reader may be coupled to a central computer via a communication channel, such as, for example, cables, wires, fiber optics, wireless signals, radio waves, etc. The central computer may be operable to keep track of various information relating to the various players' accounts. Such information may include, for example, player tracking information.

FIG. 2 shows an example of a gaming table system 200 in accordance with a different embodiment. As illustrated in the embodiment of FIG. 2, gaming table system 200 includes a conventionally shaped gaming table 21 for play of one or more type of table games which, for example, may include non-card based table games and/or card-based table games.

The gaming table 21 of this type is generally located in a casino or the like, and typically includes a dealer station 22, and a plurality of player stations 23-27, surrounding the dealer station. At the player stations, the players sit or stand during game play, while at the dealer station, the card dealer almost always stands. The dealer also deals the cards and takes the player's bets, on behalf of the casino, from the one more players who are participating in the table game.

As illustrated in the embodiment of FIG. 2, at least one interactive display terminal 30 is included at the gaming table 21. For example, in this particular example a respective display terminal 30-34 dedicated to each player station 23-27 at gaming table 21. According to specific embodiments, each of these interactive display terminals 30-34 may be operable to display informational content relating to advertising, player tracking information, news, etc. Additionally, each of these interactive display terminals 30-34 may be operable to allow players to access additional bonus games and/or bonus awards at each of their respective, dedicated player stations.

In at least one embodiment, the display terminals are integrated with a backend player tracking system which, for example, may be operable to manage and store various types of information including, for example, player tracking information.

According to specific embodiments, one or more of the interactive player display terminals 30-34 can be applied to deliver a variety of different types of information (e.g., advertising, news, player tracking information, bonus games, etc.) directly to the player at their respective player station 23-27. In one embodiment, one or more of the interactive player display terminals 30-34 may be operable to function as a player tracking terminal. In one embodiment, a display terminal may be operable to facilitate player access to his or her accounts via entry of personal identification numbers into a touch screen on the display.

In some embodiments, the gaming table system 200 may include one or more media reader(s) (e.g., 202 a-e) capable of reading, receiving signals, and/or obtaining information from media (e.g., player tracking cards) and/or devices such as those issued by the casino. For example, as illustrated in FIG. 2, a separate media reader may be provided for each player station at gaming table 22. In at least one alternate embodiment, gaming table system 200 may include one or more media reader(s) (e.g., 202 a-e), and may not include player display terminals 30-34. Thus, for example, in one such alternate embodiment, gaming table 21 may resemble a traditional live gaming table which includes felt top and not display terminals. In such an embodiment, media reader(s) (e.g., 202 a-e) may be placed or located in a non-visible location such as, for example, under the gaming table top, within the body of the gaming table housing, etc.

In a specific embodiment, a media reader at gaming table system 200 may be operable to automatically detect wireless signals (e.g., 802.11 (WiFi), 802.15 (including Bluetooth™), 802.16 (WiMax), 802.22, Cellular standards such as CDMA, CDMA2000, WCDMA, Radio Frequency (e.g., RFID), Infrared, Near Field Magnetics, etc.) from one or more wireless devices (such as, for example, an RFID-enabled player tracking card) which, for example, are in the possession of players at the gaming table. Further, the media reader may be operable to utilize the detected RFID signals to determine the identity of individual players associated with each of the different player tracking cards. The media reader may also be operable to utilize the detected RFID signals to access additional information (e.g., player tracking information) from remote servers (e.g., player tracking server). In at least one embodiment, the display terminals and/or media readers may be operated in association with player tracking networks such as those shown and disclosed in U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,665,961 and 6,319,125, each of which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety for all purposes.

According to various embodiments, the gaming table system 200 may be used to allow a player at an associated player station (e.g., rather than the dealer or pit boss) to log in and out at one of player stations 23-27. In a specific embodiment, the display terminal associated with a player's station may be operable to function as the player's own personal player tracking kiosk right at the gaming table.

It will be appreciated that conventional techniques for monitoring player tracking activity at table games typically involve a number of manually implemented processes. For example, using conventional player tracking mechanisms, if a player wishes to initiate a player tracking session at a given table game, the player (or dealer) is typically required to manually swipe or insert the player's player tracking card into an appropriate card reader that the gaming table. Additionally, when the player desires to end the player tracking session, another manual operation must typically be performed by the player, dealer and/or other casino employee to signal to the player tracking system that the player tracking session has ended. Typically, once a player tracking session has been initiated for a player at a table game, the floor supervisor manually tracks the player's wagers and time played at the table game. Further, it will be appreciated that, historically speaking, in order to close a rating for given player tracking session, the player's walk amount information (e.g., the amount and/or value of chips that the player walked away with) must typically be manually determined and entered by the floor supervisor.

Accordingly, one aspect of the present invention is directed to different embodiments for automating the various manual processes involved in the rating of a player of a table game. Another aspect of the present invention is directed to different embodiments for automatically starting, suspending, resuming and/or ending player tracking sessions at one or more table games.

For example, according to some conventional embodiments, the starting of a player tracking session for a particular player at a table game typically occurs immediately after the player's player tracking card has been swiped or inserted into the player tracking card reader that the table game. In other conventional embodiments a player may present his player tracking card to the dealer or floor supervisor in order to initiate a player tracking session at the table game.

According to one conventional technique, the closing of an open or active player rating session for a player at a gaming table may occur as follows. The player (associated with the open player rating session) gets up and walks away from the gaming table, taking his/her chips. When the floor supervisor identifies that the player has walked, the floor supervisor will close the rating on that player, and estimate how many chips the player walked with. Accordingly, it will be appreciated that this process involves a manual and somewhat subjective mechanism, currently.

However, with the introduction of “smart” player tracking cards (such as, for example, RFID-enabled player tracking cards) and “smart” gaming table media readers such as those described herein, it is now possible for gaming table systems to automatically detect the presence of player tracking cards and to automatically determine the identities of players at the table game who are registered members of the casino's player tracking system. Such automated detection of player tracking cards and/or player identities at gaming tables introduces additional issues such as, for example, when to start, suspend and/or end a given player tracking session at the gaming table.

Accordingly, one aspect of the present invention is directed to different embodiments for detecting and interpreting various events in order, for example, to automate the starting, pausing, and/or ending of player tracking sessions at table games. Another aspect is directed to different embodiments for automatically tracking and/or determining a player's wagers and/or time played at a gaming table.

According to a specific embodiment, a “smart” player tracking card (such as, for example, a card with RFID technology embedded therein) may be used in combination with a media reader at a table game to uniquely identify a table game player, and/or to record the time a player starts playing at any position on a table. In one embodiment, a player occupying a specific seat or player station position at a gaming table may be automatically and passively detected without requiring action on the part of a player or dealer. For example, the player tracking card could be in the player's wallet when the player sits at a gaming table. Another embodiment may include a player temporarily placing his/her player card on a defined area of a table game.

FIG. 8 is a simplified block diagram of an intelligent gaming table system 800 in accordance with a specific embodiment. As illustrated in the embodiment of FIG. 8, intelligent gaming table system 800 includes (e.g., within gaming table housing 810) a master table controller (MTC) 801, and a plurality of player station systems (e.g., 812 a-e) which, for example, may be connected to the MTC 801 via at least one switch or hub 808. In at least one embodiment, master table controller 801 may include at least one processor or CPU 802, and memory 804. Additionally, as illustrated in the example of FIG. 8, intelligent gaming table system 800 may also include one or more interfaces 806 for communicating with other devices and/or systems in the casino network 820.

In at least one embodiment, a separate player station system may be provided at each player station at the gaming table. According to specific embodiments, each player station system may include a variety of different electronic components, devices, and/or systems for providing various types of functionality. For example, as shown in the embodiment of FIG. 8, player station system 812 c may comprise a variety of different electronic components, devices, and/or systems including, but not limited to: a media detector/reader 832, a game state tracking manager 834, a wager and/or gaming chip tracking system 836, etc. According to a specific embodiment, media detector/reader 832, game state tracking manager 834, and/or wager/gaming chip tracking system 836 may each be operable to communicate with each other and/or other devices of the gaming network.

Although not specifically illustrated in FIG. 8, each of the different player station systems 812 a-e may include components, devices and/or systems similar to that of player station system 812 c.

According to one embodiment, media detector/reader 832 may be operable to read, receive signals, and/or obtain information from various types of media (e.g., player tracking cards) and/or other devices such as those issued by the casino. For example, media detector/reader 832 may be operable to automatically detect wireless signals (e.g., 802.11 (WiFi), 802.15 (including Bluetooth™), 802.16 (WiMax), 802.22, Cellular standards such as CDMA, CDMA2000, WCDMA, Radio Frequency (e.g., RFID), Infrared, Near Field Magnetics, etc.) from one or more wireless devices (such as, for example, an RFID-enabled player tracking card) which, for example, are in the possession of players at the gaming table. The media detector/reader may also be operable to utilize the detected wireless signals to determine the identity of individual players associated with each of the different player tracking cards. The media detector/reader may also be operable to utilize the detected wireless signals to access additional information (e.g., player tracking information) from remote servers (e.g., player tracking server).

According to a specific embodiment, the media detector/reader may also be operable to determine the position or location of one or more players at the gaming table, and/or able to identify a specific player station which is occupied by a particular player at the gaming table.

In a specific embodiment, for example, where each player station at the gaming table includes a respective media detector/reader, each media detector/reader (e.g., 832) may be operable to detect media, devices and/or signals which are associated only with a player occupying that particular player station (e.g., player station 812 c). Thus, for example, according to a specific embodiment, the media detector/reader associated with player station 812 c may be operable to detect and read an RFID-enabled card held by a player occupying player station 812 c, but may not be able to detect and/or read RFID-enabled cards held by players occupying player stations 812 a, 812 b, 812 d, and/or 812 e. Similarly, the media detector/reader associated with player station 812 b may be operable to detect and read an RFID-enabled card held by a player occupying player station 812 b, but may not be able to detect and/or read RFID-enabled cards held by players occupying player station 812 a, 812 c, 812 d, and/or 812 e.

In at least one embodiment, game state tracking manager 834 may be operable to automatically manage various types of information, events and/or activities associated with one or more gaming sessions at the gaming table. According to a specific embodiment, such information, events and/or activities may include, for example, but are not limited to:

    • accessing information from a player's player tracking card (and/or other media);
    • accessing information from a remote servers (such as, for example, a player tracking server);
    • determining an identity of a player at the gaming table;
    • starting a game state tracking session;
    • suspending a game state tracking session;
    • resuming a game state tracking session;
    • ending a game state tracking session;
    • recording game state tracking events, activities and/or related data;
    • generating or computing game state tracking information;
    • determining a player's walk away amount;
    • determining theoretical wins;
    • determining buy-ins;
    • determining actual wins;
    • determining player movement (e.g., a player moving from one player station at the gaming table to another);
    • determining multiple ratings for a player;
    • determining player skill;
    • determining game speed;
    • determining a current game state (e.g. a current state of game play at the gaming table);
    • advancing the game state based on specific event(s)/condition(s)
    • storing game state history and/or other related information
    • etc.

In at least one embodiment, wager/gaming chip tracking system 836 may be operable to automatically manage various types of information, events and/or activities associated gaming chips (also referred to as wagering tokens) and/or wagering activities conducted at the gaming table. According to a specific embodiment, such information, events and/or activities may include, for example, but are not limited to:

    • tracking player wagering activities and/or related information;
    • determining and/or tracking information relating to player buy-in activities;
    • determining and/or tracking information relating to gaming chips which a player currently has in his or her possession at the gaming table (e.g., the amount and value of gaming chips within the player's personal space at the gaming table);
    • determining and/or tracking information relating to a player's walk away amount;
    • determining fills and/or credits;
    • determine betting anomalies (e.g., including pitching and/or capping activity);
    • etc.

As used herein, the terms “gaming chip” and “wagering token” may be used interchangeably, and, in at least one embodiment, may refer to a chip, coin, and/or other type of token which may be used for various types of casino wagering activities, such as, for example, gaming table wagering.

In at least one embodiment, intelligent gaming table system 800 may also include components and/or devices for implementing at least a portion of gaming table functionality described in one or more of the following patents, each of which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety for all purposes: U.S. Pat. No. 5,735,742, entitled “GAMING TABLE TRACKING SYSTEM AND METHOD”; and U.S. Pat. No. 5,651,548, entitled “GAMING CHIPS WITH ELECTRONIC CIRCUITS SCANNED BY ANTENNAS IN GAMING CHIP PLACEMENT AREAS FOR TRACKING THE MOVEMENT OF GAMING CHIPS WITHIN A CASINO APPARATUS AND METHOD.”

For example, in one embodiment, intelligent gaming table system 800 may include a system for tracking movement of gaming chips and/or for performing other valuable functions. The system may be fully automated and operable to automatically monitor and record selected gaming chip transactions at the gaming table. In one embodiment, the system may employ use of gaming chips having transponders embedded therein. Such gaming chips may be electronically identifiable and/or carry electronically ascertainable information about the gaming chip. The system may further have ongoing and/or “on-command” capabilities to provide an instantaneous or real-time inventory of all (or selected) gaming chips at the gaming table such as, for example, gaming chips in the possession of a particular player, gaming chips in the possession of the dealer, gaming chips located within a specified region (or regions) of the gaming table, etc. The system may also be capable of reporting the total value of an identified selection of gaming chips.

By way of illustration, a specific embodiment of a gaming table system may include one or more RFID readers (e.g., either directional, designated, or a combination thereof) which may be hidden from view of the players. In one embodiment, each player station or position at the table game may include a respective RFID reader which includes an antenna to detect the presence of a player's card and determine a unique identifier for the detected card. Each RFID reader may be operable to communicate the card identifier to a player tracking or rating system. According to specific embodiments, the RFID reader may also be operable to detect when the player's card is moved or removed from a particular player station or player position at the gaming table.

According to specific embodiments, different types of RFID readers may be utilized such as, for example, directional RFID readers, designated RFID readers and/or some combination thereof. For example, in one embodiment, a directional RFID reader could be used to establish a definable space that can be monitored for detecting RFID antennas which enter or exit the defined space. For example, a player carrying an RFID enabled player tracking card sits at a seat (e.g., player station) at a table game. A directional RFID reader could detect that player, and associate him/her to that particular player station. Additionally, in a specific embodiment where the RFID reader is configured as a directional RFID reader, a determination of when a player enters and leaves a seat area may be tracked.

In at least some embodiments, a designated RFID reader could be used to define a particular region on the gaming table for a player to place an RFID enabled smart card. Upon such placement, the player could be identified and associated to a particular spot/seat/player station at the gaming table. Additionally, in at least one embodiment where the RFID reader is configured as a designated RFID reader, a configurable time out may be tracked, for example, based on activity or inactivity of a particular player.

The tracked information may then be reported or communicated to a player tracking system. According to a specific embodiment, a player tracking system may be used to store various information relating to casino patrons or players. Such information (herein referred to as player tracking information) may include player rating information, which, for example, generally refers to information used by a casino to rate a given player according to various criteria such as, for example, criteria which may be used to determine a player's theoretical or comp value to a casino.

Additionally, in at least one embodiment, a player tracking session may be used to collect various types of information relating to a player's preferences, activities, game play, location, etc. Such information may also include player rating information generated during one or more player rating sessions. Thus, in at least one embodiment, a player tracking session may include the generation and/or tracking of player rating information for a given player.

FIG. 5A shows a flow diagram of a Gaming Table Player Tracking Session Management Procedure in accordance with a specific embodiment. It will be appreciated that different embodiments of Gaming Table Player Tracking Session Management Procedures may be implemented at different types of table games, and may include at least some features other than or different from those described with respect to the specific embodiment of FIG. 5A.

According to specific embodiments, multiple threads of the Gaming Table Player Tracking Session Management Procedure may be simultaneously running at a given gaming table. For example, in one embodiment, a separate instance or thread of the Gaming table Player Tracking Session Management Procedure may be implemented at each player station (e.g., 23-27) of a gaming table.

For purposes of illustration, and example of the Gaming table Player Tracking Session Management Procedure 500 will now be explained with reference to gaming table system 200. According to specific embodiments, one or more gaming tables may include functionality for detecting the presence of a player at one of the gaming table's player stations. Such functionality may be implemented using a variety of different types of technologies such as, for example: cameras, pressure sensors (e.g., embedded in a seat, bumper, table top, etc.), motion detectors, image sensors, signal detectors (e.g., RFID signal detectors), dealer and/or player input devices, etc.

For example, in a specific embodiment, Player A may be carrying his/her RFID-enabled player tracking card in his/her pocket, and chose to occupy a seat at player station position 25 of gaming table system 200. Gaming table system 200 may be operable to automatically and passively detect (502) the presence of Player A, for example, by detecting an RFID signal transmitted from Player A's player tracking card. Thus, in at least one implementation, such player detection may be performed without requiring action on the part of a player or dealer.

When the presence of Player A is detected (502) at the gaming table, a determination may be made (504) as to whether Player A is a registered member of the casino's player tracking system. In one embodiment, this may be accomplished, for example, using information from Player A's player tracking card. As illustrated in the embodiment of FIG. 5A, if it is determined that Player A is a registered player tracking member, the player's identity may be determined (506). For example, Player A's player tracking card may transmit a unique identifier which may be used to look up the player's identity and/or other information in a database, such as, for example, a player tracking system database.

In other embodiments, the presence of a player may be automatically and passively detected, for example, using various types of sensors such as, for example, a motion sensor, a pressure sensor, etc. In at least some embodiments, there may be no unique signal or other information to help identify the player's identity.

According to various embodiments, if Player A's identity can not be determined, or if it is determined that Player A is not a registered member of the casino's player tracking system, an anonymous player tracking account may be created for Player A, for example, in order to allow one or more player rating sessions to be conducted for Player A at the gaming table. In a particular embodiment, during a player rating session for Player A, various player rating information may be generated for Player A, and associated with the anonymous player tracking account. Further, at one or more occasions, Player A may be given the opportunity to assign his or her identity to the anonymous player tracking account, and/or to transfer at least a portion of the generated player rating information (e.g., from the anonymous account) to a registered player tracking account.

In at least one embodiment, the gaming table may be operable to determine (510) a position of Player A at the gaming table. Thus, for example, in the present example, gaming table system 200 may be operable to determine that Player A is occupying player station 25. Such information may be subsequently used, for example, when performing player tracking operations associated with Player A.

According to different embodiments, the gaming table system may be operable to automatically initiate or start a new player tracking session for a given player (e.g., Player A) based on the detection (512) of one or more in events. For example, in one embodiment, a player tracking session for Player A may be automatically started in response to detecting the presence of the player at a given player station at the gaming table. In an alternate embodiment, a player tracking session for Player A may be automatically started upon detecting that Player A has placed his/her first wager (e.g., placed at least one gaming chip) within the player's assigned wager placement area (e.g., within the gaming chip placement circle 221 c of FIG. 2).

It will be appreciated that a variety of different events (and/or some combination thereof) may be used to trigger the start or opening of a player tracking session for a given player. Such events may include, for example, but are not limited to, one or more of the following:

    • physical proximity of player and/or player tracking device detected as satisfying predetermined criteria;
    • player tracking device detected within specified zone of player station area;
    • player tracking device shown or handed to dealer and/or other casino employee;
    • appropriate player input detected (e.g., player pushes button);
    • appropriate dealer input detected;
    • specified time constraints detected as being satisfied (e.g., begin player tracking session at next round of play);
    • gaming chip(s) placed detected within player's assigned wagering region;
    • presence of player detected at player station;
    • detection of player's first wager being placed;
    • player location or position detected as satisfying predefined criteria;
    • appropriate floor supervisor input detected;
    • player identity determined (e.g., through the use of directional RFID; through placement of player tracking media on a designated spot at a table game; etc.);
    • detection of continuous presence of player tracking media for a predetermined amount of time;
    • etc.

Assuming that the appropriate event or events have been detected for starting a player tracking session for Player A, a player tracking session for Player A may then be started (514) or initiated. During the active player tracking session, player tracking information relating to Player A may be automatically tracked and/or generated (516) by one or more components of the gaming table system. According to a specific embodiment, once the player tracking session has been started, any wager and/or game play activities detected as being associated with Player A may be associated with the current player tracking session. According to specific embodiments, such player tracking information may include, but is not limited to, one or more of the following types of information (and/or some combination thereof):

    • game play data;
    • wager data;
    • cards dealt/held/discarded;
    • timestamp information;
    • player station position;
    • player buy-in data;
    • side wager data;
    • player rating data;
    • session start time;
    • session end time;
    • cumulative time played;
    • information relating to gaming chips (e.g., types, amount, value, etc.) detected as being within the player's personal player space (e.g., within personal player space region 250, FIG. 2);
    • determining theoretical win information;
    • determining buy-in information;
    • determining actual win information;
    • determining player movement information (e.g., a player moving from player station at a gaming table to another player station at the gaming table);
    • determining rating information (e.g., one or more types of ratings) for a player;
    • determining player skill information;
    • determining game speed information;
    • other player-tracking related information generally known to one having ordinary skill in the art;
    • etc.

According to specific embodiments, the gaming table system may be operable to detect one or more events relating to the suspension and/or ending of an active player session. For example, in one embodiment, the gaming table system may periodically check for events relating to the suspension and/or ending of an active player session. Alternatively, a separate or asynchronous process (e.g., an event detection manager/component) may be utilized for detecting various events such as, for example, those relating to the starting, suspending, resuming, and/or ending of one or more player tracking sessions at the gaming table.

As shown in the embodiment of FIG. 5A, if an event is detected (518) for suspending Player A's active player tracking session, the current or active player tracking session for Player A may be suspended (e.g., temporarily suspended). In one embodiment, during a suspended player tracking session, no additional player tracking information is tracked or generated for that player.

According to specific embodiments, a variety of different events may be used to trigger the suspension of a player tracking session for a given player. Such events may include, for example, but are not limited to, one or more of the following (and/or some combination thereof):

    • no detection of player at assigned player station;
    • no detection of player's player tracking device within predetermined range;
    • player input;
    • dealer input;
    • time based events;
    • player detected as not being within predetermined range;
    • no player activity with specified time period;
    • player determined to be out of gaming chips;
    • etc.

For example, if a player inadvertently removes his/her player tracking device from a designated location of the gaming table for a brief period of time, and/or for a predetermined number of rounds, and the player tracking device is subsequently returned to its former location, the gaming table system may be operable to merge consecutive periods of activity into the same player tracking session, including any rounds tracked while the player's player tracking device was detected as being absent. In one embodiment, if a player moves to a different player station at the gaming table, the gaming table system may respond by switching or modifying the player station identity associated with that player's player tracking session in order to begin tracking information associated with the player's player tracking session at the new player station.

In at least one embodiment, a suspended player tracking session may be resumed or ended, depending upon the detection of one or more appropriate events. For example, as shown in the example of FIG. 5A, if an event is detected for resuming (522) the suspended Player A player tracking session, the player tracking session for Player A may be resumed (526) and/or re-activated, whereupon player tracking information relating to Player A may be automatically tracked and/or generated (516) by one or more components of the gaming table system.

According to specific embodiments, a variety of different events may be used to trigger the resuming of a player tracking session for a given player. Such events may include, for example, but are not limited to, one or more of the following (and/or some combination thereof):

    • re-detection of player at assigned player station;
    • re-detection of player's player tracking device within predetermined range;
    • player input;
    • dealer input;
    • time based events;
    • player detected as being within predetermined range;
    • player game play activity detected;
    • player wager activity detected;
    • etc.

Alternatively, if an event is detected for ending (524) the suspended Player A player tracking session, the player tracking session for Player A may be ended (532) and/or closed. At that point the player tracking manager (e.g., 834) may have (and/or may be able to calculate) all desired player wager information such as, for example, turnover, average wager, theoretical value, comp value, etc.

According to specific embodiments, a variety of different events may be used to trigger the ending of a player tracking session for a given player. Such events may include, for example, but are not limited to, one or more of the following (and/or some combination thereof):

    • no detection of player at assigned player station;
    • no detection of player's player tracking device within predetermined range;
    • player input;
    • dealer input;
    • time based events;
    • player detected as not being within predetermined range;
    • no player activity with specified time period;
    • player determined to be out of gaming chips;
    • timeout exceeded;
    • player detected at another location in the casino;
    • player tracking device detected at another location in the casino;
    • etc.

According to a specific embodiment, the closing of the Player A player tracking session at the gaming table may include operations relating to the closing of a Player A rating session, which, in turn, may include determining a current walk amount for Player A. For example, in one embodiment, the gaming table system may include one or more components for detecting gaming chips (e.g., belonging to a particular player) within a predetermined region or zone at the gaming table which, for example, may be defined as that player's personal space. For example, as illustrated in the embodiment of FIG. 2, player station 25 has associated therewith a personal space region 250.

In at least one embodiment, each player station at the gaming table may have associated therewith its own unique personal player space region. In one embodiment, a wager/gaming chip tracking system (e.g., 836, FIG. 8) may be operable to automatically identify and track the number and/or values of gaming chips which are located within a player's personal space at the gaming table and/or which are located at other locations at the gaming table, such as, for example, non-wagering areas of the gaming table. In at least one embodiment, such functionality allows the tracking of player gaming chips on the table at all times, and not just when a wager is made. Additionally, in at least one embodiment, such functionality allows the tracking of player gaming chips in non-wagering regions of the gaming table (e.g., such as, for example, regions other than the specifically designated wagering areas). For example, it may be used to automatically determine the amount and/or value of gaming chips which a player walked with, for example, based on the removal of chips from the player's personal space. It may also be used to automatically track player buy-in information, for example, based on the adding of new chips to the player's personal space and/or other criteria (e.g., chips awarded to the player due to a win at the gaming table are not counted or included). Accordingly, it will be appreciated that such functionality may help eliminate delays in closing a player rating session which traditionally have been associated with manual processes.

Automation of Player Rating Sessions at Gaming Tables

Various techniques described herein may be used to automatically determine a player's wagers and time played at a gaming table. For example, as described herein, different player tracking mechanisms may be used to detect the presence and/or location of a player (and/or presence and location of a player's electronic player tracking card or other wireless device(s) associate with that player) within the casino. Additionally, different player tracking mechanisms may also be used to detect the presence, absence and/or location of a player (and/or presence and location of a player's electronic player tracking card or other wireless device(s) associate with that player) at one or more casino gaming tables. In at least one embodiment, at least a portion of such player tracking information may be provided to a player rating system to be used in performing automated player rating activities associated with the player.

For example, according to different embodiments, an automated player rating system may be operable to use at least a portion of the player tracking information (and/or other desired information, events and/or criteria as described herein) to automatically start, stop, pause and/or resume player rating session(s) associated with a given player.

In at least one embodiment, various distinctions may be made between player tracking session information and player rating session information. For example, in one embodiment, player tracking session information may include a variety of different information generally relating to locations and/or activities of players in different regions of a casino. Such activities may include gaming and/or non-gaming related player activities. In one embodiment, for example, a single player rating session may include generating, monitoring, tracking and/or recording information relating to a variety of different player gaming (and/or non-gaming) activities which may occur (e.g., for a given player) at different gaming stations, gaming tables and/or gaming machines at the casino. Thus, for example, in one embodiment, a single player tracking session for a given player may include information relating to the player's gaming activities at multiple different gaming tables. In at least one embodiment, such player tracking session information may include player rating information relating to the player's gaming activities at the different gaming tables.

In at least one embodiment, player tracking information may be characterized as a subset of player tracking information. For example, in at least one embodiment, player rating information may be used to track and/or evaluate a player's skill level, ranking, and/or comp value to the casino. In at least one embodiment, player tracking information may include at least a portion of such player rating information, but may also include other information which may be used to characterize a player's preferences, habits, non-gaming activities, interests, etc.

In one embodiment, player rating information may include a variety of different information generally relating to a player gaming activities at a given gaming table, gaming station and/or gaming machine. Moreover, in at least one embodiment, a separate player rating session for a given player may be initiated and used to track player rating information relating to the player's gaming activities at each different gaming table visited by the player. Thus, for example, in one embodiment where a player may engage in gaming activities at three different casino gaming tables, three different player rating session may be initiated for that player, wherein each player rating session may be used to track the player's gaming activities at respective gaming table visited by the player.

FIG. 5B shows a flow diagram of a Gaming Table Player Rating Session Management Procedure in accordance with a specific embodiment. It will be appreciated that different embodiments of Gaming table Player Rating Session Management Procedures may be implemented at different types of table games, and may include at least some features other than or different from those described with respect to the specific embodiment of FIG. 5B.

According to specific embodiments, multiple threads of the Gaming Table Player Rating Session Management Procedure may be simultaneously running at a given gaming table. For example, in one embodiment, a separate instance or thread of the Gaming table Player Rating Session Management Procedure may be implemented for each player (or selected players) of a given gaming table.

For purposes of illustration, and example of the Gaming Table Player Rating Session Management Procedure 550 will now be explained with reference to gaming table system 200. According to specific embodiments, one or more gaming tables may include functionality for detecting the presence of a player at one of the gaming table's player stations. Such functionality may be implemented using a variety of different types of technologies such as, for example: cameras, pressure sensors (e.g., embedded in a seat, bumper, table top, etc.), motion detectors, image sensors, signal detectors (e.g., RFID signal detectors), dealer and/or player input devices, etc.

For example, in a specific embodiment, Player A may be carrying his/her RFID-enabled player tracking card in his/her pocket, and chose to occupy a seat at player station position 25 of gaming table system 200. Gaming table system 200 may be operable to automatically and passively detect the presence of Player A, for example, by detecting an RFID signal transmitted from Player A's player tracking card. Thus, in at least one implementation, such player detection may be performed without requiring action on the part of a player or dealer.

In at least one embodiment, the gaming table may be operable to determine a position of Player A at the gaming table. Thus, for example, in the present example, gaming table system 200 may be operable to determine that Player A is occupying player station 25. Such information may be subsequently used, for example, when performing player rating operations associated with Player A.

According to different embodiments, the gaming table system may be operable to automatically initiate or start a new player rating session for a given player (e.g., Player A) based on the detection (562) of one or more in events. For example, in one embodiment, a player rating session for Player A may be automatically started in response to detecting the presence of the player at a given player station at the gaming table. In an alternate embodiment, a player rating session for Player A may be automatically started upon detecting that Player A has placed his/her first wager (e.g., placed at least one gaming chip) within the player's assigned wager placement area (e.g., within the gaming chip placement circle 221 c of FIG. 2).

According to specific embodiments, a variety of different conditions, events and/or some combination thereof may be used to trigger the start or opening of a player rating session for a given player. Such events may include, for example, but are not limited to, one or more of the following:

    • physical proximity of player and/or player tracking device detected as satisfying predetermined criteria;
    • player tracking device detected within specified zone of player station area;
    • player tracking device shown or handed to dealer and/or other casino employee;
    • appropriate player input detected (e.g., player pushes button);
    • appropriate dealer input detected;
    • specified time constraints detected as being satisfied (e.g., begin player rating session at next round of play);
    • gaming chip(s) placed detected within player's assigned wagering region;
    • presence of player detected at player station;
    • detection of player's first wager being placed;
    • player location or position detected as satisfying predefined criteria;
    • appropriate floor supervisor input detected;
    • player identity determined (e.g., through the use of directional RFID; through placement of player tracking media on a designated spot at a table game; etc.);
    • detection of continuous presence of player tracking media for a predetermined amount of time;
    • etc.

For example, in one embodiment wherein player tracking may be implemented using an RFID-enabled player tracking card (or RFID-enabled device), the player rating system may automatically start a player rating for the player using the time, position and/or card identifier information associated with the RFID-enabled player tracking. In one embodiment, the player rating system may determine the player's identity using the card identifier information. In another embodiment, the player rating system may determine the player's identity by requesting desired information from a player management system. In one embodiment, once the rating has been started, any (or selected) wager activities performed by the player may be automatically tracked and associated with that player's rating.

Assuming that the appropriate event or events have been detected (562) for starting a player rating session for a given player (e.g., Player A), a player rating session for Player A may then be started or initiated (564). During the active player rating session, player rating information relating to Player A may be automatically tracked and/or generated by one or more components of the gaming table system. According to a specific embodiment, once the player tracking session has been started, all or selected wager and/or game play activities detected as being associated with Player A may be associated with the current player rating session for Player A. According to specific embodiments, such player rating information may include, but is not limited to, one or more of the following types of information (and/or some combination thereof):

    • wager data;
    • timestamp information;
    • player station position;
    • player buy-in data;
    • side wager data;
    • session start time;
    • session end time;
    • information relating to gaming chips (e.g., types, amount, value, etc.) detected as being within the player's personal player space (e.g., within personal player space region 250, FIG. 2);
    • player movement information (e.g., a player moving from player station at a gaming table to another player station at the gaming table);
    • rating information (e.g., one or more types of ratings) for a player;
    • player skill information;
    • game speed information;
    • various types of player-tracking related information;
    • amounts wagered;
    • time played;
    • game speed (e.g., wagers/hour);
    • house advantage;
    • walk amount;
    • actual wins/losses;
    • theoretical wins/losses;
    • net session win/loss;
    • winnings;
    • buy-in activity (e.g., using chips, cash, marker, vouchers, credits, etc.);
    • marker in activity;
    • time spent at gaming table;
    • active gaming time spent at gaming table;
    • chips out activity;
    • redemption activity (e.g., pay offs using credits and/or markers, buying back of credits/markers);
    • comp. value information (e.g., a value or rating for a player which may be used by the casino for awarding various complimentary products, services, etc. for a given player and/or for given time period);
    • player ranking information (e.g., bronze, silver, gold);
    • etc.

According to specific embodiments, the gaming table system may be operable to detect (568) one or more events relating to the suspension and/or ending of an active player rating session. For example, in one embodiment, the gaming table system may periodically check for events relating to the suspension and/or ending of an active player rating session. Alternatively, a separate or asynchronous process (e.g., an event detection manager/component) may be utilized for detecting various events such as, for example, those relating to the starting, suspending, resuming, and/or ending of one or more player rating sessions at the gaming table.

In at least one embodiment, if an event is detected for suspending Player A's active player rating session, the current or active player rating session for Player A may be suspended (570) (e.g., temporarily suspended). In one embodiment, during a suspended player rating session, no additional player rating information is logged or tracked for that player.

According to specific embodiments, a variety of different events may be used to trigger the suspension of a player rating session for a given player. Such events may include, for example, but are not limited to, one or more of the following (and/or some combination thereof):

    • no detection of player at assigned player station;
    • no detection of player's player tracking device within predetermined range;
    • player input;
    • dealer input;
    • other casino employee input (e.g., pit boss, etc.)
    • time based events;
    • player detected as not being within predetermined range;
    • no player activity with specified time period;
    • player determined to be out of gaming chips;
    • etc.

For example, if a player inadvertently removes his/her player tracking device from a designated location of the gaming table for a brief period of time, and/or for a predetermined number of rounds, and the player tracking device is subsequently returned to its former location, the gaming table system may be operable to merge consecutive periods of activity into the same player rating session, including any rounds tracked while the player's player tracking device was detected as being absent. In one embodiment, if a player moves to a different player station at the gaming table, the gaming table system may respond by switching or modifying the player station identity associated with that player's player rating session in order to begin tracking information associated with the player's player rating session at the new player station.

In at least one embodiment, a suspended player rating session may be resumed or ended, depending upon the detection of one or more appropriate events. For example if an event is detected (572) for resuming the suspended Player A player rating session, the player rating session for Player A may be resumed (576) and/or re-activated, whereupon player tracking information relating to Player A may be automatically tracked and/or generated by one or more components of the gaming table system.

According to specific embodiments, a variety of different events may be used to trigger the resuming of a player rating session for a given player. Such events may include, for example, but are not limited to, one or more of the following (and/or some combination thereof):

    • re-detection of player at assigned player station;
    • re-detection of player's player tracking device within predetermined range;
    • player input;
    • dealer input;
    • other casino employee input (e.g., pit boss, etc.)
    • time based events;
    • player detected as being within predetermined range;
    • player game play activity detected;
    • player wager activity detected;
    • etc.

Alternatively, if an event is detected for ending (580) the suspended Player A player rating session, the player rating session for Player A may be ended (582) and/or automatically closed (584). At that point the player tracking manager (e.g., 834) may have (and/or may be able to automatically calculate) all desired player wager information such as, for example, turnover, average wager, theoretical value, comp value, etc.

According to specific embodiments, a variety of different events may be used to trigger the closing of a player rating session for a given player. Such events may include, for example, but are not limited to, one or more of the following (and/or some combination thereof):

    • no detection of player at assigned player station;
    • no detection of player's player tracking device within predetermined range;
    • player input;
    • dealer input;
    • other casino employee input (e.g., pit boss, etc.)
    • time based events;
    • player detected as not being within predetermined range;
    • no player activity with specified time period;
    • player determined to be out of gaming chips;
    • timeout exceeded;
    • player detected at another location in the casino;
    • player tracking device detected at another location in the casino;
    • etc.

According to a specific embodiment, the closing of the Player A player rating session may include determining a current walk amount for Player A. For example, in one embodiment, the gaming table system may include one or more components for detecting gaming chips (e.g., belonging to a particular player) within a predetermined region or zone at the gaming table which, for example, may be defined as that player's personal space. For example, as illustrated in the embodiment of FIG. 2, player station 25 has associated therewith a personal space region 250. In at least one embodiment, each player station at the gaming table may have associated therewith its own unique personal player space region. In one embodiment, a wager/gaming chip tracking system (e.g., 836, FIG. 8) may be operable to automatically identify and track the number and values of gaming chips which are located within a player's personal space at the gaming table.

According to various embodiments, different mechanisms may be used to identify and track the number and values of gaming chips which are located within a player's personal space at the gaming table. For example, in at least one embodiment, one or more video cameras and intelligent image analysis software may be used to identify and/or track at least a portion gaming chips which are located within a player's personal space at the gaming table. In some embodiments where at least a portion of the player's gaming chips are RFID-enabled gaming chips, tracking of the movements and/or locations of the gaming chips may be accomplished, for example, using various types of RFID device tracking mechanisms such as, for example, RFID device tracking mechanisms well known in the art, and/or other types of RFID device tracking mechanisms such as those disclosed, for example, in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/726,633 (ATTY DKT: IGT1P061X4), entitled Radio Direction Finder for Gaming Chip and/or Player Tracking, by Mattice et al., filed Mar. 21, 2007, the entirety of which is herein incorporated by reference for all purposes.

In at least one embodiment, such gaming chip tracking functionality allows the tracking of player gaming chips on the table at all or desired times, and not just when a wager is made. For example, it may be used to automatically determine the amount and/or value of gaming chips which a player walked with, for example, based on the removal of chips from the player's personal space. It may also be used to automatically track player buy-in information, for example, based on the adding of new chips to the player's personal space and/or other criteria (e.g., chips awarded to the player due to a win at the gaming table are not counted or included). Accordingly, it will be appreciated that such functionality may help eliminate delays in closing a player rating session which traditionally have been associated with manual processes.

Other Intelligent Gaming Table System Embodiments

FIG. 3 shows an alternate example of a specific embodiment of an intelligent gaming table system 300. As illustrated in the example of FIG. 3, a casino gaming table environment 300 is displayed which includes intelligent gaming table 301, dealer 303, and players (e.g., 305, 307). In this particular embodiment, the intelligent gaming table 301 includes a plurality of electronic displays (e.g., 312A-G, 310). In one embodiment, the plurality of electronic displays may be implemented as separate physical displays which have been mounted into (or onto) the body of a conventional-type casino gaming table. In an alternate embodiment, the entire top surface (or selected portions thereof) of the intelligent gaming table may be implemented as a continuous display, and the electronic displays (e.g., 312A-G, 310) implemented as specific display regions within the continuous display. Other embodiments of the intelligent gaming table of the present invention may resemble conventional-type casino gaming tables which do not include any electronic displays.

According to specific embodiments, the intelligent gaming table 301 can be of a variety of common constructions. For example, table 301 may include a table support trestle having legs which contact an underlying floor to support the intelligent gaming table thereon. The intelligent gaming table may have a table top and perimeter pad which extends fully about a semicircular portion of the table periphery. The straight, back portion of the periphery is used by the dealer 303 and can be partly or wholly padded as may vary with the particular table chosen.

A playing surface is provided upon the upwardly facing surface of table top upon which participants of the card game play. A plurality of players (e.g., 305) sit or stand along the semicircular portion and play a desired card game, such as the popular casino card game of blackjack. Other card games are alternatively possible, although the system described herein is specifically adapted for playing casino blackjack.

Although not shown in the example of FIG. 3, the intelligent gaming table 301 may also include a gaming chip rack which allows the dealer to conveniently store gaming chips used by the dealer in playing the game. A money drop slot may be further included to allow the dealer to easily deposit paper money bills thereinto when players purchase gaming chips.

Table 301 can support a system, or form a part of a system for playing card games which is constructed according to specific embodiments of the present invention.

As illustrated in the example of FIG. 3, the intelligent gaming table may include a table control console 320 for use by the dealer and/or other casino employees. In one implementation, the table control console may be used to facilitate and execute game play operations, table configuration operations, player tracking operations, maintenance and inspection operations, etc.

Further, as illustrated in the example of FIG. 3, the intelligent gaming table may include a which is adapted to display images that depict the cards and card hands being played along with additional information used in the play of the card game. For example, as shown in the example of FIG. 3, the intelligent gaming table 301 includes a plurality of electronic displays (e.g., 312A-G, 310). In one embodiment, the plurality of electronic displays may be implemented as separate physical displays which have been mounted into (or onto) the body of a conventional-type casino gaming table. In an alternate embodiment, the entire top surface (or selected portions thereof) of the intelligent gaming table may be implemented as a continuous display, and the electronic displays (e.g., 312A-G, 310) implemented as specific display regions within the continuous display. Other embodiments of the intelligent gaming table of the present invention may resemble conventional-type casino gaming tables which do not include any electronic displays.

According to a specific embodiment, the presentation system or display units may be supported upon the upper or playing surface 55 of the intelligent gaming table. This allows the system to be easily installed upon a variety of differing intelligent gaming tables without extensive modifications being performed. Alternatively, the presentation system can otherwise be mounted upon the intelligent gaming table in a manner which allows participants to view one or more of the displays which form a part of the presentation system.

According to a specific embodiment, the presentation system may be adapted for use by a dealer 303 and multiple players (e.g. 305) who are in attendance and positioned about the intelligent gaming table.

As illustrated in the example of FIG. 3, the intelligent gaming table may optionally include one or more speakers 321 which, for example, may be used to provide various types of audio information such as, for example: game related information (e.g., instructions to players and/or dealer, sound effects, etc.), casino related announcements, gaming table status information, music, attracts, promotions, bonus information, communication information (e.g., for speakerphone or two-way radio communications), etc.

According to specific embodiments, the intelligent gaming table may include a plurality of electronic displays (e.g., 312A-G), herein termed player displays, which are capable of displaying changeable display images. The player display images are intended to display graphical representations of playing cards (e.g., virtual playing cards) and/or other information used in the play of the card game.

Additionally, as shown, for example, in FIG. 3, the intelligent gaming table may include one or more common displays (e.g., Common Display 310) which may present information for the exclusive use of the dealer and/or other information to be viewed by the dealer, players, spectators, and/or other persons. Various types of information which may be displayed at the common display 310 include, for example: dealer cards, ante information, common or shared player cards, individual player cards, wager information, etc. In one embodiment, the common display 310 may be used to:

    • reveal cards of selected players (when appropriate);
    • verify cards dealt to selected players;
    • display the dealer's cards;
    • display game play instructions;
    • display table configuration information;
    • display player tracking related information;
    • display player tracking session status information;
    • display error messages;
    • display wagering information;
    • indicate which of the players is currently playing (e.g., show active player);
    • display active players' actions (e.g., Hit, Hold, Double Down);
    • display promotional information;
    • identify players waiting for an opening at the table (e.g., next up);
    • display community cards;
    • display bonus game;
    • display progressive jackpots;
    • display multimedia information from external sources;
    • etc.

Player displays 312 may be arranged adjacent to each player seating position. For example, player display 312D may be adapted for use by player 305, and player display 312E may be adapted for use by player 307.

In at least one embodiment, the intelligent gaming table displays may include touchscreen functionality for facilitating user interaction. For example, the player displays 312 may include a touchscreen and/or other input mechanisms for allowing the player to provide input relating to game play, preferences, wagering, player tracking activity, etc.

In at least one implementation, the intelligent gaming table may include one or more sensors (e.g., 311A-G) or other security mechanisms which, for example, may be used for a variety of purposes such as, for example, controlling the display of a player's cards; preventing accidental exposure of player cards; providing additional security features with respect to information displayed on the player's display; etc.

For example, in one embodiment, a pressure sensor may be provided to the control the display of a player's cards. In this particular embodiment, a player may be required to apply pressure on the pressure sensor in order to cause the player's cards to be display. In one of limitation, a velocity pressure sensor may be utilized to allow for more of the player's display information to be displayed in response to an increase in pressure on the pressure sensor, and to allow for less of the player's display information to be displayed in response to a decrease in the pressure on the pressure sensor.

In a different embodiment, a light sensor may be provided to the control the display of a player's cards. For example, in one implementation, the player's cards may be displayed in response to the light sensor detecting a predefined decrease in the amount of ambient light detected near the display such as, for example, in the situation where the player cups his or her hands over their player display.

In another embodiment, a heat sensor may be provided to the control the display of a player's cards. For example, in one implementation, the player's cards may be displayed in response to the heat sensor detecting a predefined increase in the amount of thermal heat detected near the display such as, for example, in the situation where the player cups his or her hands over their player display.

In another embodiment, a scrolling wheel or other mechanism may be provided to the control the display of a player's cards. For example, in one implementation, the player's cards may be gradually displayed in response to the player rotating the scrolling wheel in a first direction, and may be gradually hidden in response to the player rotating the scrolling wheel in a second (e.g., opposite) direction.

Other security mechanisms for controlling the display of information on a player's display may include, for example:

    • biometric identification devices (e.g., fingerprint reader);
    • use of player tracking cards and/or player tracking profile information;
    • a “display cards” button;
    • implementing a time delay before showing cards after receiving input to display cards;
    • limiting viewing angle of player display so that only the player in front of the display can view the display;
    • etc.

As illustrated in the example of FIG. 3, the intelligent gaming table 301 may include player wagering zones or gaming chip placement zones (e.g., 302). In one embodiment, each player wagering zone may include a gaming chip detection component which may be adapted to automatically detect the presence and/or monetary amount of gaming chips which have been placed within a player's wagering zone. In at least one implementation, a player must position a gaming chip within their respective wagering zone to be considered a participant in the game being played.

One aspect of the present invention relates to a method and apparatus for graphically representing and displaying casino game play data (e.g., player cards, dealer cards, etc.), player tracking related information, and/or other desired data on a mobile or handheld display device.

In at least one implementation, a respective personal player device (herein referred to as a PPD, e.g., 450 of FIG. 4) may be provided to each player at the intelligent gaming table for facilitating various activities such as, for example: game play activities, player tracking activities and/or other activities conducted at the intelligent gaming table or elsewhere. Associations may be made between PPDs and players (and/or player positions at the intelligent gaming table) such that each PPD is uniquely associated with a respective player (and/or player position) at the intelligent gaming table.

In one embodiment, the PPD may be implemented as a simple player tracking card such as, for example, an RFID-enabled player tracking card such as that illustrated in FIG. 6 of the drawings.

FIG. 6 illustrates a block diagram of the components of a smart card 650 that may be used in the present invention. The RF enabled smart card may be designed for wired or wireless use with a gaming machine, gaming peripheral, gaming terminal, gaming table, and/or use with tracking units situated in non-gaming sections of the casino. In one embodiment, the smart card 650 may have the same footprint as a magnetic striped card and may include a wired input/output interface 651, a wireless input/output interface 652, a processor 653, memory 655 and a battery 656 incorporated in some manner on a card substrate 657. The battery 656 is used to supply power to operate the devices on the smart card 650. In some embodiments, when it is inserted into a smart card reader of some type, power may also be supplied to the card by the smart card reader.

The smart card 650 may include an operating system of some type that is used to run applications on the smart card. In some embodiments, the operating system for the smart card 650 may be provided by Microsoft (Redmond, Wash.) or Sun Microsystems of Palo Alto, Calif. The operating system may be used to manage the execution of gaming applications on the smart card. The operating system and gaming applications may incorporated into the processor 653 as firmware, stored in the memory 655 on the smart card or may be implemented as a combination of firmware in the processor 653 and stored in the memory 655. The processor 653 may be a general purpose microprocessor or a custom microcontroller incorporating gaming specific firmware. The memory 655 may be flash memory.

The wired Input/output interface 651 may be an I/O EEPROM or the like that allows the smart card 650 to communicate with a smart card reader and/or other types of media readers. Further, the I/O interface 651 may include one or more communication protocols that allow the smart card 650 to communicate directly with gaming machines, gaming peripherals, gaming terminal, gaming tables and/or other gaming devices designed to communicate with the smart card. Some communication protocols may be stored in the memory 655 of the smart card 650. The communication protocols stored in the memory 655 may be added or deleted from the smart card 650 as needed.

According to a specific embodiment, the wireless Input/output or Input interfaces may be provided by a wireless smart card reader which permits the smart card 650 to communicate with non-gaming activity player tracking units and/or the gaming activity player tracking units such as those on a gaming machine, gaming peripheral, gaming terminal, gaming table, etc. This wireless I/O interface may include one or more wireless communication protocols, such as the wireless communication standard Bluetooth™ described above, that allow the smart card 650 to communicate with the corresponding wireless smart card reader. Some communication protocols may be stored in the memory 655 of the smart card 650, and may be added or deleted from the smart card 50 as needed.

In alternate embodiments, the PPD may correspond to a player's PDA, cell phone, and/or other handheld computing device. As explained in greater detail below, a PPD may be adapted to perform a variety of functions such as, for example, one or more of the following:

    • allowing a player to select cards for discard/holding;
    • allowing a player to perform wagering activities (e.g., increasing bets, checking bets, performing side wagering/backbetting activities, etc.);
    • initiating or starting a player tracking session;
    • suspending a player tracking session;
    • resuming a player tracking session;
    • merging data from one or more player tracking sessions;
    • ending a player tracking session;
    • initiating, suspending or ending a flat rate play session;
    • retrieving and/or displaying player tracking data;
    • retrieving and/or displaying player account data;
    • displaying game play assistance information;
    • displaying casino layout information;
    • displaying promotional information;
    • displaying multimedia information from external sources such as TV signals;
    • notify a player of messages;
    • displaying player's current location;
    • etc.

FIG. 7 shows a simplified block diagram of various components which may be used for implementing a wireless mobile device or PPD in accordance with a specific embodiment. As illustrated in the example of FIG. 7, PPD 700 may include a variety of components, modules and/or systems for providing functionality relating to one or more aspects described herein. Other PPD embodiments (not shown) may include different or other components than those illustrated in FIG. 7. For example, PPD 700 may include, but not limited to, one or more of the following (or combination thereof):

    • At least one processor or CPU (706). In at least one implementation, the processor(s) 706 may be operable to implement features and/or functionality similar to other processors described herein.
    • Memory 716, which, for example, may include volatile memory (e.g., RAM), non-volatile memory (e.g., disk memory, FLASH memory, EPROMs, etc.), unalterable memory, and/or other types of memory. In at least one implementation, the memory 716 may be operable to implement features and/or functionality similar to other memory described herein.
    • Interface(s) 718 which, for example, may include wired interfaces and/or wireless interfaces. In at least one implementation, the interface(s) 718 may be operable to implement features and/or functionality similar to other interfaces described herein. For example, in at least one implementation, the wireless communication interface(s) may be configured or designed to communicate with components of electronic game tables, electronic gaming machine, remote servers, electronic gaming machines, other wireless devices (e.g., PDAs, other PPDs, cell phones, player tracking transponders, etc.), base stations, etc. Such wireless communication may be implemented using one or more wireless interfaces/protocols such as, for example, 802.11 (WiFi), 802.15 (including Bluetooth™), 802.16 (WiMax), 802.22, Cellular standards such as CDMA, CDMA2000, WCDMA, Radio Frequency (e.g., RFID), Infrared, Near Field Magnetics, etc.
    • At least one power source 704. In at least one implementation, the power source may include at least one mobile power source for allowing the PPD to operate in a mobile environment. For example, in one implementation, the battery 704 may be implemented using a rechargeable, thin-film type battery. Further, in embodiments where it is desirable for the PPD to be flexible, the battery 704 may be designed to be flexible.
    • One or more display(s) 708 (if desired). According to various embodiments, such display(s) may be implemented using, for example, LCD display technology, OLED display technology, and/or other types of conventional display technology. In at least one implementation, display(s) 708 may be adapted to be flexible or bendable. Additionally, in at least one embodiment the information displayed on display(s) 708 may utilize e-ink technology (such as that available from E Ink Corporation, Cambridge, Mass., www.eink.com), or other suitable technology for reducing the power consumption of information displayed on the display(s) 708. In some embodiments, it may be desirable to not include a display at the PPD.
    • One or more user I/O Device(s) such as, for example, motion detection/gesture interpretation input interfaces, touch keys/buttons 712, scroll wheels, cursors, touchscreen sensors 710, etc.
    • One or more status indicators 702. For example, in one implementation, one or more colored status indicators (such as, for example, LEDs) may be included on one or more sides of a PPD, and adapted to provide various information such as, for example: communication status; game play status; bonus status, PPD health status; PPD operating mode; battery power status; battery charging status; status of cards being dealt; input or gesture detection status; error detection status; team status; out of range status; etc.
    • At least one motion detection component 714 for detecting motion or movement of the PPD and/or for detecting motion, movement, gestures and/or other input data from user.

In one embodiment, the motion detection component 714 may be operable to detect gross motion of a user (e.g., player, dealer, etc.). Additionally, in at least one embodiment, the motion detection component 714 may further be operable to perform one or more additional functions such as, for example: analyze the detected gross motion or gestures of a participant; interpret the participant's motion or gestures (e.g., in the context of a casino game being played) in order to identify instructions or input from the participant; utilize the interpreted instructions/input to advance the game state; etc. In other embodiments, at least a portion of these additional functions may be implemented at a remote system or device.

For example, during play of a game of blackjack at a conventional game table, a player may signal “hit me” to the dealer by the player flicking or moving his cards in a sweeping motion towards the player. In at least one embodiment where the player is performing the “hit me” gesture using a PPD (e.g., instead of or in addition to using conventional playing cards), the PPD may be adapted to automatically detect the player's gesture (e.g., gross motion) by sensing motion or movement (e.g., rotation, displacement, velocity, acceleration, etc.) using, for example, one or more motion detection sensors. In one embodiment, the PPD may also be adapted to analyze the detected motion data in order to interpret the gesture (or other input data) intended by the player. Once interpreted, the PPD may then transmit the interpreted player input data (e.g., “hit me”) to the game table for advancement of the game state. Alternatively, the PPD may be adapted to transmit information relating to the detected motion data to the game table, and the game table adapted to analyze the detected motion data in order to interpret the gesture (or other input data) intended by the player.

According to different embodiments, other criteria may also be used when analyzing the detected motion data for proper interpretation of the player's gestures and/or other input instructions. For example, the interpretation of the detected motion data may be constrained based on one or more of the following criteria (or combination thereof): type of game being played (e.g., craps, blackjack, poker, slots, etc.), location of the player/PPD; current PPD operating mode (e.g., table game operating mode, gaming machine operating mode, bonus game operating mode, restaurant operating mode, theater operating mode, lounge operating mode, hotel operating mode, parking service operating mode, room service operating mode, news magazine operating mode, etc.); game rules; time; player ID; player preferences; previous motion interpretation/analysis; and/or other criteria described herein.

In at least one embodiment, the motion detection component 714 may include one or more motion detection sensors such as, for example, MEMS (Micro Electro Mechanical System) accelerometers, that can detect the acceleration and/or other movements of the PPD as it is moved by a user. Examples of suitable MEMS accelerometers may include, but are not limited to, one or more of the following (or combination thereof): Si-Flex™ SF1500L Low-Noise Analog 7 g Accelerometer (available from Colibrys, Inc., Stafford, Tex.); MXC6202 Dual Axis Accelerometer (available from MEMSIC, Inc. 800, North Andover, Mass.); ADXL330 iMEMS Accelerometer (available from Analog Devices, Norwood, Mass.); etc.

In at least some embodiments, other types of motion detection components may be used such as, for example, inertial sensors, MEMS gyros, and/or other motion detection components described herein. For example, MEMS accelerometers may be particularly suited for applications involving relatively large degrees of vibration, impact, and/or fast motion. MEMS gyros are great for may be particularly suited for applications involving orientation sensing and/or slow movements.

In at least one embodiment, motion detection component 714 may include at least one “Spring Board Accelerometer”. One embodiment of the Spring Board Accelerometer may be implemented in a manner similar to that of a diving board, in that it may be attached at one end and may be allowed to bend (under the influence of gravity). If desired, a specified amount of mass may be added to the free end.

In at least one embodiment, the free end of the “spring board” may be implemented as movable plate of a capacitor with the other plate of the capacitor being fixed (e.g., to a frame or body). Such a Spring Board Accelerometer embodiment may be used to measure the influence of gravity. For example, according to one embodiment, as gravity bends the board, the distance between the plates of the capacitor decreases (e.g., the plates get closer to each other), and the capacitance increases [e.g., Capacitance=(k*Area of plates)/distance between plates]. For example, if the accelerometer is stationary (e.g., lying on a table with the spring board parallel with the table top) then the output of that board may be +1 g and a first output signal (e.g., DC voltage signal) may be output from the device (e.g., using electronics operable to measure the capacitance of the plates, and/or to generate the DC output signal(s)). If the spring board is subsequently turned over, the output of that board will be at −1 g, and the DC voltage output signal will also change polarity. As the board is rotated about an axis parallel to the board, the output may dynamically change from +1 g to −1 g, with 0 g being the point where the board is perpendicular to the force of gravity. In one embodiment, a graph of this function may be expressed as a cosine function from 0 to pi.

According to specific embodiments, spring board accelerometers may be suitable for use as sensors of vibration. For example, in one embodiment the spring board accelerometer(s) may be optimized to detect vibration frequencies of less than 400 Hz for use in gesture interpretation analysis. In one embodiment, it may be preferable that the frequency of detected vibration(s) (e.g., for use in gesture interpretation analysis) is below the resonance frequency of the spring board. For example, in at least one embodiment, the length of the spring board and the mass of the spring board may be configured or designed such that the frequency of resonance of the board is greater than 400 Hz.

Spring board accelerometers may also be suitable for use as sensors of impacts since, for example, such devices may be configured or designed to detect and withstand relatively fast accelerations (e.g., resulting from free fall conditions) in one or more planes. For example, fast acceleration in one plane may result in the board bending until its limits are encountered. Such devices may be suitable for use as sensors for measuring tilt of an object. For example, in one embodiment, a spring board accelerometer may be configured or designed to provide an output DC voltage that is proportional to the angle of tilt, acceleration, rotation of an object such as, for example, a portable gaming device or a player's hand or arm.

In at least one embodiment, the PPD may be further adapted to transmit motion information (and other related information) to a gaming machine, game table and/or other devices. In one implementation, the motion information may include data such as, for example: a PPD ID for use in identifying the PPD which transmitted information; user ID information for use in identifying the user holding the PPD, movement data relating to the X, Y, and/or Z axes, etc. According to one implementation, analog acceleration data output from the accelerometers may be digitized and fed into a multiplexer and transmitted to a remote device or system such as, for example, a gaming machine, a game table, a remote server, etc.

According to various embodiments, game tables, gaming machines, and/or other devices which are operable to receive communication from the PPD may include at least one receiver for receiving information relating to the detected motion data and/or interpreted player input data. In one embodiment, the receiver may be implemented as a multi-channel multi-frequency receiver adapted to receive signals from a plurality of different PPDs.

In at least one embodiment, the PPD 700 may be operable to automatically and dynamically select an appropriate mode of operation based on various parameters and/or upon detection of specific events or conditions such as, for example: the PPD's current location; identity of current user; user input; system override (e.g., emergency condition detected); proximity to other PPDs belonging to same group or association; proximity to specific objects, regions, zones, etc. Additionally, the PPD may be operable to automatically update or change its current operating mode to the selected mode of operation. The PPD may also be adapted to automatically modify accessibility of user-accessible features and/or information in response to the updating of its current mode of operation.

According to specific embodiments, associations may be made between PPDs and players (and/or player positions at a game table) such that each active PPD is associated with a unique player or user during a given time period.

According to specific embodiments, the PPD may also be adapted to perform other functions such as, for example, one or more of the following (or combination thereof):

    • allowing a player conduct game play activities;
    • allowing a player to input game play instructions;
    • allowing a player to perform wagering activities (e.g., increasing bets, checking bets, performing side wagering/backbetting activities, etc.);
    • retrieving and/or displaying player tracking data;
    • retrieving and/or displaying player account data;
    • displaying game play assistance information;
    • displaying casino layout information;
    • displaying promotional information;
    • notify a player of messages;
    • displaying multimedia information from external sources;
    • displaying player's current location;
    • etc.

For example, in one implementation, a PPD may be adapted to communicate with a remote server to access player account data, for example, to know how much funds are available to the player for betting/wagering.

In at least one implementation, the PPD may also include other functionality such as that provided by PDAs, cell phones, and/or other mobile computing devices. Further, in at least one implementation, the PPD may be adapted to automatically and/or dynamically change its functionality depending on various conditions such as, for example: type of game being played; user input; current location or position; detection of local electronic gaming tables/devices; etc.

In at least one embodiment, a PPD may be implemented using conventional mobile electronic devices (e.g., PDAs, cell phones, etc.) which have been specifically adapted to implement at least a portion of the PPD functionalities described herein.

In one embodiment, an intelligent gaming table may adapted to electronically “deal” cards to each of the players at the intelligent gaming table, and to store information relating to each player's hand on each player's corresponding PPD. In at least one implementation, a player is able to view the cards of his or her hand on a display of that player's PPD.

According to a specific embodiment, the PPD may also be adapted to implement at least a portion of the features associated with other mobile/wireless devices such as those described, for example, in one or more of the following references, each of which being incorporated herein by reference in its entirety for all purposes:

U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/472,585 (Attorney Docket No. IGT1P231) entitled “MOBILE DEVICE FOR PROVIDING FILTERED CASINO INFORMATION BASED ON REAL TIME DATA”;

U.S. patent application Ser. No. 30/062,002 (Attorney Docket No. IGT1P341/P-481) for “GAMING SYSTEM AND GAMING METHOD”;

U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/825,481 (Attorney Docket No. IGT1P090X1/P-795CIP1), by Mattice, et al., entitled “GESTURE CONTROLLED CASINO GAMING SYSTEM”;

U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/515,183, (Attorney Docket No. IGT1P266B/P-1085B), by Nguyen et al., entitled “INTELLIGENT WIRELESS MOBILE DEVICE FOR USE WITH CASINO GAMING TABLE SYSTEMS.”

In addition to the features described above, the PPD of the present invention may also include additional functionality for displaying, in real-time, filtered information to the user based upon a variety of criteria such as, for example, geolocation information, casino data information, player tracking information, game play information, wager information, motion detection information, gesture interpretation information, etc.

As used herein, the term “PPD” may be used to describe and variety of different types of electronic devices which may include, but are not limited to, one or more of the following (or combination thereof): mobile devices, wireless devices, portable devices, contactless devices, handheld devices, etc.

According to specific embodiments, the PPD may be implemented a wrist bracelet (e.g., bracelet, wrist watch, etc.) that contains electrical circuitry used to sense the movement of the wrist. The wrist bracelet may also be operable to transmit information relating to detected wrist movement(s) to one or more receiver(s) which, for example, may be located within a casino game table, gaming machine, kiosk, and/or systems/devices. According to specific embodiments, the wrist bracelet may be operable to transmit information relating to detected wrist movement(s) via one or more wireless communication interfaces such as, for example, those utilizing radio frequency waves, light beams, ultrasonic waves, and/or other wireless transmission mediums.

According to one embodiment, this wrist bracelet may utilize one or more MEMS (Micro Electro Mechanical System) accelerometers for sensing or detecting acceleration of the bracelet (e.g., that is warn by the user). In at least one embodiment, the wrist bracelet may include a plurality of MEMS accelerometers, a low power transmitter, and a battery, and may be operable to transmit information relating to detected wrist movement(s) to one or more receivers associated with one or more game tables and/or gaming machines. In one embodiment, the transmitted signal(s) may include data such as, for example: start header, serial number, acceleration in the X, Y, and Z axes, end of message header, and/or other desired information. In one embodiment, the serial number may be expressed using alpha-numeric characters, and assigned to the user of the PPD. Further, in at least one embodiment, the analog acceleration data may be digitized and fed into a multiplexer. In one embodiment, the data out of the multiplexer may be sent to an RF transmitter operable to transmit this information on ISM bands and/or other frequencies reserved for RFID communications.

According to a specific embodiment, a receiver used for receiving the motion information from the wrist bracelet may be implemented as a multi-channel, multi-frequency receiver, in order to allow the receiver to receive signals from multiple different transmitters at the same time, for example. In one embodiment, each transmitter may be assigned a dedicated frequency and channel to transmit on. In other embodiments several different transmitters may be coordinated to transmit their respective data on the same frequency at a different time intervals (e.g., different time slots). Alternatively, communication between the transmitters and receiver may be accomplished by assigning different modulation methods for each transmitter. For example, frequency modulation on one frequency may not interfere with amplitude modulation on the same frequency. Additionally, on/off keying may not interfere with either of the above modulation types.

Game Play Examples

The following examples are intended for illustrative purposes.

In a first example embodiment, an electronic Black Jack game table may be provided which may be controlled by a master table controller. Each player at the game table may be provided with a respective LCD display. Using an embodiment of a PPD as described herein, a human dealer may deal a virtual deck of cards, for example, by performing gross hand motions similar to those performed when dealing an actual deck of cards. The dealt cards may displayed on the LCDs in front of the players. Using their respective PPDs, the players may input their game play instructions using hand movements and/or other gestures.

In another example embodiment the operation of a spinning reel game may be facilitated via the use of the PPD. In embodiments where the game is to be played at the PPD, the selecting of one of the spinning reel games may be implemented using forward, backward and/or sideways tilting actions (and/or other gestures) conducted at the PPD. In other embodiments, the PPD may be registered or activated for use at a selected remote system (e.g., gaming machine, game table, etc) where the game play is conducted. In one embodiment, wagers may also be placed on the outcome of the game, for example, via tilting actions and/or other gestures conducted at the PPD. For example, in one embodiment, by rocking the top of the PPD back toward the player, the reels may be cocked. In one embodiment, the cocking of a reel may include moving the reel backwards about one half of a stop. Tilting the PPD forward may initiate spinning of the reels. In one embodiment, the reels may automatically coast to a stop with the winning reel positions on the selected pay lines and the winner may be paid accordingly.

In another example embodiment, the operation of a dice game may be facilitated via the use of the PPD. In embodiments where the game is to be played at the PPD, the selecting of one of the dice games may be implemented using forward, backward and/or sideways tilting actions (and/or other gestures) conducted at the PPD.

In other embodiments, the PPD may be registered or activated for use at a selected remote system (e.g., gaming machine, game table, etc) where the game play is conducted. In one embodiment, wagers may also be placed on the outcome of the game, for example, via tilting actions and/or other gestures conducted at the PPD. According to one embodiment, a player may simulate the shaking of virtual dice by performing a shaking gesture at the PPD. The player may execute or initiate the dice throw, for example, by performing a gesture with the PPD which simulates a dice throw gesture (e.g., corresponding to movements typically conducted when performing a dice throw with conventional dice). In one embodiment, the dice may automatically stop tumbling, and the winning bets may be paid.

In another example embodiment the operation of a roulette wheel may be facilitated via the use of the PPD. In embodiments where the game is to be played at the PPD, the selecting of one of the roulette game may be implemented using forward, backward and/or sideways tilting actions (and/or other gestures) conducted at the PPD.

In other embodiments, the PPD may be registered or activated for use at a selected remote system (e.g., gaming machine, game table, etc) where the game play is conducted. In one embodiment, wagers may also be placed on the outcome of the game, for example, via tilting actions and/or other gestures conducted at the PPD. According to different embodiments, a player may rock or twist the PPD backwards/forwards and/or clockwise/counter-clock wise (and/or perform other gestures at the PPD) to initiate spinning of the roulette wheel. In one embodiment, the player may perform additional movements or gestures at the PPD to initiate launching of the roulette ball into the roulette wheel. In one embodiment, the roulette wheel may automatically slow down to allow the ball to land in one of the numbered positions on the roulette wheel. The winning bets may then be paid.

In another example embodiment the operation of a card game may be facilitated via the use of the PPD. In embodiments where the game is to be played at the PPD, the selecting of one of the card games may be implemented using forward, backward and/or sideways tilting actions (and/or other gestures) conducted at the PPD. In other embodiments, the PPD may be registered or activated for use at a selected remote system (e.g., gaming machine, game table, etc) where the game play is conducted. In one embodiment, wagers may also be placed on the outcome of the game, for example, via tilting actions and/or other gestures conducted at the PPD. In one embodiment, real or virtual cards may be dealt, and a player may perform movements or gestures at his or her PPD in order to input game play instructions. For example, in one embodiment, the player may rock the PPD forward to discard a card, rock the PPD to the right to select the next card to the right, rock the PPD to the left to select the next card to the left. After all card selections have been made, the user may perform one or more other gestures at the PPD to advance the game to the next state.

Returning to the example of FIG. 3, the intelligent gaming table 301 may include a plurality of PPD docking regions (e.g., 304). In one implementation, a separate PPD docking region is provided at each player station at the intelligent gaming table. According to various embodiments, a PPD docking region may include appropriate hardware and/or software for implementing a variety of functions or features such as, for example:

    • performing PPD detection, authentication, and/or identification;
    • providing wired or wireless communication with selected PPDs;
    • providing uni-directional or bi-directional communication with selected PPDs;
    • providing power and/or battery charging capabilities to selected PPDs;
    • reconfiguring PPDs;
    • updating PPD software;
    • downloading new games;
    • reading player selections;
    • generating player tracking related information;
    • etc.

In at least one embodiment, the PPD docking regions may be part of a casino gaming network which, for example, may include one or more of: intelligent gaming table systems, electronic gaming machines, game servers, player tracking servers, casino accounting servers, and/or other component(s) with which communication may be desired. The PPD docking regions may also be adapted to provide at least one communication interface for allowing selected PPDs to communicate with desired components/systems of the casino gaming network.

In at least one embodiment, the PPDs and/or PPD docking regions may include one or more communication interfaces for facilitating communication with each other. Such communication interfaces may have a variety of architectures and utilize a variety of protocols such as, for example, USB, IEEE-1394 (FireWire™), Ethernet, etc. (e.g., in cases where the communication link is a wired link), or one or more wireless links utilizing one or more wireless protocols such as, for example: 802.11 (WiFi), 802.15 (including Bluetooth™), 802.16 (WiMax), 802.22, Cellular standards such as CDMA, CDMA2000, WCDMA, Radio Frequency (e.g., RFID), Infrared, Near Field Magnetic communication protocols, etc. The communication links may transmit electrical, electromagnetic or optical signals which carry digital data streams or analog signals representing various types of information.

It will be appreciated that, in other embodiments, various combinations of PPDs and player displays may be used. For example, in some embodiments of the intelligent gaming tables of the present invention, all playing card related activity may be implemented using PPDs. In at least some of these embodiments, the player displays (e.g., 312A-G) may be used to display desired information to the player (e.g., other than the player's cards) such as, player tracking information, player tracking session status information; wagering information, game rules, side wagering activities/information, other game play activities/information (e.g., keno, sports book wagering, etc.), etc. In other embodiments of the intelligent gaming table, the player displays (e.g., 312A-G) may be omitted.

In at least one implementation, a dealer at a intelligent gaming table may have access to multiple PPDs which have not been yet been activated or registered to a particular player. When a new player desires to participate in the game being played at the intelligent gaming table, the dealer may select a PPD for activation, activate the PPD for game play and/or player tracking functionality, and hand the activated PPD over to the new player.

A variety of different security-related features may be implemented at the intelligent gaming table in order, for example, to address various issues such as player cheating, PPD tampering, unwanted or accidental viewing of player's cards, unauthorized use of player tracking or account data, etc.

For example, in at least one implementation, a PPD must first be activated and/or undergo a registration process before being allowed to be used for game play at the intelligent gaming table.

In one embodiment, a player may possess his or her own PPD which has been registered for that player's exclusive use. For example, the PPD may be registered and linked to the player's player tracking account. In at least one implementation, the player may carry his PPD with him and use his PPD for game play at any authorized intelligent gaming table. In one implementation, before a player-owned PPD is enabled for use at the intelligent gaming table, a security check may be performed to authenticate and/or validate the PPD before authorizing it for use at the intelligent gaming table, in order to help ensure that the PPD has not been modified or tampered.

According to different embodiments, a PPD may also be linked to a specific PPD docking region (e.g., 304) which is associated with a specific player station (e.g., 350) at the intelligent gaming table. For example, in one implementation, before game play begins, a player at player station 350 may be required to place his or her PPD within that station's PPD docking region 304. In an alternate embodiment, one or more sensors or components at the player station may automatically detect the presence of a PPD within a predetermined range or distance (e.g., within region 350). For example, if a player with a PPD in her pocket sits down at seat 305 of player station 350, the intelligent gaming table may automatically detect the presence of the PPD and associate it's location with player station 350.

According to a specific embodiment, once the game play begins, a pairing mechanism may be established between the player's PPD and PPD docking region 304. In one implementation, such pairing mechanism may result in the PPD being unable to communicate with any other PPD docking region at the intelligent gaming table during the game play (e.g., until the current round of game play has ended), and may also result in the PPD docking region 304 being unable to communicate with any other PPD during the game play. Such pairing mechanisms may help prevent other players (and/or persons near the intelligent gaming table) from being able to gain access to unauthorized game play data (such as, for example, cards dealt to other players at the intelligent gaming table).

Another security measure which may be implemented relates to a PPD function control mechanism which may be adapted to prevent a PPD from performing certain functions and/or from displaying selected information based on the occurrence of various conditions.

For example, in one implementation, the PPD may be adapted to allow for the display of the player's cards only when the PPD is within an allowable “PPD display zone” such as, for example, a predetermined distance (e.g., within 5 feet) from the intelligent gaming table and/or associated PPD docking region. If the PPD is moved to a location outside of the allowable display zone, the PPD display may be cleared and/or disabled. In another embodiment, an active player tracking session for a player at the gaming table may be suspended in response to detecting that the player's PPD is not within a predetermined range from the gaming table and/or associated PPD docking region.

According to a specific embodiment, one mechanism for implementing such security features is via the use of near-field magnetic communication technology. For example, in one implementation, at least one communication channel between a PPD and its associated PPD docking station may be implemented using a near-field communication protocol which has been adapted to allow a bi-directional communication between the PPD and the PPD docking station within a range of up to 5 feet. The PPD may be adapted to require that this communication channel remain active in order to continue the active player tracking session for that player (and/or to perform other specified functions). When the PPD is moved to a location more than 5 feet from the PPD docking station, the near-field communication channel will go down, and in response, the PPD may be adapted implement one or more appropriate responses such as, for example, suspending or ending the active player tracking session. When the PPD is moved to a location within 5 feet from the PPD docking station, the near-field communication channel may be re-established, and in response, the PPD may be adapted to implement one or more other appropriate responses such as, for example, resuming a suspended player tracking session, merging data from one or more player tracking sessions, initiating a new player tracking session, etc.

An example of a near-field communication protocol is the ECMA-340 “Near Field Communication—Interface and Protocol (NFCIP-1)”, published by ECMA International (www.ecma-international.org), herein incorporated by reference in its entirety for all purposes. It will be appreciated that other types of Near Field Communication protocols may be used including, for example, near field magnetic communication protocols, near field RF communication protocols, and/or other wireless protocols which provide the ability to control with relative precision (e.g., on the order of centimeters, inches, feet, meters, etc.) the allowable radius of communication between at least 4 devices using such wireless communication protocols.

It will be appreciated that intelligent gaming table 301 is but one example from a wide range of intelligent gaming table designs on which the present invention may be implemented. For example, not all suitable intelligent gaming tables have electronic displays or player tracking features. Further, some intelligent gaming tables may include a single display, while others may include multiple displays. Other intelligent gaming tables may not include any displays. As another example, a game may be generated on a host computer and may be displayed on a remote terminal or a remote gaming device. The remote gaming device may be connected to the host computer via a network of some type such as a local area network, a wide area network, an intranet or the Internet. The remote gaming device may be a portable gaming device such as but not limited to a cell phone, a personal digital assistant, and a wireless game player. Images rendered from gaming environments may be displayed on portable gaming devices that are used to facilitate game play activities at the intelligent gaming table. Further an intelligent gaming table or server may include gaming logic for commanding a remote gaming device to render an image from a virtual camera in 2-D or 3-D gaming environments stored on the remote gaming device and to display the rendered image on a display located on the remote gaming device. Thus, those of skill in the art will understand that the present invention, as described below, can be deployed on most any intelligent gaming table now available or hereafter developed.

Some preferred intelligent gaming tables of the present assignee are implemented with special features and/or additional circuitry that differentiates them from general-purpose computers (e.g., desktop PC's and laptops). Intelligent gaming tables are highly regulated to ensure fairness and, in some cases, intelligent gaming tables may be operable to dispense monetary awards. Therefore, to satisfy security and regulatory requirements in a gaming environment, hardware and software architectures may be implemented in intelligent gaming tables that differ significantly from those of general-purpose computers. A description of intelligent gaming tables relative to general-purpose computing machines and some examples of the additional (or different) components and features found in intelligent gaming tables are described below.

At first glance, one might think that adapting PC technologies to the gaming industry would be a simple proposition because both PCs and intelligent gaming tables employ microprocessors that control a variety of devices. However, because of such reasons as 1) the regulatory requirements that are placed upon intelligent gaming tables, 2) the harsh environment in which intelligent gaming tables operate, 3) security requirements and 4) fault tolerance requirements, adapting PC technologies to an intelligent gaming table can be quite difficult. Further, techniques and methods for solving a problem in the PC industry, such as device compatibility and connectivity issues, might not be adequate in the gaming environment. For instance, a fault or a weakness tolerated in a PC, such as security holes in software or frequent crashes, may not be tolerated in an intelligent gaming table because in an intelligent gaming table these faults can lead to a direct loss of funds from the intelligent gaming table, such as stolen cash or loss of revenue when the intelligent gaming table is not operating properly.

For the purposes of illustration, a few differences between PC systems and gaming systems will be described. A first difference between intelligent gaming tables and common PC based computers systems is that some intelligent gaming tables may be designed to be state-based systems. In a state-based system, the system stores and maintains its current state in a non-volatile memory, such that, in the event of a power failure or other malfunction the intelligent gaming table will return to its current state when the power is restored. For instance, if a player was shown an award for a table game and, before the award could be provided to the player the power failed, the intelligent gaming table, upon the restoration of power, would return to the state where the award is indicated. As anyone who has used a PC, knows, PCs are not state machines and a majority of data is usually lost when a malfunction occurs. This requirement affects the software and hardware design on an intelligent gaming table.

A second important difference between intelligent gaming tables and common PC based computer systems is that for regulation purposes, various software which the intelligent gaming table uses to generate table game play activities (such as, for example, the electronic shuffling and dealing of cards) may be designed to be static and monolithic to prevent cheating by the operator of intelligent gaming table. For instance, one solution that has been employed in the gaming industry to prevent cheating and satisfy regulatory requirements has been to manufacture an intelligent gaming table that can use a proprietary processor running instructions to generate the game play activities from an EPROM or other form of non-volatile memory. The coding instructions on the EPROM are static (non-changeable) and must be approved by a gaming regulators in a particular jurisdiction and installed in the presence of a person representing the gaming jurisdiction. Any changes to any part of the software required to generate the game play activities, such as adding a new device driver used by the master table controller to operate a device during generation of the game play activities can require a new EPROM to be burnt, approved by the gaming jurisdiction and reinstalled on the intelligent gaming table in the presence of a gaming regulator. Regardless of whether the EPROM solution is used, to gain approval in most gaming jurisdictions, an intelligent gaming table must demonstrate sufficient safeguards that prevent an operator or player of an intelligent gaming table from manipulating hardware and software in a manner that gives them an unfair and some cases an illegal advantage. The intelligent gaming table should have a means to determine if the code it will execute is valid. If the code is not valid, the intelligent gaming table must have a means to prevent the code from being executed. The code validation requirements in the gaming industry affect both hardware and software designs on intelligent gaming tables.

A third important difference between intelligent gaming tables and common PC based computer systems is the number and kinds of peripheral devices used on an intelligent gaming table are not as great as on PC based computer systems. Traditionally, in the gaming industry, intelligent gaming tables have been relatively simple in the sense that the number of peripheral devices and the number of functions the intelligent gaming table has been limited. Further, in operation, the functionality of intelligent gaming tables were relatively constant once the intelligent gaming table was deployed, i.e., new peripherals devices and new gaming software were infrequently added to the intelligent gaming table. This differs from a PC where users will go out and buy different combinations of devices and software from different manufacturers and connect them to a PC to suit their needs depending on a desired application. Therefore, the types of devices connected to a PC may vary greatly from user to user depending in their individual requirements and may vary significantly over time.

Although the variety of devices available for a PC may be greater than on an intelligent gaming table, intelligent gaming tables still have unique device requirements that differ from a PC, such as device security requirements not usually addressed by PCs. For instance, monetary devices, such as coin dispensers, bill validators and ticket printers and computing devices that are used to govern the input and output of cash to an intelligent gaming table have security requirements that are not typically addressed in PCs. Therefore, many PC techniques and methods developed to facilitate device connectivity and device compatibility do not address the emphasis placed on security in the gaming industry.

To address some of the issues described above, a number of hardware/software components and architectures are utilized in intelligent gaming tables that are not typically found in general purpose computing devices, such as PCs. These hardware/software components and architectures, as described below in more detail, include but are not limited to watchdog timers, voltage monitoring systems, state-based software architecture and supporting hardware, specialized communication interfaces, security monitoring and trusted memory.

For example, a watchdog timer may be used in International Game Technology (IGT) intelligent gaming tables to provide a software failure detection mechanism. In a normally operating system, the operating software periodically accesses control registers in the watchdog timer subsystem to “re-trigger” the watchdog. Should the operating software fail to access the control registers within a preset timeframe, the watchdog timer will timeout and generate a system reset. Typical watchdog timer circuits include a loadable timeout counter register to allow the operating software to set the timeout interval within a certain range of time. A differentiating feature of the some preferred circuits is that the operating software cannot completely disable the function of the watchdog timer. In other words, the watchdog timer always functions from the time power is applied to the board.

IGT gaming computer platforms preferably use several power supply voltages to operate portions of the computer circuitry. These can be generated in a central power supply or locally on the computer board. If any of these voltages falls out of the tolerance limits of the circuitry they power, unpredictable operation of the computer may result. Though most modern general-purpose computers include voltage monitoring circuitry, these types of circuits only report voltage status to the operating software. Out of tolerance voltages can cause software malfunction, creating a potential uncontrolled condition in the gaming computer. Intelligent gaming tables of the present assignee typically have power supplies with tighter voltage margins than that required by the operating circuitry. In addition, the voltage monitoring circuitry implemented in IGT gaming computers typically has two thresholds of control. The first threshold generates a software event that can be detected by the operating software and an error condition generated. This threshold is triggered when a power supply voltage falls out of the tolerance range of the power supply, but is still within the operating range of the circuitry. The second threshold is set when a power supply voltage falls out of the operating tolerance of the circuitry. In this case, the circuitry generates a reset, halting operation of the computer.

One method of operation for IGT slot machine game software is to use a state machine. Different functions of the game (bet, play, result, points in the graphical presentation, etc.) may be defined as a state. When a game moves from one state to another, critical data regarding the game software is stored in a custom non-volatile memory subsystem. This is critical to ensure the player's wager and credits are preserved and to minimize potential disputes in the event of a malfunction on the gaming machine.

In general, the gaming machine does not advance from a first state to a second state until critical information that allows the first state to be reconstructed has been stored. This feature allows the game to recover operation to the current state of play in the event of a malfunction, loss of power, etc that occurred just prior to the malfunction. In at least one embodiment, the gaming machine is configured or designed to store such critical information using atomic transactions.

Generally, an atomic operation in computer science refers to a set of operations that can be combined so that they appear to the rest of the system to be a single operation with only two possible outcomes: success or failure. As related to data storage, an atomic transaction may be characterized as series of database operations which either all occur, or all do not occur. A guarantee of atomicity prevents updates to the database occurring only partially, which can result in data corruption.

In order to ensure the success of atomic transactions relating to critical information to be stored in the gaming machine memory before a failure event (e.g., malfunction, loss of power, etc.), it is preferable that memory be used which includes one or more of the following criteria: direct memory access capability; data read/write capability which meets or exceeds minimum read/write access characteristics (such as, for example, at least 5.08 Mbytes/sec (Read) and/or at least 38.0 Mbytes/sec (Write)). Devices which meet or exceed the above criteria may be referred to as “fault-tolerant” memory devices, whereas it is which the above criteria may be referred to as “fault non-tolerant” memory devices.

Typically, battery backed RAM devices may be configured or designed to function as fault-tolerant devices according to the above criteria, whereas flash RAM and/or disk drive memory are typically not configurable to function as fault-tolerant devices according to the above criteria. Accordingly, battery backed RAM devices are typically used to preserve gaming machine critical data, although other types of non-volatile memory devices may be employed. These memory devices are typically not used in typical general-purpose computers.

Thus, in at least one embodiment, the gaming machine is configured or designed to store critical information in fault-tolerant memory (e.g., battery backed RAM devices) using atomic transactions. Further, in at least one embodiment, the fault-tolerant memory is able to successfully complete all desired atomic transactions (e.g., relating to the storage of gaming machine critical information) within a time period of 200 milliseconds (ms) or less. In at least one embodiment, the time period of 200 ms represents a maximum amount of time for which sufficient power may be available to the various gaming machine components after a power outage event has occurred at the gaming machine.

As described previously, the gaming machine may not advance from a first state to a second state until critical information that allows the first state to be reconstructed has been atomically stored. This feature allows the game to recover operation to the current state of play in the event of a malfunction, loss of power, etc that occurred just prior to the malfunction. After the state of the gaming machine is restored during the play of a game of chance, game play may resume and the game may be completed in a manner that is no different than if the malfunction had not occurred. Thus, for example, when a malfunction occurs during a game of chance, the gaming machine may be restored to a state in the game of chance just prior to when the malfunction occurred. The restored state may include metering information and graphical information that was displayed on the gaming machine in the state prior to the malfunction. For example, when the malfunction occurs during the play of a card game after the cards have been dealt, the gaming machine may be restored with the cards that were previously displayed as part of the card game. As another example, a bonus game may be triggered during the play of a game of chance where a player is required to make a number of selections on a video display screen. When a malfunction has occurred after the player has made one or more selections, the gaming machine may be restored to a state that shows the graphical presentation at the just prior to the malfunction including an indication of selections that have already been made by the player. In general, the gaming machine may be restored to any state in a plurality of states that occur in the game of chance that occurs while the game of chance is played or to states that occur between the play of a game of chance.

Game history information regarding previous games played such as an amount wagered, the outcome of the game and so forth may also be stored in a non-volatile memory device. The information stored in the non-volatile memory may be detailed enough to reconstruct a portion of the graphical presentation that was previously presented on the intelligent gaming table and the state of the intelligent gaming table (e.g., credits) at the time the table game was played. The game history information may be utilized in the event of a dispute. For example, a player may decide that in a previous table game that they did not receive credit for an award that they believed they won. The game history information may be used to reconstruct the state of the intelligent gaming table prior, during and/or after the disputed game to demonstrate whether the player was correct or not in their assertion. Further details of a state based gaming system, recovery from malfunctions and game history are described in U.S. Pat. No. 6,804,763, titled “High Performance Battery Backed RAM Interface”, U.S. Pat. No. 6,863,608, titled “Frame Capture of Actual Game Play,” U.S. application Ser. No. 10/243,104, titled, “Dynamic NV-RAM,” and U.S. application Ser. No. 10/758,828, titled, “Frame Capture of Actual Game Play,” each of which is incorporated by reference and for all purposes.

Another feature of intelligent gaming tables, such as IGT gaming computers, is that they often include unique interfaces, including serial interfaces, to connect to specific subsystems internal and external to the intelligent gaming table. The serial devices may have electrical interface requirements that differ from the “standard” EIA 232 serial interfaces provided by general-purpose computers. These interfaces may include EIA 485, EIA 422, Fiber Optic Serial, optically coupled serial interfaces, current loop style serial interfaces, etc. In addition, to conserve serial interfaces internally in the intelligent gaming table, serial devices may be connected in a shared, daisy-chain fashion where multiple peripheral devices are connected to a single serial channel.

The serial interfaces may be used to transmit information using communication protocols that are unique to the gaming industry. For example, IGT's Netplex is a proprietary communication protocol used for serial communication between gaming devices. As another example, SAS is a communication protocol used to transmit information, such as metering information, from an intelligent gaming table to a remote device. Often SAS is used in conjunction with a player tracking system.

IGT intelligent gaming tables may alternatively be treated as peripheral devices to a casino communication controller and connected in a shared daisy chain fashion to a single serial interface. In both cases, the peripheral devices are preferably assigned device addresses. If so, the serial controller circuitry must implement a method to generate or detect unique device addresses. General-purpose computer serial ports are not able to do this.

Security monitoring circuits detect intrusion into an IGT intelligent gaming table by monitoring security switches attached to access doors in the intelligent gaming table cabinet. Preferably, access violations result in suspension of game play and can trigger additional security operations to preserve the current state of game play. These circuits also function when power is off by use of a battery backup. In power-off operation, these circuits continue to monitor the access doors of the intelligent gaming table. When power is restored, the intelligent gaming table can determine whether any security violations occurred while power was off, e.g., via software for reading status registers. This can trigger event log entries and further data authentication operations by the intelligent gaming table software.

Trusted memory devices and/or trusted memory sources are preferably included in an IGT intelligent gaming table computer to ensure the authenticity of the software that may be stored on less secure memory subsystems, such as mass storage devices. Trusted memory devices and controlling circuitry are typically designed to not allow modification of the code and data stored in the memory device while the memory device is installed in the intelligent gaming table. The code and data stored in these devices may include authentication algorithms, random number generators, authentication keys, operating system kernels, etc. The purpose of these trusted memory devices is to provide gaming regulatory authorities a root trusted authority within the computing environment of the intelligent gaming table that can be tracked and verified as original. This may be accomplished via removal of the trusted memory device from the intelligent gaming table computer and verification of the secure memory device contents is a separate third party verification device. Once the trusted memory device is verified as authentic, and based on the approval of the verification algorithms included in the trusted device, the intelligent gaming table is allowed to verify the authenticity of additional code and data that may be located in the gaming computer assembly, such as code and data stored on hard disk drives. A few details related to trusted memory devices that may be used in the present invention are described in U.S. Pat. No. 6,685,567, filed Aug. 8, 2001 and titled “Process Verification,” and U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/221,314, filed Sep. 6, 2005, each of which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety and for all purposes.

In at least one embodiment, at least a portion of the trusted memory devices/sources may correspond to memory which cannot easily be altered (e.g., “unalterable memory”) such as, for example, EPROMS, PROMS, Bios, Extended Bios, and/or other memory sources which are able to be configured, verified, and/or authenticated (e.g., for authenticity) in a secure and controlled manner.

According to a specific implementation, when a trusted information source is in communication with a remote device via a network, the remote device may employ a verification scheme to verify the identity of the trusted information source. For example, the trusted information source and the remote device may exchange information using public and private encryption keys to verify each other's identities. In another embodiment of the present invention, the remote device and the trusted information source may engage in methods using zero knowledge proofs to authenticate each of their respective identities. Details of zero knowledge proofs that may be used with the present invention are described in US publication no. 2003/0203756, by Jackson, filed on Apr. 25, 2002 and entitled, “Authentication in a Secure Computerized Gaming System”, which is incorporated herein in its entirety and for all purposes.

Gaming devices storing trusted information may utilize apparatus or methods to detect and prevent tampering. For instance, trusted information stored in a trusted memory device may be encrypted to prevent its misuse. In addition, the trusted memory device may be secured behind a locked door. Further, one or more sensors may be coupled to the memory device to detect tampering with the memory device and provide some record of the tampering. In yet another example, the memory device storing trusted information might be designed to detect tampering attempts and clear or erase itself when an attempt at tampering has been detected.

Additional details relating to trusted memory devices/sources are described in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/078,966, entitled “SECURED VIRTUAL NETWORK IN A GAMING ENVIRONMENT”, naming Nguyen et al. as inventors, filed on Mar. 10, 2005, herein incorporated in its entirety and for all purposes.

Mass storage devices used in a general purpose computer typically allow code and data to be read from and written to the mass storage device. In an intelligent gaming table environment, modification of the gaming code stored on a mass storage device is strictly controlled and would only be allowed under specific maintenance type events with electronic and physical enablers required. Though this level of security could be provided by software, IGT gaming computers that include mass storage devices preferably include hardware level mass storage data protection circuitry that operates at the circuit level to monitor attempts to modify data on the mass storage device and will generate both software and hardware error triggers should a data modification be attempted without the proper electronic and physical enablers being present. Details using a mass storage device that may be used with the present invention are described, for example, in U.S. Pat. No. 6,149,522, herein incorporated by reference in its entirety for all purposes.

FIG. 4 is a simplified block diagram of an exemplary intelligent gaming table system 400 in accordance with a specific embodiment. As illustrated in the embodiment of FIG. 4, intelligent gaming table system 400 includes at least one processor 410, at least one interface 406, and memory 416.

In one implementation, processor 410 and master table controller 412 are included in a logic device 413 enclosed in a logic device housing. The processor 410 may include any conventional processor or logic device configured to execute software allowing various configuration and reconfiguration tasks such as, for example: a) communicating with a remote source via communication interface 406, such as a server that stores authentication information or games; b) converting signals read by an interface to a format corresponding to that used by software or memory in the intelligent gaming table; c) accessing memory to configure or reconfigure game parameters in the memory according to indicia read from the device; d) communicating with interfaces, various peripheral devices 422 and/or I/O devices; e) operating peripheral devices 422 such as, for example, card readers, paper ticket readers, etc.; f) operating various I/O devices such as, for example, displays 435, input devices 430; etc. For instance, the processor 410 may send messages including game play information to the displays 435 to inform players of cards dealt, wagering information, and/or other desired information.

Peripheral devices 422 may include several device interfaces such as, for example: transponders 454, wire/wireless power supply devices, PPD docking components, player tracking devices, card readers, bill validator/paper ticket readers, etc. Such devices may each comprise resources for handling and processing configuration indicia such as a microcontroller that converts voltage levels for one or more scanning devices to signals provided to processor 410. In one embodiment, application software for interfacing with peripheral devices 422 may store instructions (such as, for example, how to read indicia from a portable device) in a memory device such as, for example, non-volatile memory, hard drive or a flash memory.

In at least one implementation, the intelligent gaming table may include card readers such as used with credit cards, or other identification code reading devices to allow or require player identification in connection with play of the card game and associated recording of game action. Such a user identification interface can be implemented in the form of a variety of magnetic card readers commercially available for reading a user-specific identification information. The user-specific information can be provided on specially constructed magnetic cards issued by a casino, or magnetically coded credit cards or debit cards frequently used with national credit organizations such as VISA, MASTERCARD, AMERICAN EXPRESS, or banks and other institutions.

The intelligent gaming table may include other types of participant identification mechanisms which may use a fingerprint image, eye blood vessel image reader, or other suitable biological information to confirm identity of the user. Still further it is possible to provide such participant identification information by having the dealer manually code in the information in response to the player indicating his or her code name or real name. Such additional identification could also be used to confirm credit use of a smart card, transponder, and/or player's PPD.

The intelligent gaming table system 400 also includes memory 416 which may include, for example, volatile memory (e.g., RAM 409), non-volatile memory 419 (e.g., disk memory, FLASH memory, EPROMs, etc.), unalterable memory (e.g., EPROMs 408), etc. The memory may be configured or designed to store, for example: 1) configuration software 414 such as all the parameters and settings for a game playable on the intelligent gaming table; 2) associations 418 between configuration indicia read from a device with one or more parameters and settings; 3) communication protocols allowing the processor 410 to communicate with peripheral devices 422 and I/O devices 411; 4) a secondary memory storage device 415 such as a non-volatile memory device, configured to store gaming software related information (the gaming software related information and memory may be used to store various audio files and games not currently being used and invoked in a configuration or reconfiguration); 5) communication transport protocols (such as, for example, TCP/IP, USB, Firewire, IEEE1394, Bluetooth, IEEE 802.11x (IEEE 802.11 standards), hiperlan/2, HomeRF, etc.) for allowing the intelligent gaming table to communicate with local and non-local devices using such protocols; etc. In one implementation, the master table controller 412 communicates using a serial communication protocol. A few examples of serial communication protocols that may be used to communicate with the master table controller include but are not limited to USB, RS-232 and Netplex (a proprietary protocol developed by IGT, Reno, Nev.).

A plurality of device drivers 442 may be stored in memory 416. Example of different types of device drivers may include device drivers for intelligent gaming table components, device drivers for peripheral components 422, etc. Typically, the device drivers 442 utilize a communication protocol of some type that enables communication with a particular physical device. The device driver abstracts the hardware implementation of a device. For example, a device drive may be written for each type of card reader that may be potentially connected to the intelligent gaming table. Examples of communication protocols used to implement the device drivers include Netplex, USB, Serial, Ethernet 475, Firewire, I/O debouncer, direct memory map, serial, PCI, parallel, RF, Bluetooth™, near-field communications (e.g., using near-field magnetics), 802.11 (WiFi), etc. Netplex is a proprietary IGT standard while the others are open standards. According to a specific embodiment, when one type of a particular device is exchanged for another type of the particular device, a new device driver may be loaded from the memory 416 by the processor 410 to allow communication with the device. For instance, one type of card reader in intelligent gaming table system 400 may be replaced with a second type of card reader where device drivers for both card readers are stored in the memory 416.

In some embodiments, the software units stored in the memory 416 may be upgraded as needed. For instance, when the memory 416 is a hard drive, new games, game options, various new parameters, new settings for existing parameters, new settings for new parameters, device drivers, and new communication protocols may be uploaded to the memory from the master table controller 412 or from some other external device. As another example, when the memory 416 includes a CD/DVD drive including a CD/DVD designed or configured to store game options, parameters, and settings, the software stored in the memory may be upgraded by replacing a first CD/DVD with a second CD/DVD. In yet another example, when the memory 416 uses one or more flash memory 419 or EPROM 408 units designed or configured to store games, game options, parameters, settings, the software stored in the flash and/or EPROM memory units may be upgraded by replacing one or more memory units with new memory units which include the upgraded software. In another embodiment, one or more of the memory devices, such as the hard-drive, may be employed in a game software download process from a remote software server.

In some embodiments, the intelligent gaming table system 400 may also include various authentication and/or validation components 444 which may be used for authenticating/validating specified intelligent gaming table components such as, for example, hardware components, software components, firmware components, information stored in the intelligent gaming table memory 416, etc. Examples of various authentication and/or validation components are described in U.S. Pat. No. 6,620,047, entitled, “ELECTRONIC GAMING APPARATUS HAVING AUTHENTICATION DATA SETS,” incorporated herein by reference in its entirety for all purposes.

Peripheral devices 422 may also include other devices/component(s) such as, for example: sensors 460, cameras 462, control consoles 420, transponders 454, wireless communication component(s) 456, power distribution component(s) 458, PPD docking component(s) 452, wager/gaming chip tracking component(s) 470, player tracking management component(s) 472, game state tracking component(s) 474, handheld device function control components 482, motion/gesture analysis and interpretation component(s) 484, etc.

Sensors 460 may include, for example, optical sensors, pressure sensors, RF sensors, Infrared sensors, image sensors, thermal sensors, biometric sensors, etc. As mentioned previously, such sensors may be used for a variety of functions such as, for example: detecting the presence and/or monetary amount of gaming chips which have been placed within a player's wagering zone; detecting (e.g., in real time) the presence and/or monetary amount of gaming chips which are within the player's personal space; detecting the presence and/or identity of PPDs placed within a player's PPD docking region, etc.

In one implementation, at least a portion of the sensors 460 and/or input devices 430 may be implemented in the form of touch keys selected from a wide variety of commercially available touch keys used to provide electrical control signals. Alternatively, some of the touch keys may be implemented in another form which are touch sensors such as those provided by a touchscreen display. For example, in at least one implementation, the intelligent gaming table player displays and/or PPD displays may include input functionality for allowing players to provide their game play decisions/instructions (and/or other input) to the dealer using the touch keys and/or other player control sensors/buttons. Additionally, such input functionality may also be used for allowing players to provide input to other devices in the casino gaming network (such as, for example, player tracking systems, side wagering systems, etc.)

Wireless communication components 456 may include one or more communication interfaces having different architectures and utilizing a variety of protocols such as, for example, 802.11 (WiFi), 802.15 (including Bluetooth™), 802.16 (WiMax), 802.22, Cellular standards such as CDMA, CDMA2000, WCDMA, Radio Frequency (e.g., RFID), Infrared, Near Field Magnetic communication protocols, etc. The communication links may transmit electrical, electromagnetic or optical signals which carry digital data streams or analog signals representing various types of information.

Power distribution components 458 may include, for example, components or devices which are operable for providing wireless power to other devices. For example, in one implementation, the power distribution components 458 may include a magnetic induction system which is adapted to provide wireless power to one or more PPDs at the intelligent gaming table. In one implementation, a PPD docking region may include a power distribution component which is able to recharge a PPD placed within the PPD docking region without requiring metal-to-metal contact.

In at least one embodiment, PPD control components 482 may be operable to control operating mode selection functionality, features, and/or components associated with one or more PPDs (e.g., 450). In at least one embodiment, PPD function control components 482 may be operable to remotely control and/or configure components of one or more PPDs 450 based on various parameters and/or upon detection of specific events or conditions such as, for example: time of day, player activity levels; location of the PPD; identity of PPD user; user input; system override (e.g., emergency condition detected); proximity to other devices belonging to same group or association; proximity to specific objects, regions, zones, etc. For example, in at least one embodiment, PPD function control components 482 may include and on/off keying feature whereby the gaming system is able to selectively control (e.g., via remote activation/deactivation) the transmission of wireless data from one or more PPDs. Thus, for example, at a game table where PPDs are being used by multiple players at the game table to convey their game play instructions, the game table may be operable to enable a selected PPD (e.g., associated with a specific player) to transmit player input data only at times when it is that player's turn to play or provide input, and may further be operable to prevent the selected PPD from transmitting player input data during other times when it is not that player's turn to play or provide input.

In at least one embodiment, motion/gesture analysis and interpretation component(s) 484 may be operable to analyze and/or interpret information relating to detected player movements and/or gestures in order, for example, to determine appropriate player input information relating to the detected player movements and/or gestures.

According to a specific embodiment, Table Control Console 420 may be used to facilitate and execute game play operations, table configuration operations, player tracking operations, maintenance and inspection operations, etc. In one implementation, the Table Control Console 420 may include at least one display for displaying desired information, such as, for example, programming options which are available in setting up the system and customizing operational parameters to the desired settings for a particular casino or cardroom in which the system is being used. The Table Control Console 420 may also include a key operated switch which is used to control basic operation of the system and for placing the unit into a programming mode. The key operated switch can provide two levels of access authorization which restricts access by dealers to programming, or additional security requirements can be provided in the software which restricts programming changes to management personnel. Programming may be input in several different modes.

For example, in a specific embodiment where the intelligent gaming table is configured as a blackjack gaming table, programming can be provided using a touch screen display with varying options presented thereon and the programming personnel can set various operational and rules parameters, such as, for example: the shuffle mode, number of decks of cards used in the virtual card stack, options with regard to the portion of the stack which is used before the stack is cut, limits on the amounts which can be bet at a particular table, whether splits are accepted for play and to what degree, options concerning doubling down plays, whether the dealer hits or stands on soft 37, and other rules can be made variable dependent upon the particular form of the system programming used in the system, depending on the type of card game being played. Control keys may also be used in some forms of the invention to allow various menu options to be displayed and programming options to be selected using the control keys. Still further it is possible to attach an auxiliary keyboard (not shown) to the Table Control Console through a keyboard connection port. The auxiliary keyboard can then be used to more easily program the system, or be used in maintenance, diagnostic functions, etc.

According to specific embodiments, the Table Control Console 420 may also include a plurality of dealer operational controls provided in the form of dealer control sensors which, for example, may be implemented via electrical touch keys. The dealer control sensors may be used by the dealer to indicate that desired control functions should take place or further proceed. For example, different sensors may be used to implement a player's decision to: split his two similar cards and play them as two separate or split hands; double down; stand on the cards already dealt or assigned to that player; etc. Other sensors may be used to:

    • command shuffling and dealing of a new hands to the participants;
    • collect a player's cards;
    • show a player's cards;
    • verify PPD data (e.g., verify that a PPD is displaying the correct cards to the player without revealing the cards in the player's hand);
    • deal new cards to selected players; authenticate a player's PPD;
    • activate a PPD;
    • replace a player's PPD with an alternate PPD;
    • call security;
    • request cocktail service;
    • recall previous game play data;
    • control display of multimedia content;
    • enable/disable PPDs;
    • read player selections;
    • start a player tracking session;
    • suspend a player tracking session;
    • resume a player tracking session;
    • merge two or more player tracking sessions;
    • end and/or close a player tracking session;
    • etc.

It will be appreciated that other functions may be attributed to other keys or input sensors of various types. For example, in one implementation, at least a portion of the Table Control Console touch keys can be assigned to implement additional functions, such as in changeable soft key assignments during the programming or setup of the system.

According to specific embodiments, the wager/gaming chip tracking component 470 may be adapted to automatically detect the presence and/or monetary amount of gaming chips which are located within a player's wagering zone (e.g., 302) and/or which are located with the player's personal space at the gaming table (such as, for example, the region defined by region 350 of FIG. 3). In one implementation, each wager/gaming chip tracking component 470 includes one or more gaming chip sensors which are immediately below or otherwise adjacent to a respective player station at the gaming table. The gaming chip sensors may be selected from several different types of sensors.

One suitable type of sensor is a weigh cell which senses the presence of a gaming chip thereon so that the master table controller knows at the start of a hand, that a player is participating in the next hand being played. A variety of weigh cells can be used. Another suitable type of sensor includes optical sensors. Such optical sensors can be photosensitive detectors which use changes in the sensed level of light striking the detectors. For example, in one implementation, the wagering sensor may use ambient light which beams from area lighting of the casino or other room in which it is placed. When a typical gaming chip is placed in a player's wagering zone (e.g., 302), the amount of light striking the detector located beneath the zone is measurably diminished by the opaque gaming chip. The detector conveys a suitable electrical signal which indicates that a gaming chip has been placed within the wagering zone 302. A variety of other alternative detectors can also be used. A further type of preferred gaming chip sensor is one which can detect coding included on or in the gaming chips to ascertain the value of the gaming chip or chips being placed by the players into the player wagering zones. A preferred form of this type of sensor or detector is used to detect an integrated circuit based radio frequency identification (RFID) unit which is included in or on the gaming chips. Such sensors are sometimes referred to as radio frequency identification detection or read-write stations.

It will be apparent to those skilled in the art that other memory types, including various computer readable media, may be used for storing and executing program instructions pertaining to the operation of the present invention. Because such information and program instructions may be employed to implement the systems/methods described herein, the present invention relates to machine-readable media that include program instructions, state information, etc. for performing various operations described herein. Examples of machine-readable media include, but are not limited to, magnetic media such as hard disks, floppy disks, and magnetic tape; optical media such as CD-ROM disks; magneto-optical media such as floptical disks; and hardware devices that are specially configured to store and perform program instructions, such as read-only memory devices (ROM) and random access memory (RAM). The invention may also be embodied in a carrier wave traveling over an appropriate medium such as airwaves, optical lines, electric lines, etc. Examples of program instructions include both machine code, such as produced by a compiler, and files including higher level code that may be executed by the computer using an interpreter.

According to specific embodiments, a variety of different game states may be used to characterize the state of current and/or past events which are occurring (or have occurred) at a selected gaming table. For example, in one embodiment, at any given time in a game, a valid current game state may be used to characterize the state of game play (and/or other related events, such as, for example, mode of operation of the gaming table, etc.) at that particular time. In at least one embodiment, multiple different states may be used to characterize different states or events which occur at the gaming table at any given time. In one embodiment, when faced with ambiguity of game state, a single state embodiment forces a decision such that one valid current game state is chosen. In a multiple state embodiment, multiple possible game states may exist simultaneously at any given time in a game, and at the end of the game or at any point in the middle of the game, the gaming table may analyze the different game states and select one of them based on certain criteria. Thus, for example, when faced with ambiguity of game state, the multiple state embodiment(s) allow all potential game states to exist and move forward, thus deferring the decision of choosing one game state to a later point in the game. The multiple game state embodiment(s) may also be more effective in handling ambiguous data or game state scenarios.

According to specific embodiments, a variety of different entities may be used (e.g., either singly or in combination) to track the progress of game states which occur at a given gaming table. Examples of such entities may include, but are not limited to, one or more of the following (or combination thereof): master table controller, local game tracking component(s), remote game tracking component(s), etc. Examples of various game tracking components may include, but are not limited to: automated sensors, manually operated sensors, video cameras, intelligent playing card shoes, RFID readers/writers, RFID tagged chips, etc.

According to a specific embodiment, local game tracking components at the gaming table may be operable to automatically monitor game play activities at the gaming table, and/or to automatically identify key events which may trigger a transition of game state from one state to another as a game progresses. For example, in the case of Blackjack, a key event may include one or more events which indicate a change in the state of a game such as, for example: a new card being added to a card hand, the split of a card hand, a card hand being moved, a new card provided from a shoe, removal or disappearance of a card by occlusion, etc.

Depending upon the type of game being played at the gaming table, examples of other possible key events may include, but are not limited to, one or more of the following (or combination thereof):

    • start of a new hand/round;
    • end of a current hand/round;
    • start of a roulette wheel spin;
    • game start event;
    • game end event;
    • initial wager period start;
    • initial wager period end;
    • initial deal period start;
    • initial deal period end;
    • player card draw/decision period start;
    • player card draw/decision period end;
    • subsequent wager period start;
    • subsequent wager period end;
    • rake period start;
    • rake period end;
    • payout period start;
    • payout period end;
    • start of card burning period;
    • end of card burning period;
    • etc.
Automated Table Game State Tracking

Another inventive feature described herein relates to automated techniques for facilitating table game state tracking.

Conventional techniques for tracking table game play states are typically implemented using manual (e.g., human implemented) mechanisms. For example, in many cases, game states are part of the processes observed by a floor supervisor and manually tracked. Accordingly, one aspect is directed to various techniques for implementing and/or facilitating automated table game state tracking at live casino table games.

According to specific embodiments, a variety of different game states may be used to characterize the state of current and/or past events which are occurring (or have occurred) at a selected gaming table. For example, in one embodiment, at any given time in a game, at least one valid current game state may be used to characterize the state of game play (and/or other related events/conditions, such as, for example, mode of operation of the gaming table, and/or other events disclosed herein) at particular instance in time at a given gaming table.

In at least one embodiment, multiple different states may be used to characterize different states or events which occur at the gaming table at any given time. In one embodiment, when faced with ambiguity of game state, a single state embodiment may be used to force a decision such that one valid current game state may be selected or preferred. In a multiple state embodiments, multiple possible game states may exist concurrently or simultaneously at any given time in a table game, and at the end of the game (and/or at any point in the middle of the game), the gaming table may be operable to automatically analyze the different game states and select one of them, based on specific criteria, to represent the current or dominant game state at that time. Thus, for example, when faced with ambiguity of game state, the multiple state embodiment(s) may allow all potential game states to exist and move forward, thus deferring the decision of choosing one game state to a later point in the game. The multiple game state embodiment(s) may also be more effective in handling ambiguous data and/or ambiguous game state scenarios.

According to specific embodiments, a variety of different components, systems, and/or other electronic entities may be used (e.g., either singly or in combination) to track the progress of game states may which occur at a given gaming table. Examples of such entities may include, but are not limited to, one or more of the following (or combination thereof): master table controller, local game tracking component(s) (e.g., residing locally at the gaming table), remote game tracking component(s), etc. According to a specific embodiment, local game tracking components at the gaming table may be operable to automatically monitor game play, wagering, and/or other activities at the gaming table, and/or may be operable to automatically identify key conditions and/or events which may trigger a transition of game state at the gaming table from one state to another as a game progresses. Depending upon the type of game being played at the gaming table, examples of possible key events/conditions may include, but are not limited to, one or more of the following (or combinations thereof):

    • start of a new hand/round;
    • end of a current hand/round;
    • start of a roulette wheel spin;
    • game start event;
    • game end event;
    • initial wager period start;
    • initial wager period end;
    • initial deal period start;
    • initial deal period end;
    • player card draw/decision period start;
    • player card draw/decision period end;
    • subsequent wager period start;
    • subsequent wager period end;
    • rake period start;
    • rake period end;
    • payout period start;
    • payout period end;
    • buy-in event;
    • win event (e.g., game win, bonus win, side wager win, etc.);
    • push event;
    • new hand start event;
    • hand end event;
    • new round start event;
    • round end event;
    • etc.

According to different embodiments, the various automated table game state tracking techniques described herein may be utilized to automatically detect and/or track game states (and/or other associated states of operation) at a variety of different types of “live” casino table games. In at least one embodiment, a live table game may be characterized as a wager-based game which is conducted at a physical gaming table (e.g., typically located on the casino floor). Further in at least one embodiment, the live table game may be conducted on a non-electronic gaming surface, and/or may include participation of physically present players who engage in wagering activities at the gaming table using physical wagering tokens (e.g., gaming chips). Various examples of live table games may include, but are not limited to, one or more of the following (or combinations thereof): blackjack, craps, poker (including different variations of poker), baccarat, roulette, pai gow, sic bo, fantan, and/or other types of wager-based table games conducted at gaming establishments (e.g., casinos).

FIG. 11 shows an example interaction diagram illustrating various interactions which may occur between a gaming system (e.g., gaming machine, game table, etc.) and a player's PPD in accordance with a specific embodiment. For purposes of illustration, it is assumed in the example of FIG. 11 that a player (possessing a PPD of the present invention) desires to utilize his PPD 1102 for use in conducting game play activities at a selected casino gaming device or gaming system 1104 such as, for example, a live casino gaming table.

As shown in the example embodiment of FIG. 11, PPD 1102 may send (51) a registration request message to the gaming system 1104, in order to allow the PPD to be used for game play activities (and/or other activities) conducted at gaming system 1104. In at least one embodiment, the registration request message may include different types of information such as, for example: player/user identity information, PPD identity information, authentication/security information, player tracking information, biometric identity information, PIN numbers, device location, etc.

According to specific embodiments, various events/conditions may trigger the PPD to automatically transmit the registration request message to gaming system 1104. Examples of such events/conditions may include, but are not limited to, one or more of the following (or combinations thereof):

    • physical proximity of PPD to gaming system detected as satisfying predetermined criteria;
    • PPD shown or handed to dealer and/or other casino employee;
    • appropriate input detected at PPD (e.g., player pushes button, performs gesture, etc.);
    • communication received from gaming system;
    • specified time constraints detected as being satisfied;
    • gaming chip(s) placed detected within player's assigned wagering region;
    • presence of player detected at player station;
    • detection of player's first wager being placed;
    • player location or position detected as satisfying predefined criteria;
    • appropriate floor supervisor input detected;
    • player identity determined (e.g., through the use of directional RFID; through placement of player tracking media on a designated spot at a table game; etc.);
    • etc.

As shown at (53) the gaming system 1104 may process the registration request. In at least one embodiment, the processing of the registration request may include various types of activities such as, for example, one or more of the following (or combinations thereof): authentication activities and/or validation activities relating to the PPD and/or player; account verification activities; etc.

At (55) it is assumed that the registration request has been successfully processed at gaming system 1104, and that a registration confirmation message is sent from the gaming system 1102 to PPD 1102. In at least one embodiment, the registration confirmation message may include various types of information such as, for example: information relating to the gaming system 1104; information relating to game type(s), game theme(s), denomination(s), paytable(s); min/max wager amounts available after the gaming system; current game state at the gaming system; etc.

As shown at (57), the PPD may change or update its current mode or state of operation to one which is appropriate for use with the gaming activity being conducted at gaming system 1104. In at least one embodiment, the PPD may utilize information provided by the gaming system to select or determine the appropriate mode of operation of the PPD. For example, in one embodiment, the gaming system 1104 may correspond to a playing card game table which is currently configured as a blackjack game table. The gaming system may provide gaming system information to the PPD which indicates to the PPD that the gaming system 1104 is currently configured as a Blackjack game table. In response, the PPD may configure its current mode of operation for blackjack game play and/or blackjack gesture recognition/interpretation. In another embodiment where the gaming system 1104 may correspond to a slot-type gaming machine, the gaming system may provide gaming system information to the PPD which indicates to the PPD that the gaming system 1104 is currently configured as a slot-type gaming machine. In response, the PPD may configure its current mode of operation for slot machine game play and/or gesture recognition/interpretation relating to slot machine game play. In at least one embodiment, interpretation of a player's gestures and/or movements at the PPD may be based, at least in part, on the current mode of operation of the PPD. Thus, for example, in one embodiment, the same gesture implemented by a player may be interpreted differently by the PPD, for example, depending upon the type of game currently being played by the player.

At (59) it is assumed that gaming system 1104 advances its current game state (e.g., starts a new game/hand, ends a current game/hand, deals cards, accepts wagers, etc.). At (61) the gaming system 1104 may provide updated game state information to the PPD 1102. In at least one embodiment, the updated game state information may include information relating to a current or active state of game play which is occurring at the gaming system.

In the present example, it is assumed, at (63), that player the current game state at gaming system 1104 requires input from the player associated with PPD 1102. In at least one embodiment, the player may perform one or more gestures using the PPD relating to the player's current game play instructions. For example, in one embodiment where the player is participating in a blackjack game at the gaming system, and it is currently the player's turn to play, the player may perform a “hit me” gesture with the PPD to convey that the player would like to be dealt another card. According to different embodiments, a gesture may be defined to include one or more player movements such as, for example, a sequence of player movements.

At (65) the PPD may detect the player's gestures, and may interpret the detected gestures in order to determine the player's intended instructions and/or other intended input. In at least one embodiment, the detected gestures (of the player) and/or movements of the PPD may be analyzed and interpreted with respect to various criteria such as, for example, one or more of the following (or combinations thereof): game system information; current game state; current game being played (if any); player's current hand (e.g., cards currently dealt to player); wager information; player identity; player tracking information; player's account information; PPD operating mode; game rules; house rules; proximity to other objects; and/or other criteria described herein.

In at least one alternate embodiment, analysis and/or interpretation of the player's gestures (and/or other PPD movements) may be performed by a remote entity such as, for example, gaming system 1104. In at least one of such embodiments, the PPD may be operable to transmit information related to the player's gestures and/or other movements of the PPD to the gaming system for interpretation/analysis.

At (67) it is assumed that the PPD has determined the player's instructions (e.g., based on the player's gesture(s) using the PPD), and transmits player instruction information to the gaming system. In at least one embodiment, the player construction information may include player instructions relating to gaming activities occurring at gaming system 1104.

As shown at (69), the gaming system may process the player instructions received from PPD 1102. Additionally, if desired, the information relating to the player's instructions, as well as other desired information (such as current game state information, etc.) may be stored (71) in a database (e.g., local and/or remote database(s)). Such information may be subsequently used, for example, for auditing purposes, player tracking purposes, etc.

At (73) the current game state of the game being played at gaming system 1104 may be advanced, for example, based at least in part upon the player's instructions provided via PPD 1102. In at least one embodiment, the game state may not advance until specific conditions have been satisfied. For example, at a table game of blackjack using virtual cards, a player may perform a “hit me” gesture with a PPD during the player's turn to cause another card to be dealt to that player. However, the dealing of the next virtual may not occur until the dealer performs a “deal next card” gesture.

In at least one embodiment, flow may continue (e.g., following an advancement of game state) in a manner similar to the operations described with respect to reference characters 61-73 of FIG. 11, for example.

In alternate embodiments, various operations illustrated and described with respect to FIG. 11 may be omitted and/or additional operations added. For example, in at least one embodiment, the PPD may be configured or designed to engage in uni-directional communication with the gaming system. For example, in one embodiment, the PPD may be operable to transmit information (e.g., gesture information, player instructions, etc.) to the gaming system 1104, but may not be operable to receive various types of information (e.g., game state information, registration information, etc.) from the gaming system. Accordingly, in such an embodiment, at least a portions of the operations illustrated in FIG. 11 (e.g., 51, 53, 55, 57, 59, 61, etc.) may be omitted.

According to at least some embodiments, various PPDs and/or gaming systems (e.g., gaming machines, game tables, etc.) may include non-contact input interfaces which allow players to use gestures, movements, voice commands and/or other natural modes of communicating information to selected systems and/or devices.

According to specific embodiments, the inputs allowed via the non-contact interfaces may be regulated in each gaming jurisdiction in which such non-contact interfaces are deployed, and may vary from gaming jurisdiction to gaming jurisdiction. For example, for a voice interface, certain voice commands may be allowed/required in one jurisdiction but not another. In at least one embodiment, the PPDs and/or gaming systems may be configurable such that by inputting the gaming jurisdiction where the PPD/gaming system is located (or by specifying it in a software package shipped with the PPD/gaming system), the PPD/gaming system may self-configure itself to comply with the regulations of the jurisdiction where it is located.

Another aspect of PPD and/or gaming system operations that may also by regulated by a gaming jurisdiction is providing game history retrieval capabilities. For instance, for dispute resolution purposes, it is often desirable to be able to replay information from a past game, such as the outcome of a previous game on the PPD and/or gaming system. With the non-contact interfaces, it may be desirable to store information regarding inputs made through a non-contact interface and provide a capability of playing information regarding the input stored by the PPD and/or gaming system.

In at least one embodiment, user gesture information relating to gross motion/gesture detection, motion/gesture interpretation and/or interpreted player input (e.g., based on the motion/gesture interpretations) may be recorded and/or stored in an indexed and/or searchable manner which allows the user gesture information to be easily accessed and retrieved for auditing purposes. For example, in at least one embodiment, player gestures and/or player input interpreted there from may be stored along with concurrent game state information to provide various types of audit information such as, for example, game audit trail information, player input audit trail information, etc. In one embodiment, the game audit trail information may include information suitable for enabling reconstruction of the steps that were executed during selected previously played games as they progressed through one game and into another game. In at least one embodiment, the game audit trail information may include all steps of a game. In at least one embodiment, player input audit trail information may include information describing one or more players' input (e.g., game play gesture input) relating to one or more previously played games. In at least one embodiment, the game audit trail information may be linked with player input audit trail information in a manner which enables subsequent reconstruction of the sequence of game states which occurred for one or more previously played game(s), including reconstruction of the player(s) instructions (and/or other game play input information) which triggered the transition of each recorded game state. In at least one embodiment, the gaming system may be implemented as a PPD. In other embodiments, the gaming system may include a PPD which is operable to store various types of audit information such as, for example: game history data, user gesture information relating to gross motion/gesture detection, motion/gesture interpretation, game audit trail information, and/or player input audit trail information.

As an example, for a non-contact gesture recognition interface that detects and interprets player movements/gestures, a PPD and/or gaming system may store player input information relating to detected player gestures (or portions thereof) and/or interpreted player instructions (e.g., based on the detected player movements/gestures) that have been received from one or more players during a game played at the PPD and/or gaming system, along with other information described herein. An interface may be provided on the PPD and/or gaming system that allows the player input information to be recalled and output for display (e.g., via a display at the PPD and/or gaming system). In a game outcome dispute, a casino operator may use a playback interface at the PPD and/or gaming system to locate and review recorded game history data and/or player input information relating to the disputed event.

According to specific embodiments, various PPDs and/or gaming systems may include non-contact input interfaces which may be operable to detect (e.g., via the non-contact input interfaces) and interpret various types of player movements, gestures, vocal commands and/or other player activities. For instance, as described in more detail herein, the non-contact input interfaces may be operable to provide eye motion recognition, hand motion recognition, voice recognition, etc. Additionally, the various PPDs and/or gaming systems may further be operable to analyze and interpret the detected player motions, gestures, voice commands, etc. (collectively referred to herein as “player activities”), in order determine appropriate player input instructions relating to the detected player activities.

In at least one embodiment, at least one gaming system described herein may be operable to monitor and record the movements/gestures of a player during game play of one or more games. The recorded information may be processed to generate player profile movement information which may be used for determining and/or verifying the player's identity. In one embodiment, the player profile movement information may be used to verify the identity of a person playing a particular game at the gaming system. In one embodiment, the player profile movement information may be used to enable and/or disable (and/or allow/prevent access to) selected gaming and/or wagering features of the gaming system. For example, in at least one embodiment, the player profile movement information may be used to characterize a known player's movements and to restrict game play if the current or real-time movement profile of that player changes abruptly or does not match a previously defined movement profile for that player.

FIG. 12A shows an example embodiment of a gaming table system 1200 which is suitable for implementing various aspects described or referenced herein. As illustrated in the example embodiment of FIG. 12A, gaming table system 1200 comprises a poker-type gaming table 175 which includes a playing surface 173, a set of RFID readers 174, and a dealer station 177. Gaming poker table 175 includes twelve seats 179, lettered A-L, disposed around the perimeter of table 175. Each seat 179 is intended to sit a person that wants to play poker at table 175. Table 175 may include a different numbers of seats, such as six, eight or ten.

In one embodiment, each person carries an RFID device, associated with their identity, that a reader 174 can detect. For example, a player-tracking card associated with a person may include an RFID tag. In at least some embodiments, portable gaming tokens 1235 carried by the players may have RFID tags included therein and each associated with a respective patron 4. Externally, the tokens resemble coins or wagering chips, but include RFID tag technology internal to the outer body.

In one embodiment, a server assigns token ownership to a person by: a) appointing a unique ID number to each token 1235, and b) allocating identification information that correlates the identification number and a current owner. Token tracking software may monitor ownership of each token on the table, and may also track which tokens (e.g., 1235) are owned by each person sitting at the gaming table. In at least one embodiment, the tokens may also provide a means to track a person (and the tokens being carried by that person) through a casino property using RFID readers at the property.

As illustrated in the example embodiment of FIG. 12A, table 175 includes multiple RFID readers 174. In one embodiment, each RFID reader 174 is embedded below surface 173 (hence the dotted lines in FIG. 12A) and monitors the presence of RFID devices carried by people (e.g., 4 d-4 k) within a local area determined by its interrogation range. For example, one or more centrally disposed RFID readers 174 for the table (e.g., RFID reader 175 designated RTable), may be configured or designed to detect and monitor the presence of RFID devices carried by any people 4 in the vicinity of the table 175.

Additionally, as illustrated in the example embodiment of FIG. 12A, each player station associated with each respective seat 179 at the table may also include its own respective RFID reader(s) 174 (e.g., RFID Readers RA-L), configured or designed to detect and monitor the presence of a RFID devices within the possession or control of the person occupying that seat/player station. For example, in one embodiment, the gaming table system may include one or more components for detecting wagering tokens within a specified region or zone at the gaming table which, for example, may be defined as that player's personal space. For example, as illustrated in the embodiment of FIG. 12A, the player station associated with seat F has associated therewith a personal space region 1211. In at least one embodiment, each player station at the gaming table may have associated therewith its own unique personal player space region. In one embodiment, a tracking system utilizing the gaming table RFID readers may be operable to automatically identify and track the number and values of wagering tokens which are located within a player's personal space at the gaming table.

It will be appreciated that other RFID reader configurations (not shown) are also suitable for use herein.

FIGS. 12B and 12C illustrate an example embodiment RFID token 1235 in accordance with one embodiment. FIG. 12B shows a side view of token 1235, while FIG. 12C shows a top cross section of token 1235 taken through plane A-A of FIG. 12B. In one embodiment, token 1235 may be implemented as an intelligent wagering token.

As illustrated in the example embodiment of FIG. 12C, token 1235 includes a body 165, an identification (ID) tag 166, a memory component 168, and one or more communications components. In this particular example, the communications components include rectifier 162, a modulator 164, and an antenna 169.

In at least one embodiment, body 165 includes a rigid material, such as a durable and substantially rigid plastic, that is externally shaped to resemble a coin. The internal RFID components are embedded within a central portion 165 a of body 165.

Functionally, a wireless probe of token 1235 identifies the portable RFID device relative to other portable RFID devices near it. This may occur using any suitable identification technique, such as a unique frequency response from the token or logical enumeration and identification, for example. In a specific embodiment, when probed, token 1235 replies with a unique identifier, ID number, or other numeric representation assigned to token 1235.

In at least one embodiment, the identifier distinctively enumerates each token 1235. This allows each token 1235 to be distinguished from other tokens 1235—as would be encountered, for example, when numerous tokens 1235 are within a reading range of a reader 174 at gaming table 175. In one embodiment, portable RFID device 1235 automatically returns an identification signal when probed by token reader 174.

In at least one embodiment, the unique identifier associated with each token also provides a means of automatically logging and updating data entry corresponding to the status of each token 175.

In at least one embodiment, portable RFID device 1235 includes a wireless communication system. For example, in the example embodiment shown in FIG. 12C, antenna 169 and modulator 164 collectively function as a wireless transponder. In at least one embodiment, a transponder functions to receive and transmit wireless signals. The transponder on token 1235 receives a wireless signal from token reader 174, and in some embodiments, that signal includes sufficient power to allow transmission of the token's identifier and authentication information back to reader 174.

In a specific embodiment, the transponder includes an amplifier for increasing the strength of a received incident signal (from the reader 174 or other actuating device), a modulator 164 for modifying that signal with information provided to the transponder, and an antenna 169 or antennas for receiving and transmitting a wireless signal. In one embodiment, modulator 164 may be configured or designed to function as that part of a transponder which impresses information on a transmitted signal. In some embodiments, the interrogation and energizing signals are separate entities. In other embodiments, they are provided by the same means for simplification purposes, and/or may include an amplifier to facilitate signal transmission.

In one embodiment, reader 174 provides power to token 1235. The power may be transmitted by RF waves, for example. Rectifier 162 rectifies the incoming signal, thereby providing sufficient DC voltage to operate any digital circuitry in token 1235.

In one embodiment, the transponder may be operationally coupled to identification 166 in a manner giving it access to the identification 166 during probing by token reader 174. Various types of identifier tags 166 may be used with token 1235. Examples of suitable ID tags 166 include microchips storing an ID code (e.g., an EPROM), magnetic recording devices, and the like.

Memory 168 stores information for token 1235. In at least one embodiment, memory 168 may include one or more of the following (or combinations thereof): non-volatile memory (e.g., FLASH memory, EPROMs, memristor-based non-volatile solid-state memory, etc.), unalterable memory (e.g., EPROMs 308), and/or other forms of memory. In another embodiment, token 1235 does not include a separate identification 166 and memory 168, and the two are combined into a single memory 168 or identification 166.

It will be appreciated that other token designs (not shown) are also suitable for use herein. Additionally, at least some of the token designs described herein may also appropriate for use with authentication of intelligent wagering tokens.

Wireless ID tags are commercially known and there exists numerous manufacturers that currently offer a suitable selection of RFID tags. These tags may be either passive (receive energy via a rectified incident signal) or active (include their own power source). Major manufacturers include Texas Instruments of Dallas, Tex., Micron Communications of Boise, Id., Motorola of San Jose, Calif., and Gemplus International S.A. of Montgomeryville, Pa. Each manufacturer provides several models suitable for use herein.

Portable RFID devices (such as, for example, token 1235) and RFID readers (such as, for example, 174) use wireless communication that takes place via electromagnetic radiation of one or more appropriate frequencies. Generally, however, token reader and token may be designed to allow any suitable probe signal or carrier (not just RF or other electromagnetic radiation). In at least one embodiment, the carrier may allow token 1235 to be probed from a substantial distance and over a wide area. It may also power the transmission of data from the token to the reader. In at least one embodiment, the carrier may also provide sufficient bandwidth to transfer the desired information in a timely manner. Additionally, the modulated carrier may also be sufficiently unique, in terms of frequency, time synchronization, and/or coding, such that it is distinguishable from signals provided by other nearby tokens. Further, in at least one embodiment, one or more tokens may be configured or designed to include collision avoidance mechanisms which may be used to reduce occurrences of signal collisions which may be caused, for example, as a result of multiple different tokens in a given region attempting to “talk” at the same time.

Generally, the carrier may be a wave or field or other intangible effector that acts over a distance through one or more mediums (e.g., air, fluid, solid, etc.) between a reader (e.g., reader 174) and a token (e.g., token 1235). Examples of suitable carriers include RF radiation, microwave radiation, Ultra High Frequency (UHF) radiation, Super High Frequency (SHF) radiation, Low Frequency (LF) radiation, High Frequency (HF) radiation, Ultra Low Frequency (ULF) radiation, Super Low Frequency (SLF) radiation, infrared radiation, electric fields, magnetic fields, and/or other frequency ranges or bands of the electromagnetic spectrum.

In at least one embodiment, Ultra High Frequency (UHF) radiation may include electromagnetic signals within the range of about 0.3 GHz to 3 GHz, Super High Frequency (SHF) radiation may include electromagnetic signals within the range of about 3 GHz to 30 GHz, Low Frequency (LF) radiation may include electromagnetic signals within the range of about 30 kHz to 300 kHz, High Frequency (HF) radiation may include electromagnetic signals within the range of about 3 MHz to 30 MHz, Super Low Frequency (SLF) radiation may include electromagnetic signals within the range of about 30 Hz to 300 Hz, and Ultra Low Frequency (ULF) radiation may include electromagnetic signals within the range of about 0.3 kHz to 3 kHz

As an illustrative example, if the token-reader system employs the use of RF radiation, the frequency may range between about 125 kHz and 5800 MHz, and may be provided at a power of between about 7 and 50 Watts, respectively (e.g., as specified by the IEEE). In a specific embodiment, a reader may be configured or designed to operate at an approved frequency at or near that used for an available RFID device; e.g., near 125 kHz in one case and about 13 MHz in another case.

Microwave radiation provides another suitable carrier. Generally, microwave provides the same functionality as RF radiation, but at larger read ranges. In addition, any approved or regulated band such as the ISM bands at 945 MHz, 5.8 GHz and 50.45 GHz may be used. In at least one embodiment, a reader may also employ a multi-band or multi-frequency source having one frequency to supply power and a second frequency for interrogation, for example.

In operation, each token reader may probes tokens 1235 which are located within the reader's read range. For example, in one embodiment, reader 174 provides a wireless probe signal that triggers token 1235 to respond with its identity. In some embodiments, the token may also respond by providing other information such as, for example, authentication information, timestamp information, selected information stored in the memory of the gaming token, etc.

For example, in one embodiment, when probed by reader 174, token 1235 may reply with its ID code (from identification tag 166 or memory component 168) and optionally any ownership data contained in memory component 168. In a specific embodiment, the signal provided by reader 174 also provides the energy for token 1235 to reply. In one embodiment, reader 174 may detect the token 1235 reply, and a processor local to the reader 174 may convert the detected reply (and information embedded therein) to a signal suitable for transmission to a computer system or server. In one embodiment, the ID code provides a means for the server to automatically log data corresponding to individual portable RFID devices 1235.

In at least one embodiment, a token reader may be configured or designed to interrogate multiple tokens 1235 simultaneously. This allows the reader to interrogate large numbers of tokens within a given region (such as, for example, the region defined by gaming table 175). In some embodiments, selected identifier tag/interrogation systems may be configured or designed to poll tokens one at a time (e.g., serially). In other embodiments, selected interrogators are configured or designed to poll multiple different tokens simultaneously.

In at least one embodiment, various types of communication strategies may employ the use of anti-collision and/or arbitration procedures which may be used to control the timing of when a tag responds to a probe.

In a specific embodiment, each reader may include its own processor, control logic, transceiver and interrogator antenna adapted to interrogate multiple tokens simultaneously.

In at least one embodiment, reader 174 may provide a probing signal (and optionally power) to a token 1235. For example, in one embodiment, reader 174 may provide sufficient radiated power to energize one or more tokens (e.g., at a desired read rate) by transmitting an electromagnetic signal in the form of continuous wave, spread-spectrum waveform, impulse, and/or coded waveform.

In one embodiment, a passive token 1235 may rectify an incident RF signal received from reader 174 to provide DC power for internal token processing. In one embodiment, once activated, token 1235 may modulate the incident carrier with its ID code (and/or with other data), and provide a modulated backscatter signal. The response signal may be at a frequency different from that of the incident signal. Reader 174 detects this modulated backscattered signal and translates the identification number (and other embedded data) for the token into a suitable format (e.g., TCP/IP packet) for communication with a server and/or other remote device(s)/system(s).

Although not shown, the various techniques described herein may also be suitable for other types of gaming table tables used at the casino property, such as, for example, one or more of the following (or combinations thereof): blackjack tables, craps tables, baccarat tables, roulette tables, poker tables, pai gow tables, sic bo tables, fantan tables, etc.

Moreover, it will be appreciated that reader 174 is not limited to use at a gaming table. Various types of readers may be deployed at multiple different locations/devices of the casino property. For example, in one embodiment, a reader may be installed in a gaming machine, for example, to allow token detection/tracking/usage and/or player identification/authentication at a gaming machine. According to different embodiments, one or more readers may be located at one or more kiosks in the casino, at one or more entry/exit doors (e.g., to automatically poll portable tracking devices entering and/or leaving various regions of the property), at one or more locations adjacent to different types of entertainment services/devices available to patrons of the casino, and/or at other desired locations. In some embodiments, one or more readers may be configured or designed as mobile or portable readers, which may be carried by one or more persons moving about the casino. For example, in at least one embodiment, a reader mechanism may be incorporated into a patron's player tracking card or smart card for enabling such cards to be able to detect, probe, and/or communicate with tokens such as, for example, tokens being carried by the patron, tokens located within the patron's personal space, etc.

In addition, although portable RFID devices have been described with respect to portable tokens that resemble coins or casino-type betting chips, tracking systems described herein may include and/or be compatible for use with other types of portable devices, such as, for example, one or more of the following (or combinations thereof): cards (e.g., player tracking cards, smart cards, etc.), PDA's, cellular phones, mobile gaming devices, mobile kiosk devices, Bluetooth headset devices, etc. In at least some embodiments, at least some of the portable devices may include RFID technology configured to communicate with an RFID reader. Other types of commonly known portable devices may are also be suitable for use herein.

FIG. 13 shows an exemplary arrangement of RFID reading devices at one casino gaming table embodiment. In at least one embodiment, it may be preferable that gaming table 1310 generally appear to patrons to be like any other ordinary gaming table. To this end, the various RFID detection devices 1315 located at the table can be placed beneath the upper surface of the table, so as not to be obtrusive. Such RFID detection devices can include transponders, readers, antennae or any combination thereof, as may be suitable to assist in the reading of RFID wagering tokens at the table. As shown, such reading devices 1315 can be placed under the chip tray 1311, under each of the bet placement areas 1313, and under the cash for chips exchange area 1314. Of course, additional RFID reading devices may also be provided, and it may be preferable that enough devices be provided so that the detection and reading of various amounts and formations of wagering tokens on the gaming table surface can be accomplished with relative ease and reliability.

In a preferred embodiment, a grid of RFID detection devices 1315 is distributed about or beneath gaming table 1310, so as to better detect and read the various RFID tags included within the wagering tokens on the surface of the table. Of course, such a grid-like distribution results in there being more RFID reading devices at the gaming table than there are designated chip placement areas on the surface of the table. The inclusion of such a grid or array of RFID reading devices also means that wagering tokens outside the designated chip placement areas may also be read. For example, chips placed directly in front of a player could be read by the various RFID reading devices 1315 distributed at gaming table 1310. In one embodiment, wagering token 1309 could be read by the reading devices at gaming table 1310, while such a wagering token at this location would not typically be read at a gaming table known in the art.

In this manner, preferably all wagering tokens present at the surface of the gaming table at any given time can be detected and read by the RFID devices and system at the gaming table. Such an ability greatly increases the options that are available to a gaming establishment with respect to the detection and tracking of wagering tokens, particularly at a gaming table or other suitably trackable gaming venue. Again, this may also include poker tables, craps tables, roulette tables, sports books, cashier cages, casino back room vaults and many other locations within a casino.

In addition to the largely stationary nature of the reading devices shown in the foregoing embodiments, it is also specifically contemplated that other forms of RFID reading and tracking devices could be used in conjunction with the various inventive systems and methods disclosed herein. For example, a hand-held wand or other suitable RFID reading device could be used to scan RFID wagering tokens, particularly as such wagering tokens move from place to place throughout the casino. In particular, wagering tokens being moved to or from a back vault, cashier cage, chip tray or other secure location could be scanned and read en masse through the use of such a hand-held wand or other device. Where multiple trays or racks of RFID wagering tokens are to be read at once, even greater systems can be employed as may be desired. For example, a large cart sized region full of high powered RFID transponders may be placed in a designated area at a vault or cashier cage, such that racks, trays or carts full of chips might be read in a relatively short span of time. Other adaptations may also be used in this regard, as will be readily appreciated.

FIG. 14 shows an alternate embodiment of a gaming table system 1400 which may be used for implementing various aspects described herein.

As illustrated in the example embodiment of FIG. 14, gaming table system 1400 may include a casino-type gaming table 102. In at least one embodiment, gaming table 102 may be configured or designed to have the appearance similar to that of a traditional, felt-top casino gaming table.

Different embodiments of gaming table system 1400 may be configured or designed to not include a least a portion of the components illustrated in the example embodiment of FIG. 14. Additionally, in some embodiments, gaming table system 1400 may include a least a portion of other components not illustrated in the example embodiment of FIG. 14. For example, according to different embodiments, gaming table system 1400 may include, but are not limited to, one or more of the following (or combinations thereof):

    • multiple player stations (e.g., 150 a-g);
    • specifically designated wagering regions (e.g., 103 a, 103 b, 103 c, etc.);
    • dealer station;
    • chip tray (e.g., 101);
    • one or more local cameras (e.g., 140);
    • one or more remote cameras (e.g., 152);
    • one or more designated playing card placement region(s) (e.g., 104);
    • etc.

In at least one embodiment, one or more cameras (e.g., 140, 152) may be utilized to identify shapes and orientations of physical objects placed on the surface of the gaming table 102. Additionally, one or more cameras (e.g., 140, 152) may be utilized to detect, record and/or generate information relating to player (and/or dealer) movements and/or gestures. In at least one embodiment, such information may be used for table game state tracking operations relating to gaming table 102. In one embodiment, a stereoscopic camera may be utilized to determine a position of object on the gaming table surface to be determined.

Table Game State Examples

As noted previously, different types of live table games may have associated therewith different types of events/conditions which may trigger the change of one or more game states. For purposes of illustration, examples of different types of live table games are described below, along with examples of their associated events/conditions.

Blackjack

In at least one embodiment, a table game state tracking system may be operable to automatically monitor game play, wagering, and/or other activities at a blackjack gaming table, and/or may be operable to automatically identify key conditions and/or events which may trigger a transition of one or more states (e.g., table state(s), game state(s), wagering state(s), etc.) at the gaming table from one state to another.

For example, in the case of a blackjack table game, such key events or conditions may include one or more of the conditions/events criteria stated above, and/or may include, but are not limited to, one or more of the following (or combinations thereof):

    • side bet event (e.g., double down, insurance, surrender, split, etc.);
    • dealer change;
    • reshuffle;
    • beginning of deck/shoe;
    • dead game state;
    • start of hand;
    • start of round;
    • start of game;
    • start of player's hand;
    • start of player's round;
    • player bust event;
    • dealer bust event;
    • push event;
    • player blackjack;
    • dealer blackjack;
    • player “hit me” event;
    • player “stand” event;
    • misdeal;
    • buy-in event;
    • marker-in event;
    • credit-in event;
    • house tray fill event (e.g., dealer's chip tray re-stocked with additional gaming chips);
    • promotion event;
    • bonus win event;
    • new card being added to a player's hand;
    • new card dealt from a shoe/deck;
    • removal or disappearance of a card by occlusion,
    • tip event (e.g., player tips dealer);
    • toke event (e.g., dealer receives tip from player and allows tip to be placed as wager, based on outcome of player's hand);
    • tournament play event;
    • re-buy event;
    • etc.

According to different embodiments, selected game state(s) which occur at a blackjack table game may be tracked at various levels such as, for example, one or more of the following (or combinations thereof): table level, individual the player level, dealer level; etc. In at least one embodiment, multiple states of activity at the blackjack gaming table may be tracked simultaneously or concurrently. For example, in one embodiment, separate instances of the Table Game State Tracking Procedure may be concurrently initiated for tracking table game state information relating to each respective, active player at the gaming table. In some embodiments, a single instance of the Table Game State Tracking Procedure may be operable to track table game state information relating to all (or selected) states which may occur at (and/or may be associated with) the gaming table. In one embodiment, this may include, for example, tracking table game state information relating to multiple players at the gaming table.

Craps

In at least one embodiment, a table game state tracking system may be operable to automatically monitor game play, wagering, and/or other activities at a craps gaming table, and/or may be operable to automatically identify key conditions and/or events which may trigger a transition of one or more states (e.g., table state(s), game state(s), wagering state(s), etc.) at the gaming table from one state to another.

For example, in the case of a craps table game, such key events or conditions may include one or more of the conditions/events criteria stated above, and/or may include, but are not limited to, one or more of the following (or combinations thereof):

    • dice roll event;
    • change of shooter;
    • wagering not permitted;
    • wagering permitted;
    • wagers locked;
    • change of dice;
    • early termination of shooter;
    • dice off table;
    • dice rolling;
    • dice stopped;
    • dice hit back wall;
    • dice roll exceeds minimum threshold criteria;
    • bet lock event;
    • game start event (e.g., new shooter=new game start);
    • game end event (such as, for example: dice roll=7, shooter hits number, etc.)
    • etc.

According to different embodiments, selected game state(s) which occur at a craps table game may be tracked at various levels such as, for example, one or more of the following (or combinations thereof): table level, individual the player level, dealer level; etc. In at least one embodiment, multiple states of activity at the craps gaming table may be tracked simultaneously or concurrently. For example, in some embodiments, a single instance of the Table Game State Tracking Procedure may be operable to track table game state information relating to all (or selected) states which may occur at (and/or may be associated with) the gaming table. In one embodiment, this may include, for example, tracking table game state information relating to multiple players at the gaming table.

Poker

In at least one embodiment, a table game state tracking system may be operable to automatically monitor game play, wagering, and/or other activities at a poker gaming table, and/or may be operable to automatically identify key conditions and/or events which may trigger a transition of one or more states (e.g., table state(s), game state(s), wagering state(s), etc.) at the gaming table from one state to another.

For example, in the case of a poker table game (which, for example, may correspond to one of a variety of different poker game types such as, for example, Hold'em Poker Games, Draw Poker Games, Guts Poker Games, Stud Poker Games, and/or other carnival type card-based casino table games), such key events or conditions may include one or more of the conditions/events criteria stated above, and/or may include, but are not limited to, one or more of the following (or combinations thereof):

    • player fold;
    • player call;
    • player ante-in;
    • push event;
    • etc.

According to different embodiments, selected game state(s) which occur at a poker table game may be tracked at various levels such as, for example, one or more of the following (or combinations thereof): table level, individual the player level, dealer level; etc. In at least one embodiment, multiple states of activity at the poker gaming table may be tracked simultaneously or concurrently. For example, in one embodiment, separate instances of the Table Game State Tracking Procedure may be concurrently initiated for tracking table game state information relating to each respective, active player at the gaming table. In some embodiments, a single instance of the Table Game State Tracking Procedure may be operable to track table game state information relating to all (or selected) states which may occur at (and/or may be associated with) the gaming table. In one embodiment, this may include, for example, tracking table game state information relating to multiple players at the gaming table.

Baccarat

In at least one embodiment, a table game state tracking system may be operable to automatically monitor game play, wagering, and/or other activities at a baccarat gaming table, and/or may be operable to automatically identify key conditions and/or events which may trigger a transition of one or more states (e.g., table state(s), game state(s), wagering state(s), etc.) at the gaming table from one state to another.

For example, in the case of a baccarat table game, such key events or conditions may include one or more of the conditions/events criteria stated above, and/or may include, but are not limited to, one or more of the following (or combinations thereof):

    • side bet event;
    • shoe count;
    • shoe change;
    • card dealt;
    • shoe shuffle;
    • free hand condition (e.g., actual game with no wagers);
    • tie/push event;
    • bonus event;
    • promotion event;
    • etc.

According to different embodiments, selected game state(s) which occur at a baccarat table game may be tracked at various levels such as, for example, one or more of the following (or combinations thereof): table level, individual the player level, dealer level; etc. In at least one embodiment, multiple states of activity at the baccarat gaming table may be tracked simultaneously or concurrently. For example, in one embodiment, separate instances of the Table Game State Tracking Procedure may be concurrently initiated for tracking table game state information relating to each respective, active player at the gaming table. In some embodiments, a single instance of the Table Game State Tracking Procedure may be operable to track table game state information relating to all (or selected) states which may occur at (and/or may be associated with) the gaming table. In one embodiment, this may include, for example, tracking table game state information relating to multiple players at the gaming table.

Roulette

In at least one embodiment, a table game state tracking system may be operable to automatically monitor game play, wagering, and/or other activities at a roulette gaming table, and/or may be operable to automatically identify key conditions and/or events which may trigger a transition of one or more states (e.g., table state(s), game state(s), wagering state(s), etc.) at the gaming table from one state to another.

For example, in the case of a roulette table game, such key events or conditions may include one or more of the condition/event criteria stated above, and/or may include, but are not limited to, one or more of the following (or combinations thereof):

    • wager lock event;
    • wheel spin event;
    • ball drop event;
    • game outcome event;
    • etc.

According to different embodiments, selected game state(s) which occur at a roulette table game may be tracked at various levels such as, for example, one or more of the following (or combinations thereof): table level, individual the player level, dealer level; etc. In at least one embodiment, multiple states of activity at the roulette gaming table may be tracked simultaneously or concurrently. In some embodiments, a single instance of the Table Game State Tracking Procedure may be operable to track table game state information relating to all (or selected) states which may occur at (and/or may be associated with) the gaming table. In one embodiment, this may include, for example, tracking table game state information relating to multiple players at the gaming table.

Pai Gow

In at least one embodiment, a table game state tracking system may be operable to automatically monitor game play, wagering, and/or other activities at a Pai Gow gaming table, and/or may be operable to automatically identify key conditions and/or events which may trigger a transition of one or more states (e.g., table state(s), game state(s), wagering state(s), etc.) at the gaming table from one state to another.

For example, in the case of a Pai Gow table game, such key events or conditions may include one or more of the condition/event criteria stated above, and/or may include, but are not limited to, one or more of the following (or combinations thereof):

    • hand setting decision event (e.g., player makes high/low hand decision);
    • etc.

According to different embodiments, selected game state(s) which occur at a Pai Gow table game may be tracked at various levels such as, for example, one or more of the following (or combinations thereof): table level, individual the player level, dealer level; etc. In at least one embodiment, multiple states of activity at the Pai Gow gaming table may be tracked simultaneously or concurrently. For example, in one embodiment, separate instances of the Table Game State Tracking Procedure may be concurrently initiated for tracking table game state information relating to each respective, active player at the gaming table. In some embodiments, a single instance of the Table Game State Tracking Procedure may be operable to track table game state information relating to all (or selected) states which may occur at (and/or may be associated with) the gaming table. In one embodiment, this may include, for example, tracking table game state information relating to multiple players at the gaming table.

Sic Bo

In at least one embodiment, a table game state tracking system may be operable to automatically monitor game play, wagering, and/or other activities at a Sic Bo gaming table, and/or may be operable to automatically identify key conditions and/or events which may trigger a transition of one or more states (e.g., table state(s), game state(s), wagering state(s), etc.) at the gaming table from one state to another. For example, in the case of a Sic Bo table game, such key events or conditions may include one or more of the condition/event criteria stated above.

According to different embodiments, selected game state(s) which occur at a Sic Bo table game may be tracked at various levels such as, for example, one or more of the following (or combinations thereof): table level, individual the player level, dealer level; etc. In at least one embodiment, multiple states of activity at the Sic Bo gaming table may be tracked simultaneously or concurrently. For example, in one embodiment, separate instances of the Table Game State Tracking Procedure may be concurrently initiated for tracking table game state information relating to each respective, active player at the gaming table. In some embodiments, a single instance of the Table Game State Tracking Procedure may be operable to track table game state information relating to all (or selected) states which may occur at (and/or may be associated with) the gaming table. In one embodiment, this may include, for example, tracking table game state information relating to multiple players at the gaming table.

Fantan,

In at least one embodiment, a table game state tracking system may be operable to automatically monitor game play, wagering, and/or other activities at a Fantan gaming table, and/or may be operable to automatically identify key conditions and/or events which may trigger a transition of one or more states (e.g., table state(s), game state(s), wagering state(s), etc.) at the gaming table from one state to another. For example, in the case of a Fantan table game, such key events or conditions may include one or more of the condition/event criteria stated above.

According to different embodiments, selected game state(s) which occur at a Fantan table game may be tracked at various levels such as, for example, one or more of the following (or combinations thereof): table level, individual the player level, dealer level; etc. In at least one embodiment, multiple states of activity at the Fantan gaming table may be tracked simultaneously or concurrently. For example, in one embodiment, separate instances of the Table Game State Tracking Procedure may be concurrently initiated for tracking table game state information relating to each respective, active player at the gaming table. In some embodiments, a single instance of the Table Game State Tracking Procedure may be operable to track table game state information relating to all (or selected) states which may occur at (and/or may be associated with) the gaming table. In one embodiment, this may include, for example, tracking table game state information relating to multiple players at the gaming table.

FIG. 10 shows a flow diagram of a Table Game State Tracking Procedure 1000 in accordance with a specific embodiment. In at least one embodiment, at least a portion of the Table Game State Tracking Procedure functionality may be implemented by a master table controller (e.g., 412) and/or by other components/devices of a gaming table system. Further, in at least some embodiments, portions of the Table Game State Tracking Procedure functionality may also be implemented at other devices and/or systems of the casino gaming network.

In at least one embodiment, the Table Game State Tracking Procedure may be operable to automatically determine and/or track one or more states (e.g., table state(s), game state(s), wagering state(s), etc.) relating to operations and/or activities occurring at a gaming table. For example, in at least one embodiment, the Table Game State Tracking Procedure may be operable to facilitate monitoring of game play, wagering, and/or other activities at a gaming table, and/or may be operable to facilitate automatic identification of key conditions and/or events which may trigger a transition of one or more states at the gaming table.

According to specific embodiments, multiple instances or threads of the Table Game State Tracking Procedure may be concurrently implemented for tracking various types of state changes which may occur at one or more gaming tables. For example, in one embodiment, multiple instances or threads of the Table Game State Tracking Procedure may be concurrently implemented for tracking various types of state changes at various levels such as, for example, one or more of the following (or combinations thereof): table level, individual the player level, dealer level; etc. In one embodiment, separate instances of the Table Game State Tracking Procedure may be concurrently initiated for tracking table game state information relating to each respective, active player at the gaming table. In some embodiments, a single instance of the Table Game State Tracking Procedure may be operable to track table game state information relating to all (or selected) states which may occur at (and/or may be associated with) the gaming table. In one embodiment, this may include, for example, tracking table game state information relating to multiple players at the gaming table.

As shown at 1002 of FIG. 10, initial configuration of a given instance of the Table Game States Tracking Procedure may be performed using one or more initialization parameters. In at least one embodiment, at least a portion of the initialization parameters may be stored in local memory of the gaming table system. In some embodiments, other portions of the initialization parameters may be stored in memory of remote systems. Examples of different initialization parameters may include, but are not limited to, one or more of the following (or combinations thereof):

    • game rule criteria (e.g., game rules corresponding to one or more games which may be played at the gaming table);
    • game type criteria (e.g., type of game currently being played at the gaming table);
    • min/max wager limit criteria;
    • paytable criteria (e.g., paytable information relating to current game being played at gaming table);
    • state change triggering criteria (e.g., criteria relating to events and/or conditions which may trigger a state change at the gaming table);
    • filtering criteria (e.g., criteria which may be used to filter information tracked and/or processed by the Table Game State Tracking Procedure);
    • etc.

In at least one embodiment the filtering criteria may be used to configure the Table Game States Tracking Procedure to track only selected types of state changes which satisfies specified filter criteria. For example different embodiments of the Table Game States Tracking Procedure may be operable to generate and/or track game state information relating to one or more of the following (or combinations thereof): a specified player, a specified group of players, a specified game theme, one or more specified types of state information (e.g., table state(s), game state(s), wagering state(s), etc.), etc.

As shown at 1004, at least one event and/or condition may be detected for initiating a game state tracking session at the gaming table. In at least one embodiment, such event(s) and/or condition(s) may include one or more different types of key events/conditions as previously described herein. Further, in at least one embodiment, the types of events/conditions which may trigger initiation of a game state tracking session may depend upon the type of game(s) being played at the gaming table. For example, in one embodiment one instance of a game state tracking session for a table game may be automatically initiated upon the detection of a start of a new game at the gaming table.

As shown at 1006, a current state of game play at the gaming table may be automatically determined or identified. In at least one embodiment, the start of the game state tracking session may be automatically delayed until the current state of game play at the gaming table has been determined or identified.

At 1008, a determination may be made as to whether one or more events/conditions have been detected for triggering a change of state (e.g., change of game state) at the gaming table. In at least one embodiment, such event(s) and/or condition(s) may include one or more different types of key events/conditions as previously described herein. Additionally, in at least some embodiments, such event(s) and/or condition(s) may include one or more different types of gestures (e.g., verbal instructions, physical gestures such as hand motions, etc.) and/or other actions performed by the dealer and/or by player(s) at the gaming table. In at least one embodiment, such gestures may be detected, for example, by one or more audio detection mechanisms (e.g., at the gaming table system and/or player PPDs) and/or by one or more motion detection mechanisms (e.g., at the gaming table system and/or player PPDs) described herein.

Further, in at least one embodiment, the types of events/conditions which may be detected for triggering a change of game state at the gaming table may be filtered or limited only to selected types of events/conditions which satisfy specified filter criteria. For example, in one embodiment, filter criteria may specify that only events/conditions are to be considered which affect the state of game play from the perspective of a given player at the gaming table.

In at least one embodiment, if a suitable event/condition has been detected for triggering a change of game state at the gaming table, notification of the game state change event/condition (and/or corresponding game state change) may be posted (1010) to one or more other components/devices/systems in the gaming network. For example, in one embodiment, if a suitable event/condition has been detected for triggering a change of game state at the gaming table, notification of the game state change event may be provided to the master table controller 412 (and/or other entities), which may then take appropriate action in response to the game state change event.

In at least one embodiment, such appropriate action may include storing (1014) the game state change information and/or other desired information (e.g., game play information, game history information, timestamp information, wager information, etc.) in memory, in order, for example, to allow such information to be subsequently accessed and/or reviewed for audit purposes. In at least one embodiment, the storing of the game state change information and/or other desired information may be performed by entities and/or processes other than the Table Game State Tracking Procedure.

At 1014, a determination may be made as to whether one or more events/conditions have been detected for triggering an end of an active game state tracking session at the gaming table. In at least one embodiment, such event(s) and/or condition(s) may include one or more different types of key events/conditions as previously described herein. Additionally, in at least some embodiments, such event(s) and/or condition(s) may include one or more different types of gestures (e.g., verbal instructions, physical gestures such as hand motions, etc.) and/or other actions performed by the dealer and/or by player(s) at the gaming table. In at least one embodiment, such gestures may be detected, for example, by one or more audio detection mechanisms (e.g., at the gaming table system and/or player PPDs) and/or by one or more motion detection mechanisms (e.g., at the gaming table system and/or player PPDs) described herein.

Further, in at least one embodiment, the types of events/conditions which may be detected for triggering an end of a game state tracking session may be filtered or limited only to selected types of events/conditions which satisfy specified filter criteria.

In at least one embodiment, if a suitable event/condition has been detected for triggering an end of a game state tracking session at the gaming table, appropriate action may be taken to end and/or close the game state tracking session. Additionally, in at least one embodiment, notification of the end of the game state tracking session may be posted (1010) to one or more other components/devices/systems in the gaming network, which may then take appropriate action in response to the event notification.

In at least one embodiment, if a suitable event/condition has not been detected for triggering an end of a game state tracking session at the gaming table, the Table Game State Tracking Procedure may continue to monitor activities at (or relating to) the gaming table.

It will be appreciated that one of the advantages of the table game state tracking techniques described herein is the ability to detect and/or track table game state changes which may be caused or triggered by conditions/events that can not typically be detected by conventional automated game state tracking mechanisms. For example, most conventional automated table game state tracking mechanisms do not have the capability of automatically recognizing or detecting table game state changes which are triggered by events such as, for example: events relating to a player's physical gestures; events relating to a dealer's physical gestures; events relating to a player's verbal commands/gestures; events relating to a dealer's verbal commands/gestures; events relating to wagering activity which occurs outside of officially designated wagering zones at the gaming table; etc.

However, various embodiments of the table game state tracking techniques described herein provide the ability to automatically detect and/or track table game state changes which may be caused or triggered by conditions/events that can not typically be detected by conventional automated game state tracking mechanisms. For example, various embodiments of the table game state tracking techniques described herein provide the ability to automatically recognizing or detecting table game state changes which are triggered by events such as, for example, one or more of the following (or combinations thereof): events relating to a player's physical gestures; events relating to a dealer's physical gestures; events relating to a player's verbal commands/gestures; events relating to a dealer's verbal commands/gestures; events relating to wagering activity which occurs outside of officially designated wagering zones at the gaming table; etc.

For example, in at least one embodiment, various motion detection and/or gesture recognition mechanisms of a gaming table system may be operable to automatically detect and/or track table game state changes which may be caused or triggered by events relating to a player's/dealer's physical and/or verbal gestures (such as, for example, a player's “hit me” or “stand” gestures in a game of blackjack). Additionally, in at least one embodiment, various motion detection and/or gesture recognition mechanisms of a gaming table system may be operable to automatically detect and/or track table game state changes which may be caused or triggered by events relating to events relating to wagering activity which occurs outside of officially designated wagering zones at the gaming table (such as, for example, a player in a game of blackjack who chooses to double down on a hand by placing additional wagering tokens outside of the player's designated wagering zone).

Other System Embodiments

FIG. 9 shows a block diagram illustrating components of a gaming system 900 which may be used for implementing various aspects of example embodiments. In FIG. 9, the components of a gaming system 900 for providing game software licensing and downloads are described functionally. The described functions may be instantiated in hardware, firmware and/or software and executed on a suitable device. In the system 900, there may be many instances of the same function, such as multiple game play interfaces 911. Nevertheless, in FIG. 9, only one instance of each function is shown. The functions of the components may be combined. For example, a single device may comprise the game play interface 911 and include trusted memory devices or sources 909.

The gaming system 900 may receive inputs from different groups/entities and output various services and or information to these groups/entities. For example, game players 925 primarily input cash or indicia of credit into the system, make game selections that trigger software downloads, and receive entertainment in exchange for their inputs. Game software content providers provide game software for the system and may receive compensation for the content they provide based on licensing agreements with the gaming machine operators. Gaming machine operators select game software for distribution, distribute the game software on the gaming devices in the system 900, receive revenue for the use of their software and compensate the gaming machine operators. The gaming regulators 930 may provide rules and regulations that must be applied to the gaming system and may receive reports and other information confirming that rules are being obeyed.

In the following paragraphs, details of each component and some of the interactions between the components are described with respect to FIG. 9. The game software license host 901 may be a server connected to a number of remote gaming devices that provides licensing services to the remote gaming devices. For example, in other embodiments, the license host 901 may 1) receive token requests for tokens used to activate software executed on the remote gaming devices, 2) send tokens to the remote gaming devices, 3) track token usage and 4) grant and/or renew software licenses for software executed on the remote gaming devices. The token usage may be used in utility based licensing schemes, such as a pay-per-use scheme.

In another embodiment, a game usage-tracking host 915 may track the usage of game software on a plurality of devices in communication with the host. The game usage-tracking host 915 may be in communication with a plurality of game play hosts and gaming machines. From the game play hosts and gaming machines, the game usage tracking host 915 may receive updates of an amount that each game available for play on the devices has been played and on amount that has been wagered per game. This information may be stored in a database and used for billing according to methods described in a utility based licensing agreement.

The game software host 902 may provide game software downloads, such as downloads of game software or game firmware, to various devious in the game system 900. For example, when the software to generate the game is not available on the game play interface 911, the game software host 902 may download software to generate a selected game of chance played on the game play interface. Further, the game software host 902 may download new game content to a plurality of gaming machines via a request from a gaming machine operator.

In one embodiment, the game software host 902 may also be a game software configuration-tracking host 913. The function of the game software configuration-tracking host is to keep records of software configurations and/or hardware configurations for a plurality of devices in communication with the host (e.g., denominations, number of paylines, paytables, max/min bets). Details of a game software host and a game software configuration host that may be used with example embodiments are described in co-pending U.S. Pat. No. 6,645,077, by Rowe, entitled, “Gaming Terminal Data Repository and Information System,” filed Dec. 21, 2000, which is incorporated herein in its entirety and for all purposes.

A game play host device 903 may be a host server connected to a plurality of remote clients that generates games of chance that are displayed on a plurality of remote game play interfaces 911. For example, the game play host device 903 may be a server that provides central determination for a bingo game play played on a plurality of connected game play interfaces 911. As another example, the game play host device 903 may generate games of chance, such as slot games or video card games, for display on a remote client. A game player using the remote client may be able to select from a number of games that are provided on the client by the host device 903. The game play host device 903 may receive game software management services, such as receiving downloads of new game software, from the game software host 902 and may receive game software licensing services, such as the granting or renewing of software licenses for software executed on the device 903, from the game license host 901.

In particular embodiments, the game play interfaces or other gaming devices in the gaming system 900 may be portable devices, such as electronic tokens, cell phones, smart cards, tablet PC's and PDA'S. The portable devices may support wireless communications and thus, may be referred to as wireless mobile devices. The network hardware architecture 916 may be enabled to support communications between wireless mobile devices and other gaming devices in gaming system. In one embodiment, the wireless mobile devices may be used to play games of chance.

The gaming system 900 may use a number of trusted information sources. Trusted information sources 904 may be devices, such as servers, that provide information used to authenticate/activate other pieces of information. CRC values used to authenticate software, license tokens used to allow the use of software or product activation codes used to activate to software are examples of trusted information that might be provided from a trusted information source 904. Trusted information sources may be a memory device, such as an EPROM, that includes trusted information used to authenticate other information. For example, a game play interface 911 may store a private encryption key in a trusted memory device that is used in a private key-public key encryption scheme to authenticate information from another gaming device.

When a trusted information source 904 is in communication with a remote device via a network, the remote device will employ a verification scheme to verify the identity of the trusted information source. For example, the trusted information source and the remote device may exchange information using public and private encryption keys to verify each other's identities. In another example of an embodiment, the remote device and the trusted information source may engage in methods using zero knowledge proofs to authenticate each of their respective identities. Details of zero knowledge proofs that may be used with example embodiments are described in US publication no. 2003/0203756, by Jackson, filed on Apr. 25, 2002 and entitled, “Authentication in a Secure Computerized Gaming System, which is incorporated herein in its entirety and for all purposes.

Gaming devices storing trusted information might utilize apparatus or methods to detect and prevent tampering. For instance, trusted information stored in a trusted memory device may be encrypted to prevent its misuse. In addition, the trusted memory device may be secured behind a locked door. Further, one or more sensors may be coupled to the memory device to detect tampering with the memory device and provide some record of the tampering. In yet another example, the memory device storing trusted information might be designed to detect tampering attempts and clear or erase itself when an attempt at tampering has been detected.

The gaming system 900 of example embodiments may include devices 906 that provide authorization to download software from a first device to a second device and devices 907 that provide activation codes or information that allow downloaded software to be activated. The devices, 906 and 907, may be remote servers and may also be trusted information sources. One example of a method of providing product activation codes that may be used with example embodiments is describes in previously incorporated U.S. Pat. No. 6,264,561.

A device 906 that monitors a plurality of gaming devices to determine adherence of the devices to gaming jurisdictional rules 908 may be included in the system 900. In one embodiment, a gaming jurisdictional rule server may scan software and the configurations of the software on a number of gaming devices in communication with the gaming rule server to determine whether the software on the gaming devices is valid for use in the gaming jurisdiction where the gaming device is located. For example, the gaming rule server may request a digital signature, such as CRC's, of particular software components and compare them with an approved digital signature value stored on the gaming jurisdictional rule server.

Further, the gaming jurisdictional rule server may scan the remote gaming device to determine whether the software is configured in a manner that is acceptable to the gaming jurisdiction where the gaming device is located. For example, a maximum bet limit may vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and the rule enforcement server may scan a gaming device to determine its current software configuration and its location and then compare the configuration on the gaming device with approved parameters for its location.

A gaming jurisdiction may include rules that describe how game software may be downloaded and licensed. The gaming jurisdictional rule server may scan download transaction records and licensing records on a gaming device to determine whether the download and licensing was carried out in a manner that is acceptable to the gaming jurisdiction in which the gaming device is located. In general, the game jurisdictional rule server may be utilized to confirm compliance to any gaming rules passed by a gaming jurisdiction when the information needed to determine rule compliance is remotely accessible to the server.

Game software, firmware or hardware residing a particular gaming device may also be used to check for compliance with local gaming jurisdictional rules. In one embodiment, when a gaming device is installed in a particular gaming jurisdiction, a software program including jurisdiction rule information may be downloaded to a secure memory location on a gaming machine or the jurisdiction rule information may be downloaded as data and utilized by a program on the gaming machine. The software program and/or jurisdiction rule information may used to check the gaming device software and software configurations for compliance with local gaming jurisdictional rules. In another embodiment, the software program for ensuring compliance and jurisdictional information may be installed in the gaming machine prior to its shipping, such as at the factory where the gaming machine is manufactured.

The gaming devices in game system 900 may utilize trusted software and/or trusted firmware. Trusted firmware/software is trusted in the sense that is used with the assumption that it has not been tampered with. For instance, trusted software/firmware may be used to authenticate other game software or processes executing on a gaming device. As an example, trusted encryption programs and authentication programs may be stored on an EPROM on the gaming machine or encoded into a specialized encryption chip. As another example, trusted game software, i.e., game software approved for use on gaming devices by a local gaming jurisdiction may be required on gaming devices on the gaming machine.

In example embodiments, the devices may be connected by a network 916 with different types of hardware using different hardware architectures. Game software can be quite large and frequent downloads can place a significant burden on a network, which may slow information transfer speeds on the network. For game-on-demand services that require frequent downloads of game software in a network, efficient downloading is essential for the service to viable. Thus, in example embodiments, network efficient devices 910 may be used to actively monitor and maintain network efficiency. For instance, software locators may be used to locate nearby locations of game software for peer-to-peer transfers of game software. In another example, network traffic may be monitored and downloads may be actively rerouted to maintain network efficiency.

One or more devices in example embodiments may provide game software and game licensing related auditing, billing and reconciliation reports to server 912. For example, a software licensing billing server may generate a bill for a gaming device operator based upon a usage of games over a time period on the gaming devices owned by the operator. In another example, a software auditing server may provide reports on game software downloads to various gaming devices in the gaming system 900 and current configurations of the game software on these gaming devices.

At particular time intervals, the software auditing server 912 may also request software configurations from a number of gaming devices in the gaming system. The server may then reconcile the software configuration on each gaming device. In one embodiment, the software auditing server 912 may store a record of software configurations on each gaming device at particular times and a record of software download transactions that have occurred on the device. By applying each of the recorded game software download transactions since a selected time to the software configuration recorded at the selected time, a software configuration is obtained. The software auditing server may compare the software configuration derived from applying these transactions on a gaming device with a current software configuration obtained from the gaming device. After the comparison, the software-auditing server may generate a reconciliation report that confirms that the download transaction records are consistent with the current software configuration on the device. The report may also identify any inconsistencies. In another embodiment, both the gaming device and the software auditing server may store a record of the download transactions that have occurred on the gaming device and the software auditing server may reconcile these records.

There are many possible interactions between the components described with respect to FIG. 9. Many of the interactions are coupled. For example, methods used for game licensing may affect methods used for game downloading and vice versa. For the purposes of explanation, details of a few possible interactions between the components of the system 900 relating to software licensing and software downloads have been described. The descriptions are selected to illustrate particular interactions in the game system 900. These descriptions are provided for the purposes of explanation only and are not intended to limit the scope of example embodiments described herein.

Techniques and mechanisms of the present invention will sometimes be described in singular form for clarity. However, it should be noted that particular embodiments include multiple iterations of a technique or multiple instantiations of a mechanism unless noted otherwise.

Additional details relating to various aspects of gaming technology are described in one or more of the following references:

U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/987,276, (Attorney Docket No. IGT1P534P2/P-1308APROV2), by Wells et al., entitled “INTELLIGENT STAND ALONE MULTIPLAYER GAMING TABLE WITH ELECTRONIC DISPLAY,” filed on Nov. 12, 2007, the entirety of which is incorporated herein by reference for all purposes;

U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/938,179, (Attorney Docket No. IGT1P459/P-1288), by Wells et al., entitled “TRANSPARENT CARD DISPLAY,” filed on Nov. 9, 2007, the entirety of which is incorporated herein by reference for all purposes;

U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/865,581 (Attorney Docket No. IGT1P424/P-1245), by Mattice et al., entitled “MULTI-USER INPUT SYSTEMS AND PROCESSING TECHNIQUES FOR SERVING MULTIPLE USERS,” filed on Oct. 1, 2007, the entirety of which is incorporated herein by reference for all purposes;

U.S. Pat. No. 5,651,548, by French et al., entitled “GAMING CHIPS WITH ELECTRONIC CIRCUITS SCANNED BY ANTENNAS IN GAMING CHIP PLACEMENT AREAS FOR TRACKING THE MOVEMENT OF GAMING CHIPS WITHIN A CASINO APPARATUS AND METHOD”, filed May 19, 1995, the entirety of which is incorporated herein by reference for all purposes.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,735,742, by French et al., entitled “GAMING TABLE TRACKING SYSTEM AND METHOD”, filed Sep. 20, 1995, the entirety of which is incorporated herein by reference for all purposes.

U.S. Patent/Publication Number US20060252554A1, entitled GAMING OBJECT POSITION ANALYSIS AND TRACKING, filed Mar., 21 2006, by Gururajan, et al., herein incorporated by reference in its entirety for all purposes;

U.S. Patent/Publication Number US20050272501A1, entitled AUTOMATED GAME MONITORING, filed Feb., 8 2005, by Tran, et al., herein incorporated by reference in its entirety for all purposes;

U.S. Pat. No. 7,058,204B2, entitled MULTIPLE CAMERA CONTROL SYSTEM, filed Sep., 26 2001, by Hildreth, et al., herein incorporated by reference in its entirety for all purposes;

U.S. Pat. No. 5,534,917A, entitled VIDEO IMAGE BASED CONTROL SYSTEM, filed May, 9 1991, by MacDougall, herein incorporated by reference in its entirety for all purposes;

U.S. Patent/Publication Number US20060252521A1, entitled TABLE GAME TRACKING, filed Mar., 21 2006, by Gururajan, et al., herein incorporated by reference in its entirety for all purposes;

U.S. Patent/Publication Number US2004876620A, entitled APPARATUS AND METHOD FOR A CARD DISPENSING SYSTEM, filed Jun., 28 2004, by Gururajan, herein incorporated by reference in its entirety for all purposes;

U.S. Patent/Publication Number US2004876620A, entitled APPARATUS AND METHOD FOR A CARD DISPENSING SYSTEM, filed Jun., 28 2004, by Gururajan, herein incorporated by reference in its entirety for all purposes;

U.S. Patent/Publication Number US20050026680A1, entitled SYSTEM, APPARATUS AND METHOD FOR AUTOMATICALLY TRACKING A TABLE GAME, filed Jun., 28 2004, by Gururajan, herein incorporated by reference in its entirety for all purposes;

U.S. Patent/Publication Number US20020034978A1, entitled ACTIVITY MANAGEMENT SYSTEM, filed Oct., 9 2001, by Legge, et al., herein incorporated by reference in its entirety for all purposes; and

U.S. application Ser. No. 11/595,798, filed on Nov. 10, 2006 (Attorney docket. No. IGT1P337/P-1121A), naming Little, et al. as inventors, and titled, “REMOTE CONTENT MANAGEMENT AND RESOURCE SHARING ON A GAMING MACHINE AND METHOD OF IMPLEMENTING SAME,” which is incorporated herein by reference and for all purposes.

U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/040,239, entitled, “GAME DEVELOPMENT ARCHITECTURE THAT DECOUPLES THE GAME LOGIC FROM THE GRAPHICS LOGIC,” published on Apr. 24, 2003 as U.S. Patent Publication No. 20030078103, which is incorporated herein by reference and for all purposes;

U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/425,998 (Attorney Docket No. IGT1P238/P-1049), entitled “PROGRESSIVE TABLE GAME BONUSING SYSTEMS AND METHODS,” by Nguyen et al, which is incorporated herein by reference and for all purposes; and

U.S. Patent/Publication Number US20060287068A1, entitled PROBLEM GAMBLING DETECTION IN TABLETOP GAMES, filed Jun. 6, 2006, by Walker, et al., herein incorporated by reference in its entirety for all purposes.

This application incorporates by reference for all purposes U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/214,936 (Attorney Docket No. IGT1P061X1/P-573CIP), entitled “FLEXIBLE LOYALTY POINTS PROGRAMS” by Kaminkow et al., filed on Aug. 6, 2002.

This application incorporates by reference for all purposes U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/927,742 (Attorney Docket No. IGT1P061/P-573) entitled “FLEXIBLE LOYALTY POINTS PROGRAMS,” filed Aug. 10, 2001.

This application incorporates by reference for all purposes U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/170,278 (Attorney Docket No. IGT1P082/P-713), entitled “PLAYER TRACKING ASSEMBLY FOR COMPLETE PATRON TRACKING FOR BOTH GAMING AND NON-GAMING CASINO ACTIVITY” by Timothy Moser, filed on Jun. 12, 2002.

This application incorporates by reference for all purposes U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/825,477 (Attorney Docket No. IGT1P090X2/P-795CIP2), by Mattice, et al., entitled “CONTROL OF WAGER-BASED GAME USING GESTURE RECOGNITION,” filed concurrently herewith, the entirety of which is incorporated herein by reference for all purposes.

This application incorporates by reference for all purposes U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/515,183, (Attorney Docket No. IGT1P266B/P-1085B), by Nguyen et al., entitled “INTELLIGENT WIRELESS MOBILE DEVICE FOR USE WITH CASINO GAMING TABLE SYSTEMS”, filed on Sep. 1, 2006.

Although several preferred embodiments of this invention have been described in detail herein with reference to the accompanying drawings, it is to be understood that the invention is not limited to these precise embodiments, and that various changes and modifications may be effected therein by one skilled in the art without departing from the scope of spirit of the invention as defined in the appended claims.

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Classifications
U.S. Classification463/22
International ClassificationA63F9/24
Cooperative ClassificationG07F17/3239, G07F17/3209, G07F17/3251, G07F17/3237, G07F17/32, G07F17/322, G07F17/3232
European ClassificationG07F17/32, G07F17/32C4D, G07F17/32E6D, G07F17/32E6D2, G07F17/32E6, G07F17/32K6, G07F17/32C2D
Legal Events
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Oct 22, 2008ASAssignment
Owner name: IGT, NEVADA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:HARRIS, ROGER WILLIAM;MATTICE, HAROLD E.;NGUYEN, BINH T.;AND OTHERS;REEL/FRAME:021715/0190;SIGNING DATES FROM 20080930 TO 20081017