US20080111300A1 - Casino card shoes, systems, and methods for a no peek feature - Google Patents

Casino card shoes, systems, and methods for a no peek feature Download PDF

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Publication number
US20080111300A1
US20080111300A1 US11558823 US55882306A US20080111300A1 US 20080111300 A1 US20080111300 A1 US 20080111300A1 US 11558823 US11558823 US 11558823 US 55882306 A US55882306 A US 55882306A US 20080111300 A1 US20080111300 A1 US 20080111300A1
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Prior art keywords
card
dealer
value
hand
shoe
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Abandoned
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US11558823
Inventor
Zbigniew Czyzewski
Nancy R. Snow
Richard A. Radcliffe
David Pokorny
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Bally Gaming Inc
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SHFL Enterteiment Inc
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    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63FCARD, BOARD, OR ROULETTE GAMES; INDOOR GAMES USING SMALL MOVING PLAYING BODIES; VIDEO GAMES; GAMES NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • A63F1/00Card games
    • A63F1/06Card games appurtenances
    • A63F1/14Card dealers

Abstract

Card shoes, systems and methods for determining a dealer's hand status are disclosed. An image of a last dispensed card captured by an image sensor in a card shoe is analyzed. A value of the card is determined by evaluating the image. A dealer's hand status is indicated on a notification element. In another method, the beginning of a round and a number of cards dealt is determined. A dealer's hand value is determined by determining a value of the last card dealt in the round and a value of a first dealer card dealt in the hand. Determining card values is performed by analyzing an image of the cards captured by an image sensor in a card shoe. Finally, the method includes notification of the dealer's hand status.

Description

    CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
  • The present application is related to concurrently filed applications: “CASINO TABLE GAME MONITORING SYSTEM” bearing the attorney docket number PA1712.ap.US, “METHOD AND APPARATUS PROVIDING GAMING TABLE WITH RFID ANTENNAS AND SHIELDING” bearing the attorney docket number PA1700.ap.US, and “METHODS AND APPARATUSES FOR AN AUTOMATIC CARD HANDLING DEVICE AND COMMUNICATION NETWORKS INCLUDING SAME” bearing the attorney docket number PA1701.ap.US, the contents of which are incorporated by reference in their entirety herein.
  • FIELD OF THE INVENTION
  • Embodiments of the present invention relate generally to the field of gaming and the filed of casino table card gaming. More particularly, embodiments of the invention relate to the use of equipment for the delivery of playing cards.
  • BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
  • Cards are ordinarily provided to players in casino card games either directly from a deck held in a dealer's hands or with cards removed by the dealer from a dealing shoe or dealing rack. The original dealing racks were little more than trays that supported the deck(s) of cards and allowed the dealer to remove the front card (with the card front facing the table to hide the rank and suit of the card) and deliver it to a player. Over the years, both stylistic and functional changes have been made to dealing shoes, which have been used for blackjack, poker, baccarat and other casino table card games.
  • In the card game of Blackjack, there is a special event when players are offered the option to purchase “insurance.” This insurance is a separate wager that can protect the player from losing when the dealer is dealt a “21.” At the beginning of the game, players and the dealer are dealt two cards. One of the dealer's two cards is face up and is known as the “up card.” The second card is face down and is known as the “hidden” or “hole” card. Players have the advantage of knowing their two cards and the dealer's up card. A skilled player uses the odds to decide whether to “hit” or “stand” based on the knowledge of card information. In games that offer the insurance option, if the up card of the dealer is an “Ace,” the players are offered an opportunity to place an “insurance” wager, which has a limit that is based on the amount of the initial wager. The purpose of the insurance bet is to allow players to “protect” their initial wager when the dealer's up card is an ‘Ace’, (the dealer's chance of having a Blackjack when his up card is an ‘Ace’ is much higher than if the face card is a ten or has a value of ten). After players respond to the offer of placing the insurance bet, the dealer “peeks” at his hole card to find out if he indeed has a Blackjack. In the case of the dealer's up card being a value of 10 (such as a 10, ‘Jack’, ‘Queen’ or ‘King’), the dealer may also peek at his hole card; however, players are not given the opportunity to place an insurance bet.
  • During the process of “peeking” at the hole card, a dealer can inadvertently, but easily, reveal his hole card to players or anyone else who may be near the table. Knowing the hole card value (assuming that the dealer does not have an automatic winning Blackjack hand) prior to the end of the game would give a player a significant advantage, and is considered cheating. Therefore, it is important to ensure that players are not able to determine the value of the hole card prior to the final game outcome.
  • Currently, many casinos use a stand-alone electronic-optical device to detect the hole card value without revealing the card to the dealer or the player. This device is commonly referred to as a “no-peek device.” However, current no-peek devices are configured as an additional electronic hardware element at the table.
  • There is a need for an apparatuses and methods for enabling the dealer to determine a blackjack status of the dealer's hand without requiring the use of a conventional no-peek device.
  • BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • The present invention, in various embodiments, comprises methods, devices, and systems configured for enabling the dealer to determine a blackjack status of the dealer's hand without requiring conventional no-peek devices. The methods and systems include stand-alone card shoes configured for enabling the dealer to determine a blackjack status and card shoes as part of a monitoring system enabling the dealer to determine a blackjack status.
  • An embodiment of the invention comprises a card dispensing apparatus including a card shoe, an image sensor, and a notification element. The card shoe is configured for dispensing cards one at a time from at least one deck of cards disposed in the card shoe. Typically, the shoe may hold up to eight decks of cards. The image sensor is operably associated with the card shoe and is configured for recognizing at least a rank of each card that is dispensed from the card shoe. Optionally a requesting element is also provided. In the absence of the requesting element, notification of a dealer blackjack is automatic. The requesting element, when present, is operably associated with the card shoe and configured for a dealer to activate when an indication of a dealer's hand status is desired. Finally, the notification element is operably associated the card shoe and configured for revealing the dealer's hand status when the requesting element is activated.
  • Another embodiment of the invention comprises a card dispensing system including a card shoe and a table manager. The card shoe is configured for dispensing cards one at a time from at least one deck of cards disposed in the card shoe. The card shoe includes an image sensor, a first communication module, and a notification element. The image sensor is operably associated with the card shoe and is configured for recognizing a rank of each card that is dispensed from the card shoe. The first communication module is configured for transmitting information about the rank of each card and for receiving a hand notification. The notification element is operably associated with the card shoe and is configured for revealing an actionable event in response to receiving the hand notification. The table manager is configured to receive the information about the rank of each card, determine, from the information about the rank of each card, a first dealer-card rank and a second dealer-card rank, and transmit the hand notification to the card shoe if a combination of the first dealer-card rank and the second dealer-card rank comprises a blackjack. A requesting element is optionally provided to provide dealer hand information on demand.
  • Yet another embodiment of the invention comprises a method for determining a dealer's hand status. The method includes analyzing an image of at least a portion of a last dispensed card captured by an image sensor in a card shoe. The method also includes determing a value of the last dispensed card by evaluating the image. In addition, the method includes notifying the dealer of the dealer's hand status when the requesting element is activated by indicating a value of the last dispensed card. Optionally, the method includes requesting a dealer's hand status by actuating a requesting element associated with the system.
  • Yet another embodiment of the invention comprises another method for determining a dealer's hand status. The method includes determining a beginnning of a hand of blackjack and determining a number of hands dealt in a round. The method also includes determining a dealer's hand value by determining a value of the last card dealt in the hand and determining a value of a first dealer card in the hand. An algorithm is applied to determine the identity of the first dealer card. Determining values of the cards is performed by analyzing an image of at least a portion of the card captured by an image sensor in a card shoe. The middle card is determined to be the card that is one-half of the number of cards dealt. In addition, the method includes notifying the dealer of the dealer's hand status resulting from the dealer's hand value.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • In the drawings:
  • FIG. 1 is a flow diagram of a method of playing blackjack;
  • FIG. 2 illustrates a layout of a blackjack table;
  • FIG. 3 is a perspective view of a card shoe in accordance with an embodiment of the invention;
  • FIG. 4 is a block diagram showing electronic elements of an embodiment of a card shoe;
  • FIG. 5 is a flow diagram of a method of determining a blackjack status of the dealer's hand in accordance with an embodiment of the invention;
  • FIG. 6 is a block diagram of an integrated monitoring system used to monitor gaming at a blackjack table in accordance with an embodiment of the invention;
  • FIG. 7 illustrates a layout of a blackjack table and possible placement of elements of an integrated monitoring system used to monitor gaming at a blackjack table in accordance with an embodiment of the invention; and
  • FIG. 8 is a flow diagram of another method of determining a blackjack status of the dealer's hand in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
  • The present invention comprises methods, devices, and systems configured for enabling the dealer to determine a blackjack status of the dealer's hand without requiring conventional no-peek devices. The methods and systems include stand-alone card shoes configured for enabling the dealer to determine a blackjack status and card shoes as part of a monitoring system enabling the dealer to determine a blackjack status
  • The following provides a more detailed description of the present invention and various representative embodiments thereof. In this description, circuits and functions may be shown in block diagram form in order not to obscure the present invention in unnecessary detail. Conversely, specific implementations shown and described are exemplary only and should not be construed as the only way to implement the present invention unless specified otherwise herein. Additionally, block definitions and partitioning of functions between various blocks is exemplary of a specific implementation. It will be readily apparent to one of ordinary skill in the art that the present invention may be practiced by numerous other partitioning solutions.
  • Further, the term “module” is used herein in a non-limiting sense and solely to indicate functionality of particular circuits and assemblies included within embodiments of the invention, and may not be construed as requiring a particular physical structure, or particular partitioning between elements of the invention performing indicated functions.
  • In this description, some drawings may illustrate signals as a single signal for clarity of presentation and description. It will be understood by a person of ordinary skill in the art that the signal may represent a bus of signals, wherein the bus may have a variety of bit widths and the present invention may be implemented on any number of data signals including a single data signal.
  • Software processes illustrated herein are intended to illustrate representative processes that may be performed by the systems illustrated herein. Unless specified otherwise, the order in which the processes are described is not intended to be construed as a limitation. Furthermore, the processes may be implemented in any suitable hardware, software, firmware, or combinations thereof.
  • When executed as firmware or software, the instructions for performing the processes may be stored on a computer readable medium. A computer readable medium includes, but is not limited to, magnetic and optical storage devices such as disk drives, magnetic tape, CDs (compact disks), DVDs (digital versatile discs or digital video discs), and semiconductor devices such as RAM, DRAM, ROM, EPROM, and Flash memory.
  • FIG. 1 is a flow diagram of a typical method of playing blackjack. Of course, rules may vary between casinos and FIG. 1 is used to illustrate an example method of playing in which embodiments of the invention may be used. The object of blackjack is to obtain a card hand with a rank numerical value of twenty-one. All face cards (i.e., kings, queens and jacks) have a rank value of ten. Aces can have a value of one or eleven, depending on the value needed by the player/dealer (as dictated by the other cards in the hand). The remaining cards retain their rank values (i.e., a 2 has a value of two, 3 has a value of three, etc.). The card suits do not matter in blackjack.
  • To start, the players place an initial wager 110. After the wagers are placed, the dealer deals two cards to each player and the dealer 125. All cards are dealt face down except for one of the dealer's card. The dealer's hand includes one card dealt face up (the “up card”) and the second card dealt face down (the “hole” card). The object of the game is to beat the dealer's hand with a hand having a value of twenty-one, or as close to twenty-one as possible.
  • As stated earlier, in blackjack there is a special event when players are offered an option to purchase “insurance.” Insurance is a separate wager designed to protect the player from losing the initial wager when the dealer is dealt a twenty-one (i.e., blackjack). If the dealer's up card is an Ace 130, the dealer may have a blackjack. Decision block 130 is the test of the dealer observing the up card to see if it is an Ace. If the dealer's up card is an Ace, in operation block 135 the dealer offers the players an opportunity to place insurance bets and, if they want, the players place the insurance bets.
  • At operation block 140, the dealer determines the value of the hole card. As stated earlier, in conventional games the dealer may peek at the card or use a stand-alone electronic-optical device to detect the rank of the hole card. As will be explained more fully below, embodiments of the present invention use new apparatuses and methods to determine, among other things, the value of the hole card.
  • If the hole card value is a ten, as illustrated by decision block 145, operation block 150 indicates that the dealer has blackjack, so the round ends. The dealer pays on any insurance bets 155, collects the initial bets of all the players, and collects all the cards for that hand. If the hole card value is not a ten, operation block 160 indicates that the dealer does not have blackjack, so the dealer collects all the insurance bets and normal play proceeds as indicated by operation block 165.
  • Returning to decision block 130, if the dealer does not have an Ace, the casino rules may be designed such that the dealer still determines whether he has a blackjack before play proceeds. If, for example, the dealer has a ten value card, he can still have a blackjack if the hole card is an Ace. Thus, decision block 170 indicates that the dealer observes the up card to determine if it has a value of ten. If the dealer's up card is not a ten, normal play proceeds as indicated by process block 165. However, if the dealer's up card is a ten, the dealer may have a blackjack so the dealer determines the value of the hole card as illustrated by operation block 180. Thus, as with operation block 140, embodiments of the present invention may be used to determine, among other things, the value of the hole card in operation block 180.
  • If the hole card value is an Ace, as illustrated by decision block 185, operation block 190 indicates that the dealer has blackjack, so the round ends. If the dealer does not have an Ace, normal play proceeds as indicated by process block 165.
  • When normal play proceeds, each player, in turn, may decide to draw additional cards (i.e., a “hit”) to bring their total closer to twenty-one. A skilled player uses the odds to decide whether to “hit” or “stand” (i.e., not receive additional cards) based on the present information about her cards and the dealer's up card. There is no limit to the number of hits a player can take as long as the player's hand total does not exceed twenty-one. A hand total that exceeds twenty-one is known as a bust. Players that bust are out of the game and must reveal all of their cards to indicate to the dealer that they busted. For all practical purposes, taking a fifth hit card is a very rare occurrence and some casinos offer bonus payouts for obtaining a “seven card hand” without busting. The dealer removes the player's cards and the player's wagers are forfeited to the house. At any point during the game, the players may decide not to be dealt any more additional cards and hope that their hand total will exceed the dealer's hand total, or hope that the dealer busts out of the game. After all the players have finished making their game decisions, the dealer reveals the hole card and plays out the dealer's hand. Although it may vary from casino to casino, generally, house rules indicate that the dealer must hit until the dealer's hand reaches at least seventeen, regardless of what the players have.
  • The game of blackjack has other wagering and dealing scenarios as is known in the art. These scenarios include options such as a “double down” wager or “split” of the player's hand. Double down allows the player to double its initial wager at the cost of receiving only one more card from the dealer. Splitting of a hand allows the player to double its wager, but to use each initial card as a first card in what becomes two new hands. Splitting is only available when the initial cards have the same value. House rules may place restrictions on when a player may double down or split.
  • FIG. 2 illustrates a portion of a casino table 200 suitable for playing blackjack. The table 200 includes a card shoe 300 (also referred to as a card dispensing apparatus), a chip rack 210, an insurance wager placement area 220, and a plurality of player wagering positions 230. Players place their initial wagers and any subsequent wagers in the wagering positions 230. When insurance wagers are applicable, players place their insurance wagers in the insurance wager placement area 220 near their specific wagering positions 230.
  • FIG. 3 is a perspective view of a card shoe 300 in accordance with an embodiment of the invention. The card shoe 300 has a generally rectangular shape and has an upper surface that is sloped from the rear 301 to the front 302. The card retaining cavity (not shown) also has a sloping lower surface. The card shoe 300 may be constructed of a rigid plastic or other durable material. Generally, cards are shuffled prior to insertion into the shoe. One or more decks (typically eight decks) of cards may be inserted in bulk from above, and are manually removed one at a time by pressing downwardly on an outer surface of a card through an inverted U-shaped opening 304 in the front end 302.
  • On a near side of the shoe, which generally faces the dealer, is an outwardly protruding control panel 308 that may contain one or more buttons 310, a display 314, and a speaker 318. This control panel 308 is useful for a dealer who would use the equipment to deliver cards to a casino-style card game.
  • The display 314 (also referred to as a notification display) may be any display known by those in the art, such as, for example, a liquid crystal display (LCD) a light emitting diode display (LED) and a plasma display. In addition, the display 314 may be as simple as a single light or LED, or be augmented with one or more LEDs 316. The display 314, LED 316, and speaker 318, alone or in combination, may be referred to as an actionable event indicator and configured to indicate an actionable event, wherein the dealer should perform some action if notified to do so by one of these elements. For example, the actionable event may be that the dealer has a blackjack, the dealer has an Ace as the hole card, the dealer has an Ace up card, the dealer has a ten value up card, or the dealer has a ten as the hole card.
  • Of course, within the scope of the present invention, placement of the buttons 310 and the display 314 may be at many locations on the card shoe 300, or even physically separated from the card shoe 300, while still being able to communicate with the card shoe 300. For some embodiments of the present invention, it may be important to have the display 314 located such that it is readable by the dealer, but not readable by the gaming participants or other unauthorized gaming observers.
  • An upper surface 315 of the shoe may contain additional controls 312. The controls 312 may additionally be backlit to convey additional information to the dealer. The shoe also may include a lid 316, which covers the cards once the cards are placed in the shoe.
  • The card shoe 300 as illustrated in FIG. 3 is a manually operated shoe. However, embodiments of the invention may include a mechanized shoe wherein the cards are delivered to the dealer mechanically. One exemplary mechanized shoe is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 7,029,009, the content of which is incorporated by reference herein. In either case, the card shoe 300 includes at least one image sensor 320. The image sensor 320 may include, for example, a two-dimensional image scanner such as a CCD image sensor or a CMOS image sensor. In addition to, or rather than, a two-dimensional image sensor, the image sensor 320 may include a contact image sensor (CIS) module as a one-dimensional line scanner. While FIG. 3 illustrates a single image sensor 320 in a manually operated shoe, those of ordinary skill in the art will recognize that multiple image sensors 320 may be implemented in both mechanized shoes and manually operated shoes. The sensor signals may be processed by a separate hardware element such as a Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) or an Application Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) using the methodology described in pending U.S. patent publication US 2005/0242500 A1, the content of which is incorporated by reference herein.
  • Multiple image sensors 320 may be useful for redundancy, better overall image fidelity, or simply for advantageous placement of the type of sensor. Various positions within the shoe, may include, but are not limited to, as the cards are withdrawn, before the cards are actually nested in the card delivery area, or when the cards are first nested in the card delivery area. For example, a 2-dimensional sensor may be more practical in a position where it may read the card in a stationary position. On the other hand, the CIS module may be more practical in a position where it reads the card while it is in motion to enable the line scans at various positions along the rank and suit designators on the card.
  • The card shoe 300 may include a card feed limiter (not shown) positioned beneath an upper plate, near the exit end 302 of the shoe. The feed limiter assists in preventing more than one card from exiting the shoe at a time and in bringing the card into close proximity to the CIS module such that the accuracy of the data acquired from the scan is maximized. Since the CIS module typically should be in close proximity with the surface being scanned, the card face must either contact or nearly contact the sensor during scanning. In one example of the invention, the card feed limiter narrows the gap in which cards pass to a thickness of slightly greater than the thickness of one card, but is less than the thickness of two cards. In another form of the invention, the card feed limiter can be adjusted in order to account for different card thicknesses.
  • FIG. 4 is a block diagram showing electronic elements of an embodiment of the card shoe 300 of FIG. 3. The card shoe 300 includes one or more image sensors 320, a controller 350, one or more controls (310, 312), and one or more displays (314, 316). The card shoe 300 may also include a communication element 370 and a speaker 318.
  • The controller 350 is configured to send and receive information to and from the controls (310, 312), displays (314, 316), and speaker 318. The controller 350 may be implemented as a microcontroller including memory for storage of data and firmware/software for execution thereon. The controller 350 may be implemented as a microprocessor with separate memory for storage of the data and firmware/software. In addition, the controller 350 may incorporate an ASIC, FPGA, multiple Programmable Logic Devices (PLD), and combinations thereof. In some embodiments, the communication element 370 may be a stand-alone hardware element. In other embodiments, the communication element 370 may be integrated with the controller 350 and implemented as a combination of hardware and firmware/software.
  • Some embodiments of the card shoe 300 may be stand-alone. What is meant by “stand-alone” for purposes of this disclosure is that the entire system embodied in FIG. 4 is contained within the physical structure of the shoe 300. The controller 350, in a stand-alone version of the invention, may also be configured to receive, store, and process the image data from the image sensors 320 to determine the rank and suit of each card removed from the card shoe 300 as well as the number of cards removed from the card shoe 300.
  • In the stand-alone embodiments, a communication element 370 may not be needed. However, in other embodiments, data from the image sensor 320 may be sent directly from the image sensor 320, through the communication element 370 and onto a communication medium 380 for receipt and processing by an external element (not shown). Furthermore, in different embodiments processing of the image data to determine rank and suit may be partially performed by the image sensor 320, the controller 350, the external element (not shown), or combinations thereof. Operation of the card shoe 300 in its various configurations is explained more fully below.
  • The communication element 370 may be configured for any wired or wireless communication medium 380. By way of example, and not limitation, communication media may include serial data links, parallel data links, Ethernet, a Wide Area Network (WAN), a Local Area Network (LAN), Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, WiMax, and other suitable communications links.
  • As stated earlier, image sensor data may be either two-dimensional or one-dimensional from a CIS module. Embodiments including a CIS line-scanning module may be implemented as explained in U.S. Patent Application Publication 2005/0242500 (the disclosure of which has been incorporated by reference herein).
  • The display 314 may present messages as to the state of the shoe, the state of the game, number of cards dealt, the number of deals left before a cut card or virtual cut card is reached (e.g., the dealing shoe identifies that two decks are present, makes a virtual cut at a predetermined number of cards, and based on data input of the number of players at the table, identifies when the next deal will be the last deal with the cards in the shoe), identify any problems with the shoe (e.g., low power, the occurrence of a card jam, the location of a card jam, misalignment of cards by rollers, and failed element such as a sensor), player hands, card rank/suit dispensed, and the like. The shoe of the present invention to the knowledge of the inventors is the first of its type to present a visual indication of a virtual cut card to the dealer. According to the embodiments of the invention, the casino may input a percentage completion of the shoe, or a specified card number or initiate a random card selection to identify the virtual “cut” card. The display 314 provides a warning when the cut card is about to be dealt. In one embodiment, the display 314 issues a warning to prevent dealing a round that could potentially issue the cut card.
  • The above structures, materials and physical arrangements are exemplary and are not intended to be limiting. Angles and positions in the displayed designs and figures may be varied according to the design and skill of the artisan. The cards may be sensed and/or read within the shoe while they are moving or when they are still at a particular location within the shoe.
  • FIG. 5 is a flow diagram of a process 500 for determining a blackjack status of the dealer's hand. In operation block 505, each player and the dealer are dealt two cards. The player's cards may be face-up or face-down. For the dealer's cards, the first card is dealt face-up (i.e., up card) and the second card (i.e., hole card) is dealt face-down. Decision block 510 indicates that the dealer observes the up card to determine whether it is an Ace. If not, control passes to decision block 525. If the dealer's up card is an Ace, operation block 515 indicates that the dealer offers the players an opportunity to place insurance bets and the players place insurance bets if they so desire. The shoe may be configured to provide a notification to the dealer to offer insurance at decision block 515.
  • Operation block 520 indicates that the dealer queries the card shoe after the insurance bets have been placed. The dealer may query the device by pressing one of the buttons (illustrated in FIGS. 3 and 4). The result of the query may vary by embodiment. The result may simply be a sound from the speaker, indicating that the dealer has blackjack. The result may be illumination of the LED indicating that the dealer has blackjack. The result may be a message on the display indicating that the dealer has blackjack or indicating the rank, and possibly the suit, of the dealer's hole card.
  • Determination of the dealer's hole card is possible by the card reader because it is the last card dealt from the card shoe prior to the dealer querying the card shoe. Thus, the hole card rank and suit is known and may be displayed. If the hole card value is to be displayed to the dealer, the embodiment of the invention should be configured such that the display is visible only to the dealer and unreadable by the gaming participants or unauthorized gaming observers. In another embodiment, the identification of the hole card is recorded when the dealer inputs a command on the control panel. If the shoe is part of a larger system, data collecting devices, such as proximity sensors, on the table may automatically indicate the presence or arrival of a hole card.
  • In some circumstances, displaying the hole card value to the dealer may not be advisable. Knowledge of the hole card's value may enable the dealer to signal the value to a player, either intentionally or unintentionally. Thus, rather than displaying the hole card's value, an indication that the hole card is a ten (i.e. the dealer has blackjack) may be preferable. Thus, the dealer may press a button that simply requests a yes or no indication of whether the hole card value is a ten.
  • If the dealer's up card is not an Ace, decision block 525 indicates that the dealer observes his up card to determine whether it is a ten. As indicated earlier, checking for a dealer blackjack when the up card is a ten may vary based on casino rules. If verification of a blackjack is not needed when the dealer's up card is a ten, the hand is played out (not shown on FIG. 5) under normal blackjack rules. If a ten on the up card is to be checked and the up card is not a ten, the hand is played out under normal blackjack rules, as indicated by operation block 530.
  • If a ten on the up card is to be checked and the up card is a ten, operation block 535 indicates that the dealer queries the card shoe 535. The dealer may query the device by pressing one of the buttons illustrated in FIGS. 3 and 4. The result of the query may vary by embodiment. The result may simply be a sound from the speaker, indicating that the dealer has blackjack. The result may be illumination of the LED indicating that the dealer has blackjack. The result may be a message on the display indicating that the dealer has blackjack or indicating the rank, and possibly the suit, of the dealer's hole card. As stated earlier, automatic determination of the dealer's hole card is possible by the card reader because it is the last card dealt from the card shoe prior to the dealer querying the card shoe. Thus, the hole card rank and/or suit are known and may be displayed. If the hole card value is to be displayed to the dealer, the embodiment of the invention should be configured such that the display is visible only to the dealer and unreadable by the gaming participants or unauthorized gaming observers.
  • Rather than displaying the hole card's value, an indication that the hole card is an Ace (i.e. the dealer has blackjack) may be preferable. Thus, the dealer may press a button that simply requests a yes or no indication of whether the hole card value is an Ace. Alternatively, the device may display a secret symbol indicating to the dealer only the presence of a blackjack.
  • In summary, the card shoe may be queried to display the value of the dealer's hole card, to determine if the dealer's hole card is a ten, or to determine if the dealer's hole card is an Ace. Thus, embodiments of the card shoe may be configured such that a different button, or combination of button presses is used for each of the three different queries. After the query, the dealer knows whether he has a blackjack.
  • Decision block 540 is the test of a dealer's blackjack. If the dealer does not have blackjack, the hand is played out or finished under normal blackjack rules, as indicated by operation block 545. If the dealer does have blackjack, the hand ends, as indicated by operation block 550. The dealer collects all the initial bets and pays out any insurance bets that may have been placed.
  • Process 500 is suitable to a stand-alone embodiment of the card shoe because no information other than the dealer's hole card (i.e., the last dealt card before a dealer query) is required. However, as is explained below, process 500 may also be suitable for use when the card shoe is part of a table management system.
  • FIG. 6 is a block diagram of an integrated monitoring system 400 (also referred to as a table management system) used to monitor gaming at a blackjack table 405 (shown in FIG. 7). The integrated monitoring system 400 includes an intelligent shoe 300 coupled to a table manager 450 through a local table network 440. The intelligent shoe 300 is an embodiment of the card shoe suitable for practicing the present invention as described above. Some embodiments of the integrated monitoring system 400 may also include one or more table image units 420 and chip readers 430 coupled to the table manager 450 through the local table network 440. The table manager 450 may be coupled to a server 470 through a communication network 460. By way of example, and not limitation, the communication network 460 may be configured to couple multiple table managers 450 to a central database or server 470 by creating a network for a specific pit area, a specific casino floor area, or the entire casino.
  • FIG. 7 illustrates a layout of a blackjack table 405 and one contemplated, suitable arrangement of elements of the integrated monitoring system 400 illustrated in FIG. 6 and used to monitor gaming at a blackjack table 405 in accordance with an embodiment of the invention. Integrated monitoring system 400 may include many components for determining various forms of information about the game being played at the table 405, the players playing the game, wager amounts and payouts, and the dealer responsible for the game. As is described below in more detail, the information may be captured, processed, and acted upon (e.g., generation of alerts) in substantially real time.
  • In system 400, the blackjack table 405 is equipped with the card shoe 300 described earlier. The card shoe 300 is configured for communications via communication medium 380 and the local table network 440 with the table manager 450. Also shown on the table 405 are chip readers 430 that may be configured as Radio Frequency Identifier (RFID) antennas/transmitters for each wagering area. In an embodiment with RFID transmitters 430 and RD tagged chips (not shown) are used in conjunction with RFID transmitters 430 located within or underneath the table 310. The RFID antennas/transmitters respectively pick up the values of the game chips and then transmit the chip information to the table manager 450 via the communication medium 380 and local table network 440. U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,651,548 and 5,735,742 describe RFID chips and chip reading systems that may be used as the game chips and RFID transmitters 430. Although not shown, the RFID transmitters 430 may be configured to extend into the insurance area 435 of the table 405 to obtain the chip values of insurance wagers. In another embodiment, additional individual RFID transmitters connected to the communication medium 380 may be placed in the insurance area 435, one RFID transmitter associated with each player wagering area.
  • The system 400 may also include overhead cameras 420 (also referred to as image units) connected to a ceiling of the casino, mounted on a pole to the table, or in the vicinity of the table 405. These cameras 420 process the images received by the cameras 420 respectively and communicate with the table manager 450 over the communication media and the local table network 440.
  • The table manager 450 processes, and may transmit, images of items viewed by the cameras 420 in substantially near real time. Dealt card values, wagers, and other table activity can be imaged and determined using the cameras 420 in cooperation with the table manager 450. The table manager 450 may be implemented as a general-purpose computer system, a server or other processor system as is generally known in the art. The table manager 450 will contain computer implemented processing (i.e., process 500, and 600 illustrated in FIGS. 5 and 8) that may be stored on a computer readable medium of the general-purpose computer system. As such, the processing and functions of the table manager 450 may be stored as a computer program on a computer readable medium, or downloaded from the server 470 (not shown in FIG. 7) over the communication network 460.
  • As can been seen, the cameras 420 are positioned to achieve a full view of the gaming table surface, and may be positioned to give the best vantage point for the desired application. An optical or magnetic synchronizing sensor can be used to detect the presence of an object on the gaming surface of the table. The sensor, if used, may activate the cameras 420 and trigger image acquisition. The images are processed and transmitted to the table manager 450.
  • The integrated monitoring system 400 may be used for numerous functions beyond determining the status of whether the dealer has a blackjack. Embodiments of the integrated monitoring system 400 and additional functions are disclosed in concurrently filed application bearing the attorney docket number PA1712.ap.US and entitled “CASINO TABLE GAME MONITORING SYSTEM.”
  • Those of ordinary skill in the art will recognize that the process 500, illustrated in FIG. 5, may be performed by the integrated monitoring system. For example, determining the hole cards values may be performed in a variety of other ways. The intelligent shoe may determine the card's value and send it to the table manager. The raw image data may be sent from the intelligent shoe to the table manager and the table manager processes the raw image data to determine the card's value. Alternatively, determining the card's value may be performed as a combined process wherein the intelligent shoe performs some of the processing and the table manager performs some of the processing.
  • FIG. 8 is a flow diagram of another process 600 for determining a blackjack status of the dealer's hand, which may be used with embodiments of the integrated monitoring system of FIGS. 6 and 7, or a stand-alone version of the card shoe embodiments of FIGS. 3 and 4.
  • In process 600, operation block 605 indicates that the beginning of a hand is determined. In the stand-alone card shoe embodiments, the beginning of a hand may be determined by the dealer pressing a button on the card shoe or the dealer removing a first card for the round. The first card for the round may be determined based on a timer, or other element to analyze a delay since a card has been removed from the card shoe.
  • In the integrated monitoring system embodiments, the beginning of a round may be determined by the same process as for the stand-alone embodiment, or in a number of other ways. For example, the dealer could press a button on the card shoe, the table manager could determine that there are no cards on the table based on image data from the cameras, or the table manager could determine that there are no bets on the table based on image data from the cameras or data from the chip readers 430.
  • In operation block 610, each player and the dealer are dealt two cards. The player's cards may be face-up or face-down. For the dealer's cards, one card is dealt face-up (i.e., up card) and the other card (i.e., hole card) is dealt face-down. In embodiments using process 600, which of the dealers cards is face-up and which is face-down is not important.
  • Operation block 615 indicates that the number of players is determined. In the stand-alone card shoe embodiments, the number of players may be determined based on the number of cards that have been dealt since the indication of the beginning of the hand. One-half of the number of cards dealt minus two is the number of players other than the dealer
  • In the integrated monitoring system embodiments, the number of players may be determined in a manner similar to the stand-alone card shoe embodiments. Alternatively, the number of players may be determined based on image data from the cameras and the table manager evaluating the image data to identify the cards and the number of hands dealt. In yet another alternative, the number of players may be determined based on the number of wagering positions that include bets. Thus, the chip readers can indicate to the table manager if a bet is placed. From this indication, the table manager can determine the number of players. In addition, the number of wagering positions that include bets may be determined from image data from the cameras, table top proximity sensors (not shown), or by other known means and the table manager evaluating the data to identify the wagering positions with bets.
  • Operation block 620 indicates that the dealer's hand is determined. In the stand-alone card shoe embodiments, the card shoe knows all the cards dealt for the current hand. The last card dealt is typically the hole card and the other dealer's card is the total number of cards dealt for the current round minus two then divided by two. Thus, one can see that it may not be necessary to determine the number of players directly (i.e., through a separate sensing system) since the dealers hand can be determined simply by knowing how many total cards have been dealt for the current round. In the integrated monitoring system embodiments, the dealer's hand may be determined in a manner similar to the stand-alone card shoe embodiments. However, in the integrated monitoring system, the cards values may be determined in a variety of other ways. The intelligent shoe may determine the card values and send them to the table manager. The raw image data may be sent from the intelligent shoe to the table manager and the table manager processes the raw image data to determine the card values for the current hand. Alternatively, determining the card values may be determined as a combined process wherein the intelligent shoe performs some of the processing and the table manager performs some of the processing.
  • Decision block 625 indicates that the dealer observes the up card to determine whether it is an Ace. If not, control passes to operation block 635. If the dealer's up card is an Ace, operation block 630 indicates that the dealer offers the players an opportunity to place insurance bets and the players place insurance bets if they so desire.
  • Operation block 635 indicates that the dealer is notified if he has blackjack. This notification may take multiple forms. In the stand-alone embodiments, the notification may simply be a sound from the speaker on the card shoe, indicating that the dealer has blackjack. The notification may be illumination of the LED indicating that the dealer has blackjack. The result may be a message on the display indicating the total value of the dealer's hand or the value of each card in the dealer's hand.
  • In the integrated monitoring system embodiments, determination of the dealer's hand is performed by the table manager. Thus, the table manager may perform the notification of a blackjack by generating a sound, displaying an indication of a blackjack, displaying the values of the dealer's cards, or displaying the total value of the dealer's hand. In addition, the dealer's hand, or notification of blackjack, may be transmitted from the table manager to the intelligent shoe. With this information, the intelligent shoe may perform the notification with those methods described above for the stand-alone embodiments.
  • Initiating notification of a dealer's blackjack may also be performed in a number of ways. The notification may occur as a result of a query placed at the table manager, via a keyboard or mouse, or may occur as a result of a button being pressed on the card reader. In addition, the notification may occur after a specific time delay from when the last card was dealt, from a hand gesture performed by the dealer and recognized by the cameras in combination with the table manager, or from a time delay after insurance bets are placed.
  • In some circumstances, displaying information about values of the dealer's cards may not be advisable. Knowledge of the dealer's cards may enable the dealer to signal the value to a player, either intentionally or unintentionally. Thus, rather than displaying the values of the dealers card's, a simple indication of a dealer blackjack may be advisable. If the values of the dealer's cards, or the value of the dealer's hand is to be displayed to the dealer, the embodiments of the invention should be configured such that the display from the table manager or the display from the intelligent shoe is visible only to the dealer, and unreadable by the gaming participants or unauthorized gaming observers.
  • Decision block 640 is the test of a dealer's blackjack. If the dealer does not have blackjack, the hand is played out under normal blackjack rules and the hand is finished, as indicated by operation block 645. If the dealer does have blackjack, the hand ends, as indicated by operation block 650. The dealer collects all the initial bets and pays out any insurance bets that may have been placed.
  • Although the embodiments of the invention have been described with reference to the game of blackjack, it should be appreciated that they may be applicable to other casino communal or non-communal games.
  • While the embodiments of the invention have been described in detail in connection with preferred embodiments known at the time, it should be readily understood that the invention is not limited to the disclosed embodiments. Rather, the invention can be modified to incorporate any number of variations, alterations, substitutions or equivalent arrangements not heretofore described, but which are commensurate with the spirit and scope of the invention. Accordingly, the invention is not limited by the foregoing description or drawings, but is only limited by the scope of the appended claims.

Claims (26)

  1. 1. A card dispensing apparatus, comprising:
    a card shoe configured for dispensing cards one at a time from at least one deck of cards disposed in the card shoe;
    an image sensor operably associated with the card shoe and configured for recognizing a rank of each card that is dispensed from the card shoe; and
    a notification element operably associated with the card shoe and configured for revealing to a dealer a dealer's hand status.
  2. 2. The card dispensing apparatus of claim 1, wherein the notification element is selected from the group consisting of a display, a LED, a speaker, a signal to an external device, and combinations thereof.
  3. 3. The card dispensing apparatus of claim 1, wherein the notification element is a display configured to be perceived by the dealer and unreadable by gaming participants or unauthorized gaming observers.
  4. 4. The card dispensing apparatus of claim 1, wherein the dealer's hand status is determinable by a requesting element being configured to request at least a value of a last dispensed card and the notification element being configured to indicate the value of the last dispensed card.
  5. 5. The card dispensing apparatus of claim 1, further comprising a requesting element operably associated with the card shoe and configured for the dealer to activate, wherein the dealer's hand status is determinable by the requesting element being configured to request if a value of a last dispensed card is a ten and the notification element being configured to indicate if the value of the last dispensed card is a ten.
  6. 6. The card dispensing apparatus of claim 5, wherein the dealer's hand status is determinable by the requesting element being configured to request if the value of the last dispensed card is an Ace and the notification element being configured to indicate if the value of the last dispensed card is an Ace.
  7. 7. A card dispensing system, comprising;
    a card shoe configured for dispensing cards one at a time from at least one deck of cards disposed in the card shoe, the card shoe including;
    an image sensor operably associated with the card shoe and configured for recognizing a rank of each card that is dispensed from the card shoe;
    a first communication module configured for transmitting information about the rank of each card and for receiving a hand notification; and
    a notification element operably associated with the card shoe and configured for revealing an actionable event in response to receiving the hand notification; and
    a table manager configured for:
    receiving the information about the rank of each card;
    determining, from the information about the rank of each card, a first dealer-card rank and a second dealer-card rank; and
    transmitting the hand notification to the card shoe if a combination of the first dealer-card rank and the second dealer-card rank comprise a blackjack.
  8. 8. The card dispensing system of claim 7, further comprising a requesting element configured for enabling the notification element to reveal the actionable event by an indication selected from the group consisting of the dealer's hand value, the dealer's hole card value, or combinations thereof.
  9. 9. The card dispensing system of claim 7, further comprising a requesting element configured for enabling the notification element to reveal the actionable event by indicating that a dealer's hole card is a ten.
  10. 10. The card dispensing system of claim 7, further comprising a requesting element configured for enabling the notification element to reveal the actionable event by indicating that a dealer's hole card is an Ace.
  11. 11. The card dispensing system of claim 7, wherein the notification element is a display configured to be perceived by the dealer and unreadable by gaming participants or unauthorized gaming observers.
  12. 12. The card dispensing system of claim 7, wherein the notification element is selected from the group consisting of a display, a LED, a speaker, a signal to an external device, and combinations thereof.
  13. 13. The card dispensing system of claim 7, wherein the table manager further comprises a second communication module configured for communication with a server across a communication network.
  14. 14. A method for determining a dealer's hand status, comprising:
    analyzing an image of at least a portion of a last dispensed card captured by an image sensor in a card shoe;
    determing a value of the last dispensed card by evaluating the image;
    requesting a dealer's hand status by activating a requesting element associated with the card shoe; and
    notifying the dealer of the dealer's hand status when the requesting element is activated by indicating a value of the last dispensed card.
  15. 15. The method of claim 14, wherein indicating the value of the last dispensed card comprises displaying the value to the dealer on a display configured to be perceived by the dealer and unreadable by gaming participants or unauthorized gaming observers.
  16. 16. The method of claim 14, wherein notifying the dealer comprises an action selected from the group consisting of presenting a sound, activating an LED, displaying the value of the last dispensed card, displaying the dealer's hand status, and combinations thereof.
  17. 17. The method of claim 14, wherein requesting the dealer's hand status comprises requesting if the last dispensed card is a ten and notifying the dealer comprises notifying the dealer that the last dispensed card is the ten.
  18. 18. The method of claim 14, wherein requesting the dealer's hand status comprises requesting if the last dispensed card is an Ace and notifying the dealer comprises notifying the dealer that the last dispensed card is the Ace.
  19. 19. A method for determining a dealer's hand status, comprising:
    determining a beginning of a round of blackjack;
    determining a dealer's hand value by:
    determining a value of a last card dealt in the round by analyzing an image of at least a portion of the last card dealt, the image captured by an image sensor in a card shoe; and
    determining a value of a first dealer card in the round by applying an algorithm to identify the first dealer card and by analyzing an image of at least a portion of the first dealer card, the image captured by the image sensor in the card shoe; and
    indicating the dealer's hand status resulting from the dealer's hand value.
  20. 20. The method of claim 19, wherein indicating the dealer's hand status comprises displaying the dealer's hand value, the value of the last card dealt, the value of the first dealer card, or combinations thereof on a display configured to be perceived by the dealer and unreadable by gaming participants or unauthorized gaming observers.
  21. 21. The method of claim 19, wherein indicating the dealer's hand status comprises an action selected from the group consisting of presenting a sound, activating an LED, displaying the dealer's hand value, displaying the value of the last card dealt, displaying the value of the first dealer card, sending a signal to an external device, and combinations thereof.
  22. 22. The method of claim 19, wherein indicating the dealer's hand status comprises indicating that the value of the last card dealt is a ten.
  23. 23. The method of claim 19, wherein indicating the dealer's hand status comprises indicating that the value of the last card dealt is an Ace.
  24. 24. The method of claim 19, wherein analyzing an image of at least a portion of the cards is performed by a device selected from the group consisiting of a card shoe, a table manager, and combinations thereof.
  25. 25. The method of claim 19, wherein determining a number of cards dealt comprises:
    analyzing at least one image of a table from at least one camera to determine a number of wagers placed or analyzing the at least one image of the table to determine a number of hands dealt in the round; and
    determining that the number of cards dealt is twice the number of wagers placed plus two or twice the number of hands dealt, including the dealer's hand.
  26. 26. The method of claim 19, wherein determining the beginning of the round of blackjack comprises an action selected from the group consisting of determining that a table does not include any cards dealt thereon, determining that the table does not include any an bets placed thereon, receiving a start of round notification from a table manager, and receiving a start of round notification from the card shoe.
US11558823 2006-11-10 2006-11-10 Casino card shoes, systems, and methods for a no peek feature Abandoned US20080111300A1 (en)

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US11558823 US20080111300A1 (en) 2006-11-10 2006-11-10 Casino card shoes, systems, and methods for a no peek feature
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US13632875 US8919775B2 (en) 2006-11-10 2012-10-01 System for billing usage of an automatic card handling device
US14549301 US9320964B2 (en) 2006-11-10 2014-11-20 System for billing usage of a card handling device
US15096473 US20160220893A1 (en) 2001-09-28 2016-04-12 Systems including automatic card handling apparatuses and related methods
US15138905 US20160236068A1 (en) 2006-11-10 2016-04-26 Remotely serviceable card-handling devices and related systems and methods

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