WO2010055328A1 - Dealing apparatus and gaming system - Google Patents

Dealing apparatus and gaming system Download PDF

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Publication number
WO2010055328A1
WO2010055328A1 PCT/GB2009/051507 GB2009051507W WO2010055328A1 WO 2010055328 A1 WO2010055328 A1 WO 2010055328A1 GB 2009051507 W GB2009051507 W GB 2009051507W WO 2010055328 A1 WO2010055328 A1 WO 2010055328A1
Authority
WO
WIPO (PCT)
Prior art keywords
data
card
accordance
player
cards
Prior art date
Application number
PCT/GB2009/051507
Other languages
French (fr)
Inventor
Edwin Ford
Graham Stewart
Original Assignee
Xtale Limited
Priority date (The priority date is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the date listed.)
Filing date
Publication date
Priority to GBGB0820697.1A priority Critical patent/GB0820697D0/en
Priority to GB0820697.1 priority
Application filed by Xtale Limited filed Critical Xtale Limited
Publication of WO2010055328A1 publication Critical patent/WO2010055328A1/en

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Classifications

    • 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
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63FCARD, BOARD, OR ROULETTE GAMES; INDOOR GAMES USING SMALL MOVING PLAYING BODIES; VIDEO GAMES; GAMES NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • A63F3/00Board games; Raffle games
    • A63F3/00003Types of board games
    • A63F3/00157Casino or betting games
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07FCOIN-FREED OR LIKE APPARATUS
    • G07F17/00Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services
    • G07F17/32Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services for games, toys, sports or amusements, e.g. casino games, online gambling or betting
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63FCARD, BOARD, OR ROULETTE GAMES; INDOOR GAMES USING SMALL MOVING PLAYING BODIES; VIDEO GAMES; GAMES NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • A63F9/00Games not otherwise provided for
    • A63F9/24Electric games; Games using electronic circuits not otherwise provided for
    • A63F2009/2401Detail of input, input devices
    • A63F2009/2411Input form cards, tapes, discs
    • A63F2009/2419Optical
    • A63F2009/2425Scanners, e.g. for scanning regular characters
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07FCOIN-FREED OR LIKE APPARATUS
    • G07F17/00Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services
    • G07F17/32Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services for games, toys, sports or amusements, e.g. casino games, online gambling or betting
    • G07F17/3286Type of games
    • G07F17/3293Card games, e.g. poker, canasta, black jack

Abstract

A dealing apparatus is described for dealing playing cards comprising an optional shuffler; a playing card receiver; a playing card reader to read the face of each playing card successively and to retrieve the identity to thereof; a deck data register to store successively in order the retrieved identities of each of the said plurality of playing cards; an output data link to output successively as required each card identity to a virtual card gaming system in use; storage means are provided to store physical cards delivered from the playing card reader successively in order. A gaming system is described including such a dealing apparatus.

Description

DEALING APPARATUS AND GAMING SYSTEM

The invention relates to a dealing apparatus to deal playing cards, and to a gaming system incorporating the same. The invention in particular relates to a dealing apparatus for use in conjunction with a game played at least in part in a virtual environment, but which allows the use of a physical deck of playing cards as the basis for game.

Games of chance on which wagers can be placed are a significant industry. Games based on playing cards are of significant subset of this industry. Card games may be played at a specific location, for example at a table in a casino or like environment, which might especially be desirable where interaction between players is a feature of the game. Such play lends itself to the use of physical playing cards comprising one or more packs shuffled together and dealt successively into play from a stock deck, for example contained .in one or more dealing shoes, for example at a gaming table. The shuffling of a physical card stock may be pre- performed, for example by a shuffling machine, to produce a shuffled stock for a dealer, for example contained in one or more dealing shoes.

However, an increasing industry has grown up in recent years involving remote card playing, for example on the distributed network, such as making use of the internet. A conventional physical deck is not applicable to such play without some modification.

Table games played with a physical deck usually require the presence of a dealer/croupier, for example a casino employee, although in some tournament games between multiple players a player may substitute in this role. The presence of an employed dealer at each table is a cost to the casino. The time to taken to deal and retrieve physical cards at a gaming table is also a potential cost to a casino. The card handling process may often be the process which limits the speed at which the game can be played. The rate of game play may be a significant determining factor in determining the turnover and hence the profitability of a table.

Additionally, physical human dealer contact with the cards (for example when delivering cards from dealing shoes) provides an opportunity for improper interference and cheating.

For various reasons, including the above, attempts have been made to limit the requirement for physical manipulation of and human contact with physical playing cards and to automate the card delivery and playing process at least to some extent, especially into a virtual environment.

At its most extreme, "card" generation may be entirely virtual. An apparatus for providing "cards" for play in an automated virtual environment typically comprises a random generator which generates a random number, and a means which uses this random number to generate a series of virtual cards in a random manner, and to use the virtual deck thereby created to generate virtual representations of the cards, for example presented successively as required in a gaming system. Such a virtual, randomly generated card deck is particularly suited to fully automated virtual card gaming, and is particularly suited to gaming over a distributed network.

However, there are aspects of such an approach which are not always desirable, particularly in relation to a more traditional casino environment. Many players prefer the atmosphere and ambience of such an environment. Many players prefer to feel that use is made of real physical cards, and are less disposed to the use of a random number generator as the basis for the game. Regulatory regimes may impose different, and often more stringent, regulatory restrictions on gaming based on virtual, random generation and/or played remotely than they have traditionally done on gaming based on physical outcome generation, for example requiring use of real physical cards at least at some level, and/or played under banker's rules on a casino premises. For these reasons, a virtually generated random deck, although offering a degree of flexibility for virtual and automated gaming, is not universally desired. Even so, in particular for reasons of security and/or efficiency, it remains desirable if possible for a casino to develop card shuffling, dealing and playing processes that reduce the requirement for human intervention and physical manipulation of physical playing cards.

In accordance with the invention in a first broadest aspect, a dealing apparatus for dealing playing cards comprises: a playing card receiver for receiving a plurality of physical playing cards; a playing card reader to read the face of each playing card successively and to retrieve the identity to thereof; a deck data register to store successively in order the retrieved identities of each of the said plurality of playing cards; an output data link to output successively as required each card identity to a virtual card gaming system in use, for example on receipt of a deal command from such a virtual card gaming system; a card storage means to store the physical cards delivered from the playing card reader successively in order.

The dealing apparatus of the invention is supplied in use via the card receiver with one or more packs of physical playing cards which have been previously shuffled. In a particularly preferred embodiment, the dealing apparatus is provided in combination with a mechanical shuffler comprising a card input to receive a plurality of physical playing cards, a mechanical reordering device to reorder the playing cards by shuffling in to a new, random or pseudorandom order, and a card deliverer to deliver the shuffled cards. The mechanical shuffler may be integral with and deliver cards automatically to the card receiver of the card dealing apparatus, and/or may provide for the intervention of a human dealer or croupier to pass the shuffled deck to card receiver of the dealing apparatus.

The invention is distinctly characterised in that a real physical deck comprising real physical playing cards, and usually one or more shuffled packs of playing cards is used to generate a virtual deck in the deck data register, which is generated in a suitable form to be manipulated by a virtual gaming system in substitution to a virtual deck based on a random number generator. The deck data register comprises a successive series of data items, recorded in order, each representing the identity of a real playing card, and each deliverable in data form suitable for manipulation by a gaming system to generate a virtual representation of such a card as part of a virtual game play.

After the cards have been shuffled and read, and their identities stored in order in the deck data register, subsequent storage means are provided to store physical cards delivered from the playing card reader successively in order, and in particular to store the physical cards in their shuffled order in a secure manner, as a verification check in the invent of dispute. The card dealing apparatus preferably comprises a card output to output each read card successively in order to such storage means. The storage means may comprise a container and in particular a closable container such as a box, for example a security sealed box, or may comprise a dealing shoe, to mimic storage in a standard casino. A system may comprise plural storage containers/ shoes. Stored cards may be stored at a remote secure location, or may be kept at a gaming location and for example displayed as part of the gaming playing environment.

The provision of a card storage means to store the shuffled card stock in an order which corresponds identically to that in the virtual data store is of central importance in achieving a number of the security and efficiency advantages of the invention. By making use of such a storage means, the apparatus of the invention ensures that although card play is virtual it is fundamentally based upon a real physical stock of physically shuffled and dealt cards which can be retained and, should the need arise, reviewed. A player has the reassurance that the game is fundamentally based upon a physical deck and less open to manipulation. Casino regulations requiring such a physical deck as the underpinning of the virtual game are complied with. There is an ability to refer to the physical deck in the event of a dispute, for example to relay a hand.

However, the inherent efficiencies of virtual deck play are obtained. Although the physical deck is stored in the event of its use becoming necessary, it is not routinely used. There is no routine requirement for physical manipulation of the cards by a dealer or a player.

Indeed, it is a distinct security advantage of the present invention that once the cards have been shuffled and "dealt" into the virtual data set, there is no further requirement for physical contact at all, for example by a dealer, except in the event of a dispute. In the preferred case, the dealt stock is stocked in order in one or more secure containers, being secure in the sense that they are not routinely accessible by the dealer or a player. For example, such a secure container may be provided with a secure locking means allowing control and tracking of any access thereto. Thus, the dealt stock is fundamentally secure, and any opportunity that might arise for manipulation and cheating in relation to a more conventional pre- shuffled shoe is substantially reduced.

The storage means into which the cards have been dealt may be stored at a secure location. However, it is a significant preferred feature of the present invention that as many aspects as possible of conventional physical card table play are retained, for example to fit with player desires and/or to meet regulatory requirements. In a preferred implementation of the invention, an individual storage means, preferably a secure storage means as above defined, comprising one or more shuffled decks, may be configured in suitable form to be delivered and retained at a gaming table during play of the virtual data set to which it is associated. Thus, the storage means can be seen as a pseudo dealing shoe mimics to some extent a conventional dealing shoe in that it is present at the table as the cards contained within it are virtually dealt, although it is not used to deal cards and is in the preferred case securely closed.

In a preferred embodiment, a large plurality of storage means is provided, each such storage means for example corresponding generally to such a pseudo dealing shoe and adapted to receive in dealt order one or more shuffled decks corresponding to a dataset of virtual card identities stored as above described. Such a system allows a large plurality of storage means containing stored sets of shuffled cards to be created in advance, remote from a game play site such a game table, each ideally corresponding to a separately identified dataset of virtual "dealt" cards.

In practice, it is preferable to associate each storage means with its corresponding virtual dataset. Thus, if it becomes necessary to retrieve and examine a physical set of cards for any reason this can be done. In particular, in the preferred case, a relevant storage means is present at a game when the virtual dataset is in play. The associative identity may be used to deliver the relevant storage means from a plural set of such means when a specific virtual dataset from a plural set of datasets is delivered to a gaming location. The deck data register is adapted to store plural datasets of retrieved identities of a successive series of playing cards corresponding to sets of physical cards in each storage means and associate with each such dataset an identity data item capable of creating a unique identitative association between a set of physical cards and a datasets of retrieved identities

In a particular implementation of such a system, a large plurality of secure storage means is provided, each for example corresponding to a pseudo shoe as above described, and each such storage means is ascribed a unique identifier. Preferably, each unique identifier is physically associated with the storage means, and for example comprises a machine readable tag attached to or integrally formed with the storage means. Each unique identifier may be an RFID device.

As a particular virtual dataset is created and stored in a particular storage means, this unique identifier is additionally associated with the virtual dataset. For example, a unique identifier may be read by a suitable machine reader associated with the dealing apparatus, for example comparing a means to read the RFID device. Thus, plural storage means comprising plural "shoes" may be prepared in advance and stored ready for use. This generally approximates to the present procedure for preparing shoes in advance for a casino dealer. When shoes are required at a particular table, they may be collected or delivered from storage. A unique identifier may be input into a suitable gaming system to retrieve the associated virtual dataset at the desired gaming location. The virtual dataset may thus be used for actual game play with the physical storage means corresponding to the virtual set being retained at the gaming site in the event of dispute. In a particular preferred case, where the physical storage means comprising a machine readable identity tag such as an RFID device, this process may be automated, in that a gaming location is provided with a reader for such a device.

A data link, conveniently a two way data link, provides a link between the deck data register and a gaming system for a virtual game, for example held on a central gaming server. As a card is required by the gaming system, the next card identifying data item in order is taken from the data register as a representation of the next dealt card. For example, each data item may be accessed successively in order in response to a deal command from the virtual game via a suitable data link. The virtual game then generates, for example, a virtual card image from the card identifying data item. A data item corresponding to a card which has been virtually dealt in this manner is then marked accordingly so as not to be taken again, for example in a convenient embodiment in that a further discard register is provided, and a data item relating to a dealt card is transferred to the discard register after the data item has been passed to the virtual game.

The card dealing apparatus in accordance with the invention combines the advantages of both real and virtual systems. The basis of each data item for a "card" stored in the deck data register is a real physical card which has been physically shuffled and read and not a random number generator. Basing the game on a real physical deck can have advantages in meeting player desires, in meeting regulatory requirements, and in improving security, since the physical deck may be stored in a secure manner as a security reference in the invent of a dispute. However, the dataset of data items in the deck data register itself is intended to be configured in like manner to, and therefore be manipulatable as if it was, a randomly generated virtual data set, conferring advantages in relation to virtual play on a virtual gaming system, for example associated with reduction in the necessity for human intervention, flexibility over a distributed network etc.

Use is made in accordance with the invention of a card reader which is capable of identifying and distinguishing individual playing cards. The general principles required for such card reader are familiar from automatic card checkers already used in casinos. Such a card checker might comprise a suitable pattern recognition arrangement, for example in the form of some or all of a pattern reader to read the pattern on the face of each playing card successively, a digitizer to digitize the read pattern to a suitable degree of resolution, a data library of stored reference pattern data relating to the face patterns on each card expected within a pack, and a comparator to compare the read pattern data for each card successively with the data library to derive an identity for the card. Such card checkers are used conventionally to check shuffled decks, but with the use limited to the checking of the completeness of the deck, by permitting identification of the absence of a card in the shuffled deck. In accordance with the invention, these principles are modified to make use of the card identification capability to generate a dataset of individual card identifier data comprising a virtual deck, directly representative of the physical deck, as a series of successively stored data items which can be then retrieved and virtually dealt to a virtual game. In a preferred embodiment, the dealing apparatus is provided in combination with a card shuffler. The shuffler preferably has a capacity to shuffle a plurality of packs in a familiar manner, for example one to eight packs, to form a shuffled deck. The shuffler may include deck transfer means to transfer the shuffled deck directly to the card receiver of the card reader, and/or be adapted for this to be done by intervention of a human dealer.

In a further more complete embodiment of the invention, a gaming system is provided comprising: a dealing apparatus as above described; at least one player terminal including a visual display capable of visually presenting a virtual representation of successive playing cards, and a player data input device for example comprising a plurality of player actuatable buttons including at least a button allowing a player to place a wager and a button allowing a player to execute a player action; a data communication system to control the virtual display of playing cards on the visual display on the basis of successive card identifier data items received from the dealing apparatus in two way data exchange communication with said player terminal.

A data communication system in accordance with this more complete embodiment controls at least one, and more preferably a plurality of, player terminals at least to the extent that it enables a data item identifying each successive playing card stored in the deck data register to be passed in appropriate manner to a player terminal or terminals for display, and at least in that it is in data communication with each terminal to receive data relating to a wager or a player action from a player terminal during use. This facilitates the use of each dealt card in a virtual game. Conveniently, the data communication system comprises a central processor which includes an image generation module to generate a virtual image of each playing card successively as a data item is retrieved.

More completely, the data communication system or central processor may comprise additional data links to at least one gaming module, and for example a plurality of alternative gaming modules, each acting as a control module for a particular card game, and thus controlling the interaction between the data communication system and the player terminal(s), and in particularly the dealing of the cards via the data communication system to a player terminal. Gaming modules may be additional comprised in a central processor, or may be accessed via remote servers.

Each player terminal is described as including a player data input device preferably comprising at least one button to allow a user to place a wagers and at least one button to allow a user to input a user action. It will be appreciated that "button" is to be interpreted broadly as relating to any suitable input means which can be operated by a user to input the required data, for example including real physical buttons, virtual buttons on a touch screen, virtual buttons and/or menus operated by means of cursor control, for example using a computer mouse or like, and equivalent to input means.

Amongst the instructions which a user action button might effect is an instruction for a card to be dealt by the automated card dealing apparatus. Alternatively, this delivery may be under control of the central data communication system and/or under control of a human dealer or croupier. A plurality of player terminals may be provided connected to a common data communication system to allow a plurality of users to access the same virtual deck and/or different virtual decks as the gaming rules require.

Preferably a plurality of player terminals is provided with two way data exchange communication to a common data communication system. Each terminal preferably has an individual player operated player input device. Plural terminals may each have an individual and for example privately viewable player visual display and/or be positioned such as to allow multiple players to view virtual representations on a common display.

In a preferred embodiment therefore there are multiple player terminals with a common data communication system acting as a hub through which gaming is controlled. A game may be a single game in which multiple players participate or may be multiple independent games.

Player terminals may be provide remotely from each other, for example on a distributed network. For example, a card dealing apparatus and common data communication system in accordance with the invention could be used as the source of cards for a virtual distributed game. Additional or alternatively, some of the player terminals may be located together at a central location, for example on a central gaming floor of a casino. For example, such player terminals may form part of a consolidated virtual card table for use in such a central location.

Preferably, the betting process is automated. Each player terminal includes at least one button enabling a player to place bets electronically to be settled on a determination of a game outcome derived by a central processing unit, and the central processing unit comprises means to retrieve bet data from various player terminals to allow for calculation of a bet outcome and preferably further for the generation of win or loss data for a player based upon the bet based at the conclusion of the game. The central processing unit may serve as a simple conduit for data transmission, with individual bet outcome calculations being performed at a player terminal. Preferably, however, the central processing unit performs these functions centrally. Accordingly, the central processing unit preferably comprises a module to process game outcome data, a module to process bet data, a module to calculate a bet outcome there from win/loss data for a player, and a module to transmit a bet outcome indication and/or win/loss data and/or related data to a player terminal.

Preferably, the system also includes customer credit storage registers for storing data concerning customer credit values, and an updating module for updating customer credit values in accordance with the win/loss data.

Preferably, the system also provides means to allow a player to purchase credit. Optionally this may be via a central credit purchasing unit, which may be at a credit sales point within the casino or under crump ere/dealer control. Additionally or alternatively, means may be provided at player terminal to allow a terminal to input credit directly, for example including mechanical means process cash, casino chips or like, to scan a bank or credit card or other such card such as a card to pre-stored credit. The player terminal or central credit purchasing unit may similarly adapted for retrieval of credit and for example winnings after play.

In a particularly preferred embodiment of the invention, a gaming system further comprises an electronic game table comprising a table surface, at least one and preferably a plurality of individual player terminals as above described arranged in the table, each player terminal providing access to a visual display and comprising a player data input device as above described, a central processing unit connected to each of the player terminals for two way data exchange, and further connected to retrieve data from a deck data register of a dealing system as above described.

Such an electronic gaming table allows for virtual play of card games at the table in a manner which mimics that of a casino by a desired number of players from one upwards to the limit imposed by the number of available terminals.

The electronic gaming table may be further provided with a data outlet connection for connection to an external system, for example comprising connection to further remote player terminals on a disturbed network, or direct connection to a local or global area network.

Although reference is made herein to each player having access to a visual display, precise configuration of such a visual display is not necessarily fixed and might be determined by the game itself.

For example, it might be desirable that each player has a personal private display. It might be desirable, for recreation of the casino environment or under given game play rules, that all cards are visible to all players at the table, the player visual displays then comprising areas on a generally visible common display in a position visible to all players. It might be desirable for the playing of certain games to provide both capabilities (for example for the display of community cards to all players and for the display of private cards to individual players). Thus, in a preferred embodiment, visual display means are provided comprising a common display in a position visual to all players and a private display at each player terminal position visible only to a player at the terminal position. In such an arrangement, the common display may be adapted to display community cards and/or any information which the gaming rules require to be displayed communally and each individual display may display confidential cards and/or gaming information which under the gaming rules is displayed privately.

The table may include any number of player terminals for any number of active players from one upwards. Preferably a plurality of player terminals are provided at a plurality of locations distributed around the table.

The invention will now be described as way of example with reference to the figures, in which: figure 1 illustrates a possible dealer and gaming system in accordance with the invention; figure 2 illustrates a possible central storage and delivery system for secure card "shoes" embodying the principles of the invention.

Figure 1 illustrates in schematic manner a possible arrangement for linking two dealing stations each comprising a card dealing apparatus in accordance with the broadest aspect of the invention into a consolidated gaming system including a plurality of gaming terminals and game servers for controlling a plurality of different card games. It will be appreciated that this is an example arrangement only. In particular, particular arrangements of computer processor and server are illustrative only, and any workable consolidated central processor/switch/server arrangement which could transfer the necessary data from the dealing apparatus to a player gaming terminal and facilitate virtual game play at the player gaming terminal would be considered by the skilled person.

In the illustrated arrangement two dealing stations 1 are shown. Each dealing station comprises a table 3, a mechanical shuffler 5, and a deck reader 7.

The illustrated example is set up for eight deck play by way of example. Eight packs with identical backs are shuffled together in the shuffler 5, and passed to the card reader 7, which for example embodies similar principles to a known deck checker, so that the face of each card can be read via an appropriate pattern recognition process. Cards may be passed in shuffled state from the shuffler 5 to the deck checker 7 by hand, for example under control of a human dealer, in particular where this is necessary to apply with regulatory requirements, or is considered desirable in a casino environment. Alternatively, an automatic transfer means may be provided. Cards may instead be manually shuffled.

Each card in the complete eight deck set is read by the reader 7, and a data item identifying each card is passed to the dealer PC 10, where card identities are stored in an appropriate memory register to make up a deck data register in accordance with the invention. Having been read, the cards in the illustrated example are dealt in order into a succession of deck shoes on the table 1. The shoes may be conventional or may be secure, allowing access only with limitation. In either case, the shoes constitute stored physical cards corresponding to stored virtual cards in an identified manner that allows the physical cards to be consulted during game play if the need arises. Each dealer PC 10 is linked via a data switch 12 to a series of player gaming terminals 14 and is thereby enabled to deal a card from its memory to a gaming terminal as required by a game in play. For example, under control of the dealing PC, a virtual representation of a dealt playing card is displayed on display means accessible by a player at the terminal, whether associated with an individual player terminal, or on some form of central display screen. A card may be dealt by the dealing PC 10 under control of a gaming control server, or under instruction from a gaming terminal. For example, a deal instruction may be input on the key pad 15 provided with each gaming terminal. Bets may also be placed and where applicable to the game in play, other player option commands input via the key pad 15.

Multiple gaming terminals may be centrally located, for example on a casino gaming floor, and for example as part of a consolidated semi-virtual table. In those circumstances, game play may take place, at least in part, using a single common visual display on which cards in play may be displayed in addition to using visual displays associated with each gaming terminal 14. Additionally, the physical dealing areas 1 may form part of the overall gaming environment, for example in that the shoe in play may be indicated in familiar manner even though the cards have been dealt in a virtual manner. A human dealer or croupier may be present and may control game play. Even if this is the case, the number of operators required can be reduced, as a croupier can control multiple dealing areas 1.

The shoe will typically be retained intact at least until all the cards stored in it have been virtually dealt and no dispute has arisen. The cards may then be passed for reuse. Additionally or alternatively to the illustrated table arrangement, gaming terminals 14 may be provided at a remote location, in which case individual display means to display virtual presentations of dealt cards, whether just those belonging to the player or those of all the players depending on game rules, will be required at such gaming terminals.

Gaming is controlled, and varied game options are enabled, by provision of a plurality of gaming servers connected via the switch 12 into the system. In the illustrated example a blackjack server 18 and a punto banco server 17 are provided. Of course, it will appreciated that the dealing apparatus of the invention can be incorporated into a gaming system for the virtual play of any card game.

To facilitate the placement and settlement of bets on game outcome, the system is completed by provision of cash server 19 to calculate and settle bets and to maintain a record of player credit for each gaming terminal, and the system is further connected to a cash desk PC 21 where credit can be purchased prior to play, and where winnings can be retrieved subsequent to play. This process may be automated, for example via the administrative module 22, scanner 23 and printer 24.

In will be appreciated that the embodiment of Figure 1 is an illustration only of a possible system. It is a particular feature of the invention that although real physical playing cards are used as the basis of any game which is played in a system which embodies dealing apparatus of the invention, the ultimate product of the dealing apparatus is an entirely virtual playing card data set which can be manipulated in the same manner as a dataset generated via random number generation, with the same flexibility as regards systems and gaming options. Figure 2 illustrates an alternative arrangement in which large numbers of "shoes" are filled and corresponding virtual datasets generated in advance and these are retained in a central store. In a uniquely identified manner for subsequent deliver on demand to one or more gaming tables. In the indicated embodiment, identification is by means of an RFID tag on each secure container. The processes are represented schematically in Figure 2.

In Figure 2a the shuffling and virtual dealing process is illustrated schematically. Playing cards are fed via a chute 32 into a combined shuffler and reader apparatus in which the shuffling 35 and deck reader 37 are integrated in a single device. This produces a virtual output 30 of a dataset of read shuffled cards in the manner above described. The shuffled cards are also passed in equivalent order via the conveyer 39 to the secure storage box 41. The storage box 41 is lockable via the lock 43 and is provided with a unique identifier, comprising in this embodiment an RFID chip 45. In generating the virtual data set for the data store 30, the RFID chip 45 is read and a unique identification data item allowing for the subsequent identitative association of the dataset 30 with the box 41 is included in the dataset.

The RFID device may be read by a user who then inputs this identity data item into the dataset, or may be read automatically by the system. Of course, RFID is merely one example of a possible identifier, and any identifier whether machine readable or read and input by a human user may be employed without departing from the general principles of the invention.

In accordance with the mode of operation of the illustrated embodiment it is envisaged that a large plurality of boxes 41 will be provided, for example to be held in a central store, in a manner which approximates the current approach by which many casinos prepare, store and distribute pre- shuffled dealing shoes. Because of the identification features of the embodiment illustrated in Figure 2, each dataset will uniquely and identifiably associated with a given physical box 41. In a typical mode of operation, for use on a gaming floor with plural gaming tables, sufficient security boxes 41 will be retrieved from the central store as and when required by operation of a given gaming table, in broadly similar manner to the procedure which may be followed at present for dealing shoes. In this preferred mode of operation, each box is brought to the table and the virtual dataset with which it is associated is delivered to the table by an appropriate data link, for example in the manner illustrated in Figure 1. Of course, it is not necessary to the operation of the invention that a box should be brought to the table, but it may be perceived as desirable to have the physical cards available locally for consultation if necessary.

In accordance with the embodiment, each box 41 has been provided with a unique RFID chip identifier. When it is desirable to use the virtual set of cards corresponding to those contained within an individual box, the box is placed on the table 50 illustrated in Figure 2b in a suitable receiving means 51. In addition to presenting the box to the players, in the illustrated embodiment this also has the effect of identifying the box automatically to the system. An RFID chip reader 53 uniquely identifies the box in play and retrieves the unique corresponding virtual dataset of read cards via the data link 55 from a central data store 57.

In play, virtual cards may then be dealt to individual player positions 59, which may for example comprise display screens, either automatically or under the control of a croupier issuing a deal command. The advantages of speed and of security from physical interference associated with a virtual card game are obtained, but many of the attributes of a physical card game are retained, and in particular the secure box containing the physical cards on which virtual play is based is retained at the table in the event of a dispute. Typically, only once all the cards in the associated virtual dataset have been dealt and no dispute has arisen will the physical box be removed and the cards re-used. Alternatively, if a dispute does arise cards may be removed from the physical box and the hand re-laid or the cards otherwise checked to ensure fair play.

The foregoing are merely example implementations of the invention, which combines the advantages of virtual play in relation to efficiency and security with the advantages of basing that virtual play on a securely stored physical deck, for example in complying with regulatory requirements, dealing with disputes, recreating more closely a conventional physical game play environment etc.

Claims

1. A dealing apparatus for dealing playing cards comprising: a playing card receiver for receiving a plurality of physical playing cards; a playing card reader to read the face of each playing card successively and to retrieve the identity to thereof; a deck data register to store successively in order the retrieved identities of each of the said plurality of playing cards; an output data link to output successively as required each card identity to a virtual card gaming system in use; a storage means to store the physical cards delivered from the playing card reader successively in order.
2. A dealing apparatus in accordance with claim 1 wherein the storage means is adapted to store the physical playing cards in their shuffled order in a secure manner.
3. A dealing apparatus in accordance with claim 1 or 2 wherein the card dealing apparatus comprises a card output to output each read card from the card reader successively in order to the storage means.
4. A dealing apparatus in accordance with one of claims 1 to 3 wherein the output data link is adapted to provide a two way data link between the deck data register and a gaming system for a virtual game held on a central gaming server.
5. A dealing apparatus in accordance with claim 4 wherein the data link is adapted to allow successive card identifying data items to be accessed successively in order in response to a deal command from the virtual game .
6. A dealing apparatus in accordance with any preceding claim further comprising a discard data register into which a data item relating to a dealt card is transferred after the data item has been passed to the virtual game.
7. A dealing apparatus in accordance with any preceding claim wherein the card reader comprises a pattern reader to read the pattern on the face of each playing card successively, a digitizer to digitize the read pattern to a suitable degree of resolution, a data library of stored reference pattern data relating to the face patterns on each card expected within a pack, and a comparator to compare the read pattern data for each card successively with the data library to derive an identity for the card.
8. A dealing apparatus in accordance with any preceding claim provided in combination with a mechanical shuffler comprising a card input to receive a plurality of physical playing cards, a mechanical reordering device to reorder the playing cards by shuffling in to a new, random or pseudorandom order, and a card deliverer to deliver the shuffled cards.
9. A dealing apparatus in accordance with claim 8 wherein the mechanical shuffler includes deck transfer means to transfer the shuffled deck directly to the card receiver of the card reader.
10. A dealing apparatus in accordance with any preceding claim provided with a large plurality of storage means.
11. A dealing apparatus in accordance with claim 10 wherein each storage means in provided with a unique identifier.
12. A dealing apparatus in accordance with claim 11 wherein the deck data register is adapted to store plural datasets of retrieved identities of a successive series of playing cards corresponding to sets of physical cards in each storage means and associate with each such dataset an identity data item capable of creating a unique identitative association between a set of physical cards and a datasets of retrieved identities.
13. A dealing apparatus in accordance with claim 11 or 12 wherein each unique identifier is physically associated with the storage means.
14. A dealing apparatus in accordance with claim 13 wherein each unique identifier comprises a machine readable tag attached to or integrally formed with the storage means.
15. A dealing apparatus in accordance with claim 1 wherein each unique identifier comprises an RFID device.
16. A gaming system comprising: a dealing apparatus in accordance with any preceding claim; at least one player terminal including a visual display capable of visually presenting a virtual representation of successive playing cards, and a player data input device for example comprising a plurality of player actuatable buttons including at least a button allowing a player to place a wager and a button allowing a player to execute a player action; a data communication system to control the virtual display of playing cards on the visual display on the basis of successive card identifier data items received from the dealing apparatus in two way data exchange communication with said player terminal.
17. A gaming system in accordance with claim 16 wherein the data communication system comprises a central processor which includes an image generation module to generate a virtual image of each playing card successively as a data item is retrieved.
18. A gaming system in accordance with claim 16 or 7 wherein the data communication system or central processor comprises additional data links to at least one gaming module acting as a control module for a particular card game, and thus controlling the interaction between the data communication system and the player terminal(s), and in particularly the dealing of the cards via the data communication system to a player terminal.
19. A gaming system in accordance with claim 18 wherein a player terminal includes at least one button enabling a player to place bets electronically to be settled on a determination of a game outcome derived by the gaming module, and the gaming module comprises means to retrieve bet data from various player terminals to allow for calculation of a bet outcome and preferably further for the generation of win or loss data for a player based upon the bet based at the conclusion of the game.
20. A gaming system in accordance with claim 19 wherein the gaming module comprises a module to process game outcome data, a module to process bet data, a module to calculate a bet outcome there from win/loss data for a player, and a module to transmit a bet outcome indication and/or win/loss data and/or related data to a player terminal.
21. A gaming system in accordance with one of claims 18 to 20 wherein the data communication system comprises a central processor which includes the gaming module.
22. A gaming system in accordance with one of claims 16 or 21 comprising a plurality of player terminals provided with two way data exchange communication to a common data communication system.
23. A gaming system in accordance with claim 22 wherein the data communication system is configured to control the plurality of player terminals at least to the extent that it enables a data item identifying each successive playing card stored in the deck data register to be passed in appropriate manner to a player terminal for display, and at least in that it is in data communication with each terminal to receive data relating to a wager or a player action from a player terminal during use.
24. A gaming system in accordance with one of claims 22 or 23 wherein player terminals are provided remotely from each other, for example on a distributed network.
25. A gaming system in accordance with one of claims 22 to 24 wherein player terminals are located together at a central location, for example on a central gaming floor of a casino.
26. A gaming system in accordance with one of claims 22 to 25 further comprising an electronic game table comprising a table surface; a plurality of individual player terminals arranged in the table, each player terminal providing access to a visual display and comprising a player data input device; and a central processing unit connected to each of the player terminals for two way data exchange, and further connected to retrieve data from the deck data register of the dealing system.
27. A gaming system in accordance with claim 26 wherein the electronic gaming table is further provided with a data outlet connection for connection to an external system, for example comprising connection to further remote player terminals on a disturbed network, or direct connection to a local or global area network.
28. A gaming system in accordance with one of claims 22 to 27 comprising a common display in a position visual to all players and a private display at each player terminal position visible only to a player at the terminal position.
29. A gaming system in accordance with one of claims 16 to 28 comprising a large plurality of storage means wherein each storage means in provided with a unique machine readable identifier; wherein the deck data register is adapted to store plural datasets of retrieved identities of a successive series of playing cards corresponding to sets of physical cards in each storage means and associate with each such dataset an identity data item capable of creating a unique identitative association between a set of physical cards and a datasets of retrieved identities; and wherein a player terminal includes means to read the unique machine readable identifier and thereby selectively to retrieve a dataset associated with a particular storage means.
PCT/GB2009/051507 2008-11-12 2009-11-11 Dealing apparatus and gaming system WO2010055328A1 (en)

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