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United States Patent Application 20160317905
Kind Code A9
Kuhn; Tyler ;   et al. November 3, 2016

Card Shuffler

Abstract

Systems, apparatuses and methods are described for shuffling a deck, group, stack or pile of cards. The cards are placed into a shuffler. The shuffler may be accessed under a lid, or via a slot or tray. Buttons, switches, or a touch screen and the like serve as an interface to access and control the shuffler. Cards are introduced into a substantially vertical shuffling chute. Cards are counted or audited. Sensors provide information as to the location of the cards. Static barriers and agitators encourage cards to remain in proper orientation and location. An elevator lifts cards from the shuffling chute. Sweeper arms or other mechanism manipulates the cards and returns the cards to a substantially horizontal orientation and exit position. Manual override is possible when errors are detected. Rubber-coated commodity rollers mountable to cantilevered axles engage and launch cards into the air when shuffled in the shuffling chute. Cards settle back into the stack of cards under the influence of gravity. The shuffler is mounted inside a simple enclosure. Maintenance and interface features provide convenience when working with the shuffler. Authentication may be employed to correlate user or dealer with operation of the shuffler.


Inventors: Kuhn; Tyler; (Spokane, WA) ; Miesch; Eric; (Spokane, WA) ; Walters; Jeremy; (Spokane, WA)
Applicant:
Name City State Country Type

DIGIDEAL CORPORATION

SPOKANE VALLEY

WA

US
Assignee: DIGIDEAL CORPORATION
Spokane Valley
WA

Prior Publication:
  Document IdentifierPublication Date
US 20150238848 A1August 27, 2015
Family ID: 1000002207707
Appl. No.: 14/286997
Filed: May 24, 2014


Related U.S. Patent Documents

Application NumberFiling DatePatent Number
61944514Feb 25, 2014
61833405Jun 10, 2013

Current U.S. Class: 1/1
Current CPC Class: A63F 1/12 20130101
International Class: A63F 1/12 20060101 A63F001/12

Claims



1. A device for shuffling cards, the device comprising: a compartment having at least four sides and a compartment height, and wherein the compartment is sized to receive a plurality of cards at a receiving place at a first end of the compartment, and wherein each card of the plurality of cards has a first edge that includes a width dimension parallel to a face thereof, and wherein each card of the plurality of cards has a second edge that includes a length dimension parallel to the face thereof, and wherein each card includes a thickness dimension orthogonal to the face thereof, and wherein the compartment height is at least two times the dimension of the card parallel to a gravity vector; a transport mechanism adapted to transport the plurality of cards substantially vertically during at least a portion of their travel within the compartment; a forcer positioned so as to apply a force to a face of the cards within the shuffling region located within the compartment so as to shuffle the cards substantially vertically in an upward direction substantially parallel to a direction of the gravity vector; and a contact reducer present on each of two opposing sides of the compartment, and wherein the two opposing sides are parallel to the face of the cards, and wherein the contact reducer is present to reduce contact between surface area of a card and surfaces in the compartment.

2. The device of claim 1, and wherein the device further comprises: another transport mechanism that is configured to transfer the plurality of cards to a delivery place within the device; a tilting element configured to operate in coordination with a motion of the transport mechanism, and wherein the tilting element is configured to tilt the plurality of cards prior to the cards being changed from a substantially vertical orientation to a substantially horizontal orientation by the another transport mechanism.

3. The device of claim 1, and wherein the device further comprises: a sensor mounted adjacent to and exposed to the compartment and mounted at least two times a card width dimension substantially parallel to the gravity vector above the forcer, and wherein the sensor is configured to detect a presence of cards forced by the forcer; a processor in electronic communication with the device; and a memory in electronic communication with the device, and wherein the memory is configured with instructions to: obtain information from the sensor about the detected forced cards; determine whether a sufficient amount of shuffling occurred based on the obtained information; and make available in the memory an outcome of the said determining whether a sufficient amount of shuffling occurred.

4. The device of claim 1, and wherein the compartment includes a first dimension greater than a length dimension of a card, a second dimension greater than a thickness dimension of the plurality of cards, and a third dimension greater than twice a width dimension of a card; and wherein the device further comprises: a series of sensors mounted adjacent to and along a dimension of the compartment, wherein the distance between the sensors is less than the card dimension which is substantially parallel to the gravity vector, a processor in electronic communication with the device; and a memory in electronic communication with the device, and wherein the memory is configured with instructions to: detect a presence of a card statically located adjacent to at least one sensor of the series of sensors during a portion of time that the plurality of cards is in the device.

5. The device of claim 1, and wherein the device further comprises: a user interface element in electronic communication with the device; a processor in electronic communication with the device; and a memory in electronic communication with the device and the user interface element, and wherein the memory is configured with instructions to: upon detecting an error state, enable a manual override for the transport mechanism; and operate the transport mechanism within the compartment based on a signal detectable from the user interface element.

6. A card shuffler for shuffling a stack of cards, the card shuffler comprising: a first pair of opposing walls that form a pair of opposing sides of a shuffling chute, the pair of opposing sides forming a first side and a second side of the shuffling chute, and wherein the cards when positioned in the shuffling chute are positioned in an orientation such that card edges are adjacent to the first pair of opposing walls; a third wall and a fourth wall that opposes the third wall, and wherein the third wall and the fourth wall form a third side and a fourth side of the shuffling chute, respectively, and wherein each of the third wall and the fourth wall includes at least one mechanical formation to reduce an amount of surface area contactable by an adjacent card when the card is within the shuffling chute; and a card kicker configured to provide a lifting force to a card proximal to a first side of the stack of cards as the cards are vertically located in the card shuffler, and wherein the lifting force is applied to the cards over a period of time, and wherein the lifting force is sufficient to lift the proximal card at least above the stack of cards in a substantially vertical direction.

7. The card shuffler of claim 6, and wherein a mechanical formation is a rail that forms a raised portion along at least a portion of the third wall and the fourth wall, respectively, and wherein at least a portion of each rail rises at least 0.005 inches from the respective wall.

8. The card shuffler of claim 6, and wherein the mechanical formations are rounded mounds that are formed in the third wall and the fourth wall, and wherein the rounded mounds are raised above a plane defined by the respective third wall and fourth wall, and wherein a contactable surface area available to an adjacent card is less than approximately fifty percent of the surface area of the adjacent card.

9. The card shuffler of claim 6, and wherein the card shuffler further comprises: a sensor mounted adjacent to and exposed to the compartment along either the third wall or fourth wall, and wherein the sensor is above the card kicker; a processor in electronic communication with the card shuffler; and a memory in electronic communication with the card shuffler, and wherein the memory is configured with instructions to: detect over time a signal from the sensor as the card kicker operates, and wherein the signal indicates the presence of a card proximate to the sensor; determine whether a sufficient amount of shuffling has occurred based on the detected signal from the sensor and based on a threshold value; and provide a signal to the card shuffler based on the determination of the sufficient amount of shuffling.

10. The card shuffler of claim 6, and wherein the card shuffler further comprises: a series of sensors mounted adjacent to and along the shuffling chute along a path traveled by kicked cards in the shuffling chute; and a memory in electronic communication with the card shuffler, and wherein the memory is configured with instructions to: detect a presence of a card statically located adjacent to at least one sensor of the series of sensors during at least a portion of time that the stack of cards are in the card shuffler.

11. The card shuffler of claim 6, and wherein the first side and the second side of the shuffling chute include a material applied thereto to reduce one or more of the list consisting of: sound as cards impact surfaces in the card shuffler, damage to a card from impact with surfaces in the card shuffler, and abrasion to a card.

12. A card shuffler for shuffling a plurality of cards placed at a shuffling location such that the card faces are substantially parallel to a gravity vector, the card shuffler comprising: a card kicker configured to provide a lifting force to a one or more proximal cards, and wherein the cards are oriented substantially vertically, and wherein the lifting force is applied to the cards over a period of time, and wherein the lifting force is sufficient to lift one or more of the proximal cards at least above the remaining cards; a shuffling chute that includes the shuffling location at which to shuffle the cards; a sensor mounted above the shuffling location, and wherein the sensor is mounted proximate to the shuffling chute and configured to detect a presence of kicked cards within the chute; a processor in electronic communication with the card shuffler; and a memory in electronic communication with the card shuffler, and wherein the memory is configured with instructions to: process information from the sensor about the sensed kicked cards; and determine whether a sufficient amount of shuffling occurred based on the processed information.

13. The card shuffler of claim 12, and wherein the memory is further configured with instructions to: make available in the memory an outcome of the said determining whether a sufficient amount of shuffling occurred.

14. The card shuffler of claim 12, and wherein the memory is further configured with instructions to: provide a signal based on the said determining whether a sufficient amount of shuffling occurred.

15. The card shuffler of claim 12, and wherein the instructions to process information about the sensed kicked cards includes instructions to determine a cumulative number of samples associated with the detection of kicked cards, and wherein the said sufficient amount of shuffling is based on the determined cumulative number of samples.

16. The card shuffler of claim 12, and wherein the instructions to accumulate information about the sensed kicked cards includes instructions to determine a cumulative number of impacts of kicked cards with a surface near the sensor mounted above the shuffling location, and wherein the said sufficient amount of shuffling is based on the determined cumulative number of impacts.

17. The card shuffler of claim 12, and wherein the card shuffler further comprises: a settler that is configured to provide a settling motion to the plurality of cards, and wherein the settling motion facilitates settling of the playing cards into the stack of cards under the influence of gravity.

18. The card shuffler of claim 12, and wherein the cards are placed in a substantially vertical orientation at the shuffling location, and wherein the card shuffler further comprises: a transferring component configured to transfer the cards, after being shuffled, to a retrieval location associated with the card shuffler.

19. The card shuffler of claim 12, and wherein the card kicker includes a rotatable component, and wherein the card kicker is configured to contact the proximal card with an outer surface of the rotatable component.

20. The card shuffler of claim 12, and wherein the card kicker includes a mechanical element configured to provide an oscillatory motion to the card kicker relative to a surface of the proximal card to facilitate contact between the card kicker and card.

21. The card shuffler of claim 12, and wherein the instructions to accumulate information about the detected kicked cards includes instructions to: persist a value based on information from the sensor.

22. The card shuffler of claim 12, and wherein the instructions to accumulate information about the sensed kicked cards includes instructions to: persist a cumulative value associated with interruption of the sensor by kicked cards, and wherein a sufficient amount of shuffling is based on comparing the cumulative value against a pre-defined threshold value.

23. The card shuffler of claim 12, and wherein the sensor includes a light-based sensor, and wherein the detecting of the presence of kicked cards includes detecting interference of light by the presence of one or more cards.

24. The card shuffler of claim 12, and wherein the instructions further cause the card shuffler to: determine a start for providing the lifting force; persist a cumulative value based on the detected presence of kicked cards thrown within a detection range of the sensor since the determined start for providing the lifting force; and based on the persisted cumulative value exceeding a pre-determined threshold value, adjust the pre-determined time for providing the lifting force to kick cards, or cease shuffling by the card shuffler, or continue to provide the lifting force until the cumulative value meets the pre-determined threshold value.

25-30. (canceled)

31. A card shuffling device comprising: a housing placed into an aperture of and below a top surface of a gaming table; a top surface mounted to the housing, and wherein the top surface forms a lip that protrudes outside a profile of the housing, and wherein the lip includes a bottom surface from which the card shuffling device is suspended from the table by the lip such that the bottom surface of the lip contacts a surface of the gaming table; walls forming a shuffling compartment inside the housing, and wherein the shuffling compartment is sized to receive a plurality of cards at a receiving portion of the shuffling compartment, and wherein each card has a first edge that includes a width, and wherein each card has a second edge that includes a length that is substantially perpendicular to the width thereof, and wherein each card includes a thickness that is orthogonal to a face thereof; a shuffling forcer configured to apply a force to the cards so as to shuffle the cards in the device at a shuffling location in the compartment while the cards rest in a substantially vertical orientation, the cards being shuffled in an upward direction that is substantially parallel to a direction of a gravity vector; a card tray located inside the card shuffling device and proximate to the receiving portion of the compartment, and wherein the card tray is shaped to accommodate the plurality of cards; and a movable lid mounted to the device and forming part of the top surface, and wherein the movable lid, when opened, provides access to the interior of the card shuffling device and the card tray.
Description



CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] The present application is related to, and claims the benefit of, the earliest available effective filing date(s) from the following application(s) (the "Related Application(s)") (e.g., claims earliest available priority dates for other than provisional patent application(s), for any and all parent, grandparent, etc. applications of the Related Application(s)).

[0002] For purposes of the USPTO extra-statutory requirements, the present application constitutes a continuation-in-part of U.S. Patent Application No. 61/944,514, titled Automated Card Shuffler, and naming at least Tyler Kuhn as inventor, filed 25 Feb. 2014, which is currently co-pending, or is an application of which a currently co-pending application is entitled to the benefit of the filing date.

[0003] The United States Patent Office (USPTO) has published a notice to the effect that the USPTO's computer programs require that patent applicants reference both a serial number and indicate whether an application is a continuation or continuation-in-part. Stephen G. Kunin, Benefit of Prior-Filed Application, USPTO Official Gazette 18 Mar. 2003. The present Applicant Entity (hereinafter "Applicant") has provided above a specific reference to the application(s) from which priority is being claimed as recited by statute. The statute is unambiguous in its specific reference language and does not require either a serial number or any characterization, such as "continuation" or "continuation-in-part," for claiming priority to U.S. patent applications.

[0004] Notwithstanding the foregoing, Applicant understands that the USPTO's computer programs have certain data entry requirements. Hence, Applicant is designating the present application as a continuation-in-part of its parent applications as set forth above, but expressly points out that such designations are not to be construed in any way as any type of commentary and/or admission as to whether or not the present application contains any new matter in addition to the matter of its parent application(s). All subject matter of the Related Applications and of any and all parent, grandparent, great-grandparent, etc. applications of the Related Applications is incorporated herein by reference to the extent such subject matter is not inconsistent herewith. If there is any conflict, the descriptions contained herein govern.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0005] 1. Field

[0006] The present invention relates to systems, apparatuses and methods for shuffling a collection of playing cards. In particular, the invention relates to introducing a stack of cards such as one or more decks of cards into a vertical or substantially vertical chute, lifting one or more cards at a time into the air and letting the lifted cards settle back into the remaining corpus of cards. After a time, number of throws, etc., a shuffled stack of cards is made available for play or accessible to a user.

[0007] 2. Related Art

[0008] Various games use playing cards. A typical game uses one or more decks of cards--with reference to a standard deck of 52 playing cards having four suits of thirteen cards each, where the cards of each suit have one of a series of values. Examples of popular cards games in the United States include: blackjack, poker, bridge, and canasta. These and other card games are popular in other countries. Players of card games have an interest in ensuring that the playing cards are dispensed and stacked for the game in a randomized order, giving no one player an unfair advantage.

[0009] Preparing a group of cards for play may be accomplished either manually or automatically. In the case of manual preparation, the cards may be cut, riffled and stripped. The process is performed multiple times. Performing a cut-riffle process approximately six to seven times usually results in a sufficiently random distribution of cards within a collection of cards. Manual shuffling of cards is time consuming and it is common to perform the process only 3-4 times. Card shuffling machines are available for performing the task of shuffling. However, existing machines suffer from a variety of shortcomings including prohibitive initial expense, frequent breakdowns in the equipment and in the shuffling process, expense of maintenance, and impractical duration of time needed for shuffling.

[0010] The most popular styles of playing cards intended for bridge or poker are of two relatively standardized shapes. The most common sizes for playing cards are poker size corresponding to 2.5 inches by 3.5 inches (63 mm by 88 mm, or B8 size according to ISO 216) and bridge size corresponding to 2.25 inches by 3.5 inches (approximately 56 mm by 88 mm). Cards are typically fabricated of a paper or a plastic, or a combination of paper and a plastic or coating. Cards may have a surface texture. Various companies currently manufacture and distribute cards of various weights and flexing properties. The instant invention may be used with any of various types of cards.

SUMMARY

[0011] Embodiments and techniques described herein include improved systems, apparatuses and methods for performing shuffling so as to provide a substantially randomized deck, group, stack or collection of cards. Broadly, the process can be described as follows. A group of cards is placed in a machine, the machine performs a shuffling of the cards, and returns the group of shuffled cards to a user or operator. Various components and procedures ensure that this process is reliably and efficiently performed.

[0012] Card access. According to an illustrative implementation, a shuffling apparatus is installed below a table surface and is accessible via a cover or lid, or via a slot into which or from which cards may be taken. A lid may include a window that allows the operator to see indicators for various states of a shuffle sequence. One indicator communicates that the group of cards has been shuffled and is currently ready for use. The lid then may be opened and the shuffled cards obtained. The use of a touch screen--with or without a window in the cover or lid--provides functionality and interaction with the shuffler; inclusion of a touch screen may eliminate the need for mechanical buttons for interacting with the shuffler.

[0013] Presentation tray. According to another illustrative implementation, after a group of cards has been shuffled, the cards are returned to the operator in a presentation tray. The presentation tray is movably mounted under a lid. The presentation tray is accessed by opening a movable lid. The presentation tray may be mechanically coupled to the movable lid. The presentation tray may move up and down relative to and in response to manually moving (e.g., opening and closing) the lid. Such movement is for convenience in working with a stack of cards. Alternatively, the lid is opened programmatically with the assistance of an actuator and thereby providing immediate access to the group of cards in the presentation tray. The lid may be programmatically opened upon completion of shuffling of the group of cards. In having the presentation tray coupled to the lid, removal of the group of cards is easier. Having a single motor or mechanical mechanism to both operate internal movement of cards and operation of the lid reduces the number of failure points in the apparatus.

[0014] Card auditing. According to another illustrative implementation, a group of cards is audited as a single stack of cards. After and optionally before shuffling occurs, a camera captures an image of the side of the stack of cards. This step is a capture of information from the profile of the group of cards or stack of cards. The cards, the spaces between the cards, or the cards and the spaces between them are programmatically counted by analysis of the picture of the group of cards. According to an illustrative implementation, a count of the spacing is used to determine the number of cards present in the group of cards. After each image of the group of cards is processed, and the number of cards verified, the shuffler displays or makes an appropriate signal. For example, if the card count is deficient by one or more cards, it is best to alert the operator of the device. A signal to the operator may take the form of illuminating a button, making a pre-designated audible signal, or displaying a cue on an LCD screen. The counting method to verify the number of cards in a group may be accomplished via a camera, CCD type scanner, bar code scanner, fingerprint reader, laser, or ultra sonic sensor paired with appropriate analysis software and hardware.

[0015] Sensors. According to an illustrative implementation, the group of cards is placed into a vertical or substantially vertical chute. Sensors along the chute ensure proper placement of the cards at any given time during the shuffling and handling processes. Sensors ensure the movement of cards within specified parameters during shuffling process. For example, a sensor is mounted to monitor a high point the cards are expected to reach within the field of motion for the cards when the shuffler is operating correctly. When this sensor and related logic confirm that a sufficient number of thrown cards are not reaching this point, the system (e.g., a processing board or display) may provide a visual or other notification to the operator.

[0016] Static barriers. Elements in the shuffler assist to mitigate static attraction forces between a card and a shuffler surface. The presence of a static attractive force can cause a card to be stuck in the shuffling machine such as long a portion of a wall of a shuffling chute. According to an illustrative implementation, ribs, rails, bumps or the like (raised features, apertures or the like) are formed in surfaces likely to contact a front side or back side of a card. These features assist to minimize the contact surface area between a card surface and a shuffler surface thereby reducing the overall magnitude of attractive forces between a card and a surface. By minimizing the contact surface area between a card and the shuffler surfaces, the chance for a sufficient static attractive charge to develop is substantively reduced, and thereby the chance to lose a card during the shuffling process is substantially reduced.

[0017] Multiple deck shuffling. The shuffler and methods described herein accommodate shuffling of a few cards, a full deck or an even larger group of cards making up multiple decks. According to an illustrative implementation, one or more pins or guides constrain the cards so that a card cannot rotate 90 degrees or 180 degrees about an axis orthogonal to the plane of the card when the cards are in the shuffler when the shuffler is sized and configured to shuffle a substantial amount of cards. These pins or guides also prevent a card from rotating 180 degrees about an in-plane card axis and prevent a car from flipping over thereby preventing a card from re-entering the remaining group of cards in a face-up orientation. A flipped card eventually exposes its value side improperly during game play. Upon extracting the shuffled group of cards from the device, all card faces remain in a same orientation as inserted.

[0018] According to another illustrative implementation, the dimensions of a shuffling shoot are selected or constrained to minimize the opportunity for card rotation about card axes. In a preferred implementation, the chute width is limited to approximately two decks of cards (104 cards) because any more cards in a group of cards would require a shuffling chute wider than the width of a typical card (typically 2.25 inches or 2.5 inches) and would likely allow for a significant chance for a card to flip 180 degrees and expose the card face by inserting a flipped card in the improper orientation in the group of cards. The result of an excessively wide chute would be one or more cards inserted face up in the shuffled deck or group of shuffled cards. Using a tapered chute and guide pins or guides, a device can be build to shuffle more than one deck of cards using the described shuffle methodology.

[0019] Agitators. Described herein are agitation components that enable methods for ensuring cards are rectified or settled together into a unified stack. Agitating the group of cards allows them to settle squarely or flush to a bottom surface or to one or more pins or floor members that make up a settling place against which cards rest together in a stack. Agitation can be achieved via cams attached directly or indirectly to a rotary shaft of a rotary motor. According to an illustrative implementation, sensors can be positioned to ensure the deck has been rectified by placing, for example, an optical sensor just above the height of a dimension of a card. A properly rectified deck or group of cards is recognized when the sensor detects that it is not blocked by a partially settled card. This dimension could be just greater than a width of a card (typically 2.25 inches or 2.5 inches) or the length of a card (typically 3.5 inches) depending on the orientation of the deck. If the settle sensor detects one or more cards that are not rectified, the agitation process continues until achieving settling or for a default time. If proper settling cannot be detected within a predetermined time, an alarm protocol could be followed. The settling process ensures a properly settled deck. Otherwise, card damage is possible in other processes of the shuffler device.

[0020] Agitating floor. Alternative to a set of pins or floor members, a surface or set of surfaces at the bottom of the shuffle compartment acts as a floor of the shuffling compartment. The surface or other elements serve as a means for agitation of the cards during shuffling, after shuffling, or during and after shuffling. The agitation provides rectifying of the cards. There may be one or more cycles of rectifying. The cycles of rectifying may be predetermined or may be determined dynamically as cards are settled. According to an illustrative implementation, one or more vibrating plates are driven by an eccentric load on the shaft of a rotary motor. Other means may be used to generate vibration. Vibration can also be achieved by pivoting arms driven by cams, a solenoid, or a linear actuator. If multiple arms or surfaces are present, the arms can be driven in or out of phase relative to one another. The arms can be padded for protection of the card edges and noise suppression.

[0021] Authentication. According to an illustrative implementation, a fingerprint reader or radio frequency ID (RFID) component connected to the shuffler enables a dealer to authenticate with a particular shuffler. Successful authentication can be used to correlate when a dealer arrives at a work shift. A casino owner could then more easily track employee attendance and performance with information provided by the components of the shuffler. Authentication also enables auditing of game play based on information gathered by the shuffler when in operation. According to an illustrative implementation, a fingerprint scanner can be mounted in, on, or near the shuffling device. This would enable a user to check in or check out of the table when a shift begins or ends. Each dealer can be assigned a unique or semi-unique RFID tag. With the appropriate receiver, the shuffler stores logs associated with each dealer and the corresponding data such as number of hands played per unit time, the amount of time to shuffle each group of cards, etc. Management can then make more informed and objective decisions based on performance metrics of the games played at card tables. Such metrics are of interest to casino operators. An automated card shuffling device as described herein aids in this process by gathering information that has high value to casino operators, shuffler owner, etc. Furthermore, data from each card shuffler can be passed to a separate system for security and table metric purposes.

[0022] Sweeper arms. Depending on the implementation of a shuffler, one of more of several possible mechanisms are provided for removing cards from the shuffling device. According to an illustrative implementation, a group of cards is swept out of the device and onto a surface for access by a user by one or more sweeper arms. One or more sweeper arms activate a trap door either directly or indirectly so that the trap door opens as the group of shuffled cards approaches. The shuffled cards are swept entirely out of the shuffling device. Alternatively, the shuffled cards are partially swept out of the unit, enabling the user to access the cards.

[0023] Sweeper balance. In addition to the sweep device that is directly mounted to the step motor to allow the sweeper arms to be balanced in any position a weight may be mounted on an opposing side of the sweep arms to allow the arms to balance in position when the step motor is inactive. The weight prevents a step motor, when inactive, from rotating in the presence of gravity or vibrations.

[0024] Pushers. Card guides are the components that push the cards over upon movement of cards to the output tray. The pushers are retractable to allow cards to be placed in the card inlet. According to an illustrative implementation, upon opening of the shuffler lid, a mechanical contact is achieved to raise an arm up thereby allowing the pushers to be retracted giving a clear entry for the cards to be placed into the shuffler. As the cards are lowered, the mechanical contact is removed and the guides are forced into the chute providing a curved surface to push the cards over on their side so that the cards are in the proper position to be moved onto the output tray. Pushers are effective for a configuration where the input slot to introduce a group of cards into the shuffler is directly above the shuffling chute. If the guides were of a fixed type, the input slot would be obstructed and the user could not insert the deck of cards. Another function of pushers is to ensure that the cards get biased in a particular fashion so that movement of the cards onto the output tray is possible. Although there is a chance the cards will naturally bias to this needed position by chance and chance alone, these guides ensure proper operation every time.

[0025] Direct stepper. A mechanical element directly attached to the shaft of one or more step motors (double shaft and single shaft motors) eliminate the use of conventional gearbox assemblies. Direct attachment to a shaft allows movement of the cards based on operation of a step motor without the conventional use of a gear, gearbox assembly, or belt and pulley assembly to move the cards from one region of the shuffler to another. A speed control of the mechanism may be combined with the step motor or motors to smoothly move the cards.

[0026] Chute sensors. According to an illustrative implementation, sensors are placed along a length of the shuffler chute to detect a static charged, wet, or damaged card that becomes stuck to a surface or wedged inappropriately in the group of cards. Logic associated with a programmable component of the shuffler provides signals and interprets readings provided by the sensors. Based on information gather from the sensors, errors in the shuffling process are detected. Detection of inappropriate positioning of one or more cards allows the shuffler to take corrective action to rectify the stuck card and to notify the operator of a current condition as the cards are processed by the shuffler Corrective action can be taken before proceeding to a next step in the shuffle sequence.

[0027] Elevator control. Manual operation of the shuffler may be needed when an error or malfunction occurs. According to an illustrative implementation, a user interface (UI) or one or more buttons to allow interaction and control of the shuffler. One or more functions may be manually triggered. For example, one of these functions enables an operator to manipulate the vertical movement of a linear actuator to remove a jammed card by bringing the entire group of cards up from the bottom settling region of the card shuffler. A shuffling operation may be re-initiated once a jammed card is corrected. According to an implementation, a series of UI buttons is provided where one button corresponds to a particular function. Actions may be initiated by the user. In another example, maintenance functions may be triggered by the buttons or interaction with software-based buttons on a touch screen. For example, manual correction of the shuffler may be performed by actuating a first button to control an up movement of a linear actuator, while a second button controls a down movement of the linear actuator to return the shuffler to its automated sequence of steps to shuffle a group of cards. An elevator control and other controls Allow users to override automatic functions of the linear actuator and the shuffler. Manual controls facilitate operation of the shuffler and providing such controls avoids the necessity for offline maintenance or some kind of hard reset of the entire machine.

[0028] Progressive cam. According to an illustrative implementation, a progressive cam is provided for a roller assembly. The progressive cam is used in association with a roller that grips either a top or bottom card of a stack or group of cards at the bottom of the shuffling chute. An asymmetric cam is driven by a motor to oscillate a position of the roller assembly of the shuffler. The cam is shaped in such a way that the roller assembly is fed into the deck of cards at a slower rate than it is retracted. This concept can be extended to include any mechanism or actuator that changes the power required and speed of the extension versus refraction oscillating cycles of the roller assembly. Decreasing the speed of the extension stroke for the roller assembly decreases the power required to lift each card and this allows for a smaller motor to be used. The progressive cam also increases the duration that the cards are in contact with the roller during the extension cycle, improving the shuffling action. The increased speed during the retraction stroke decreases the time required to retract the roller assembly, decreasing the overall shuffle time for a given number of throws of cards. Retracting the assembly quickly also provides less time for the airborne cards to settle on top of the wheel while the roller retracts.

[0029] Quick release rollers. The act of shuffling may be performed by any of a variety of ways. According to an illustrative implementation, a roller in the form of axel-type-fitting, a printer-style part acts as a kicker to project or launch cards into the shuffling chute. An axel-type-fitting kicker is a rubber-coated cylinder and is analogous to a roller used to grab paper and move it through a printer. This implementation is available as a commodity and is readily available in the market place. The rubber of the roller is tacky enough to grab and propel a card into the air with very little contact with the card. Very little resistive force or pressure is needed. One roller acts on each end of the group of cards. That is, one roller launches cards from a top side of the group of cards while a second roller launches cards from the bottom side of the group of cards. This component may be susceptible to wear as the rollers are repeatedly contacting cards during the shuffling process. The roller and spindle include an easy locking feature that supports easy and rapid replacement by a field technician.

[0030] Enclosure. According to a preferred implementation, a shuffler is enclosed in a single cabinet or enclosure. A hook bar latch serves as a means of securing the enclosure. The hook bar latch can be operated by a common flat-tipped screwdriver or other easily operated hand tool for easy separation of the shuffler from its enclosure. The enclosure of the shuffler may include access cutouts for external connections, ventilation holes to aid in the natural convection of heat generated by components of the shuffler, and a lining for the internal surfaces to help reduce noise. The inner surface or configuration of the enclosure preferably includes elements to facilitate self-centering of the shuffler inside its enclosure. According to an illustrative implementation, the enclosure is a cuboid with five substantially solid sides with a lock bar forming or mounted inside the enclosure. The remaining sixth side is substantially open to receive the shuffler. The lock bar works in conjunction with a hook mechanism on the bottom of the shuffler such that when the screwdriver access point is turned, the hook grabs the enclosure and forces it into proper position and thereby mounting the enclosure to the shuffler. Within this action the hook provides a tension force to allow it to lock into place so that the hook cannot retract on its own. The cutouts on the enclosure are strategically placed to aide in the use of internal connections and access for heat to escape. Additionally, the motion of the hook mechanism can be interrupted by the cam of a simple cam lock, allowing the possibility of locking (via a key and cam lock) the enclosure onto the unit to prevent access from unauthorized personnel. These and other features make removing and installation of the enclosure easy. Preferably, no specialty tool is needed to install, service or remove a shuffler. Some cutouts formed in the enclosure may be necessary for proper ventilation of heat producing elements and certain cutouts may be needed to grant access to internal connections without the need to remove or adjust components. A service person may only need to remove the shuffler still assembled to the enclosure from a tabletop or other gaming location.

[0031] External interface. According to an illustrative embodiment, external-accessible leads are provided for interfacing with third party systems. The leads can be provided via an industry standard or acceptable bulk mount fitting (i.e., a Molex connector, db9 connector, or the like). According to an illustrative implementation, a simple and readily available open/closed type switch can be triggered by a portion of the shuffle sequence. The shuffling unit and related control circuitry has no stored status related to the status (open or closed) of the switch. The switch would be a function of the third party or external system connected to the leads of this switch to interpret the state of the switch and its meaning via logic built into the third party system. There are increasing numbers of products coming into the market with the function of managing or gathering data from felt type poker tables and pit tables. The described simple interface provides a means for virtually any management or metrics gathering system to have information from the shuffler. For example, the successful number of shuffled groups of cards could be detected, recorded and used to estimate by a third party system to calculate a number of hands played per hour, per shift, etc.

[0032] This Summary is provided to introduce a selection of concepts in a simplified form that are further described below in the Detailed Description. This Summary is not intended to identify key or essential features of the claimed subject matter, and thus the Summary is not intended to be used to limit the scope of the claimed subject matter.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0033] While the appended claims set forth the features of the present invention with particularity, the invention, together with its objects and advantages, will be more readily appreciated from the following detailed description, taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings. Throughout, like numerals refer to like parts. Unless indicated to the contrary, the drawings and components therein are not drawn to scale overall and relative to one another.

[0034] FIG. 1A is a perspective view of a card shuffler illustrating a first embodiment.

[0035] FIG. 1B is a perspective view of the card shuffler illustrated in FIG. 1A with a top or door of the shuffler closed.

[0036] FIG. 2A illustrates a perspective view of an alternative embodiment to the one shown in FIGS. 1A and 1B.

[0037] FIG. 2B illustrates a perspective view of yet another alternative embodiment to the one shown in FIGS. 1A and 1B.

[0038] FIG. 3 illustrates a side cross-sectional view of a portion of the internal components of the card shuffler shown in FIGS. 1A and 1B.

[0039] FIG. 4 illustrates components that coordinate to return cards to a presentation tray.

[0040] FIG. 5 shows an alternative mechanism to return shuffled cards to a presentation tray.

[0041] FIG. 6 illustrates a side cross-sectional view of the shuffling chute of the card shuffler shown in FIGS. 1A and 1B.

[0042] FIG. 7 illustrates the view of the shuffling chute shown in FIG. 6 at a specific instance of time during a shuffling operation with cards thrown into the air in the chute.

[0043] FIG. 8A illustrates a portion of the shuffler including the shuffling chute at a moment in time before and after a stack of cards has been shuffled.

[0044] FIG. 8B illustrates a portion of the shuffler including the shuffling chute at a moment in time and showing an elevator mechanism as an alternative to the one shown in FIG. 8A.

[0045] FIG. 9 illustrates a photograph and analysis related to counting cards in the card shuffler.

[0046] FIG. 10 illustrates a stack of cards that may be introduced into the card shuffler.

[0047] FIG. 11 illustrates a side cross-sectional view of a shuffler including a pushing mechanism to transition cards in the shuffler from a vertical position to a horizontal position, and a pushing element in a first position.

[0048] FIG. 12 illustrates a side cross-sectional view of a shuffler including cards transitioning from a vertical position to a horizontal position, and a pushing element in a second position.

[0049] FIG. 13 illustrates a side cross-sectional view of a shuffler with cards transitioned to a horizontal position, and the shuffler is in a position to accept a new stack of cards.

[0050] FIG. 14 is a graph that illustrates a position of a card kicker over time relative to a side of a stack of cards being shuffled.

[0051] FIG. 15A is an overhead view of an elevator mechanism for moving cards within a card shuffler according to an illustrative implementation and as viewed from line A'-A' in FIG. 11.

[0052] FIG. 15B is an enlarged view of a portion of FIG. 15A that illustrates a rail of a wall of a shuffling chute.

[0053] FIG. 16 is an overhead view of an elevator mechanism for moving cards within a card shuffler according to an illustrative implementation and as viewed from line B'-B' in FIG. 11.

[0054] FIG. 17A is an illustrative example of a wall section of a shuffling chute according to a first illustrated implementation.

[0055] FIG. 17B is another illustrative example of a wall section of a shuffling chute according to a second illustrated implementation.

[0056] FIG. 18 is a side view of a portion of an elevator mechanism according to a first implementation.

[0057] FIG. 19 is an overhead view of a portion of an elevator mechanism according to a second implementation.

[0058] FIG. 20 is a side view of a portion of an elevator mechanism according to a third implementation.

[0059] FIG. 21 is a perspective view of a kicker, kicker mechanism and adjacent card according to a first illustrative implementation.

[0060] FIG. 22 is an overhead view of three illustrative implementations of a wall and panel and accompanying rails for preventing a card from sticking to a wall of a shuffling chute.

[0061] FIG. 23 is a perspective view of a portion of another illustrative implementation of a wall or panel for preventing a card from sticking to a wall of a shuffling chute.

[0062] FIG. 24 is a perspective view of a portion of yet another illustrative implementation of a wall or panel for preventing a card from sticking to a wall of a shuffling chute and a card placed adjacent thereto.

[0063] FIG. 25 is a side cross-sectional view of an elevator mechanism, a portion of a shuffling chute, electronic components and a switch for communicating with other devices.

[0064] FIG. 26 is a schematic view of an illustrative implementation of a computing component to control the card shuffler, perform computations, etc.

[0065] FIG. 27 illustrates a flowchart of illustrative events or steps for shuffling.

[0066] FIG. 28 illustrates another flowchart of illustrative events or steps for shuffling.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0067] Embodiments and techniques described herein include improved systems, apparatuses and methods for performing shuffling so as to provide a substantially randomized deck, group, stack or collection of cards. The shuffling described herein are those processes whereby cards are not held or subjected to a constant mechanical force when being shuffled. Instead, cards are ejected, thrown or kicked, and then settle under the influence of gravity back into the stack, body or group of cards. Broadly, the process can be described as follows. A group of cards is placed in a machine, the machine performs a shuffling of the cards, and returns the group of shuffled cards to a user. In theory, this is a simple process. Various components and procedures ensure that this process is reliably and efficiently performed.

[0068] FIG. 1A is a perspective view of a card shuffler illustrating a first embodiment or implementation. Generally, reference is made to a shuffler and is labeled as the device 10. With reference to FIG. 1A, a shuffler 10 is installed in a table 1 such as a gaming table. The shuffler 10 may take other embodiments and may be installed in other configurations such as on the side of the table 1 or above the table 1. The shuffler 10 includes a generally smooth or planar top surface 9 in which is included a lid 2 by which to access other components of the shuffler 10 as explained in more detail herein. The components generally lie flush with the table 1 or below the table's surface. One of the components is a shuffling chute 3 or compartment having at least four sides. The shuffling chute 3 is preferably substantially vertical and extends downward into the body of the shuffler 10. The shuffler is contained in a housing 7. The housing protects the shuffler 10. While not shown, the lid 2 may include a window through which an operator (not shown) may observe various states of the shuffler 10. The shuffler 10 includes a presentation tray 4 on which cards (not shown) are returned to the operator after a shuffling action has been performed. The presentation tray 4 may be fixed inside the shuffler 10, or may be removable or separable such that the tray may be pushed onto the surface above the table 1.

[0069] One or more buttons or indicators 5 are provided in the top surface 9 of the shuffler 10. A messaging panel 6 also may be provided in the top surface 9. Generally, buttons 5, messaging panel 6 and the like are user interface elements through which a user is able to interact with and control operation of the shuffler 10. The indicators 5 and messaging panel 6 may be changed in color to indicate states of the shuffler 10. Further, text-based messages may be shown on the messaging panel 6, which may take the form of an LCD or other type of panel capable of displaying or conveying text-based information. The lid 2, buttons 5 and messaging panel 6 preferably lie co-planar with the top surface 9 and the table 1 so as to facilitate working with cards on the gaming table. Other elements may be included in the top surface 9 such as an authentication component 8, vents 11 to allow heat or sound to escape, and one or more security or lock components 12 that facilitate securing of the shuffler 10.

[0070] Card access and shuffler operation. The following scenario illustrates one example of interacting with the shuffler 10. An operator actuates a button 5 which triggers release of the lid 2. Actuation of the button 5 communicates to the shuffler 10 that a group of cards is to be introduced in the shuffler 10. The shuffler 10 may acknowledge actuation of the button 5 by flashing a light such as light associated with the button 5 that was actuated. The shuffler 10 may acknowledge actuation of the button 5 by taking another action such as making a sound, displaying a message on the messaging panel 6, or partially raising or releasing the lid 2 from a latched state. The operator places a group of unsorted cards on the presentation tray 4. The operator closes the lid 2. FIG. 1B illustrates the shuffler 10 with the lid 2 closed. The shuffler 10 may proceed, or it may wait for a cue from the operator such as the pressing of a button (e.g., first or second button 5) or other indication that shuffling should be performed. After the lid 2 is closed, the shuffler 10, via movement of the presentation tray 4, introduces the group of cards vertically into the shuffling chute 3. Only the top-most portion of the chute 3 is shown in FIGS. 1A and 1B. As shown and described in more detail below, the tray 4 moves the cards by tilting and allowing gravity to direct the cards into the chute 3. Once in the chute 3, the cards are shuffled by launching cards into the air from one or both ends of the group of cards. The cards settle into a random position in the group of cards under the influence of gravity. The mechanisms and processing of shuffling are shown and described in more detail below. Once shuffled, the cards are lifted up the chute 3 and returned to the tray 4. Once in the tray 4, the shuffler 10 releases the closed lid 2 and the lid 2 may automatically be lifted or may require an operator to lift the lid 2 to access the tray 4. The operator is then free to gather the group of cards duly shuffled into a substantially randomized order.

[0071] Preferably, the process of lowering the cards into the chute 3, shuffling the cards and returning the cards to the tray 4 happens within the space of a few seconds. During the various portions of the shuffling process, an indicator (e.g., light, sound generator) of the shuffler 10 may be actuated which communicates the stage or state of the shuffler at any given time. For example, one indicator 5 communicates that the group of cards has been shuffled and is currently ready for use by flashing a light. According to one mode of playing, a dealer plays with a first stack of cards (e.g., blue-backed cards) while a second stack of cards (e.g., red-backed cards) are being shuffled by the shuffler 10. While a stack of cards is being shuffled, the lid 2 is in a closed configuration as shown in FIG. 1B. That way, a second stack of cards may be shuffled while a first stack of cards may be in play with a dealer and/or set of players.

[0072] Although not shown, according to an alternative embodiment, the buttons 5 and messaging panel 6 (e.g., LCD panel, LED panel) may take the form of a touch screen display. Use of a touch screen may eliminate the need for some or all mechanical buttons for interacting with the shuffler 10.

[0073] The shuffler 10 shown in FIG. 1A returns the cards in the tray 4 such that the cards lie substantially co-planar with the table 1. This mode of delivery meets the needs of an operator who needs to avoid exposing the face of the bottom card of the group of cards to ensure the integrity of the card game.

[0074] Other embodiments of a card shuffler are possible. With other embodiments, other ways of interfacing and interacting with the card shuffler 10 are possible. FIG. 2A illustrates a perspective view of an alternative embodiment of a card shuffler 20. With reference to FIG. 2A, the shuffler 20 includes a top surface 9 that is mounted co-planar with the table surface 1. The shuffler 20 includes a first chute access 23 and a second chute access 24. The first chute access 23 is an ingress, and the second chute access is an egress where shuffled cards 21 exit the shuffler 20.

[0075] The following scenario illustrates one example of interacting with the shuffler 20. An operator (not shown) actuates a button 25 which indicates to the shuffler 20 to accept an unshuffled group of cards placed into the entrance of the ingress 23. The group of cards are subsequently accepted into the shuffler 20, shuffled and returned to the top 1 of the playing surface. During card playing, a lid 22 covers the entrance to the ingress 23 and prevents players and the operator from accidentally losing cards down the ingress 23 during a round of cards. When the operator is ready for a card shuffle, she places the group of cards vertically into the ingress 23 and the lid 22 swings downward along the path 28 shown. The cards are lodged with a portion of the group of cards 21 remaining perpendicularly positioned up and out of the top surface 9. This stage of shuffling (interacting with the shuffler 20) is not shown in FIG. 2A. Although not illustrated, a platform or elevator rests below the ingress 23. When cards are inserted into the ingress 23, the elevator prevents the group of cards 21 from falling into the shuffling chute that is inside the cabinet 7. While an elevator (a first transport mechanism) is described, the elevator may take one of various forms that do not necessarily imply a solid surface. A set of fork tines may effectively form an elevator on which cards may be accepted in the ingress 23.

[0076] After placing the cards in the ingress 23, the operator actuates a button 25 which communicates to the shuffler 20 that a group of cards is properly placed and ready to be shuffled. The shuffler 20 may acknowledge actuation of the button 25 by flashing a light or triggering a sound. Once activated, the shuffler 20 lowers the cards 21 into the shuffling chute and shuffles the cards. Once finished, an elevator (not illustrated) raises the cards 21 into the egress 24. A second lid 27 (lid for the egress) opens and allows the group of cards to be taken from the shuffler 20. The second lid 27 covers the face of the bottom card. Once the cards 21 are taken, the second lid 27 swings shut and lies flat in a co-planar fashion so as to restore an unfettered playing surface 1 of the table. This alternative embodiment shown in FIG. 2A introduces some elements and features that are not present in FIGS. 1A and 1B. The components and operation of the shuffler 20 shown in FIG. 2A may be more advantageous in certain circumstances than the components and operation of the shuffler 10 shown in FIGS. 1A and 1B.

[0077] Yet other embodiments of a card shuffler are possible. With other embodiments, other ways of interfacing and interacting with a card shuffler are possible. FIG. 2B illustrates a perspective view of another alternative embodiment of a card shuffler 20. With reference to FIG. 2B, the shuffler 29 includes a top surface 9 that is mounted co-planar with the table surface 1. The shuffler 29 includes a first chute access 23 and a second chute access 24--both of which lie below the planar top of the table surface 1 by recesses sculpted into the table top 1. The first chute access 23 is an ingress, and the second chute access is an egress covered by a flap 27. Shuffled cards 21 exit the shuffler 29 as a stack in a substantially horizontal manner.

[0078] The following scenario illustrates one example of interacting with the shuffler 29 shown in FIG. 2B. An operator (not shown) actuates a button 5 which indicates to the shuffler 29 to accept an unshuffled group of cards placed into the entrance of the ingress 23, or just inserts cards into the ingress 23. The group of cards are subsequently accepted into the shuffler 29, shuffled and returned to the top 1 of the playing surface. Internal to the shuffler, the cards are rotated from a horizontal orientation to a vertical orientation. The cards are shuffled while in a generally vertical orientation to allow kicked cards (explained further below) to settle under the influence of gravity back into the stack of cards. After the cards are shuffled, the cards are again rotated--taken from a vertical orientation and placed horizontally into a stack at the egress of the shuffler 29. During card playing, players have to take care to avoid cards sliding into the scalloped recess of the ingress and egress. The shuffler 29 illustrated in FIG. 2B has the advantage of accepting the cards in a horizontal fashion and returning the shuffled cards in a horizontal fashion--in a more traditional fashion than accepting cards oriented vertically and risking exposure of the value face of the bottom most card.

[0079] This alternative embodiment shown in FIG. 2B introduces elements and features that are not present in FIGS. 1A, 1B and 2A. For example, cards never have to be placed into a vertical orientation. No lid is required to be lifted such as the lid 2 shown in FIGS. 1A and 1B. The internal components of shuffling are next explained--components which are present below the surface 1 of the table and below the top surface 9 of a shuffler 10, 20 like those illustrated in perspective view in FIGS. 1A, 1B, 2A and 2B.

[0080] Presentation tray. One embodiment of a presentation tray is shown in FIGS. 1A and 1B. FIG. 3 illustrates components that can be used to operate such a presentation tray 4. With reference to FIG. 3, a tray 4 is shown in three positions--such as for use inside the shuffler 10 of FIG. 1A for sake of illustration. The mechanisms and components shown in FIG. 3 may be used in any card shuffler of the types described herein.

[0081] With reference to FIG. 3, the tray 4 and other components lie below the table surface 1. A tray 4 may be loaded with an unshuffled group of cards 21. A drive belt 30 causes the tray 4 and cards 21 to move laterally toward the left. The drive belt 30 is operated by a drive wheel 31 and electrical motor (not shown). According to an illustrative embodiment, the electric motor is powered by a standard alternating current power source or by direct current provided by a battery or other source. A power source and wiring is not shown in FIG. 3 for sake of simplicity of illustration.

[0082] With reference to FIG. 3, the tray 4 is affixed to the belt 30 via one or more connectors 33. As the tray 4 moves, the tray 4 first orients itself consistent with an inclined plane 39 due to the positioning of the drive belt 30 and non-drive wheels 32. At this point, the drive belt 30 and tray 4 may stop. The cards 21 are carried left to this point by a closed side 36A. When the tray 4 stops, or as the cards 21 are exposed to sufficient vertical freedom and lose grip with the inside surface 38, the cards 21 fall out the open side 36B and into the shuffling chute 3. Alternatively, the open side 36B may include a trap door 36C that pivots open as the tray 4 is tilted; the trap door 36C allows the cards 21 to enter and exit the tray 4 as needed. Tray 4 also includes a bottom exterior surface 37. A top portion of the sides 35 of the shuffling chute 3 is illustrated in FIG. 3.

[0083] Alternatively, the tray 4 may continue further toward the chute 3 by traveling further counter-clockwise with the belt 30 by rotating and orientating itself into a more vertical position consistent with the vertical plane 40 shown. At this point, no card 21 should be in the tray. After the cards 21 have been shuffled further down in the chute 3, the cards 21 are returned to the presentation tray 4.

[0084] FIG. 4 illustrates components that coordinate to return cards 21 to the presentation tray. FIG. 4 illustrates components not shown in FIG. 3, and not all of the components of FIG. 3 are illustrated in FIG. 4 for sake of simplicity of illustration. With reference to FIG. 4, after the cards 21 have been shuffled in the shuffling chute 3, an elevator 50 lifts the cards 21 while the cards are in a substantially vertical position; the motion of the elevator 50 is illustrated with a partial range of motion 51. The cards 21 are lifted from the elevator 50 by one or more sweeper arms or forks 41. The arms 41 pivot about a pivot point or axis 42 along the range of motion 43 indicated. The arms 41 include a pad 41A along a portion of its lower edge. The pad 41A prevents damage to cards 21 as cards are kicked upward (as explained further below). The arms 41 may include a first counter balance (weight) 41B or a second counter balance (weight) 41C so that when power is removed from an arm 41 directly mounted to an axle 42 of a motor (not shown), the arm or arms 41 remain in a desired configuration--either in a first configuration or a second configuration depending on a current position of the arm 41 when the power is removed. The step of cutting the power to the motor provides several benefits including, for example, reducing heat generation, reducing power consumption, reducing noise, facilitating manual operation of the shuffler (e.g., manual delivery of cards to the shuffler), and facilitating automatic operation of the shuffler. While a single arm 41 is illustrated (visible) in FIG. 4, two arms 41 are preferable in order to provide (define) a plane on which to rest the side of a stack of cards 21 and for manipulating the cards 21 or tray 4. Use of a single (e.g., narrow) arm 41 causes excessive wear to cards 21 and would allow cards 21 to possibly rotate around an axis defined by the single arm 41, and would allow a card to escape or enable another malfunction. Such malfunction is undesirable.

[0085] With reference again to FIG. 4, the cards 21 re-enter the tray 4 via the tray's open end 36B. The arms 41 rotate clockwise and press against or travel next to the open end 36B as the tray 4 travels from a second position B toward a first position A from which an operator may obtained the shuffled group of cards 21. The arms 41 rotate to a predetermined point at which there is substantial likelihood that the cards 21 will not move in the tray 4 as the tray 4 travels clockwise to a first position A. The arms 41 may subsequently be moved to a location within the shuffler 10 that allows unfettered access to the elevator 50 and shuffling chute 3 at the start of another (subsequent) shuffling cycle.

[0086] Optionally, a horizontal biasing member 44 may be installed and programmed to actuate when the cards 21 have been lifted to a position adjacent to the tray 4. (An alternative embodiment to member 44 is described in reference to FIG. 11 below.) The horizontal biasing member 44 operates in coordination with the elevator 50 and the one or more arms 41. More than one arm 41 may be needed depending on the configuration of the size and configuration of other components such as the drive belt 30 and wheels 31, 32. The biasing member 44 travels in the range of motion 45 indicated. Once the cards 21 are tilted, the biasing member 44 may disengage and returns to a starting configuration outside of the shuffling chute 3. According to one embodiment, the biasing member 44 is programmed to actuate once during the shuffling cycle at the time of return of the shuffled cards 21 to the tray 4. The biasing member 44 ensures that each of the cards 21 of the group of cards leans over in the proper direction and rest in the presentation tray 4 appropriately. When the tray 4 travels clockwise and transitions from an inclined position B to a substantially horizontal position A, the arms 41 may disengage and may then swing to a resting position (not shown) where they are programmatically positioned to wait for another shuffling operation. The resting position may depend partially or fully on one or more counter weights 41B, 41C.

[0087] FIG. 5 illustrates an alternative mechanism for operating a tray and one or more sweeper arms--an alternative mechanism to return shuffled cards to a presentation tray. With reference to FIG. 5, one or more sweeper arms 52 are affixed to a belt 30. The sweeper arms 52 travel along the range of motion 53 shown which, in this illustrative implementation, is over a range of motion. For example, the arms 52 may travel from a third position C, to a second position B and to first position A as the shuffled cards 21 are transported to a substantially horizontal position. The belt 30 travels over a drive wheel 31 and one or more non-drive wheels 32, pins, tracks, or positional elements.

[0088] An illustrative operational scenario may be as follows. The shuffling chute 3 and other components lie below the top surface 1 of the shuffler 10. The cards 21 are constrained in the shuffling chute by the chute walls 35. After being shuffled, an elevator (not shown in FIG. 5 for simplicity) lifts the cards 21 into position C; the cards are lifted or placed into an open side 36B of the tray 4. The sweeper arm 52 travels clockwise programmatically and engage the cards 21 and thereby keep the card 21 from falling out of the tray 4. The cards 21 may be pressed against the closed side 36A of the tray 4. The elevator is then free to be lowered back to the floor of the shuffler or other initial position to await initiation of another shuffling cycle. The arm 52 then lifts the tray 4 and cards 21 upward from a position C past a position B and to a position A. Although not illustrated in FIG. 5, the tray 4 is moveably mounted in a track such that the tray 4 is free to travel between positions A, B and C.

[0089] At the beginning of a shuffling cycle, unshuffled cards 21 may be delivered from the tray 4 into the shuffling chute 3 by an actuator 54 that travels along the range of motion 55. The actuator 54 provides an impulse of motion to the tray 4. The tray 4 is free to travel from position A to position B and to position C as the tray 4 is moveably mounted to rails such that wheels, pegs or other elements cooperate with the rails to allow the cards 21 to fall vertically into the chute 3. One or more sensors may also be mounted in various places within the range of motion 53 to detect the presence of cards 21, the tray 4 or other component of the system.

[0090] FIG. 6 illustrates a side cross-sectional view of the shuffling chute 3 of the card shuffler 10 shown in FIG. 1 prior to throwing or shuffling any cards 21. The cards 21 have been lowered on an elevator platform 60 that sits atop an elevator rod 61. The elevator rod 61 may be a threaded screw, or may form part of a more elaborate elevator mechanism such as with tracks, wheels, tracks, screw motors and the like. Other examples of elevator mechanisms are shown and described herein.

[0091] With reference to FIG. 6, the cards 21 are shown at a starting and ending position on the platform 60 at the bottom 62 of the chute 3. After the cards 21 are shuffled and re-settled, the cards 21 are ready to be lifted back to the top of the shuffling chute 3. The stack of cards 21 extends a substantial distance across the width 63 of the bottom or floor 62 of the chute 3. A first roller or kicker 64 engages a first side 81 of the stack of the cards 21. While a roller or kicker 64 is shown, other forms of lifting cards are possible. Generally, a forcer can apply a lifting or kicking force to one or more cards in the stack of cards 21.

[0092] In FIG. 6, for shuffling, the kicker 64 is caused to rotate in a counter-clockwise direction. When in contact with a top-most card 81, the kicker 64 throws the top-most card 81 toward a top region 83 of the chute 3. The kicker 64 imparts a lifting, kinetic energy to the top-most card 81. The kicker 64 is held in place by a rod, arm, base or other body 67. In the implementation shown, the base 67 and arm attached to the kicker 64 are substantially stationary, but may be spring-loaded or movable so as to press with a certain predictable amount of force against a top-most card 81 and so as to facilitate movement or removal of the kicker 64 from the chute 3 as desired or needed for transportation of the cards 21.

[0093] Another or second kicker 65 may be used. The second kicker 65 is spring-loaded or movable and effectively holds the cards 21 in place. The second kicker 65 may be primarily horizontally movable. The cards 21 are pinched or held substantially vertical between the first kicker 64 and second kicker 65 at most or all times during the shuffling operation. The kickers 64, 65 operate on both working sides 81, 82 of the stack of cards 21. The kickers 64, 65 are shown entirely within the chute 3, but the shuffler may be configured such that only a small portion of each kicker 64, 65 enters the chute 3. With reference to FIG. 6, the second kicker 65 rotates clockwise and throws a bottom-most card 82 upward toward the top region 83 of the chute 3. The second kicker 65 is mounted to a spring-loaded or movable post 66 (or other movement mechanism, such as a pivotable body) and operated from a base 68. The base 68 is shown generically as a block and may include other components that allow the second kicker 65 to move in a horizontal range of motion 68 such as through an oscillatory motion with vertical and horizontal components of motion.

[0094] During a shuffling operation, the top-most card 81 travels upward toward a top region 83 of the chute 3. The top-most card 81 may impact an inner surface 70 of the sidewall 35 of the chute 3 which may alter the path or orientation of the top-most card 81 such as deflecting the card 81 horizontally. The surface area of the inner surface 70 may be reduced with use of certain features formed thereto or formed therein. During card flight, a card 81 may impact a cushion 41A attached to the arms 41. One or more cushions 41A or other buffers or dampening components may be added to either the arms 41 or other portions of the chute 3 so as to prevent damage to lifted or kicked cards and to reduce noise generated during shuffling of the cards 21. After reaching its zenith, a kicked card 81 falls toward a middle region 84 of the chute 3 and settles back into the stack 21 in the bottom region 62. If the flung top-most card 81 does not impact the inside surface 70 of the chute wall 35, or another flung card, the upward travel of the top-most card 81 may be free of any impact. The flung top-most card 81 travels a vertical distance up the vertical range 69 of the shuffling chute 3 and then settles under the influence of gravity into the remaining portion of the stack of card 21 at the bottom 62 of the chute 3. After a first top-most card 81 is thrown, in sequence, a next top-most card is contacted and thrown vertically into the air in the chute 3. One or more top-most cards 81 may be traveling in the chute 3 during shuffling at any one instance in time. A second or third top-most card 81 may be thrown before a first top-most card 81 arrives and settles into the stack 21. A substantial fraction of the stack of cards 21 may be in motion at any given instant of time when a substantial rate of shuffling is applied to the cards 21. A rapid shuffling preferably occurs so that a sufficient amount of shuffling is done in a set amount of time. A slow or protracted shuffling time is not desirable to a dealer, users or players who are presumably waiting for the stack of cards to be shuffled by the shuffler 10.

[0095] With reference to FIG. 6, the top-most card 81 passes (either on its upward trajectory or on its downward trajectory) by one or more sensors 72 that lie flush with an inner wall 70 of the chute 3. While the sensors 72 are shown in the wall perpendicular to the orientation of the cards 21, the sensors are preferably mounted to the walls that are substantially parallel to the plane of the cards 21. The shuffler 10 is able to sense if the successive top-most cards 81 travel sufficiently upward in the chute 3 such as to a top-located sensor 72A. A single or multiple cards may be blocking a sensor 72A at any given time and thus it may not be possible to distinguish of a single card or multiple cards have reached a top-most position in the chute at any given time. A sufficient travel up the vertical chute range 69 enables the top-most card 81 to settle downward into a sufficiently random place in the remainder of the stack 21.

[0096] Alternatively, the shuffler 10 may be able to sense a fraction of the cards actually thrown at the top-located sensor 72A or may be able to mark the presence of thrown cards in front of the sensor 72A over time. Based on such sensing, the shuffler 10, based on one or more empirical evaluations and stored benchmarks, may be able to compare a measurement of a value for the current shuffling operation against one or more benchmark or threshold values and the shuffler may determine if sufficient shuffling has occurred for a particular stack of cards 21 and its shuffling operation. For example, if not enough top-most cards 81 transiently block or activate a top-most sensor 72A, the shuffler may be programmed to reject a current shuffling of the cards 21 because not enough movement or shuffling of the cards 21 has likely occurred and a malfunction may be at hand. Perhaps, for example, a single card has blocked the trajectory of thrown cards and has prevented thrown cards from settling at random into the remainder of the stack of cards. Alternatively, perhaps without a sufficient count of cards passing a top-most sensor 72A or other one or more sensors 72, 72B, a surface of the kicker 64 has become too slippery and is not able to sufficiently grip each top-most card 81 and consequently is not able to throw the top-most card 81 sufficiently high into the chute 3. These and other types of checks enable a determination that a sufficient shuffle has occurred for the stack of cards 21. The same can be said for cards thrown by the second kicker 65. A number of cards should be thrown sufficiently by the second kicker 65 if the second kicker 65 is present or used in the particular embodiment of the shuffler. Shuffling performed at both the top-most side 81 and bottom-most side 82 is desirable and enables faster shuffling than shuffling generated by just a single kicker. Thus, it is preferable to throw cards by the first kicker 64 and the second kicker 65.

[0097] During shuffling, a falling top-most card 81 travels downward in a sufficiently vertical orientation so that it may settle back into the remainder of the stack 21. Once back in the stack 21, a first top-most card 81 may eventually reach the top of the stack 21 and may be thrown a second, third or more times during the shuffling operation. Because a card may settle into a variety of places in the remainder of the stack 21, an exact number of throws of any particular card may not be known with certainty by detection or predictability.

[0098] To assist in properly orienting falling cards, one or more pins 73 may be mounted or placed into the chute 3 at one or more places in the vertical pathway of the falling cards. These pins 73 may be pushed into the path traveled by the elevator 60 after the elevator 60 has passed the area where the pins 73 are located during shuffling. Such pins 73 are then retracted so as to avoid the platform 60 as it returns the cards back toward the top of the chute 3. Alternatively, pins 73 may be mounted only outside the path of the elevator 60 and elevator shaft 61. In yet an alternative implementation, pins may pass through gaps formed in the elevator such that fixedly mounted pins do not interfere with operation of the elevator and delivery of the cards 21 up and down in the shuffling chute 3.

[0099] In FIG. 6, a certain number of pins 73 are shown. However, any number of pins 73 may be used, or no pins may be used, depending on the size of the chute 3 and other factors. The number of pins 73 used or pushed into the chute 3 may depend on the number of cards 21 to be shuffled. Often, the number of cards 21 is fixed for given gaming table, and the shuffler 10 may be configured to include a certain number of pins 73 in the chute 3 one time when the shuffler 10 is first installed into a gaming table. For example, a shuffler 10 may be configured to shuffle 52 cards. The pins 73 may be placed in the chute 3 in a variety of configurations depending on the size of the cards, the material of construction of the cards, on the number of cards to be shuffled, etc. These pins 73 assist in preventing falling cards from turning or rotating into a horizontal orientation. These pins 73 assist in orienting each falling card into a sufficiently vertical orientation so that the falling card can settle back into the stack 21. Additionally, one or more fins 71 may be placed in the chute 3. One fin 71 is shown in FIG. 6 near the top 83 of the shuffling region.

[0100] To further assist in obtaining and maintaining a sufficiently settled stack of cards 21, a vibrating component 90 may be installed and operated during, after, or during and after shuffling. In an illustrative implementation, an ovoid cam is shown in FIG. 6. Other components of the vibrating component 90 may include a lever, wheel or other part. The vibrating component 90 imparts a vibratory action or motion to the cards 21, the platform 60 (shown), elevator rod 61, kickers 64, 65 or shuffling wall 35. Preferably, the vibratory force is not delivered to the cards 21 directly so as to prevent wear to the cards 21 by the shuffler 10. The vibrating component 90 facilitates an evenly settled stack of cards 21 that reside below a bottom row 72B of sensors. During shuffling, the shuffler 10 is able to monitor the health of the stack 21 with this row 72B of sensors. While multiple sensors 72B are shown, these sensors 72B may be a single sensor that can detect a proper configuration of cards in the bottom 62 of the chute 3.

[0101] FIG. 7 illustrates the view of the shuffling chute shown in FIG. 6 at a particular instance in time during a shuffling operation with cards 85, 86 and 87 thrown into the air in the chute 3. With reference to FIG. 7, a first air-born card 85 has been thrown upward on the right-hand side of the chute 3. As shown by the arrow, the first card 85 is on an upward trajectory. The second kicker wheel 65 has imparted an upward force to the first air-born card 85. In operation, according to a first illustrative implementation, the movable post 66 and second kicker 65 oscillate horizontally. During each oscillation, as the second kicker 65 comes into contact with a bottom-most card 82, the card 82 is thrown upward and shuffled into the remaining stack of cards 21. More than one card 82 may be thrown upward for each oscillation of the second kicker 65 based on one or more factors including a rotational speed at which the kicker 65 is operating, speed of oscillation, amount of travel during oscillation, and material of which the cards 21 are made. A second air-born card 86 is illustrated and appears to be on a downward trajectory as indicated by the arrow. This second air-born card 86 has been thrown by the first kicker 64. The second air-born card 86 may or may not have come into contact with the side wall 35 of the shuffler. Depending on the particular implementation of the invention, the first kicker 64 may or may not be moveable in a horizontal fashion. The first kicker 64 is shown as stationary in FIG. 7. That is, the first kicker 64, according to the illustrated implementation in FIG. 7, rotates in a counter clockwise fashion and relies on the horizontal motion of the second kicker 65 and post 66 to push the stack of cards 21 left toward first kicker 64 after a top-most card 81 has been thrown.

[0102] The second thrown card 86 is shown eclipsing a top-most sensor 72A which communicates to the shuffler 10 that the second card 86 has successfully reached at least the top-most sensor 72A. When a card is thrown sufficiently high up and into the chute 3, the thrown card stands a fair chance to settle into a substantially random place in the stack of cards 21 lying at the bottom region 62 of the shuffling chute 3. A sufficiently high distance may or may not coincide with a top-most sensor 72A but may be to a location closer to the stack of cards 21 such as in a mid region 84 of the shuffling chute 3. The same sensor 72A or another sensor 72 may be placed there and used there to determine a sufficient amount of shuffling. Further, the sensors 72, 72A are shown in FIG. 7 as in the walls that lie perpendicular to a plane of the face of the cards 21. However, in a preferred implementation, the sensors 72, 72A are placed in, mounted to or exposed to apertures in the lateral walls 35. The sensors 72, 72A are shown of a particular size, but may be of any size, shape or design.

[0103] A third air-born card 87 is shown partially inserted into the stack of cards 21. The stack of cards 21 is shown loosely resting on the platform 60 and gaps are shown between successive cards to emphasize the positions that are available for a falling card 85, 86 and 87 to lodge back into the stack of cards 21. Pins 73 assist falling cards 86, 87 to remain in a proper orientation and facilitate proper return of the falling cards 86, 87 to the stack of cards 21.

[0104] A sufficient amount of shuffling may be measured in a variety of ways. Several of those ways are described here. For example, a sufficient amount of shuffling may be determined based on a cumulative value determined based on detection at one or more sensors 72, 72A. In another example, a sufficient amount of shuffling may be determined based on a cumulative time that one or more cards are detected by one or more sensors 72, 72A. In another example, a sufficient amount of shuffling may be determined by a cumulative position of a pointer in a computer memory based on one or more cards detected by one or more sensors 72, 72A. In another example, a sufficient amount of shuffling may be determined by summing up a value in a structure in a computer memory based on detection of one or more cards at one or more sensors 72, 72A. In this example, instructions in a computer memory may record either a one or zero based on whether a card is detected by a sensor 72A, and then after a pre-determined time, a computer instruction may sum all ones in the array of values to see whether a sufficient summation is greater than a threshold value indicative of a sufficient amount of shuffling for a particular number of cards in the shuffler. In yet another example, a sufficient amount of shuffling may be determined by sampling at the sensor 72 or 72A and estimating a time that cards have been detectable by the sensor 72 or 72A. In this example, if an electronic sampling of a signal at a sensor 72A indicates a card, then for the entire sampling time, it can be assumed that a card was present. According to one illustration, if the device is configured to sample once every millisecond, then it can be assumed by the instructions in the memory that during the entire millisecond that one or more cards were within detection of the sensor 72A. A sum of all of the milliseconds at which cards were present over a pre-determined time at which samples were taken may indicate that a sufficient amount of shuffling has occurred. Or, a running total of milliseconds may reach a pre-determined threshold that indicates that a sufficient amount of shuffling has occurred.

[0105] Having a sensor 72 or 72A and monitoring actual shuffling of cards (by throwing or kicking cards sufficiently upward) provides an improvement over conventional shuffling designs and devices. Several advantages are provided by the disclosed componentry and computer instructions to control the device. One such advantage is to substantially reduce the number of system checks needed. Some checking is eliminated altogether. For example, there is no longer a need for checking and monitoring the health of various sub-systems for shuffling of cards. Specifically, making a determination of whether a sufficient amount of shuffling occurred (via a sensor 72 or 72A) removes a need to check or monitor: (1) revolution or RPM of a kicker wheel, (2) sufficient gripping or rubber surface of the kicker wheel, (3) whether any oscillatory motion is occurring by a kicker, and (4) jamming of cards. If there is on and off detection at a sensor 72 or 72A, there is sufficient motion of the cards and such determination removes the need to monitor whether the parts of the shuffler are working Previous designs and devices did not monitor the presence of kicked cards, but instead monitored various sub-systems and components.

[0106] One or more values related to shuffling may be persisted in a computer memory or a computer storage about sufficient shuffling for use in the same shuffling cycle, or for use with past and future information about shuffling and for future operation of the shuffler. Thus, historical data about shuffling may be generated and stored for use by the shuffler or for operators, servicemen or owners of the shuffler. For example, data may be persisted so that a statistical determination or calculation can be performed for the particular device. According to one illustrative determination, values and information generated and derived from persisted values may be used to correlate with or confirm a sufficient level of shuffling for the pre-programmed and extant conditions and shuffling parameters of the shuffler 10. Such determination may be done according to an approved standard or methodology such as the Gaming Laboratories International (GLI) Standard number 29, chapter 2. Such determination may confirm that the shuffler 10 meets or exceeds a shuffling or randomization standard or test such as one or more of the following tests: Chi-square test, overlaps test, poker test, coupon collector's test, permutation test, adjacency criterion test, runs test, interplay correlation test and serial correlation test potency.

[0107] FIG. 8A illustrates a portion of the shuffler 10 including the shuffling chute 3 at a moment in time before and after the stack of cards 21 has been shuffled when the cards 21 are traveling on the elevator 60. A shuffled stack of cards 21 can be returned from a shuffling position 91 upward toward the presentation tray 4 on the elevator 60. According to the illustrated implementation, the elevator shaft 61 lifts the elevator 60 up and down. Other mechanisms for lifting the elevator 60 are possible such as mounting the elevator 60 within a track or to a belt (not shown). The outer edges of the elevator 60 may be upturned or contoured so as to encourage the stack of cards 21 to remain on the elevator 60 as the elevator 60 is lifted. Alternatively, the width of the shuffling chute 3 may be sufficiently narrow and may include rails to keep the cards properly aligned and susceptible to movement by the elevator 60. After shuffling, the top-most card 81 may or may not be the same as when the stack of cards 21 was first introduced into the shuffling chute 3 for shuffling. The walls 35 and other elements of the shuffling chute 3 are not necessarily drawn to scale or proportion. The shuffling chute 3 is shown substantially wider than the stack of cards 21 but this may not necessarily be true for every implementation. A stack of cards 21 may be substantially similar in size to the width 63 of the chute 3. The first kicker 64 and second kicker 65 may be withdrawn free from the outer profile of the elevator 60 by retracting the posts 66 on which the kickers 64, 65 are connected, or the kickers 64, 65 may only partially lie within the chute 3. The posts 66 may be controlled by actuators which are shown for simplicity as bases 67. Alternative mechanisms for moving and controlling the kickers 64, 65 are possible.

[0108] FIG. 8B shows an alternative lifting mechanism for the elevator 60. With reference to FIG. 8B, the cards 21 may be taken to and removed from the tray 4 by a scissor lift 61A. The scissor lift 61A may be affixed to the bottom of the elevator 60 on its top end and may be mounted inside the shuffler 10 below the kickers 64, 65. The scissor lift 61A is operated programmatically to place the cards near the kickers 64, 65 for shuffling and to lift them back out of the shuffling chute 3 after shuffling.

[0109] FIG. 9 illustrates components used in an analysis of counting cards in a stack of cards 21 shown in FIGS. 6-7 and FIGS. 8A and 8B. It is not desirable to lose cards in the shuffler 10 during a card shuffling operation. Changing the expected or proper number of cards substantially alters game play and is generally against the rules and intent of most card games. Further, a misplaced card can prevent the shuffler 10 from operating correctly during a subsequent shuffling operation. According to the described embodiments, one way to count cards is to capture an electronic image of the stack of cards 21 and count the cards in the image. With reference to FIG. 9, a frame or image 92 is captured of a profile of the stack of cards 21. That is, the edges of the cards are imaged so as to distinguish one card from a next card. According to a first implementation, the image 92 corresponds substantially with the shuffling position 91. Note, for simplicity in illustration, a camera or other detector is not shown in FIGS. 6-7, 8A, 8B and 9. The image 92 may be captured by a camera that is fixed in place or by a camera or other detecting element that is movable within range of the cards within the shuffler, near the shuffler, within the shuffling chute, or over the width of the stack of cards while the cards are proximate to or in the shuffler. Generally, an image may be generated at any time during the shuffling operation and at any place within or proximate to the shuffler 10. According to one implementation, the image 92 is generated while the cards are in the shuffling chute such as in a shuffling location at the bottom of the shuffling chute and adjacent to one or more kickers. According to another implementation, the image 92 is generated prior to the cards being removed from an egress 24 as shown in FIG. 2A.

[0110] With reference to FIG. 9, the image 92 has a vertical dimension 93 and a horizontal dimension 94. Card counting is generally done by capturing an image 92 of the profile of the stack of cards 21, and detecting the presence of gaps and cards in the image 92 across the horizontal dimension 94. Detection can occur at a first location 95 outside of the stack of cards 21 to detect the presence of a rotated card 99. Detection can occur at a second location 96 across the width of the stack of cards 21. The image 94 may be cropped to an area of interest indicated by the dotted lines. The portion of the image for detection 96 includes cards 21 and gaps 97. Detection can be reduced into a conversion of the second location 96 in the image 94 into a series of 0's and 1's of a black-and-white image. A portion of an exemplary conversion is shown as the series 98 of 0's and 1's. For example, a gap or lack of light corresponds to a sequence of 2-4 zeros between cards 21 which, when converted, correspond to a series of three 1's. In the image, the space between successive cards 21 may vary in size, but the size of a card width is generally about the same--in this example, three 1's. Alternatively, the image may be captured by an infrared camera, a fingerprint scanner, an x-ray camera, or an ultraviolet detector, etc.

[0111] The image 92 may be captured by the combination of one or more flash components that operate in coordination with a camera or detector. Generally, it is dark inside the shuffler 10 because the shuffler 10 is enclosed and flash components may be necessary to capture an image of sufficient quality for use for card counting. Counting cards in this manner is fast and does not require any knowledge of the identity of each card.

[0112] An analysis of a stack of cards 21 may include both a counting of the cards 21 and an evaluation of whether there is one or more outliers; an outlier may be a rotated card 99 or a card that has been torn and wedged onto one or more other cards. A rotated card 99 is explained further herein in more detail in reference to FIG. 10. Several images 92 may be captured over time during a shuffling operation. Each captured image may be evaluated and may provide usable information to the shuffler. If all evaluations of some or all of the captured images meet pre-approved conditions, then a finished, shuffled stack of cards may be returned for use without an error notification.

[0113] FIG. 10 illustrates a stack of cards 21 that may be introduced into the card shuffler 10, 20 and 29. With reference to FIG. 10, each card includes a first side 81 or edge and a second side 82 or edge. For example, a first side 81 of the top card 101 may be a back of a card; the back of the card illustrated shows a hatched pattern. The cards 21 are shown face down in FIG. 10. The cards 21 include a first (short) edge 102 and a second (long) edge 103. The cards have a length dimension, a width dimension and a thickness dimension.

[0114] It is desirable for cards not to rotate while in a shuffler. Cards may possibly, and most easily, rotate around a first axis 105 because the first axis 105 runs in the plane of the cards 21 and perpendicular through the middle of the first edge 102, and because the cards 21 are generally shuffled while resting on their long side or edge 103 while in the shuffler. However, such orientation is not required for shuffling. The cards 21 also include a second axis of rotation 106 and a third axis of rotation 107. The cards 21 can rotate around the third axis of rotation without turning over a card 101 and exposing its face value on its second side 82.

[0115] Shuffling occurs when a card 101 is removed from the stack of cards and is placed into a gap 104 between cards at a randomly-selected location within the stack. When the stack of cards 21 is shuffled in a shuffling chute, placement of a kicked or displaced card falls under the influence of gravity and generally finds its way back into the stack of cards at a gap 104 in the cards at a substantially random place in the stack based on one or more factors. One of the factors is due to the influence of air as a kicked card falls in the chute under the influence of gravity. Another factor is the interplay and positioning of the card as the card contacts the various surfaces inside the shuffling chute. It is an object of the invention to throw or kick each card into the air to a sufficient distance to allow the card to have variability in its positioning while keeping its orientation relative to the rest of the cards in the stack of cards. Rotation about any of the axes of rotation 105, 106 and 107 is not desired.

[0116] FIG. 11 illustrates a side cross-sectional view of a shuffler including a pushing mechanism to laterally transition cards in the shuffler from a vertical position to a horizontal position, and a pushing element in a first position. With reference to FIG. 11, a top surface 1 of a card table is visible. A movable door 2 is in a closed position. The door 2 includes a roller 114 that is configured to contact and travel across a generally flat surface of a corresponding actuator 113. The actuator 113 forms part of an elevator arm 110. The elevator arm 110 and elevator 160 travel vertically in response to turning of an elevator screw 111. The elevator screw 111 is shown without any housing or protecting railing for simplicity of illustration; other elements associated with an elevator 160, an elevator arm 110 and an elevator screw 111 may be present in certain embodiments of the shuffler. While a single elevator screw 111 is shown, more than one elevator screw 111 or other vertical actuator may be used to transport cards in the shuffling chute. For example, rotating arms or a scissor lift may be used. Cards 21 rest atop a cushioning layer 161 on the elevator 160. The cushioning layer 161 provides at least two benefits: the cushioning layer 161 damps any sounds that result between an impact between cards 21 and the elevator (floor) 160. The cushioning layer 161 may be of any of a variety of materials including: rubber matting, cork, a soft plastic, a cardboard or an expanded foam material. A properly selected and applied cushioning layer 161 also prevents or reduces damage to the cards as the cards contact or make impact with the elevator 160 or floor of the shuffling chute 3. While a single cushioning layer 161 and single elevator 160 are shown, it is possible for the elevator 160 and cushioning layer 161 to take the form of two arms of a fork that lift transport the cards 21 up and down in the shuffling chute 3. Any agitation or settling force applied to the cards is preferably applied to the elevator floor 160 or the cushioning layer 161 so as to prevent damage to the cards 21 by direct contact between the agitator (not shown) and the cards 21.

[0117] In FIG. 11, the elevator 160 is shown overlapping the shuffling chute walls 35. This is due to the formation of one or more vertical gaps or slots in the chute walls 35 to accommodate the elevator 160. The elevator 160 overlaps the shuffling chute walls 35 to, inter alia, prevent the formation of gaps between the chute walls 35 and elevator that would allow a card 21 to fall into the shuffler 10 and become lost during a shuffling operation.

[0118] A single lateral card pusher 117 or tilting element is shown in FIG. 11 for sake of simplicity in illustration. Preferably, two lateral pushers are used for a stack of cards 21 so as to impact the cards 21 at two places as an elevator 160 is raised. FIGS. 12-13 show the lateral pusher 117 in two other configurations. It is to be understood that the lateral pusher 117 operates along a range of motion as defined by a fixed rotational pin 118 and a translational (movable) pin 116. The movable pin 116 moves substantially vertically in parallel with the shuffling chute wall 35. The movable pin 116 travels upward in response to being impacted by a pushing bar 112 that is fixed to or forms part of the elevator arm 110. With reference to FIGS. 11-13, as the elevator arm 110 travels upward from the position shown, the pushing bar 112 impacts the receiver 115 that is mechanically connected to the movable pin 116. The lateral card pusher 117 rotates effectively clockwise as the pin 116 travels upward. The elevator screw 111 generally operates at a single, constant speed. The elevator screw 111 may be operated by an electric motor (not shown). The pin 116 travels within the race or path 119 formed in the interior of the lateral card pusher 117. The first end 121 of the pusher 117 stays generally stationary while the second end 122 of the pusher 117 travels generally toward the left as illustrated in FIG. 11. The shape of the pusher 117 is generally curvilinear to effect a graduate change in orientation of the cards 21 from a generally vertical orientation (shown in FIG. 11) to a generally horizontal orientation (shown in FIG. 13). As the cards 21 are lifted, the top edge of the cards 21 impact the outer surface 120 of the pusher 117.

[0119] The shape of the pusher 117 may be varied as desired and according to the various elements used in the shuffler. A single mechanical operational element--the rotatable elevator screw 111--effects (1) delivery of the cards to a presentation tray 4, (2) operation of the pusher 117, and (3) operation of the movable door 2. A single mechanical element reduces the complexity of operation of the card shuffler. Two lines (A'-A' and B'-B') are indicated and views from these lines are illustrated in FIGS. 15A and 16.

[0120] The presence of a pusher 117 facilitates a simpler operation by a card dealer. Specifically, only two motions are needed by a card dealer (user of the card shuffler) instead of three or more motions when using instant invention. The pusher 117 allows unshuffled cards to be introduced directly above or in the shuffling chute--a first of two places for the cards. Next, the lid is closed. The cards are then shuffled by the shuffler 10. After the cards are shuffled, a user or dealer obtains the shuffled cards from another location--the second of two places for the cards. Such arrangement of the cards allows for fewer opportunities for the face value of one or more of the cards to be exposed to view by a card player. Previous designs have not used the two-position configuration. One previous design provides for receiving unshuffled cards in a same place (e.g., presentation tray) as for retrieving shuffled cards. Thus, the instant invention provides for a more streamlined and efficient use by a card dealer.

[0121] FIG. 12 illustrates a side cross-sectional view of a shuffler including cards 21 transitioning from a vertical position to a horizontal position, and a pushing element 117 in a second position. The cards 21 are tipping over toward the right and are transitioning toward the presentation tray 4 which is connected to, for example, a chute wall 35 via a connector 33 so that the presentation tray 4 remains at a particular location within the shuffler. Alternatively, the presentation tray 4 may be movable in the shuffler.

[0122] With reference to FIG. 12, a top surface 1 of a card table is visible. A movable door 2 is in a closed position. The door 2 includes a roller 114 that is configured to contact and travel across a generally flat surface of a corresponding actuator 113. The actuator 113 forms part of the elevator arm 110. In FIG. 12, the actuator 113 has just started to impact the roller 114 as the elevator screw 111 is turned and the elevator arm 110 has been raised vertically. The elevator arm 110 and elevator 160 have traveled vertically relative to the first position shown in FIG. 11. In FIG. 12, the pushing bar 112 has already impacted the receiver 115, which is mechanically connected to the movable pin 116, and has traveled a short distance vertically upward. The movable pin 116 has already caused the card pusher 117 to rotate clockwise about a fixed axis and pin 118. The movable pin 116 has already traveled a partial distance vertically and traveled another partial distance in the race 119. The card pusher 117 has already contacted the cards 21 at a place of contact 120. The cards 21 rest atop a cushioning surface 161. The cushioning surface 161, besides providing the benefits already described, can provide a gripping function to the cards 21 so that the bottom edge of each card 21 does not slide laterally left or right on the elevator 160.

[0123] A pair of sweeper arms 41 has rotated to begin lifting the cards 21 from the elevator 160 and will eventually place the cards 21 in the presentation tray 4. The arms 41 pivot about a pivot point or axle 42 of an electric motor. The arms 41 may be directly mounted to, for example, a stepper motor (not shown) so as to reduce a number of mechanical elements needed to operate the shuffler. By reducing the number of mechanical elements, operation of the shuffler is quieter and includes fewer components that may break down and cause a malfunction or require maintenance. A counter weight 41C may be mounted to the sweeper arms 41. A cushion 41A may be added to the bottom edge of the sweeper arms 41 to assist in preventing damage to cards that are kicked upward in the shuffling chute 3. A sensor (not shown) may be added to or associated with the sweeper arms 41 or the cushion 41A so as to facilitate and enable detection or sensing of impacts of cards with the upper end of the shuffling chute. Accordingly, such sensor may facilitate counting of a number of card impacts associated with cards that are kicked or thrown upward.

[0124] A first roller or kicker 64 is visible toward the bottom portion of the shuffling chute 3. The first kicker 64 is substantially stationary and rotates clockwise to provide a lifting force to a proximate card to facilitate shuffling of the cards 21 when the cards 21 are in a shuffling position (such as is shown in FIG. 11). With reference to FIG. 12, a second kicker 65 is present. The second kicker 65 operates by rotating counterclockwise. A progressive cam 133 is mounted to an axle 133A of a motor (not shown). Operation of the progressive cam 133, such as in counterclockwise fashion, effects a lateral motion of the second kicker 65 along the range of motion 134A indicated. Translational movement of the ovoid body 131 mounted and rotatable about the pivot axis 130 causes the lateral motion. The ovoid body 131 is responsive to the progressive cam 133 via a roller 132 mounted to the ovoid body 131. The ovoid body 131 and second kicker 65 are shown in a first position in FIG. 12 and in a second position in FIG. 13.

[0125] FIG. 13 illustrates a side cross-sectional view of a shuffler with cards 21 completely transitioned to a horizontal position. The shuffler is in a position to accept a new stack of cards and presents a stack of cards 21 that have been shuffled. The cards 21 are lying in a horizontal orientation in the presentation tray 4 which is connected to, for example, a horizontal portion of a chute wall 35 via a connector 33.

[0126] A top surface 1 of a card table is visible. A movable door 2 is in an open position. The door 2 includes a roller 114 that is configured to contact and travel across a generally flat surface of a corresponding actuator 113. The elevator screw 111 has operated and caused the elevator arm 110 to travel to a top-most position along the elevator screw 111. The actuator 113 has lifted the door 2 and placed the door into the open position. Alternatively, or additionally, the actuator 113 has triggered a latch (not shown) and allowed an operator to open the door 2. According to an alternative embodiment, the door 2 is mechanically in connection with a lifting mechanism for the presentation tray 4. Upon lifting the door 2 from a closed position to an open position, the presentation tray 4 is raised from the position shown in FIG. 13 to a place substantially co-planar with the top surface 1 of the card table.

[0127] The elevator arm 110 and elevator 160 have traveled vertically to a third position relative to a first position shown in FIG. 11 and a second position shown in FIG. 12. In FIG. 13, the pushing bar 112 has already impacted the receiver 115 and moved the movable pin 116. The movable pin 116 has moved to a farthest position in the race 119. The movable pin 116 has caused the card pusher 117 to rotate clockwise about a fixed axis and pin 118 to a final location that has moved the pusher 117 free from obstructing the substantially vertical shuffling chute 3. The shuffler now has a receiving place 140 for accepting a new unshuffled stack of card (not shown in FIG. 13). A new stack of cards is held in the receiving place 140 on the elevator 60 by vertical portions of the shuffling chute walls 35. The elevator 60 prevents a new batch or stack of cards from falling directly into the bottom of the shuffling chute 3. While not shown, a mechanical connection between the door 2 and the elevator 60 lowers the elevator 60 as the door is closed 2 so as to prevent the door 2 from impacting the top of a newly submitted stack of cards in the substantially vertical shuffling chute 3. In FIG. 13, the card pusher 117 has already performed one of its functions to transition the cards 21 to a substantially horizontal orientation. The cards 21 rest in the presentation tray 4.

[0128] A pair of sweeper arms 41 has rotated to be free from obstructing the shuffling chute 3 and free from preventing travel of the elevator down into the shuffling chute 3. The arms 41 pivot about a pivot point or axle 42 of an electric motor. A counter weight 41C may be mounted to one or more of the sweeper arms 41. A cushion 41A is shown on the bottom edge of the sweeper arms 41.

[0129] The first kicker 64 is visible toward the bottom portion of the shuffling chute 3. The first kicker 64 is mounted so as to operate substantially stationarily and rotates clockwise to provide a lifting force to a proximate card to facilitate shuffling of the cards 21 when the cards 21 are in a shuffling position (such as is shown in FIG. 11). With reference to FIG. 13, the second kicker 65 operates by rotating counterclockwise. The second kicker 65 is shown in a second position as the progressive cam 133 has rotated. A second portion 135 of the progressive cam 133 is in contact with the roller 132 of the ovoid body 131. A first portion 134 of the progressive cam 133 would place the second kicker 65 in the position shown in FIG. 12. With reference to FIG. 13, an electric motor (not shown) operates the progressive cam 133. The electric motor may also simultaneously operate the second kicker 65 through using belts, gears or the like (additional "mechanical elements") to connect operation of the axle of the second kicker 65 with operation of the progressive cam 133. Such additional mechanical elements are omitted from FIG. 13 for sake of simplicity of illustration only. Translational movement of the ovoid body 131 mounted and rotatable about the pivot axis 130 causes lateral motion of the second kicker 65. The lateral motion causes the second kicker 65 to impact a proximal card in a stack of cards. The lateral motion at least partially provides sufficient friction between a surface of the second kicker 65 and a surface of a proximal card to be kicked into the shuffling chute 3.

[0130] FIG. 14 is a graph 150 that illustrates a position 159 of a card kicker (such as the second kicker 65 shown in FIG. 13) over time relative to a side of a stack of cards being shuffled. FIG. 14 may be a somewhat idealized graph as compared to actual data gathered from some actual shufflers. The graph of FIG. 14 also illustrates a time and position in which a card is kicked into the air in a shuffling chute.

[0131] With reference to FIG. 14, a position 159 varies vertically and indicates a position as measured along a positional axis 152 between a first location 153 and a second location 154 as measured over time along a time axis 151. The position 159 of the kicker varies cyclically over time. A first position of the kicker 65 is represented as position 155 along the timeline 151. The first position 155 shows when the kicker 65 is farthest physically from a proximate card in the stack of cards. As time progresses, the position 159 of the kicker gradually, and at a constant velocity, approaches a second position 157 along the timeline 151 corresponding to a second location 154 along the positional axis 152. Over the period represented by area 158, the second kicker 65 impacts a proximal card and kicks the card upward and into the shuffling chute. Next, the position 159 of the kicker more quickly transitions from a second position 157 to a third position 156 along the timeline 151. The third position 156 corresponds to the first location 153. The pattern is repeated as the kicker 65 oscillates in the shuffler. The shape of the graph of position 159 of the kicker depends directly on the shape of, for example, a progressive cam such as the progressive cam 133 shown in FIGS. 11-13.

[0132] FIG. 15A is an overhead view of an elevator mechanism for moving cards within a card shuffler according to an illustrative implementation and as viewed from line A'-A' in FIG. 11. Attached to, or forming part of an elevator arm 110 is a threaded block 163A for engaging with an elevator screw 111 (not shown in FIG. 15A). The threaded block 163A cooperates with an elevator screw to facilitate movement of the elevator arm 110 and elevator floor 161A, 161B. The threaded block 163A is formed with a passage 163B through the block 163A through which the elevator screw passes. In the embodiment shown, the lid-lifting actuator 113 is mounted on or forms part of the top of threaded block 163A. The pushing bar 112 of FIG. 11 includes a horizontal portion 112A and a vertical portion 112B as shown in FIG. 15A. The vertical portion 112B may be capped with a cushioning element (e.g., rubberized end, metal roller, plastic end). The elevator 160 and cushioning layer 161 of FIG. 11 are visible as two laterally-extending fork portions 161A and 161B. The top surface of each of these fork portions 161A, 161B include a cushioning layer to provide a protective surface to cards (a single card 21 is shown) that ride on the elevator in the shuffling chute 3. The cards lie across both elevator fork portions 161A, 161B. The shuffling walls are visible as several wall portions, 35A, 35B and 35C. The fork portions 161A, 161B travel in slots formed in the chute walls 35.

[0133] FIG. 15B is an enlarged view of a portion of FIG. 15A that illustrates further details of a rail 164 of a wall 35C of a shuffling chute 3. According to one illustrative implementation, a wall panel includes a substrate 165 formed with a rail 164 that projects substantially perpendicular to the plane defining the wall 35. According to one illustrative implementation, each rail 164 is formed or placed on the wall such that it rises at least about 0.003 inches above the surface of its respective wall 35C. In another implementation, each rail 164 is at least 0.005 inches above the surface of its respective wall 35C. Mounted, formed or coated on the substrate is a dampening material 166. While the dampening material 166 is shown uniformly across the entire substrate 165, other implementations only have panels of dampening material 166 attached to portions of a panel 35. On top of the dampening material 166 is protective coating or layer 167. The protective layer 167 lies next to the cards and protects the cards from damage. According to an illustrative embodiment, the protective layer 167 is a plastic, PVC, polyfluorinated compound, ultra-high molecular weight (UHMW) plastic, metal or other material that provides a slick surface to a flat portion 174 of the rail 164. A perpendicular height of the rail 164 is sufficient to raise a portion of a card away from becoming attracted from the shuffling chute wall so as to prevent static electric charge from persisting or statically locating a card in the shuffling chute during and after shuffling of cards. Generally, a rail 164 is one embodiment of a contact reducer that reduces an amount of area that is contactable by a substantially planar card.

[0134] FIG. 16 is an overhead view of an elevator mechanism for moving cards within a card shuffler according to an illustrative implementation and as viewed from line B'-B' in FIG. 11. Attached to, or forming part of an elevator arm 110 is a threaded block 163A for engaging with an elevator screw 111 (not shown in FIG. 16). The threaded block 163A cooperates with the elevator screw to facilitate movement of the elevator arm 110 and elevator floor 161A, 161B. The threaded block 163A is formed with a passage 163B through the block 163A through which the elevator screw passes. In the embodiment shown, the lid-lifting actuator 113 is mounted on or forms part of the top of threaded block 163A. The pushing bar 112 of FIG. 11 includes a horizontal portion 112A and a vertical portion 112B. The elevator 160 and cushioning layer 161 of FIG. 11 are visible as two laterally-extending fork portions 161A and 161B. The top surface of each of these fork portions 161A, 161B include a cushioning layer to provide a protective surface to cards (not shown in FIG. 16) that ride on the elevator in the shuffling chute 3. The cards lie across both elevator fork portions 161A, 161B. One shuffling wall 35C includes or forms a pair of cutouts 169 for accepting elevator arms such as elevator arms 41 shown in FIG. 12. Another shuffling wall 35A is solid across its width as shown in FIG. 16. A single lateral pusher 117 is shown. A side view of the lateral pusher 117 is shown in FIGS. 11-13. The fork portions 161A, 161B travel in slots formed in the chute walls 35.

[0135] FIG. 17A is an illustrative example of a wall section of a shuffling chute according to a first illustrated implementation. FIG. 17A shows a front view of a panel 35C. The panel forms apertures 168 for accepting screws or other fasteners for mounting the panel 35C to the inside of a shuffler. The panel 35C includes a front surface 174 and a rear surface 175. The front surface 174 may include or have mounted thereto a dampening layer and a protective layer. Substantially vertical rails 164 are formed in or are mounted to the panel 35C. Cutouts 170 are formed to allow elevator arms 161A, 161B or other portions of the elevator mechanism to travel vertically within the shuffling chute within the indicated range of motion 173 of the elevator. Illustration lines A'-A' and B'-B' are shown for illustrative purposes only. A cutout or aperture 172 is formed in a shuffling region of the panel 35C. A kicker (not shown) may protrude through the aperture 172 to contact cards placed in the shuffling chute. One or more sensor cutouts or sensor apertures 171 are formed in the panel 35C. According to an illustrative embodiment, a series of sensor apertures 171 are formed along a vertical line along the flight path of shuffled cards so as to detect the presence of any card stuck to the panel 35C during operation of the shuffler. Cutouts or apertures 169 are formed in the panel to accommodate one or more lifting arms such as an arm 41 shown in FIG. 8A. A sweeper arm such as 41 can be considered a second transport mechanism, and an elevator can be considered a first transportation mechanism for the cards.

[0136] FIG. 17B is another illustrative example of a wall section of a shuffling chute. FIG. 17B shows a front view of a panel 35C. The panel 35C forms apertures 168 for accepting screws or other fasteners for mounting the panel 35C to the inside of a shuffler. The front surface may include or have mounted thereto a dampening layer and a protective layer. Rails 164 are formed in or are mounted to the panel 35C. The rails 164 are mounted in a skewed or diagonal fashion to show that rails 164 may be formed in or mounted to any shuffling chute surface in any orientation or form as desired. Cutouts 170 are formed to allow elevator arms 161A, 161B or other portions of the elevator mechanism to travel vertically within the shuffling chute. A cutout or aperture 172 is formed in a shuffling region of the panel 35C to allow operation of a kicker (not shown) such that the kicker may contact cards placed in the shuffling chute. One or more sensor cutouts or sensor apertures 171 are formed in the panel 35C. According to an illustrative embodiment, a series of sensor apertures 171 are formed along a vertical line along the flight path of shuffled cards so as to detect the presence of any card stuck to the panel 35C during operation of the shuffler. An outline of a card 176 is indicated by dashed lines. The outline of the card 176 shows that a card would be lifted off a top surface 174 of the panel 35C at at least two places by the rails 164. Further, the outline of the card 176 shows that a card would obscure or block at least one sensor (indicated by the obscured aperture 171A). Cutouts or apertures 169 are formed in the panel to accommodate one or more lifting arms such as an arm 41 shown in FIG. 8A.

[0137] FIG. 18 is a side view of a portion of an elevator mechanism according to a first implementation showing further features of an elevator. With reference to FIG. 18, two independently attached arms 160A and 160B are each attached to the elevator arm 110 at its own pivot point 160C. An agitation force applied to the arms 160A, 160B may cause slight movement of one or more of the arms 160A, 160B when a settling force is desired to assist in keeping shuffled cards in a settled configuration in a shuffling position in the shuffler. An actuator 113 is shown and the actuator 113 forms part of or is attached to a threaded block 163A of the elevator arm 110.

[0138] FIG. 19 is an overhead view of a portion of an elevator mechanism according to a second implementation distinct from the one shown in other figures. An actuator 113 is shown and the actuator 113 forms part of or is attached to a threaded block 163A of the elevator arm 110. FIG. 19 illustrates an elevator floor comprised of two panels 171A, 171B that extend substantially across the entire elevator floor. The panels 171A, 171B are mounted to a portion of the elevator arm 110. According to an illustrative embodiment, the floor (panels 171A, 171B) are formed of a flexible material such as a plastic or thin metal. Formed in the panels 171A, 171B may be one or more cutouts or apertures 172 to accommodate arms such arms 41. The arms 41 facilitate movement and manipulation of the cards in the shuffler. Optionally, the elevator arm 110 may include a horizontal portion 112A and a vertical portion 112B of a pushing bar as explained further in reference to other figures.

[0139] FIG. 20 is a side view of a portion of an elevator mechanism according to an implementation similar to the one shown in FIG. 19. With reference to FIG. 20, an actuator 113 is shown and the actuator 113 forms part of or is attached to a threaded block 163A of the elevator arm 110 as shown in other figures. In FIG. 20, a thin floor 181 has been exposed to a settling force. The floor 181 has experienced flexing which shows how the cards 21 are affected in a vertical direction and facilitates slipping of the cards and forming gaps between successive cards. The flexing has been accentuated to illustrate certain teachings and principles. The gaps allow a falling card (after being shuffled or kicked upward into the shuffling chute) to slip into one of these gaps. The gaps allow falling cards to re-join the stack of cards 21. The floor 181 is connected to the elevator arm 110 by one or more components such as via a connecting member 182 and a screw.

[0140] FIG. 21 is a perspective view of a kicker 65, kicker mechanism and an adjacent card 21 according to a first illustrative implementation. A spring-loaded or movable post 66A, shown in FIG. 6 for example, takes the form of an ovoid body 131 in FIG. 21. The ovoid body 131 rotates around a pivot point or axis 130. The ovoid body 131 may take any form according to the geometries and configurations of a particular embodiment of a card shuffler. A cantilevered post or axle 183 is mounted to the ovoid body 131. The axle 183 operates by actuation of an electric motor which may be attached to or in mechanical connection to the axle 183. The kicker 65 is preferably a commodity part such as from a commercially available printer supplier or other part manufacturer. A kicker 65 may be removably attached to the axle 183 by engaging with a lock mechanism or feature 184 formed in the axle 183. A mating or corresponding engaging or lock feature may be found on the inside of a longitudinal aperture 188 formed through the axis of the kicker 65. Preferably, the kicker 65 may be assembled to and removed from the axle 183 without tools making maintenance and servicing of a shuffler an inexpensive and efficient undertaking A kicker includes an outer surface 185. A coating or sleeve 186 may be formed on or attached to the kicker 65. The sleeve 186 includes a top surface for engaging with a surface 82 of a proximal card 21.

[0141] FIG. 22 is an overhead view of three illustrative implementations of a shuffling chute wall 35 and panel and accompanying rails 164 for preventing a card 21 from sticking to a wall 35 of the shuffling chute. With reference to FIG. 22, a first panel or wall 35 includes a rail 164 that is shown as a rectangular form with a coating 193 attached. The rail 35 is a generally uniform width 192 that is as small as possible according to an illustrative embodiment so as to reduce the chance of a card 21 from sticking to the wall 35. However, a rail 164 may include a coating 193 to prevent damage to any proximal card 21 that contacts the rail 164. The coating 193 may increase or decrease friction between the wall or 35 and the card surface 81. The coating 193 is designed to prevent cards 21 from persisting in the shuffling chute; however the coating may serve many purposes. According to an illustrative example, a rail 164 is about 0.060 inches in height 191 above a surface of the wall 35.

[0142] According to a second embodiment, a shuffling chute wall 194 may include rails 195 that are formed as rounded indents formed in the wall. Manufacturing could be easier than the first embodiment. According to a third embodiment, the rails may not run a length of the panel 196 but may take the form of single peaks or rounded cones 197, 198 formed in or attached to the panel 196. The peaks 197, 198 may be made of a same or a different material than the material used to form the panel 196.

[0143] FIG. 23 is a perspective view of a portion of another illustrative implementation of a wall or panel 35 for preventing a card from sticking to a wall of a shuffling chute. With reference to FIG. 23, a panel 35 includes a series of ridges or bumps 199, 200 formed in or attached to the panel. The ridges or bumps may take the form of a vertical set of ridges 199 or a horizontal set of ridges 200. Alternatively, the ridges or bumps 199, 200 may be random patterns in a material that is glued to the panel. Such material could be carpet-like material that prevents cards from adhering to the panel 35 as cards are shuffled in the shuffling chute. In yet another illustrative implementation, the wall or panel 35 may take the form of a chain-linked fence or other form where apertures or voids are formed in the wall (instead of rails or raised protrusions) so as to reduce the surface area available for a card to adhere or get stuck to a surface while in the shuffler.

[0144] FIG. 24 is a perspective view of a portion of yet another illustrative implementation of a wall or panel 35 for preventing a card 21 from sticking to a wall of a shuffling chute and a card placed adjacent thereto. FIG. 24 illustrates peaks 201 similar to those peaks 197, 198 shown in the third example in FIG. 22. The peaks 201 in FIG. 24 are rounded at their top. The peaks 201 are spaced over the surface of the panel 35 so that at least 2 peaks 201 are positioned under a card 21 that may be positioned at a position 202 anywhere within the shuffling chute and adjacent to one of the walls 35. In FIG. 24, two peaks 201A, 201B are shown under the card 21. Whether the edge 81 is a short edge or long edge (in a horizontal or vertical orientation) the card 21 is adjacent to two or more of the peaks 201. Other arrangements of the peaks are possible including application of the peaks in a uniform set of locations on a panel. Yet other embodiments are possible for a wall or panel 35. For example, a panel 35 may take the form of a honeycombed (open) design, or may look more like a chain-linked fence. Such would reduce available surface area and thereby the potential for a card to adhere to the panel 35 based on static electricity forces.

[0145] FIG. 25 is a side cross-sectional view of an elevator mechanism, a portion of a shuffling chute, electronic components and a switch for communicating with other devices according to a first illustrative embodiment of the shuffler. With reference to FIG. 25, an electronic controller or device 213 provides the logic and instructions to control the various components of a shuffler such as shuffler 10, 20. For example, the controller 213 is in electronic communication with an electric elevator motor 210 that turns the elevator screw 111 and facilitates vertical movement of the elevator 60 up and down in the shuffling chute 3. The controller 213 may include a bus or connector 212 that connects with a corresponding connector 211 of the wire or cable 206 of the electric elevator motor. Similarly, the controller 213 may provide a bus or connector 212 that is in electronic communication with buttons 5 via wires 206 or other means.

[0146] The shuffling chute walls 35 are visible. An actuator 113 on the elevator arm 110 is configured to open the door 2 near the top surface 1 of the shuffler when the elevator assembly reaches the top of the elevator screw 111. When the elevator assembly is operated and reaches the bottom of the shuffling chute, according to one implementation, the elevator arm 110 mechanically makes contact with a top portion 205 of a switch or detector 209. The switch or detector 209 is in electronic communication via a wire or cable 206 with a connector or bus 207 mounted to and made available to the external chassis 7 of the shuffler. The connector or bus 207 includes one or more pins or other connecting means 208 for interfacing with another electronic device or connector. The switch or detector 209 is mechanically and electrically separate from the controller 213 and provides an independently (mechanically) verifiable means to detect operation and number of cycles of shuffling of the shuffler. According to one implementation, an external device may be a device that provides information from operation of the elevator to an external database or computerized system. Such external database or system may be a Bravo.RTM.-brand gaming system manufactured by Genesis Gaming Solutions, Inc. of Spring, Tex.

[0147] FIG. 26 illustrates an illustrative computing operating environment or device 213 that is capable of (fully or partially) implementing at least one approach, method, or process for enabling card shuffling and the card shuffler as described herein. The computing environment or device 213 may be used as described below.

[0148] The illustrative computing operating environment or device 213 is only one example of a computing environment and is not intended to suggest any limitation as to the scope of use or functionality of the applicable computer (including general electronic device) and network architectures. Neither should computing environment 213 be interpreted as having any dependency or requirement relating to any one or any combination of components as illustrated in FIG. 26.

[0149] Computing system operations and control operations may be implemented with numerous other general purpose or special purpose computing system environments or configurations. Examples of well known computing systems, environments, and configurations that may be suitable for use include, but are not limited to: personal computers, server computers, thin clients, thick clients, personal digital assistants (PDAs) or mobile telephones, hand-held or laptop devices, multiprocessor systems, microprocessor-based systems, set top boxes, programmable consumer electronics, video game machines, network PCs, minicomputers, mainframe computers, and distributed computing environments that include any of the above systems or devices, and so forth.

[0150] Implementations with computing system components interacting with shuffling and card manipulation functionality may be described in the general context of electronically-executable instructions. Generally, electronically-executable instructions include routines, programs, objects, components, data structures, etc., that perform particular tasks or implement particular abstract data types.

[0151] Computing system component described in certain implementations herein, may also be practiced in distributed computing environments where tasks are performed by remotely-linked processing devices that are connected through a communications network. In a distributed computing environment, electronically-executable instructions may be located in separate storage media, executed by different processors, and/or propagated over transmission media. For example, file system commands may be called over a network and executed on a remote computing device that is not directly attached to a computing component such as the one 213 illustrated and described herein and operating within the shuffler.

[0152] With reference to FIG. 26, a computing environment includes a general-purpose computing device 213 such as an Arduino.RTM.-brand ARM-based microcontroller which may comprise any electronic device with computing and/or processing capabilities. The components of computer 213 may include, but are not limited to, one or more processors or processing units 304, a system memory 306, and a system bus 308 that couples various system components including one or more processors 304 to one or more system memories 306.

[0153] The system bus 308 represents one or more of any of several types of bus structures, including a memory bus or memory controller, a peripheral bus, an accelerated graphics port, and a processor or local bus using any of a variety of bus architectures. By way of example, such architectures may include an Industry Standard Architecture (ISA) bus, a Micro Channel Architecture (MCA) bus, an Enhanced ISA (EISA) bus, a Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA) local bus, and a Peripheral Component Interconnects (PCI) bus also known as a Mezzanine bus.

[0154] Computer 213 typically includes a variety of electronically-accessible media. Such media may be any available media that is accessible by computer 213 or another electronic device, and it includes both volatile and non-volatile media, removable and non-removable media, and storage and transmission media.

[0155] A system memory 306 includes electronically-accessible media in the form of volatile memory, such as random access memory (RAM) 310, and/or non-volatile memory, such as read only memory (ROM) 312. A basic input/output system (BIOS) 314, containing the basic routines that help to transfer information between elements within computer 213, such as during start-up, is stored in ROM 312. RAM 310 typically contains data and/or program modules 330 or instructions that are immediately accessible to and/or being presently operated on by processing unit 304.

[0156] Computer 213 may also include other removable/non-removable and/or volatile/non-volatile electronic storage media. By way of example, and not shown in FIG. 26, a hard disk drive may be accessed for reading from and writing to a (typically) non-removable, non-volatile magnetic media (not separately shown). While the drive is not shown in FIG. 26, a magnetic or optical disk drive may be included in the shuffler 10 and such disk drive may be used for reading from and writing to a (typically) removable, non-volatile magnetic disk or a (typically) removable, non-volatile optical disk 320 such as a CD-ROM, DVD-ROM, or other optical media. A hard disk drive, magnetic disk drive, and optical disk drive are each connected to system bus 308 by one or more data media interfaces 326. Alternatively, a hard disk drive, a magnetic disk drive, and an optical disk drive may be connected to system bus 308 by one or more other separate or combined interfaces (not shown).

[0157] The disk drives and their associated electronically-accessible media provide non-volatile storage of electronically-executable instructions, such as data structures, program modules, and other data for the computer 213. Although the illustrated computer 213 includes possibly a hard disk, a removable magnetic disk, or a removable optical disk, it is to be appreciated that other types of electronically-accessible media may store instructions that are accessible by an electronic device, such as magnetic cassettes or other magnetic storage devices, flash memory cards, CD-ROM, digital versatile disks (DVD) or other optical storage, random access memories (RAM), read only memories (ROM), electrically erasable programmable read-only memories (EEPROM), and so forth. In other words, any electronically-accessible media may be used to realize the storage media of the exemplary computing system and environment.

[0158] Any number of program modules (or other units or sets of instructions 316) may be stored on a hard disk, a magnetic disk, an optical disk 520, a ROM 312, and/or RAM 310, including by way of example, an operating system 327, one or more application programs 328, other program modules 330, and program data 332. By way of example only, operating system 327 may include a file system component; application programs 328 may include programs and/or applications, and program data 332 may include files and/or electronic content or data.

[0159] A user may enter commands and information into the computer 213 via input devices such as buttons 5 (shown in other figures), a keyboard 334 and a pointing device 336 (e.g., a mouse, roller ball). Other input devices 338 (not shown specifically) may include a microphone, joystick, game pad, satellite dish, serial port, scanner, and the like. These and other input devices are connected to processing unit 304 via input/output interfaces 340 that are coupled to a system bus 308. However, they may instead be connected by other interface and bus structures, such as a parallel port, a game port, a universal serial bus (USB) port, an IEEE 1394 interface, an IEEE 802.11 interface, and so forth.

[0160] A monitor 342 or other type of display device may also be connected to system bus 308 via an interface, such as a video adapter 344. In addition to a monitor or graphical display 342, other output peripheral devices may include components such as speakers (not shown) and a printer 346, which may be connected to the computer 213 via input/output interfaces 340.

[0161] Computer 213 may operate in a networked environment using logical connections to one or more remote computers, such as a remote computing device (not shown). By way of example, a remote computing device may be a personal computer, a portable computer (e.g., laptop computer, tablet computer, PDA, mobile station, etc.), a server, a router, a network computer, a peer device, other common network node, or other computer type as listed above, and so forth. Remote computing device may include many or all of the elements and features described herein relative to the computer 213.

[0162] Logical connections between a computer 213 and a remote computer are depicted as reachable via Internet protocols 352 over a WAN and via a local area network (LAN) 350. Such networking environments are commonplace in offices, enterprise-wide computer networks, intranets, the Internet, fixed and mobile telephone networks, other wireless networks, and so forth.

[0163] When implemented in a LAN networking environment, computer 213 may be connected to a local area network 350 via a network interface or adapter 354. When implemented in a WAN networking environment, computer 213 typically includes a modem or other means for establishing communications over wide area network 352. A modem may be internal or external to the computer 213, and may be connected to a system bus 308 via input/output interfaces 340 or any other appropriate mechanism(s). It is to be appreciated that the illustrated network connections are exemplary and that other means of establishing communication link(s) between the computer 213 and another computer may be employed.

[0164] In a networked environment, such as the one illustrated in FIG. 26, program modules or other instructions that are depicted relative to the computer 213, or portions thereof, may be fully or partially stored in a remote memory storage device. By way of example, remote application programs 358 may reside on a memory device of a remote computer. Also, for purposes of illustration, application programs 328 and other executable instructions such as an operating system 327 are illustrated herein as discrete blocks, but it is recognized that such programs, components, and other instructions reside at various times in different storage components of computing device 213 (and/or on or at a remote computing device) and are executed by data processor(s) 304 of computer 213 (and/or those of a remote computing device).

[0165] FIG. 27 illustrates a flowchart 400 of illustrative events or steps for shuffling. The steps preferably occur in the sequence shown but may be performed in any order if possible. With reference to FIG. 27, shuffling is effected by placing unshuffled cards into a receiving location associated with the shuffler, step 402. The cards are transferred to a shuffling location, step 404. A shuffling force is provided to the cards, either sequentially or individually to a proximate card, or by some other means, step 406. A settling force is applied either directly or indirectly to the cards, step 408. Cards, such as cards that are kicked, are detected at a location above the shuffling location, step 410. The shuffler provides a signal about shuffling of the cards based on information noted from detection of cards at the location above the shuffling location, step 412. The location may be just above a settled stack of cards, or may be near a top of a trajectory of kicked cards. After shuffling, the shuffled cards are delivered to a designated location such as to a presentation tray, step 414.

[0166] According to a similar understanding of the analysis described in relation to portions of FIG. 9, step 410 of FIG. 27 involves detection of the presence of one or more cards, and signal processing associated with a signal generated from sensor 72A, for example. In particular, an illustrative signal may include a series of zeros and ones detected and/or recorded over time such at a frequency of one sample per millisecond. Other frequencies are possible including slower frequencies such as one sample every 5 or 10 milliseconds. Signal processing and interpretation may take one of various forms. Illustrative signal interpretations are described next.

[0167] According to a first example of signal processing, detection of cards includes accumulating or augmenting a value for each time a sample detects the presence of one or more cards (e.g., the signal is 1 or greater than 0). Such value may be a time value. When the time value reaches a pre-determined threshold (e.g., 10 seconds, 15 seconds, 22.2 seconds), one of several actions can be taken. The shuffler may be programmed to stop after reaching or exceeding the threshold value. Alternatively, the end time for shuffling may be reduced such that shuffling may cease soon after reaching the threshold, and a pre-determined shuffling time may be adjusted so that a next shuffling cycle is scheduled to take less time. In yet another alternative implementation, at an end of a pre-determined shuffle time, if the cumulated value fails to meet or exceed the pre-determined threshold value, the shuffler may shuffle for one or more additional shuffle pre-determined intervals before checking again for meeting or exceeding the pre-determined threshold value. The shuffling may trigger a failed shuffle if after one or more shuffling periods do not result in sufficient throws of the cards to interrupt the sensor.

[0168] According to a second example of signal processing, detection of cards includes detecting a number of interruptions (similar to counting a number of cards) from a series of ones and zeros generated via a sensor 72A. Determining a number of interruptions in this example is similar to detecting gaps in cards in an image of a stack of cards. Each place over time where there are one or more zeros, this would be the end of one interruption of the sensor and the start of a subsequent interruption. A successful shuffling could be measured via the sensor based on a cumulated number of interruptions meeting or exceeding a pre-determined threshold. The shuffler could be programmed as in the first example of signal processing on how to interpret an analysis of counting a number of interruptions. For example, the shuffler may be programmed to stop after reaching or exceeding the threshold value for number of interruptions. The threshold value can be determined empirically or may be set arbitrarily high so long as the cards in a shuffled stack of cards is sufficiently randomized so as to meet one or more industry standards for an acceptable level of randomization. Alternatively, the end time for shuffling may be reduced such that shuffling may cease soon after reaching the threshold value for the number of interruptions detected.

[0169] The shuffler may be programmed with logic or instructions for how to react to an analysis of a sensor signal. For example, a flag may be set to always pass the stack of cards as sufficiently shuffled unless the shuffler detects an insufficient shuffle during the pre-determined time for card shuffling. Alternatively, a flag may be set to always fail the stack of cards as insufficiently shuffled unless the shuffler determines that a sufficient shuffle has occured during the pre-determined time for card shuffling (e.g., a cumulative time of detected card throws exceeding a threshold time, a cumulative value meeting or exceeding a cumulative time threshold). Yet in another alternative, the card shuffler may be programmed to set a flag of either pass or fail within one or more pre-determined shuffling times.

[0170] Variations of these and other logical programming examples may be made as additional sensors or detectors are added. For example, for an implementation of a series of detectors in the shuffling chute are added, the logic could be to set a flag of fail for the shuffling if a static card is detected persisting in the shuffling chute after the cards have been shuffled and returned to a dealer. In another example, the logic could be to set a flag of fail for the shuffling if a count of the cards in the stack of cards is an incomplete number (as detected in an image of the stack) after the cards have been shuffled and returned to a dealer.

[0171] FIG. 28 illustrates another flowchart of illustrative events or steps for shuffling. The steps preferably occur in the sequence shown but may be performed in any order if possible. With reference to FIG. 28, unshuffled cards are placed into or accepted into the shuffler, step 422. The cards are lowered into a shuffling position, e.g., at the bottom of a shuffling chute, step 424. An image of the stack is captured and the cards are counted, step 426. At this point, it is likely that there should not be any physical problem with the cards or shuffler--no lost cards, no rotated cards, no cards fallen into an inappropriate place in the shuffler, etc. Next, the cards are shuffled according to a set of pre-programmed instructions as previously explained, step 428. The cards are shuffled for a set period of time, a number of throws of the cards (a total detected number of throws from either or both of the kickers), or shuffled according to another metric or condition. After shuffling has ceased, another image is captured and the cards are counted, step 430. If the card count is the same as the count from step 426, then no card has been lost and likely the stack of cards has been successfully and adequately shuffled. Next, it is determined if any error exists, step 432. If no error has occurred, the shuffled stack of cards are returned to the designated place such as to the presentation tray, step 434. If an error has been detected, then the cards are returned (if appropriate for the error(s) detected), step 436. If an error has been detected, then an error protocol is activated, step 438. An error protocol may include making a sound, illuminating a light, displaying an error code, etc.

[0172] Presentation Tray. According to one implementation, a presentation tray is movably provided for use under a movable lid. The movable lid forms part of a playing surface or table. The presentation tray is accessed by opening a movable lid. The presentation tray may be mechanically coupled to the movable lid. The presentation tray moves up and down relative to and in response to manually moving (e.g., opening and closing) the lid. Alternatively, the lid is opened programmatically with the assistance of an actuator and thereby providing immediate access to the group of cards in the presentation tray. The lid may be programmatically opened upon completion of shuffling of the group of cards. In having the presentation tray coupled to the lid, removal of the group of cards is easier. Having a single motor or mechanical mechanism reduces the number of failure points in the apparatus.

[0173] Card auditing. According to another illustrative implementation, a group of cards is audited as a single stack of cards. Before and after shuffling occurs, a camera captures an image of the side of the deck. This step is a capture of the profile of the group of cards. The cards, the spaces between the cards, or the cards and the spaces between them are programmatically counted by analysis of the picture of the group of cards. According to an illustrative implementation, a count of the spacing is used to determine the number of cards present in the group of cards. After each image of the group of cards is processed, and the number of cards verified, the shuffler displays or makes an appropriate signal. For example, if the card count is deficient by one or more cards, it is best to alert the operator of the device. A signal to the operator may take the form of illuminating a button, making a pre-designated audible signal, or displaying a cue on an LCD screen. The counting method to verify the number of cards in a group may be accomplished via a camera, CCD type scanner, bar code scanner, fingerprint reader, laser, or ultra sonic sensor paired with appropriate analysis software and hardware.

[0174] Sensors. According to an illustrative implementation, the group of cards is placed into a vertical or substantially vertical chute. Sensors along the chute ensure proper placement of the cards at any given time during the shuffling and handling processes. Sensors ensure the movement of cards within specified parameters during shuffling process. For example, a sensor is mounted to monitor a high point the cards are expected to reach within the field of motion for the cards when the shuffler is operating correctly. When this sensor and related logic confirm that a sufficient number of thrown cards are not reaching this point, the system (e.g., a processing board or display) may provide a visual or other notification to the operator.

[0175] Static barriers. Elements in the shuffler assist to mitigate static attraction forces between a card and a shuffler surface. The presence of a static attractive force can cause a card to be stuck in the shuffling machine. According to an illustrative implementation, ribs, rails, bumps or the like (raised features) are formed in surfaces likely to contact a front side or back side of a card. These features assist to minimize the contact surface area between a card surface and a shuffler surface. By minimizing the contact surface area between a card and the shuffler surfaces, the chance for a sufficient static attractive charge to develop is substantively reduced, and thereby the chance to lose a card during the shuffling process is substantially reduced.

[0176] Multiple deck shuffling. The shuffler described herein accommodates shuffling of a few cards, a full deck or a group of cards making up multiple decks using the described shuffling methodology. According to an illustrative implementation, one or more pins or guides constrain the cards so that a card cannot rotate 90 degrees or 180 degrees about an axis orthogonal to the plane of the card when the cards are in the shuffler. These pins or guides also prevent a card from rotating 180 degrees about an in-plane card axis and prevent a car from flipping over thereby preventing a card from re-entering the remaining group of cards in a face-up orientation. A flipped card eventually exposes its value side improperly during game play. Upon extracting the shuffled group of cards from the device, all card faces remain in a same orientation as inserted.

[0177] According to another illustrative implementation, the dimensions of a shuffling shoot are selected or constrained to minimize the opportunity for card rotation about card axes. In a preferred implementation, the chute width is limited to approximately two decks of cards (104 cards) because any more cards in a group of cards would require a shuffling chute wider than the width of a typical card (typically 2.25 inches or 2.5 inches) and would likely allow for a significant chance for a card to flip 180 degrees and expose the card face by inserting a flipped card in the improper orientation in the group of cards. The result of an excessively wide chute would be one or more cards inserted face up in the shuffled deck or group of shuffled cards. Using a tapered chute and guide pins or guides, a device can be build to shuffle more than one deck of cards using the described shuffle methodology.

[0178] Agitators. Described herein are agitation components that enable methods for ensuring cards are rectified or settled together into a unified stack. Agitating the group of cards allows them to settle squarely to a bottom surface or to one or more pins that make up a settling place against which cards rest together in a stack. Agitation can be achieved via cams attached directly or indirectly to a rotary shaft of a rotary motor. According to an illustrative implementation, sensors can be positioned to ensure the deck has been rectified by placing, for example, an optical sensor just above the height of a dimension of a card. A properly rectified deck or group of cards is recognized when the sensor detects that it is not blocked by a partially settled card. This dimension could be just greater than a width of a card (typically 2.25 inches or 2.5 inches) or the length of a card (typically 3.5 inches) depending on the orientation of the deck. If the settle sensor detects one or more cards that are not rectified, the agitation process continues until achieving settling or for a default time. If proper settling cannot be detected within a predetermined time, an alarm protocol could be followed. The settling process ensures a properly settled deck. Otherwise, card damage is possible in other processes of the shuffler device.

[0179] Agitating floor. Alternative to a pin or set of pins, a surface or set of surfaces at the bottom of the shuffle compartment acts as a floor of the shuffling compartment. The surface or other elements serve as a means for agitation of the cards during shuffling, after shuffling, or during and after shuffling. The agitation provides rectifying of the cards. There may be one or more cycles of rectifying. The cycles of rectifying may be predetermined or may be determined dynamically as cards are settled. According to an illustrative implementation, one or more vibrating plates are driven by an eccentric load on the shaft of a rotary motor. Other means may be used to generate vibration. Vibration can also be achieved by pivoting arms driven by cams, a solenoid, or a linear actuator. If multiple arms or surfaces are present, the arms can be driven in or out of phase relative to one another. The arms can be padded for protection of the card edges and noise suppression.

[0180] Authentication. According to an illustrative implementation, a fingerprint reader or radio frequency ID (RFID) component connected to the shuffler enables a dealer to authenticate with a particular shuffler. Successful authentication can be used to correlate when a dealer arrives at a work shift. A casino owner could then more easily track employee attendance and performance with the information provided by the components of the shuffler. Authentication also enables auditing of game play based on information gathered by the shuffler when in operation. According to an illustrative implementation, a fingerprint scanner can be mounted in, on, or near the shuffling device. This would enable a user to check in or check out of the table when a shift begins or ends. Each dealer can be assigned a unique or semi-unique RFID tag. With the appropriate receiver, the shuffler stores logs associated with each dealer and the corresponding data such as number of hands played per unit time, the amount of time to shuffle each group of cards, etc. Management can then make more informed and objective decisions based on performance metrics of the games played at card tables. Such metrics are of interest to casino operators. An automated card shuffling device as described herein aids in this process by gathering information that has high value to casino operators. Furthermore, data from each card shuffler can be passed to a separate system for security and table metric purposes.

[0181] Sweeper arms. Depending on the implementation of a shuffler, one of more of several possible mechanisms are provided for removing cards from the shuffling device. According to an illustrative implementation, a group of cards is swept out of the device and onto a surface for access by a user by one or more sweeper arms. One or more sweeper arms activate a trap door either directly or indirectly so that the trap door opens as the group of shuffled cards approaches. The shuffled cards are swept entirely out of the shuffling device. Alternatively, the shuffled cards are partially swept out of the unit, enabling the user to access the cards.

[0182] Sweeper balance. In addition to the sweep device that is directly mounted to the step motor to allow the sweeper arms to be balanced in any position a weight may be mounted on an opposing side of the sweep arms to allow the arms to balance in position when the step motor is inactive. The weight prevents a step motor, when inactive, from rotating in the presence of gravity or vibrations.

[0183] Pushers. Card guides are the components that push the cards over upon movement of cards to the output tray. The pushers are retractable to allow cards to be placed in the card inlet. According to an illustrative implementation, upon opening of the shuffler lid, a mechanical contact is achieved to raise an arm up thereby allowing the pushers to be retracted giving a clear entry for the cards to be placed into the shuffler. As the cards are lowered, the mechanical contact is removed and the guides are forced into the chute providing a curved surface to push the cards over on their side so that the cards are in the proper position to be moved onto the output tray. Pushers are effective for a configuration where the input slot to introduce a group of cards into the shuffler is directly above the shuffling chute. If the guides were of a fixed type, the input slot would be obstructed and the user could not insert the deck of cards. Another function of pushers is to ensure that the cards get biased in a particular fashion so that movement of the cards onto the output tray is possible. Although there is a chance the cards will naturally bias to this needed position by chance and chance alone, these guides ensure proper operation every time.

[0184] Direct stepper. A mechanical element directly attached to the shaft of one or more step motors (double shaft and single shaft motors) eliminate the use of conventional gearbox assemblies. Direct attachment to a shaft allows movement of the cards based on operation of a step motor without the conventional use of a gear, gearbox assembly, or belt and pulley assembly to move the cards from one region of the shuffler to another. A speed control of the mechanism may be combined with the step motor or motors to smoothly move the cards.

[0185] Chute sensors. According to an illustrative implementation, sensors are placed along a length of the shuffler chute to detect a static charged, wet, or damaged card that becomes stuck to a surface or wedged inappropriately in the group of cards. Logic associated with a programmable component of the shuffler provides signals and interprets readings provided by the sensors. Based on information gather from the sensors, errors in the shuffling process are detected. Detection of inappropriate positioning of one or more cards allows the shuffler to take corrective action to rectify the stuck card and to notify the operator of a current condition as the cards are processed by the shuffler Corrective action can be taken before proceeding to a next step in the shuffle sequence.

[0186] Elevator control. Manual operation of the shuffler may be needed when an error or malfunction occurs. According to an illustrative implementation, a user interface (UI) or one or more buttons to allow interaction and control of the shuffler. One or more functions may be manually triggered. For example, one of these functions enables an operator to manipulate the vertical movement of a linear actuator to remove a jammed card by bringing the entire group of cards up from the bottom settling region of the card shuffler. A shuffling operation may be re-initiated once a jammed card is corrected. According to an implementation, a series of UI buttons is provided where one button corresponds to a particular function. Actions may be initiated by the user. In another example, maintenance functions may be triggered by the buttons or interaction with software-based buttons on a touch screen. For example, manual correction of the shuffler may be performed by actuating a first button to control an up movement of a linear actuator, while a second button controls a down movement of the linear actuator to return the shuffler to its automated sequence of steps to shuffle a group of cards. An elevator control and other controls Allow users to override automatic functions of the linear actuator and the shuffler. Manual controls facilitate operation of the shuffler and providing such controls avoids the necessity for offline maintenance or some kind of hard reset of the entire machine.

[0187] Progressive cam. According to an illustrative implementation, a progressive cam is provided for a roller assembly. The progressive cam is used in association with a roller that grips either a top or bottom card of a stack or group of cards at the bottom of the shuffling chute. An asymmetric cam is driven by a motor to oscillate a position of the roller assembly of the shuffler. The cam is shaped in such a way that the roller assembly is fed into the deck of cards at a slower rate than it is retracted. This concept can be extended to include any mechanism or actuator that changes the power required and speed of the extension versus retraction oscillating cycles of the roller assembly. Decreasing the speed of the extension stroke for the roller assembly decreases the power required to lift each card and this allows for a smaller motor to be used. The progressive cam also increases the duration that the cards are in contact with the roller during the extension cycle, improving the shuffling action. The increased speed during the retraction stroke decreases the time required to retract the roller assembly, decreasing the overall shuffle time for a given number of throws of cards. Retracting the assembly quickly also provides less time for the airborne cards to settle on top of the wheel while the roller retracts.

[0188] Quick release rollers. The act of shuffling may be performed by any of a variety of ways. According to an illustrative implementation, a roller in the form of an axle-type-fitting or a printer-style part acts as a kicker to project or launch cards into the shuffling chute. An axel-type-fitting kicker is a rubber-coated cylinder and is analogous to a roller used to grab paper and move it through a printer. This implementation is available as a commodity and is readily available in the market place. The rubber of the roller is tacky enough to grab and propel a card into the air with very little contact with the card. Very little resistive force or pressure is needed. One roller acts on each end of the group of cards. That is, one roller launches cards from a top side of the group of cards while a second roller launches cards from the bottom side of the group of cards. This component may be susceptible to wear as the rollers are repeatedly contacting cards during the shuffling process. The roller and spindle include an easy locking feature that supports easy and rapid replacement by a field technician.

[0189] Enclosure. According to a preferred implementation, a shuffler is enclosed in a single cabinet or enclosure. A hook bar latch serves as a means of securing the enclosure. The hook bar latch can be operated by a common flat-tipped screwdriver or other easily operated hand tool for easy separation of the shuffler from its enclosure. The enclosure of the shuffler may include access cutouts for external connections, ventilation holes to aid in the natural convection of heat generated by components of the shuffler, and a lining for the internal surfaces to help reduce noise. The inner surface or configuration of the enclosure preferably includes elements to facilitate self-centering of the shuffler inside its enclosure. According to an illustrative implementation, the enclosure is a cuboid with five substantially solid sides with a lock bar forming or mounted inside the enclosure. The remaining sixth side is substantially open to receive the shuffler. The lock bar works in conjunction with a hook mechanism on the bottom of the shuffler such that when the screwdriver access point is turned, the hook grabs the enclosure and forces it into proper position and thereby mounting the enclosure to the shuffler. Within this action the hook provides a tension force to allow it to lock into place so that the hook cannot retract on its own. The cutouts on the enclosure are strategically placed to aide in the use of internal connections and access for heat to escape. Additionally, the motion of the hook mechanism can be interrupted by the cam of a simple cam lock, allowing the possibility of locking (via a key and cam lock) the enclosure onto the unit to prevent access from unauthorized personnel. These and other features make removing and installation of the enclosure easy. Preferably, no specialty tool is needed to install, service or remove a shuffler. Some cutouts formed in the enclosure may be necessary for proper ventilation of heat producing elements and certain cutouts may be needed to grant access to internal connections without the need to remove or adjust components. A service person may only need to remove the shuffler still assembled to the enclosure from a tabletop or other gaming location.

[0190] External interface. According to an illustrative embodiment, external-accessible leads are provided for interfacing with third party systems. The leads can be provided via an industry standard or acceptable bulk mount fitting (i.e., a Molex connector, db9 connector, or the like). According to an illustrative implementation, a simple and readily available open/closed type switch can be triggered by a portion of the shuffle sequence. The shuffling unit and related control circuitry has no stored status related to the status (open or closed) of the switch. The switch would be a function of the third party or external system connected to the leads of this switch to interpret the state of the switch and its meaning via logic built into the third party system. There are increasing numbers of products coming into the market with the function of managing or gathering data from felt type poker tables and pit tables. The described simple interface provides a means for virtually any management or metrics gathering system to have information from the shuffler. For example, the successful number of shuffled groups of cards could be detected, recorded and used to estimate by a third party system to calculate a number of hands played per hour, per shift, etc.

[0191] The following are illustrative claims to the instant invention. The card shuffler of another claim, and wherein the card shuffler further comprises: a mechanical elevator configured to transport cards placed at a receiving place into the shuffling chute; a communication bus that includes a connector for receiving a matching connector of another device; an electrical power source configured to provide energy to operate the card kicker, the detector, the communication bus and the mechanical elevator; and a switch mounted proximate to the mechanical elevator and shuffling chute, and wherein the mechanical elevator is configured to activate the switch when placing the cards at the shuffling location and thereby provide a signal at the communication bus for another device to detect a shuffling operation of the card shuffler.

[0192] The card shuffler of another claim, and wherein the card shuffler further comprises: a second card kicker configured to provide a lifting force to a card proximal to a second side of the stack of cards over the pre-determined period of time, and wherein the lifting force is sufficient to lift the proximal card at least above the stack of cards.

[0193] The card shuffler of another claim, and wherein the instructions further cause the card shuffler to: determine a start for sequentially providing the lifting force; wherein accumulating information about the presence of kicked cards includes accumulating time that the sensor detects the presence of kicked cards thrown within detection of the sensor since the determined start; determine an end for providing the lifting force based on the accumulating time of detection of cards by the sensor exceeding a pre-determined threshold value; and wherein the instructions to make available the outcome of the said determining whether a sufficient amount of shuffling occurred includes instructions to the card shuffler to terminate the lifting force prior to an end of the pre-determined time to provide the lifting force based on the determined end.

[0194] The card shuffler of another claim, and wherein the information about the presence of kicked cards includes a series of values collected over time during the pre-determined period of time, and wherein a sufficient amount of shuffling is based on a comparison of a threshold value for a ratio against a calculation of the ratio, and wherein the ratio is a value based on accumulated time that the sensor detects the presence of kicked cards relative to the pre-determined period of time, and wherein the instructions to make available in the memory the outcome of the said determining whether a sufficient amount of shuffling occurred includes instructions to store in the memory an indication that an insufficient amount of shuffling occurred based on the determining of the same.

[0195] Further illustrative claims include the following. The card shuffler of another claim, and wherein the card shuffler further comprises: a second detector mounted proximate to the shuffling chute and mounted a distance above the first said detector; and wherein the memory of the card shuffler is further configured with instructions to: detect a presence of kicked cards via the second detector; accumulate information about kicked cards based on the detected presence of kicked cards near the second detector, and wherein the instructions to determine whether a sufficient amount of shuffling occurred is also based on the accumulated information detected via the second detector.

[0196] Further illustrative claims include the following. The method of claim 1, and wherein accumulating information about the presence of kicked cards includes accumulating a cumulative number of interruptions detected by the sensor during the pre-determined period of time, and wherein a sufficient amount of shuffling is based on comparing the cumulative number of interruptions against a pre-determined threshold value.

[0197] The method of another claim, and wherein accumulating information about the presence of kicked cards includes determining a cumulative value associated with interruption of the detector by the presence of kicked cards proximate to the detector during the pre-determined period of time, and wherein a sufficient amount of shuffling is based on comparing the determined cumulative value against a pre-determined threshold value.

[0198] The method of another claim, and wherein the detector includes a light-based sensor, and wherein the detecting of the presence of kicked cards includes detecting interference of light by the presence of one or more cards.

[0199] The method of another claim, wherein the information about the presence of kicked cards includes a series of values collected over time during the pre-determined period of time, and wherein a sufficient amount of shuffling is based on comparing a threshold value against a value determined from the series of collected values.

[0200] The method of another claim, and wherein the method further comprises: determining a start for providing the lifting force; accumulating a value over time associated with the sensor detecting the presence of kicked cards lifted within detection of the sensor since the determined start for providing the lifting force; and adjusting the pre-determined time for providing the lifting force to kick cards based on the accumulated value exceeding a pre-determined threshold value.

[0201] The method of another claim, and wherein the method further comprises: determining a start for sequentially providing the lifting force; wherein accumulating information about the presence of kicked cards includes determining a cumulative time that the sensor detects the presence of kicked cards thrown within detection of the sensor since the determined start; determining an end for providing the lifting force based on the cumulative time based on the cumulative time exceeding a pre-determined threshold value; and making available to the card shuffler an outcome of the determined end or providing a signal to the card shuffler based on the determined end.

[0202] The method of another claim, and wherein the method further comprises: after placing the stack of cards into the shuffling location, providing a lifting force to a card proximal to a second side of the stack of cards over the pre-determined period of time, and wherein the lifting force provided on the second side of the stack of cards is sufficient to kick the proximal card at least above the stack of cards.

[0203] Further illustrative claims include the following. The method of another claim, and wherein the method further comprises: while providing the lifting force over the pre-determined period of time, detecting a presence of kicked cards via a second detector mounted proximate to the shuffling chute and mounted a distance above the first said detector; accumulating information about kicked cards based on the detected presence of kicked cards near the second detector; and wherein the determining whether the sufficient amount of shuffling occurred is also based on the accumulated information from the second detector.

[0204] The method of another claim, and wherein the said providing the lifting force to the card proximal to the first side of the stack of cards over the pre-determined period of time occurs at a constant rate over the pre-determined period of time, and wherein the pre-determined period of time is a duration sufficient to effectively randomize the cards in the stack of cards.

[0205] The method of another claim, and wherein the pre-determined period of time is at least 1.2 times a duration sufficient to effectively randomize the cards in the stack of cards at a rate of the said sequentially providing the lifting force to the card proximal to the first side of the stack of cards.

[0206] Further illustrative claims include the following. A card shuffler comprising: a housing having a top surface, wherein said top surface forms an aperture, wherein the aperture is dimensioned so that a stack of cards is insertable into the aperture at a receiving position, and wherein each of the cards has a first dimension, a second dimension and a third dimension perpendicular to a plane defined by the first and second dimensions, and wherein an edge of a card is defined along either the first dimension or the second dimension; a shuffling chute that is in connection with the aperture, and is formed into a generally vertical orientation below the top surface of the housing for shuffling of the cards; a transport mechanism adapted to move the stack of cards downward into the shuffling chute to a shuffling position; a roller mounted to an axle near the shuffling position, and wherein the roller is adapted to engage with a card from the stack of cards when the stack of cards is in the shuffling position, the engaged card being the card most proximal to the roller, wherein the roller is actuated by a motor connected to the axle of the roller; a card detector including a processor and a memory, and wherein the card detector is configured with instructions to detect and count the cards by detecting an edge of each of the cards when the cards are stacked together in the shuffling apparatus; and a user interface element in electronic communication with the card detector.

[0207] The card shuffler of another claim, and wherein the card detector includes a charge-coupled device (CCD)-based camera or a complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS)-based camera.

[0208] The card shuffler of another claim, and wherein the card detector includes an infra-red image detector.

[0209] The card shuffler of another claim, and wherein the card detector is mounted adjacent to the receiving position.

[0210] The card shuffler of another claim, and wherein the card detector is mounted adjacent to the shuffling position.

[0211] The card shuffler of another claim, and wherein the card detector is mounted adjacent to the shuffling chute, and wherein the card detector is configured to detect and count the cards as the cards are being transported to or from the shuffling position.

[0212] The card shuffler of another claim, and wherein the card shuffler further comprises a controller or controller logic for operating the transport mechanism and the roller, and wherein the card shuffler throws the cards upward in the shuffling chute, and the cards return to the shuffling position under the force of gravity.

[0213] The card shuffler of another claim, and wherein the roller throws cards in a direction substantially parallel to either the first dimension or the second dimension.

[0214] The card shuffler of another claim, and wherein the shuffling chute includes two pairs of lateral walls, and wherein each pair of lateral walls may be adjusted to fit a size of the stack of cards.

[0215] The card shuffler of another claim, and wherein the card detector is configured with instructions to communicate with the user interface element when a card count varies outside of an expected card count.

[0216] The card shuffler of another claim, and wherein the card detector is configured with instructions to: perform a card count of the cards without having the card shuffler perform a shuffling operation; and communicate the card count to the user interface element, and wherein the card shuffler is configured with instructions to return the stack of cards to the receiving position.

[0217] The card shuffler of another claim, and wherein the card detector is configured with instructions to perform a card count of the cards before the card shuffler performs a shuffling operation; and wherein the card shuffler is configured with instructions to perform a shuffling operation after the card count.

[0218] The card shuffler of another claim, and wherein the card shuffler is configured with instructions to perform a shuffling operation before performing a card count; and wherein the card detector is configured with instructions to perform a card count of the cards after the card shuffler performs a shuffling operation.

[0219] The card shuffler of another claim, and wherein the card detector is configured with instructions to perform a first card count of the cards before the card shuffler performs a shuffling operation; and wherein the card shuffler is configured with instructions to perform the shuffling operation after the first card count; and wherein the card detector is configured with instructions to perform a second card count of the cards after the card shuffler performs the shuffling operation.

[0220] The card shuffler of another claim, and wherein the card shuffler further comprises: a card detector mounted proximate to the shuffling chute and adjacent a flight path of cards thrown by the roller during a shuffling operation, and wherein the card detector is configured with instructions to: detect a presence of thrown cards during the shuffling operation; and communicate with the user interface element when an insufficient amount of detection is detected during the shuffling operation.

[0221] The card shuffler of another claim, and wherein the roller mounted near the shuffling position is a first roller, and wherein the card shuffler further comprises: a second roller mounted to an axle near the shuffling position, and wherein the second roller is adapted to engage with a card from the stack of cards, on a side of the stack of cards opposing that of the first roller, when the stack of cards is in the shuffling position, and wherein the engaged card associated with the second roller is a card most proximal to the second roller, and wherein the second roller is actuated by a motor connected to the axle of the second roller.

[0222] The card shuffler of another claim, and wherein the transport mechanism includes a presentation tray configured to deliver the unshuffled stack of cards to the shuffling chute, and wherein the presentation tray is configured to receive the shuffled stack of cards after the shuffling operation has been completed.

[0223] Further illustrative claims include the following. A device for shuffling a stack of cards, the device comprising: a card receptacle for receiving the stack of cards; a card thrower capable of throwing cards to cause a shuffling action for the thrown cards; an image generator capable of generating an image of the stack of cards; and a processor and a memory in electronic communication with the processor, and wherein the memory is configured with instructions to: actuate the card thrower; actuate the image generator; trigger generation of an image by the image generator; count dark and light regions from the image generated by the image generator; determine a number of cards in the image generated by the image generator; and communicate to the device a signal based on the determined number of cards.

[0224] A device as described in claim 1, and wherein the image generator is placed near the card receptacle, and wherein the image generated is a first image, and wherein the memory is further configured with instructions to: trigger generation of a second image by the image generator; count dark and light regions from the second image generated by the image generator; determine a number of cards in the second image generated by the image generator; compare the number of cards from the second image to the number of cards determined from the first image; and communicate to the device a signal based on the comparison of numbers of cards determined from the first image and second image.

[0225] A device as described in claim 1, and wherein the image generator is placed near the shuffling chute.

[0226] Further illustrative claims include the following. A card shuffler for generating a shuffled stack of cards, the card shuffler comprising: a housing having a top surface, wherein said top surface forms an aperture, wherein the aperture is dimensioned so that a stack of cards is insertable into the aperture at a receiving position, and wherein each of the cards has a first dimension, a second dimension and a third dimension perpendicular to a plane defined by the first and second dimensions, and wherein an edge of a card is defined along either the first dimension or the second dimension; a shuffling chute that is in connection with the aperture, and is formed into a generally vertical orientation below the top surface of the housing for shuffling of the cards; a transport mechanism adapted to move the stack of cards downward into the shuffling chute to a shuffling position; a kicker configured to provide a lifting force to a card positioned most proximate to the kicker at a first side of the stack, and wherein the kicker is adapted to engage repeatedly with the stack of cards to displace cards upward a distance into the shuffling chute when the kicker is actuated and when stack of cards is in the shuffling position; and a card settler for facilitating alignment of displaced cards into the stack when cards are displaced by the kicker during shuffling, and wherein the card settler, when actuated, provides a settling motion to a surface adjacent to and at least partially in contact with the cards of the stack of cards.

[0227] The card shuffler of another claim, and wherein the card shuffler further comprises: a controller in communication with the kicker and card settler, and wherein the controller includes a processor and a memory, and wherein the controller is configured with instructions to programmatically actuate the kicker and actuate the card settler for a pre-determined amount of time.

[0228] The card shuffler of another claim, and wherein the card shuffler further comprises: a controller in communication with the kicker and the card settler, and wherein the controller includes a processor and a memory, and wherein the controller is configured with instructions to programmatically actuate the kicker for a pre-determined number of card throw cycles.

[0229] The card shuffler of another claim, and wherein the card shuffler further comprises: a controller in communication with the kicker and card settler, and wherein the controller includes a processor and a memory, and wherein the controller is configured with instructions to programmatically move the kicker over an oscillatory motion during the pre-determined amount of time.

[0230] The card shuffler of another claim, and wherein the kicker includes a cantilevered axle and a rotating element having a contact surface for contacting a card to be lifted, and wherein the kicker is removably mounted to the cantilevered axle, and wherein the kicker is made of a material suitable to provide a resistive force between the contact surface of the kicker and the card to be lifted.

[0231] The card shuffler of the previous claim claim, and wherein the kicker is a pre-assembled commodity component that is capable of replacement on the cantilevered axle without use of a tool.

[0232] The card shuffler of another previous claim, and wherein the cantilevered axle is in mechanical communication with an electric motor, and wherein the cantilevered axle is mounted to a movable body, and wherein the card shuffler further comprises a controller for operating the kicker and the movable body to facilitate contact between the contact surface of the kicker and the card to be lifted.

[0233] The card shuffler of another previous claim, and wherein the cantilevered axle is part of an electric motor, and wherein the electric motor is located near the shuffling position at a place to enable the contact surface of the kicker to contact a planar surface of a card to be lifted as the kicker provides a lifting force to the contacted card.

[0234] The card shuffler of another previous claim, and wherein the kicker is a first kicker, and wherein the first kicker further includes a locking mechanism to removably secure the first kicker to the axle of the electric motor, and wherein the locking mechanism is configured to be operated manually without use of a tool when replaced with a second kicker during a maintenance operation.

[0235] The card shuffler of another claim, and wherein the kicker is a first kicker, and wherein the first kicker includes a contact surface for contacting a card to be lifted, and wherein the first kicker is removably mounted to an axle of an electric motor, and wherein the card shuffler further comprises: a second kicker configured to provide a lifting force to a card positioned most proximate to the second kicker at a second side of the stack, and wherein the second kicker is adapted to engage repeatedly with the stack of cards to displace cards upward a distance into the shuffling chute when the second kicker is actuated and when stack of cards is in the shuffling position.

[0236] The card shuffler of the previous claim, and wherein the second kicker is removably mounted to a cantilevered axle of a second electric motor, and wherein the second kicker is operated independently of the first kicker.

[0237] The card shuffler of another claim, and wherein the surface adjacent to the cards is a surface on which the cards rest when shuffled.

[0238] The card shuffler of the previous claim, and wherein the surface adjacent to the cards includes a first portion that is substantially mechanically separated from a second portion, and wherein the settling motion is applied to the first portion of the surface.

[0239] The card shuffler of the previous claim, and wherein the surface adjacent to the cards forms part of the transport mechanism.

[0240] The card shuffler of another claim, and wherein the card settler includes a cam providing the settling motion.

[0241] The card shuffler of another claim, and wherein the card settler includes a linear actuator that provides the settling motion while the cards are in the shuffling position.

[0242] The card shuffler of another claim, and wherein the transport mechanism includes an elevator, and wherein shuffling occurs in the shuffling position while the cards rest on the elevator, and wherein the card settler includes a linear actuator configured to apply an oscillating force to a portion of the elevator during shuffling.

[0243] The card shuffler of another claim, and wherein the card shuffler further comprises: a sensor mounted above the stack of cards when the cards are in the shuffling position; and a controller that includes a processor and a memory, and wherein the controller is configured with instructions to: detect, via the sensor, a card outside of a settle shuffling position; and activate the card settler to apply a settling force based on a detected card outside of the shuffling position.

[0244] The card shuffler of another claim, and wherein the adjacent surface is made of a flexible material, and wherein the adjacent surface deforms when exposed to the settling motion.

[0245] The card shuffler of another claim, and wherein the adjacent surface includes: a dampening material over at least a portion of the adjacent surface; and a cushioning material over at least a portion of the adjacent surface.

[0246] Further illustrative claims include the following. A method for generating a shuffled stack of cards by a card shuffler, the method comprising: placing a stack of cards into a shuffling location in a shuffling chute, and wherein the stack of cards rest against a settling surface, and wherein the shuffling location is adjacent to a kicker that is capable of providing a lifting force to a proximal card, and wherein the cards are placed in a substantially vertical orientation against the settling surface; operating the kicker for a pre-determined period of time to provide the lifting force to the proximal card of the stack of cards, and wherein the lifting force is sufficient to lift a kicked card at least above the stack of cards; providing a settling force to the settling surface while the kicker is operated; and after operating the kicker, moving the cards to a retrieval location.

[0247] The method of another claim, and wherein the method further comprises: detecting a signal indicative of cards thrown by the kicker during operation of the kicker; and determining whether sufficient shuffling has occurred based on the detected signal.

[0248] The method of the previous claim, and wherein the determining whether sufficient shuffling has occurred includes providing a signal to the card shuffler based on the said determining of sufficient shuffling.

[0249] The method of another claim, and wherein the method further comprises: detecting a number of cards thrown by the kicker during operation of the kicker; determining whether sufficient shuffling has occurred based on the detected number of cards thrown; and providing a signal to the card shuffler based on said determining based on the detected number of cards thrown during operation of the kicker.

[0250] The method of the previous claim, and wherein operating the kicker includes oscillating the kicker relative to the stack of cards to facilitate contact between the kicker and a most proximal card in the stack of cards, and wherein detecting a number of cards thrown by the kicker is based on counting a number of oscillation cycles of the kicker during operation of the kicker.

[0251] The method of another claim, and wherein the method further comprises: detecting blockage of a light-based sensor over time during operation of the kicker; determining a value associated with a cumulative amount of time that the light-based sensor is blocked during operation of the kicker; calculating a proportion of time that the light-based sensor is blocked relative to the pre-determined period of time; and providing a signal to the card shuffler indicative of an acceptable shuffling of the cards based on the calculated proportion of time that the light-based sensor is blocked during the pre-determined period of time.

[0252] The method of another claim, and wherein the method further comprises: detecting a start of the operation of the kicker; detecting a number of cards thrown by the kicker during operation of the kicker since the detected start of the operation of the kicker; and adjusting the pre-determined time for operating the kicker based on the detected number of cards thrown by the kicker.

[0253] The method of another claim, and wherein the method further comprises: detecting a start of the operation of the kicker; determining an amount of time that the sensor is blocked during operation of the kicker from the detected start of the operation of the kicker; calculating a proportion of time that the sensor is blocked relative to the pre-determined period of time; and adjusting the pre-determined time for operating the kicker based on the calculated proportion of time that the sensor is blocked.

[0254] The method of another claim, and wherein the method further comprises: detecting a start of the operation of the kicker; determining an amount of time that the sensor is blocked during operation of the kicker from the detected start of the operation of the kicker; calculating a proportion of time that the sensor is blocked relative to the pre-determined period of time; operating the kicker a second pre-determined time based on the calculated proportion of time that the sensor is blocked over the pre-determined period of time; determing an amount of time that the sensor is blocked during operation of the kicker during the second pre-determined time; calculating a proportion of time that the sensor is blocked relative to the second pre-determined period of time; and providing a signal to the card shuffler indicative of an acceptable shuffling of the cards based on the calculated proportion of time that the sensor is blocked during the second pre-determined period of time.

[0255] The method of another claim 41, and wherein operating the kicker includes oscillating the kicker at least somewhat perpendicularly relative to the stack of cards to facilitate contact between the kicker and a most proximal card in the stack of cards.

[0256] The method of the previous claim, and wherein oscillating the kicker includes detecting a card throw and changing a direction of the kicker based on the detection of the card throw.

[0257] The method of another claim, and wherein operating the kicker includes placing the kicker adjacent the stack of cards and allowing contact between the kicker and a most proximal card of the stack of cards prior to operating the kicker.

[0258] The method of another claim, and wherein the kicker includes a rotating element, and wherein operating the kicker includes spinning the rotating element such that rotation of the kicker imparts the lifting force to a most proximal card, and wherein the lifting force provides a translational motion generally upward against gravity to the card, and wherein the method further comprises allowing each thrown card to settle back into the stack of cards under the influence of gravity.

[0259] The method of another claim, and wherein the method further comprises: starting operation of the kicker; determining via a sensor a cumulative value associated with an amount of time that cards are adjacent to the sensor based on being thrown by the kicker during operation of the kicker during the pre-determined period of time; and providing a signal to the card shuffler indicating a signal of successful shuffle or malfunction of shuffling based on the determined cumulative value relative to a pre-determined threshold value.

[0260] The method of another claim, and wherein the method further comprises: after placing the stack of cards into the shuffling location, and while operating the kicker, operating a second kicker mounted proximate an opposite side of the stack of cards, and wherein the second kicker provides a lifting force to a card proximal the second kicker, and wherein the lifting force provided by the second kicker is sufficient to lift a kicked card at least above the stack of cards.

[0261] Further illustrative claims include the following. A device for shuffling cards, the device comprising: a compartment sized and dimensioned to receive a plurality of cards, each card of the plurality of cards, each card having edges and having a height dimension, a width dimension parallel to a face thereof, and a thickness dimension orthogonal to the face thereof; and wherein the plurality of cards is received in the compartment oriented in a specific direction so that a plane coincident with the face of a card is parallel to a gravity vector; a forcer facing an edge of a card of the plurality of cards, received in the compartment, through which an intermittent force is applied to a group of cards of the plurality of cards so as to eject the cards of the group of cards in an upward direction substantially parallel to a direction of the gravity vector; a detector mounted adjacent to and exposed to the compartment and mounted above the forcer, and wherein the detector is configured to detect a presence of cards forced by the forcer; a processor in electronic communication with the detector; and a memory in electronic communication with the processor, and wherein the memory is configured with instructions to: accumulate information from the detector about the detected forced cards; determine whether a sufficient amount of shuffling occurred based on the accumulated information; and make available in the memory an outcome of the said determining whether a sufficient amount of shuffling occurred.

[0262] The device of another claim, wherein the compartment includes a first dimension greater than a height dimension of a card, a second dimension greater than a thickness dimension of the plurality of cards, and a third dimension greater than twice a width dimension of a card; and wherein the device further comprises: a series of detectors mounted adjacent to and along a dimension of the compartment, and wherein the memory is further configured with instructions to detect a presence of a card statically located adjacent to at least one detector of the series of detectors.

[0263] The device of another claim, and wherein the force applied to the group of cards is sufficient to urge cards of the group of cards to a height above a rest position of the group of cards at least equal to the dimension of the cards along a gravity vector.

[0264] The device of another claim, and wherein the compartment includes a set of contact reducers along two sides of the compartment, and wherein the two sides are parallel to a surface of the cards.

[0265] Further illustrative claims include the following. A device for shuffling a deck of cards, the device comprising: a compartment having the shape of a six-sided polyhedron, sized and dimensioned to receive a stack of cards, and having first and second dimensions larger than a first dimension of a face of a card of the stack of cards, and a thickness of the stack of cards, respectively, and wherein each card of the stack of cards received in the compartment is oriented in a specific direction so that a plane coincident with the face of a card is parallel to a gravity vector, and wherein the compartment includes a set of contact reducers along two sides of the compartment, and wherein the two sides are parallel to a surface of the cards, and wherein the contact reducers are spaced along a side of the compartment so as to facilitate contact between a card with at least two contact reducers at any orientation of the card along the said side of the compartment; and a forcer applying an impulsive force to a group of cards of the deck of cards received in the compartment so as to eject the group of cards of the deck of cards in an upward direction along a gravity vector into a third dimension, the third dimension being greater than the twice a second dimension of the face of the card.

[0266] The device of the previous claim, wherein the forcer is pneumatically actuated.

[0267] Further illustrative claims include the following. A method for operating a device for shuffling cards, the method comprising: providing a stack of cards; providing a container having interior dimensions consistent with those of a rectangular parallelepiped, sized and dimensioned to accept the stack of cards; receiving the stack of cards in the container; orienting the container so that a plane coincident with a face of a card, and an edge of the card, are parallel to a gravity vector; and providing a forcer adjacent to the deck of cards in the container, the forcer applying an impulsive force to a groups of cards of the deck of cards in an upward direction parallel to the face of the card; accumulating information from a detector mounted near the container about cards that have moved under the influence of the impulsive force; determining whether a sufficient amount of shuffling occurred based on the accumulated information; and making available an outcome of the said determining whether a sufficient amount of shuffling occurred.

[0268] Further illustrative claims include the following. A device for shuffling a deck of cards, the device comprising: a compartment, sized and dimensioned to receive a deck of cards, and having first and second dimensions larger than a first dimension of a face of a card of the deck of cards, and a thickness of the deck of cards, respectively, the deck of cards being received in the compartment; a forcer; wherein the forcer is configured to apply an impulsive force to cards of the deck of cards when the face of the card of a deck of cards is oriented in a vertical direction, so as to eject cards of the deck of cards upwards into a third dimension of the compartment, the third dimension being greater than the twice a second dimension of the face of the card; a projection from a wall of the compartment disposed so as to deflect cards ejected by the forcer; a detector mounted adjacent to and exposed to the compartment and mounted above the forcer, and wherein the detector is configured to detect a presence of cards forced by the forcer; a processor in electronic communication with the detector; and a memory in electronic communication with the processor, and wherein the memory is configured with instructions to: accumulate information from the detector about the detected forced cards; determine whether a sufficient amount of shuffling occurred based on the accumulated information; and make available in the memory an outcome of the said determining whether a sufficient amount of shuffling occurred.

[0269] Further illustrative claims include the following. A method of operating a device for shuffling cards, the method comprising: providing a shuffling device having a container with interior dimensions sized and dimensioned to accept a deck of cards; receiving the deck of cards in the container; orienting the container so that a plane coincident with a face of a card, and an edge of the card, are parallel to a gravity vector and the received deck of cards rests at a bottom portion of the container; providing a forcer adjacent to the deck of cards; using the forcer to apply an impulsive force to cards of the deck of cards for a period of time so as to eject cards of the deck of cards in an upwards direction parallel to the face of the card, wherein the deck of cards rests at the bottom portion of the container subsequent to the period of time when the impulsive force has been applied; accumulating information from a detector located near the container about cards that have moved under the influence of the impulsive force; determining whether a sufficient amount of shuffling occurred based on the accumulated information; and making available an outcome of the said determining whether a sufficient amount of shuffling occurred.

[0270] Further illustrative claims include the following. A card shuffling apparatus for mounting beneath a surface, the card shuffling apparatus comprising: a housing having a top surface adapted to be mountable to the surface; an aperture formed in the top surface dimensioned so that a deck of cards, oriented with a card face horizontally disposed, is insertable into the aperture; a first transport mechanism adapted to move the deck of cards in a horizontal direction so as to fall into a compartment; a set of rails mounted to at least two sides of the compartment so as to reduce an available contact surface area between a compartment side and a card; a card shuffling device adapted to shuffle cards in the compartment; a detector located adjacent to and exposed to the compartment and located above the forcer, and wherein the detector is configured to detect a presence of cards shuffled by the card shuffling device; a processor in electronic communication with the detector; and a memory in electronic communication with the processor, and wherein the memory is configured with instructions to: accumulate information from the detector about the detected shuffled cards; determine whether a sufficient amount of shuffling occurred based on the accumulated information; and make available in the memory an outcome of the said determining whether a sufficient amount of shuffling occurred; a second transport mechanism adapted to move the deck of cards in a vertical direction to an upper position in the compartment; and a lift-gate mechanism adapted to transfer the deck of cards from the upper position in the compartment to a position on the first transport mechanism.

[0271] Further illustrative claims include the following. A card shuffler for shuffling a stack of cards, the card shuffler comprising: a pair of opposing walls that form one pair of sides of a shuffling chute for the card shuffler, the pair of sides being the first side and second side, and wherein the cards are loaded into the shuffling chute in an orientation such that card edges are adjacent to the first pair of opposing walls when the cards are shuffled; a first pair of rails that form a third side of the shuffling chute, and wherein each of the rails runs from a top portion of the shuffling chute downward to a place adjacent to a shuffling location from which cards are thrown substantially upward during shuffling, and wherein the first pair of rails are positioned so as to be substantially co-planar with the cards when the cards are in the shuffling chute; a fourth side of the shuffling chute; and a card kicker configured to provide a lifting force to a card proximal to a first side of the stack of cards over a pre-determined period of time, and wherein the lifting force is sufficient to lift the proximal card at least above the stack of cards.

[0272] The card shuffler of another claim, and wherein the card shuffler further comprises: a second pair of rails that form part of the fourth side of the shuffling chute, and wherein each of the rails runs from a top portion of the shuffling chute downward to a place adjacent to the shuffling location, and wherein the second pair of rails are positioned so as to be substantially co-planar with the cards on an opposing side of the cards when the cards are in the shuffling chute.

[0273] The card shuffler of the previous claim, and wherein each of the rails of the second pair of rails runs substantially parallel to each other and to either the first side or second side.

[0274] The card shuffler of another claim, and wherein each of the rails of the first pair of rails runs substantially parallel to each other.

[0275] The card shuffler of another claim, and wherein the card shuffler further comprises: a third wall that is mounted so as to substantially lie parallel along a third side of the shuffling chute, and wherein each of the first pair of rails is attached to the third wall, and wherein the third wall is positioned such that the first pair of rails lie on the inside of the shuffling chute.

[0276] The card shuffler of another claim, and wherein a sound dampening material is applied to each of the first pair of rails.

[0277] The card shuffler of another claim, and wherein a friction reducing material is applied to each of the first pair of rails.

[0278] Further illustrative claims include the following. A card shuffler for shuffling a stack of cards, the card shuffler comprising: a first pair of opposing walls that form a pair of opposing sides of a shuffling chute, the pair of sides being the first side and second side of the shuffling chute, and wherein the cards are loaded into the shuffling chute in an orientation such that card edges are adjacent to the first pair of opposing walls when the cards are shuffled; a third wall and a fourth wall that opposes the third wall, and wherein the third wall and the fourth wall form a third side and a fourth side of the shuffling chute, respectively, and wherein each of the third wall and the fourth wall includes mechanical formations to reduce an amount of surface area of a wall contactable by an adjacent card when the card is within the shuffling chute, and wherein the mechanical formations cause an adjacent card to contact either the third wall or the fourth wall in at least two places when the card lies substantially parallel to the wall.

[0279] The card shuffler of the previous claim, and wherein the mechanical formations are rails that form raised portions of the third wall and the fourth wall, respectively, and wherein each of the rails includes a substantially flat surface for contacting a proximal card.

[0280] The card shuffler of the previous claim, and wherein the rails are approximately at least 0.020 inches in width along their length; and wherein the card shuffler further comprises a card kicker that provides a vertical lifting force to a card, and wherein each of the rails runs substantially parallel to a vector defining a motion of a card kicked by the card kicker.

[0281] The card shuffler of another previous claim, and wherein the mechanical formations are rounded mounds that are formed in the third wall and the fourth wall, and wherein the rounded mounds are raised above a plane defined by the respective third wall and fourth wall.

[0282] The card shuffler of the previous claim, and wherein the rounded mounds are substantially circular at their base.

[0283] The card shuffler of another previous claim, and wherein the mechanical formations are raised polygons that are formed in the third wall and the fourth wall, and wherein the raised polygons include a substantially flat surface for contacting a proximal card.

[0284] The card shuffler of another previous claim, and wherein the mechanical formations are formed from a material that is physically separate from the third wall and the fourth wall, and wherein the mechanical formations are affixed to the third wall and the fourth wall prior to shuffling cards in the card shuffler.

[0285] The card shuffler of another previous claim, and wherein the contactable surface area available to an adjacent card is less than approximately fifty percent of the surface area of the adjacent card.

[0286] The card shuffler of another previous claim, and wherein the contactable surface area available to an adjacent card is less than approximately ten percent of the surface area of the adjacent card.

[0287] The card shuffler of another previous claim, and wherein either the first wall or the second wall includes a pin that extends substantially perpendicular from either the first wall or the second wall at least half of a distance between the first wall and second wall at the location of the pin, and wherein the pin is placed so as to contact a card that rotates approximately ninety degrees while in the shuffling chute and while proximate to the pin.

[0288] The card shuffler of another previous claim, and wherein the card shuffler further comprises: a set of detectors along a length of the shuffling chute from a proximal shuffling position from which cards are kicked to a distal end of the shuffling chute, and wherein each of the detectors is mounted adjacent either the third wall or the fourth wall, and wherein one detector is mounted a distance from a proximate detector along the length of the shuffling chute such that at least one detector is capable of detecting an adjacent card placed anywhere within the shuffling chute and against either the third wall or fourth wall.

[0289] The card shuffler of the previous claim, and wherein the card shuffler further comprises: a processor in electronic communication with the set of detectors; and a memory in electronic communication with the processor, and wherein the memory is configured with instructions to: detect a signal from each of the set of detectors; and provide a signal to the card shuffler based on the detected signals from each of the set of detectors, and wherein the signal indicates the presence of a card in the shuffling chute.

[0290] The card shuffler of the previous claim, and wherein each of the cards includes a first size dimension along a first edge of the card and a second size dimension along an edge that is perpendicular to the first edge of the card, and wherein the first size dimension is shorter than the second size dimension, and wherein the third wall and the fourth wall are mounted a distance between them that is greater than the first card size dimension at least along a portion of the shuffling chute so as to facilitate shuffling of a large number of cards in a stack of cards.

[0291] Further illustrative claims include the following. A card shuffler for shuffling cards, the card shuffler comprising: a housing that includes walls that enclose a compartment; a door forming part of the housing when the door is closed, and wherein the door provides access to a portion of the card shuffler designated for placing shuffled cards and allowing an operator to retrieve the shuffled cards when the door is open; a shuffling chute mounted inside the housing; and a transport mechanism adapted to transport shuffled cards from the shuffling chute after a shuffling operation, and wherein the transport mechanism causes the door to open during operation of the transport mechanism.

[0292] The card shuffler of another claim, and wherein the transport mechanism is an elevator, and wherein the elevator is operated by an arm pivotably mounted in the card shuffler.

[0293] The card shuffler of another claim, and wherein the card shuffler further comprises: a presentation tray, and wherein the transport mechanism is configured to place the shuffled cards into the presentation tray after the shuffling operation has occurred.

[0294] The card shuffler of the previous claim, and wherein the transport mechanism is configured to open the door by moving the presentation tray from a first position to a second position, and wherein the card shuffler and presentation tray are configured such that the presentation tray contacts a portion of the door and causes the door to open when moved from the first position to the second position.

[0295] The card shuffler of another claim, and wherein the transport mechanism is further adapted to open the door while transporting the cards from the shuffling chute to the portion of the card shuffler designated for retrieving the shuffled cards.

[0296] The card shuffler of another claim, and wherein the transport mechanism is an elevator and is configured to move from a first position in the shuffling chute to a second position in the shuffling chute, and wherein the elevator is adapted to move unshuffled cards to a shuffling position in the shuffling chute.

[0297] The card shuffler of another claim, and wherein the door provides access to a portion of the shuffling chute designated for accepting unshuffled cards, and wherein the card shuffler includes a rotatable arm that prevents cards from moving further into the shuffling chute while the lid is open.

[0298] The card shuffler of another claim, and wherein the door is mounted on a hinge.

[0299] The card shuffler of another claim, and wherein the card shuffler further comprises: a kicker mounted proximate to a shuffling position in the shuffling chute, and wherein the cards are placed in a stack in the shuffling position, and wherein the kicker is configured to provide a lifting force to a card positioned most proximate to the kicker at a first side of the stack of cards, and wherein the kicker is adapted to engage repeatedly with the stack of cards, one card at a time, to displace cards upward a distance into the shuffling chute when the kicker is actuated; and a card settler for facilitating alignment of displaced cards into the stack when cards are displaced by the kicker during shuffling, and wherein the card settler, when actuated, provides a settling motion to a surface adjacent to the cards in the stack of cards.

[0300] The card shuffler of another claim, and wherein the transport mechanism includes an elevator, and wherein shuffling occurs in the shuffling position while the cards rest as a stack on the elevator, and wherein the card shuffler includes a card settler that includes a linear actuator configured to apply an oscillating force to a portion of the elevator during shuffling.

[0301] Conclusion. In the previous description, for purposes of explanation, numerous specific details are set forth in order to provide an understanding of the invention. It will be apparent, however, to one skilled in the art that the invention can be practiced without these specific details. In other instances, structures, devices, systems and methods are shown only in block diagram form in order to avoid obscuring the invention.

[0302] Reference is made to a group of cards. A group of cards may be a few cards or may be one or more decks of cards. Group is used so as to emphasize that the shuffler is not limited to shuffling of a single deck of cards. Further, a particular orientation of the cards may be shown or implied. No such limitation is intended.

[0303] Reference in this specification to "one embodiment", "an embodiment", or "implementation" means that a particular feature, structure, or characteristic described in connection with the embodiment or implementation is included in at least one embodiment or implementation of the invention. Appearances of the phrase "in one embodiment" in various places in the specification are not necessarily all referring to the same embodiment, nor are separate or alternative embodiments mutually exclusive of other embodiments. Moreover, various features are described which may be exhibited by some embodiments and not by others. Similarly, various requirements are described which may be requirements for some embodiments but not other embodiments.

[0304] It will be evident that the various modification and changes can be made to these embodiments without departing from the broader spirit of the invention. In an area of technology such as this, where growth is fast and further advancements are not easily foreseen, the disclosed embodiments may be readily modifiable in arrangement and detail as facilitated by enabling technological advancements without departing from the principles of the present disclosure.

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