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RFID Gives Pokertronic Its Strong Suit

The company says its RFID-enabled poker table and cards make it easier for casinos, clubs and TV-production businesses to offer spectators a glance into players' hands.
By Rhea Wessel
Jan 07, 2011Pokertronic, a firm that offers services and solutions enabling the filming and broadcasting of live poker tournaments, is selling an RFID-enabled poker table that, according to the company, makes it easier for casinos, poker clubs and television-production businesses to provide spectators with a look into the hands of match competitors.

The so-called Pokertronic table was used to broadcast live matches in October 2010 at the European Poker Championships, held at the Grand Casino Baden, near Vienna, Austria. Sales of the table are slated to begin early this year.

One 13.56 MHz RFID reader and 11 reader antennas are incorporated into the Pokertronic table.

"Our goal was to produce a high-quality Internet broadcast of the final tables," says Edgar Stuchly, Casinos Austria's poker manager and the organizer of the Casinos Austria Poker Tour (CAPT). "The RFID technology guaranteed accurate production. The players and I were thrilled about the way it worked."

Selling for €7,500 ($9,760), the Pokertronic RFID table is a retrofitted wooden and leather poker table that can accommodate 10 players. One RFID reader and 11 reader antennas are incorporated into the table, and each playing card is embedded with a passive 13.56 MHz RFID tag containing an NXP Semiconductors Mifare RFID chip. The tag is flexible, and does not change the feel of the playing cards, according to Uwe Kerscher, Pokertronic's CEO. The company resells the RFID playing cards, which it purchases from a playing-card manufacturer.

Poker has experienced a boom recently, due to live television and online broadcasts of matches in which spectators know more about the state of play than do the players themselves. To show a player's hand, TV crews had to arrange games on tables with glass tops, with cameras mounted underneath. Configuring each camera was time-consuming, Kerscher says, and outfitting tables with multiple cameras was costly.

With RFID, Kerscher explains, the process of filming matches for live broadcast was made simpler. The reader beneath the table interrogates the cards' tags and transmits the information saved on those tags to the computer system. This includes each card's face value and suit, such as the queen of diamonds. The encrypted data is fed into software created by Pokertronic, to evaluate the cards and generate a graphic illustration of each playing hand, much like those seen on televised sports events.

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