Patent application title: GAMING BONUS HAVING ODD-INCREASING WINS
John F. Acres (Las Vegas, NV, US)
IPC8 Class: AA63F924FI
Class name: Amusement devices: games including means for processing electronic data (e.g., computer/video game, etc.) credit/debit monitoring or manipulation (e.g., game entry, betting, prize level, etc.)
Publication date: 2010-12-23
Patent application number: 20100323784
Embodiments of the present invention are directed to gaming devices having
bonuses with odd-increasing wins and methods of operating gaming systems
and gaming devices to provide bonuses that have better odds of providing
awards as the bonus progresses. During game play, bonus selections are
awarded and selections are made among covered elements of a linked bonus
display. As bonus elements become selected and revealed during a bonus
cycle, the odds of a jackpot value being selected increase. In some
variations, players direct which element is selected and revealed.
1. A gaming system comprising:a plurality of gaming devices;a bonus
controller connected to the plurality of gaming devices; anda bonus
display connected to the bonus controller, the bonus display including a
plurality of covered bonus elements, wherein the bonus display is
configured to reveal at least one selected element in response to a bonus
2. The gaming system of claim 1, wherein the plurality of bonus elements on the bonus display are arranged in a grid.
3. The gaming system of claim 1, wherein each of the plurality of bonus elements include at least two layers of possible awards.
4. The gaming system of claim 3, wherein each of the layers are associated with a different eligibility criterion.
5. The gaming system of claim 4, wherein the bonus controller is configured to only provide those awards associated with layers with eligibility criteria satisfied by the player.
6. The gaming system of claim 1, wherein the bonus controller is configured to receive a selection signal from a triggering game device.
7. The gaming system of claim 6, wherein the selection signal identifies a unique bonus element to be selected.
8. The gaming system of claim 6, wherein the selection signal identifies a group of bonus elements, the bonus controller further configured to make a random selection among the selected group of bonus elements.
9. The gaming system of claim 6, wherein a player is given a set number of selections to use during a bonus cycle, the bonus controller configured to update the number of available selections for the player when the selection is received.
10. The gaming system of claim 1, wherein the bonus display includes a plurality of face-down cards.
11. The gaming system of claim 10, wherein each face-down card includes a bonus award amount or a card value on the face of the card.
12. The gaming system of claim 11, wherein a selected card with a card value can be used with a video poker hand to generate a final poker hand.
13. A method of operating a gaming system having a plurality of gaming devices connected to a bonus display showing a plurality of bonus elements, the method comprising:receiving a signal from a gaming device that a bonus element on the bonus display is to be selected;selecting at least one of the bonus elements on the bonus display to reveal any awards associated with the selected bonus element;providing an award to the gaming device from which the signal was received when an eligible award is associated with the selected bonus element; anddetermining if the bonus elements on the bonus display are to be reset.
14. The method of claim 13, wherein receiving a signal from a gaming device that a bonus element on the bonus display is to be selected includes receiving a selection indication of a unique one of the bonus elements.
15. The method of claim 13, wherein selecting at least one of the bonus elements on the bonus display to reveal any awards associated with the selected bonus element includes randomly selecting the at least one bonus element.
16. The method of claim 14, wherein determining if the bonus elements on the bonus display are to be reset, includes determining if all bonus elements associated with eligible awards are revealed.
17. The method of claim 14, wherein determining if the bonus elements on the bonus display are to be reset, includes determining if all bonus elements have been revealed.
18. The method of claim 14, wherein determining if the bonus elements on the bonus display are to be reset includes determining if a bonus element associated with a jackpot award has been selected.
19. The method of claim 14, further comprising generating a bonus selection hint and communicating the bonus selection hint to qualifying players.
20. The method of claim 19, wherein the bonus selection hint generated and communicated includes a group of the bonus elements to select from.
This application claims the benefit of priority to U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 61/187,975, filed Jun. 17, 2009, entitled "LINKED JACKPOTS AND METHODS FOR AWARDING THEM," the contents of which are hereby incorporated by reference.
FIELD OF THE INVENTION
This disclosure relates generally to gaming devices, and more particularly to gaming devices having bonuses with odd-increasing wins and methods of operating gaming systems and gaming devices to provide bonuses that have better odds of providing awards as the bonus progresses.
Game outcomes on gaming devices are typically determined at random where winning outcomes award a player money, credits, promotions, prizes, or other incentives, and losing outcomes typically result only in a lost wager. Player excitement is typically generated by providing the possibility of winning large awards for a relatively meager wager. Business principles require that most outcomes not be large winning outcomes for the player. However, this often times must be balanced with giving the player some incentive to keep playing. Therefore smaller valued winning outcomes are typically included in the game to drive up the hit frequency of winning outcomes while not awarding extremely large prizes too often.
Most multi-game jackpots utilize coin-in data to simultaneously drive up the amount of the jackpot award and to determine if the particular wager generating the coin-in data has met the triggering condition for the jackpot. That is, wagers made from gaming devices connected to the multi-game jackpot are typically used to fund the jackpot as well as determining if the jackpot is to be awarded to the wagering gaming device. A small percentage of the wager is generally added to the jackpot amount to continually drive up the jackpot amount. A multi-game jackpot may be connected to a bank or group of games, all games in a casino, or games in multiple casino properties. Naturally, the more games that are connected to the multi-game jackpot, the more quickly the jackpot amount will grow. Various methods may be used to determine when the jackpot is awarded. One common method is to randomly choose a triggering value from a large range of values and then determine when that value has been reached. For example, a coin-in value may be randomly selected as the triggering value in the range of 1 to 1 million. If the triggering value was randomly selected as 658,150, the 658,150th coin wagered on one of the connected gaming devices from the start of the bonus cycle would trigger the bonus to be awarded to the wagering game device. While players do not know what value was selected, nor usually the range of values from which the trigger value was selected, most players know that the longer the bonus goes on, the higher the probability of the bonus being awarded. However, other than the increasing numbers on the bonus meter, the players have little interaction with the progression of the bonus, and as such may become disinterested with the game or bonus.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
FIG. 1A is a functional block diagram that illustrates a gaming device according to embodiments of the invention.
FIG. 1B is an isometric view of the gaming device illustrated in FIG. 1A.
FIGS. 2A, 2B, and 2C are detail diagrams of exemplary types of gaming devices according to embodiments of the invention.
FIG. 3 is a functional block diagram of networked gaming devices according to embodiments of the invention.
FIG. 4 is a function block diagram of a gaming system according to embodiments of the invention.
FIGS. 5A and 5B are detail diagrams of a gaming device with a player interface display showing an exemplary bonus selection according to embodiments of the invention.
FIG. 5c is a detail diagram of the gaming device shown in FIG. 5B and a connected bonus display shown in FIG. 5B according to embodiments of the invention.
FIG. 6 is a detail diagram of a gaming system with a bonus display having layers according to embodiments of the invention.
FIG. 7 is a flow diagram of a method of operating a gaming system having a linked bonus display according to embodiments of the invention.
FIG. 8 is a function block diagram of a gaming system according to embodiments of the invention.
FIGS. 1A and 1B illustrate example gaming devices according to embodiments of the invention.
Referring to FIGS. 1A and 1B, a gaming device 10 is an electronic gaming machine. Although an electronic gaming machine or "slot" machine is illustrated, various other types of devices may be used to wager monetarily based credits on a game of chance in accordance with principles of the invention. The term "electronic gaming device" is meant to include various devices such as electro-mechanical spinning-reel type slot machines, video slot machines, and video poker machines, for instance. Other gaming devices may include computer-based gaming machines, wireless gaming devices, multi-player gaming stations, modified personal electronic gaming devices (such as cell phones), personal computers, server-based gaming terminals, and other similar devices. Although embodiments of the invention will work with all of the gaming types mentioned, for ease of illustration the present embodiments will be described in reference to the electronic gaming machine 10 shown in FIGS. 1A and 1B.
The gaming device 10 includes a cabinet 15 housing components to operate the gaming device 10. The cabinet 15 may include a gaming display 20, a base portion 13, a top box 18, and a player interface panel 30. The gaming display 20 may include mechanical spinning reels (FIG. 2A), a video display (FIGS. 2B and 2C), or a combination of both spinning reels and a video display (not shown). The gaming cabinet 15 may also include a credit meter 27 and a coin-in or bet meter 28. The credit meter 27 may indicate the total number of credits remaining on the gaming device 10 that are eligible to be wagered. In some embodiments, the credit meter 27 may reflect a monetary unit, such as dollars. However, it is often preferable to have the credit meter 27 reflect a number of `credits,` rather than a monetary unit. The bet meter 28 may indicate the amount of credits to be wagered on a particular game. Thus, for each game, the player transfers the amount that he or she wants to wager from the credit meter 27 to the bet meter 28. In some embodiments, various other meters may be present, such as meters reflecting amounts won, amounts paid, or the like. In embodiments where the gaming display 20 is a video monitor, the information indicated on the credit meters may be shown on the gaming display itself 20 (FIG. 2B).
The base portion 13 may include a lighted panel 14, a coin return (not shown), and a gaming handle 12 operable on a partially rotating pivot joint 11. The game handle 12 is traditionally included on mechanical spinning-reel games, where the handle may be pulled toward a player to initiate the spinning of reels 22 after placement of a wager. The top box 18 may include a lighted panel 17, a video display (such as an LCD monitor), a mechanical bonus device (not shown), and a candle light indicator 19. The player interface panel 30 may include various devices so that a player can interact with the gaming device 10.
The player interface panel 30 may include one or more game buttons 32 that can be actuated by the player to cause the gaming device 10 to perform a specific action. For example, some of the game buttons 32 may cause the gaming device 10 to bet a credit to be wagered during the next game, change the number of lines being played on a multi-line game, cash out the credits remaining on the gaming device (as indicated on the credit meter 27), or request assistance from casino personnel, such as by lighting the candle 19. In addition, the player interface panel 30 may include one or more game actuating buttons 33. The game actuating buttons 33 may initiate a game with a pre-specified amount of credits. On some gaming devices 10 a "Max Bet" game actuating button 33 may be included that places the maximum credit wager on a game and initiates the game. The player interface panel 30 may further include a bill acceptor 37 and a ticket printer 38. The bill acceptor 37 may accept and validate paper money or previously printed tickets with a credit balance. The ticket printer 38 may print out tickets reflecting the balance of the credits that remain on the gaming device 10 when a player cashes out by pressing one of the game buttons 32 programmed to cause a `cashout.` These tickets may be inserted into other gaming machines or redeemed at a cashier station or kiosk for cash.
The gaming device 10 may also include one or more speakers 26 to transmit auditory information or sounds to the player. The auditory information may include specific sounds associated with particular events that occur during game play on the gaming device 10. For example, a particularly festive sound may be played during a large win or when a bonus is triggered. The speakers 26 may also transmit "attract" sounds to entice nearby players when the game is not currently being played.
The gaming device 10 may further include a secondary display 25. This secondary display 25 may be a vacuum fluorescent display (VFD), a liquid crystal display (LCD), a cathode ray tube (CRT), a plasma screen, or the like. The secondary display 25 may show any combination of primary game information and ancillary information to the player. For example, the secondary display 25 may show player tracking information, secondary bonus information, advertisements, or player selectable game options.
The gaming device 10 may include a separate information window (not shown) dedicated to supplying any combination of information related to primary game play, secondary bonus information, player tracking information, secondary bonus information, advertisements or player selectable game options. This window may be fixed in size and location or may have its size and location vary temporally as communication needs change. One example of such a resizable window is International Game Technology's "service window." Another example is Las Vegas Gaming Incorporated's retrofit technology which allows information to be placed over areas of the game or the secondary display screen at various times and in various situations.
The gaming device 10 includes a microprocessor 40 that controls operation of the gaming device 10. If the gaming device 10 is a standalone gaming device, the microprocessor 40 may control virtually all of the operations of the gaming devices and attached equipment, such as operating game logic stored in memory (not shown) as firmware, controlling the display 20 to represent the outcome of a game, communicating with the other peripheral devices (such as the bill acceptor 37), and orchestrating the lighting and sound emanating from the gaming device 10. In other embodiments where the gaming device 10 is coupled to a network 50, as described below, the microprocessor 40 may have different tasks depending on the setup and function of the gaming device. For example, the microprocessor 40 may be responsible for running the base game of the gaming device and executing instructions received over the network 50 from a bonus server or player tracking server. In a server-based gaming setup, the microprocessor 40 may act as a terminal to execute instructions from a remote server that is running game play on the gaming device.
The microprocessor 40 may be coupled to a machine communication interface (MCI) 42 that connects the gaming device 10 to a gaming network 50. The MCI 42 may be coupled to the microprocessor 40 through a serial connection, a parallel connection, an optical connection, or in some cases a wireless connection. The gaming device 10 may include memory 41 (MEM), such as a random access memory (RAM), coupled to the microprocessor 40 and which can be used to store gaming information, such as storing total coin-in statistics about a present or past gaming session, which can be communicated to a remote server or database through the MCI 42. The MCI 42 may also facilitate communication between the network 50 and the secondary display 25 or a player tracking unit 45 housed in the gaming cabinet 15.
The player tracking unit 45 may include an identification device 46 and one or more buttons 47 associated with the player tracking unit 45. The identification device 46 serves to identify a player, by, for example, reading a player-tracking device, such as a player tracking card that is issued by the casino to individual players who choose to have such a card. The identification device 46 may instead, or additionally, identify players through other methods. Player tracking systems using player tracking cards and card readers 46 are known in the art. Briefly summarizing such a system, a player registers with the casino prior to commencing gaming. The casino issues a unique player-tracking card to the player and opens a corresponding player account that is stored on a server or host computer, described below with reference to FIG. 3. The player account may include the player's name and mailing address and other information of interest to the casino in connection with marketing efforts. Prior to playing one of the gaming devices in the casino, the player inserts the player tracking card into the identification device 46 thus permitting the casino to track player activity, such as amounts wagered, credits won, and rate of play.
To induce the player to use the card and be an identified player, the casino may award each player points proportional to the money or credits wagered by the player. Players typically accrue points at a rate related to the amount wagered, although other factors may cause the casino to award the player various amounts. The points may be displayed on the secondary display 25 or using other methods. In conventional player tracking systems, the player may take his or her card to a special desk in the casino where a casino employee scans the card to determine how many accrued points are in the player's account. The player may redeem points for selected merchandise, meals in casino restaurants, or the like, which each have assigned point values. In some player tracking systems, the player may use the secondary display 25 to access their player tracking account, such as to check a total number of points, redeem points for various services, make changes to their account, or download promotional credits to the gaming device 10. In other embodiments, the identification device 46 may read other identifying cards (such as driver licenses, credit cards, etc.) to identify a player and match them to a corresponding player tracking account. Although FIG. 1A shows the player tracking unit 45 with a card reader as the identification device 46, other embodiments may include a player tracking unit 45 with a biometric scanner, PIN code acceptor, or other methods of identifying a player to pair the player with their player tracking account.
A player typically plays the gaming device 10 by placing a wager and activating an input mechanism to initiate a game associated with the placed wager. As used herein, a gaming event refers to any activity that affects the calculation or display of a game outcome. Game events include interactions occurring between the gaming device 10, the player, and/or a connected game system. Example gaming events include a player inserting a player account card in a gaming device, a double-pay bonus time period activation, a first spinning reel coming to a stop, a player's input to hold a card in a poker hand, etc. A game refers to the calculation and completion of one game outcome. That is, a game includes a single game cycle that begins with the initiation of the wagered upon game and ends with the completion of all activities relating to the wager placed including any intervening bonuses. In other words, a game encompasses all gaming events dependent on a placed wager during an initiated game including all amounts due the player that are paid directly by the gaming machine, or as a manual payment by casino personnel to the player playing that gaming machine. For example, if an item was awarded as a result of a wager that could be saved and used later, the game would encompass the awarding of the item, which is part of the game outcome, but not the later use of that item since the later use would affect a different game outcome. A game session refers to one or more played games. For example, a game session for a particular player may include each game played on a specific gaming device, each game played between insertions of money or credits, each game played between an initial money or credit insertion and a cash-out or zeroing out of credits, each game played during a casino stay, or each game played over a predetermined time period. Alternatively, game sessions may refer to games played by multiple players over a specified time period or event period with respect to a particular gaming device or group of gaming devices.
The player may initially insert monetary bills or previously printed tickets with a credit value into the bill acceptor 37. The player may also put coins into a coin acceptor (not shown) or a credit, debit or casino account card into a card reader/authorizer (not shown). In other embodiments, stored player points or special `bonus points` awarded to the player or accumulated and/or stored in a player account may be able to be substituted at or transferred to the gaming device 10 for credits or other value. For example, a player may convert stored loyalty points to credits or transfer funds from his bank account, credit card, casino account or other source of funding. The selected source of funding may be selected by the player at time of transfer, determined by the casino at the time of transfer or occur automatically according to a predefined selection process. One of skill in the art will readily see that this invention is useful with all gambling devices, regardless of the manner in which wager value-input is accomplished.
The credit meter 27 displays the numeric credit value of the money or other value inserted, transferred, or stored dependent on the denomination of the gaming device 10. That is, if the gaming device 10 is a nickel slot machine and a $20 bill inserted into the bill acceptor 37, the credit meter will reflect 400 credits or one credit for each nickel of the inserted twenty dollars. For gaming devices 10 that support multiple denominations, the credit meter 27 will reflect the amount of credits relative to the denomination selected. Thus, in the above example, if a penny denomination is selected after the $20 is inserted the credit meter will change from 400 credits to 2000 credits.
A wager may be placed by pushing one or more of the game buttons 32, which may be reflected on the bet meter 28. That is, the player can generally depress a "bet one" button (one of the buttons on the player interface panel 30, such as 32), which transfers one credit from the credit meter 27 to the bet meter 28. Each time the button 32 is depressed an additional single credit transfers to the bet meter 28 up to a maximum bet that can be placed on a single play of the electronic gaming device 10. The game may be initiated by pulling the gaming handle 12 or depressing the spin button 33. On some gaming devices 10, a "max bet" button (another one of the buttons 32 on the player interface panel 30) may be depressed to wager the maximum number of credits supported by the gaming device 10 and initiate a game.
If the game does not result in any winning combination, the process of placing a wager may be repeated by the player. Alternatively, the player may cash out any remaining credits on the credit meter 27 by depressing the "cash-out" button (another button 32 on the player interface panel 30), which causes the credits on the credit meter 27 to be paid out in the form of a ticket through the ticket printer 38, or may be paid out in the form of returning coins from a coin hopper (not shown) to a coin return tray.
If instead a winning combination (win) appears on the display 20, the award corresponding to the winning combination is immediately applied to the credit meter 27. For example, if the gaming device 10 is a slot machine, a winning combination of symbols 23 may land on a played payline on reels 22. If any bonus games are initiated, the gaming device 10 may enter into a bonus mode or simply award the player with a bonus amount of credits that are applied to the credit meter 27.
FIGS. 2A to 2C illustrate exemplary types of gaming devices according to embodiments of the invention. FIG. 2A illustrates an example spinning-reel gaming machine 10A, FIG. 2B illustrates an example video slot machine 10B, and FIG. 2c illustrates an example video poker machine 10C.
Referring to FIG. 2A, a spinning-reel gaming machine 10A includes a gaming display 20A having a plurality of mechanical spinning reels 22A. Typically, spinning-reel gaming machines 10A have three to five spinning reels 22A. Each of the spinning reels 22A has multiple symbols 23A that may be separated by blank areas on the spinning reels 22A, although the presence of blank areas typically depends on the number of reels 22A present in the gaming device 10A and the number of different symbols 23A that may appear on the spinning reels 22A. Each of the symbols 22A or blank areas makes up a "stop" on the spinning reel 22A where the reel 22A comes to rest after a spin. Although the spinning reels 22A of various games 10A may have various numbers of stops, many conventional spinning-reel gaming devices 10A have reels 22A with twenty two stops.
During game play, the spinning reels 22A may be controlled by stepper motors (not shown) under the direction of the microprocessor 40 (FIG. 1A). Thus, although the spinning-reel gaming device 10A has mechanical based spinning reels 22A, the movement of the reels themselves is electronically controlled to spin and stop. This electronic control is advantageous because it allows a virtual reel strip to be stored in the memory 41 of the gaming device 10A, where various "virtual stops" are mapped to each physical stop on the physical reel 22A. This mapping allows the gaming device 10A to establish greater awards and bonuses available to the player because of the increased number of possible combinations afforded by the virtual reel strips.
A game on a spinning reel slot machine 10A typically includes the player pressing the "bet-one" button (one of the game buttons 32A) to wager a desired number of credits followed by pulling the gaming handle 12 (FIGS. 1A, 1B) or pressing the spin button 33A to spin the reels 22A. Alternatively, the player may simply press the "max-bet" button (another one of the game buttons 32A) to both wager the maximum number of credits permitted and initiate the spinning of the reels 22A. The spinning reels 22A may all stop at the same time or may individually stop one after another (typically from left to right) to build player anticipation. Because the display 20A usually cannot be physically modified, some spinning reel slot machines 10A include an electronic display screen in the top box 18 (FIG. 1B), a mechanical bonus mechanism in the top box 18, or a secondary display 25 (FIG. 1A) to execute a bonus.
Referring to FIG. 2B, a video gaming machine 10B may include a video display 20B to display virtual spinning reels 22B and various other gaming information 21B. The video display 20B may be a CRT, LCD, plasma screen, or the like. It is usually preferable that the video display 20B be a touchscreen to accept player input. A number of symbols 23A appear on each of the virtual spinning reels 22B. Although FIG. 2B shows five virtual spinning reels 22B, the flexibility of the video display 20B allows for various reel 22B and game configurations. For example, some video slot games 10B spin reels for each individual symbol position (or stop) that appears on the video display 20B. That is, each symbol position on the screen is independent of every other position during the games. In these types of games, very large numbers of pay lines or multiple super scatter pays can be utilized since similar symbols could appear at every symbol position on the video display 20B. On the other hand, other video slot games 10B more closely resemble the mechanical spinning reel games where symbols that are vertically adjacent to each other are part of the same continuous virtual spinning reel 22B.
Because the virtual spinning reels 22B, by virtue of being computer implemented, can have almost any number of stops on a reel strip, it is much easier to have a greater variety of displayed outcomes as compared to spinning-reel slot machines 10A (FIG. 2A) that have a fixed number of physical stops on each spinning reel 22A.
With the possible increases in reel 22B numbers and configurations over the mechanical gaming device 10A, video gaming devices 10B often have multiple paylines 24 that may be played. By having more paylines 24 available to play, the player may be more likely to have a winning combination when the reels 22B stop and the game ends. However, since the player typically must wager at least a minimum number of credits to enable each payline 24 to be eligible for winning, the overall odds of winning are not much different, if at all, than if the player is wagering only on a single payline. For example, in a five line game, the player may bet one credit per payline 24 and be eligible for winning symbol combinations that appear on any of the five played paylines 24. This gives a total of five credits wagered and five possible winning paylines 24. If, on the other hand, the player only wagers one credit on one payline 24, but plays five games, the odds of winning would be identical as above: five credits wagered and five possible winning paylines 24.
Because the video display 20B can easily modify the image output by the video display 20B, bonuses, such as second screen bonuses are relatively easy to award on the video slot game 10B. That is, if a bonus is triggered during game play, the video display 20B may simply store the resulting screen shot in memory and display a bonus sequence on the video display 20B. After the bonus sequence is completed, the video display 20B may then retrieve the previous screen shot and information from memory, and re-display that image.
Also, as mentioned above, the video display 20B may allow various other game information 21B to be displayed. For example, as shown in FIG. 2B, banner information may be displayed above the spinning reels 22B to inform the player, perhaps, which symbol combination is needed to trigger a bonus. Also, instead of providing a separate credit meter 27 (FIG. 1A) and bet meter 28, the same information can instead be displayed on the video display 20B. In addition, "soft buttons" 29B such as a "spin" button or "help/see pays" button may be built using the touch screen video display 20B. Such customization and ease of changing the image shown on the display 20B adds to the flexibility of the game 10B.
Even with the improved flexibility afforded by the video display 20B, several physical buttons 32B and 33B are usually provided on video slot machines 10B. These buttons may include game buttons 32B that allow a player to choose the number of paylines 24 he or she would like to play and the number of credits wagered on each payline 24. In addition, a max bet button (one of the game buttons 32B) allows a player to place a maximum credit wager on the maximum number of available paylines 24 and initiate a game. A repeat bet or spin button 33B may also be used to initiate each game when the max bet button is not used.
Referring to FIG. 2c, a video poker gaming device 10C may include a video display 20C that is physically similar to the video display 20B shown in FIG. 2B. The video display 20C may show a poker hand of five cards 23C and various other player information 21C including a paytable for various winning hands, as well as a plurality of player selectable soft buttons 29C. The video display 20C may present a poker hand of five cards 23C and various other player information 21C including a number of player selectable soft (touch-screen) buttons 29C and a paytable for various winning hands. Although the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 3C shows only one hand of poker on the video display 20C, various other video poker machines 10C may show several poker hands (multi-hand poker). Typically, video poker machines 10C play "draw" poker in which a player is dealt a hand of five cards, has the opportunity to hold any combination of those five cards, and then draws new cards to replace the discarded ones. All pays are usually given for winning combinations resulting from the final hand, although some video poker games 10C may give bonus credits for certain combinations received on the first hand before the draw. In the example shown in FIG. 2c a player has been dealt two aces, a three, a six, and a nine. The video poker game 10C may provide a bonus or payout for the player having been dealt the pair of aces, even before the player decides what to discard in the draw. Since pairs, three of a kind, etc. are typically needed for wins, a player would likely hold the two aces that have been dealt and draw three cards to replace the three, six, and nine in the hope of receiving additional aces or other cards leading to a winning combination with a higher award amount. After the draw and revealing of the final hand, the video poker game 10C typically awards any credits won to the credit meter.
The player selectable soft buttons 29C appearing on the screen respectively correspond to each card on the video display 20C. These soft buttons 29C allow players to select specific cards on the video display 20C such that the card corresponding to the selected soft button is "held" before the draw. Typically, video poker machines 10C also include physical game buttons 32C that correspond to the cards in the hand and may be selected to hold a corresponding card. A deal/draw button 33C may also be included to initiate a game after credits have been wagered (with a bet button 32C, for example) and to draw any cards not held after the first hand is displayed.
Although examples of a spinning reel slot machine 10A, a video slot machine 10B, and a video poker machine 10C have been illustrated in FIGS. 2A-2C, gaming machines and various other types of gaming devices known in the art are contemplated and are within the scope of the invention.
FIG. 3 is a block diagram illustrating networked gaming devices according to embodiments of the invention. Referring to FIG. 3, multiple electronic gaming devices (EGMs) 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, and 75 may be coupled to one another and coupled to a remote server 80 through a network 50. For ease of understanding, gaming devices or EGMs 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, and 75 are generically referred to as EGMs 70-75. The term EGMs 70-75, however, may refer to any combination of one or more of EGMs 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, and 75. Additionally, the gaming server 80 may be coupled to one or more gaming databases 90. These gaming network 50 connections may allow multiple gaming devices 70-75 to remain in communication with one another during particular gaming modes such as tournament play or remote head-to-head play. Although some of the gaming devices 70-75 coupled on the gaming network 50 may resemble the gaming devices 10, 10A, 10B, and 10C shown in FIGS. 1A-1B and 2A-2C, other coupled gaming devices 70-75 may include differently configured gaming devices. For example, the gaming devices 70-75 may include traditional slot machines 75 directly coupled to the network 50, banks of gaming devices 70 coupled to the network 50, banks of gaming devices 70 coupled to the network through a bank controller 60, wireless handheld gaming machines 72 and cell phones 73 coupled to the gaming network 50 through one or more wireless routers or antennas 61, personal computers 74 coupled to the network 50 through the internet 62, and banks of gaming devices 71 coupled to the network through one or more optical connection lines 64. Additionally, some of the traditional gaming devices 70, 71, and 75 may include electronic gaming tables, multi-station gaming devices, or electronic components operating in conjunction with non-gaming components, such as automatic card readers, chip readers, and chip counters, for example.
Gaming devices 71 coupled over an optical line 64 may be remote gaming devices in a different location or casino. The optical line 64 may be coupled to the gaming network 50 through an electronic to optical signal converter 63 and may be coupled to the gaming devices 71 through an optical to electronic signal converter 65. The banks of gaming devices 70 coupled to the network 50 may be coupled through a bank controller 60 for compatibility purposes, for local organization and control, or for signal buffering purposes. The network 50 may include serial or parallel signal transmission lines and carry data in accordance with data transfer protocols such as Ethernet transmission lines, Rs-232 lines, firewire lines, USB lines, or other communication protocols. Although not shown in FIG. 3, substantially the entire network 50 may be made of fiber optic lines or may be a wireless network utilizing a wireless protocol such as IEEE 802.11a, b, g, or n, Zigbee, RF protocols, optical transmission, near-field transmission, or the like.
As mentioned above, each gaming device 70-75 may have an individual processor 40 (FIG. 1A) and memory 41 to run and control game play on the gaming device 70-75, or some of the gaming devices 70-75 may be terminals that are run by a remote server 80 in a server based gaming environment. Server based gaming environments may be advantageous to casinos by allowing fast downloading of particular game types or themes based on casino preference or player selection. Additionally, tournament based games, linked games, and certain game types, such as BINGO or keno may benefit from at least some server 80 based control.
Thus, in some embodiments, the network 50, server 80, and database 90 may be dedicated to communications regarding specific game or tournament play. In other embodiments, however, the network 50, server 80, and database 90 may be part of a player tracking network. For player tracking capabilities, when a player inserts a player tracking card in the card reader 46 (FIG. 1A), the player tracking unit 45 sends player identification information obtained on the card reader 46 through the MCI 42 over the network 50 to the player tracking server 80, where the player identification information is compared to player information records in the player database 90 to provide the player with information regarding their player account or other features at the gaming device 10 where the player is wagering. Additionally, multiple databases 90 and/or servers 80 may be present and coupled to one or more networks 50 to provide a variety of gaming services, such as both game/tournament data and player tracking data.
The various systems described with reference to FIGS. 1-3 can be used in a number of ways. For instance, the systems can be used to track data about various players. The tracked data can be used by the casino to provide additional benefits to players, such as extra bonuses or extra benefits such as bonus games and other benefits as described above. These added benefits further entice the players to play at the casino that provides the benefits.
FIG. 4 is a function block diagram of a gaming system according to embodiments of the invention. Referring to FIG. 4, a gaming system includes multiple gaming devices 110 connected to a bonus controller 120 through a gaming network. A bonus display 150 is further connected to the bonus controller 120. The gaming network 115 may be a dedicated network for use with the connected gaming devices 110, bonus controller 120, and bonus display 120. For example, a gaming network may be set up for a bank of gaming device 110 that have a bonus display positioned above and visible to the bank of gaming devices 110. The bonus controller 120 may also be located among the bank of gaming devices 110, where the gaming system is structured as a local bank system. In other embodiments, however, gaming network may be similar to the gaming network 50 shown in FIG. 3, where multiple game devices, servers, databases, and other system components are connected to and use the gaming network 115.
In the embodiment shown in FIG. 4, the linked jackpot bonus is configured as a grid of bonus elements. These bonus elements are initially shown as a covered spot on the grid that hides any prizes that may be associated with the bonus element. A linked jackpot award may be hidden under one of the covered bonus elements. If the linked jackpot is a progressive-style linked jackpot, its value may be shown on a nearby meter or on a portion of the game display so that players can keep track of the amount of the linked jackpot. Other bonus elements may, when revealed, be credit prizes, non-cashable credit prizes, respin awards, nudges, player points, casino comps, or nothing. In some embodiments, the value under a selected bonus element may be awarded to every connected gaming device. For example, a non-cashable credit bonus of fifty non-cashable credits may be awarded to each connected gaming device 110 that is currently being played rather than to only the gaming device that triggered the bonus selection.
Depending upon the setup of a gaming system and connected gaming devices 110, various bonus selection triggers may be used to determine when one of the bonus elements on the bonus display is selected. Bonus selection triggers may include game event outcome triggers, mystery-jackpot style bonus triggers, game session triggers, timer-based triggers, etc. Some examples of possible bonus selection triggers include a player receiving ten consecutive losing outcomes, a player identifying herself to a connected gaming device 110, a player receiving a combination of bonus symbols in a game outcome, and a player reaching 150 credits wagered in a continuous gaming session.
When a bonus display 150 is reset or initialized, all of the bonus elements return to a covered state and new awards are selected for some or all of the bonus elements. In some embodiments, a bonus display 150 is reset when all of the elements have been revealed. In other embodiments, the bonus display 150 is reset when all of the bonus elements associated with awards that are eligible to be won are revealed. This prevents an anti-climatic finish to a bonus where the last few selections do not result in any awards. In yet other embodiments, a bonus display 150 is reset when a linked jackpot is revealed and won. Again, this prevents the remainder of the bonus element selections from being boring and possibly causing players to stop playing the connected gaming devices 110. In still other embodiments, the bonus display 150 may be reset after a bonus-ending trigger is activated, such as after a predefined time has elapsed since the beginning of the bonus, after no play has occurred on any connected machine for ten minutes, after a certain number of bonus elements are selected, etc.
In many ways, the illustrated bonus display grid 150 resembles punch board games where prizes are hidden underneath a covering. As with those games, the more selections that are made, the greater the odds increases that the next selection will be a large prize selection. For example, when a linked jackpot is included in bonus display of bonus elements, the selection of each element that is not revealed to be the linked jackpot increases the odds that the next selected bonus element will be the linked jackpot. That is, as the bonus progresses, the odds of winning the linked jackpot increase. This increase in odds is readily apparent to players as the possible bonus elements hiding the linked jackpot become fewer and fewer. In addition, embodiments that allow for player selection of which bonus element to reveal provides player interaction with the bonus that may increase a player's sense of control.
In some embodiments, each bonus element may include one or more layers. Each of the layers may be associated with a separate award. These layers may have eligibility restrictions to encourage players to pursue a certain casino desired action. Layers are discussed more fully below with reference to FIG. 6.
In some embodiments, the selection of a specific bonus element is carried out automatically by the bonus controller 120. That is, when a bonus selection trigger is received, the bonus controller 120 randomly selects one of unrevealed bonus elements on the bonus display 150. In other embodiments, a player can choose a group or portion of the bonus elements from which the bonus controller 120 will make a selection. For example, a player may choose which column or row a selection must be made from. This gives the player some control over which elements are selected and is especially useful if combined with communicated hints sent to the player as discussed below. In other embodiments, the players themselves can choose which unrevealed bonus element to select. These embodiments give the player the most control. However, giving a player the ability to select a bonus element sometimes slows down game play because of the time used by the player in considering which element to select. In some embodiments, the selection-ability by players may be reserved for identified players. This is a small reward for a player joining a player club and does not affect the odds of the bonus. In other embodiments, a player may be given three personal selections during any 24 hour period. This may provide for more rapid game play while still allowing a player to make a bonus element selection if they have a strong feeling about one of the bonus elements. This limit of three player selections may be coupled with the communication hints discussed below to provide an interesting risk/reward scenario. Suppose, for example, that additional hints were sent during a bonus cycle, with each successive hint being a littler more detailed. A player would have to choose when to use their three personal selections. Should they use them a little earlier to try an secure the bonus or save them until they have a better idea where to use them, but at the risk that someone else will win the linked jackpot.
As mentioned above, hints could be given to a player about which bonus elements have higher awards, or hints on where not to make a selection. These hints could be actively communicated to players via email, text message, instant message, tweets, etc, or the hints could be passively posted on a casino's website or in a player account message post. Players wanting an edge in choosing which bonus elements to select may be keen to check messages from the casino often or log onto a casino's web site or their player account to receive these hints. The increased interest and traffic likewise benefits that casino as the player is more involved and familiar with the casino, and hence more likely to return.
Although this concept is discussed as part of a gaming system with multiple connected gaming devices, it is possible to use these notions on a stand-alone game device. The bonus display may be implemented in the top box of the gaming device or as a second screen bonus. The principles of operation would be similar for a stand-along gaming device, although they would be limited to selections made from only the single game device. In other embodiments, this concept may be used a stand-alone or linked base game. For example, a large grid could be used with numerous elements having no wins and used as a base game for a gaming device. The payback percentage of the device could be controlled by varying how many elements were associated with awards, and controlling the size of the awards.
The bonus display 150 shown in FIG. 4 is an 8×8 grid of bonus elements. However, grid sizes of many more bonus elements may be used to extend the duration of a bonus while still providing relatively frequent bonus selections. Bonus displays 150 with grid sizes of 20×20, 50×50 or more may be easily implemented on large displays above connected game devices 110. To increase the visibility of the bonus elements in these larger grids, a representation of the bonus display may be implemented on a player's gaming device, such as shown in FIG. 5c. These grids may be implemented on video monitors, on a mechanical bonus grid, or on a video/mechanical combination.
Although the bonus game on the bonus display 120 in the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 4 is depicted as a grid of bonus elements, other embodiments of this concept may have a different type of bonus that still provides better jackpot odds as the bonus progresses. For example, a wheel with 16 "slices" may be used as a bonus game where the slices are initially covered. As the bonus game progresses, the wheel is spun and each slice of the wheel is uncovered to reveal the bonus contents under the wheel. In some versions of this wheel embodiment, the wheel may land on previously uncovered slices. The player may win the value shown on the wheel slice again (or the award may already be considered won or claimed) and the wheel may be re-spun repeatedly until it lands on a covered slice.
In another example, the bonus display 120 may show a map of an island or other piece of land with a jackpot prize hidden or buried somewhere on the map. In some embodiments, a common character may "dig" in portions of the map to find the treasure (jackpot). In other embodiments, each eligible gaming device may have a representative character shown on the map. When one player is awarded with a bonus turn, the representative character of that player may travel to a new part of the map and dig for the jackpot award treasure. Players may be able to select a character from a list of possible characters to represent them on the map, or players may be able to upload a custom character from a casino player account, from a personal memory device, or from a wireless device such as cell phone. In embodiments where hints are used and player's are allowed to have a least some say where their representative character digs, email, instant messages, tweets, player account messages, or other electronic communication hints may be provided to the player to give them information on where the jackpot treasure may be buried. For example, on a map of an island, an emailed hint may inform the player that the jackpot treasure is located within a certain distance of the shoreline of the island.
FIGS. 5A and 5B are detail diagrams of a gaming device with a player interface display showing an exemplary bonus selection according to embodiments of the invention. FIG. 5c is a detail diagram of the gaming device shown in FIG. 5B and a connected bonus display shown in FIG. 5B according to embodiments of the invention.
Referring to FIG. 5A, a gaming device 200 includes a player interface panel 230 and a game display 220. The game display 220 is a video screen and depicts a video slot game having five spinning reels 222 where each spinning reel includes a plurality of game symbols 223. During a base game, the five reels 222 are spun and come to rest. If a combination of game symbols 223 recognized by the game paytable line up on a payline 224, the game device 200 pays an award associated with combination described in the paytable. A credit meter keeps track of the number of credits that are available to a player to wager or cash-out. A game information banner 221 may also be present on the game display 220 to give players hints and inform them of game pays. Although a five reel video slot machine is depicted in the embodiment shown in FIG. 5A, any type of gaming device may be implemented with the concepts described herein. Here, as the game information banner states, three bonus symbols lining up on a played payline will give the player a chance to participate in the Punch Board Bonus. As shown on the game display 220, the player has received three bonus symbols on a top payline, and a bonus win box 260 appears on the game display.
Referring to FIG. 5B, a bonus display representation 270 appears on the game display 220. The bonus display representation 270 may be useful because a common bonus display may be difficult to view from the location of the connected gaming device. In addition, in embodiments that allow a player to select a bonus element to reveal, this bonus display representation 270 makes a selection process much easier. Here, a player has selected one of the bonus elements 275 to be revealed.
Referring to FIG. 5c, the selected bonus element 275 is revealed on both the bonus display 250 and on the bonus display representation 270 on the game display 220. Here, the selected bonus element is revealed to be associated with a 250 credit bonus win. In other embodiments, a bonus display representation 270 may not be present on a gaming device display 220. This may be because a casino wants all players to focus on the larger common bonus display 250, or when the gaming device is a mechanical spinning reel game, where display of a bonus display representation 270 would be very difficult. Additionally, a bonus display representation 270 may display which players chose each element, or at least can track a player's selections.
FIG. 6 is a detail diagram of a gaming system with a bonus display having layers according to embodiments of the invention.
Referring to FIG. 6, a gaming device display 310 includes a representation 325 of a bonus display during a bonus selection process. Here, the bonus display representation includes an enlarged version 330 of a selected bonus element 340. This enlarged version 330 of the selected bonus element 340 has been included to clearly show a plurality of layers associated with the selected bonus element. When implemented in a gaming device, some embodiments may allow a player to zoom in on a selected bonus element in a manner similar to the one showed in FIG. 6 to help players with poor eyesight and improve clarity. Also shown in FIG. 6 is a cutaway portion 351 of a bonus display. This cutaway portion 351 of the bonus display shows a selected bonus element 370 with three layers 372, 374, 376.
As discussed above, a bonus element may have multiple layers to provide additional incentives for a player to complete an action desired by a casino. That is, players may only be eligible to receive prizes associated with certain layers if they meet the eligibility requirements for those layers. For example, one layer may be limited to identified players to encourage players to register for a player account at the casino. In another example, another layer may be limited to game play taking place on weekday afternoons between 1:00 PM and 5:00 PM to encourage play during these non-peak gambling times. Eligibility requirements for other layers may include wager size, length of game session, player rating, day of the week, or other gaming/player criteria.
In the example illustrated in FIG. 6, three layers 372, 374, 376 are present in a selected bonus element 370. Here the player is eligible for the award shown in the first layer 372 and the award shown in the second layer 374, but is not eligible for the award shown in the third layer 376, as indicated by the "X." Perhaps the first layer 372 is available to identified players, the second layer 374 is available to players wagering at least two credits per line, and the third layer 376 is eligible for game play between 2:00 AM and 6:00 AM. Here, the player is an identified player and is wagering at least two credits per line, but the player is not playing the game between 2:00 AM and 6:00 AM. Hence, the player wins the 50 credits associated with the first layer 372 and the 10 credits associated with the second layer 374 for a total bonus win of 60 credits. However, the player does not win the 150 credits associated with the third layer 376. The third layer 376 is still shown during the bonus to show the player what they could have won had they met the eligibility requirements for the third layer 376.
FIG. 7 is a flow diagram of a method of operating a gaming system having a linked bonus display according to embodiments of the invention. Referring to FIG. 7, flow 400 begins by initializing the bonus positions in process 410. This initialization process includes clearing a previous bonus display, selecting new values to associate with bonus elements, and generating an initial display to show on the bonus display. After this initialization process is complete, flow 400 moves to process 415 where a bonus controller determines if all winning positions have been revealed. Naturally, when flow 400 moves directly from the initialization process 410 to the determination process in 415, the answer to this determination question will be "no," since none of positions or elements have yet to be revealed. However, when flow 400 returns to this determination process later in the bonus, a determination that all of the winning positions have been revealed would cause flow 400 to return to process 410 where the bonus positions and display would again be initialized. In embodiments where the bonus does not end when all of the winning positions are revealed (that is, all of the positions that are associated with an award are revealed), process 415 may instead determine if all of the positions or elements have been revealed.
If it is determined that all of the winning bonus positions have not been revealed in process 415, flow 400 proceeds to process 420 where the bonus controller waits until a signal is received indicating that one of the connected gaming devices is requesting that one of the covered bonus elements be revealed. As discussed above, this request may be the result of an outcome of a game event played on the gaming device, the result of mystery bonus, or based on other bonus game triggers. After a signal is received in process 420, flow 400 moves to process 425 where it is determined if a selection is made. This determination process 420 includes determining whether any instructions are received from the gaming device as to a selection of a game element or selection of a portion of games elements from which a final reveled element will be chosen. As discussed above, in some embodiments a player may have the ability to select a bonus element to reveal or at least restrict an automatic element selection to a chosen group of bonus elements. If selection data is received, flow 400 proceeds to process 430 where the selection information is analyzed to determine the identification of the element or group of elements indicated in the selection information. If the selection information indicates a group of elements by which an automatic selection is bounded, flow 400 follows the dashed arrow in FIG. 7 to process 435 where an automatic selection is made from the group of bonus elements indicated by the received selection information. If a single bonus element is indicated in the selection information, flow 400 proceeds to process 440 where any element layers of the selected bonus element along with the contents of the selected element are revealed.
If it is determined in process 425 that a selection has not been made by the triggering game device, flow 400 moves to process 435 where an automatic selection of one of the bonus elements is carried out. After the automatic selection has been made in process 435, flow 400 moves on to process 440 where, as mentioned above, any element layers of the selected bonus element along with the contents of the selected element are revealed. After the contents and layers of the selected element are revealed in process 440, flow 400 proceeds to process 445 where it is determined if any awards are associated with the selected element. The award determination process also includes determining if a triggering player is eligible for any awards that appear on a revealed layer in the selected element.
If it is determined that no awards are associated with the selected bonus element, or that the triggering player is not eligible for any revealed awards, flow 400 returns to process 415 to determine if all of the winning bonus elements are revealed. If it is determined that there are awards associated with the selected bonus element that the triggering player is eligible for, flow 400 moves to process 450 where the determined awards associated with the selected bonus element are provided to the triggering player. After these awards have been provided to the winning player, flow 400 returns to process 415 to again determine if all of the winning bonus positions have been revealed.
FIG. 8 is a function block diagram of a gaming system according to embodiments of the invention.
Referring to FIG. 8, a linked video poker bonus is illustrated. Here, the gaming system includes multiple connected gaming devices 510 (only one is shown in FIG. 8 for simplicity sake) configured to have video poker games implemented on them. The gaming devices 510 are connected to a bonus display 550 through a bonus controller 520. The bonus display 550 depicts a grid of cards 570 that start face down. Each card 570 includes either a bonus award value, or a 6th card that may be used with the five cards in player's hand to form a poker hand. In the example shown in FIG. 8, a player at the displayed gaming device 510 was dealt an initial hand and held the two aces on the left side of the screen. On the draw, the player received a three of spades, a six of clubs, and a nine of diamonds. However, during this gaming event, a bonus selection was triggered that allowed for the selection of one of the face-down cards on the bonus display 550. Here, the selected card 580 on the bonus display turned out to be a three of diamonds. If the selected card had revealed an award value (as shown on two of the turned-up cards), the player would have won that value as a bonus amount. Here, however, the bonus selection 580 revealed a card that by itself is not worth any bonus value. This bonus card is considered, however, with the poker hand shown on the gaming device 510. In this case, the extra three from the bonus selection 580 can be combined with the three of spades to form a second pair. Hence, the player in effect wins a little bonus value by having a final poker hand of two pair instead of only jacks or better, which is generally worth double the prize value. Variations in bonus card selection schemes (automatic or player influenced) and bonus selection triggers may be similar to those described above. In addition, different bonus displays 550 or bonus types may be used with video poker gaming devices 510. This variation simply provides a little more excitement an intrigue by including bonus selections that are cards and can be used to supplement a dealt or drawn poker hand.
Some embodiments of the invention have been described above, and in addition, some specific details are shown for purposes of illustrating the inventive principles. However, numerous other arrangements may be devised in accordance with the inventive principles of this patent disclosure. Further, well known processes have not been described in detail in order not to obscure the invention. Thus, while the invention is described in conjunction with the specific embodiments illustrated in the drawings, it is not limited to these embodiments or drawings. Rather, the invention is intended to cover alternatives, modifications, and equivalents that come within the scope and spirit of the inventive principles set out in the appended claims.
Patent applications by John F. Acres, Las Vegas, NV US
Patent applications in class Credit/debit monitoring or manipulation (e.g., game entry, betting, prize level, etc.)
Patent applications in all subclasses Credit/debit monitoring or manipulation (e.g., game entry, betting, prize level, etc.)