US 20060258432 A1
In an exemplary embodiment, an online gaming server uses a pari-mutuel betting format to generate periodic gaming events over a network for players at a variety of locations using a simple browser interface that supports devices used by players, such as personal computers, pocket PCs, Personal Digital Assistants, mobile telephones that have Internet access, Palm® computers, and Blackberry® devices. After the outcome of a game is determined such as by random selection in the server, the outcome is broadcast from the server to each player device participating in the game. Depending on the outcome and device capabilities, the player's device may then select a clip simulating a race or other game on which the player wagered, and display that clip for the player.
1. A method of wagering, comprising the steps of:
receiving data at a computing device using at least one communications network, the data defining a plurality of possible outcomes of a computer-generated event and odds applying to each outcome, the odds defining a variable payoff based on the number and amount of wagers placed on each outcome;
displaying the data defining outcomes and odds on the computing device;
using the computing device, selecting one of the outcomes as a wagered outcome and transmitting a wager on the wagered outcome over at least one communications network; and
receiving outcome data at the computing device via at least one communications network, indicating that the computer-generated event has occurred and communicating the outcome of the event; and
displaying the outcome of the event and the result of the wager on the computing device.
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23. A method of wagering, comprising the steps of:
receiving data at a computing device using a communications network selected from at least one available communications network, the data defining a plurality of possible outcomes of a computer-generated event and odds applying to each outcome, the odds defining a variable payoff based on the number and amount of wagers placed on each outcome and with a portion of the total wagers going to the operator of the computer-generated event;
displaying the data defining outcomes and odds on the computing device;
updating an odds display on the computing device in response to received changes in odds;
using the computing device, selecting one of the outcomes as a wagered outcome and transmitting a wager on the wagered outcome over a communications network selected from among said at least one available communications network; and
receiving outcome data at the computing device via at least one communications network, indicating that the computer-generated event has occurred and identifying the outcome of the event; and
playing a visual clip, selected in response to the received outcome of the event, to visually simulate the computer-generated event and its outcome, and displaying the results of the wager.
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This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/679,236 filed May 10, 2005, which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.
1. Field of the Invention
The invention relates generally to electronic pari-mutuel gaming systems. In particular embodiments, the invention provides improvements in the field of networked gaming.
2. Related Art
Games of chance, and wagering on such games, continues to be a popular activity worldwide. Players might bet on casino games, racing and other sporting event outcomes, and might play lotteries, “instant win” lotteries, and other number selection games. Traditionally, most of these games have been played in person. More recently, widespread access to the Internet and the availability of gaming on the Internet has made it possible to play classic casino table games such as roulette, blackjack, craps, baccarat, poker, and slot machines.
The inventor has noted that the probability of making a profitable wager ranges from low to extremely low in Keno and other lottery-type games, traditional casino table games, and sports betting. The inventor has also noted that networked casino games, such as Internet casinos, involves risk to the operator in that it is possible for a large bet placed against high odds to “break the bank.” Therefore, there is a need for improvements in online gaming, whether one views online gaming from the player's or the operator's perspective.
It is to be understood that both the following summary and the detailed description are exemplary and explanatory and are intended to provide further explanation of the invention as claimed. Neither the summary nor the description that follows is intended to define or limit the scope of the invention to the particular features mentioned in the summary or in the description.
In an embodiment, an online gaming system uses a pari-mutuel betting format that cannot “break the bank” and produces variable, “money-line” odds before each event occurs. The events may occur regularly, such as every six minutes, and in preferred embodiments the system uses the Internet communications infrastructure to maximize the number of bettors at each event and minimize transaction costs.
The games included in the scope of the invention are unlimited, and a variety of games may be offered in the context of particular embodiments. Examples include simulated racing and modified versions of roulette, craps, poker, and slot machine games. In a preferred embodiment, for each game, an arbitrary number of possible outcomes are selected (for example, 10 outcomes) with an equal chance of obtaining each outcome. Variable payoff odds on each outcome are determined and displayed in real time for players, based on the number of wagers placed on each outcome and the total amount wagered. The operator takes a predetermined percentage of the betting pool for each game (for example, 2.5%) and the remainder of the pool is distributed to winners based on the pari-mutuel odds calculated for the game. The use of a pari-mutuel payoff method for games of chance is a unique feature of certain embodiments.
In some embodiments, the games are operated on an Internet server that provides a simple browser interface for players worldwide. The interface preferably supports a variety of devices used by players to participate in the regularly recurring games and place bets. For example, personal computers, pocket PCs, Personal Digital Assistants, mobile telephones that have Internet access, Palm® computers, and Blackberry® devices may all be supported by the server. In some embodiments these devices are supported via a browser interface.
In an embodiment, after the outcome of a game is determined such as by random selection in the server, the outcome is broadcast from the server to each player device participating in the game. Based on the outcome, and depending on its capabilities, the player device may then select an audio, video, animation, or other multimedia clip simulating a race or other game on which the player wagered, and display that clip for the player, allowing the player to watch the simulated event or game and to experience the same suspense and excitement found when one is present at actual sporting events or casino games before seeing the outcome.
Additional features and advantages of the invention will be set forth in the description which follows, and in part will be apparent from the description, or may be learned by practice of the invention. The advantages of the invention will be realized and attained by the structure particularly pointed out in the written description and claims hereof as well as the appended drawings.
The accompanying drawings, which are incorporated herein and form a part of the specification, illustrate the present invention and, together with the description, further serve to explain the principles of the invention and to enable a person skilled in the pertinent art to make and use the invention.
The present invention will now be described with reference to the accompanying drawings. In the drawings, some like reference numbers indicate identical or functionally similar elements. Additionally, the left-most digit(s) of most reference numbers identify the drawing in which the reference numbers first appear.
The present invention will now be explained in terms of exemplary embodiments. This specification discloses one or more embodiments that incorporate the features of this invention. The embodiment(s) described, and references in the specification to “one embodiment”, “an embodiment”, “an example embodiment”, etc., indicate that the embodiment(s) described may include a particular feature, structure, or characteristic, but every embodiment may not necessarily include the particular feature, structure, or characteristic. Moreover, such phrases are not necessarily referring to the same embodiment. Further, when a particular feature, structure, or characteristic is described in connection with an embodiment, persons skilled in the art may effect such feature, structure, or characteristic in connection with other embodiments whether or not explicitly described.
Embodiments of the invention may be implemented in hardware, firmware, software, or any combination thereof. Embodiments of the invention may also be implemented as instructions stored on a machine-readable medium, which may be read and executed by one or more processors. A machine-readable medium may include any mechanism for storing or transmitting information in a form readable by a machine (e.g. a computing device). For example, a machine-readable medium may include read only memory (ROM); random access memory (RAM); magnetic disk storage media; optical storage media; flash memory devices; electrical, optical, acoustical, or other forms of propagated signals (e.g. carrier waves, infrared signals, digital signals, etc.), and others. Further, firmware, software, routines, instructions, may be described herein as performing certain actions. However, it should be appreciated that such descriptions are merely for convenience and that such actions in fact result from computing devices, processors, controllers or other devices executing the firmware, software, routines, instructions, etc.
Referring first to
In various embodiments, server 102 runs software providing a novel method that will now be described in more detail. Selected features of the invention will be disclosed in terms of an example using a system where games run on a server. This configuration is merely an example, and the invention may be implemented using a plurality of servers, in a non-client/server configuration, or in any other configuration that includes one or more novel features of the invention.
In a preferred embodiment, an online gaming method operating in server 102 uses a parimutuel betting format that produces variable, “money-line” odds before each event occurs. Parimutuel betting is a system of cooperative wagering in which the holders of winning tickets divide the total amount of money bet on a race (the pool), after deductions for operating expenses. The uniqueness of parimutuel betting lies in the fact that the gambling public itself determines the payoff odds (e.g., if many people have bet on the actual winner of a contest then the payoff will be low, simply because many winners will divide the pool). Parimutuel wagering is the accepted betting procedure at major horse-racing tracks throughout the world. Greyhound tracks and jai alai games also use the system. Considered a major deterrent to illegal bookmaking in the world of in-person gaming, parimutuel systems at horse tracks depends on high-speed electronic calculators, known as tote boards, to record and display up-to-the-minute betting patterns. Insofar as the inventor is aware, however, the parimutuel approach has not been applied to the field of networked or Internet gaming.
In an embodiment, the operator of the present system takes a predetermined percentage of the betting pool for each game (for example, 2.5% for expenses and profit) and the remainder of the pool is distributed to winners based on the parimutuel odds calculated for the game. Variable payoff odds on each outcome are determined and displayed in real time for players, based on the number of wagers placed on each outcome and the total amount wagered. This method provides significant advantages for both the operator and the players. The players benefit from higher returns and a high probability of experiencing regular wins during repeat play. The operator benefits because a parimutuel method of determining payoffs prevents “breaking the bank,” i.e. avoids the possibility that the operator may have to pay out more than he has taken in the course of the game, and provides some assurance to players that the game is not rigged.
The games, simulated races, and other events on which bets may be placed are limited only by the imagination. A variety of games may be offered in different embodiments of the invention, depending on the desires of the players and the operator. Examples include simulated horse racing, auto racing, dog racing, and other races. Simulated versions of roulette, craps, poker, and slot machine games may also be provided. In a preferred embodiment, for each game, an arbitrary number of possible outcomes are selected (for example, 10 outcomes) with an equal chance of obtaining each outcome. To simplify betting and visual displays, as well as to increase the odds of picking the winning number, the number of choices in simulations of casino games such as roulette, craps, poker, and slot machines may be reduced. For example, a roulette game with an arbitrarily reduced number of choices, such as 10 numbers, may be provided.
The events on which wagers are placed by the players may occur irregularly or regularly, and at any desired time interval. In one exemplary embodiment, a game runs every six minutes, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. In this embodiment, for example, five minutes are allowed to place bets and the event on which wagers have been made is simulated in the final minute of the betting event.
The use of the Internet communications infrastructure, while not required within the scope of the invention, tends to maximize the number of bettors for each event and minimize transaction costs. The provision by the server of a browser interface to the player devices is also not required within the scope of the invention, but the use of a browser interface will support a variety of devices used by players to participate in the regularly recurring games and place bets. For example, personal computers, pocket PCs, Personal Digital Assistants, mobile telephones that have Internet access, Palm® computers, and Blackberry® devices may all be supported by the server. In a preferred embodiment these devices and others are supported via a browser interface. However, proprietary interfaces may also be provided. For example, the server may offer proprietary interface software for download by players. Such software may either be required for all devices, may be offered as an optional alternative to a browser interface, or may be provided for devices that do not have browser capability.
In step 204, if betting is not complete the method accepts bets in step 214, and in step 216 the method updates the odds in real time based on bets accepted in step 214. Control then passes back to step 204 and the processing of bets continues until the betting period is complete.
When the betting period is found to be complete in step 204, control passes to step 206, where a random result is selected for the event. In a preferred embodiment, the possible outcomes of the event (for example, in a horse race, any of ten horses) are given an equal probability of being selected.
In step 208, the result is broadcast to the devices of players participating in wagering on the event. In the case of an Internet-based embodiment, this broadcast may occur through individual packet transmissions by a server to each of the player devices connected to the event. Alternatively, the player devices may pull outcome information from one or more distributed servers, or may receive it through another broadcast medium such as a radio broadcast. Based on the outcome, and depending on its capabilities, the player device may then select a video clip or animation clip simulating a race or other game on which the player wagered, and display that clip for the player, allowing the player to watch the simulated event or game and to experience the same suspense and excitement found when one is present at actual sporting events or casino games before seeing the outcome.
In step 210, payoffs are calculated using the pari-mutuel formula and in step 212 the individual player accounts are updated in accordance with the amount won or lost during the bet. Control then returns to step 202 so that another event can be initiated at the appropriate time.
The tote board may be displayed either vertically or horizontally, and may be selectively displayed in a different format depending on the display capabilities of the device used by the player. For example, a mobile phone may have a vertically oriented screen while a personal computer may have a more horizontally oriented screen.
In step 310, the method determines whether the betting period is complete. If not, control passes to step 312 and one or more wagers may be accepted from the player and transmitted to the server for inclusion in the next update of the odds display. If the player does not make a wager within the predetermined period for an odds update, control passes back to step 308 and the display is updated.
When the betting period is found to be complete in step 310, control passes to step 314 and the event result is obtained. The result may be transmitted in a packet from the server, may be broadcast using IP or other networks, or may be broadcast in another manner such as by radio.
The event result may be displayed immediately if desired, but in a preferred embodiment, for improved entertainment of the player, a clip is played in step 316. For example, for a horse race the clip may be a recorded video clip of a horse race. The clip may be video only, audio only, or audiovisual. The clip may be an actual recording of an event, a simulated event, or an animation. In the case of horse racing, if there are ten horses in the race, at least 10 clips will be available to the player device, representing each possible outcome. Preferably, there is more than one clip for each possible outcome, such as at least four clips for each outcome, and the player device selects one of the clips that matches the outcome for display. The clip is then played and the player can enjoy the suspense of watching the race and awaiting the outcome.
An appropriate set of clips that will support the possible event outcomes may be downloaded from the server, obtained via the Internet from another source, or may be provided to the player in the form of a DVD or other media. What is important is that the clips, if they are to be played, are accessible to the player device at the time it receives the results of the event. They may have been obtained in advance or may be obtained in real time. Clips can be obtained from local storage on demand, downloaded, or broadcast in a digital data, television, radio, or other transmission signal. The clips preferably include announcer audio and may be provided in the native language of the player.
Following the display of any desired clip, control passes to step 318 and the result of the event is displayed. For example, for a horse race, the winning horse is indicated. Payoffs are then displayed in step 320. In step 322 the player determines whether he or she wishes to play again. If so, control passes back to block 308.
The following description of a general purpose computer system is provided for completeness. The present invention can be implemented as software, in hardware, or as a combination of software and hardware. Consequently, the invention may be implemented in the environment of a computer system or other processing system. In one exemplary embodiment, the gaming server 102 shown in
The computer system 800 also includes a main memory 808, preferably random access memory (RAM), and may also include a secondary memory 810. The secondary memory 810 may include, for example, a hard disk drive 812 and/or a removable storage drive 814, representing a floppy disk drive, a magnetic tape drive, an optical disk drive, etc. The removable storage drive 814 reads from and/or writes to a removable storage unit 818 in a well known manner. The removable storage unit 818, represents a floppy disk, magnetic tape, optical disk, etc. which is read by and written to by the removable storage drive 814. As will be appreciated, the removable storage unit 818 includes a computer usable storage medium having stored therein computer software and/or data.
In alternative implementations, the secondary memory 810 may include other similar means for allowing computer programs or other instructions to be loaded into the computer system 800. Such means may include, for example, a removable storage unit 822 and an interface 820. Examples of such means may include a program cartridge and cartridge interface (such as that found in video game devices), a removable memory chip (such as an EPROM, or PROM) and associated socket, and other removable storage units 822 and interfaces 820 which allow software and data to be transferred from the removable storage unit 822 to the computer system 800.
Computer system 800 may also include a communications interface 824. Communications interface 824 allows software and data to be transferred between the computer system 800 and external devices. Examples of communications interface 824 may include a modem, a network interface (such as an Ethernet card), a communications port, a PCMCIA slot and card, or other communications path interface devices. Software and data transferred via the communications interface 824 are in the form of signals 828 which may be electronic, electromagnetic, optical or other signals capable of being received by communications interface 824. These signals 828 are provided to communications interface 824 via a communications path 826. Communications path 826 carries signals 828 and may be implemented using wire or cable, fiber optics, a phone line, a cellular phone link, an RF link and other communications channels.
In this document, the terms computer program medium and computer readable medium are used to generally refer to media such as the removable storage drive 814, a hard disk installed in hard disk drive 812, and the signals 828. These computer program products are means for providing software to the computer system 800.
Computer programs (also called computer control logic) are stored in the main memory 808 and/or the secondary memory 810. Computer programs may also be received via the communications interface 824. Such computer programs, when executed, enable the computer system 800 to implement the present invention as discussed herein. In particular, the computer programs, when executed, enable the processor 804 to implement the processes of the present invention. Accordingly, such computer programs operate to control computer system 800. By way of example, in the embodiments of the invention, the processes/methods performed by signal processing blocks of encoders and/or decoders can be performed by computer control logic. Where the invention is implemented using software, the software may be stored in a computer program product and loaded into the computer system 800 using the removable storage drive 814, the hard drive 812 communications interface 824, or any other known method of transferring digital information into a computer system.
In another embodiment, features of the invention are implemented primarily in hardware using, for example, hardware components such as Application Specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs) and gate arrays. Implementation of a hardware state machine so as to perform the functions described herein will also be apparent to persons skilled in the relevant art(s).
While various embodiments of the present invention have been described above, it should be understood that they have been presented by way of example only, and not limitation. Thus, the breadth and scope of the present invention should not be limited by any of the above-described exemplary embodiments, but should be defined only in accordance with the following claims and their equivalents.