Search Images Maps Play YouTube News Gmail Drive More »
Sign in
Screen reader users: click this link for accessible mode. Accessible mode has the same essential features but works better with your reader.

Patents

  1. Advanced Patent Search
Publication numberUS20070054729 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/516,971
Publication dateMar 8, 2007
Filing dateSep 7, 2006
Priority dateSep 8, 2005
Publication number11516971, 516971, US 2007/0054729 A1, US 2007/054729 A1, US 20070054729 A1, US 20070054729A1, US 2007054729 A1, US 2007054729A1, US-A1-20070054729, US-A1-2007054729, US2007/0054729A1, US2007/054729A1, US20070054729 A1, US20070054729A1, US2007054729 A1, US2007054729A1
InventorsJeremy Hornik, Chad Ryan
Original AssigneeHornik Jeremy M, Ryan Chad A
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Wagering game with secondary prize feature
US 20070054729 A1
Abstract
A method for conducting a wagering game is disclosed. The method comprises displaying a plurality of symbol-bearing objects to indicate a randomly selected outcome. A player is awarded a primary payoff based on the plurality of symbol-bearing objects meeting a predetermined criterion. The player is awarded at least one secondary prize opportunity in response to a second predetermined criterion.
Images(7)
Previous page
Next page
Claims(21)
1. A method of conducting a wagering game comprising:
displaying a plurality of symbol-bearing objects to indicate a randomly selected outcome;
awarding a player a primary payoff based on the plurality of symbol-bearing objects meeting a predetermined criterion; and
awarding the player at least one secondary prize opportunity in response to a second predetermined criterion.
2. The method of claim 1, wherein the primary payoff is based on an award value contained within a pay table.
3. The method of claim 1, wherein the second predetermined criterion is an outcome in which the player does not receive the primary payoff.
4. The method of claim 1, wherein the at least one secondary prize opportunity is at least one sweepstakes entry.
5. The method of claim 4, wherein the at least one sweepstakes entry is electronically sent to and stored in an external system.
6. The method of claim 5 further comprising the act of identifying the player by receiving a card, a personal identification password, or a biometric marker from the player.
7. The method of claim 4, wherein the wagering game is conducted on a gaming machine having a ticket printer, the at least one sweepstakes entry being a ticket, the ticket being dispensed from the ticket printer of the gaming machine.
8. The method of claim 1, wherein the at least one secondary prize opportunity is at least one point awarded on a point-based system, wherein a predetermined number of points may be exchanged for at least one of a bonus opportunity or prize.
9. A computer readable storage medium encoded with instructions for directing a gaming device to perform the method of claim 1.
10. The method of claim 1, wherein the symbol-bearing objects include cards from a deck of cards.
11. The method of claim 1, wherein the symbol-bearing objects include symbols on a plurality of reels.
12. A method of conducting a wagering game on a gaming machine, the method comprising:
providing a plurality of symbol-bearing objects to form a first user-playable hand;
providing the ability to hold, via player selection, none or more of the provided symbol-bearing objects from the first user-playable hand;
replacing each of the non-held symbol-bearing objects with a replacement symbol-bearing object to form a second user-playable hand;
determining whether to award the player a primary payoff based on a ranking of the second user-playable hand in response to the second user-playable hand meeting a predetermined criterion; and
awarding the player at least one secondary prize opportunity when the second user-playable hand meets a second predetermined criterion.
13. The method of claim 12, wherein the at least one secondary prize opportunity is at least one sweepstakes entry electronically sent to and stored in an external system.
14. The method of claim 13 further comprising the act of identifying the player by receiving a card from the player.
15. The method of claim 12, wherein the gaming machine comprises a ticket printer, and wherein the secondary prize opportunity is at least one sweepstakes entry, the at least one sweepstakes entry being a ticket, the ticket being dispensed from the ticket printer of the gaming machine.
16. The method of claim 12, further comprising:
automatically denoting which if any of the plurality of symbol-bearing objects in the first user-playable hand are to be held in accord with a pre-defined poker strategy selected by the player.
17. A gaming system capable of conducting a wagering game, the system comprising:
at least one display for displaying a plurality of symbol-bearing objects to indicate a randomly selected outcome;
an input device coupled to the at least one display; and
a controller coupled to the at least one display and to the input device, the controller being operative to (i) award a player a primary payoff in response to the randomly selected outcome meeting a first predetermined criterion, and (ii) award the player a secondary prize opportunity in response to the symbol-bearing objects meeting a second predetermined criterion.
18. The gaming system of claim 17, wherein the primary payoff is based on an award value contained within a pay table.
19. The gaming system of claim 17, wherein the controller, the display, and the input device are located within a gaming machine.
20. The gaming system of claim 17, wherein the controller is located remotely from a gaming machine that includes the display and the input device.
21. The gaming system of claim 17, wherein the at least one secondary prize opportunity is at least one sweepstakes entry.
Description
CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This application claims the benefit of priority of U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/715,224, filed Sep. 8, 2005, which is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety.

COPYRIGHT

A portion of the disclosure of this patent document contains material which is subject to copyright protection. The copyright owner has no objection to the facsimile reproduction by anyone of the patent disclosure, as it appears in the Patent and Trademark Office patent files or records, but otherwise reserves all copyright rights whatsoever.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates generally to gaming machines, and methods for playing wagering games, and more particularly, to a wagering game having a secondary prize feature that may be awarded after the gaming session has ended.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Gaming machines, such as slot machines, video poker machines and the like, have been a cornerstone of the gaming industry for several years. Generally, the popularity of such machines with players is dependent on the likelihood (or perceived likelihood) of winning money at the machine and the intrinsic entertainment value of the machine relative to other available gaming options. Where the available gaming options include a number of competing machines and the expectation of winning at each machine is roughly the same (or believed to be the same), players are likely to be attracted to the most entertaining and exciting machines. Shrewd operators consequently strive to employ the most entertaining and exciting machines, features, and enhancements available because such machines attract frequent play and hence increase profitability to the operator. Therefore, there is a continuing need for gaming machine manufacturers to continuously develop new games and improved gaming enhancements that will attract frequent play through enhanced entertainment value to the player.

One concept that has been successfully employed to enhance the entertainment value of a game is the concept of a “secondary” or “bonus” game that may be played in conjunction with a “basic” game. The bonus game may comprise any type of game, either similar to or completely different from the basic game, which is entered upon the occurrence of a selected event or outcome in the basic game. Generally, bonus games provide a greater expectation of winning than the basic game and may also be accompanied with more attractive or unusual video displays and/or audio. Bonus games may additionally award players with “progressive jackpot” awards that are funded, at least in part, by a percentage of coin-in from the gaming machine or a plurality of participating gaming machines. Because the bonus game concept offers tremendous advantages in player appeal and excitement relative to other known games, and because such games are attractive to both players and operators, there is a continuing need to develop gaming machines with new types of bonus games to satisfy the demands of players and operators.

While playing the wagering game, players are excited about the possibility of being awarded a prize or award. Once players conclude their gaming sessions, however, the players often feel as though they have lost all chances of receiving a prize or award, and their sense of excitement is diminished. In particular, any expectations the players have of receiving a prize or award are ended once they leave the gaming machine or gaming table.

While some wagering game features provide some enhanced excitement, there is a continuing need to develop new features for wagering games to satisfy the demands of players and operators. Preferably, such new features for wagering games will further enhance the level of player excitement. The present invention is directed to satisfying these needs in that it enables players to continue to feel a sense of excitement after the wagering game has ended by providing a novel wagering game feature that allows players to be eligible to be awarded a prize after their gaming session has ended.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

According to one aspect of the present invention, a method for conducting a wagering game is disclosed. The method comprises displaying a plurality of symbol-bearing objects to indicate a randomly selected outcome. The method further comprises awarding a player a primary payoff based on the plurality of symbol-bearing objects meeting a predetermined criterion. The method further comprises awarding the player at least one secondary prize opportunity in response to a second predetermined criterion.

According to another aspect of the invention, a method of conducting a wagering game on a gaming machine is disclosed. The method comprises providing a plurality of symbol-bearing objects to form a first user-playable hand. The method further comprises providing the ability to discard, via player selection, one or more of the provided symbol-bearing objects from the first user-playable hand. The method further comprises replacing each of the discarded symbol-bearing objects with a replacement symbol-bearing object to form a second user-playable hand. The method further comprises determining whether to award the player a primary payoff based on a ranking of the user-playable hand in response to the second user-playable hand meeting a predetermined criterion. The method further comprises awarding the player at least one secondary prize opportunity when the user-playable hand meets a second predetermined criterion.

According to yet another aspect of the invention, a gaming system capable of conducting a wagering game is disclosed. The gaming system comprises at least one display for displaying a plurality of symbol-bearing objects to indicate a randomly selected outcome. The gaming system further comprises an input device coupled to the at least one display. The gaming system further comprises a controller coupled to the at least one display and to the input device. The controller is operative to (i) award a player a primary payoff in response to the randomly selected outcome meeting a first predetermined criterion, and (ii) award the player a secondary prize opportunity in response to the symbol-bearing objects meeting a second predetermined criterion.

Additional aspects of the invention will be apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art in view of the detailed description of various embodiments, which is made with reference to the drawings, a brief description of which is provided below.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a gaming machine embodying the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a block diagram of a control system suitable for operating the gaming machine;

FIG. 3 is an image of a main poker game screen that is displayed on the gaming machine of FIG. 1, according to one embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 4 illustrates a network that is useful for operating a sweepstakes drawing in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention; and

FIGS. 5 and 6 are flow diagrams detailing a method of operation for a wagering game, according to an embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

While this invention is susceptible of embodiment in many different forms, there is shown in the drawings and will herein be described in detail preferred embodiments of the invention with the understanding that the present disclosure is to be considered as an exemplification of the principles of the invention and is not intended to limit the broad aspect of the invention to the embodiments illustrated.

Referring to FIG. 1, a gaming machine 10 is used in gaming establishments such as casinos. With regard to the present invention, the gaming machine 10 may be any type of gaming machine and may have varying structures and methods of operation. For example, the gaming machine 10 may be an electromechanical gaming machine configured to play mechanical slots, or it may be an electronic gaming machine configured to play a video casino game, such as blackjack, slots, keno, poker, blackjack, roulette, etc.

The gaming machine 10 comprises a housing 12 and includes input devices, including a value input device 18 and a player input device 24. For output the gaming machine 10 includes a primary display 14 for displaying information about the basic wagering game. The primary display 14 can also display information about a bonus wagering game and a progressive wagering game. The gaming machine 10 may also include a secondary display 16 for displaying game events, game outcomes, and/or signage information. While these typical components found in the gaming machine 10 are described below, it should be understood that numerous other elements may exist and may be used in any number of combinations to create various forms of a gaming machine 10.

The value input device 18 may be provided in many forms, individually or in combination, and is preferably located on the front of the housing 12. The value input device 18 receives currency and/or credits that are inserted by a player. The value input device 18 may include a coin acceptor 20 for receiving coin currency (see FIG. 1). Alternatively, or in addition, the value input device 18 may include a bill acceptor 22 for receiving paper currency. Furthermore, the value input device 18 may include a ticket reader, or barcode scanner, for reading information stored on a credit ticket, a card, or other tangible portable credit storage device. The credit ticket or card may also authorize access to a central account, which can transfer money to the gaming machine 10.

The player input device 24 comprises a plurality of push buttons 26 on a button panel for operating the gaming machine 10. In addition, or alternatively, the player input device 24 may comprise a touch screen 28 mounted by adhesive, tape, or the like over the primary display 14 and/or secondary display 16. The touch screen 28 contains soft touch keys 30 denoted by graphics on the underlying primary display 14 and used to operate the gaming machine 10. The touch screen 28 provides players with an alternative method of input. A player enables a desired function either by touching the touch screen 28 at an appropriate touch key 30 or by pressing an appropriate push button 26 on the button panel. The touch keys 30 may be used to implement the same functions as push buttons 26. Alternatively, the push buttons 26 may provide inputs for one aspect of the operating the game, while the touch keys 30 may allow for input needed for another aspect of the game.

The various components of the gaming machine 10 may be connected directly to, or contained within, the housing 12, as seen in FIG. 1, or may be located outboard of the housing 12 and connected to the housing 12 via a variety of different wired or wireless connection methods. Thus, the gaming machine 10 comprises these components whether housed in the housing 12, or outboard of the housing 12 and connected remotely.

The operation of the basic wagering game is displayed to the player on the primary display 14. The primary display 14 can also display the bonus game associated with the basic wagering game. The primary display 14 may take the form of a cathode ray tube (CRT), a high resolution LCD, a plasma display, an LED, or any other type of display suitable for use in the gaming machine 10. As shown, the primary display 14 includes the touch screen 28 overlaying the entire monitor (or a portion thereof) to allow players to make game-related selections. Alternatively, the primary display 14 of the gaming machine 10 may include a number of mechanical reels to display the outcome in visual association with at least one payline 32. In the illustrated embodiment, the gaming machine 10 is an “upright” version in which the primary display 14 is oriented vertically relative to the player. Alternatively, the gaming machine may be a “slant-top” version in which the primary display 14 is slanted at about a thirty-degree angle toward the player of the gaming machine 10.

A player begins play of the basic wagering game by making a wager via the value input device 18 of the gaming machine 10. A player can select play by using the player input device 24, via the buttons 26 or the touch screen keys 30. The basic game consists of a plurality of symbols arranged in an array, and includes at least one payline 32 that indicates one or more outcomes of the basic game. Such outcomes are randomly selected in response to the wagering input by the player. At least one of the plurality of randomly-selected outcomes may be a start-bonus outcome, which can include any variations of symbols or symbol combinations triggering a bonus game.

In some embodiments, the gaming machine 10 may also include a player information reader 52 that allows for identification of a player by reading a card with information indicating his or her true identity. The player information reader 52 is shown in FIG. 1 as a card reader, but may take on many forms including a ticket reader, bar code scanner, RFID transceiver or computer readable storage medium interface. Currently, identification is generally used by casinos for rewarding certain players with complimentary services or special offers. For example, a player may be enrolled in the gaming establishment's loyalty club and may be awarded certain complimentary services as that player collects points in his or her player-tracking account. The player inserts his or her card into the player information reader 52, which allows the casino's computers to register that player's wagering at the gaming machine 10. The gaming machine 10 may use the secondary display 16 or other dedicated player-tracking display for providing the player with information about his or her account or other player-specific information. Also, in some embodiments, the information reader 52 may be used to restore game assets that the player achieved and saved during a previous game session.

Turning now to FIG. 2, the various components of the gaming machine 10 are controlled by a central processing unit (CPU) 34, also referred to herein as a controller or processor (such as a microcontroller or microprocessor). To provide gaming functions, the controller 34 executes one or more game programs stored in a computer readable storage medium, in the form of memory 36. The controller 34 performs the random selection (using a random number generator (RNG)) of an outcome from the plurality of possible outcomes of the wagering game. Alternatively, the random event may be determined at a remote controller. The remote controller may use either an RNG or pooling scheme for its central determination of a game outcome. It should be appreciated that the controller 34 may include one or more microprocessors, including but not limited to a master processor, a slave processor, and a secondary or parallel processor.

The controller 34 is also coupled to the system memory 36 and a money/credit detector 38. The system memory 36 may comprise a volatile memory (e.g., a random-access memory (RAM)) and a non-volatile memory (e.g., an EEPROM). The system memory 36 may include multiple RAM and multiple program memories. The money/credit detector 38 signals the processor that money and/or credits have been input via the value input device 18. Preferably, these components are located within the housing 12 of the gaming machine 10. However, as explained above, these components may be located outboard of the housing 12 and connected to the remainder of the components of the gaming machine 10 via a variety of different wired or wireless connection methods.

As seen in FIG. 2, the controller 34 is also connected to, and controls, the primary display 14, the player input device 24, and a payoff mechanism 40. The payoff mechanism 40 is operable in response to instructions from the controller 34 to award a payoff to the player in response to certain winning outcomes that might occur in the basic game or the bonus game(s). The payoff may be provided in the form of points, bills, tickets, coupons, cards, etc. For example, in FIG. 1, the payoff mechanism 40 includes both a ticket printer 42 and a coin outlet 44. However, any of a variety of payoff mechanisms 40 well known in the art may be implemented, including cards, coins, tickets, smartcards, cash, etc. The payoff amounts distributed by the payoff mechanism 40 are determined by one or more pay tables stored in the system memory 36.

Communications between the controller 34 and both the peripheral components of the gaming machine 10 and external systems 50 occur through input/output (I/O) circuits 46, 48. More specifically, the controller 34 controls and receives inputs from the peripheral components of the gaming machine 10 through the input/output circuits 46. Further, the controller 34 communicates with the external systems 50 via the I/O circuits 48 and a communication path (e.g., serial, parallel, IR, RC, 10bT, etc.). The external systems 50 may include a gaming network, other gaming machines, a gaming server, communications hardware, or a variety of other interfaced systems or components. Although the I/O circuits 46, 48 may be shown as a single block, it should be appreciated that each of the I/O circuits 46, 48 may include a number of different types of I/O circuits.

Controller 34, as used herein, comprises any combination of hardware, software, and/or firmware that may be disposed or resident inside and/or outside of the gaming machine 10 that may communicate with and/or control the transfer of data between the gaming machine 10 and a bus, another computer, processor, or device and/or a service and/or a network. The controller 34 may comprise one or more controllers or processors. In FIG. 2, the controller 34 in the gaming machine 10 is depicted as comprising a CPU, but the controller 34 may alternatively comprise a CPU in combination with other components, such as the I/O circuits 46, 48 and the system memory 36.

Turning now to FIG. 3, an image of a main poker game screen 60, which can be displayed on the primary display 14 (see FIG. 1), is illustrated according to one embodiment of the present invention. A player begins play of a basic wagering game, such as a video poker wagering game, by inserting a wager input into the value input device 18 of the gaming machine 10. A player may select play by either using the touch screen 28 or the player input device 24. The controller 34, or the external systems 50 in alternative embodiments, operates to execute a wagering game program, causing the primary display 14 to display the wagering game that includes a plurality of visual elements.

According to one embodiment, the video poker wagering game is desirably played with a single standard 52-card deck (i.e., Ace through King of four different suits). However, a poker game may be played with any number of decks and/or with a variety of different card compositions (e.g., wild cards, etc.). In the single standard-deck embodiments, during a particular poker hand, all of the cards are dealt from the same deck. After a card is dealt from the deck into the poker hand, the card is “used up” and cannot appear again until the next poker hand. The deck may be replenished and randomly shuffled prior to every poker hand. The system memory 36 includes a data structure for storing data representing each card of the deck. The controller 34 randomly selects cards for each poker hand from the data structure and controls the primary display 14 to display the cards.

Referring still to FIG. 3, an image of a video poker screen is shown. The main poker game screen 60 featuring a five-card draw poker game in the illustrated embodiment may be displayed on the primary display 14. In the illustrated embodiment, the main poker game screen 60 is used to display a user-playable hand 64 composed of a plurality of cards 66 a-e, a pay table 68, game session meters, and various buttons selectable by a player. The game session meters of the present embodiment include the following: a “credits” meter 70 for displaying a number of credits available to play on the gaming machine 10; a “bet” meter 74 for displaying a number of credits wagered (e.g., from 1 to 5 credits) for each hand played; and a “paid” meter 76 for displaying an amount to be awarded based on the results of the particular rounds wager. The player-selectable buttons of the present embodiment include the following: a “cash out” button 80 to collect the remaining credits in the credits meter 70; a “help” button 82 for viewing instructions on how to play the video poker game; a “paytable” button 84 for displaying the pay table; an “EZ hold” button 86 that, in response to being pressed by the player after the deal but before the draw, causes the display to distinguish cards that already contribute to a winning outcome prior to the draw from other cards; a “bet 1” button 88 for wagering one credit at a time; a “max bet” button 90 for wagering a maximum number of credits (e.g., 5 credits); and a “deal/draw” button 92 for causing the game to initially deal a plurality of cards face-up from a deck to form the user-playable hand 64 or for causing the game to replace any non-held card in the previously dealt user-playable hand 64 with another card from the deck. The main poker game screen 60 also displays a plurality of hold buttons 67 a-e for allowing a player to select a card to hold. It is contemplated that the primary display 14 may include game session meters and/or player-selectable buttons other than or in addition to those described herein.

The pay table 68, displayed on the primary display 14, may also or alternatively be displayed on the secondary display 16. The pay table 68 includes a list of winning poker hand rankings 102 and payout columns 104 with payouts associated with each ranking. The number of credits won is linearly proportional to the number of credits wagered, except that a royal flush yields a bonus when achieved on a maximum wager. The list of winning poker hand rankings 102 includes standard poker hand rankings beginning at Jacks or better and including hands through a royal flush.

As illustrated in FIG. 3, a player has selected to wager five credits (displayed in the bet meter 74). By choosing to wager five credits, the player is playing for the number of credits shown in a maximum bet column 106 displayed in the pay table 68.

By selecting the deal/draw button 92, a player is able to view the user-playable hand 64 that the player has wagered to play. In a five-card draw poker game, five cards 66 a-e are displayed face-up to a player to form a first user-playable hand. The player is able to select none, one, or a plurality of the cards 66 a-e in the user-playable hand to hold. The player may select the “EZ hold” button 86 to allow the controller 34 to cause the display to distinguish cards that already contribute to a winning outcome prior to the draw from other cards, thereby helping the player to determine which cards to hold and which cards to discard. Further information concerning the “EZ hold” function may be obtained from U.S. Publication No. 2005/0055114 entitled “Method and Apparatus for Conducting a Video Poker Game,” which is incorporated by reference in its entirety. A card 66 a-e may be held by utilizing an associated onscreen “hold” button 67 a-e in the user-playable hand 64, or by selecting an associated hold button on the player input device 24. The player may then select the “deal/draw” button 92 to discard and replace the remaining non-held cards with other cards from the deck and form a second user-playable hand.

At the end of a wagering game, the best poker hand is determined from the second user-playable hand, and a player is awarded a primary payoff as displayed in the pay table 68 if the ranking of the hand meets a first predetermined criteria displayed in the pay table 68. Assuming that the user-playable hand 64 of the illustrated example is a second user-playable hand, the player has not met the predetermined criteria displayed in the pay table 68 (i.e., the hand does not have at least Jacks or better). Thus, a primary payoff is not awarded.

In addition to determining whether the player should be awarded a primary payoff, a secondary prize opportunity determination is made based on whether the hand meets a second predetermined criteria. The second predetermined criteria may include one or more different events. For example, according to one embodiment, the second predetermined criterion is the user-playable hand 64 failing to meet the first predetermined criteria (i.e., the pay table 68). Thus, the player is given an opportunity to win a secondary prize even though the player did not meet the primary payoff criteria displayed in the pay table 68. In other words, a non-winning outcome provides the player with the secondary prize opportunity.

As an alternative or in addition to not meeting the first predetermined criteria, a second predetermined criterion may be the second user-playable hand containing a trigger card. The trigger card may be selected from a standard 52-card deck, for example, an Ace of any suit (i.e., clubs, diamonds, hearts, and spades). In another embodiment, the trigger card may have appeared in the first user-playable hand and may have been subsequently discarded. The trigger card may also include a “wild” card not generally found in a standard 52-card deck.

In another embodiment, the second predetermined criterion is a trigger ranking (e.g., 3 of a kind). Thus, whenever the player's hand includes the trigger ranking, the player is awarded the primary payoff and a secondary prize opportunity.

The second predetermined criteria may be further limited by requiring that the player have wagered a certain number of credits (e.g., three or more credits). This limitation may be applied to any of the embodiments described herein, as well as other embodiments within the spirit and scope of the present invention.

In one embodiment, the secondary prize opportunity is one or more entries into a sweepstakes. An entry may be in the form of a ticket dispensed from the ticket printer 42 (FIG. 1). Alternatively, the entry with the player's information may be sent electronically to an external system, such as the external system 50 (FIG. 2).

FIG. 4 shows a plurality of gaming machines 210 a-d being connected to an external system 250 via a plurality of communication links 252 a-d respectively. According to one embodiment, the external system 250 includes at least one local server 254 and a national server 256 located at a remote location. The gaming machines 210 a-d are connected to the local server 254 via the communication links 252 a-d. One or more of the local servers 254 then may be connected to the national server 256 via one or more communication links 258. The local server 254 and/or the national server 256 may receive and store the entries awarded by each of the gaming machines 210 a-d until a sweepstakes drawing is held in which one or more of the entries are randomly selected to determine the winner of a secondary prize. The drawing may take place, for example, every week, every month, every year, etc. It is contemplated that entries may be sent to the local server 254 for local sweepstakes drawings and/or to the national server 256 for national sweepstakes drawings. Furthermore, the award for entries selected from the local server 254 may include a second entry that is sent to the national server 256, where the entries selected from the national server 256 are awarded the secondary prize.

The communication links 252 a-d connecting the plurality of gaming machines 210 a-d to the local server 254 may include a multi-drop serial line. The multi-drop serial line may be, for example, an RS-485 serial data line, which is compatible with and linked to the I/O circuitry 48 (FIG. 2) within the gaming machines 21Oa-d. The communication link 258 connecting the at least one local server 254 to the national server 256 may include one or more switches and routers. The router within a casino may be connected through a phone line (or other communication means) to a corresponding router at the remote location.

If the secondary prize opportunity is an electronic sweepstakes entry, the player is identified by the gaming machine so that the player may be contacted in the event that the player wins the sweepstakes. A player may be identified by, for example, inputting a tracking card into the player information reader 52 (see FIG. 1) or through a radio frequency ID device. Alternatively, the player may manually enter his or her information into the gaming machine 10 (e.g., via the touch screen 28). In a further alternative, a player can input a pin number or password into the player information reader 52 or the player input device 24, or a player may provide a biometric marker, such as a fingerprint, onto a player information reader 52 (see FIG. 2) on the gaming machine 10.

The number of secondary prize opportunities awarded may vary. For example, the number of secondary prize opportunities may be based on the number of credits wagered on a particular wagering game or gaming session. For example, if a player wagers five credits, the player may be awarded five secondary bonus opportunities, provided that the second predetermined criteria is met. Alternatively, the amount of secondary prize opportunities may be randomly generated from a predetermined range of values. For example, the gaming machine 10 may be a slot machine having an extra reel dedicated to the number of secondary prize opportunities. Or, if a player has competed for the secondary prize opportunities a certain number of times in excess of a threshold (e.g., 100 attempts) within a predetermined time period, the player may be awarded a greater number of secondary prize opportunities. Other methods of varying the number of secondary prize opportunities awarded are contemplated, such as, for example, designating certain days as “Double Chance Days,” where the number of secondary prize opportunities is doubled throughout the day.

Implementing the secondary prize opportunities of the present invention to a wagering game or gaming machine enhances the excitement level by providing the opportunity to win a prize even after the primary payoff criteria has not been met. The excitement level is further enhanced by the opportunity to win a prize even after the player's gaming session has concluded.

Although the secondary prize opportunity has been illustrated as a sweepstakes entry, any suitable secondary prize opportunity may be awarded. For example, the secondary prize opportunity may be one or more points that may be exchanged for a bonus opportunity such as a bonus game, a spin on a wheel, or any other opportunity to win a prize. The points may also be exchanged for cash prizes, casino vouchers, souvenir items, meals, a complementary stay at a hotel, other amenities offered by a casino, etc.

Additionally, though the above example has illustrated five cards 66 a-e in the user-playable hand 64, it should be apparent that the present invention is not limited only to such embodiments. For example, any number of cards may be displayed for a player to wager upon. Additionally, a plurality of user-playable hands may be displayed for a player to wager upon. The number of user-playable hands is only limited by the number of cards which comprise the deck to be displayed. Where a larger number of user-playable hands are desired, a plurality of decks of cards may be combined to form the desired hands. Moreover, it should be understood that the present invention is not limited solely to one or more decks of cards or a video poker game, but instead may be instituted by using any type of symbol-bearing objects, such as, for example, dice, tiles, chips, marbles, wheels, flipped coins, reels that are spun, etc. It should also be understood that the above invention may be instituted on a standard casino table or another means sufficient to implement the above described secondary prize opportunity feature.

Turning now to FIG. 5, a method of playing the wagering game is detailed according to the illustrated embodiment of the invention. In step s300, a player begins the gaming session by any conventional method (e.g., inserting coins or using credits). The player then selects an amount to wager at step s304. Once the wager has been made by the player, a first user-playable hand is displayed at step s306. According to one embodiment, the first user-playable hand comprises a plurality of symbol-bearing objects.

The game then proceeds to step s310 to allow a player to select cards, if desired, for holding in the first user-playable hand. In various embodiments, a player is allowed to select either none, one, or any plurality of cards that form the first user-playable hand. A player may choose the cards by utilizing buttons on the touch screen 28 or similar buttons on the player input device 24 associated with the cards 66 a-e. For example, the primary display 14 may include hold buttons 67 a-e positioned directly below each of the plurality of cards 66 a-e. A player holds each of the cards the player would like to keep in his or her hand by utilizing the hold buttons 67 a-e. The selection of a card to hold may be represented to a player by, for example, displaying “Held” below the held card or in the displayed hold button 67 a-e on the primary display 14. A player then selects the “deal/draw” button 92 to replace the non-selected cards with new cards from the deck at step s312, forming a second user-playable hand.

A best hand is then ranked at step s314. The best hand is formed by combining the cards forming the second user-playable hand to form the highest possible ranking included within pay table 68, if such a hand can be formed. At decision box s316, a determination is made as to whether the best hand meets a first predetermined criteria (e.g., a pay table). If the best hand meets the criteria, a primary payoff is awarded at step s318. If the best hand does not meet the criteria, no payoff is awarded.

Once the payoff has been awarded, or if no payoff has been awarded, a determination is made as to whether the second user-playable hand meets a second predetermined criteria at decision box s322. If the user-playable hand does not meet the second predetermined criteria, the player is prompted to initiate a new game at step s328. If, however, the user-playable hand meets the second predetermined criteria, the player is awarded a secondary prize opportunity at step s326. In a ticket-based system, the secondary prize opportunity includes a ticket presented to the player. In embodiments where tickets are not used, the player may be required to provide his or her identification so that the player may be contacted in the event that the player is awarded the secondary prize.

Referring to FIG. 6, a method of awarding a secondary prize opportunity is illustrated. In step s426, a player is awarded a secondary prize opportunity after meeting a second predetermined criterion (see step s326 in FIG. 5). At decision box s428, a determination is made as to whether the secondary prize opportunity is awarded via dispensing a ticket. If the secondary prize opportunity is awarded via a ticket, the ticket is printed and dispensed at step s430. The ticket may contain the player's identification at the time it is dispensed, or the player may be required to fill in his or her information after the ticket is dispensed. The secondary prize opportunity (i.e., the ticket) may then be, for example, entered into a sweepstakes or lottery-type drawing at step s431. A random drawing may then be held for all eligible players who were awarded tickets and entered the tickets into the sweepstakes drawing. At least one of the tickets are selected (step s438), and the player or players associated with the at least one ticket is awarded the secondary prize at step s440. Alternatively, an awarded secondary prize opportunity (where, for example, the payoff is at least one point) may be exchanged for a bonus game or prize.

If the secondary prize opportunity is not awarded via a ticket, the player is identified at step s432 so that the player may be contacted in the event that the player is awarded the secondary prize. The player may be identified via a tracking card, a radio frequency device, manually entering his or her information into the gaming machine, using a biometric marker, or by any other means suitable to identify the player. Once the player is identified, the secondary prize opportunity information is associated with the player at step s434. It should be noted that the player may be identified at the start of the gaming session or at any time prior to associating the secondary prize opportunity with the player at step s434. The gaming machine 10 then communicates with the external systems 50 (FIG. 2) at step s436. The external systems 50 receive and store the information regarding secondary prize opportunities from the gaming machine 10. An awarded secondary prize opportunity may, for example, be an entry into a sweepstakes or lottery-type drawing. A random drawing may then be held for all eligible players who had been awarded secondary prize opportunities, where at least one of the stored secondary prize opportunities are selected (step s438). At least one secondary prize is awarded to the player or players associated with the selected secondary prize opportunity at step s440. Alternatively, an awarded secondary prize opportunity (where, for example, the payoff is at least one point) may be exchanged for a bonus game or prize.

Many options are available for a drawing, such as briefly halting all gaming sessions at all eligible gaming machines to perform the random drawing. The random selection of a player from the field of eligible players in the drawing may be performed and displayed on the secondary display 16 (FIG. 1) and the identity of the player announced simultaneously. Alternatively, the random selection of the winning player may be announced at a later time. A secondary prize is then awarded to the player selected in the drawing. The secondary prize may be a cash prize, a casino voucher, a souvenir item, a complementary meal or stay at a hotel, other amenities offered by a casino, etc. If the player is no longer at the casino, the casino may arrange to have the player transported back to the casino to receive the prize or have the prize delivered to the player.

The methods described in FIGS. 5-6 provide the general steps of the present invention. The steps may be altered, and many other steps may be included. For example, in FIG. 6, a system may use only a ticket-based secondary prize opportunity, which removes steps s432, s434, and s436. Or, the system may not use any tickets whatsoever, eliminating steps s428, s430, and s431.

In an alternative embodiment, in addition to displaying the outcome of the basic game on the primary display 14, a picture or name of a previously selected player receiving a secondary prize from the drawing may be displayed on the secondary display 16. This display of previous winners can serve to remind the player that players may win while playing the game at the gaming machine 10 or even after the gaming session has ended and the player has left the gaming machine 10. The displays increase the entertainment value of the gaming machine and encourage players to continue playing the game so that they will be entered once more into the field of players competing for the secondary prize.

The secondary display 16 may also display the random drawing of all eligible players by means of a live video feed. A player at a gaming machine 10 may, therefore, watch while a player (perhaps even himself or herself) is being randomly selected, which adds to the excitement associated with the game and increases its entertainment value.

In another alternative, the number of player entries into the random drawing may be varied based on predetermined criteria. For example, if, in addition to a player being eligible for a secondary prize opportunity, the player's user-playable hand 64 includes a certain outcome (e.g., the user-playable hand 64 includes an Ace), the player may receive more than one entry for the random drawing. If the user-playable hand does not include an Ace, only one secondary prize opportunity is awarded.

The plurality of gaming machines may further be connected to a signage that includes a display device for displaying the identity of a randomly selected player receiving a secondary prize. Thus, all players within viewing distance of the signage, even those not playing the game of the present invention, may get caught up in the excitement of a player winning a secondary prize.

As noted above, a player may select the “EZ hold” button 86 (FIG. 3) to allow the controller 34 to cause the display to distinguish cards that already contribute to a winning outcome prior to the draw from other cards, thereby helping the player to determine which cards to hold and which cards to discard. Although everyone who plays video poker wants to play optimal strategy, very few people can effectively implement optimal strategy correctly 100% of the time during their wagering game play.

In accord with at least some aspects of the present concepts, a wagering gaming system comprises a plurality of selectable pre-defined poker strategies selectable by the player or an optional poker strategy selectable by or activated by a player. In either of the above-aspects, the optional poker strategy or one of the plurality of selectable pre-defined poker strategies selectable by the player may comprise a player's personalized poker strategy. The player interface which communicates the strategy information to the player may comprise any player interface including, but not limited to, an output from a display 14, 16, speaker, haptic device, piezoelectric device, actuator, lighted button (e.g., on/off state), or the like. For example, the cards that a player should hold, under a given strategy, may be highlighted by a halo.

In accord with the first of the above-described aspects, the player is presented with a plurality of selectable pre-defined poker strategies. The pre-defined poker strategies may include any number of convention strategies, such as those published by various popular authors, mathematicians, or strategists. For example, pre-defined poker strategies may be found in any number of books or articles such as, but not limited to, “Million Dollar Video Poker” (Bob Dancer Mar. 2003), “The Video Poker Answer Book: How To Attack Variations on a Casino Favorite” (John Grochowski, published by Bonus Books, June 2000), and “Video Poker: Optimum Play” (Dan Paymar, August 2004). Any number of strategies (e.g., two, three, tens, dozens, hundreds, or any number therebetween) may be offered to the player. These strategies may relate, for example, to one or more particular wagering games, rule sets, gaming machines, pay tables, and/or wagering options. The player would be free to select any one of the strategies at any time to implement in a current hand or in subsequent hands. Preferably, the player is permitted to read information on each of the available strategies, including, but not limited to, a brief synopsis of the strategy or a detailed explanation of the algorithm.

In some aspects, the player is able to select a plurality of strategies to see how different strategies would approach a given hand. The player is then free to compare the different strategies for a particular hand and determine a desired course of action. For example, for one or more hands, the player may compare an optimal strategy by Bob Dancer against an optimal strategy by John Grochowski and determine which strategy is best suited for their preferences. In this manner, players would be given the option of relying, in whole or in part, on strategies of authors in whom they place their trust and/or in discovering new strategies. Thus, players may also utilize the above concepts as a training or educational tool, viewing the strategies that others may employ. Accordingly, players may be free to play according to their own style and strategy, using the strategies of one or more other available strategies to guide and/or control their game play decision-making. The availability of the strategy option(s), as described above, are thus afforded a mechanism to relieve the player of the stress associated with the pressure to make optimal plays every hand to achieve the optimal expected value (EV).

In one variant of the above-aspect, the player may enable the controller to select an optimal strategy, for a particular hand and game rule set, from among the plurality of enabled poker strategies. For example, if a player selects five different strategies (e.g., S1, S2, S3, S4, S5) the controller will determine from the output of these strategies which is the dominant strategy. The dominance of a strategy may be determined, for example, by simply selecting the strategy represented by the majority of strategies. Thus, if strategies S1, S3, and S4 are in agreement as to the recommendation for a particular hand and game rule set, then the controller could select and display to the player such recommendation. More complex optimization strategies based on the similarities and differences between the recommendations of a plurality of strategies may also be utilized. For example, the controller may also utilize one or more other strategies (e.g., S6, S7 . . . SN, where N is any integer) to check the selected strategies (e.g., S1-S5) and determine which of the selected strategies is most likely the optimal result. Thus, if strategies S1-S2 recommend a first strategy, S3-S4 recommend a second strategy, and S5 recommends a third strategy, the controlled may implement strategies S6-SN to determine which of the first strategy of S1 -S2 and second strategy of S3-S4 should be passed on to the player. In at least some aspects, the player is not only informed of the recommended strategy for a particular hand and set of game rules, but is also apprised of the breakdown between the results of the different strategies and any reliance upon external or non-selected strategies as a “tie-breaker” between any of the selected strategies.

In accord with the second of the above-described aspects, the player is presented with a single, optional poker strategy. In some embodiments, the single, optional poker strategy is associated with a theme of the gaming machine 10 (e.g., “Bob Dancer Jacks or Better” ). The player is permitted to enable or disable the poker strategy feature, which would implement the poker strategy for each hand and recommend an optimal strategy for the hand in accord with the particular poker strategy algorithm.

In another embodiment of the second of the above-described aspects, the player is presented with an input device by which a player may input their own poker strategy. The input device may be a gaming machine 10 or associated with a gaming machine 10 or, as described later, may be separate approved device (e.g., a kiosk, computer, etc.). In at least some aspects, the player is presented with a series of hands and they are prompted to input their preferred strategy in responding to the hand. As the player inputs more and more information on their strategy into the interface, an algorithm is developed that is specific to that player's strategy. In at least some other aspects, the player is presented with an algorithm which they are allowed to modify given various tools and prompts. The player may be permitted to update and/or modify their strategy at any time. The strategy or algorithm created by the player is preferably saved in an external system 50 memory in association with a player's personal information (e.g., biometric input, player name, player's club ID number, password, etc.). When a player later logs into a gaming machine 10 and desires to implement a saved strategy, the player may enter the appropriate identifying information into the gaming machine through a corresponding input device (e.g., touch screen, biometric characteristic reader, keyboard, buttons, etc.) to access and apply the player's strategy to a gaming session. Subsequently, during play of the gaming machine 10, the controller would, for example, automatically highlight the cards to hold based on the player's loaded strategy.

The strategy or algorithm created by the player may alternatively or additionally be saved in a portable memory device presented by the player or issued to the player. In various aspects, the strategy or algorithm is saved to a magnetic strip of a player's club card, a solid-state memory device (e.g., stick memory, thumb drive, etc.), portable electronic device, or RFID. To avoid any fraud or impropriety, any strategy or algorithm saved to a device or medium conveyed by a player is advantageously stored and/or encrypted in association with a public/private key (e.g., public-key cryptography, private-key cryptography, etc. of a symmetric or asymmetric nature), steganographic encoding, or other electronic security measure. Such other electronic security measure may comprise, for example, a comparison between the strategy or algorithm created by the player that is saved in an external system 50 memory to the strategy or algorithm input by the player using a portable memory device. If there is any discrepancy between the data saved in the external system 50 memory and the data saved in the portable memory device, the player is instructed to remove the portable memory device from the gaming machine 10 and take the portable memory device to an approved device (e.g., a kiosk, computer, etc.) or designated gaming establishment employee for reconciliation. Thus, in general, the encryption is used to verify the authenticity of content being loaded into the gaming machine 10 from an otherwise untrusted source (i.e. the player).

In an example described below, a player may load a poker strategy or strategies onto a portable storage device using approved software, application(s), or tool set(s). The player may later bring the portable storage device bearing the player's poker strategy or strategies into a gaming establishment for association with a gaming machine 10 (e.g., a standalone gaming machine or a handheld gaming machine). Assuming that the algorithms or tools being used to create the algorithms are coming from a known point (e.g., one controlled by the manufacturer) or trusted source, the known point or trusted source could use their private key to sign the algorithm itself prior to it being loaded onto the portable storage device. When the player presents the portable device at the gaming machine 10, the gaming establishment or gaming machine manufacturer would then retrieve and use a public key stored in the gaming machine code, gaming machine memory, or in an external system 50 memory (e.g., a server) to verify that the portable storage device contains content (e.g., strategies) created using authorized tools and that the content has not been modified for any other purpose.

In at least some aspects of the above embodiments, the strategy or strategies may be free or may be fee-based. For example, the use of each of a plurality of strategies may entail a separate usage fee for each strategy. Groupings of strategies may entail a single fee. Fees may be charged as a flat fee, per-game-fee, hourly fee (or sub-portion thereof), daily fee, weekly fee, monthly fee, quarterly fee, yearly fee, or the like, or any smaller subdivision thereof. Fees may be direct, as noted above, or indirect. One example of an indirect fee includes, for example, joining a particular club and paying a club fee which carries with it an associated use of one or more strategies. In some respects, the convenience of providing the player with the safety net of recording and using their own strategy to guide their subsequent game play may itself entail a nominal fee. For example, a player purchasing one or more poker strategies for use in one or more gaming sessions is provided with a code (e.g., a password, access ID, validation ID, private key, or the like) for the gaming session(s). Upon a subsequent validation of the code, access to the one or more poker strategies is provided for the delineated time, at which time access is terminated and the code expires.

The poker strategy or strategies may alternatively be downloaded by the players from a secure web-site onto a players portable storage device, as noted above, over the Internet. To this end, a software program, application, or tool set may be purchased by or distributed to the player, such as through a website (e.g., the gaming establishment's website) or a retail location. Thus, a player may develop their strategy over time, in the comfort of their own home or residence, for later use in a gaming establishment. In the gaming establishment, the player's strategy may be uploaded from a player's portable storage device, by the player or by a gaming establishment employee, preferably directly into the gaming machine 10, which is configured to both check the portable storage device for inappropriate content (e.g., unauthorized instructions, viruses, trojans, worms, malware, etc.) and recognized content (i.e., a poker strategy created using authorized software, application(s), or tool(s)). Once the appropriateness of the content on the player's portable storage device has been verified, the player's strategy is then used locally and/or is transferred to an authorized server. Alternatively, the player's strategy may be uploaded from a player's portable storage device, by the player or by a gaming establishment employee, into a computer or kiosk configured to check the portable storage device for inappropriate content and recognized content, as noted above. Once this verification step has been performed, the content is then transferred to an external system 50 (e.g., server) for access by the player.

In one aspect, the player's strategy may be transferred to a sanctioned portable storage device provided to the player by the gaming establishment (e.g., via kiosk or employee) for use by the player in association with a corresponding device interface for the gaming machine 10, which device interface may comprise a proprietary or non-proprietary interface.

In accord with the above aspects, players are permitted to guarantee, for example, that they follow a strict set of hold rules, either defined by their own input strategy or by reliance upon a predefined selected strategy or strategies during their play. This permits players to play faster, increasing their hands played per hour, without making mistakes regarding the cards they want to hold.

The above-noted concepts may also be implemented in association with an “autoplay” feature, wherein the player enables the computer to execute the strategy independent of any input by the player. The player could then set game play variables (e.g., wagering parameters, rate of play, etc.), as permitted, activate the poker strategy or strategies, and then permit the gaming machine 10 to play successive hands in accord with such instructions until the player disables the “autoplay” feature. The disabling of the “autoplay” feature may be set to correspond, for example, to a second player input (e.g., pressing any button or a specific button), to a depletion of a player's credit meter, to a lapse of an “autoplay” feature timer, or a required intervention by an attendant (e.g., a player hits a jackpot requiring an attendant pay).

In accord with at least some aspects of an example of the above concepts, a method of conducting a wagering game on a gaming machine comprises the acts of a plurality of symbol-bearing objects to form a first user-playable hand, accessing at least one player-selected strategy, determining a hold strategy for the user-playable hand, and informing the player of the hold strategy. In additional acts, the method includes replacing each of the non-held symbol-bearing objects with a replacement symbol-bearing object to form a second user-playable hand and awarding the player an award for any combination of symbol-bearing objects in said second user-playable hand associated with a paytable.

Each of these embodiments and obvious variations thereof is contemplated as falling within the spirit and scope of the claimed invention, which is set forth in the following claims.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US8118680 *Nov 5, 2010Feb 21, 2012Ami Entertainment Network, Inc.Multi-touchscreen module for amusement device
US8777728May 9, 2008Jul 15, 2014Aristocrat Technologies Australia Pty Ltd.Gaming system and a method of gaming
US20080167130 *Jan 9, 2007Jul 10, 2008Kroeckel John GSystems for providing amusement
US20100075730 *Sep 23, 2008Mar 25, 2010Mark Curran UngaroNifty numbers
US20130053989 *Aug 26, 2011Feb 28, 2013Cbs Interactive Inc.Autopilot simulation system and method
Classifications
U.S. Classification463/16
International ClassificationA63F9/24
Cooperative ClassificationG07F17/32
European ClassificationG07F17/32
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Dec 20, 2006ASAssignment
Owner name: WMS GAMING INC., ILLINOIS
Free format text: CORRECTIVE ASSIGNMENT TO CORRECT THE CORRESPONDENT NAME PREVIOUSLY RECORDED ON REEL 018655 FRAME 0315;ASSIGNORS:HORNIK, JEREMY M.;RYAN, CHAD A.;REEL/FRAME:018661/0115;SIGNING DATES FROM 20060921 TO 20061025
Free format text: CORRECTIVE ASSIGNMENT TO CORRECT THE CORRESPONDENT NAME PREVIOUSLY RECORDED ON REEL 018655 FRAME 0315. ASSIGNOR(S) HEREBY CONFIRMS THE ASSIGNMENT.;ASSIGNORS:HORNIK, JEREMY M.;RYAN, CHAD A.;REEL/FRAME:018661/0115;SIGNING DATES FROM 20060921 TO 20061025
Dec 19, 2006ASAssignment
Owner name: WMS GAMING INC., ILLINOIS
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:HORNIK, JEREMY M.;RYAN, CHAD A.;REEL/FRAME:018655/0315;SIGNING DATES FROM 20060921 TO 20061025