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Publication numberUS20070060241 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/224,632
Publication dateMar 15, 2007
Filing dateSep 12, 2005
Priority dateSep 12, 2005
Publication number11224632, 224632, US 2007/0060241 A1, US 2007/060241 A1, US 20070060241 A1, US 20070060241A1, US 2007060241 A1, US 2007060241A1, US-A1-20070060241, US-A1-2007060241, US2007/0060241A1, US2007/060241A1, US20070060241 A1, US20070060241A1, US2007060241 A1, US2007060241A1
InventorsMichael Low, Michael Oberberger
Original AssigneeLow Michael N, Oberberger Michael M
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Methods and apparatus for providing free-play credits in a video poker game
US 20070060241 A1
Abstract
Methods and apparatus for providing free-play credits in a video poker game are disclosed. The methods and apparatus enable a video poker player to play a plurality of poker hands. The poker game awards free-play credits for lower ranking hands (e.g., below a threshold such as a straight) and monetary credits for higher ranking hands (e.g., at or above a threshold such as a straight). Free-play credits have a lower value than monetary credits. As a result of this lower value, awarding free-play credits instead of monetary credits creates a surplus of money that can be used to further reward the player without changing the overall payback percentage of the poker game. The surplus can be used to increase the payback of the higher ranking hands (e.g., increase the jackpot associated with a royal flush) and/or as a bonus award for frequent players (e.g., award one bonus free-play credit for every twentieth free-play credit earned).
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Claims(28)
1. A method of operating a video poker game, the method comprising:
receiving a plurality of credit wagers at the video poker game;
generating a plurality of poker hands in response to receiving the plurality of credit wagers;
awarding at least one free-play credit if at least one of the plurality of poker hands is below a predetermined poker hand rank threshold, said free-play credits useable to play the video poker game but not redeemable for cash;
awarding at least one monetary credit if at least one of the plurality of poker hands is above the predetermined poker hand rank threshold, said monetary credits useable to play the video poker game and redeemable for cash; and
accepting at least one of the free-play credits as payment for at least one play of the video poker game.
2. The method of claim 1, wherein the plurality of poker hands includes a single-play poker hand.
3. The method of claim 1, wherein the predetermined poker hand rank threshold is selected from the groups consisting of: two pair, three of a kind, a straight, a flush, and a full house.
4. The method of claim 1, including displaying a number of free-play credits that are attributable towards earning at least one extra free-play credit.
5. The method of claim 4, including awarding the at least one extra free-play credit if the number of free-play credits that are attributable towards earning the at least one extra free-play credit exceeds a predetermined threshold.
6. The method of claim 4, wherein the number of free-play credits that are attributable towards earning the at least one extra free-play credit includes used free-play credits.
7. The method of claim 1, which is provided through a data network.
8. The method of claim 7, wherein the data network is the internet.
9. The method of claim 1, wherein said monetary credits are redeemable for cash through a ticket system.
10. A video poker gaming device operable under control of a processor, the video poker gaming device comprising:
a display device controlled by the processor; and
an input device operatively coupled to the processor, wherein the processor, the display device and the input device are configured to:
receive a plurality of credit wagers at the video poker game;
generate a plurality of poker hands in response to receiving the plurality of credit wagers;
award at least one free-play credit if at least one of the plurality of poker hands is below a predetermined poker hand rank threshold, said free-play credits usable to play the video poker game but not redeemable for cash;
award at least one monetary credit if at least one of the plurality of poker hands is above the predetermined poker hand threshold, said monetary credits useable to play the video poker game and redeemable for cash; and
accept at least one of the free-play credits as payment for at least one play of the video poker game.
11. The video poker gaming device of claim 10, wherein the plurality of poker hands includes a single-play poker hand.
12. The video poker gaming device of claim 10, wherein the predetermined poker hand rank threshold is selected from the groups consisting of: two pair, three of a kind, a straight, a flush, and a full house.
13. The video poker gaming device of claim 10, wherein the processor and the display device are configured to display a number of free-play credits that are attributable towards earning at least one extra free-play credit.
14. The video poker gaming device of claim 13, wherein the processor awards the at least one extra free-play credit if the number of free-play credits that are attributable towards earning the at least one extra free-play credit exceeds a predetermined threshold.
15. The video poker gaming device of claim 13, wherein the number of free-play credits that are attributable towards earning the at least one extra free-play credit includes used free-play credits.
16. The video poker gaming device poker game of claim 10, wherein said monetary credits are redeemable for cash through a ticket system.
17. A method of operating a video poker game, the method comprising:
receiving a plurality of credit wagers at the video poker game;
generating a plurality of poker hands in response to receiving the plurality of credit wagers;
awarding at least a first free-play credit if at least one of the plurality of poker hands is associated with at least one free-play credit predetermined poker hand rank, said first free-play credits useable to play the video poker game but not redeemable for cash;
awarding at least a second free-play credit if a count of first free-play credits awarded exceeds a predetermined threshold, said second free-play credits useable to play the video poker game but not redeemable for cash;
awarding at least one monetary credit if at least one of the plurality of poker hands is associated with at least one monetary credit predetermined poker hand rank, said monetary credits useable to play the video poker game and redeemable for cash; and
accepting at least one of the free-play credits as payment for at least one play of the video poker game.
18. The method of claim 17, wherein the plurality of poker hands includes a single-play poker hand.
19. The method of claim 17, wherein the count of free-play credits includes used free-play credits.
20. The method of claim 17, wherein the count of free-play credits excludes used free-play credits.
21. The method of claim 17, wherein said monetary credits are redeemable for cash through a ticket system.
22. The method of claim 17, which is provided through a data network.
23. The method of claim 22, wherein the data network is the internet.
24. A method of operating a video poker game, the method comprising:
receiving a plurality of credit wagers at the video poker game;
generating a plurality of poker hands in response to receiving the plurality of credit wagers;
awarding at least one free-play credit if at least one of the plurality of poker hands is associated with at least one free-play predetermined poker hand rank, said free-play credits usable to play the video poker game but not redeemable for cash;
awarding at least one monetary credit if at least another one of the plurality of poker hands is associated with at least one monetary credit predetermined poker hand rank, said monetary credits usable to play the video poker game and redeemable for cash, wherein at least a portion of the at least one monetary credit is at least partially funded by the awarding of the at least one free-play credit; and
accepting at least one of the free-play credits as payment for at least one play of the video poker game.
25. The method of claim 24, wherein the plurality of poker hands includes a single-play poker hand.
26. The method of claim 24, wherein said monetary credits are redeemable for cash through a ticket system.
27. The method of claim 24, which is provided through a data network.
28. The method of claim 27, wherein the data network is the internet.
Description
    COPYRIGHT NOTICE
  • [0001]
    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 photocopy reproduction by anyone of the patent document or the patent disclosure in exactly the form it appears in the Patent and Trademark Office patent file or records, but otherwise reserves all copyright rights whatsoever.
  • TECHNICAL FIELD
  • [0002]
    The present application relates in general to gaming devices, and, in particular, to methods and apparatus for providing free-play credits in a video poker game.
  • BACKGROUND
  • [0003]
    Gaming device manufacturers are always looking for new and exciting ways to reward players and make gaming device play more entertaining. One way to make gaming device play more entertaining without significantly changing the overall average payback percentage of the gaming device is to allow the player to win more frequently (but at relatively lower payouts on average). For example, many slot machines have more winning symbol combinations, having winning symbol combination which occur more frequently, have bonus credits, and/or have bonus games which provide additional winning opportunities. Another way to make gaming device play more entertaining without significantly changing the overall average payback percentage of the gaming device is to provide higher potential payback levels or awards (but at relatively lower frequencies of winning). For example, many slot machines have very large jackpots that have a relatively low probability of occurring.
  • [0004]
    Slot machine manufacturers have this flexibility because in most jurisdictions the slot machine manufacturer and/or casino is allowed to control the odds of obtaining each particular winning combination as long as the overall payback percentage of the gaming device is above a predetermined threshold (e.g., 85% payback) and below a predetermined maximum (e.g., 100%). For example, the slot machine manufacturer and/or casino may set the odds of obtaining the jackpot symbol combination on a slot machine at 1 in 10,000,000. In such an instance, the slot machine could profitably payback several hundred thousand dollars or more on a one dollar bet for obtaining the jackpot symbol combination.
  • [0005]
    However, in many jurisdictions, card games such as video poker games are required to play a true deck of cards. In other words, the poker game must randomly determine an order for one or more decks of cards (i.e., virtually shuffle the cards), and then deal the cards in that predetermined order (i.e., from the top of the virtual deck). This restriction causes the odds associated with obtaining each particular winning hand to be fixed based on the deck of cards (i.e., at any one time, each card not previously dealt has the same odds of being dealt). For example, the odds of obtaining a royal flush from a true deck of fifty-two conventional playing cards is fixed. Accordingly, the video poker machine manufacturer and/or the casino cannot change the odds of obtaining each particular card combination on a video poker machine without changing the overall game. However, certain casinos do not want to change games because players like or get use to the way certain games play.
  • [0006]
    The video poker machine manufacturer and/or casino can change the average payback percentage of a video poker machine by modifying the pay table such as by increasing the award for a royal flush at the expense of the casino. However, certain casino's do not want to increase the average payback percentage on certain video poker machines.
  • [0007]
    The video poker machine manufacturer and/or casino can change maintain the average payback percentage of a video poker machine by modifying the pay table (such as by increasing the award for a royal flush by reducing a payoff for one or more of the other winning outcomes). However, certain casinos do not want to substantially change pay tables because players become familiar with the pay tables.
  • [0008]
    Accordingly, there is a need for methods and apparatus to reward video poker players more frequently and/or at higher levels, without significantly changing the overall average payback percentage of the video poker machines.
  • SUMMARY
  • [0009]
    The disclosed system provides methods and apparatus which enable a video poker machine (such as an electronic video draw poker game) to reward players more frequently and/or at higher levels without significantly changing the overall average payback percentage of the video poker machine.
  • [0010]
    In one embodiment of the present system, the gaming device includes a video draw poker game which can award monetary credits and free-play credits. Certain poker hands are awarded free-play credits instead of monetary credits in the convention manner. In one embodiment, poker hands with a rank below a designated threshold (such as below a straight) are awarded free-play credits instead of (or in addition to in certain embodiments ) monetary credits. Monetary credits are credits that the player can use to play the poker game or which may be redeemed for cash. Free-play credits are credits that the player can not be redeemed for cash, but can be used to play the poker game. In alternative embodiments, the player can additionally use or redeem the free-play credits in one or more other manners. For instance, in certain embodiments, the player can transfer free-play credits to another gaming machine. In another example embodiment, the player redeem the free-play credits for player tracking points.
  • [0011]
    In the preferred embodiment, free-play credits have a lower value than monetary credits. For example, if a particular poker game on a one dollar gaming machine has an average payback percentage of 95% (i.e., over the long run, 95 cents of each dollar wagered is returned), then the value of: (a) a monetary credit on that gaming machine is always $1.00; and (b) a free-play credit on that machine is 95 cents (not one dollar). As a result of this lower value, awarding free-play credits instead of monetary credits creates a surplus of money that can be used to further reward the player without changing the overall payback percentage of the poker game. For example, if a one dollar poker game has a payback percentage of 95%, and 1000 free-play credits are awarded instead of 1000 monetary credits, then a surplus worth $50 is created.
  • [0012]
    In various embodiments, some or all of this surplus can be used outside the pay table or built back into the pay table in a different manner. For example, the surplus can be used: (a) to fund a bonus award or pool (such as a bonus award or pool for frequent players or players of a certain status determined through a player tracking system); (b) to subsidize an increased payback level or increased awards for one or more designated hands in the video poker game such as one or more middle or higher ranking hands; (c) for a progressive award; (d) for a mystery award; (e) for a mystery progressive award; or (f) or in any other suitable manner or combination of manners. This surplus also can provide for more frequent awards and/or higher awards without significantly changing the overall payback percentage of the poker game.
  • [0013]
    In one embodiment, a poker game with an optimal play average payback percentage of 95% provides one bonus free-play credit for every twentieth free-play credit earned. In this example, if all wins of one credit were awarded as a free-play credit, the optimal play average payback percentage would change to 94.8%. This would make the video poker machine more entertaining in one aspect by enabling the player to be rewarded more frequently and by giving the player more chances to win, while still allowing the casino a reasonable return on optimal play. In addition, this would reward players who reinvest in the game.
  • [0014]
    In another example, the poker game could promote a higher than normal award for a royal flush and/or other high ranking hands. For example, the royal flush payback could be subsidized by the surplus and made much larger, like a jackpot. In another example, the award associated with all hands ranked above a flush could be increased. This would make the video poker machine more entertaining by providing higher potential payback levels (i.e., higher possible awards).
  • [0015]
    Additional features and advantages of the present system are described in, and will be apparent from, the following Detailed Description and the figures.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • [0016]
    FIG. 1A is a perspective view of an example gaming device according to one embodiment of the methods and apparatus of the present system.
  • [0017]
    FIG. 1B is a perspective view of another example gaming device according to one embodiment of the methods and apparatus of the present system.
  • [0018]
    FIG. 2A is a schematic block diagram of an example electronic configuration of one embodiment of the methods and apparatus of the present system.
  • [0019]
    FIG. 2B is a schematic block diagram of one example communications network according to one embodiment of the methods and apparatus of the present system.
  • [0020]
    FIG. 3 is an illustration of a first example screen shot of a poker a game according to one embodiment of the methods and apparatus of the present system.
  • [0021]
    FIG. 4 is an illustration of a second example screen shot of a poker a game according to one embodiment of the methods and apparatus of the present system.
  • [0022]
    FIG. 5 is an illustration of a third example screen shot of a poker a game according to one embodiment of the methods and apparatus of the present system.
  • [0023]
    FIG. 6 is an illustration of a fourth example screen shot of a poker a game according to one embodiment of the methods and apparatus of the present system.
  • [0024]
    FIG. 7 is an illustration of a fifth example screen shot of a poker a game according to one embodiment of the methods and apparatus of the present system.
  • [0025]
    FIG. 8 is an illustration of a sixth example screen shot of a poker a game according to one embodiment of the methods and apparatus of the present system.
  • [0026]
    FIG. 9 is a flowchart of an example process for providing free-play credits in a video poker game according to one embodiment of the methods and apparatus of the present system.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF EXEMPLARY EMBODIMENTS
  • [0027]
    Referring now to the drawings, two alternative embodiments of the gaming device are illustrated in FIGS. 1A and 1B as gaming device 10 a and gaming device 10 b, respectively. Gaming device 10 a and/or gaming device 10 b are generally referred to herein as gaming device 10.
  • [0028]
    In one embodiment, as illustrated in FIGS. 1A and 1B, gaming device 10 has a support structure, housing or cabinet which provides support for a plurality of displays, inputs, controls and other features of a conventional gaming machine. It is configured so that a player can operate it while standing or sitting. The gaming device may be positioned on a base or stand or can be configured as a pub-style table-top game (not shown) which a player can operate preferably while sitting. As illustrated by the different configurations shown in FIGS. 1A and 1B, the gaming device may have varying cabinet and display configurations.
  • [0029]
    In one embodiment, as illustrated in FIG. 2A, the gaming device preferably includes at least one processor 12, such as a microprocessor, a microcontroller-based platform, a suitable integrated circuit or one or more application-specific integrated circuits (ASIC's). The processor is in communication with or operable to access or to exchange signals with at least one data storage or memory device 14. In one embodiment, the processor and the memory device reside within the cabinet of the gaming device. The memory device stores program code and instructions, executable by the processor, to control the gaming device. The memory device also stores other data such as image data, event data, player input data, random or pseudo-random number generators, pay-table data or information and applicable game rules that relate to the play of the gaming device. In one embodiment, the memory device includes random access memory (RAM), which can include non-volatile RAM (NVRAM), magnetic RAM (MRAM), ferroelectric RAM (FeRAM) and other forms as commonly understood in the art. In one embodiment, the memory device includes read only memory (ROM). In one embodiment, the memory device includes flash memory and/or EEPROM (electrically erasable programmable read only memory). Any other suitable magnetic, optical and/or semiconductor memory may operate in conjunction with the gaming device disclosed herein.
  • [0030]
    In one embodiment, part or all of the program code and/or operating data described above can be stored in a detachable or removable memory device, including, but not limited to, a suitable cartridge, disk, CD ROM, DVD or USB memory device. A player can use such a removable memory device in a desktop, a laptop personal computer, a personal digital assistant (PDA) or other computerized platform. The processor and memory device may be collectively referred to herein as a “computer” or “controller.”
  • [0031]
    In one embodiment, as discussed in more detail below, the gaming device randomly generates awards and/or other game outcomes based on probability data. That is, each award or other game outcome is associated with a probability and the gaming device generates the award or other game outcome to be provided to the player based on the associated probabilities. In this embodiment, since the gaming device generates outcomes randomly or based upon a probability calculation, there is no certainty that the gaming device will ever provide the player with any specific award or other game outcome. Such random determination could be provided through utilization of a random number generator (RNG) or other suitable randomization process.
  • [0032]
    In another embodiment, as discussed in more detail below, the gaming device employs a predetermined or finite set or pool of awards or other game outcomes. In this embodiment, as each award or other game outcome is provided to the player, the gaming device removes the provided award or other game outcome from the predetermined set or pool. Once removed from the set or pool, the specific provided award or other game outcome cannot be provided to the player again. This type of gaming device provides players with all of the available awards or other game outcomes over the course of the play cycle and guarantees the amount of actual wins and losses. In another embodiment, upon a player initiating game play at the gaming device, the gaming device enrolls in a bingo game. In this embodiment, a bingo server calls the bingo balls that result in a specific game outcome. The resultant game outcome is communicated to the individual gaming device to be provided to a player.
  • [0033]
    In one embodiment, as illustrated in FIG. 2A, the gaming device includes one or more display devices controlled by the processor. The display devices are preferably connected to or mounted to the cabinet of the gaming device. The embodiment shown in FIG. 1A includes a central display device 16 which displays a primary game. This display device may also display any secondary game associated with the primary game as well as information relating to the primary or secondary game. The alternative embodiment shown in FIG. 1B includes a central display device 16 and an upper display device 18. The upper display device may display the primary game, any suitable secondary game associated with the primary game and/or information relating to the primary or secondary game. In another embodiment, at least one display device may be a mobile display device, such as a PDA or tablet PC, that enables play of at least a portion of the primary or secondary game at a location remote from the gaming device. As seen in FIGS. 1A and 1B, in one embodiment, the gaming device includes a credit display 20 which displays a player's current number of credits, cash, account balance or the equivalent. In one embodiment, gaming device includes a bet display 22 which displays a player's amount wagered.
  • [0034]
    The display devices may include, without limitation, a monitor, a television display, a plasma display, a liquid crystal display (LCD) a display based on light emitting diodes (LED), a display based on a plurality of organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs), a display based on polymer light-emitting diodes (PLEDs), a display including a projected and/or reflected image or any other suitable electronic device or display mechanism. In one embodiment, as described in more detail below, the display device includes a touch-screen with an associated touch-screen controller. The display devices may be of any suitable configuration, such as a square, a rectangle or an elongated rectangle.
  • [0035]
    The display devices of the gaming device are configured to display at least one and preferably a plurality of game or other suitable images, symbols and indicia such as any visual representation or exhibition of the movement of objects such as mechanical, virtual or video reels and wheels, dynamic lighting, video images, images of people, characters, places, things and faces of cards, tournament advertisements and the like.
  • [0036]
    In one alternative embodiment, the symbols, images and indicia displayed on or of the display device may be in mechanical form. That is, the display device may include any electromechanical device, such as one or more mechanical objects, such as one or more rotatable wheels, reels or dice, configured to display at least one and preferably a plurality of game or other suitable images, symbols or indicia.
  • [0037]
    As illustrated in FIG. 2A, in one embodiment, the gaming device includes at least one payment acceptor 24 in communication with the processor. As seen in FIGS. 1A and 1B, the payment acceptor may include a coin slot 26 and a payment, note or bill acceptor 28, where the player inserts money, coins or tokens. The player can place coins in the coin slot or paper money, ticket or voucher into the payment, note or bill acceptor. In other embodiments, devices such as readers or validators for credit cards, debit cards or credit slips may accept payment. In one embodiment, a player may insert an identification card into a card reader of the gaming device. In one embodiment, the identification card is a smart card having a programmed microchip or a magnetic strip coded with a player's identification, credit totals and other relevant information. In one embodiment, money may be transferred to a gaming device through electronic funds transfer. When a player funds the gaming device, the processor determines the amount of funds entered and displays the corresponding amount on the credit or other suitable display as described above.
  • [0038]
    As seen in FIGS. 1A, 1B and 2A, in one embodiment the gaming device includes at least one and preferably a plurality of input devices 30 in communication with the processor. The input devices can include any suitable device which enables the player to produce an input signal which is read by the processor. In one embodiment, after appropriate funding of the gaming device, the input device is a game activation device, such as a pull arm 32 or a play button 34 which is used by the player to start any primary game or sequence of events in the gaming device. The play button can be any suitable play activator such as a bet one button, a max bet button or a repeat the bet button. In one embodiment, upon appropriate funding, the gaming device begins the game play automatically. In another embodiment, upon the player engaging one of the play buttons, the gaming device automatically activates game play.
  • [0039]
    In one embodiment, as shown in FIGS. 1A and 1B, one input device is a bet one button 36. The player places a bet by pushing the bet one button. The player can increase the bet by one credit each time the player pushes the bet one button. When the player pushes the bet one button, the number of credits shown in the credit display preferably decreases by one, and the number of credits shown in the bet display preferably increases by one. In another embodiment, one input device is a bet max button (not shown) which enables the player to bet the maximum wager permitted for a game of the gaming device.
  • [0040]
    In one embodiment, one input device is a cash out button 38. The player may push the cash out button and cash out to receive a cash payment or other suitable form of payment corresponding to the number of remaining credits. In one embodiment, when the player cashes out, the player receives the coins or tokens in a coin payout tray 40. In one embodiment, when the player cashes out, the player may receive other payout mechanisms such as tickets or credit slips redeemable by a cashier or funding to the player's electronically recordable identification card.
  • [0041]
    In one embodiment, as mentioned above and seen in FIG. 2A, one input device is a touch-screen 42 coupled with a touch-screen controller 44, or some other touch-sensitive display overlay to allow for player interaction with the images on the display. The touch-screen and the touch-screen controller are connected to a video controller 46. A player can make decisions and input signals into the gaming device by touching the touch-screen at the appropriate places.
  • [0042]
    The gaming device may further include a plurality of communication ports for enabling communication of the processor with external peripherals, such as external video sources, expansion buses, game or other displays, an SCSI port or a key pad.
  • [0043]
    In one embodiment, as seen in FIG. 2A, the gaming device includes a sound generating device controlled by one or more sounds cards 48 which function in conjunction with the processor. In one embodiment, the sound generating device includes at least one and preferably a plurality of speakers 50 or other sound generating hardware and/or software for generating sounds, such as playing music for the primary and/or secondary game or for other modes of the gaming device, such as an attract mode. In one embodiment, the gaming device provides dynamic sounds coupled with attractive multimedia images displayed on one or more of the display devices to provide an audio-visual representation or to otherwise display full-motion video with sound to attract players to the gaming device. During idle periods, the gaming device may display a sequence of audio and/or visual attraction messages to attract potential players to the gaming device. The videos may also be customized for or to provide any appropriate information.
  • [0044]
    In one embodiment, the gaming machine may include a player or other sensor, such as a camera in communication with the processor (and possibly controlled by the processor) that is selectively positioned to acquire an image of a player actively using the gaming device and/or the surrounding area of the gaming device. In one embodiment, the camera may be configured to selectively acquire still or moving (e.g., video) images and may be configured to acquire the images in either an analog, digital or other suitable format. The display devices may be configured to display the image acquired by the camera as well as display the visible manifestation of the game in split screen or picture-in-picture fashion. For example, the camera may acquire an image of the player and the processor may incorporate that image into the primary and/or secondary game as a game image, symbol or indicia.
  • [0045]
    Gaming device 10 can incorporate any suitable wagering primary or base game. The gaming machine or device may include some or all of the features of conventional gaming machines or devices. The primary or base game may comprise any suitable reel-type game, card game, number game or other game of chance susceptible to representation in an electronic or electromechanical form which produces a random outcome based on probability data upon activation from a wager. That is, different primary wagering games, such as video poker games, video blackjack games, video Keno, video bingo or any other suitable primary or base game may be implemented.
  • [0046]
    In one embodiment, a base or primary game may be a slot game with one or more paylines. The paylines may be horizontal, vertical, circular, diagonal, angled or any combination thereof. In this embodiment, the gaming device displays at least one and preferably a plurality of reels, such as three to five reels in either electromechanical form with mechanical rotating reels or video form with simulated reels and movement thereof. In one embodiment, an electromechanical slot machine includes a plurality of adjacent, rotatable wheels which may be combined and operably coupled with an electronic display of any suitable type. In another embodiment, if the reels are in video form, one or more of the display devices, as described above, display the plurality of simulated video reels. Each reel displays a plurality of indicia such as bells, hearts, fruits, numbers, letters, bars or other images which preferably correspond to a theme associated with the gaming device. In this embodiment, the gaming device awards prizes when the reels of the primary game stop spinning if specified types and/or configurations of indicia or symbols occur on an active payline or otherwise occur in a winning pattern, occur on the requisite number of adjacent reels and/or occur in a scatter pay arrangement.
  • [0047]
    In one embodiment, as illustrated in FIGS. 1A and 1B, a base or primary game may be a poker game wherein the gaming device enables the player to play a conventional game of video poker and initially deals five cards all face up from a virtual deck of fifty-two card deck. Cards may be dealt as in a traditional game of cards or in the case of the gaming device, may also include that the cards are randomly selected from a predetermined number of cards. If the player wishes to draw, the player selects the cards to hold via one or more input device, such as pressing related hold buttons or via the touch screen. The player then presses the deal button and the unwanted or discarded cards are removed from the display and the gaming machine deals the replacement cards from the remaining cards in the deck. This results in a final five-card hand. The gaming device compares the final five-card hand to a payout table which utilizes conventional poker hand rankings to determine the winning hands. The gaming device provides the player with an award based on a winning hand and the credits the player wagered.
  • [0048]
    In another embodiment, the base or primary game may be a multi-hand version of video poker. In this embodiment, the gaming device deals the player at least two hands of cards. In one such embodiment, the cards are the same cards. In one embodiment each hand of cards is associated with its own deck of cards. The player chooses the cards to hold in a primary hand. The held cards in the primary hand are also held in the other hands of cards. The remaining non-held cards are removed from each hand displayed and for each hand replacement cards are randomly dealt into that hand. Since the replacement cards are randomly dealt independently for each hand, the replacement cards for each hand will usually be different. The poker hand rankings are then determined hand by hand and awards are provided to the player.
  • [0049]
    In one embodiment, a base or primary game may be a keno game wherein the gaming device displays a plurality of selectable indicia or numbers on at least one of the display devices. In this embodiment, the player selects at least one and preferable a plurality of the selectable indicia or numbers via an input device or via the touch screen. The gaming device then displays a series of drawn numbers to determine an amount of matches, if any, between the player's selected numbers and the gaming device's drawn numbers. The player is provided an award based on the amount of matches, if any, based on the amount of determined matches.
  • [0050]
    In one embodiment, in addition to winning credits in a base or primary game, the gaming device may also give players the opportunity to win credits in a bonus or secondary game or bonus or secondary round. The bonus or secondary game enables the player to obtain a prize or payout in addition to the prize or payout, if any, obtained from the base or primary game. In general, a bonus or secondary game produces a significantly higher level of player excitement than the base or primary game because it provides a greater expectation of winning than the base or primary game and is accompanied with more attractive or unusual features than the base or primary game.
  • [0051]
    In one embodiment, the bonus or secondary game may be any type of suitable game, either similar to or completely different from the base or primary game. In one embodiment, the gaming device includes a program which will automatically begin a bonus round when the player has achieved a triggering event or qualifying condition in the base or primary game. In one embodiment, the triggering event or qualifying condition may be a selected outcome in the primary game or a particular arrangement of one or more indicia on a display device in the primary game, such as the number seven appearing on three adjacent reels along a payline in the primary slot game embodiment seen in FIGS. 1A and 1B. In another embodiment, the triggering event or qualifying condition may be by exceeding a certain amount of game play (number of games, number of credits, amount of time), reaching a specified number of points earned during game play or as a random award.
  • [0052]
    In one embodiment, once a player has qualified for a bonus game, the player may subsequently enhance his/her bonus game participation through continued play on the base or primary game. Thus, for each bonus qualifying event, such as a bonus symbol, that the player obtains, a given number of bonus game wagering points or credits may be accumulated in a “bonus meter” programmed to accrue the bonus wagering credits or entries toward eventual participation in a bonus game. The occurrence of multiple such bonus qualifying events in the primary game may result in an arithmetic or geometric increase in the number of bonus wagering credits awarded. In one embodiment, the player may redeem extra bonus wagering credits during the bonus game to extend play of the bonus game.
  • [0053]
    In one embodiment, no separate entry fee or buy in for a bonus game need be employed. That is, a player may not purchase an entry into a bonus game, rather they must win or earn entry through play of the primary game thus, encouraging play of the primary game. In another embodiment, qualification of the bonus or secondary game could be accomplished through a simple “buy in” by the player if, for example, the player has been unsuccessful at qualifying through other specified activities.
  • [0054]
    In one embodiment, as illustrated in FIG. 2B, one or more of the gaming devices 10 may be connected to each other through a data network or a remote communication link 58 with some or all of the functions of each gaming device provided at a central location such as a central server or central controller 56. More specifically, the processor of each gaming device may be designed to facilitate transmission of signals between the individual gaming device and the central server or controller.
  • [0055]
    In one embodiment, the game outcome provided to the player is determined by a central server or controller and provided to the player at the gaming device. In this embodiment, each of a plurality of such gaming devices are in communication with the central server or controller. Upon a player initiating game play at one of the gaming devices, the initiated gaming device communicates a game outcome request to the central server or controller.
  • [0056]
    In one embodiment, the central server or controller receives the game outcome request and randomly generates a game outcome for the primary game based on probability data. In another embodiment, the central server or controller randomly generates a game outcome for the secondary game based on probability data. In another embodiment, the central server or controller randomly generates a game outcome for both the primary game and the secondary game based on probability data. In this embodiment, the central server or controller is capable of storing and utilizing program code or other data similar to the processor and memory device of the gaming device.
  • [0057]
    In an alternative embodiment, the central server or controller maintains one or more predetermined pools or sets of predetermined game outcomes. In this embodiment, the central server or controller receives the game outcome request and independently selects a predetermined game outcome from a set or pool of game outcomes. The central server or controller flags or marks the selected game outcome as used. Once a game outcome is flagged as used, it is prevented from further selection from the set or pool and cannot be selected by the central controller or server upon another wager. The provided game outcome can include a primary game outcome, a secondary game outcome, primary and secondary game outcomes, or a series of game outcomes such a free games.
  • [0058]
    The central server or controller communicates the generated or selected game outcome to the initiated gaming device. The gaming device receives the generated or selected game outcome and provides the game outcome to the player. In an alternative embodiment, how the generated or selected game outcome is to be presented or displayed to the player, such as a reel symbol combination of a slot machine or a hand of cards dealt in a card game, is also determined by the central server or controller and communicated to the initiated gaming device to be presented or displayed to the player. Central production or control can assist a gaming establishment or other entity in maintaining appropriate records, controlling gaming, reducing and preventing cheating or electronic or other errors, reducing or eliminating win-loss volatility and the like.
  • [0059]
    In another embodiment, a predetermined game outcome value is determined for each of a plurality of linked or networked gaming devices based on the results of a bingo or keno game. In this embodiment, each individual gaming device utilizes one or more bingo or keno games to determine the predetermined game outcome value provided to the player for the interactive game played at that gaming device. In one embodiment, the bingo or keno game is displayed to the player. In another embodiment, the bingo or keno game is not displayed to the player, but the results of the bingo or keno game determine the predetermined game outcome value for the interactive game.
  • [0060]
    In the various bingo embodiments, as each gaming device is enrolled in the bingo game, such as upon an appropriate wager or engaging an input device, the enrolled gaming device is provided or associated with a different bingo card. Each bingo card consists of a matrix or array of elements, wherein each element is designated with a separate indicia, such as a number. It should be appreciated that each different bingo card includes a different combination of elements. For example, if four bingo cards are provided to four enrolled gaming devices, the same element may be present on all four of the bingo cards while another element may solely be present on one of the bingo cards.
  • [0061]
    In operation of these embodiments, upon providing or associating a different bingo card to each of a plurality of enrolled gaming devices, the central controller randomly selects or draws, one at a time, a plurality of the elements. As each element is selected, a determination is made for each gaming device as to whether the selected element is present on the bingo card provided to that enrolled gaming device. This determination can be made by the central controller, the gaming device, a combination of the two, or in any other suitable manner. If the selected element is present on the bingo card provided to that enrolled gaming device, that selected element on the provided bingo card is marked or flagged. This process of selecting elements and marking any selected elements on the provided bingo cards continues until one or more predetermined patterns are marked on one or more of the provided bingo cards. It should be appreciated that in one embodiment, the gaming device requires the player to engage a “daub” button (not shown) to initiate the process of the gaming device marking or flagging any selected elements.
  • [0062]
    After one or more predetermined patterns are marked on one or more of the provided bingo cards, a game outcome is determined for each of the enrolled gaming devices based, at least in part, on the selected elements on the provided bingo cards. As described above, the game outcome determined for each gaming device enrolled in the bingo game is utilized by that gaming device to determine the predetermined game outcome provided to the player. For example, a first gaming device to have selected elements marked in a predetermined pattern is provided a first outcome of win $10 which will be provided to a first player regardless of how the first player plays in a first game and a second gaming device to have selected elements marked in a different predetermined pattern is provided a second outcome of win $2 which will be provided to a second player regardless of how the second player plays a second game. It should be appreciated that as the process of marking selected elements continues until one or more predetermined patterns are marked, this embodiment insures that at least one bingo card will win the bingo game and thus at least one enrolled gaming device will provide a predetermined winning game outcome to a player. It should be appreciated that other suitable methods for selecting or determining one or more predetermined game outcomes may be employed.
  • [0063]
    In one example of the above-described embodiment, the predetermined game outcome may be based on a supplemental award in addition to any award provided for winning the bingo game as described above. In this embodiment, if one or more elements are marked in supplemental patterns within a designated number of drawn elements, a supplemental or intermittent award or value associated with the marked supplemental pattern is provided to the player as part of the predetermined game outcome. For example, if the four corners of a bingo card are marked within the first twenty selected elements, a supplemental award of $10 is provided to the player as part of the predetermined game outcome. It should be appreciated that in this embodiment, the player of a gaming device may be provided a supplemental or intermittent award regardless of if the enrolled gaming device's provided bingo card wins or does not win the bingo game as described above.
  • [0064]
    In another embodiment, one or more of the gaming devices are in communication with a central server or controller for monitoring purposes only. That is, each individual gaming device randomly generates the game outcomes to be provided to the player and the central server or controller monitors the activities and events occurring on the plurality of gaming devices. In one embodiment, the gaming network includes a real-time or on-line accounting and gaming information system operably coupled to the central server or controller. The accounting and gaming information system of this embodiment includes a player database for storing player profiles, a player tracking module for tracking players and a credit system for providing automated casino transactions.
  • [0065]
    A plurality of the gaming devices are capable of being connected together through a data network. In one embodiment, the data network is a local area network (LAN), in which one or more of the gaming devices are substantially proximate to each other and an on-site central server or controller as in, for example, a gaming establishment or a portion of a gaming establishment. In another embodiment, the data network is a wide area network (WAN) in which one or more of the gaming devices are in communication with at least one off-site central server or controller. In this embodiment, the plurality of gaming devices may be located in a different part of the gaming establishment or within a different gaming establishment than the off-site central server or controller. Thus, the WAN may include an off-site central server or controller and an off-site gaming device located within gaming establishments in the same geographic area, such as a city or state. The WAN gaming system may be substantially identical to the LAN gaming system described above, although the number of gaming devices in each system may vary relative to each other.
  • [0066]
    In another embodiment, the data network is an internet or intranet. In this embodiment, the operation of the gaming device can be viewed at the gaming device with at least one internet browser. In this embodiment, operation of the gaming device and accumulation of credits may be accomplished with only a connection to the central server or controller (the internet/intranet server) through a conventional phone or other data transmission line, digital subscriber line (DSL), T-1 line, coaxial cable, fiber optic cable, or other suitable connection. In this embodiment, players may access an internet game page from any location where an internet connection and computer, or other internet facilitator are available. The expansion in the number of computers and number and speed of internet connections in recent years increases opportunities for players to play from an ever-increasing number of remote sites. It should be appreciated that enhanced bandwidth of digital wireless communications may render such technology suitable for some or all communications, particularly if such communications are encrypted. Higher data transmission speeds may be useful for enhancing the sophistication and response of the display and interaction with the player.
  • [0067]
    In another embodiment, as described above, one or more gaming devices are in communication with a central server or controller. The central server or controller may be any suitable server or computing device which includes at least one processor and a memory or storage device. In alternative embodiments, the central server is a progressive controller or another gaming machine in the gaming system. In one embodiment, the memory device stores different game programs and instructions, executable by a gaming device processor, to control the gaming device. Each executable game program represents a different game or type of game which may be played on one or more of the gaming devices in the gaming system. Such different games may include the same or substantially the same game play with different pay tables. In different embodiments, the executable game program is for a primary game, a secondary game or both. In another embodiment, the game program may be executable as a secondary game to be played simultaneous with the play of a primary game (which may be downloaded to or fixed on the gaming device) or vice versa.
  • [0068]
    In this embodiment, each gaming device at least includes one or more display devices and/or one or more input devices for interaction with a player. A local processor, such as the above-described gaming device processor or a processor of a local server, is operable with the display device(s) and/or the input device(s) of one or more of the gaming devices.
  • [0069]
    In operation, the central controller is operable to communicate one or more of the stored game programs to at least one local processor. In different embodiments, the stored game programs are communicated or delivered by embedding the communicated game program in a device or a component (e.g., a “chip” to be inserted in a gaming device), writing the game program on a disc or other media, downloading or streaming the game program over a dedicated data network, internet or a telephone line. After the stored game programs are communicated from the central server, the local processor executes the communicated program to facilitate play of the communicated program by a player through the display device(s) and/or input device(s) of the gaming device. That is, when a game program is communicated to a local processor, the local processor changes the game or type of game played at the gaming device.
  • [0070]
    In another embodiment, a plurality of gaming devices at one or more gaming sites may be networked to a central server in a progressive configuration, as known in the art, wherein a portion of each wager to initiate a base or primary game may be allocated to bonus or secondary event awards. In one embodiment, a host site computer is coupled to a plurality of the central servers at a variety of mutually remote gaming sites for providing a multi-site linked progressive automated gaming system. In one embodiment, a host site computer may serve gaming devices distributed throughout a number of properties at different geographical locations including, for example, different locations within a city or different cities within a state.
  • [0071]
    In one embodiment, the host site computer is maintained for the overall operation and control of the system. In this embodiment, a host site computer oversees the entire progressive gaming system and is the master for computing all progressive jackpots. All participating gaming sites report to, and receive information from, the host site computer. Each central server computer is responsible for all data communication between the gaming device hardware and software and the host site computer. In one embodiment, an individual gaming machine may trigger a progressive win, for example through a game play event such as a symbol-driven trigger. In one embodiment, the central server or other central controller determines when a progressive win is triggered. In one embodiment, a central controller and an individual gaming machine work in conjunction with each other to determine when a progressive win is triggered, for example through an individual gaming machine meeting a predetermined requirement established by the central controller.
  • [0072]
    Example screen shots of a video poker game are illustrated in FIG. 3 to FIG. 8. A first game play is shown in FIGS. 3 to 5. As described in more detail below, in this example game play, the poker game produces a final poker hand with a rank of two pair (Aces and Jacks), which results in an award of four free-play credits for a two credit bet. A second game play is shown in FIGS. 6 to 8. As described in more detail below, in this example game play, the poker game produces a final poker hand with a rank of one pair (Queens), which results in an award of five free-play credits for a five credit bet. In addition, this example game play brings a running count of free-play credits awarded to a total that exceeds twenty. As a result, a bonus free-play credit is awarded (for a total of six), and the running count is reset.
  • [0073]
    As shown in each of the screen shots from FIG. 3 to FIG. 8, the example poker game includes a plurality of playing cards 302 (i.e., 302 a, 302 b, 302 c, 302 d, and 302 e). Any number of cards 302 may be displayed. The poker game initially displays the cards 302 face down as shown in FIG. 3. The poker game then receives a bet amount from the player. For example, the poker game may detect one or more activations of a bet button 304 and/or 305, and/or the poker game may receive a bet number from a numeric keypad. In this example, each time the poker game detects an activation of the bet one button 304, the poker game increments a current bet indicator 306 by one credit. The example transition from FIG. 3 to FIG. 4 shows the current bet 306 going from zero credits to two credits.
  • [0074]
    Each time a credit is added to the current bet 306, the poker game deducts the credit from a total number of free-play credits 308 or a total number of monetary credits 310. Monetary credits 310 are like cash. The poker game accepts monetary credits 310 as a wager for a play of the poker game, and the poker game will redeem monetary credits 310 for cash (or a cash equivalent such as a credit voucher). The poker game will also accept free-play credits 308 as wagers. However, the poker game will not redeem free-play credits 308 for cash. The poker game preferably deducts credits from the free-play credits 308 before it deducts credits from the monetary credits 310 as shown in the transition from FIG. 3 to FIG. 4. However, in some embodiments, the poker game may give the player a choice as to which credits to use (e.g., the option of using monetary credits and saving free-play credits). In one such embodiment, one or more extra awards or bonuses (such as extra free-play credits) are provided if one or more designated number(s) of free-play credits are accumulated. This can be linear or non-linear (i.e., increase as the accumulated number increases). Thus, the gaming machine provides the player the option to accumulate free-play credits to obtain one or more levels of free-play credits which result in one or more awards of additional free-play credits, respectively. It should also be appreciated that the free-play credits in one embodiment can be transferred to another machine.
  • [0075]
    Once the poker game receives an activation of a deal button 312 from the player, the poker game deals an initial poker hand. In the example of FIG. 4, the poker game displays five cards 302. It will be appreciated that the number of cards 302 displayed may vary with the type of poker game being played. For example, the methods and apparatus disclosed herein may be used with a multi-hand version of video poker. Multi-hand video poker includes a plurality of simultaneous poker hands. For example, triple-play video poker includes three five-card poker hands.
  • [0076]
    Once an initial hand is dealt, the poker game may receive an indication from the player of one or more cards 302 the player wants to hold. For example, the poker game may receive a touch-screen indication on three of the cards (e.g., cards 302 b, 302 d, and 302 e). The poker game preferably labels the held cards 302 b, 302 d, and 302 e as shown in FIG. 4. In this example, zero to five cards may be held. However, other poker games may allow different numbers of held cards.
  • [0077]
    Continuing with this example, the poker game receives another activation of the deal button 312. Unheld cards 302 a and 302 c are then replaced with new cards 302 a and 302 c as shown in the transition from FIG. 4 to FIG. 5. In this example, the poker game has produced a poker hand with a rank of two pair (i.e., Aces and Jacks). In this example, the poker game does not allow additional deals for this game play. Other poker games may allow more than one round of card drawing.
  • [0078]
    As indicated by the example pay table 314, the poker game awards the player with free-play credits 308 for designated poker hands 316 and monetary credits 310 for other poker hands 318. It will be appreciated that other pay tables that allocate free-play credits and monetary credits in other ways may also be used. For example, hands above a threshold rank may be associated with free-play credits, and/or a mix of high and low ranking hands may be associated with free-play credits while the remaining mix of high and low ranking hands is associated with monetary credits. In addition, one or more hand ranks may be associated with both free-play credits and monetary credits.
  • [0079]
    In the example of FIG. 5, the poker game awards free-play credits for poker hands 316 below a straight and monetary credits for poker hands 318 at or above a straight. The example hand of FIG. 5 ranks high enough to earn the player two free-play credits for each credit wagered. In this example, the poker game accepted a wager 306 of two credits. Accordingly, the poker game increases the number of free-play credits 308 from zero to four as shown in the transition from FIG. 4 to FIG. 5.
  • [0080]
    In addition, this example poker game includes a bonus credit counter 320. The bonus credit counter 320 keeps track of how many credits the player has earned toward receiving one or more bonus credits. For example, the poker game may award one bonus free-play credit 308 for every twentieth free-play credit 308 earned. The credits counted may be monetary credits 310 and/or free-play credits 308. In addition, the bonus credits awarded may be monetary credits 310 and/or free-play credits 308. In this example, the four free-play credits awarded for the two pair are also added to the bonus credit counter 320, bringing the total from fifteen to nineteen. However, the poker game does not award a bonus free-play credit yet, because the counter has not reached the example threshold of twenty credits.
  • [0081]
    In the next example game illustrated in FIGS. 6 to 8, the poker game again displays the cards 302 face down as shown in FIG. 6. The poker game then receives a bet amount 306 of five credits from the player. In response, the poker game increments the current bet indicator 306 from zero to five and decrements the total number of free-play credits 308 from four to zero as shown in the transition from FIG. 6 to FIG. 7. In addition, the poker game deducts one credit from the monetary credits 310 to account for the balance of the current bet 306.
  • [0082]
    Once the poker game receives an activation of the deal button 312 and an initial hand is dealt, the poker game may receive an indication from the player of one or more cards 302 the player wants to hold. For example, the poker game may receive a touch-screen indication on one of the cards 302 d as shown in FIG. 7. Once the poker game receives another activation of the deal button 312, unheld cards 302 a, 302 b, 302 c, and 302 e are replaced with new cards 302 a, 302 b, 302 c, and 302 e as shown in the transition from FIG. 7 to FIG. 8. In this example, the poker game has produced a poker hand with a rank of one pair (i.e., Queens).
  • [0083]
    Per the example pay table 314, one pair ranks high enough to earn the player one free-play credit for each credit wagered. In this example, the poker game accepted a wager of five credits. Accordingly, the poker game increases the number of free-play credits 308 from zero to five. In addition, the five free-play credits awarded for the one pair are added to the bonus credit counter 320. Now, the number of credits in the bonus credit counter 320 exceeds the example threshold of twenty. Accordingly, the poker game awards a bonus free-play credit, bringing the total to six as shown in FIG. 8 (i.e., 5 for the win +1 bonus for exceeding twenty in the running counter). The total in the bonus credit counter 320 is then reduced by twenty leaving a new total of five (i.e., the old total of 19+5 for the win +1 for the bonus −20 for receiving the bonus).
  • [0084]
    A flowchart of an example process 900 for providing free-play credits in a video poker game is illustrated in FIG. 9. Preferably, the process 900 is embodied in one or more software programs which is stored in one or more memories and executed by one or more processors as discussed above. Although the process 900 is described with reference to the flowchart illustrated in FIG. 6, it will be appreciated that many other methods of performing the acts associated with process 900 may be used. For example, the order of many of the blocks may be changed, and many of the blocks described may be optional.
  • [0085]
    Generally, the process 900 enables a video poker player to play a plurality of poker hands. The poker game awards free-play credits for lower ranking hands (e.g., below a straight) and monetary credits for higher ranking hands (e.g., at or above a straight). Free-play credits have a lower value than monetary credits. As a result of this lower value, awarding free-play credits instead of monetary credits creates a surplus of money that can be used to further reward the player without changing the overall payback percentage of the poker game. The surplus can be used to increase the payback of the higher ranking hands and/or as a bonus award for frequent players. For example, one version of the poker game could advertise a higher than normal award for a royal flush and/or other high ranking hands. In another example, a version of the poker game could award one bonus free-play credit for every 20th free-play credit earned from low ranking hands. In this manner, the players can be given higher awards and/or more frequent awards without significantly changing the overall average payback percentage of the poker game.
  • [0086]
    The example process 900 begins when the video poker game receives some form of monetary value from a player as indicated by block 902. For example, the poker game may receive one or more coins, bills, tickets, game cards, credit cards, debit cards, etc. The poker game then deposits the monetary value as monetary credits 310 as indicated by block 904. Monetary credits 310 are credits that the player can use to play the poker game, or the monetary credits 310 may be redeemed for cash. As explained in more detail below, free-play credits 308 are credits that the player can use to play the poker game. The player cannot redeem free-play credits 308 for cash. However, in some embodiments, the player may be allowed to transfer free-play credits to another gaming machine or redeem for player tracking points in a player tracking system. The free-play credits transfer may be restricted to the same type of poker machine, a different type of poker machine, and/or other types of gaming machines (e.g., slot machines). The present disclosure contemplates other suitable transfers of free-play credits and other suitable restrictions on the use of free-play credits.
  • [0087]
    Once the poker game is associated with at least one credit (monetary credit 310 and/or free-play credit 308), the poker game may receive a current bet 306 from the player as indicated by block 906. For example, the poker game may receive a bet amount 306 ranging from of one credit to five credits. Preferably, the poker game does not allow the player to bet more credits than the player currently has available.
  • [0088]
    Once the poker game receives a current bet 306, the poker game determines if there are enough free-play credits 308 available to cover the current bet 306 as indicated by block 908. If there are enough free-play credits 308 available to cover the current bet 306, the poker game deducts the current bet 306 from the player's free-play credits 308 as indicated by block 910. If there are not enough free-play credits 308 available to cover the current bet 306, the poker game exhausts the remaining free-play credits 308 (if any) and deducts the balance from the player's monetary credits 310 as indicated by block 912.
  • [0089]
    After the poker game receives the player's current bet 306, the poker game receives a game initiation signal from the player as indicated by block 914. The game initiation signal may be initiated in any suitable manner. For example, the poker game may detect the deal button 312 being pressed. In response, the poker game generates one or more poker hands as indicated by block 916. One example of an initial poker hand is shown in FIG. 4. Another example of an initial poker hand is shown in FIG. 7.
  • [0090]
    Once the initial poker hand is dealt, the poker game receives input from the player indicating which, if any, of the initial cards 302 the player wants to hold as indicated by block 918. For example, the poker game may include a touch screen, and the poker game may detect the player touching the displayed cards 302 the player wants to hold.
  • [0091]
    In response to the poker game being resumed (e.g., detection of the deal button 312 being pressed again), the poker game generates a modified poker hand as indicated by block 920. For example, the poker game may replace three unheld cards with three new cards from the top of the virtual deck. One example of a modified poker hand is shown in FIG. 5. Another example of a modified poker hand is shown in FIG. 8. In the preferred embodiment, the poker game ends with the generation of the modified poker hand. However, any suitable poker game may be used. In addition, other non-poker games may take advantage of the teachings herein.
  • [0092]
    Regardless of the game played, at some point, the poker game (or other game) determines if the game outcome is a winner as indicated by block 922. For example, the poker game may determine if the modified poker hand has a rank that qualifies the hand to win monetary credits 310 and/or free-play credits 308. In the preferred embodiment, poker hands with a rank below a predetermined threshold earn one or more free-play credits 308, and poker hands with a rank at or above the predetermined threshold earn one or more monetary credits 310. In the example pay table shown in FIG. 3 through FIG. 8, poker hands ranking below a straight are paid with free-play credits 308, and poker hands ranking at or above a straight are paid with monetary credits 310.
  • [0093]
    The poker game then awards the number of monetary credits 308 and/or free-play credits 310 earned to the player as indicated by step 324. For example, the poker hand shown in FIG. 5 has a ranking of two pair (Aces and Jacks). Accordingly, the poker game awards two free-play credits 308 per credit wagered, regardless of the type of credit wagered (i.e., a total of four free-play credits 308 in this example). If instead, the winning poker hand had a rank of full house (e.g., Aces full of Jacks), the poker game in this example would award nine monetary credits 310 for each credit wagered (regardless of the type of credit wagered).
  • [0094]
    In certain embodiments, the poker game awards one or more bonus credits based on how many credits have been awarded to a particular player during one or more game playing sessions as indicated by blocks 926 and 928. The credits counted 320 toward the bonus credit may be monetary credits 310 and/or free-play credits 308. In addition, the bonus credits awarded may be monetary credits 310 and/or free-play credits 308. For example, the poker game may be programmed to award one bonus free-play credit 308 for every twenty free-play credits 308 awarded. The credits counted toward the bonus credit may or may not include previously awarded bonus credits. In addition, the credits counted 320 toward the bonus credit may or may not include used credits (i.e., credits used to play the poker game). In such an embodiment, the poker game may give the player an option to wager monetary credits 310 even when free-play credits 308 are available.
  • [0095]
    The poker game then updates the display of the number of monetary credits 310, free-play credits 308, and points accumulated toward a next bonus 320 as indicated by block 930.
  • [0096]
    In summary, methods and apparatus for providing free-play credits in a video poker game have been provided. The foregoing description has been presented for the purposes of illustration and description. It is not intended to be exhaustive or to limit the invention to the exemplary embodiments disclosed. Many modifications and variations are possible in light of the above teachings. It is intended that the scope of the invention be limited not by this detailed description of examples, but rather by the claims appended hereto.
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Classifications
U.S. Classification463/13
International ClassificationA63F9/24
Cooperative ClassificationG07F17/32, G07F17/3267
European ClassificationG07F17/32M4, G07F17/32
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Oct 19, 2005ASAssignment
Owner name: IGT, NEVADA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:LOW, MICHAEL N.;OBERBERGER, MICHAEL M.;REEL/FRAME:016912/0183;SIGNING DATES FROM 20051010 TO 20051017