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Publication numberUS20080064491 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/981,170
Publication dateMar 13, 2008
Filing dateOct 31, 2007
Priority dateNov 21, 2003
Publication number11981170, 981170, US 2008/0064491 A1, US 2008/064491 A1, US 20080064491 A1, US 20080064491A1, US 2008064491 A1, US 2008064491A1, US-A1-20080064491, US-A1-2008064491, US2008/0064491A1, US2008/064491A1, US20080064491 A1, US20080064491A1, US2008064491 A1, US2008064491A1
InventorsWilliam Taylor
Original AssigneeTaylor William A
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Method for gambling games of variable duration
US 20080064491 A1
Abstract
A method for wagering on a gaming device where players purchase a session as opposed to an individual game. Within a session, players have multiple winning opportunities and may be allowed to play a plurality of traditional games to maximize their returns. In one preferred embodiment, the session length is unknown at the time of wager and the game session is ended only when a predetermined or variable number of game termination symbols occur. In other embodiments players may decide the nature of their game terminating events. During a session players may also accumulate tools for use in subsequent game segments.
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Claims(18)
1-19. (canceled)
20. A method of conducting a flat rate play session at a gaming device, comprising:
receiving, at a gaming device, a payment for a single play;
initiating, in response to the payment, the single play; initiating, at the gaming device, a flat rate play session, wherein the flat rate play session is a period of play of the gaming device during which a player need not make funds available for any play, the period encompassing a plurality of plays;
determining, via a processor, a beginning time for the flat rate play session;
determining an end time for the flat rate play session upon a satisfaction of a predetermined condition, thereby determining a duration of the flat rate play session, such that the duration is a first duration if the predetermined condition is satisfied at around a first time and the duration is a second duration if the predetermined condition is satisfied at around a second time; and
stopping the flat rate play session upon determining the end time.
21. The method of claim 20, wherein determining an end time for the flat rate play session comprises determining that a predetermined number of plays have occurred.
22. The method of claim 21, wherein the duration is a first duration if a first period of time elapses from the beginning time before the predetermined number of winning plays have occurred, and the duration is a second duration if a second period of time elapses from the beginning time before the predetermined number of winning plays have occurred.
23. The method of claim 20, wherein determining an end time comprises: determining that the predetermined condition has occurred; and
setting the end time based on the satisfaction of the predetermined condition.
24. The method of claim 20, wherein initiating a flat rate play session comprises: configuring the gaming device to allow, during the flat rate play session, initiation of plays without requiring payment between the plays.
25. The method of claim 20, wherein stopping the flat rate play session comprises: configuring the gaming device to require payment between plays.
26. The method of claim 20, further comprising: extending the flat rate play session beyond the end time.
27. A device, comprising:
a processor; and
a storage device in communication with said processor and storing instructions adapted to be executed by said processor to:
receive, at a gaming device, a payment for a single play;
initiate, in response to the payment, the single play;
initiate, at the gaming device, a flat rate play session, wherein the flat rate play session is a period of play of the gaming device during which a player need not make funds available for any play, the period encompassing a plurality of plays;
determine, by the processor, a beginning time for the flat rate play session;
determine an end time for the flat rate play session upon a satisfaction of a predetermined condition, thereby determining a duration of the flat rate play session, such that the duration is a first duration if the predetermined condition is satisfied at around a first time and the duration is a second duration if the predetermined condition is satisfied at around a second time; and
stop the flat rate play session upon determining the end time.
28. A method of operating a gaming device, the method comprising:
initiating, at a gaming device that otherwise requires pre-payment for each play of the gaming device, a flat rate play session, wherein the flat rate play session comprises a period of time during which a plurality of plays may be initiated by a player without the player having to make funds available between plays, and further wherein the flat rate play session is of a variable duration, such that an end time for the flat rate play session is not determinable at initiation of the flat rate play session;
tracking, via a processor, plays initiated on the gaming device during the flat rate play session;
determining, based on the plays, that the flat rate play session is to be terminated; and
terminating the flat rate play session.
29. The method of claim 28, further comprising: determining the time at which the flat rate play session is terminated based on the plays, thereby determining the duration of the flat rate play session upon termination of the flat rate play session.
30. The method of claim 28, wherein determining that the flat rate play session is to be terminated comprises:
determining that a maximum number of plays has been initiated on the gaming device.
31. The method of claim 28, wherein determining that the flat rate play session is to be terminated comprises:
determining that a characteristic of at least one outcome of at least one play satisfies a predetermined condition.
32. The method of claim 28, wherein initiating the flat rate play session comprises:
receiving, from a player of the gaming device, a selection of the flat rate play session; and initiating the flat rate play session in response to the selection.
33. The method of claim 32, wherein the selection comprises a selection of an option from a menu of options output to the player via the gaming device.
34. A device, comprising:
a processor; and
a storage device in communication with said processor and storing instructions adapted to be executed by said processor to:
initiate, at a gaming device that otherwise requires pre-payment for each play of the gaming device, a flat rate play session, wherein the flat rate play session comprises a period of time during which a plurality of plays may be initiated by a player without the player having to make funds available between plays, and further wherein the flat rate play session is of a variable duration, such that an end time for the flat rate play session is not determinable at initiation of the flat rate play session;
track, by the processor, plays initiated on the gaming device during the flat rate play session;
determine, based on the plays, that the flat rate play session is to be terminated; and
terminate the flat rate play session.
35. A medium storing instructions adapted to be executed by a processor to perform a method of operating a gaming device, said method comprising:
initiating, at a gaming device that otherwise requires pre-payment for each play of the gaming device, a flat rate play session, wherein the flat rate play session comprises a period of time during which a plurality of plays may be initiated by a player without the player having to make funds available between plays, and further wherein the flat rate play session is of a variable duration, such that an end time for the flat rate play session is not determinable at initiation of the flat rate play session;
tracking, via a processor, plays initiated on the gaming device during the flat rate play session;
determining, based on the plays, that the flat rate play session is to be terminated; and
terminating the flat rate play session.
36. A system, comprising:
a controller operable to communicate with a plurality of gaming devices, the controller being further operable to:
initiate, at a gaming device of the plurality of gaming devices that otherwise requires pre-payment for each play of the gaming device, a flat rate play session, wherein the flat rate play session comprises a period of time during which a plurality of plays may be initiated by a player without the player having to make finds available between plays, and further wherein the flat rate play session is of a variable duration, such that an end time for the flat rate play session is not determinable at initiation of the flat rate play session;
track plays initiated on the gaming device during the flat rate play session;
determine, based on the plays, that the flat rate play session is to be terminated; and
terminate the flat rate play session;
the system further comprising the plurality of gaming devices.
Description

This application is a continuation-in-part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/719,344 filed Nov. 21, 2003, which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The invention relates to gaming machines generally, and in particular to methods of wagering on gambling devices for a predetermined, variable or indeterminate period of time or session length.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Gambling devices, such as slot machines, allow players to wager something of value in the hopes of winning something of greater value. Originally slot machines were mechanical devices employing three physical reels with various symbols painted or affixed to them. Upon inserting a coin and pulling a spring-loaded handle, the reels were set in motion and players were paid (or not) depending upon where the reels stopped and which symbols were displayed across the display portion of the machine.

Slot machines have evolved greatly since the original gaming devices discussed above. Most slot machines utilized today are electronic computers, and the symbols are displayed in video form. Players increasingly prefer video display slot machines over the traditional slot machines using mechanical reels. The video platform also offers more flexibility in development for manufacturers. The common term today for a gambling machine is a “gaming device”, and is used herein to include slot machines, video poker, and other gambling games whether reel, video or otherwise.

Newer video slots typically display five reels side-by-side that spin on a common axis instead of the traditional three (or more) mechanical reels. These newer video slots usually show three stopping positions of each reel yielding a visible matrix of three rows by five columns. Sometimes the number of reels and reel positions displayed differ.

Players typically wager on one or more paylines that run in different paths through the reel positions displayed. Unlike newer models of gaming devices, early slots paid only for matching symbols straight across the center (a single payline). The path of each payline usually takes one adjacent position of each reel, so on a five-reel game, the payline is usually five positions in length. Players may wager on multiple paylines and may even wager multiple credits per payline. Reel symbols occurring in various combinations on the paylines are compared to a predetermined payable combination to determine a win or loss. Often there are wild symbols that substitute for other symbols, and symbol combinations that trigger a bonus or feature game. Today, gaming machines may provide scattered pays, where certain symbol(s) pay anywhere in the visible display and are not required to occur on a payline. Traditionally wins are rewarded with monetary payouts from a coin hopper provided in the machine.

Second screen features (or more) are now common. A bonus “second-screen” game is usually separate and distinct from the normal reel display, and a player might select a car in a car race or scratch from a selection of video lottery tickets to earn credits, free games or anything of value. Some games even offer third screens or more, enhancing player interest and intrigue.

Some players have found ways to play consecutive games without manual intervention. Sometimes players wedge a toothpick or folded matchbook cover in such a manner as to keep the play button depressed. Provided they have sufficient credits, consecutive games play off by themselves. Although these players have basically fashioned an autoplay device, each game is still a single, discrete event that requires a separate wager.

The problem with autoplay gambling devices is that they are not interactive. By definition, what autoplay offers players is the ability to gamble largely without human intervention described in U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,244,957 and 6,012,983 to Walker, et al. In fact, once started, an autoplay player need not even watch the game, much less become involved with it. In general, the more interactive a gaming device is, the greater its entertainment value, and the more entertaining a game it is, the more players will play it. Autoplay does not offer the same excitement of playing manually. A serious shortcoming of autoplay-type games, is their lower entertainment value and the smaller set of players that would enjoy such a decidedly non-interactive gaming experience.

Other types of gaming devices offer side bets. For example, as disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 6,283,474 to de Keller, players play blackjack, but may wager separately who gets closest to a “21” point score. Similarly, in U.S. Pat. No. 6,019,374 to Breeding, a gaming device is provided which offers a side bet to participate in a super jackpot game. Side bets are just additional bets, and they are also discrete in that they are separate wagers on separate events.

Similarly, some gaming devices offer multiple bets. Triple play poker as described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,823,873 to Moody allows a player's held cards to be played as multiple poker hands with each draw performed independently, which usually results in three different outcomes. The drawback is each additional hand requires an additional wager, which can quickly become an expensive game for a typical player.

Regardless of the type or form of gaming device, whether reel slot, video game or some other type or combination, the method of wagering has remained largely the same for years. The player inserts coins or otherwise obtains credits on a machine, commits a wager and initiates play, and then is paid or not depending on the outcome. Although many new games are played today and new gaming-related methods and apparatus are being disclosed, the wagering methods are still based upon games that pay players directly in response to a single wager.

Slot machines today play in many different denominations. Credits on one machine might be worth I cent, while others are worth $100. Some machines today even allow you to select the denomination within the machine and to change it between games. One recent advance in slot machine technology has been the introduction of a credit meter. With a credit meter, a player could insert more coins than were needed to play a single game, and thus have a pool of funds to draw upon. Ten nickels inserted would yield ten credits, for example. Then, the player could play one game that required ten nickel credits, ten games that required one nickel credit each, or anything in between. The use of a credit meter also allowed winnings to be accumulated on the machine, instead of always being paid out in coins each time the player won. A player could rack up credits and then choose to cash out at their leisure by the use of a special button on the machine for this purpose.

In the 1980s and 1990s, slot machine manufacturers began adding currency acceptors to their machines. Players could now obtain machine credits by simply inserting paper currency. In recent years, manufacturers have even added devices that could dispense currency instead of, or in addition to, coins. (These are known as note hoppers and operate similar to bank cash machines or ATMs). Further, many newer machines pay players in paper tickets or scripts that may be redeemed elsewhere or reinserted into the same or similar machines that read and accept such paper. These are usually known as ticket-printer machines. Some machines may even accept or interact with credit cards or other cards that have value.

As a promotion, casinos sometime configure certain slot machines for tournament play. Slot tournaments are player versus player competitions administered by casino staff. Players gain entry through a variety of means, such as achieving VIP status in the casino's players club, paying an entry fee or simply for signing up. In these tournaments, players do not wager anything directly or at all, but person(s) with the highest credit scores receive something of value from the casino. Since there is no wager, the slot machines are set to a free play mode where the goal is to get more credits than the other players. Players are normally not paid directly for credits earned. Tournaments are marketing programs and not gaming devices, but they are important because they generate enormous excitement in players, who play as fast as they can.

Tournaments can also be an inconvenient hassle. They're only offered at certain times—if you can't be there at the right time, you can't play. They require significant staff oversight for setup and administration. Again, tournaments are marketing promotions and not self-managing gaming devices. Tournaments are also heavily marketed, which means a lot of hype and attention is focused on player participants and onlookers. This can be intimidating for those who prefer to play solo and/or out of the limelight.

Although many methods exist today for the player to obtain credits or otherwise enable a slot machine for play and a player may have many credits at their disposal at any point in time, each game is a single and discrete event that is initiated one at a time, usually by pressing a button or pulling a handle. Even games that offer more free games as an embedded feature within the game, or games that offer side bets are wagered one at a time. Each game costs a certain amount to play and unless a player has sufficient credits available, another game cannot be played, thus extremely limiting the time allowed on a particular gaming device.

Time on a particular device is a huge factor in the gaming industry today. Time on device is important not only for direct profits to gaming device operators, but also indirectly. The more time spent in one gambling property means more profit opportunities for the casino. Restaurants, shows, gift shops, hotel rooms, etc., all give the casino the chance for more profits. In general, the more time a player spends in a gaming establishment, the greater the likelihood they will return to spend additional money. Operators strive to keep you in their establishment, which generally means more profits, and they typically provide numerous incentives such as free or inexpensive food and drinks specifically for this purpose.

Marketing studies have revealed that players do not mind losing so much, as long as they can have a good time playing. Most casino gamblers don't really expect to win, but they do expect to play for a reasonable amount of time. This is entirely consistent with the gaming philosophy wherein gaming for the typical patron is more of an entertainment experience than a hardcore gambling experience. With the proliferation of casinos in America over the past 20 years, casino gambling has become mainstream entertainment. Perhaps the most important part of that entertainment value is “time on device”, or how long you get to play for your money. Thus, time on device is critical to a positive gambling experience.

Accordingly, recent attempts have been made to ensure greater time on device for players. Perhaps the most common method today on slot machines is to employ a very high mathematical hit frequency and a reduced payable. Especially in the newer video slots, hit frequencies approach 50% or more. In practice, this means you might bet 10 coins per line on 9 paylines (90 coins total) only to win 20 coins. Even though this is clearly a net loss for the player, the 20 is still advertised as a win. This trickling back of credits to the player takes their money more slowly, recognizes them as winners (even if they're losing) and extends their play time for a given amount of money to bet.

One problem with high hit frequencies is that player returns become meaningless. While time on device is generally lengthened, betting 90 to win 20 eventually becomes tedious and boring. Players are not ignorant and do realize that in these types of gaming products, they are not really winning, even if the machine displays “winner”, but rather—they have simply lost less. The reduced payable means the allure of big winners is diminished. The tradeoff of more common winners is smaller winners.

Another problem of multi-line, multiple coin-per-line games is confusing math. For example, a player may bet four coins per line on seven paylines of a nickel game and win 2 for 1 on payline three and 3 for 1 on payline six. In this example the player loses because the original investment was $1.40 (28 nickels) for a return of $1.00 (20 nickels). This type of gaming configuration is confusing to most players, and assessing the outcome can slow down or significantly reduce play.

The gaming industry recognizes the need for greater time on device, but has not identified a practical or cost effective method of how to provide it. Generating time on device is very important to Harrah's, one of the big Nevada casino operators, who will refund your first 30 minutes of slot losses under a program they call “Play an Hour on Us.” This program is offered when players sign up for Harrah's “Total Rewards” players club card. Obviously, this program is designed to promote time on device. There are many problems with this approach, but it shows how important it is for casino operators to elicit time on device from players.

Harrah's method is neither convenient for players or the casino. First players have to sign up with a casino marketing database which takes time. Subsequently a player is issued a player's club card that must be saved, carried and inserted into the slot machine while playing. Then a claim must be filed. It might take weeks to receive a reimbursement check, so these funds are not immediately available for rewagering. For the casino, this means establishing a player's club, adding card readers, networking the slot machines, maintaining huge tracking databases, employing additional personnel, and finally, giving up one-half hour's worth of potential slot machine earnings for every player enrolled. This method is thus time consuming and burdensome for the casino and players that use the casino's facilities.

Thus, it is a long felt need in the field of gaming machines to provide a cost effective gaming device which guarantees a minimum amount of time, chances or winning opportunities for a player.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

It is one aspect of the present invention to provide a guaranteed amount of playing time on a gaming device. Unlike the complicated methods used in the past to secure greater time on device, this invention is straightforward and easily implemented and additional game time may be won or extended based on a player's success.

The present invention thus promotes player interaction and once initiated, is not “credit” dependent. Thus, this invention is much better than an autoplay device, which is really no better than wedging a toothpick in a play button of an electronic video slot machine. Further, in another aspect of the present invention, a player is only required to make a single wager to play multiple games. This is a significant improvement over games offering side bets or multiple bets.

It is another aspect of the present invention, the players are allowed to keep all their winnings during the purchased game time or session. It thus incorporates all of the thrills of a slot tournament promotion without staff administration. In a preferred embodiment, you do not compete against other players, but you play directly against the house and the player keeps all of the winnings.

Furthermore, the present invention simplifies betting and payouts. In the preferred embodiment, all paylines are automatically covered and the payouts are in dollars, so there is less confusing math of credit multipliers for players to deal with and attempt to understand. This methodology simplifies and speeds play; and promotes a favorable gaming experience for players.

In yet another aspect of the present invention, a skill component is added to traditional gaming experience. To maximize winnings, players must acheive predetermined goals within a certain amount of time, within a certain number of spins or within a predetermined subset of the game session cycle. A more successful player may obtain more opportunities than another player. This additionally may satisfy the requirement that games involve skill which is required for approval in certain gaming jurisdictions.

It is another aspect of the present invention that the gaming experience be highly interactive. Thus, the game requires players to be there physically to start each and every game within the purchased time period to get the most for their money. This interaction insures a higher level of player involvement.

It is still yet another aspect of the present invention to provide a wagering system that can be applied to nearly any existing gaming device. Existing slot machines may be modified to provide a play session, yet still keep many or most characteristics of the original. The purchase of a variable play session instead of individual or prepaid games can be employed in many gambling situations. It can be offered in virtually any slot machine, whether mechanical, video reel or otherwise. It works equally well in video poker, video blackjack and other gaming devices. Accordingly, existing play methods, except for the wager, can remain unchanged and thus are cost effective for casinos.

It is another aspect of the present invention that the device be useful in gaming markets where “loss limits” are in effect. In the Netherlands, for example, games must be designed so that the expected loss rate does not exceed 50 guilders per hour. Thus, this invention can simplify regulatory compliance with time standards and loss limits in certain gaming jurisdictions.

It is another aspect of the present invention that the gaming methodology may be useful in dealing with problem gamblers. Thus, by defining in advance the cost of play for a given period, players are less likely to get carried away with their betting. Today it is often difficult for players to assess the cost of playing over extended periods of time, since that requires timing individual games, monitoring play rates and tracking wagers that casual players are ill-equipped to do. In fact, electronic devices to assist players are generally prohibited by casino operators. With this invention, a player's monetary risk over time is clearly known in advance. These features could minimize a casino operator's liability for problem gamblers, as well.

Thus the present invention offers players chances to lengthen their gambling session, granting them more winning opportunities, often for a fixed bet, while lessening or at least quantifying their risk for an equivalent amount of play in advance while providing the same, similar or competitive earnings to casino operators.

The present invention offers a player the chance to win additional play time or more chances to win during play. In an alternative embodiment, extended play time is granted for getting certain symbols. Unlike simply winning free games, which usually play off automatically, this method of extended play time can add urgency and involve a skill component, leading to greater excitement.

In another aspect, the present invention lets a player accumulate their winnings throughout their play session. Further it often does not cost anything additional to play the next game within the pre-purchased time cycle. All wins are retained and accumulated and are thus not dwindled away by additional bet requirements, because in most embodiments they'll only bet once per session and accumulated winnings are counted automatically.

Further, one embodiment of the present invention lets players more easily evaluate their wins or losses over a period of time. At the end of their purchased time period, players may easily compare their investment to their final return. This is not always easy to do when continually feeding in coins and currency, and playing off credits won from the credit meter. Thus, the gaming experience is less complicated and easier for players to understand.

Furthermore, the present invention strengthens a player's self image. In recent years, the percentage of a casino's floor devoted to lower denomination machines has increased drastically due to the proliferation of multi-line, multiple coin-per-line video slots. Dollar denominated slot players hold greater esteem than nickel players. While 90-coin nickel players might bet $4.50 per game and $50 per minute or more, they're still perceived as lowly nickel players. Since this invention will usually require a greater initial wager ($20 in the preferred embodiment), but usually less over time, it restores and enhances the psychological self-image of the high roller at a reasonable price.

It is another embodiment of the present invention to minimize coin handling and speed game play. In one embodiment, this invention requires only a single bet for one a minimum of 5 slot machine spins. Games today play around five seconds each, so that's potentially 12 bets per minute.! If not enough credits are available, play is slowed by adding coins or currency. In the preferred embodiment, the bet decision is only made once, so players can focus less on paying and inserting coins and more on playing. Thus, the gaming experience is easier and faster to play. Certainly wagering time is reduced.

It is still yet another embodiment of the present invention to provide a variable session-length slot machine wherein the amount of playing time is substantially random. There are generally three main factors in the area of time-based gaming devices: (A) the wager, which can be thought of as a prepayment for a minimum number of reel spins (or other gaming events), (B) the term or length of the game-play cycle, which may be fixed, variable, unknown, unstated or otherwise indeterminate, and (C) the termination event(s), which dictates the end of the game-play cycle or session. With a slot machine the number of spins may be determined by events unfolding within the game itself. A session play machine might be entirely variable, wherein the time or number of spins a player receives for their bet is entirely unknown. Alternatively, a session-play machine might be partially variable and partially fixed as described above. An example of a typical variable play machine is where a player purchases one minute of play time or a guaranteed minimum of N spins, but events within the game trigger more play time. More specifically, randomly occurring symbol combinations may trigger extended play time. Thus, this embodiment of the present invention has both fixed and variable components. The fixed part may be known at the time of wager, while the variable part is unknown. A game with variable play time then refers to an unknown time period of play, session length or winning opportunities for a given wager. Preferably, in one embodiment, a player plays until they accumulate a predetermined number of game-terminating symbols, whereupon the game is over. In addition, game-extension symbols may be added which either (a) counteract the game terminating symbols thereby increasing play time, or (b) increase the number of terminating events required to end the session. Accordingly, the number and nature of terminating events required to end a session may be fixed, pretermined, unknown or variable.

As previously mentioned, there are at least three main parts to the games contemplated herein: the wager (prepayment), the term of play, and the terminating event. Reel spins and symbol occurrences do not necessarily dictate the actual length of the play cycle. Other aspects within the game may determine termination, and hence the actual amount of play time achieved. For example, spinners, wheels, cards or dice might be used instead of, or in addition to, symbols appearing on reels. These may occur anywhere and at any time during a session. One embodiment of the present invention allows a user to purchase additional time or spins if, for example, a player achieves something of value, such as an advanced level (usually involving a higher expected payback), and they wish to continue play at that level in exchange for an additional investment.

The time purchased can be infinitely adjusted from one event or more. Depending on the nature of the gaming device, an event may be a spin, a roll of the dice, a draw of the cards, a session, or any subset, or additional play set. The cost to wager can also be infinitely adjusted, depending upon the nature of the game. There is no requirement that this invention yield the house or player the same mathematical advantage as any other game, but rather this advantage can be greater, equal to or less than any like or dissimilar gambling device. In fact, there may be no mathematical advantage at all, and various embodiments of this invention may be used as a promotional means.

It should be pointed out that there is an enormous potential benefit to time-based or session-play slot machines that may not be readily apparent. Some gaming markets in the United States have bet limits. For example, in Colorado there is currently a $5 bet limit on slot machine play. That limit normally applies to each pull of the handle (if equipped), or each spin of the reels, including any embedded features or bonuses. Using this invention, it is possible to design a game that costs $20 to play, provided that the game assures the player of at least four spins and thereby meet the $5 bet limit, which is a jurisdictional requirement.

Another advantage of these buy-a-session games, including variable play-time games, is that they open up a whole new world of gaming device design possibilities. Previously there was virtually no such thing as accumulating wins from multiple reel spins from a single bet, except when free spins were (infrequently) won. Now, new game design possibilities are limited only by the imagination.

Thus, it is one aspect of the present invention to provide a method of playing a variable-session length gaming machine which comprises:

a) initiating a variable period of play for a predetermined game operating on said gaming machine;

b) displaying game play information for said predetermined game on a video monitor or by other means;

c) interacting with a player by data selectively entered by a player on an input means;

d) displaying at predetermined times at least one game-terminating symbol or event;

e) determining an outcome of said predetermined game based on information stored in a storage means of said gaming machine;

f) displaying game results periodically; and

g) ending said variable period of play when a predetermined number of game-terminating symbols or events occur.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a flow chart showing one embodiment of a method of providing a variable duration wagering experience on a slot machine;

FIG. 2 depicts one embodiment of a screen display that might be used on a video gaming device which incorporates the present invention;

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

FIGS. 1-2 herein show a gaming machine which is capable of providing a user a variable play session or time session wherein a plurality of games, spins or opportunities to win can be obtained with a single wager. In addition, the play time or play session may be reduced or expanded pursuant to the occurrence of random symbols, random events or other events or symbols obtained, directly or indirectly, though the use of player skill, player creativity, ingenuity or by additional wager. The present invention employs a unique and novel method of wagering on slot machines and other gaming devices. Instead of a player purchasing single games individually with coin, credit or other means, a player buys a session of 2 or more spins of a slot machine. By purchasing a session on the gaming device instead of individual games, there is no longer a direct relationship between a single game and the wager. Thus, the present invention guarantees time on device. By purchasing time on a gaming device instead of individual games, players are assured of a certain minimum length of play.

A variable time gaming device is typically one where the player does not know at the time of wager precisely how much play time or number of winning opportunities they'll get for their money.

In one alternative embodiment of the present invention, the game employs a game termination feature. The initial wager enables play for an indeterminate length with play ending only after the player has accumulated a predetermined, variable or otherwise, number of game terminating symbols over the course of 2 or more spins. (In poker this might be when the player has drawn a number of game terminating cards.)

Referring specifically now to FIGS. 1-2, a player makes a single wager to purchase an unknown number of reel 16 spins, wherein 5 accumulated strike symbols terminate the game play cycle or session. Often the reels are designed so only one strike can occur on any given spin. After spinning the reels, win credits if any are posted to a current spin wins meter 18. All wins throughout the session are accumulated on a total wins meter (or session wins meter), too. Strikes comprising terminating events affect remaining lives (possible termination events allowable) are shown, too. Thus an interplay of lives remaining and termination events occurs throughout the game adding interest and intrigue and both or either may go up and down during the game session.

Referring again to FIGS. 1-2 a player inserts $100 into the gaming device and 100 dollar credits are posted to the credit meter 10. Pressing the bet button 12 deducts 20 credits leaving a balance of 80 and the remaining meters reset to 0. The player presses a game activation or spin button 14 and the reels 16 spin. All reels stop after an elapsed time, and the resting symbols are evaluated against a pay table to determine winners. Any winnings post to a current win meter 18 and accumulate on an accumulated in meter 20. Pressing the game play button 14 again starts the next games and the cycle repeats until the player accumulates a number of predetermined terminations symbols (here strikes 22) whereupon all wins post and the session is over. Session wins if any are posted to the players available credit meter 10, which are available for rewagering or cashout. All session events may be accompanied by suitable audio or video effects.

Extended play may be granted in the form of time, additional credits, the reduction or one or more accumulated game terminating symbols or events, credits against future game terminating symbols or events, restoring lives lost, granting new or additional lives or by other means. There may be an extended play meter recognizing more spins or winning opportunities granted 24 or remaining.

Referring to FIG. 2, instead of accumulating termination symbols on the reels, a player may start buying a number of lives. Session play ends when all lives are lost. A separate video game may be played concurrently on a separate display means where game terminating symbols or other events occur.

Terminating symbols may be reel symbols, indicators, counters or other events or combination of events in a base game or any subsequent game segment or portion or secondary game concurrently played, after the fact or in second or third screen bonus rounds. Likewise, lives may be lost or regained in any portion of play.

In another embodiment to the present invention a time- or session-based jackpot, predetermined or progressive, may be offered. For example, a player may be rewarded with additional time or credits for achieving ten consecutive wins within their pre-purchased time of play. Alternatively, a consolation prize may be awarded for ten consecutive non-winning games. In a progressive jackpot fashion, a paytable or their awards may increase in value depending upon the length of time or number of events through which they have gone uncollected. For example, obtaining a predetermined number of green clover symbols might normally pay a fixed award of $100. With a time-based progressive, that award might increase by $1 for every minute played on the gaming device. Depending upon the mathematical hit frequency of the game, this progressive jackpot might have an expected value at payoff of $150 or greater. When it does hit, it automatically resets to its starting value of $100 and starts incrementing again. Another game may reward players for achieving a number of spins within a session, and a special counter means may be used to this end. Said reward may be a progessive jackpot, mystery award, additional winning opportunities or anything of value.

Alternatively a maximum number of spins or winning chances may be provided for in alternative embodiments of this invention. Some game events or outcomes may be construed or described as negative in perception or in fact.

Referring to another embodiment of the present invention session play may be sold for use with a video draw poker gaming device. Instead of wagering on individual (or multiple) hands of video poker, in this game referred to as “Speed Poker”, players purchase time on the video poker device and play as many hands of video draw poker as possible before drawing the Queen of Spades 9 times. Since draw poker alone inherently requires skill, adding a time constraint may be especially intriguing to the accomplished player. Extended play time, second-screen feature games or other bonuses may be granted for achieving certain cards or hands, a certain number of winning (or losing) hands or even randomly within the pre-purchased time period or session.

Other cards or events may comprise game termination. A death card may be added to the traditional playing card deck in poker. Or, a wild card may be added that in addition to it's substitution role for any card as a traditional wild also functions as a death card and terminator, taking 1 or more lives, chances or opportunities away. This would be especially interesting since wild card game events are usually good, but could be bad at the same time in this usage. Thus a game known as Killer Wild could be a new and unique embodiment.

In yet another variation of video poker a player may purchase lives that expire upon any losing hand. Thus a losing hand becomes a terminating event. Assuming arbitrarily that nine lives is the maximum purchase at time of wager, any nine losing hands would constitute termination of the game play session. Effectively then, players would play until they lost nine times. This type of poker game may be combined with any other poker nuances, bonuses, features or combinations that the specific game would allow. For example, the poker pay tables may increase in value as each life expires, such that after eight lives are expired, the player is playing for maximum stakes. Alternatively, the increases in pay table values may be stepped in a predefined manner, or substantially random and variable! Pay tables may even increment and decrement. Application to other card games is also anticipated.

In a related embodiment of the present invention, game-extension symbols are provided which counteract the game-terminating symbols thereby extending the play time and session length. In a slot machine embodiment of the present invention, preferably, the game-termination symbols are in the form of bombs, wherein five bombs will end the game. In theory, obtaining five bomb symbols could occur in as little as a single spin of the reels on a five reel slot machine. Also in theory, a player might never obtain five bomb symbols, so that infinite play time is achieved with a single wager. In practice, however, the gaming device is designed so that the player on average receives an agreeable number of spins for their bet, that is, a minimum play-time. Statistical methods are generally used to ensure a pre-determined house advantage over the long term. Alternatively, a slot machine might grant the advantage to the player if the game is intended for use as a marketing device with the goal being attention, interest and excitement, rather than profits to the operator. These kinds of games are often referred to as “shill” games that draw in onlookers that presumably will play other nearby games hoping to have similar success.

In still yet another embodiment of the present invention there is a relationship between the number of spins and the amount of time a player will receive, but that relationship is specific to the game being played. In games employing a count-down clock or timing means, an optimal number of spins is found which is used to find the maximum statistical average payback possible to players. In games not employing a count-down timing means or that require player interaction, actual play times may be highly variable and time itself may not be important to the game. Especially in the case of slot machines with second-screen bonuses and other embedded features that require player interaction, the relationship between time and spins can vary greatly.

Another alternative embodiment, and perhaps one more easily understood in the United States or Japan, would be a baseball-themed slot machine game. Accumulating three random strike symbols would constitute one out and upon achieving three outs the game play cycle would be ended. In such a game the player is assured of at least nine spins.

Other games may exploit the plus/minus interplay of game-termination symbols and lives or chances remaining. Play may also be paused to allow player interaction at any suitable time.

Another embodiment similarly allows players to buy a number of lives that expire due to various events within the game session. However, during the course of the game session, tools are accumulated which can be used in the current or a later game portion. For example, reel 5 may contain special symbols such as arrows, shovels or dynamite which are accumulated throughout the game session. When the normal game play session is terminated, the player is able to use the gathered tools to assist in a subsequent game portion. As an example only, this subsequent game portion might consist of a video mining game where the player uses the tools to navigate below ground to reach pockets or gold or find jewels that award credits. Similarly, reel symbols, tools or combinations might grant lives to be used in the current or subsequent game portion. The rules governing acquisition and use of tools may be game or game segment specific. For example, symbols or combinations may or may not have to occur on a winning pay line to be acquired or not, as the case may be, and tools or lives may even be granted randomly.

In another embodiment, a player may purchase a variable play session without the explicit use of game termination symbols. A minimum number of winning opportunities with the session, such as slot machine reel spins, may simply be assured at the time of wager, and random, regular or irregular game extension symbols or events may extend the session to achieve more variable play time. In this case, game termination symbols or events are simply implied as being equivalent to slot machine reel spins. For example, a bet of $5 might guarantee at least 5 spins on a slot machine. Achieving certain symbols or other events, random or otherwise, may simply grant one or more additional spins, other chances to win or otherwise extend the play session. This embodiment has the advantage of deflecting player attention from session termination to extension.

In another embodiment, the number of lives may be a selectable player option. For example, the number of lives may be sold along with (or separately from) the selection for the number of Credits per Line played at the time of wager. Other means may be ascribed to letting the player choose the number of lives at the time of wager, or at other times during a play session.

A player may decide the nature of game termination events. In one example, in a baseball themed game it may be strikes that normally comprise termination events. However, if a player elects outs instead (which take 3 strikes each), then game attributes such as the paytable or hit frequency may be reduced to compensate. Consider if a player gets 9 chances (lives) instead of 3 it follows that the pay schedule may be reduced to ⅓ and still retain the same or a similar house advantage for the operator. Statistical methods may be used in game design to achieve a lower hit frequency by varying the nature or number of symbols on the reels that affect the number of winning combinations, for example. Or, any combination of these or other methods may be used to offset different player selections. Naturally the player may have similar choices in the number, behavior of or nature of extension events as well.

The physical workings of the devices incorporating the invention and embodiments are described herein. First, there is an enclosure which contains the component parts of the gaming device. The enclosure is a secured cabinet usually made of steel and typically offered in three styles: the traditional upright cabinet, the slant top cabinet intended only for seated play and the bar top which is fitted into a special cavity in a pre-existing bar. The enclosure and components together comprise a self-contained gaming device.

The cabinet enclosure is fitted with various input and output means. Inputs may be accomplished by inserting coins or currency, by inserting credit or player's club cards or by pressing buttons or touchscreen panels. Output means include bells and lights, audio and video, coin or currency dispensing functions and video monitor or reel displays.

A computer storage means such as a hard drive is typically locked inside of the cabinet and is not physically accessible to players. This computer hard drive stores critical game information such as the game program itself, random number generation means, game results and accumulated statistics. Other common computer data storage means are often used in addition to or instead of a hard drive. For example, critical logic and storage functions may be performed by or in conjunction with a CD-Rom drive, PROM (programmable read-only memory), promdisk (a computer chip that acts as a hard drive), RAM (random access memory) or other means.

Newer gaming devices may accept credit cards, or encoded player cards as legal tender acceptance means. In these cases a card reader is secured inside the cabinet in such a manner so that players may insert their cards from the device exterior. Credits may be deducted from the card's balance and posted to the gaming device, enabling it for play. Player card balances are often increased depending on the amount of game play. For example, a player might earn $5 for every $1000 wagered through participation in a casino's player's club, and that $5 may be posted to a player's card directly. Winnings may also be posted to a player's card.

A display monitor is also secured inside the cabinet so to be visible to the player. The display monitor is primarily an output device, or a means to report game results to players. However, in the case of newer machines, a monitor may be fitted with a touchscreen device that acts as an input medium. Players may thereby make their wagers or other game selections by touch instead of by button. Not all gaming devices are in video form, however, and mechanical reels or other means may replace a display monitor as an output device.

This invention may employ a clock or timing means. A traditional clock, digital timer or other means may be built into the device enclosure to time game play and report time remaining to players. Alternatively, said timing means may be shown on a display means.

Another output function relates to dispensing wins. Most gaming devices include a coin hopper mounted inside the enclosure to receive and payout coins or tokens. Pressing the cashout button, or the appropriate cashout indicator displayed on touchscreen, results in machine credits being paid out of the gaming device in coins or tokens or by other means.

Note that many new games now are referred to as “ticket in, ticket out”, such that legal tender acceptance means includes the acceptance of paper vouchers. Similarly, ticket printers may provide credit dispensing means.

Thus, the gaming device generally comprises an enclosure or cabinet that is generally secured by lock(s) to prevent internal access by players. Upon inserting suitable legal tender or its equivalent into a legal tender receiving means, credits are posted onto the gaming device. These credits are displayed on an output means, usually a video display monitor, but sometimes an LED or similar display. Touching appropriate buttons make game selections and initiate play. A random number generation program is called which selects an outcome, and that outcome is stored in a data storage means and displayed to the player on a video display or by other type of device according to the nature of the game. Often there are opportunities to improve the outcome as in an embodiment incorporating rules of video poker, or as in other forms of this invention whereby additional games may be played without rewagering. Sometimes there are secondary event or bonus features that require additional player input(s). When the game or game cycle is ultimately resolved, wins, if any, are posted to the credit meter 10 and are available for rewagering or cashout.

The embodiments shown may be combined or modified to create other games or to involve other methods that remain within the scope of this specification. For example, a double scatter pay may be employed such that one set of symbols grants the aforementioned extended play time and another grants the aforementioned second-screen clock feature. Side bets, multiple bets or additional time may also be purchased before, during or after the purchased time cycle.

To assist in the understanding of the present invention the following list of components and associated numbering found in the drawings is provided herein.

# Component
10 Credit meter
12 Bet button
14 Game activation button
16 Reels (five)
18 Current win meter
20 Accumulated wins meter
22 Accumulated termination events meter
24 Accumulated winning opportunities meter
26 Terminator symbol

While various embodiments of the present invention have been described in detail, it is apparent that modifications and abdications of those embodiments will occur to those skilled in the art. However, it is to be expressly understood that such modifications abdications are within the scope and spirit of the present invention, as set forth in the following claims.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
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US8512149 *Sep 27, 2010Aug 20, 2013IgtSystems, methods and devices for providing an indication of an amount of time a wagering game may be expected to be played given a specified bankroll or an estimated bankroll which may be expected to be necessary to fund play of a wagering game for a specified amount of time
US8616954Nov 17, 2009Dec 31, 2013Aristocrat Technologies Australia Pty LimitedMethod of gaming, a gaming system and a game controller
US20110077087 *Sep 27, 2010Mar 31, 2011Jay S. WalkerSystems, methods and devices for providing an advisory notice for a wagering game
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US20130324204 *May 30, 2012Dec 5, 2013Roger M. SnowMethods and apparatus for games that permit rewagering
US20130324232 *Mar 15, 2013Dec 5, 2013Shfl Entertainment, Inc.Methods and apparatus for games permitting payout allocation toward same-round wagers
US20140084543 *Sep 13, 2013Mar 27, 2014Shfl Entertainment, Inc.Methods and gaming tables for wagering games that permit rewagering
US20140100017 *Dec 10, 2013Apr 10, 2014Aristocrat Technologies Australia Pty LimitedMethod of gaming, a gaming system and a game controller
WO2009140567A1 *May 15, 2009Nov 19, 2009Mudalla Technology, Inc.Method and system for time gaming with skill wagering opportunities
Classifications
U.S. Classification463/25
International ClassificationA63F9/24
Cooperative ClassificationG07F17/32, G07F17/3269
European ClassificationG07F17/32M6, G07F17/32