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Publication numberUS20090253478 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 12/098,074
Publication dateOct 8, 2009
Filing dateApr 4, 2008
Priority dateApr 4, 2008
Also published asUS20100025931
Publication number098074, 12098074, US 2009/0253478 A1, US 2009/253478 A1, US 20090253478 A1, US 20090253478A1, US 2009253478 A1, US 2009253478A1, US-A1-20090253478, US-A1-2009253478, US2009/0253478A1, US2009/253478A1, US20090253478 A1, US20090253478A1, US2009253478 A1, US2009253478A1
InventorsJay S. Walker, Robert C. Tedesco, Jeffrey Y. Hayashida
Original AssigneeWalker Jay S, Tedesco Robert C, Hayashida Jeffrey Y
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Group session play
US 20090253478 A1
Abstract
Session blackjack is modified by providing group sessions of blackjack in which each player may purchase a separate session of blackjack and cooperatively or competitively play towards group awards based on game play within the respective sessions of the group players.
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Claims(34)
1. A method comprising:
providing a table adapted to play a card game thereon for a plurality of players;
receiving a first payment from a first player in exchange for providing to the first player a first session of game play at the card game, wherein the first session of game play comprises at least a first minimum number of hands provided to the first player without the first player being required to risk additional value to place wagers within the first session;
receiving a second payment from a second player in exchange for providing to the second player a second session of game play at the card game, wherein the second session of game play comprises at least a second minimum number of hands provided to the second player without the second player being required to risk additional value to place wagers within the second session;
establishing a group table game session for the first and second player; and
making available a group session benefit available only to players participating in the group table game session.
2. The method of claim 1 wherein the benefit comprises a first payout ratio better than a second payout ratio available to players not participating in the group table game session.
3. The method of claim 1 wherein the benefit comprises a first type of payout that is not available to players not participating in the group table game session.
4. The method of claim 3 wherein the first type of payout is a bonus for achieving a goal within the session.
5. The method of claim 4 wherein the goal is an accumulated number of outcomes of a certain type or cards of a certain type.
6. The method of claim 3 wherein the first type of payout is awarded only to one of the first and second player based on a competition.
7. The method of claim 6 wherein the competition involves achieving a goal within the session.
8. The method of claim 7 wherein the competition involves accumulating a number of game elements.
9. The method of claim 8, wherein the accumulated game element is at least one of an outcome of a certain type, a card of a certain type, and a balance of chips.
10. The method of claim 1 wherein the benefit comprises a rule change that is more advantageous to players participating in the group table game session than rules available to players not participating in the group table game session.
11. The method of claim 1 wherein the benefit comprises a reduction in one or more of the first payment and second payment.
12. The method of claim 1 wherein the card game comprises blackjack.
13. The method of claim 1 wherein the card game comprises baccarat.
14. The method of claim 1 wherein the first session and the second session have substantially identical terms.
15. The method of claim 1 wherein the first session and the second session have substantially different terms.
16. The method of claim 15 wherein the first session allows a maximum wager per game play of a first amount, and the second session allows a maximum wager per game play of a second amount.
17. The method of claim 1 further comprising offering at the table standard play contemporaneously with group session play.
18. The method of claim 1 wherein the card game is 21, blackjack, or a variant thereof.
19. The method of claim 1 wherein the card game is baccarat.
20. A table comprising:
a playing surface on which a card game is played;
a user interface proximate the playing surface; and
a control system operatively coupled to the user interface and adapted to:
receive a first payment from a first player in exchange for providing to the first player a first session of game play at the card game, wherein the first session of game play comprises at least a first minimum number of hands provided to the first player without the first player being required to risk additional value to place wagers within the first session;
receive a second payment from a second player in exchange for providing to the second player a second session of game play at the card game, wherein the second session of game play comprises at least a second minimum number of hands provided to the second player without the second player being required to risk additional value to place wagers within the second session;
establish a group table game session for the first and second player; and
make available a group session benefit available only to players participating in the group table game session.
21. The method of claim 20 wherein the user interface outputs an indication of progress toward attainment of the group session benefit.
22. The method of claim 20 wherein the user interface may be used to redeem the group session benefit.
23. A method comprising:
providing a table adapted to play a card game thereon for a plurality of players;
receiving a first payment from a first player in exchange for providing to the first player a first session of game play at the card game, wherein the first session of game play comprises at least a first minimum number of hands provided to the first player without the first player being required to risk additional value to place wagers within the first session;
receiving a second payment from a second player in exchange for providing to the second player a second session of game play at the card game, wherein the second session of game play comprises at least a second minimum number of hands provided to the second player without the second player being required to risk additional value to place wagers within the second session;
establishing a group table game session for the first and second player; and
making available a group session payouts available only to players participating in the group table game session.
24. The method of claim 23 wherein the group session payouts are paid by a house entity.
25. The method of claim 23 wherein the group session payouts comprise bonus payouts not available to standard play players.
26. The method of claim 23 further comprising accreting a community pot.
27. The method of claim 26 further comprising funding the group session payouts with funds from the community pot.
28. The method of claim 23 further comprising seeding the community pot with house funds.
29. The method of claim 23 wherein the group session payouts are competitively awarded to the first player based on the first player beating the second player by some metric.
30. The method of claim 23 wherein the group session payouts comprise awarding a benefit to the first player from the second player.
31. A method comprising:
providing a table adapted to play a card game thereon for a plurality of players;
receiving a first payment from a first player in exchange for providing to the first player a first session of game play at the card game, wherein the first session of game play comprises at least a first minimum number of hands provided to the first player without the first player being required to risk additional value to place wagers within the first session;
receiving a second payment from a second player in exchange for providing to the second player a second session of game play at the card game, wherein the second session of game play comprises at least a second minimum number of hands provided to the second player without the second player being required to risk additional value to place wagers within the second session;
determining if the first payment and the second payment collectively exceed a predetermined threshold greater than zero; and
establishing a group table game session if the predetermined threshold has been exceeded.
32. The method of claim 31 further comprising making available a group session payouts available only to players participating in the group table game session.
33. The method of claim 31 further comprising making available a group session benefits available only to players participating in the group table game session.
34. A method comprising:
providing a table adapted to play a card game thereon for a plurality of players;
receiving a first payment from a first player in exchange for providing to the first player a first session of game play at the card game, wherein the first session of game play comprises at least a first minimum number of hands provided to the first player without the first player being required to risk additional value to place wagers within the first session;
receiving a second payment from a second player in exchange for providing to the second player a second session of game play at the card game, wherein the second session of game play comprises at least a second minimum number of hands provided to the second player without the second player being required to risk additional value to place wagers within the second session;
establishing a group table game session for the first and second player;
determining if both the first and second player have completed their respective sessions;
if the respective sessions are complete, determining whether a group benefit is to be resolved; and
resolving the group benefit.
Description
RELATED APPLICATIONS

The present application is related to the following patent and applications:

U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/990,094 filed Nov. 26, 2007;

U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/986,382 filed Nov. 8, 2007;

U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/974,901 filed Sep. 25, 2007;

U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/957,021, filed Aug. 21, 2007;

U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/952,728, filed Jul. 30, 2007;

U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/949,962, filed Jul. 16, 2007;

U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/948,848, filed Jul. 10, 2007;

U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/943,171, filed Jun. 11, 2007;

U.S. Pat. No. 6,077,163, issued Jun. 20, 2000;

U.S. patent application Ser. Nos. 11/293,016, filed Nov. 2, 2001 and 11/270,016, filed Nov. 9, 2005;

U.S. Provisional Patent Application Nos. 60/715,666, filed Sep. 9, 2005 and 60/865,273, filed Nov. 10, 2006; and

U.S. Patent Application Publication Nos. 2003/0064807; 2006/0217176; 2006/0211479; 2006/0211480; 2007/0129149; and 2007/0129141;

PCT Application No. WOUS07/796,697, filed Sep. 27, 2007;

PCT Application No. WOUS05/28383 filed Aug. 10, 2005.

Each of the above applications and patent is incorporated by reference in its entirety.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention is related to group play of blackjack and more particularly to group play of a session of a predetermined number of hands of blackjack for a predetermined price.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 illustrates a top plan view of a blackjack table suitable for use with at least one embodiment of the present disclosure.

FIG. 2 illustrates a flow chart illustrating a method of implementing at least one embodiment of the present disclosure.

FIG. 3A illustrates a session chip for use in the embodiment of FIG. 2.

FIG. 3B illustrates a play token for use in the embodiment of FIG. 2.

FIG. 4 illustrates a top plan view of a second blackjack table suitable for use with a different embodiment of the present disclosure.

FIG. 5 illustrates a block diagram of components of the table of FIG. 4.

FIG. 6 illustrates an exemplary method set forth as a flow chart using the table of FIG. 4.

FIG. 7 illustrates an exemplary screen shot of the table of FIG. 4 in the middle of a session.

FIG. 8 illustrates a high level flow chart of a group session.

FIG. 9 illustrates a flow chart of establishing a group session.

FIG. 10 illustrates a flow chart of group game play.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

The present disclosure describes how groups of players may enjoy a group session of blackjack. However, before explaining what a group session of blackjack might be like, an introduction to session play, and particularly, session play of blackjack is in order and is provided with reference to FIGS. 1-7. Once session play is presented, the variations that are possible in a group session are explored. The discussion of group session play begins at FIG. 8.

In traditional blackjack, a player determines a wager for each hand, places the wager, helps resolve the hand that the player is dealt after game initiation, and collects any winnings. The player repeats the process for each hand. A side effect of this process is that the player may not know how long or how many hands the player will be able to play for a given budget. For example, if the player plays poorly or has a string of bad luck, the player may exhaust her budget rapidly in a minimal number of hands. Conversely, a player who plays well or has a string of good luck may extend her playing time through a large number of hands, and may even walk away from the table with more money than she had before playing.

The Assignee of the present disclosure is also the owner of previously incorporated U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/990,094, which describes how a player may purchase a session of a predetermined number of blackjack hands for a predetermined price and play such hands at a blackjack table. Highlights of that disclosure are reproduced herein. In some embodiments, each such hand may be restricted to a predetermined maximum wager amount. Thus, based on the parameters of the session, the player knows how many hands the player will be able to play at a given wager without having to worry about the vagaries of luck or how skillfully the player is able to play. In an exemplary embodiment, the predetermined price of the session is less than the cost of buying each hand individually.

The concepts of the session play may be applied to a simple blackjack table 10 as illustrated in FIG. 1. The blackjack table 10 may have a planar top surface 12. A dealer station 14 is positioned on one side of the blackjack table 10. The dealer station 14 may include a place for the dealer to stand, a chip rack 16, a card shoe 18, a slot 20 for a drop box (not shown, but typically secured to the underside of the table 10), a discard collection area 22, and a dealer hand area 24. Note that not all of these elements are necessary for a dealer station 14. Likewise, additional elements or repositioning of these elements is contemplated as being within the scope of the present disclosure. For example, a device that provides an alert when the dealer is dealt a natural blackjack could be added.

The chip rack 16 includes tubes or slots sized to handle a number of chips as is well understood. In practice, chips of differing denominations are placed in different tubes or slots. The dealer removes chips to pay winning wagers and collects chips into the chip rack 16 as the dealer collects losing wagers.

The shoe 18 may include a shuffler or just dispense cards as is well understood in the casino industry. The shoe 18 may be a single deck shoe or a multi-deck shoe as desired, although usually shoes will be used only for four or more decks.

The slot 20 provides a place for dealers to insert cash into the drop box. Typically, the dealer accepts cash from a player, provides chips to the player corresponding to the cash received and inserts the cash into the slot 20. A pit boss or other supervisory personnel may view and/or record the transaction to assist in the accounting of the gaming establishment. This process and the use of such drop boxes are well understood in the casino industry.

Discard collection area 22 may be used to collect used cards after completion of a hand. The cards may be stacked neatly on the table surface or passed through an aperture into a locked container for later inspection and disposal as is well understood. Other discard collection mechanisms are also possible without departing from the scope of the present disclosure.

Dealer hand area 24 is the space into which the dealer deals his own hand. The dealer hand area 24 may have square indicia printed on the top surface 12 so that it is clear that cards placed proximate thereto are the dealer's cards. Still other techniques of denoting the dealer hand area 24 are also contemplated.

A placard 26 may indicate the minimum and maximum bets, as well as any other rules particular to the blackjack table 10. Other rule indicia 28 may be printed on the top surface 12 as is well understood. A plurality of player stations 30 may be positioned at the table on a curved side opposite the dealer station 14. Each player station 30 may have a betting circle 32 printed on the top surface 12 as is well understood.

In a first embodiment whose methodology is illustrated in FIG. 2, the player approaches the blackjack table 10 (block 100). The player may view available sessions listed on the placard 26, verbally solicit a listing of available sessions from the dealer, or otherwise determine what sessions are available. Based on the available sessions, the player may purchase a session (block 102). The player may identify the session in myriad ways. The player may say she would like to buy a “50-hand session” or identify the session by a nickname or moniker displayed on the placard 26 (e.g., “Afternoon Blackjack Session”) or point to a session on the placard 26. To purchase the session, the player provides equity to the dealer, such as by providing the dealer cash. Alternatively, the player may provide a receipt for comp points, a promotional voucher, a voucher purchased from a kiosk, cashier station or through a web interface, a cashless gaming receipt, a line of credit marker from the casino, or other equity mechanism as is well understood. Based on the session purchased, the dealer may then issue the player session chips and play tokens (block 104).

For the sake of example, the player purchases thirty hands of five dollar wager blackjack for forty dollars. The dealer collects the forty dollars from the player, deposits the money in the slot 20 and issues the player one hundred dollars of session chips 34 (see FIG. 3A) and thirty play tokens 42 (see FIG. 3B). The value of the session chips initially provided to the player is called the initial value. A session chip 34 may include indicia 36 indicating that the chip is a session-only chip, wager indicia 38 indicating the value of the wager, and rules indicia 40 indicating any rules associated with the session chip 34 such as that the session chip 34 is non-negotiable (i.e., has no cash value). Note that session chips 34 may come in a variety of denominations to facilitate payouts. Note further that a player position may be indicated through indicia on the chip 34 (e.g., as illustrated, the chip belongs to player position seven).

A play token 42 is illustrated in FIG. 3B. In particular, the play token 42 may include indicia 44 indicating that the chip is a play token and rules indicia 48 indicating any rules associated with the play token 42 such as that it has no cash value and may only be used as part of session play.

Session play commences and the player places a session chip 34 and play token 42 in the betting circle 32 (block 106). The dealer deals out the hands and resolves the hand of blackjack (block 108). Resolving the hand may involve providing additional cards to the player if the player indicates a hit, adding cards to the dealer hand according to the house rules (e.g., dealer hits on soft seventeens) as is well understood. Special wagers such as splitting and doubling down are addressed below.

The dealer determines if the player won (block 110). If the player lost, then the dealer collects the session chip 34 (block 112) and play token 42 and determines if the session is over (block 114). The session is over if the player has exhausted all of his play tokens 42. If the answer to block 114 is no, the session is not over (i.e., the player still has play tokens 42), then the process repeats for the next hand. If however, the session is over, then the dealer accounts with the player (block 120) as explained in greater detail below. If the answer to block 110 is yes, the player won, then the dealer collects the play token 42 and awards the player a session chip 34 (block 116).

The dealer determines if the session is over (block 118) in much the same manner described above with reference to block 114. If the answer to block 118 is no, then the process repeats as indicated. If the answer to block 118 is yes, the session is over, then the dealer accounts with the player (block 120). Specifically, the player presents all of his collected session chips 34 to the dealer. The dealer then adds up the values on the session chips 34 and compares this winning total to the initial value of the session chips 34 issued to the player. If the winning total exceeds the initial value, the dealer may then provide the player chips having a cash value equal to the winning total minus the initial value.

As the above explanation may not be readily intuitive, an example is provided. Extending the example provided above, assume the player won twenty times during the thirty hand session. The player's total would be one hundred fifty dollars (assuming that winning hands pay one to one as is common in blackjack, and the player received no natural blackjacks and no pushes). This amount of one hundred fifty dollars is the winning total. In contrast, the initial value of the session chips is one hundred dollars. The player would thus be paid $50 in cashable chips (e.g., $150−$100=$50). Suppose, instead of winning twenty times, the player lost twenty times and won ten times. The player's total would then be $50, which is less than the initial value of $100, so the player is paid nothing, but has enjoyed about a half hour of game play.

If the session chips 34 have different denominations, it is relatively easy to account for pushes and blackjacks, which do not pay out at the same one to one odds as a win. While it is specifically contemplated that during the accounting step 120 the dealer will pay the player any winnings with conventional chips having a cash value (rather than the session chips 34), it is also possible that the dealer provides cash, a cashless gaming receipt, or other item that reflects the winnings of the player. For example, the winnings could be returned to the dealer to pay for a marker signifying a loan from the casino or other technique as desired.

Double downs and splits may require special rules to make the price point attractive. In a first embodiment, these options are simply not available to a player. In a second embodiment, the player is allowed to use an additional one of her play tokens 42 and appropriate session chips 34 to signify the split or the double down. Such usage has the effect of reducing the total number of hands that the player has in the session, but preserves the “action” purchased by the player for a given session in that the player is allowed to put the same amount of money into play during the session, but at the expense of total number of hands in the session. In a third embodiment, the player is provided a fixed number of special wager chips (not illustrated) which can be used for splits or double downs. In another example, the player may split and/or double down whenever the player desires (according to the standard rules of blackjack about the availability of such wagers). Still other techniques for accommodating such wagers are also possible.

While the embodiment of FIGS. 1-3B is one way that a player may experience session play for blackjack, the embodiment of FIGS. 1-3B is a bit simplistic and does not take full advantage of improvements in table technology that simplify and facilitate tracking the session as it evolves. Thus, a more robust table 50 is illustrated in FIG. 4.

The table 50 has a planar top surface 52 on which game play takes place. The table 50 further has a dealer station 54 and at least one player station 56 (seven shown). The dealer station 54 has space for the dealer to stand or sit and may include a dealer monitor 58, a discard collection area 60, a slot 62, a chip rack 64, a dealer hand area 66, a shoe 68, and a placard 70. The discard collection area 60, slot 62, dealer hand area 66, and placard 70 are substantially similar to the discard collection area 22, slot 20, dealer hand area 24, and placard 26 previously described although variations on the structure and arrangement on the table 50 are contemplated and embraced by the present disclosure.

The dealer monitor 58 may be a display as that term is defined in the Rules of Interpretation set forth below. It is particularly contemplated that the dealer monitor 58 has touch screen functionality. Alternatively a keyboard or other input mechanism may be provided (not shown).

Chips 72 may be positioned in the chip rack 64 and used throughout the table 50. The chips may include a radio frequency identification (RFID) tag or memory with an electronic circuit or processor and an antenna. The chip 72 may be similar or identical to those disclosed in U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,166,502; 5,676,376; 6,021,949; and 6,296,190, which are all incorporated by reference in their entireties. Gaming Partners International (GPI), of 1182 Industrial Road, Las Vegas, Nev. 89102 and Shuffle Master, Inc. of 1106 Palms Airport Drive, Las Vegas Nev. 89119 both sell RFID chips suitable for use with the table 50, although neither product is specifically required to practice the concepts of the present disclosure. The GPI chip uses a standard microchip made by Philips Semiconductors called the Vegas S, each of which has a unique serial number. The gaming establishment (e.g., casino) or other entity may associate values with each serial number. The association may be in a look-up table or the like. Alternatively, the unique identifier may be encoded to include information therein. Likewise, the chips 72 may be color-coded or include other indicia that indicate values to the player or dealer. The chips 72 may include further indicia similar to that previously described.

In use, the electronic circuit and antenna act as a transponder capable of responding to an interrogator (not shown). For more information about the operation of RFID chips, the interested reader is directed to the previously incorporated chip patents.

The chip rack 64 may be one such interrogator. An exemplary chip rack of this sort is made by GPI under the trade name CHIP BANK READER. Alternatively, the interrogators described in U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,814,589; 5,283,422; 5,367,148; 5,651,548; and 5,735,742—all of which are incorporated herein by reference in their entireties—could be used. Another RFID tag and interrogator suitable for use with at least some embodiments of the present disclosure are produced by Texas Instruments as the TAG-IT™ product line. An improved interrogator is discussed in U.S. Patent Application Publication 2006/0077036, which is also incorporated by reference in its entirety.

The shoe 68 may be an intelligent shoe such as the IS-T1™ and IS-B1™ or the MD1, MD2 sold by Shuffle Master or comparable devices. The shoe 68 may be able to determine which cards are being dealt to which player position through RFID technology, image recognition, a printed code on the card (such as a barcode), or the like. The particular technique used to recognize cards is not central to the present disclosure. Further information about intelligent shoes may be found in U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,941,769 and 7,029,009, both of which are incorporated by reference in their entireties and U.S. Patent Application Publications 2005/0026681; 2001/7862227; 2005/0051955; 2005/0113166; 2005/0219200; 2004/0207156; and 2005/0062226 all of which are incorporated by reference in their entireties. In place of an intelligent shoe, cameras may be used with pattern recognition software to detect what cards have been dealt to what player positions. One method for reading data from playing cards at table games is taught by German Patent Application No. P44 39 502.7. Other methods are taught by U.S. Patent Application Publication 2007/0052167 both of which are incorporated by reference in their entirety. Similarly, cameras may be used to detect when a chip, token, or lammer was given or removed from a specific player. This information may be helpful should the gaming establishment need to audit a session.

The player station 56 may include a player hand area 74, a betting circle 76, a player tracking mechanism 78, and a player display 80. The player hand area 74 is the area into which the dealer deals the cards for the player. Note that if the shoe 68 cannot or does not track the cards, it is possible to use RFID technology or other image recognition technology to determine what cards have been dealt to the player once the cards have been placed in the player hand area 74. The interested reader is referred to the previously incorporated application 2004/0207156. The betting circle 76 may further be associated with an interrogator so that chips 72 placed in the betting circle may be detected.

The player tracking mechanism 78 may be a card reader adapted to receive a magnetic stripe card such as is commonly used in gaming establishments. Alternatively, the player tracking mechanism 78 may be a smart card reader, an RFID interrogator that interrogates a player tracking RFID fob, or other device as desired.

The display 80 may be a display as that term is defined in the Rules of Interpretation set forth below. The display 80 may be a touch screen display and/or have associated input elements such as a keypad or keyboard. Collectively, the display 80 and any associated input elements are termed a player interface. Information about the player, about the session in which the player is participating, or other information may be presented on the display 80 as described herein. In a first embodiment, each player station 56 has its own display 80. In an alternate embodiment, all the player stations 56 at the table 50 share a single display 80 (not shown). Appropriate indicia may be used to distinguish which information relates to which player. In this embodiment, the display 80 may be positioned so that it is readily seen by each player. For example, the display may be vertically mounted proximate the placard 70. The display 80 may be a touch screen display or include a keyboard, keypad or other user input as desired. In still another embodiment, one or more player stations 56 share one or more displays 80 (not shown). While not shown, the player station 56 may also include a bill acceptor and/or a cashless gaming receipt device such as the TITO bill validating device such as a FutureLogic GEN2™ PSA-66 device configured to operate within an EZ-PAY™ system by IGT. Another variation is to use a mobile terminal such as a personal digital assistant, palm-style computer, cellular phone, hand held or laptop computer as a display.

The various electronic components of the table 50 may communicate with one another as better illustrated by the block diagram of FIG. 5. A central processing unit (CPU) or processor 90 may act as the brains of the table 50. The processor 90 is a control system as that term is defined in the Rules of Interpretation set forth below. The processor 90 may be part of the table 50 or may be remotely positioned therefrom. It is possible that the processor 90 may be a central server that controls multiple tables concurrently if desired. The processor 90 may be communicatively coupled to the various components through a network (not labeled) as that term is defined in the Rules of Interpretation set forth below, a bus, or other communication system as desired.

The processor 90 may control all the various components and perform all the calculations according to software stored in a computer readable format in a memory unit (not shown). For example, the processor 90 may receive data from the shoe 68 and or the interrogator associated with the chip rack 64. Such interrogator may be referred to as chip rack sensor 64A. Likewise, the processor 90 may control the player tracking mechanisms 78, the displays 80 and any sensors that track bets such as chip sensors 76A. Chip sensors 76A may be interrogators associated with betting circles 76. Alternatively, functions specific to individual player stations 56 such as control of the display 80, interpretation of data from the chip sensors 76A and the like may be controlled by player station processors 92. As yet another alternative (not illustrated), a single player station processor 92 may control all the player stations and a second processor 90 control the table such that the single player station processor 92 is a client for the processor 90.

While the table 50 is particularly contemplated, it may be possible to modify an existing table to include the functionality of some or all of the embodiments of the present disclosure. For example, PGI, with Shuffle Master and IGT, sells an intelligent table under the moniker INTELLIGENT TABLE SYSTEM™ together with software entitled TABLE MANAGER™. Other intelligent table systems sold by Progressive include the TABLELINK PLAYER TRACKING, TABLELINK CHIP TRACKING, TABLELINK GAME TRACKING, TABLELINK TOTALVIEW, and TABLELINK CUBE. Further intelligent table teachings can be found in U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,676,517 and 7,011,309 as well as U.S. Patent Application Publications 2002/0147042; 2003/0003997; 2005/0026680; 2005/0051965; and 2005/0054408, all of which are incorporated by reference in their entireties.

Against such an automated table 50, the dealer's tasks and record keeping associated with the play session are greatly eased and facilitated by the automation of the table. An example of an exemplary method of using such a table 50 is presented with reference to the flow chart of FIG. 6.

As before, the player approaches the table 50 (block 200). The player may view the placard 70, verbally communicate with the dealer, or otherwise become aware of the availability of session play. The player may insert a player tracking card into the player tracking mechanism 78. The player may then purchase a session (block 202). The dealer accepts money or other equity from the player (e.g., by accessing an account associated with the player tracking card or the like) and creates a session for the control system of the table 50 (block 204). The dealer may do this by entering the session information through the dealer display 58 (if it is a touch screen display), through a keyboard, or other input mechanism associated with the dealer station 54. Collectively, the display 58 and its associated inputs (either from the touch screen aspect or the associated input elements) are termed the dealer interface. The session information may be stored in a database or otherwise tracked by the processor 90. Session information may include player position, wager size, number of hands, any ancillary rules associated with the session (e.g., player may not split and/or may not double down). Other information may be included as desired. For example, the session may be associated with the player through the player tracking mechanism so that the player receives appropriate comp points or other benefits described herein for the session. Alternatively, the player may enter the session information through the player display 80. For example, the player may insert cash into a cash acceptor (not shown) to create a balance at the given player position 56. The player display 80 may then provide a menu of available sessions from which the player chooses one. The control system then creates the session for table and player.

The session parameters are then presented to the player on the player display 80 (block 206). Pertinent information may include the player's current balance associated with the session, a number of hands remaining, and other information as desired. The dealer provides the player with one or more session chips 72 (block 208). The session chips 72 have wager values associated therewith as described above. The session chip(s) 72 may be scanned by the dealer with an interrogator to associate the identifier within the chip with the session just purchased by the player. Alternatively, the dealer may type in a chip identifier as part of the process of setting up the session. While linking the session chip(s) 72 to the player and the session are specifically contemplated, such is not required.

The player places one or more session chips 72 in the betting circle 76 (block 210) where the interrogator 76A detects them (block 212). The interrogator 76A communicates the presence of the chip 72 in the betting circle along with an address to the processor 90 so that the processor 90 knows that player at the given player position is playing as part of the session. Likewise, the control system is able to derive the amount wagered by the player based on the information from the interrogator 76A. The processor 90 or other control system operating the method then updates the session information. Specifically, the player's current balance has the value of the wager deducted therefrom, the number of hands is decremented, and any other updates are performed as desired. The information on the player display is updated as well. For example, if the current balance is forty dollars, and the player wagers twenty five dollars as indicated by five $5 session chips 72, the current balance is decremented to $15.

The dealer and the player resolve the hand, and a determination is made by the processor 90 whether the player won the hand, and if so, what the payout is for the hand (block 214). The processor 90 can determine whether the player is a winner because the processor 90 has received inputs from the shoe 68 and/or the dealer that indicate which player has received which cards compared to the dealer's hand. Resolution of the hand is according to whatever version of blackjack is currently available at the table as modified by any session specific rules (i.e., the rules determine when the dealer must hit, what the odds are, when the player can split or double down, and the like). Based on whether the player won or not, the session information is updated (block 216). For example, if the player won, the balance is updated and displayed. Continuing the above example, if the player wins the twenty-five dollar wager, the balance is now updated to $65.

The processor 90 or other control system determines whether the session is over (block 218). If the answer to block 218 is no, the process repeats as indicated. If however, the session is over, then the dealer accounts with the player (block 220) by providing a payout to the player if the player is owed such. The payout may be in the form of a cashless gaming receipt, a voucher for an amount of money, chips redeemable at a cashier station for cash, or other mechanism as desired. The payout may be based on the current balance for the session.

One mechanism through which the exemplary methodology is facilitated is through the use of a negative credit balance. That is, the player starts the session with a credit balance of zero dollars. If the wager amount is ten dollars, then when the session is updated in block 212, the player's credit balance goes to negative ten dollars. If the player wins, the session balance is updated to positive ten dollars at step 216. If the player loses, the session balance remains at negative ten dollars until the next game start. If the player ends a session with a negative credit balance, the player owes the gaming establishment nothing; the player has already paid for the session, so the player can walk away from the table having experienced entertainment for his expenditure. More detail on the concepts of the negative credit balance for a flat rate play session can be found in U.S. Patent Publication 2007/0087818, which is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety.

Note, that during the accounting phase of the method, or when the processor 90 determines that the session is over, the session only chip 72 may be deactivated by the processor 90 and collected by the dealer. Further note that doubles, splits and the like may be processed similarly to the manner described above in that they may be prohibited; they may be allowed only a set number of times; their use may decrement the number of hands the player is allowed in the session; or they may be allowed freely, with the current balance decremented for their use but the number of hands unaffected. In this latter situation, the player may be provided necessary and sufficient number of chips 72 to allow the player to denote each split and double down wager appropriately.

FIG. 7 illustrates an exemplary table 50 in the middle of a session, essentially at block 214. The player display 80 has textual indicia 94 thereon showing the current session balance (negative thirty dollars) and the number of hands remaining (seventeen). As noted above, other information may be included or presented as desired.

Instead of using physical chips and cards, it is also possible that a virtual table or completely electronic table could be used. Such a device may allow numerous players to partake in rounds of gambling games, without any/all of a live dealer, physical playing cards, or physical wagering chips. Numerous such devices are currently available. For example, Shuffle Master, Inc. of Las Vegas, Nev. manufactures a multiplayer electronic table, marketed as the Table Master™. Such devices commonly utilize several display areas for facilitating game play (player screens for displaying virtual cards, chips, balances, rewards, tokens, etc.). In some embodiments, memory of a computing device associated with such a table may be loaded with software for executing processes of the present invention (e.g., administering multiplayer session play for games such as blackjack and baccarat). Tracking cards and wagers is simplified even further since the control system of such a table knows, a priori, what each player has wagered, how many hands remain, and what cards are dealt to what positions. Once a virtual table is contemplated, it is also possible that there is no table per se, but rather, each player may have a player station embodied in a mobile terminal with inputs to facilitate game play.

In between the simple table 10 and the smart table 50, there are myriad options available that may be used. For more information about variations on session play, the interested reader is directed to the previously incorporated Provisional Patent Application No. 60/990,094 filed Nov. 26, 2007.

Once the concept of session play is enabled at a table, group sessions may also be provided. A group session may be thought of as a plurality of linked individual sessions, where the link is more purposeful than merely sitting down at a table together. Rather, the players may take and affirmative step to create the link. This affirmative step may be in response to a query from a dealer or a control system, but does require more action from the player than merely selecting a table and sitting down at that table. The linkage can be cooperative or competitive and many variations on possible group rules are explored below.

A high level flow chart of an exemplary process of the present disclosure is provided in FIG. 8. The players initially approach the table (block 250), whether it be table 10, table 50, or a virtual table. A group is established (block 252) through the affirmative action of the players and in conjunction with each player's respective session. Game play is conducted according to the rules of the session (block 254). When the last person in the group finishes her session, the dealer or the control system then resolves any group benefits (block 256).

A more detailed version of establishing a group is set forth in FIG. 9. The players approach the table (block 300). Note that the players do not have to approach together. Likewise, in some embodiments, the players may not even be at the same table. For example, if the player interface is embodied in a mobile terminal, the player may not physically approach the table, but rather metaphorically approaches the table by launching the appropriate software on the mobile terminal.

The first player purchases her session (block 302). The second player purchases his session (block 304). Note that the purchase may be independent of one another or done concurrently. The dealer or control system asks if the players would like to participate in group play (block 306). The dealer may describe the rules of the group session along with the benefits that are provided for group play. If the control system is offering the group session, a pop up window or other menu item may appear with a similar offer and a textual or audible explanation of the group session.

The players assent (block 308) to group play. Note alternatively, the players may initiate the request for group play. This request may be verbal or electronic (e.g., made through the player interface from a menu or in response to a pop up advertisement or the like). In another embodiment, players are automatically grouped when they start a session. However, players may be provided an opportunity to opt out of the group. In still another embodiment, the player may be prompted to join an existing group, but if the player does not take an affirmative step to assent, the player is not added to the group.

The players review the rules for the group that has been established and the group session is established (block 310). Note that the first player may have already begun her session before the second player purchases his session, and the sessions do not have to be identical. That is, different wager amounts, different hand counts, or different rules may apply to the different sessions.

Note further that before the session is established, the group session may have to satisfy some criterion set by the gaming establishment. There may be a requirement that there be a minimum number of players, a maximum number of players, a minimum buy-in (e.g., the cost of the two sessions must exceed $100), a maximum buy-in (e.g., the cost of the two sessions must not exceed $5000), a buy-in level is required and this buy-in level may be a function of the number of players, a minimum session duration, a maximum session duration, a requirement that a session of a certain type be sold as part of the group, a date or time restrictions (e.g., group play is only available between 7 PM and midnight Thursday through Sunday), or some combination of these criteria. For example, group play may be available outside normal hours if the minimum buy-in is higher. Likewise, a minimum buy-in per player may be lower if there are more players. Variations and permutations on these criteria are contemplated and within the scope of the present disclosure.

Once the group session is established, the table may be configured to support the group play. Such configuration may be manual and may involve making physical alterations to the table, such as providing physical objects such as non-negotiable session chips, play tokens and the like. A session play identifier may be provided to each player involved in the session. If more than one session is operating concurrently, then different colored identifiers may be used to distinguish therebetween. Alternatively, some other indicia may be used to help distinguish between groups. If the table is a smart table 50 or a virtual table, then appropriate indicia may be presented on a display, such as player display 80 and/or dealer display 58, to show the information about the group session. Furthermore, LEDs (not shown) or other indicia may light up at the appropriate player positions to show that the player is involved in a group session.

An overview of game play is provided with reference to FIG. 10. As noted above, the table is configured (block 350). The rules of the session are explained to the players (block 352). This explanation may be provided orally from the dealer or textually through the player display 80. The players acknowledge the rules (block 354). This acknowledgement is optional and may take the form of an oral acknowledgement, a physical movement such as shaking her head or waving her hand, or through the player interface such as by pushing a button on a touch screen.

The cards are dealt (either virtually or physically) and the hands are resolved (block 356) according to the rules of the table and/or the session. If the group session has any special benefits provided for events within the group session, these events are tracked. For example, if the group receives a bonus payout if all players hit a blackjack on the same hand, then such an event would be tracked. The dealer or the control system determines if a session has ended for any player (block 358). If the answer is no, no session has ended, then game play repeats as noted. If however, a session has ended, the control system or dealer accounts with the player whose session has ended (block 360). The dealer or control system then determines if all the sessions in the group are finished (block 362). If the answer is no, then game play repeats as noted. If however, the answer is yes, all the sessions within the group have ended, then the session is concluded (block 364).

If there are any group rules, these may also impact the game play. For example, while normally it is contemplated that players may not trade session chips, within the group chips may be passed as desired. Alternatively, a limit may be imposed on how many chips may be passed (e.g., no more than $50 worth of chips may be added to any one player's chips stack). As another alternative, funds may only be shared at a certain point in the session (e.g., only during the last few rounds). As still another alternative, funds may be shared only when the donor and the donee are beneath the initial value of the session (e.g., each player was issued $100 worth of non-negotiable chips and both players are at $20).

Similar rules may apply to play tokens. That is, normally play tokens may not be traded, but within the group play tokens may be traded freely, or according to some rule. In still another variation, rules may be created for trading cards between members of the group. The card exchange may be a predetermined number of times per session, freely, or only a certain card (e.g., only aces may be traded). Still other rules may be provided for the exchange of cards within the group.

As noted above, there may be a variety of rules associated with the sessions. The sessions may have maximum bet amounts, minimum bet amounts, and/or conditional volatility (e.g., on certain occasions, players may be allowed to bet more than the maximum bet). The sessions may have fixed or variable length. The sessions may have various initial balances or cash out rules. The sessions may have various payout rules. The rules may scale based on the number of players involved in the group. For example, the more players, the higher the maximum bet might be (or vice versa).

There may be a variety of benefits for group play. That is, the players may be eligible for benefits to which they would not otherwise be entitled by virtue of events happening within the group session. One exemplary benefit is a modified payout schedule. For example, blackjacks may pay 3:1 for group session players. There may be end of session bonuses. A few exemplary bonuses are set forth, but the reader should appreciate that the types of bonuses and the criteria under which such bonuses are awarded may be varied without departing from the scope of the present disclosure.

One such bonus is that one player always wins. That is, at least one player is guaranteed to win a certain amount even if all the sessions of the group result in a loss. Another such bonus is a collection-based bonus where the players collect symbols, cards or outcomes. For example, players may collect blackjacks. As each player gets a blackjack in the course of game play, the player is awarded a marker (perhaps just an electronic flag on the display 80) that indicates how many blackjacks the player has accumulated. The player with the most blackjacks at the end of the session gets a bonus payout. Or the player with the most blackjacks gets an increased payout for blackjacks. As different players receive blackjacks, the bonus may move around within the group. As another alternative, blackjacks may trigger face down cards. That is, each time a player gets a blackjack, a card is taken from the shoe and placed face down in a pile for the player. At the end of the shoe, players are paid bonuses based on the best five card poker hand that can be assembled.

Still other possibilities are that bonuses may be paid if everyone wins. Or, players are entered into a bonus round at the end of the session with a bonus paid by the house. As still another possibility, the player with the highest balance at the end of her session is paid a bonus.

Instead of end of session bonuses, there may be mid-session bonuses such as an everybody wins on tiebreaking events. That is, when one player wins a tiebreaking event against the house, everybody wins a bonus. Likewise, there may be “gang up on the house” style bonuses, where there are dynamic payouts based on the number of players within the group that beat the house. Another bonus would a “worst to first” bonus where the player with the worst 2-card starting hand wins a bonus payout if he beats the house and/or all the other players. Still another bonus may be paid to any player who gets a predetermined number of consecutive wins.

Instead of bonuses being paid by the house, there may be a community pot. Players and/or the house may ante to a community pot that may be split between group members or won by one group member. The ante may work in any of a number of different ways. Each player may ante each round; the house may ante each round or merely seed the pot; wins may be taxed (e.g., a 5% commission is paid to the pot); different players ante each round (e.g., a button moves much like in Texas Hold Em); the player with the lowest two card starting hand must ante; the player with the worst final hand must ante; a player who busts must ante; the house matches a player's ante; and/or when the pot hits a certain threshold, the house doubles the pot.

The community pot may pay out at different events. Events described above such as receiving or collecting certain cards and/or outcomes, achieving winning hands of a certain type, finishing the session with the highest balance and the like may all be used to determine who wins the community pot. Still other ways of awarding the pot include a tiebreak winner getting a pot; a worst to first winner gets the pot; the winner of a bonus round at the end of the session; or comparable event could be used to award the pot.

Instead of cooperative play, the play within the group may be competitive. That is, players may win session chips from other players. Exemplary scenarios include “gang up on each other” style game play where the highest hand wins the lowest hand's wager or if there are more winners than losers on a given hand, losers have to pay the winners; “everybody pays a blackjack winner” where a player that wins a hand with a blackjack gets a normal payout from the house, and one chip from each player who does not have a blackjack; “worst to first” where the player with the worst two card starting hand wins wagers from every other player if he beats all other players; “best takes worst” where the best player hand wins the worst player's hand's wager; some form of tie breaker between player hands such as when two players beat the dealer's eighteen with tied nineteens—a tie breaker event concludes that one player wins his bet and the other player's bet; or the like.

Other tie breaker events may include where two players lose to the dealer, a tie breaker determines that one player keeps his bet, while the loser forfeits his bet to the house (or the other player). Tie breakers may be resolved through another random event, player position (e.g., the player to the left always wins ties), or the like. Limitations may be put on the use of tie breaker events such as only the highest valued tie is eligible for a tie breaker event.

It is contemplated that most group benefits will be provided at the end of the group session when the accounting is done. It is possible that different players within the same group may finish at different times. In such an instance, the resolution of delayed group benefits may occur when the final group member finishes her session. Players finishing early may be warned to linger to see the final resolution.

ALTERNATE EMBODIMENTS

Players may start a session, and concurrently or subsequently indicate their willingness to join a group session. Then, a subsequent player may see that the player is willing to join a group and initiate a command to start a group with the first player. Thus, for example, a player at a table could see that no one was playing session play, purchase a session and set a marker that the player is willing to join a group. Then, a player on a mobile terminal, playing at a virtual table, sees the player is willing to join a group and joins the first player. Alternatively, the second player may use a chat program to talk to the first player before joining the group. Still other delayed group formations are contemplated and within the scope of the present disclosure.

In another alternate embodiment, players may reserve a table for a group session. For example, a group of friends starts off the day with plans to do different things, but wants to meet up to play some blackjack and then go have supper. The players make a reservation for the group at a table (e.g., perhaps through a customer service kiosk, through a website, customer service counter, a pit boss, or the like) for a certain time. The players go do their separate day time activities, and then meet up at the table for a group session of blackjack before supper. if the tables that support group play are full or expected to be busy, then such a reservation may be declined. As an incentive to make a reservation, more favorable group benefits may be awarded, a bonus may be provided, or the like. In some embodiments, to make a reservation, players may need to pre-purchase the session, leave a deposit, or leave a credit card number so that a cancellation charge may be applied to the card.

While the above discussion has focused on blackjack, baccarat, roulette, or other table games such as Pai Gow (tile or poker), Sic Bo, Three Card Poker, Caribbean Stud, Let it Ride, Spanish 21, and the like may all benefit from such group sessions.

Rules of Interpretation

Numerous embodiments are described in this disclosure, and are presented for illustrative purposes only. The described embodiments are not, and are not intended to be, limiting in any sense. The presently disclosed invention(s) are widely applicable to numerous embodiments, as is readily apparent from the disclosure. One of ordinary skill in the art will recognize that the disclosed invention(s) may be practiced with various modifications and alterations, such as structural, logical, software, and electrical modifications. Although particular features of the disclosed invention(s) may be described with reference to one or more particular embodiments and/or drawings, it should be understood that such features are not limited to usage in the one or more particular embodiments or drawings with reference to which they are described, unless expressly specified otherwise.

The present disclosure is neither a literal description of all embodiments nor a listing of features of the invention that must be present in all embodiments.

Neither the Title (set forth at the beginning of the first page of this disclosure) nor the Abstract (set forth at the end of this disclosure) is to be taken as limiting in any way as the scope of the disclosed invention(s).

The term “product” means any machine, manufacture and/or composition of matter as contemplated by 35 U.S.C. §101, unless expressly specified otherwise.

The terms “an embodiment”, “embodiment”, “embodiments”, “the embodiment”, “the embodiments”, “one or more embodiments”, “some embodiments”, “one embodiment” and the like mean “one or more (but not all) disclosed embodiments”, unless expressly specified otherwise.

The terms “the invention” and “the present invention” and the like mean “one or more embodiments of the present invention.”

A reference to “another embodiment” in describing an embodiment does not imply that the referenced embodiment is mutually exclusive with another embodiment (e.g., an embodiment described before the referenced embodiment), unless expressly specified otherwise.

The terms “including”, “comprising” and variations thereof mean “including but not limited to”, unless expressly specified otherwise.

The terms “a”, “an” and “the” mean “one or more”, unless expressly specified otherwise.

The term “plurality” means “two or more”, unless expressly specified otherwise.

The term “herein” means “in the present disclosure, including anything which may be incorporated by reference”, unless expressly specified otherwise.

The phrase “at least one of”, when such phrase modifies a plurality of things (such as an enumerated list of things) means any combination of one or more of those things, unless expressly specified otherwise. For example, the phrase at least one of a widget, a car and a wheel means either (i) a widget, (ii) a car, (iii) a wheel, (iv) a widget and a car, (v) a widget and a wheel, (vi) a car and a wheel, or (vii) a widget, a car and a wheel.

The phrase “based on” does not mean “based only on”, unless expressly specified otherwise. In other words, the phrase “based on” describes both “based only on” and “based at least on”.

Where a limitation of a first claim would cover one of a feature as well as more than one of a feature (e.g., a limitation such as “at least one widget” covers one widget as well as more than one widget), and where in a second claim that depends on the first claim, the second claim uses a definite article “the” to refer to the limitation (e.g., “the widget”), this does not imply that the first claim covers only one of the feature, and this does not imply that the second claim covers only one of the feature (e.g., “the widget” can cover both one widget and more than one widget).

Each process (whether called a method, algorithm or otherwise) inherently includes one or more steps, and therefore all references to a “step” or “steps” of a process have an inherent antecedent basis in the mere recitation of the term ‘process’ or a like term. Accordingly, any reference in a claim to a ‘step’ or ‘steps’ of a process has sufficient antecedent basis.

When an ordinal number (such as “first”, “second”, “third” and so on) is used as an adjective before a term, that ordinal number is used (unless expressly specified otherwise) merely to indicate a particular feature, such as to distinguish that particular feature from another feature that is described by the same term or by a similar term. For example, a “first widget” may be so named merely to distinguish it from, e.g., a “second widget”. Thus, the mere usage of the ordinal numbers “first” and “second” before the term “widget” does not indicate any other relationship between the two widgets, and likewise does not indicate any other characteristics of either or both widgets. For example, the mere usage of the ordinal numbers “first” and “second” before the term “widget” (1) does not indicate that either widget comes before or after any other in order or location; (2) does not indicate that either widget occurs or acts before or after any other in time; and (3) does not indicate that either widget ranks above or below any other, as in importance or quality. In addition, the mere usage of ordinal numbers does not define a numerical limit to the features identified with the ordinal numbers. For example, the mere usage of the ordinal numbers “first” and “second” before the term “widget” does not indicate that there must be no more than two widgets.

When a single device or article is described herein, more than one device or article (whether or not they cooperate) may alternatively be used in place of the single device or article that is described. Accordingly, the functionality that is described as being possessed by a device may alternatively be possessed by more than one device or article (whether or not they cooperate).

Similarly, where more than one device or article is described herein (whether or not they cooperate), a single device or article may alternatively be used in place of the more than one device or article that is described. For example, a plurality of computer-based devices may be substituted with a single computer-based device. Accordingly, the various functionality that is described as being possessed by more than one device or article may alternatively be possessed by a single device or article.

The functionality and/or the features of a single device that is described may be alternatively embodied by one or more other devices that are described but are not explicitly described as having such functionality and/or features. Thus, other embodiments need not include the described device itself, but rather can include the one or more other devices which would, in those other embodiments, have such functionality/features.

Devices that are in communication with each other need not be in continuous communication with each other, unless expressly specified otherwise. On the contrary, such devices need only transmit to each other as necessary or desirable, and may actually refrain from exchanging data most of the time. For example, a machine in communication with another machine via the Internet may not transmit data to the other machine for weeks at a time. In addition, devices that are in communication with each other may communicate directly or indirectly through one or more intermediaries.

A description of an embodiment with several components or features does not imply that all or even any of such components and/or features are required. On the contrary, a variety of optional components are described to illustrate the wide variety of possible embodiments of the present invention(s). Unless otherwise specified explicitly, no component and/or feature is essential or required.

Further, although process steps, algorithms or the like may be described in a sequential order, such processes may be configured to work in different orders. In other words, any sequence or order of steps that may be explicitly described does not necessarily indicate a requirement that the steps be performed in that order. The steps of processes described herein may be performed in any order practical. Further, some steps may be performed simultaneously despite being described or implied as occurring non-simultaneously (e.g., because one step is described after the other step). Moreover, the illustration of a process by its depiction in a drawing does not imply that the illustrated process is exclusive of other variations and modifications thereto, does not imply that the illustrated process or any of its steps are necessary to the invention, and does not imply that the illustrated process is preferred.

Although a process may be described as including a plurality of steps, that does not indicate that all or even any of the steps are essential or required. Various other embodiments within the scope of the described invention(s) include other processes that omit some or all of the described steps. Unless otherwise specified explicitly, no step is essential or required.

Although a product may be described as including a plurality of components, aspects, qualities, characteristics and/or features, that does not indicate that all of the plurality are essential or required. Various other embodiments within the scope of the described invention(s) include other products that omit some or all of the described plurality.

An enumerated list of items (which may or may not be numbered) does not imply that any or all of the items are mutually exclusive, unless expressly specified otherwise. Likewise, an enumerated list of items (which may or may not be numbered) does not imply that any or all of the items are comprehensive of any category, unless expressly specified otherwise. For example, the enumerated list “a computer, a laptop, a PDA” does not imply that any or all of the three items of that list are mutually exclusive and does not imply that any or all of the three items of that list are comprehensive of any category.

Headings of sections provided in this disclosure are for convenience only, and are not to be taken as limiting the disclosure in any way.

“Determining” something can be performed in a variety of manners and therefore the term “determining” (and like terms) includes calculating, computing, deriving, looking up (e.g., in a table, database or data structure), ascertaining, recognizing, and the like.

A “display” as that term is used herein is an area that conveys information to a viewer. The information may be dynamic, in which case, an LCD, LED, CRT, LDP, rear projection, front projection, or the like may be used to form the display. The aspect ratio of the display may be 4:3, 16:9, or the like. Furthermore, the resolution of the display may be any appropriate resolution such as 480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p or the like. The format of information sent to the display may be any appropriate format such as standard definition (SDTV), enhanced definition (EDTV), high definition (HD), or the like. The information may likewise be static, in which case, painted glass may be used to form the display. Note that static information may be presented on a display capable of displaying dynamic information if desired. Some displays may be interactive and may include touch screen features or associated keypads as is well understood.

The present disclosure frequently refers to a “control system”. A control system, as that term is used herein, may be a computer processor coupled with an operating system, device drivers, and appropriate programs (collectively “software”) with instructions to provide the functionality described for the control system. The software is stored in an associated memory device (sometimes referred to as a computer readable medium). While it is contemplated that an appropriately programmed general purpose computer or computing device may be used, it is also contemplated that hard-wired circuitry or custom hardware (e.g., an application specific integrated circuit (ASIC)) may be used in place of, or in combination with, software instructions for implementation of the processes of various embodiments. Thus, embodiments are not limited to any specific combination of hardware and software.

A “processor” means any one or more microprocessors, CPU devices, computing devices, microcontrollers, digital signal processors, or like devices. Exemplary processors are the INTEL PENTIUM or AMD ATHLON processors.

The term “computer-readable medium” refers to any medium that participates in providing data (e.g., instructions) that may be read by a computer, a processor or a like device. Such a medium may take many forms, including but not limited to, non-volatile media, volatile media, and transmission media. Non-volatile media include, for example, optical or magnetic disks and other persistent memory. Volatile media include DRAM, which typically constitutes the main memory. Transmission media include coaxial cables, copper wire and fiber optics, including the wires that comprise a system bus coupled to the processor. Transmission media may include or convey acoustic waves, light waves and electromagnetic emissions, such as those generated during RF and IR data communications. Common forms of computer-readable media include, for example, a floppy disk, a flexible disk, hard disk, magnetic tape, any other magnetic medium, a CD-ROM, DVD, any other optical medium, punch cards, paper tape, any other physical medium with patterns of holes, a RAM, a PROM, an EPROM, a FLASH-EEPROM, a USB memory stick, a dongle, any other memory chip or cartridge, a carrier wave as described hereinafter, or any other medium from which a computer can read.

Various forms of computer readable media may be involved in carrying sequences of instructions to a processor. For example, sequences of instruction (i) may be delivered from RAM to a processor, (ii) may be carried over a wireless transmission medium, and/or (iii) may be formatted according to numerous formats, standards or protocols. For a more exhaustive list of protocols, the term “network” is defined below and includes many exemplary protocols that are also applicable here.

It will be readily apparent that the various methods and algorithms described herein may be implemented by a control system and/or the instructions of the software may be designed to carry out the processes of the present invention.

Where databases are described, it will be understood by one of ordinary skill in the art that (i) alternative database structures to those described may be readily employed, and (ii) other memory structures besides databases may be readily employed. Any illustrations or descriptions of any sample databases presented herein are illustrative arrangements for stored representations of information. Any number of other arrangements may be employed besides those suggested by, e.g., tables illustrated in drawings or elsewhere. Similarly, any illustrated entries of the databases represent exemplary information only; one of ordinary skill in the art will understand that the number and content of the entries can be different from those described herein. Further, despite any depiction of the databases as tables, other formats (including relational databases, object-based models, hierarchical electronic file structures, and/or distributed databases) could be used to store and manipulate the data types described herein. Likewise, object methods or behaviors of a database can be used to implement various processes, such as those described herein. In addition, the databases may, in a known manner, be stored locally or remotely from a device that accesses data in such a database. Furthermore, while unified databases may be contemplated, it is also possible that the databases may be distributed and/or duplicated amongst a variety of devices.

As used herein a “network” is an environment wherein one or more computing devices may communicate with one another. Such devices may communicate directly or indirectly, via a wired or wireless medium such as the Internet, LAN, WAN or Ethernet (or IEEE 802.3), Token Ring, or via any appropriate communications means or combination of communications means. Exemplary protocols include but are not limited to: Bluetooth™, TDMA, CDMA, GSM, EDGE, GPRS, WCDMA, AMPS, D-AMPS, IEEE 802.11 (WI-FI), IEEE 802.3, SAP, SAS™ by IGT, OASIS™ by Aristocrat Technologies, SDS by Bally Gaming and Systems, ATP, TCP/IP, gaming device standard (GDS) published by the Gaming Standards Association of Fremont Calif., the best of breed (BOB), system to system (S2S), or the like. Note that if video signals or large files are being sent over the network, a broadband network may be used to alleviate delays associated with the transfer of such large files, however, such is not strictly required. Each of the devices is adapted to communicate on such a communication means. Any number and type of machines may be in communication via the network. Where the network is the Internet, communications over the Internet may be through a website maintained by a computer on a remote server or over an online data network including commercial online service providers, bulletin board systems, and the like. In yet other embodiments, the devices may communicate with one another over RF, cable TV, satellite links, and the like. Where appropriate encryption or other security measures such as logins and passwords may be provided to protect proprietary or confidential information.

Communication among computers and devices may be encrypted to insure privacy and prevent fraud in any of a variety of ways well known in the art. Appropriate cryptographic protocols for bolstering system security are described in Schneier, APPLIED CRYPTOGRAPHY, PROTOCOLS, ALGORITHMS, AND SOURCE CODE IN C, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2d ed., 1996, which is incorporated by reference in its entirety.

The present disclosure provides, to one of ordinary skill in the art, an enabling description of several embodiments and/or inventions. Some of these embodiments and/or inventions may not be claimed in the present disclosure, but may nevertheless be claimed in one or more continuing applications that claim the benefit of priority of the present disclosure.

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Classifications
U.S. Classification463/12, 463/26, 273/309
International ClassificationA63F9/24, A63F1/06
Cooperative ClassificationA63F3/00157, A63F1/00
European ClassificationA63F3/00A32
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Apr 7, 2008ASAssignment
Owner name: WALKER DIGITAL, LLC, CONNECTICUT
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:WALKER, JAY S.;TEDESCO, ROBERT C.;HAYASHIDA, JEFFREY Y.;REEL/FRAME:020768/0967
Effective date: 20080403