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ELECTRONIC SYSTEM AND METHOD FOR
OPERATING AN AUXILIARY INCENTIVE
This application is a Continuation of application Ser. No. 09/296,408 filed on Apr. 23,1999 and issued as U.S. Pat. No. 6,179,710 on Jan. 30, 2001. U.S. Pat. No. 6,179,710 is a Continuation of application Ser. No. PCT/IB98/01322 filed on Aug. 25, 1998 which designated the U.S. application Ser. No. PCT/IB98/01322 which is a CIP and claimed priority under 35 U.S.C. §120 of application Ser. No. 08/918,944 filed Aug. 25, 1997, now pending. The entire contents of application Ser. No. 09/296,408, application Ser. No. 08/918,944 and PCT/IB98/01322 are hereby incorporated by reference.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
Casino table games such as craps, roulette, poker, blackjack or other card games are highly profitable to casinos, particularly because the odds associated with such gambling games favor the casino. In order to maximize the profit generated by each table, it is desirable to not only attract a large number of players to the table but to also keep the players playing at the table for an extended period of time. In essence, while a player may occasionally stop at a table to place several wagers, a casino is most likely to make a profit from a player who stays at a single table over the course of several hours because it is unlikely that such a player will be able to "beat the odds" over the long run.
Thus, casinos often add extra incentives (e.g., complimentary food and beverages) to keep players at the gaming tables for extended periods of time. However, since all casinos typically offer the same extra incentives, it is not uncommon for players to "try their luck" at a number of different tables or even at a number of different casinos within a single gambling session. For example, if a player is losing money at a particular table (e.g., a blackjack table), or if the player feels that a particular table (or a particular dealer) is unlucky, that player may leave the table and, in some instances, may leave the casino altogether to gamble elsewhere. Of course, during the time that the player is surveying different tables or different casinos, that player is not gambling and the casino is not profiting from that player.
Thus, casinos not only have an interest in attracting players to their table games, they also have an interest in keeping a player at his or her seat for as long as possible. In addition to complimentary items such as beverages, which may help to keep gamblers in the casino but will not necessarily promote continuous wagering at a specific table, casinos may wish to provide an extra incentive to players who play for extended periods of time at a single table. Such an added incentive may be an auxiliary incentive game which is played simultaneously with the primary game, while not interfering with the primary game.
The auxiliary game preferably offers its own set of prizes separate from any rewards or losses which the player may experience within the primary game. Additionally, the auxiliary game preferably rewards all players who remain at the table, regardless of whether the players are winning or losing at the primary game. The auxiliary game simply provides players with an opportunity for additional rewards if the player remains at the table for a sufficient amount of time to complete or "win" the auxiliary game. However, the pace of the auxiliary game is preferably much slower than the pace of the primary game so that a player must continue to play the primary game for a number of hours without interruption
before being afforded an opportunity to complete or win the auxiliary game. In this manner, the auxiliary game serves its purpose of keeping players at the gaming table for long periods, even if the player may be losing money at the
5 primary table game.
An auxiliary prize gaming system is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 5,743,800 to Huard et al., the specification of which is hereby incorporated by reference. In Huard et al., the auxiliary prize game includes random selection means for
1° selecting at random the prize amount to be awarded, for selecting at random the matching gaming symbols or for randomly selecting a player position. The auxiliary prize may be awarded based on a player's fulfilling of one or more eligibility conditions, such as matching and player position
Another example of such an auxiliary game which is played simultaneously with blackjack as the primary game is Ten Stix 21TM. Ten Stix 21TM is played in the same format as blackjack where all players attempt to beat the dealer's
20 hand without going over 21. The primary difference between Ten Stix 21TM and standard blackjack is that a bonus card is substituted for one card in each deck of cards. "Bonus points" may be awarded for each of the bonus cards collected by the players during the course of multiple consecu
25 tive blackjack hands. Once a player has collected a predetermined number of bonus points, the player is awarded a prize by the casino as a bonus gift. This bonus prize thus provides the added incentive for players to stay at the blackjack table, regardless of whether the player is winning
30 or losing while playing blackjack.
The bonus cards used within Ten Stix 2TM preferably replace the ten of clubs within each card deck so that, for example, a six-deck shoe of cards would contain six bonus
35 cards but no ten of clubs. During the normal course of a blackjack hand, each bonus card carries the value of ten and can be utilized by both a player or the dealer as a ten. However, the players have the option of either keeping the bonus card and playing it as a ten or trading the bonus card
4Q into the dealer for the next card out of the shoe. If the player opts to trade in the bonus card, the player receives a bonus point toward completion of the auxiliary game. However, the bonus point does not impact the player's current blackjack hand. Rather, upon trading in the bonus card and
45 receiving a replacement card from the dealer, the blackjack hand continues in a normal manner. On the other hand, if the player opts to keep the bonus card, play continues normally with the bonus card being assigned a value of ten points within the player's hand.
50 To prevent a player who receives the bonus card from gaining an unfair advantage over other players during the course of the blackjack hand, a player will not be allowed to trade in the bonus card if the bonus card "busts" the player's hand (i.e., if the bonus card's ten-point value would cause
55 the player's hand to exceed twenty-one points). Thus, in those instances, the bonus card will automatically be accorded its ten-point value and the player will not receive a bonus point for being dealt the bonus card. Additionally, the dealer does not have the option to trade in a bonus card,
60 and thus a bonus card dealt to the dealer will count the same as a ten card.
To complete or win the auxiliary incentive game within Ten Stix 21TM, a player must accumulate ten bonus points at one sitting at the same table. In essence, a player starts with 65 zero points when he or she first sits down at a Ten Stix 21TM table and receives a single bonus point for each bonus card traded in to the dealer. When the player trades in a tenth
bonus card, the player completes or wins the auxiliary game and is awarded the prize by the casino.
However, the bonus points accumulated by a player over the course of a number of blackjack hands may not be carried away by the player to another table nor may the player save or carry over accumulated bonus points for use in subsequent sessions at the same table. Additionally, a first player's bonus points may not be transferred to another player at the table or carried over to a subsequent player who takes the first player's spot at the table. In this manner, a player is encouraged to stay at the blackjack table for extended periods of time until the player has accumulated the ten bonus points required to win the auxiliary game and thus the casino prize. In particular, the Ten Stix 21TM version of blackjack tends to increase the duration of a player's stay at the blackjack table because the player's determination to win the bonus prize will typically increase as he or she continues to accumulate bonus points. In fact, a player may continue to play Ten Stix 21TM for hours after he or she would normally have left a conventional blackjack table due to the belief that he or she will eventually win the bonus prize.
The prior Ten Stix 21TM game required the dealers to physically trade a player's bonus card for an object such as special chip known as a "lammer." These lammers are then displayed by each player at a designated spot on the game table next to the player's position. Once a player accumulated ten lammers by trading in ten bonus cards in one sitting at the Ten Stix 21TM table, the player then turned the lammers into the dealer and collected the bonus prize offered by the casino. Of course, as noted above, a player was not allowed to transfer or trade the lammers to other players at the table, nor was a player allowed to take the lammers if the player left the table prior to accumulating ten lammers and claiming the bonus prize.
However, due to the tangible nature of the lammers, it was often difficult to police the players' conduct and enforce the above rules, particularly at a busy table where a large number of players may be entering and leaving the game. For example, a player who accumulates one or more lammers but who does not have sufficient funds to continue playing blackjack may attempt to surreptitiously transfer the lammers to another player or leave the table with the lammers in the hopes of using those lammers in a future Ten Stix 21TM game. As a more specific example, a Ten Stix 21TM player with less than ten lammers may decide for a number of reasons to leave the table and abandon the game. The player would then be required to return the lammers to the dealer so that they may be used with subsequent players. However, the player may attempt to pocket some of the lammers, thereby returning only the remaining lammers to the dealer. If an overworked, tired, distracted or new dealer does not remember how many lammers had been accumulated by the player, the dishonest player will not likely be revealed or exposed. The player may then keep or transfer those lammers to another player with the intention of surreptitiously adding those extra lammers to that player's total. In essence, an unscrupulous player would count on the inability of a dealer or multiple dealers to keep track of the exact number of lammers distributed to each player over the course of a number of hours, and thus the dishonest player in the above example may only need to accumulate six or seven lammers in one, session, while using the lammers obtained from the prior session, to claim the casino's bonus prize.
The use of the lammers to keep track of each player's bonus points provides a number of opportunities for dishon
est players to defeat the purpose of the auxiliary game (i.e., keeping players at the table for extended periods) because such players may illegally transfer or remove the lammers from the gaming table, thereby removing the incentive for
5 such players to stay at the table. Thus, while the use of the lammers allows a conventional blackjack table to be used for a Ten Stix 21TM game with little or no modifications, there is a need for improvements in controlling and scoring the auxiliary game which can be controlled on a reliable basis
10 solely by the dealer and which are not subject to abuse by dishonest players.
It is also to the advantage of the casino to promote the play of the auxiliary game. Promoting the interest of players in playing the auxiliary game has the positive effect of also
15 increasing the play of the primary game, as noted. One of the recognized approaches to promoting games in casinos is to draw attention and fanfare to winners of those games. Such fanfare can take the form of visual and audible announcements of the player's success, such as by lighting displays
20 and sounding bells, tunes and jingles to call attention to the success of the player. Playing the auxiliary game with lammers and awarding the prizes through the dealer makes it difficult to recognize the winning player and announce his or her success to the other players in the general vicinity.
25 It is with respect to these and other factors that the present invention has evolved.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
30 One aspect of the present invention allows an auxiliary game to be controlled and scored on a more reliable basis. Another aspect of the improvements available from the present invention relates to assuring the casino that bonus points associated with play of the auxiliary game will be
35 more accurately accounted for and not be surreptitiously transferred by an unscrupulous player to another game. A further aspect of the present invention relates to easing the responsibilities and duties of the dealer in a primary game, when an auxiliary game is played simultaneously with the
40 primary game. Among other aspects of the present invention is the ability to promote the play of the auxiliary game, and indirectly promote the play of the primary game, by creating public displays and recognition associated with awarding prizes to the winners of the auxiliary game.
45 The auxiliary game according to the invention rewards players' loyalty or fidelity to the principal game and/or the auxiliary game by awarding prizes or pay outs once a player has accumulated a predetermined number of bonus points. Such points may be awarded in addition to other prizes in the
50 auxiliary game. For example, the auxiliary game may offer a chance to win a number of prizes and may include a relatively large prize amount. The rules in the auxiliary game may stipulate that the large prize may be won based on possession of a particularly lucky combination of playing
55 symbols, and a smaller fixed prize is awarded to the faithful player who reaches the predetermined number of bonus points. Similarly, the rules may provide for the opposite, namely smaller prizes can be won directly, while the larger pay outs in the auxiliary game may only be won upon
60 reaching the predetermined number of bonus points. The auxiliary game may require payment to participate, thus allowing for a greater amount of prizes to be awarded. While bonus points may be awarded by receiving a special playing card or matching a playing symbol with a randomly chosen
65 symbol (e.g. selecting a number, color, column etc. in roulette), bonus points may also be awarded by random determination, i.e. a random selector may determine if a
player is to be awarded a bonus point. In the auxiliary game, it is possible that some prizes be of greater value, and such greater value may also be awarded by giving more than one bonus point to the winning player.
While the invention provides for better control over an auxiliary game requiring accumulation of bonus points as a condition to be eligible to win a prize, the invention may be configured so as to allow a player to transfer bonus points to another table or player position at a table, to receive a non-zero start up number of bonus points preferably randomly determined), and for a player position to keep the number of bonus points acquired when a player at that position continues to play without paying to participate to in the auxiliary game or when the player is replaced by a new player. When configured in this way, there may be a greater incentive to start to participate in the auxiliary game.
In an auxiliary game requiring payment for participation, leaving bonus points on the player's interface unit when a player leaves the player position does not "cost" the casino, since the bonus points have been directly paid for. If a player decides to leave the table, a by-stander will be enticed to fill the position and take over the bonus points. In the case that players may take bonus points with them, the bonus points may be exchanged for a single value token by the dealer, or the bonus points could be loaded onto a smart card or "Dallas" key for unloading at the new table. The single value token can be exchanged at the new table with the dealer, who will enter tie token value at his or her console. By using single value tokens, players may not combine two tokens to gain a higher trade-in value at another table. By timestamping the bonus points recorded on the smart card or other monetary value recording medium, the new table could refuse to accept the bonus points if more than a predetermined amount of time has elapsed, for example, the time for a meal break or the time to change tables, or even longer if desired by the casino managers. Instead of reducing the number of stored or saved bonus points to zero when a player exceeds the time limit, it would be possible to reduce the bonus points as a function of time.
As an incentive to join a table, the auxiliary game according to the invention can be configured to award a random number of bonus points. In the case that ten points are required to win a prize in the auxiliary game, the random number may be between zero and five, for example, with a distribution selected by the casino management to be enticing while still profitable to the house. In the latter case, a player, who had little intention of staying at a table long enough to accumulate the desired number of bonus points to win a prize, may be enticed to remain at the casino table to see the benefit of his initial luck in obtaining a relative large number of bonus points.
According to the invention, a player is eligible to win a prize when the predetermined number of bonus points is reached. The auxiliary game according to the invention need not directly and automatically award a prize of fixed or random value when the predetermined number of bonus points is reached. For example, having reached the predetermined number of bonus points may simply make the player eligible to win an enhanced amount of a regular prize or pay out (e.g. double the prize or pay out) either in the principal game or in the auxiliary game. In such a regular pay out or prize multiplier or enhancement configuration, the number of bonus points required to be eligible could also be reduced, for example to five points, and the number of bonus points could be reset when the next one or two bonus points is won. The excitement would thus be increased when the predetermined number of bonus points is reached
because the player will be eager to win a prize which qualifies for the loyalty bonus point enhancement while actually hoping not to receive a further bonus point. Likewise, the further bonus point could cancel the enhance
5 ment eligibility and also award a smaller bonus prize.
These and other aspects of the present invention are obtained by an electronic system which controls and displays the progress of each player in playing the auxiliary incentive game simultaneously with playing the primary
1° casino table game A bonus point display is positioned for viewing by each player for displaying the number of bonus points received by each player at the gaming table. A controller is connected to the bonus point display and has first means for causing the display to display an incremented
15 number of bonus points received by each player as new bonus points are received by each player, and second means for causing the display to reset and to display a starting number of bonus points in response to the number of bonus points received by the associated player reaching the pre
20 determined number of bonus points. The bonus point display is preferably provided by a player interface unit associated with each player of the primary game and positioned on the gaming table adjacent to the player of the primary game, each player interface unit including a display element to
25 display the number of bonus points received by the associated player, the second means causing the player interface unit to reset the display element to display the starting number of bonus points. Alternatively, the bonus point display may comprises a common display mounted for easy
30 viewing by players at the gaming table, the common display having a display element for each player. Also preferably, the display element is an array of 'n' luminous indicators, where 'n' is the predetermined number of bonus points after which a prize is awarded.
Preferably, a prize display is attached to the gaming table and the prize display includes an indication of at least one prize available to each player who accumulates the predetermined number of bonus points. The controller is connected to the prize display to control the indications of the
40 prize display to show the prize received by each player. Another embodiment of the invention includes a dealer interface unit connected to the controller and the player interface unit. The dealer interface unit includes dealer
45 control elements which control the bonus points displayed on the player interface units, and which activate a prize selection control element also present on the player interface unit. Upon activation and manipulation of the prize selection control element, the player is able to select one of a plurality
5Q of different prizes available for winning the auxiliary game. An additional embodiment of the invention involves a method of controlling and displaying each player's progress in playing the auxiliary game. The method involves attaching the prize display to the table, indicating on the prize
55 display a plurality of different prizes, selectively lighting the indication of each prize on the prize display, displaying on each player interface unit the number of bonus points received by the player, controlling the number of bonus points displayed on each player interface unit by the dealer
60 manipulating dealer control elements of the dealer interface unit, activating a prize selection element on the player interface unit by the dealer manipulating the dealer control elements, randomly indexing among the different available prizes, and selecting one of the randomly indexed prizes by
65 the player manipulating the player prize selection element. Additional preferred features of the present invention involve randomly indexing through each of the different
prizes and correlating the time instant when the prize selection control element is manipulated to determine the prize awarded; establishing lesser odds for random indexing to each of the more valuable prizes; producing audible sounds when each prize is indicated, when each prize is awarded, and when bonus points are indicated at each player interface unit; and displaying game control information to the dealer at the dealer interface unit which prompts the dealer to manipulate the dealer control elements in accordance with rules of play of the auxiliary game; among others.
A more complete appreciation of the nature, scope and improvements of the present invention can be obtained by reference to the accompanying drawings, which are briefly described below, the following detailed description of presently preferred embodiments of the invention, and the appended claims.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a gaming table upon which a primary card game, such as blackjack, is played, and also illustrating an electronic system incorporating the present invention for playing an auxiliary incentive game simultaneously with the primary game.
FIG. 2 is an enlarged perspective view of a player interface unit of the auxiliary game playing system shown in FIG. 1.
FIG. 3 is an enlarged perspective view of a dealer interface unit of the auxiliary game playing system shown in FIG. 1.
FIG. 4 is an enlarged perspective view of a display of the auxiliary game playing system shown in FIG. 1.
FIG. 5 is a block diagram of the elements of the auxiliary game playing system shown in FIGS. 1-4.
FIG. 6 is a block diagram of the elements of the auxiliary game playing system according to an alternative embodiment of the invention.
A conventional casino-type card gaming table 20 upon which both a primary card game and an auxiliary incentive game are played is shown in FIG. 1. While the preferred embodiment of the auxiliary incentive game (specifically Ten Stix 21TM in the preferred embodiment) will be described in conjunction with blackjack as the primary casino table game, it is to be understood that the present invention may be used with a variety of different table games, and card games in particular, where it is desired to encourage players to prolong their play at that table.
An electronic system 22 (FIG. 5) for displaying and controlling each player's progress in the auxiliary game is shown positioned on the table 20. The electronic system 22 preferably comprises four separate and primary components which are electically connected to one another. These four components include a player interface unit 30 (also shown in FIG. 2), a dealer interface unit 32 (also shown in FIG. 3), a prize display 34 (also shown in FIG. 4) and a controller 36 (shown in FIG. 5). The four components 30, 32, 34 and 36 are shown in an interconnected system relationship in FIG. 5. The four components of the system 22 may be added to a conventional gaming table 20 shown in FIG. 1, with a minimum of modifications to the table 20. A separate explanation of each of the four components 30, 32, 34 and 36 is provided below with respect to their use in playing a new and improved version of the Ten Stix 21TM game, which
has been developed for use in playing the auxiliary incentive game with the electronic system 22.
Each player at the table 20 has his or her own player interface unit 30, as shown in FIGS. 1 and 2. Each player
5 interface unit 30 is supported on or fixed to a playing surface 40 (FIG. 1) of the table 20 adjacent an outer semi-circular railing 42 of the table. While FIG. 1 illustrates seven player interface units 30 arrayed along the railing 42 thus denoting the maximum number of players which may play simulta
10 neously at the table 20, different sized gaming tables may accommodate either a larger or smaller number of the player interface units 30.
Each player interface unit 30 preferably includes ten displays or light emitting diodes (LEDs) 46, as shown in
15 more detail in FIG. 2. While prior versions of Ten Stix 21TM utilized the special chips or lammers to denote the accumulation of bonus points, the LEDs on each player's own interface unit 30 display the number of bonus points accumulated by that player. The bonus point LEDs 46 are
20 individually activated or lighted only by the dealer, using the dealer interface unit 32 (FIG. 1). As noted, the player receives bonus points during the auxiliary Ten Stix 21TM game by trading in the bonus card which the player is dealt during the play of the primary card game. If the player elects
25 to play the bonus card in the play of the primary game, the bonus card is considered as having a predetermined traditional card value, such as a ten card.
The LEDs 46 on the player interface unit 30 are arranged in a row as shown in FIG. 2, although it is within the scope
30 of the present invention to arrange the bonus point LEDs 46 in a different pattern or even to replace the multiple LEDs with a single numerical display which may be incremented by the dealer. Similarly, and depending upon the type of auxiliary game played, the number of bonus point LEDs 46
35 may be changed from the ten illustrated and described herein.
The bonus point LEDs 46 and the control over lighting the LEDs 46 provides a number of advantages over the prior practice of using physical lammers to denote the accumu
40 lation of bonus points. For instance, the LEDs 46 allow both the dealer and the player, as well as spectators and the other players at the table 20, to quickly and accurately assess the number of bonus points which each player has accumulated. More importantly, however, the dealer has the ability to
45 maintain control over the assignment of each player's bonus points. Similarly, when the player elects to cease playing at the table, it is assured that the dealer will collect all of the player's bonus points by simply clearing the display of lighted LEDs 46 from the player interface unit 30, thus
50 preventing unscrupulous players from illegally transferring their bonus points to other players for taking one or more of their bonus points with them when they leave the table 20. Taking as an example a player that has accumulated five bonus points, the system of the present invention represents
55 these five bonus points as five lighted LEDs 46 on that player's interface unit 30. Should that player decide to leave the table 20, the dealer resets the corresponding player interface unit 30 (i.e., deactivates the five lighted LEDs) by use of the dealer interface unit 32. According to the rules of
60 the Ten Stix 21TM game, a new player must start the game with zero bonus points, which is assured because no LEDs 46 are lighted when the new player starts play. Furthermore, because only the dealer may increment the LEDs on each player's interface unit 30, there is no opportunity for players
65 to surreptitiously transfer bonus points to one another. In addition, dealers may be rotated into the game, as is the custom, without having to remember or to communicate