Title:
Gaming device having adjustable reel operation and sliding paytable
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A gaming device which enables a player to operate a selected number of reels within a plurality of reels. The number of reels to be operated may be selected by a direct control feature of the gaming device. In one embodiment, the number of reels operated is based on an amount wagered by the player. If the number of reels operated is less than the entire plurality of reels, the gaming device deactivates those reels not operated. The specific number of reels operated is associated with a specific paytable. The gaming device enables the player to select a number of reels to be operated based on the payout preference of the player.



Inventors:
Munoz, Andre Michael Paul (Reno, NV, US)
Application Number:
10/447773
Publication Date:
12/02/2004
Filing Date:
05/29/2003
Assignee:
MUNOZ ANDRE MICHAEL PAUL
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63F9/24; A63F13/00; A63F13/10; G07F17/34; (IPC1-7): A63F9/24
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
HOEL, MATTHEW D
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BELL, BOYD & LLOYD LLC (P. O. BOX 1135, CHICAGO, IL, 60690-1135, US)
Claims:

The invention is claimed as follows:



1. A gaming device comprising: a game operable upon a wager by a player; a display device; a plurality of reels in said game displayed by the display device; an input device; and a processor operable with the display device and the input device to display the reels, enable the player to select a first number of said plurality of reels for said game or a second different number of said plurality of reels for said game, and to operate said game with said player selected first number of reels or said player selected second number of reels.

2. The gaming device of claim 1, which includes different paytables associated with the first number of said plurality of reels for said game and the second different number of said plurality of reels in said game, wherein the processor uses the paytable associated with the player selected number of reels for the game to operate the game.

3. The gaming device of claim 1, wherein the first number of said plurality of reels for said game is associated with a first wager and the second different number of said plurality of reels for said game is associated with a second different wager, and wherein the amount wagered determines the number of reels operated.

4. A gaming device operated under the control of a controller, said gaming device comprising: a game operable upon a wager by a player; a plurality of reels in said game; an input device in communication with the controller and which enables a player to select a first number of said plurality of reels or a second different number of said plurality of reels; a first paytable stored by said controller and associated with said first number of said plurality of reels; a second different paytable stored by said controller and associated with said second different number of said plurality of reels, wherein the controller selects one of the first and second paytables associated with the selected number of reels that are operated; and a winning or losing outcome randomly determined and provided to the player based on: (i) the first paytable if the player selects the first number of said plurality of reels; and (ii) the second paytable if the player selects the second different number of said plurality of reels.

5. The gaming device of claim 4, wherein an amount wagered by the player determines the selection of the number of reels.

6. A method for operating a gaming device including a wagering game, said method comprising: (a) enabling a player to select a first number of a plurality of reels for the wagering game or a second different number of said plurality of reels for said wagering game; (b) displaying said selected number of said reels; and (c) operating said wagering game with said player selected number of reels.

7. The method of claim 6, wherein the step of enabling a player to select the first number of the plurality of reels in the wagering game or the second different number of said plurality of reels in said wagering game includes enabling the player to wager different amounts and basing said selection on the amount wagered.

8. The method of claim 6, wherein the gaming device is operated via a data network.

9. The gaming device of claim 8, wherein the data network is an internet.

10. The method of claim 6, wherein the steps (a) through (c) are executed using instructions stored on a memory device.

11. A method for operating a gaming device, said method comprising: (a) enabling a player to select a first number of a plurality of reels for a wagering game or a second different number of said plurality of reels for said wagering game; (b) displaying said selected number of said reels; (c) operating said wagering game with said player selected number of reels; and (d) randomly determining a winning or losing outcome to provide to the player based on: (i) a first paytable if the player selects the first number of said plurality of reels; and (ii) a second different paytable if the player selects the second different number of said plurality of reels.

12. The method of claim 11, wherein the step of enabling a player to select the first number of the plurality of reels in the wagering game or the second different number of said plurality of reels in said wagering game includes enabling the player to wager different amounts and basing said selection on the amount wagered.

13. The method of claim 11, wherein the gaming device is operated via a data network.

14. The gaming device of claim 11, wherein the data network is an internet.

15. The method of claim 11, wherein the steps (a) through (c) are executed using instructions stored on a memory device.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0001] Gaming devices such as slot machines are well known. Slot machines generally provide a set of mechanical or video reels, one or more paylines associated with the reels and a wager input device. Early slot machines included three reels. Eventually, slot machines came to include additional reels such as four reels, five reels, or any other suitable number of reels. Certain people enjoy playing slot machines which have three reels. Other people enjoy playing slot machines which have more than three reels such as five reels. Certain people enjoy playing slot machines with three reels and slot machines with five reels. Casinos have attempted to provide players with both types of gaming devices. However, providing slot machines requires a substantial amount of floor space at a casino for each type of slot machine. In addition, purchasing large quantities of all of the types of slot machines which players prefer to play can be expensive for a casino.

[0002] Certain players prefer playing slot machines with three reels as opposed to five reels because they feel that the overall odds of achieving a winning outcome are greater for a three reel slot machine than in a five reel slot machine. While in some cases this may be true due to the specific paytables for the specific three reel and five reel slot machines, this is not necessarily true for all slot machines. Nevertheless, some players do not understand this because, regardless of the overall payouts and paytables, the probability that the player will achieve a particular outcome where three identical symbols are aligned along a payline is generally higher than the probability that five identical symbols will be aligned along a payline. Thus, some players prefer playing three reel slot machines because of a perception that fewer reels translates to a greater frequency of winning outcomes. Other players prefer playing five reel slot machines because the eventual payout for a winning combination may be higher due to a lower probability of achieving the outcome. Alternatively, a player may play a five reel machine because there are more winning combinations. However, a player wanting to play, for example, a three reel slot machine and then play a five reel slot machine must play at a first three-reel slot machine at one time and then change locations to play a second five-reel slot machine. This can be inconvenient for the player. There may already be other players operating the gaming device which the player has moved to, leaving the player the option of waiting for that player to finish operating the slot machine, or moving around to other areas of the casino or another casino to find a different and unoccupied slot machine.

[0003] It is therefore desirable to provide a gaming device which enables a player to adjust the number of reels operated for each game.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0004] One embodiment of the present invention provides a gaming device which enables a player to adjust or choose a number of reels within a plurality of reels to be operated for a given game. The processor of the gaming device adjusts or selects the paytable which corresponds to the player selected number of reels to be operated. In one embodiment, the gaming device has a plurality of reels. The reels include a plurality of symbols. A player, prior to activating the reels, chooses a number of reels within the plurality of reels which will be activated. The player uses conventional control features of the gaming device to send or input a signal to the processor of the gaming device communicating the number of reels the player chooses to operate. The processor controls the reels and activates only the number of reels the processor chooses to operate. If the number of reels the player chooses to operate is less than the total number of reels, the processor deactivates those reels not operated. In one embodiment, the processor causes the deactivated reels to spin to a certain position such that a symbol is displayed indicating that the reels are deactivated. In another embodiment, one or more covers are positioned over the deactivated reels. In another embodiment, the lighting previously directed towards the deactivated reels is lowered or shut off to indicate deactivation of those reels. In another embodiment, the reels are on a video display device and the processor causes the video display device to display only the selected number of reels. Other suitable alternatives for displaying only certain of the reels are contemplated by the present invention.

[0005] The gaming device of the present invention also provides the player with a sliding or changing paytable or multiple different paytables. For example, the gaming device may include a first paytable associated operation of five reels in which the probability of achieving winning outcomes is low, but the payout for the winning outcome is high. The gaming device may also include a second paytable associated with operation of three reels in which the probability of achieving a winning outcome is higher but for which the payout is lower. The player may prefer a higher frequency of winning outcomes with lower payouts. Accordingly, the player can choose to operate three out of the five reels. However, if the player prefers to achieve a less probable winning outcome having a higher payout, the player can choose to operate all five reels. In one alternative embodiment, the gaming machine can have a three reel base game with a five reel base game. Alternatively, the fourth reel can be a bonus reel play with the fifth reel providing an additional feature such as a multiplier to the base or bonus win combination. The introduction of the fourth or fifth reel or any derived combination thereof can be conditioned based on a paytable “buy-up” or “buy-a-pay” feature that may require an additional wager than that for base-game participation.

[0006] It should also be appreciated that the number of reels operated within the gaming device of the present invention is not limited to these examples and may include any plurality of reels within the gaming device and any suitable paytables associated with the different number of reels. It should also be appreciated that the type of paytable associated with the specific number of reels operated is not limited to these examples and can include any suitable type of probabilities for winning outcomes and any type of payouts for the same.

[0007] In an alternative embodiment, different paytables are provided for different card games, such as five card stud in comparison to seven card stud.

[0008] It is therefore an advantage of the present invention to provide a gaming device which enables a player to choose the number of reels operated within a given game.

[0009] It is a further advantage of the present invention to provide a gaming device enabling a player to choose a paytable within the gaming device based on the player's payout preferences.

[0010] Additional features and advantages of the present invention are described in, and will be apparent from, the following Detailed Description of the Invention and the figures.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURES

[0011] FIGS. 1A and 1B are perspective views of alternate embodiments of the gaming device of the present invention.

[0012] FIG. 2 is a schematic block diagram of the electronic configuration of one embodiment of the gaming device of the present invention.

[0013] FIG. 3 is a front elevation view of a display device displaying a set of reels in which certain reels are deactivated.

[0014] FIG. 4 is a front elevation view of a display device displaying a set of reels in which certain reels are deactivated.

[0015] FIG. 5 is a front elevation view of a display device displaying a set of reels in which certain reels are deactivated.

[0016] FIG. 6 is a front elevation view of a display device displaying a set of reels in which certain reels are deactivated.

[0017] FIG. 7 is a block diagram of the different methods of selecting a set of reels to be operated.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Gaming Device and Electronics

[0018] Referring now to the drawings, and in particular to FIGS. 1A and 1B, gaming device 10a and gaming device 10b illustrate two possible cabinet styles and display arrangements and are collectively referred to herein as gaming device 10. The present invention includes the game, described below, being a primary game or base game bonus or secondary game that coordinates with a base game. Gaming device 10 can be a slot machine having the controls, displays and features of a conventional slot machine, or another game such as a video card game such as poker. The player can operate the gaming device while standing or sitting. Gaming device 10 also includes being a pub-style or table-top game (not shown), which a player operates while sitting. The symbols and indicia used for any of the base and progressive games include mechanical, electrical or video symbols and indicia.

[0019] In a stand alone or a bonus embodiment, the gaming device 10 includes monetary input devices. FIGS. 1A and 1B illustrate a coin slot 12 for coins or tokens and/or a payment acceptor 14 for cash money. The payment acceptor 14 also includes other devices for accepting payment, such as readers or validators for credit cards, debit cards or smart cards, tickets, notes, etc. When a player inserts money in gaming device 10, a number of credits corresponding to the amount deposited is shown in a credit display 16. After depositing the appropriate amount of money, a player can begin the game by pulling arm 18 or pushing play button 20. Play button 20 can be any play activator used by the player which starts any game or sequence of events in the gaming device.

[0020] As shown in FIGS. 1A and 1B, gaming device 10 also includes a bet display 22 and a bet one button 24. The player places a bet by pushing the bet one button 24. The player can increase the bet by one credit each time the player pushes the bet one button 24. When the player pushes the bet one button 24, the number of credits shown in the credit display 16 decreases by one, and the number of credits shown in the bet display 22 increases by one. A player may cash out by pushing a cash out button 26 to receive coins or tokens in the coin payout tray 28 or other forms of payment, such as an amount printed on a ticket or credited to a credit card, debit card or smart card.

[0021] Gaming device 10 also includes one or more display devices. The embodiment shown in FIG. 1A includes a central display device 30, and the alternative embodiment shown in FIG. 1B includes a central display device 30 as well as an upper display device 32. The display device includes any viewing surface such as glass, a video monitor or screen, a liquid crystal display or any other static or dynamic display mechanism. In a video poker, blackjack or other card gaming machine embodiment, the display device includes displaying one or more cards.

[0022] The slot machine base game of gaming device 10 preferably displays a plurality of reels 34 such as three to five reels 34 in mechanical or video form. Each reel 34 displays a plurality of indicia such as bells, hearts, fruits, numbers, letters, bars or other images which preferably correspond to a theme associated with the gaming device 10. If the reels 34 are in video form, the display device displaying the video reels 34 is preferably a video monitor. Each base game, especially in the slot machine base game of the gaming device 10, includes speakers 36 for making sounds or playing music.

[0023] Referring now to FIG. 2, a general electronic configuration of the gaming device 10 for the stand alone and bonus embodiments described above preferably includes: a processor 38; a memory device 40 for storing program code or other data; a central display device 30; an upper display device 32; a sound card 42; a plurality of speakers 36; and one or more input devices 44. The processor 38 is preferably a microprocessor or microcontroller-based platform which is capable of displaying images, symbols and other indicia such as images of people, characters, places, things and faces of cards. The memory device 40 includes random access memory (RAM) 46 for storing event data or other data generated or used during a particular game. It should be appreciated that a battery back-up memory may also be provided. The memory device 40 also includes read only memory (ROM) 48 for storing program code, which controls the gaming device 10 so that it plays a particular game in accordance with applicable game rules and pay tables.

[0024] As illustrated in FIG. 2, the player preferably uses the input devices 44 to input signals into gaming device 10. In the slot machine base game, the input devices 44 include the pull arm 18, play button 20, the bet one button 24 and the cash out button 26. A touch screen 50 and touch screen controller 52 are connected to a video controller 54 and processor 38. The terms “computer” or “controller” are used herein to refer collectively to the processor 38, the memory device 40, the sound card 42, the touch screen controller and the video controller 54.

[0025] In certain instances, it is preferable to use a touch screen 50 and an associated touch screen controller 52 instead of a conventional video monitor display device. The touch screen enables a player to input decisions into the gaming device 10 by sending a discrete signal based on the area of the touch screen 50 that the player touches or presses. As further illustrated in FIG. 2, the processor 38 connects to the coin slot 12 or payment acceptor 14, whereby the processor 38 requires a player to deposit a certain amount of money in to start the game.

[0026] It should be appreciated that although a processor 38 and memory device 40 are preferable implementations of the present invention, the present invention also includes being implemented via one or more application-specific integrated circuits (ASIC's), one or more hard-wired devices, or one or more mechanical devices (collectively or alternatively referred to herein as a “processor”). Furthermore, although the processor 38 and memory device 40 preferably reside in each gaming device 10 unit, the present invention includes providing some or all of their functions at a central location such as a network server for communication to a playing station such as over a local area network (LAN), wide area network (WAN), Internet connection, microwave link, and the like.

[0027] With reference to the slot machine base game of FIGS. 1A and 1B, to operate the gaming device 10, the player inserts the appropriate amount of tokens or money in the coin slot 12 or the payment acceptor 14 and then pulls the arm 18 or pushes the play button 20. The reels 34 then begin to spin. Eventually, the reels 34 come to a stop. As long as the player has credits remaining, the player can spin the reels 34 again. Depending upon where the reels 34 stop, the player may or may not win additional credits.

Adjustable Reel Operation

[0028] In one embodiment, the player selects the number of reels which will be operated in a particular game through a control feature of the gaming device. In one example, a player makes a wager and uses a conventional control feature of the gaming device including, but not limited to, a button, touch screen, lever or other feature of the gaming device to send or input a signal to the processor that the player selects a certain number of reels to be played. Preferably, there are at least five reels within the display device including symbols 68, as illustrated in FIG. 3. If, for example, the player decides to play or operate three of the reels within the gaming device, a signal is sent to the processor to deactivate two of the reels within the display device, such as the first and last reels, 34a and 34e, respectively. In one embodiment, the first and last reel spin to a predetermined position which displays a symbol 72 indicating to the player that the reels have been deactivated. The symbol may display a phrase such as “Inactive Reel” or other term, including but not limited to a graphically blank symbol or position used to indicate that the reels have been deactivated. The player plays the particular game and the active reels 34b, 34c and 34d spin while the inactive reels remain stopped. The symbols on the three active reels remain the same. When the active reels stop and a plurality of symbols are displayed, only the symbols present on the three reels operated are considered to determine any winning combination. If the player chooses to operate additional reels in the next game, the reels may re-spin to a random active symbol position, or may begin spinning when the new game is initiated.

[0029] In one embodiment, the lighting which is directed towards the reels may be lowered or shut off with respect to the inactive reels. For example, if the player chooses to operate three out of five possible reels, the lighting units (not shown) may be directed toward the first and last reels 34a and 34e may be dimmed or shut off completely to draw attention to only those reels which will be played, as illustrated in FIG. 4. The game is then played in a manner similar to that described above. If the player chooses to operate additional reels in the next game, the lighting can again be directed towards the additional reels or turned on. This lighting technique may also be an embodiment whereby the lighting is accomplished via an LED, LCD or other illumination and/or shading that may exist on or behind the glass or display that covers or is around the reel that draws the attention.

[0030] In one embodiment, a cover is provided for an inactive reel. For example, if the first and last reel are inactive, a set of covers 78a and 78b may enter the viewing area of the display device in a sliding or other suitable manner from either side or from the top or bottom of the display device to cover the inactive reels as shown in FIGS. 5 and 6. The covers, once placed over the inactive reels, restrict viewing of the inactive reels. The game is then played as described above. If the player chooses to operate additional reels in the next game, the covers are removed from the viewing area of the display device preferably in a reverse manner. The reels can also be simply eliminated in a video slot machine or replaced as illustrated in FIG. 4.

[0031] In one alternative embodiment, the number of reels selected is determined by an amount wagered by a player. For example, a display device may display a plurality of reels, preferably five reels. The player may choose from a plurality of possible wagers such as one credit to three credits. If a player inserts wagers one credit, the processor may select all five reels to be operated. If the player wagers three credits, the processor selects only three of the five reels to be operated. Preferably, the three reels operated are within the middle section of reels. The processor may then select a method by which the first and fifth reel are deactivated, the method being any of the type described above or any other method suitable for displaying only a certain number of selected reels. FIG. 7 provides a block diagram 100 generally illustrating how the number of reels operated may be determined by either a direct control feature 102 of the gaming device or a wager control feature 104. Either form of selection involves communication with the processor 106 which controls the reels 108a through 108e and activates or deactivates certain reels based on the selection or wager made by the player.

[0032] By changing the number of reels operated in a given game, the player acknowledges that the paytables probabilities associated with certain outcomes are adjusted or are changed such as increasing or decreasing based on the number of reels operated. For example, in the case of a five reel embodiment of a slot machine and a three reel embodiment of a slot machine, the five reel embodiment and three reel embodiment may have a same outcome where the same symbol is displayed on each of the reels along a payline. The probability of achieving this outcome is higher for a three reel embodiment than it is for a five reel embodiment. Thus, in the present invention, when a player chooses to play three reels out of a possible five reels, the player has a sense that the probability of obtaining a winning outcome is higher than that for a five reel embodiment.

[0033] In one embodiment, a paytable is set such that outcomes for five reel operation of a gaming device have low probabilities of occurring and consequently, high payouts. In contrast, a second paytable is set for three reel operation in which the probability of achieving a winning outcome is higher. Accordingly, the payouts provided for the winning outcomes are lower than those for five reel operation. Thus, in one example, the player can wager a greater amount to lower the number of reels operated for a given game and heighten the probability of achieving a winning outcome by, in essence, selecting a different paytable. In contrast, the player could decide to play a greater number of reels, associated with a different paytable, with the intention of achieving a larger payout in connection with a winning outcome which is less probable to occur. It should be appreciated that the type of paytable associated with the specific number of reels operated is not limited to the examples provided above and can include any type of probabilities for winning outcomes and any type of payouts associated with the same. In one alternative embodiment, the gaming machine can have a three reel base game with a five reel bonus game. Alternatively, the fourth reel can be a bonus reel play with the fifth reel providing an additional feature such as a multiplier to the base or bonus win combination. The introduction of the fourth or fifth reel or any derived combination thereof, can be conditioned based on a paytable “buy-up” or “buy-a-pay” feature that may require an additional wager than that for base-game participation. It should also be appreciated that the operation of the present invention is not limited by multi-line or multi-denomination features that may or may not be supported for a given paytable or game.

[0034] The gaming device of the present invention provides numerous advantages. For example, by enabling the player to operate a selected number of reels based on the player's preference, the player does not need to stop operating a first gaming device and move to a second gaming device having a different number of reels. This is convenient for the player because of the time and energy saved in locating a gaming device the player desires to play. Moreover, the player does not need to play different types of gaming devices in order to play games with different types of payouts. In addition, by providing a gaming device capable of multi-reel operation, a casino may save on floor space required for gaming devices. A casino may also save on the costs associated with purchasing gaming devices because the number of gaming devices not operated due to player preference may decrease based on the fact that the gaming device can be configured to the type of reel operation or payout the player prefers. Another advantage is that the gaming device of the present invention provides multi-reel operation without the need for retrofitting.

[0035] It should be understood that various changes and modifications to the presently preferred embodiments described herein will be apparent to those skilled in the art. Such changes and modifications can be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention and without diminishing its intended advantages. It is therefore intended that such changes and modifications be covered by the appended claims.