Title:
Method and arrangement for providing a jackpot prize
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An electronic casino table game is provided with the ability to enable players to elect to participate in a jackpot once they have made a standard wager on the electronic casino table game. The players are provided with player terminals 602, which are connected to a central controller 608. The controller maintains a record 610 of the jackpot pool and the active wagers placed by the players. The player terminal includes a touch screen which displays a player input field 504 for the standard game inputs by the player, and a jackpot input field 510 to enable the player to elect to participate in the jackpot. The player terminals are connected to the controller by a communication link 604, 606 to enable the player wagers to be communicated to the controller and to permit the controller to control the player screens.



Inventors:
O'halloran, Terry (Paddington, AU)
Wadds, Nathan (Waverley, AU)
Application Number:
11/259349
Publication Date:
03/15/2007
Filing Date:
10/27/2005
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63F9/24
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
HYLINSKI, STEVEN J
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
WHITHAM, CURTIS & CHRISTOFFERSON & COOK, P.C. (11491 SUNSET HILLS ROAD, SUITE 340, RESTON, VA, 20190, US)
Claims:
1. A method of providing a jackpot feature for a table game in a gaming arrangement having a central controller and a plurality of player terminals communicating player wagers to the controller, the method including the steps of: enabling at least one player terminal to participate in the jackpot by placing a jackpot wager via a player terminal; adding at least a proportion of each participating player's jackpot wager to the jackpot pool; determining the result of the jackpot; identifying the or each winner.

2. A method as claimed in claim 1, including the step of detecting whether a player has placed a standard wager on a standard game, and enabling each player who has placed a standard wager to participate in the jackpot.

3. A method as claimed in claim 2, wherein the standard game is a non-jackpot game.

4. A method as claimed in claim 1, including the step of communicating jackpot result information to the player terminals of the or each player who won at least a portion of the jackpot pool.

5. A method as claimed in claim 1, including the step of communicating the result of the jackpot game to the player screens of all participants in the jackpot game.

6. A method as claimed in claim 1, including the step of displaying the jackpot pool on a large display screen while the jackpot feature is active.

7. A method as claimed in claim 1, including the step of displaying the jackpot pool on each player terminal eligible to participate in the jackpot game.

8. A method as claimed in claim 1, wherein the player terminals are electronic interfaces.

9. A gaming arrangement including a controller and a plurality of terminals each linked to the controller via a communication link, the arrangement being adapted to implement the method of claim 1.

10. An electronic gaming arrangement having two or more or player terminals connected to a central controller via a communication link, wherein each player terminal is adapted to receive dedicated player inputs to permit the player to participate in a jackpot game.

11. A gaming arrangement as claimed in claim 10, wherein the dedicated player inputs can include a dedicated jackpot wager.

12. A gaming arrangement as claimed in claim 10, wherein the player terminals can communicate information indicative of the dedicated player input to the central controller which maintains the jackpot pool.

13. A method of providing a jackpot feature for a table game substantially as herein described with reference to the accompanying drawings.

14. A gaming arrangement substantially as herein described with reference to the accompanying drawings.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to a method and apparatus for providing a communal jackpot in a table game environment.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Slot machines were initially stand alone wagering machines in which a fixed percentage of the wagers was returned to the players over a period of time. Jackpots are a desirable feature as far as the operator of the machines is concerned as they are popular with players and can provide large pool sizes compared with the standard prizes. Jackpots are available on individual slot machines in which the jackpot is taken from the amount of wagers on the machine. This lowers the average non-jackpot return of the machine as the jackpot is included in the average return. However, for slot machine players, the provision of a jackpot feature is considered to be a desirable feature.

Communal jackpots are also available on slot machines. Electronic slot machines can be linked into large groups and large jackpots can be accumulated. Communal jackpots on slot machines usually operate by diverting a percentage of each wager into the jackpot pool, which has the effect of decreasing the prize pool for each individual slot machine available for the non-jackpot prizes. Communal jackpot pools can be substantially larger than those available on individual machines, and this increases their popularity with players. In such jackpot games, a player contributes to the jackpot pool whether or not the player wishes to participate in the jackpot.

Mystery jackpots usually set a lower and an upper limit within which the jackpot must be won. In known slot machine jackpot systems, a pooled jackpot is funded by taking a percentage of each wager on each linked machine to build up the jackpot pool.

Historically, table games have been “manual” and usually operated by a human dealer or croupier. Electronic table games are only now becoming available. In these games there are usually two or more players. The players may all bet on a common outcome, such as in roulette, or they may each wager against a central bank, as in baccarat, or they may compete against the “hand” of other players such as in poker, so that there is some common element between the players in deciding the outcome. Such games will be referred to herein as casino table games.

The increasing popularity of linked mystery progressive jackpots has not been transferred with a high degree of success from slot machines to casino table games, which have a high “hold” per game when compared with slot machines. Most popular table games such as roulette, blackjack, sic bo, baccarat, are designed to return a high percentage of a player's wagers to the players. Some casino table games have a limited number of outcomes compared with slot machines which can have outcomes in the order of billions, so that diminishing the return on each bet is seen as altering the core of these games. Where the allocation of a portion of each player's wager to a jackpot pool has been tried in casino table games, this has not proved popular as the players consider that they receive less value for money for their non-jackpot returns.

Attempts to implement jackpots for casino table games such as Blackjack, Roulette, Sic Bo, Baccarat, and the like have not been well received by the players. One factor which players considered unfavourably is the reduction in the average non-jackpot return resulting in the perception of a lower value for money return.

In “manual” table games, the operator has to keep track of the bets of a plurality of players, and the additional difficulty of calculating jackpot deduction percentages from normal wagers bets has, to a large extent, prevented the implementation of such a feature in a “manual” table environment.

Any reference herein to known prior art does not, unless the contrary indication appears, constitute an admission that such prior art is commonly known by those skilled in the art to which the invention relates, at the priority date of this application.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

This invention proposes the implementation of a jackpot for table games. This invention can provide a communal mystery jackpot feature for casino table games. The invention is applicable to casino table games whether they are dealer operated or automatic. In a preferred embodiment, the invention is implemented using an electronic betting interface.

The invention provides a method and arrangement to permit a player to participate in a jackpot using an “opt-in” choice whereby the player makes a specific jackpot wager, at least a part of which is allocated to a jackpot pool.

The invention is preferably implemented in an electronically controlled arrangement in which player terminals are in communication with a computerized controller.

An embodiment of the invention provides an arrangement for implementing a casino table game in which two or more player terminals are linked to a controller, and wherein the player terminals are adapted to enable a player to make a dedicated jackpot wager.

The controller can be adapted to implement a jackpot feature in response to jackpot wagers from player terminals under the control of a jackpot operating feature.

The player terminals and the controller can be linked by a communication link.

The invention also encompasses a method of implementing a jackpot feature in a casino table game arrangement.

Preferably, the method is implemented in an electronic gaming system.

In one embodiment, each player makes a dedicated wager which contributes to the jackpot.

Preferably, the dedicated jackpot wager is additional to normal game wagers.

Preferably, the dedicated jackpot wager is made on a per play basis.

The dedicated jackpot wager can be the same for each player.

Alternatively, each player can make a plurality of dedicated jackpot wagers on one play to obtain a plurality of chances of winning the jackpot.

The maximum number of dedicated wagers per play can be limited.

The players can participate in the jackpot feature by electronic interfaces.

The jackpot pool can be displayed on a large screen.

Eligibility to make the choice to participate in the jackpot pool can be made contingent on the player having first made a wager on a “standard” game providing a “standard prize pool which is independent of the jackpot pool.

According to an embodiment of the invention, there is provided an electronic gaming arrangement having two or more or player terminals connected to a central controller via a communication link, wherein each player terminal is adapted to receive dedicated player inputs to permit the player to participate in a jackpot game.

The dedicated player inputs can include a dedicated jackpot wager.

The player terminals can communicate information indicative of the dedicated player input to the central controller which maintains the jackpot pool.

Various methods of awarding the jackpot prize are within the scope of the invention.

The result of the jackpot game can be determined from one or more player inputs to the player terminal.

The result of the jackpot can alternatively be determined by a selection process performed by the central controller.

In a further alternative, the result of the jackpot can be determined from a “chance engine” such as a roulette wheel, physical dice, electronic dice and so on.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

An embodiment or embodiments of the present invention will now be described, by way of example only, with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which:

FIG. 1 is a block diagram of a casino table game arrangement adapted for implementation of a jackpot according to an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 2 is a table illustrating a first jackpot betting option;

FIG. 3 is a table illustrating a second jackpot betting option;

FIG. 4 is a flow diagram illustrating an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 5 shows detail of a player screen suitable for use with an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 6 is a functional block diagram illustrating the functional components of an arrangement suitable for implementing an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 7 shows a flow diagram of the interactions between the player and the various elements of the arrangement according to an embodiment of the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE EMBODIMENT OR EMBODIMENTS

The invention will be described with reference to the embodiments shown in accompanying drawings. The invention will be described with reference to an arrangement for playing roulette, but it can be readily adaptable to other casino table games without departing from the inventive concept. Various means can be used to determine the winner or winners of a jackpot game.

An element of a mystery jackpot is that it can be won at random by any player contributing to the game. Usually the awarding of the jackpot is determined by given parameters, such as a lower jackpot pool value or an upper jackpot pool. A jackpot can be awarded at any time once a particular parameter occurs in a game. The parameter can be a time period. Alternatively, the parameter can be a maximum or minimum amount of money in the jackpot pool. Eligibility for the jackpot can be determined in accordance with which players have elected to participate in the jackpot by making a dedicated jackpot wager in that game.

The introduction of a different feature of this kind into a casino table game enables the implementation of some substantially different game elements. The participation in the jackpot becomes voluntary rather than compulsory. Contributions to the jackpot can make a noticeable difference to the jackpot pool. Jackpot features can be provided on casino table games to improve their competitiveness with slot machines. Such a jackpot feature provides the operator with the ability to offer a wide range of jackpots in casino table games.

FIG. 1 is a schematic illustration of an electronic gaming arrangement suitable for use with an embodiment of the invention. In this embodiment, the game is roulette and the result of the standard non-jackpot game is determined by a roulette wheel 102. The result can be communicated to a controller 104 illustrated in FIG. 1 as a computer via a communication link, e.g., cable 124 or electromagnetic wave (not shown), or the result can be input by an operator via an input device such as keyboard 103, mouse (not shown) or other suitable input device.

The controller 104 controls a plurality of player terminals of which 106, 108, 110, 112 are shown. However, the number of terminals can be much greater than the four shown in FIG. 1. The player terminals are in communication with the controller 104 via cable 114. Alternative means of communication are within the scope of the invention. For example, the player terminals may communicate with the controller 104 by wireless links, infrared link or other suitable communication link. Security coding, encryption, and tamper and fraud detection means can be used to prevent interference with the communications link.

The result can be displayed on a screen which can be a large display screen visible from all player positions when the players are all located within a specific area. Where the players are not located in one dedicated location, but are distributed around a venue or in two or more venues interconnected via a communication link, two or more displays can be provided. The result can also be displayed on the player terminals. The display screen 105 is shown as a computer screen 105 in FIG. 1. Alternatively, the result can be captured by a camera and displayed on a display screen.

The method of selecting the jackpot winner can be chosen from various selection methods. The jackpot can be a “mystery” jackpot which is unrelated to the result of the standard game. A mystery jackpot can be determined by a suitable method such as a predetermined algorithm, a predetermined set of events, or by some random or pseudo-random trigger event.

One method of determining the result of the jackpot is for a player to select a sequence of winning numbers over a series of spins in the standard game of roulette. The selection of the winning sequence can be detected by the player terminal, and the player terminal can communicate the fact that the player has won the jackpot. Alternatively, the central processor can record the last “n” selections from each player and determine when if a player has won.

An alternative method of determining the winner of a jackpot in a card game is the detection of a specific “hand” of cards such as four of a kind or a royal flush. Again this can be detected by the player terminal or the central processor.

FIG. 2 shows a table which illustrates schematically a method embodying the invention showing how the controller 104 can manage the player inputs for a jackpot game. For the purpose of this description, the game is assumed to be roulette, but may be any other suitable casino table game. The players are represented as “A” to “I”, and their jackpot bets are represented as “a” to “i”. In one embodiment, each participating player, A, C D, E, H & I selects a number, which may or may not be the same as the number selected by another player. In FIG. 2, the participating players are limited to a single unit bet per game. The other player terminals, B, F and G, are not participating in the current game as the players may have elected not to participate, or the player terminals may be idle.

The value of the jackpot includes any “seed” money forming an initial pool, plus the accumulated player bets since the jackpot was last won and the current game contributions of the players participating in the jackpot. The initial pool can be provided in various ways. For example, it can be provided from a deduction from earlier jackpot pools, or from a fund controlled by the operator.

FIG. 6 illustrates functional elements of a connection between a player terminal and a controller. As illustrated in FIG. 6, player terminals such as 106 discussed with reference to FIG. 1, can include a display and a player input device such as a touch screen 602, mouse, joystick, keyboard or other suitable input device. The player terminals also include a display control interface 604 and a player input interface 606 to transmit the player inputs to the controller 104. In the embodiment illustrated in FIGS. 1 and 6, the player display 602 is a touch screen which also acts as a player input. The touch screen is connected to the controller via a display control circuit 606.

The controller controls display 612 which can display the jackpot pool. Display 612 can be a large screen communal display.

The controller 608 controls the display on the player terminal screen 602. The player can determine which game the terminal is to be used to play by selecting the game from a default screen when the player terminal is idle.

FIG. 5 illustrates a sample display on a player terminal suitable for use in an electronic version of roulette. The display 500 represents the standard “felt” layout used for players to make bets in traditional roulette. The bet area 502 includes an array 504 of numbers 1 to 36 together with the additional zero at the left hand side, as in traditional roulette. Various combination bet areas are provided to the right and below the number array. An information line 506 can provide information for the player, such as the amount of credit, the value of the current bet, the amount won on the most recent play. The game control display area 508 display notifies the player of the time remaining in which to place a wager. A history line 512 can display the results of a number of previous games.

Additional functional buttons such as CANCEL 514, CHANGE GAME 516, COLLECT 518, can be provided. Other buttons, such as BET (not shown) can be provided to enable the player to control the submission of a wager. This means that the player can set up a wager but wait for a subsequent game before submitting the wager.

Additional areas, such as wager amounts, can also be provided to permit the player to select the amount of a wager.

The display can be a touch screen which communicates the player wagers to the controller 104 as described with reference to FIG. 6.

The jackpot area 508 enables the player to participate in a jackpot play. In a first embodiment, in which each player terminal can wager only one unit on the jackpot and the winner is determined independently of player input, the player makes a jackpot wager by touching the jackpot section of the display. In this embodiment, the jackpot winner can be determined on a random basis.

In an alternative arrangement the jackpot can be awarded based on player input, the player can make a jackpot wager by touching the jackpot are and then selecting a number as the player's input. If the number selected by the player is the same as the game result, the player wins a share in the jackpot depending on how many other players selected that number as their jackpot number. This method can be extended to requiring the player to select a sequence of winning numbers to increase the odds against winning to an appropriate level.

In a further embodiment, the player can first activate the jackpot feature and then select an amount which enables the player to select more than one number.

In a further embodiment, the player can wager more than one unit on one number.

FIG. 4 is a flow diagram showing the process of selecting between a jackpot game and a non-jackpot game according to an embodiment of the invention, and FIG. 7 shows an associated action flow diagram.

At the start of the game 402, the player places a standard game wager at step 404. The player is then given the choice of activating the jackpot feature in decision box 406, for example by touching the SUPER JACKPOT icon 510 in FIG. 5 and making a jackpot bet. In one embodiment, players can only make a single unit bet in the jackpot per game. In an alternative embodiment the players may be permitted to make more than one unit bets on the jackpot per game. Where the players are permitted to make multiple-unit jackpot bets per game, there may be an upper limit on the number of jackpot units per game a player can bet.

The option to make standard wager and to then choose a jackpot wager may be available for a limited time period and once this period has expired and the player has not selected the jackpot option, the output of the decision box 406 follows the “NO” output and the player is allocated to the standard game only at 408. If the player does not select the jackpot option, that player does not participate in the jackpot for that game. The player's terminal participates in the normal game at 408, which, for the purpose of this description, is assumed to be roulette, but can be any other suitable casino type table game.

When the game is finished at 410, the result of the standard game is displayed either on each player terminal and/or on a central display such as a display screen controlled by controller 104. After the completion of a game, a new game period commences at 402 and the player has the option to participate in the standard game, and, at the player's option, to then participate in the jackpot. In this second iteration, we assume that the player selects the standard game at 404 and then selects the jackpot option at 406 so that the program follows the “YES” option from decision box 406. Thus the player participates in the game at 414, and the standard game is played and the result displayed at 416. In addition, the program checks via decision box 418 to determine whether the jackpot has been won. If the jackpot has not been won, the program follows the “NO” output of decision box 418 and returns to the start 402.

If the jackpot has been won, the program follows the “YES” output of decision box 418 and the jackpot is awarded at 420, and then the control returns to the start 402.

FIG. 7 is an interaction flow diagram which illustrates typical interactions between the player, the player terminal, the controller and the game determining mechanism for a jackpot feature where each player is entitled to only one wager unit per game. The game determining mechanism can be a physical device such as a roulette wheel, or it can be a software implementation of an algorithm to determine the outcome. For the purpose of this example, the jackpot is determined by the result of the roulette wheel spin. However, other methods of determining the jackpot winner are within the scope of this invention.

In this embodiment, each player can wager one unit on the jackpot.

When a new game period has been initiated by the controller, it causes the player terminal to activate the game screen via link 700. The player can then activate a game by touching the standard bet input section and making one or more bets, which may be of the same or differing values. The bet is detected by the player screen at 701. Once the player has joined the game by making a standard bet, the player terminal reports the bet to the controller at 702, which sends a jackpot authorization to the player terminal at 703. The player terminal then activates the jackpot input, at 704, and the player has the option to make a jackpot wager. The player in this instance selects the jackpot and this is detected by the player terminal at 705, and reported by the player terminal to the controller at 706. The new wager is added to the jackpot pool and the jackpot pool display (not shown) is incremented by the controller. The controller also monitors the time allowed for placing wagers and when this expires, the controller or the operator initiates the decision mechanism, in this case exemplified by a roulette wheel. The roulette wheel then determines the result and this is communicated to the controller at 708. The controller than identifies the jackpot winner, if any, and notifies the winning player terminal at 709.

Instead of the player terminal needing to obtain authorization from the controller to permit the player terminal to activate the jackpot feature, the terminal can be programmed to activate the jackpot feature when the player places a standard wager. The player terminal then reports the jackpot wager to the controller when the player places a jackpot wager.

FIG. 8 is an interaction flow diagram in which the player is able to choose a specific jackpot number and wager more than one unit on the jackpot.

Again the controller initiates the game by alerting the player terminals at 800, and the player terminals display the “ready” screen. The player makes a standard game wager at 801, and the player terminal reports this to the controller at 802. The controller than enables the jackpot element of the player terminal at 803 and the player terminal activates the jackpot feature at 804. The player can then choose to enter the jackpot at 805, and the player terminal can then display an instruction to the player at 806 as to how to place the jackpot bet, for example, the player terminal can display the instruction “SELECT NUMBER”. The player then selects the number at 807, and the player terminal then offers the player the opportunity to select an amount at 808. The player selects the amount at 809, and the player terminal reports the transaction to the controller at 810. The controller adds the new wagers to the jackpot pool and records the details in the jackpot table. The wagering period for the game times out and the result is determined. The controller identifies the winner or winners, if any, and notifies their player terminals at 813.

The game software can be designed so that the standard game and the jackpot feature are treated as separate events.

The machine audit programs can be adapted to incorporate the jackpot wagers. The standard game and the jackpot can be treated as separate accounting items.

The jackpot value can be presented on a separate screen from standard game play, or it can be presented on the same screen as standard game play, in which case it can be highlighted to stand out.

Where ever it is used, the word “comprising” is to be understood in its “open” sense, that is, in the sense of “including”, and thus not limited to its “closed” sense, that is the sense of “consisting only of”. A corresponding meaning is to be attributed to the corresponding words “comprise”, “comprised” and “comprises” where they appear.

It will be understood that the invention disclosed and defined herein extends to all alternative combinations of two or more of the individual features mentioned or evident from the text. All of these different combinations constitute various alternative aspects of the invention.

While particular embodiments of this invention have been described, it will be evident to those skilled in the art that the present invention may be embodied in other specific forms without departing from the essential characteristics thereof. The present embodiments and examples are therefore to be considered in all respects as illustrative and not restrictive, and all modifications which would be obvious to those skilled in the art are therefore intended to be embraced therein.