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Title:
Methods and apparatuses for time-constrained games of billiards, pool and the like
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
The present invention is generally directed to novel methods for playing billiards, pool and the like. The methods generally include associating a first player with a first timer set to a first value of time and a second player with a second timer set to a second value of time. The players generally take turns according to the rules of a game of pool or billiards while having the time in the first timer expire during said first player's inning or set of innings and the time in the second timer expire during said second player's inning or set of innings. The game generally ends whenever (a) a player's timer completely expires or (b) a player succeeds in achieving the object of the game before said player's timer completely expires. The winner is generally the player having time remaining while said player's opponent's time has completely expired or the player who achieved the object of the game before said player's time completely expired. A billiards table functionally associated with a timing device is also disclosed. The device generally includes a first timer adapted to be set to a first value greater than zero and a second timer adapted to be set to a second value greater than zero. One or more timer controllers are available to control the timers. Timer displays show the time remaining in each timer.


Inventors:
Flores, Amal (Los Angeles, CA, US)
Application Number:
11/698788
Publication Date:
07/31/2008
Filing Date:
01/25/2007
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
473/4
International Classes:
A63D15/20
View Patent Images:
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Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Carlos, Candeloro (1601 N. SEPULVEDA BLVD., # 239, MANHATTAN BEACH, CA, 90266, US)
Claims:
1. A billiards table, the billiards table further comprising: a first button adapted to control at least a first timer; a second button adapted to control at least a second timer; wherein said first timer is adapted to be set to a first value of time and said second timer is adapted to be set to a second value of time.

2. The billiards table of claim 1, wherein said first button is adapted when actuated to cause said first timer to become active and start expiring the time available in said first timer and said second button is adapted when actuated to cause said second timer to become active and start expiring the time available in said second timer.

3. The billiards table of claim 2, wherein said first button when actuated is further adapted to cause said second timer, if said second timer is active, to pause and retain the last value said second timer held at the time said first button was actuated.

4. The billiards table of claim 2, wherein said second button when actuated is further adapted to cause said first timer, if said first timer is active, to pause and retain the last value said first timer held at the time said second button was actuated.

5. The billiards table of claim 1, wherein said first timer is functionally associated with a first timer display and said second timer is functionally associated with a second timer display.

6. The billiards table of claim 1, wherein the billiards table further comprises a value accepting mechanism, wherein successful actuation of said value accepting mechanism makes billiards balls available for play.

7. The billiards table of claim 6, wherein successful actuation of said value accepting mechanism re-sets said first and second timers.

8. The billiards table of claim 1, wherein the billiards table further comprises an input pad for setting said first and second timers.

9. (canceled)

10. The billiards table of claim 1, wherein the billiards table further comprises a first indicator adapted to indicate when said first timer's time has fully expired and a second indicator adapted to indicate when said second timer's time has fully expired.

11. A billiards table, the billiards table comprising: a first timer, wherein said first timer is adapted to be set to a first value greater than zero; a second timer, wherein said second timer is adapted to be set to a second value greater than zero; an input pad for setting said first and second timers; a timer controller, wherein the timer controller when actuated alternatively initiates and pauses, respectively, said first and second timers; a first timer display and a second timer display, wherein the first timer display displays the value of said first timer and the second timer display displays the value of said second timer; a value accepting mechanism adapted to activate said timing device when said value accepting mechanism is successfully actuated; a first indicator adapted to indicate when said first timer's time has fully expired; a first indicator adapted to indicate when said second timer's time has fully expired.

12. A timing device functionally associated with a billiards table, wherein the timing device comprises: a first timer functionally associated to a first timer display, wherein said first timer is adapted to be set to a first value greater than zero; a second timer functionally associated to a second timer display, wherein said second timer is adapted to be set to a second value greater than zero; wherein said timing device is functionally associated with a timer controller; wherein actuating said timer controller activates said first timer causing expiration of the time available in said first timer, and thereafter, actuating said timer controller causes the active timer to pause while activating the alternate of said first and second timers causing expiration of the time available from the last value at which said alternate timer was last paused.

13. 13-20. (canceled)

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The field of the invention is pool and billiards tables and methods for use thereof.

Introduction

There are numerous types of billiards and pool games (hereinafter “billiard games”) played around the world. The games generally entail a rectangular felt covered table having 6 pockets, a number of object balls and a cue ball. The games generally involve driving the cue ball against object balls such that said object balls go into one of the pockets. Popular billiards games include 8-ball, 9-ball, One Pocket and Cutthroat. The equipment necessary to play these types of games, including tables, balls, cue sticks, triangles, chalk and other implements are available commercially from a variety of vendors.

Billiard games are also available virtually, for example as video games or online games. Popular billiards video game titles include “Backspin Billiards” available at Yahoo!® Games and Arcade_Pool_II from Team17 Software Ltd.

Valley-Dynamo (www.valley-dynamo.com) apparently produces and sells a billiards table for playing SpeedPool™. SpeedPool appears to be a single player game in which a player is generally timed as he or she sinks all fifteen balls in any order, as long as the 8 ball is last, and where players who can sink all fifteen balls faster are considered better at the game.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,071,121 to Garret relates to a game score computing device. According to the patent disclosure, the device includes manually actuatable switch input means for inputting data corresponding to game scores of game players, and timing means for timing the duration of play of up to four SpeedPool™ players. A data processor responsive to the game score and the timing operation determine the winning player and display means responsive to the data processor provide a visual display identifying the winning player.

Billiards games, whether live or virtual, generally are not time constrained. This presents undesirable consequences, including that games can run long. Long games decrease the rentability of coin-operated pool tables while also frustrating customers waiting to play. Prolonged games also make televising competitive matches more difficult. Some televised 9-ball tournaments have implemented a shot-clock to keep the pace of the game. However the shot clock apparently is re-set after every shot, so there apparently is no limit on the overall amount of time a player may spend at the table during a game, or set of games (match) or the overall length of time a game or match may last, again causing some to become long and unexciting.

Accordingly, there is a need for apparatuses and methods of play for playing time constrained games of pool, billiards and the like.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

In a first embodiment, the present invention is directed to novel methods for playing billiards, pool and the like. The method generally includes associating a first player with a first timer set to a first value of time and a second player with a second timer set to a second value of time. The players generally take turns according to the rules of a game of pool or billiard while having the time in the first timer expire during said first player's inning or set of innings and the time in the second timer expire during said second player's inning or set of innings. The game generally ends whenever (a) a player's timer completely expires or (b) a player succeeds in achieving the object of the game before said player's timer completely expires. The winner is generally the player having time remaining while said player's opponent's time has completely expired or the player who achieved the object of the game before said player's time completely expired.

In a second, independent embodiment, the preset invention is directed to a billiards table functionally associated with a timing device. The device generally includes a first timer adapted to be set to a first value greater than zero and a second timer adapted to be set to a second value greater than zero. One or more timer controllers are available to control the timers. Timer displays show the time remaining in each timer.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURES

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a billiards table including a device in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a front view of a device in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of a billiards table including a device in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of a billiards table functionally associated with a device in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of a billiards table functionally associated with a device in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of a billiards table functionally associated with a device in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 7 is a flow diagram of a routine in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention that enables the initial setting of a device in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 8 is a flow diagram of a routine in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention that enables processing signals received by a device in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 9 is a flow diagram of a routine in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention that enables processing a pause signal received by a device in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 10 is a flow diagram of a routine in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention that enables determination of a winner by a device in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Turning now in detail to the drawings, in the embodiment shown in FIG. 1, a billiards table 10 includes a device 12, and four sets of two timer controls 14, 16 functionally associated with the device 12. While the embodiment is exemplified using a six-pocket pool table, the device, controls and other implements of the present invention may be present or functionally associated with any of a variety of pool and/or billiards tables, both real and virtual.

Turning to FIG. 2, the device 12 shown in this embodiment includes, or is functionally associated with, at least two timer displays 210, 212. In other embodiments (not shown), a different number of timer displays may be present, including, for example, 0, 1, 3, 4, 5, 6 or more timer displays. The timer displays 210, 212 are functionally associated with a timer (not shown), or the like, or any effective system or mechanism for keeping time that may generally be set to a given value greater than zero, be started and paused, and keep time, in particular being able to count from zero to said set time or from said set time down to zero. A timer display generally reflects the amount of time that remains in a given timer, or the like. Generally at least one timer display is present for each player or team of players.

Generally a timer display used for the present invention may take any effective form and display any effective amount of time. A timer display used for the present invention may also display any effective increment of time. For example, a timer display in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention may include an “hours” interval field. A timer display in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention may include a “minutes” time interval field. A timer display in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention may include a “seconds” interval field. A timer display in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention may include a “milliseconds” time interval field. Combinations of the above enumerated fields, or the addition of additional fields, for example, micro-seconds, days, or the like, are also within the scope of the present invention. In the embodiment shown in FIG. 2, the timer displays 210, 212 include minutes 214, 218 and seconds 216, 220 interval fields for each timer.

A device in accordance with the present invention generally also includes, or is functionally associated with, one or more controls or one or more sets of controls. A control or set of controls, when present, may take any effective form and perform any function for which the control or set of controls may be made effective. For example, a control or set of controls may be used to set parameters of the device, including, for example, the type of game, the number of players, the amount of time allotted, and the like. A control or set of controls may generally also be present to control one or more timers of a device.

In the embodiment shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, the device includes an input pad 222, or the like, that enables the setting of the device's timers, which set time is reflected in the timer displays 210, 212. Buttons 224 and 226 are used to navigate the time fields 214, 216, 218, 220 while buttons 228 and 230 are used to increment or decrement the values of said selected time fields 214, 216, 218, 220. Generally, as a time interval field 214, 216, 218, 220 is selected it may begin to flash, for example, to indicate it is active and that it may then be changed. While in the embodiment shown an input pad 222 is used to set the timers or set of timers, the timer or set of timers may be set in any effective manner. For example, any of the myriad systems and methods used in commercially available timers, clocks, and the like, may be used.

A device in accordance with the present invention generally includes, or is functionally associated with, one or more timer controls, generally in the form of one or more buttons or the like. Timer controls functionally associated with a timing device in accordance with the present invention may be located, or adapted to be located, in any effective manner and place on or about a billiards table, including being integrally formed with the device or the table. Generally a timer control is positioned such that during a game a player may access the timer control without much delay or effort. For example, a timer control or set of controls may be disposed on or about the table, preferably in a place that is unobtrusive to the game. In the embodiment shown in FIG. 1, for example, four sets of timer control buttons 14, 16 are strategically present on the rail or shoulder of the table. In alternative embodiments, one or more timer control buttons or set of buttons may be present on the device. In yet another embodiment, the timer control may be portable, or the like, such that a player may carry it during a match, in which case the timer control will generally communicate with the device 12 wirelessly, or the like. In another embodiment, a timer control or set of controls is adapted to be mounted on a billiards table. In another embodiment, for example, a timer control or set of controls is adapted to be mounted within the playing area around a billiards table. In yet another example, a timer control or set of controls may be present at an officiating table, booth or the like.

In one embodiment, actuating a control, including a timer control provides a feedback signal. Any effective signal may be provided. In one embodiment the signal is auditory, e.g., a sound or the like. In another embodiment the signal is visual, or the like.

In the embodiment shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, the timers are controlled by buttons 14, 16 present on the table. When pressed, the buttons 14, 16 change the active/de-active state of one or more timers functionally associated with the device 12. In this case, generally when player X's timer is active 210, pressing a first timer control button 14 deactivates player X's timer 210 (pauses the time decrement of the timer of player X) and activates the timer of player Y 212 (starts the time decrement of the timer of player Y). Pressing button 14 when the timer of player Y 212 is active generally has no effect. Conversely, for example, when player Y's timer 212 is active, pressing a second timer control button 16 deactivates player Y's timer 212 (pauses the time decrement of the timer of player Y) and activates the timer of player X 210 (starts the time decrement of the timer of player X). Pressing button 16 when the timer of player X 210 is active generally has no effect.

Alternatively, in another embodiment of the present invention, a single timer control button or set of buttons controls more than one timer (not shown). In this embodiment, for example, when player X's timer is active, pressing the timer control button deactivates player X's timer (pauses the time decrement of the timer of player X) and activates the timer of player Y (starts the time decrement of the timer of player Y), and, conversely, when player Y's timer is active, pressing the timer control button deactivates player Y's timer (pauses the time decrement of the timer of player Y) and activates the timer of player X (starts the time decrement of the timer of player X).

In the embodiment shown in FIG. 2, the device 12 includes a pause button 234, or the like. Actuating the pause button 234 generally causes all the timers associated with the device to pause. In one embodiment, described in more detail herein, the pause control also causes the device to assess whether the game has concluded.

A device in accordance with the present invention may include, or be functionally associated with, one or more indicators to indicate one or more states of a game. Generally a game status indicator is adapted to be positioned in any effective manner and place such that, without much effort, it may be visible by a player during a game. States of a game that may be indicated include, for example, which player is “active” (e.g., whose turn it is), whether someone is out of time, whether the game is over, and the like. When present, an indicator may take any effective form and may include any effective device or method adapted to indicate information regarding an aspect of a game. The indicators may, for example, include LED lights, or the like, of the type that may be illuminated or off. The indicator may also, for example, include an LCD type screen, or the like. An indicator may also, for example, include auditory signals, including sounds, or the like. An indicator may be controlled in any effective manner. For example, an indicator may be under the control of a controller, processor, or the like (not shown).

In the embodiment shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, lights 236, 238 indicate the active player. The illuminatable “game over” display 240 indicates when a game is over.

While in the embodiment shown the device 12 includes an indicator adapted to indicate the active player, the active player may be indicated in any effective manner. In another embodiment, for example, the active player is indicated by flashing the player's timer display, or, alternatively, by flashing the timer display of non-active players. In yet another example, the active player may be ascertained because the time associated with his or her timer display is running.

Timer control buttons 14, 16 may also be illuminated to indicate the active player. For example, the active player's timer control may be illuminated while the resting player's timer control may be not illuminated, or the active and resting players' timer controls may be each illuminated in a different color.

The device, controls and other implements of the present invention may be powered in any effective manner, including, for example, connection to a power outlet, batteries, and the like.

The device 12 may be activated in any effective manner, including, for example, a button, a coin, bill, token or another value type accepting mechanism, or the like. When a value accepting mechanism is present to activate the device 12 the value accepting mechanism may be functionally independent of a value accepting mechanism that may be associated with the release of the balls or it may be functionally associated with the release of the balls.

The device, timer displays and timer controllers in accordance with the present invention may be functionally associated with a pool or billiards table, or adapted to be mounted in a manner such that they are functionally associated with a pool or billiards table, in any effective configuration and manner. FIGS. 3-6 illustrate further non-limiting configurations in accordance with other embodiments of the present invention.

In the embodiment shown in FIG. 3, a coin operated billiards table 310 includes a device 312 in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. The device 312 is functionally associated with a value accepting mechanism 314 adapted to activate the device 312 and releases the balls. Additional timer displays 316, 318 functionally associated with the device 312 are placed such as to be visible by the players, in the example shown by being mounted on a light fixture 320, or the like, over the table 310.

As exemplified in FIG. 3, timer displays in accordance with the present invention may alternatively or additionally be present, or adapted to be mounted, in any effective manner and place on or about a billiards table. Timer displays effectively associated with the device may be functionally associated with the device in any effective manner, including by wire, wirelessly, or the like. Generally a device of the present invention is functionally associated with timer displays positioned such that the timer displays may be visible by a person from one or more spots around the table with which it is associated. Generally a timer display in accordance with the present invention may be placed, or adapted to be placed, on a table or about the periphery of a billiards table at a distance from the table that is commensurate with the size of the display. In another non-limiting example, one or more timer displays may be present, or adapted to be mounted, on a lateral surface of a billiards table. In another non-limiting example, one or more timer displays may be present, or adapted to be mounted, on the shoulder, rail, or other substantially horizontal surface of a billiards table. In another non-limiting example, one or more timer displays may be adapted to be mounted on a wall, or the like, or be present on a wall, or the like, near the billiards table. In one embodiment, for example, one or more timer displays may be placed, or adapted to be placed, generally at about eye level or higher.

As also exemplified in FIG. 3, a device in accordance with the present invention may be functionally associated with a coin, bill, token or another value-type accepting mechanism, or the like, which generally permits activation of the device. When a value accepting mechanism is functionally associated with a device of the present invention the mechanism may also be functionally associated with the release of the balls, as in the embodiment shown in FIG. 3, or, in other embodiments, the mechanism may be functionally independent from the release of the balls.

While the devices shown in FIGS. 1 and 3 are present on a lateral surface of a billiards table, a device in accordance with the present invention may be present, or adapted to be mounted, in any functionally effective place and manner on or about a billiards table. Generally a device of the present invention is functionally associated, or adapted to be functionally associated, with a pool or billiards table by being adapted to be functionally associated with a) timer displays that are positioned, or adapted to be positioned, such that the timer displays may be visible by a person from one or more spots around the table with which the device is associated and b) timer controls positioned, or adapted to be positioned, such that during a game a player at the table may access a timer control without much delay or effort, for example, preferably within about 12 feet from the table, or more preferably within about 3 feet from the table, or yet more preferably integrally formed with the table. Timer displays and timer controllers functionally associated with a device may be functionally associated with the device in any effective manner, including by wire, wirelessly, or the like.

FIG. 4 exemplifies another non-limiting placement for a device 412 in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention. In the embodiment shown in FIG. 4, the device 412 is functionally associated with a pool or billiards table 410 by being mounted on a light fixture 320, or the like, over the table 410. Timer displays 210, 212 and timer controllers 14, 16 in the embodiment shown in FIG. 4 are integrally formed with the device 412. In another non-limiting example, the device 412 may be present, or adapted to be mounted, on a wall, fixture, or the like, functionally near the billiards table 410.

FIG. 5 exemplifies another non-limiting configuration of a timing device 512 functionally associated with a pool or billiards table 510. In the embodiment shown in FIG. 5, the device 512 is mounted on a light fixture 320, or the like, over a pool or billiards table 510. The pool or billiards table 510 includes a value accepting mechanism 514 that is functionally associated with the device 512 such that the mechanism is adapted to both activate the device 512 and release the balls when the mechanism 514 is successfully actuated. In another non-limiting example, the device 512 may be present, or adapted to be mounted, on a wall, fixture, or the like, such that the device is functionally associated with the billiards table 510.

FIG. 6 exemplifies another non-limiting configuration of a timing device 612 functionally associated with a pool or billiards table 610. In the embodiment shown in FIG. 6, the device 612 is mounted on a light fixture 320, or the like, over a pool or billiards table 610. The pool or billiards table 510 includes four sets (two shown) of time controllers 14, 16 functionally associated with the device 612. While the device 612 is shown mounted on a light fixture 320, or the like, like in other embodiments, the device 612 may be present, or adapted to be mounted in other effective places, including, for example, on a wall, fixture, or the like, such that is functionally associated with the billiards table 610.

In one embodiment, after a timer runs out of time a mechanism disables the table from further play until the device is re-set or re-initiated. The mechanism that disables the table may be any effective mechanism. In one embodiment the table tilts such as to clear all balls from the table into the pockets. In another embodiment the pockets are locked.

In accordance with another embodiment a kit in accordance with the present invention includes a device adapted to be functionally associated with a billiards or pool table, one or more timer controls or set of controls that are adapted to work with said device and be mounted or functionally associated with a billiards or pool table. In another embodiment, the kit also includes one or more timer displays adapted to work with said device and be mounted or functionally associated with a billiards or pool table.

The games of the present invention generally entail players taking turns at a billiards table according to the rules and conventions of a game. Each player's turn is generally referred to as an “inning.” A player active during an inning is generally referred to herein as the “active player.”Depending on the specific rules of the game being played, a player's timer may be ticking or paused when said player is active or inactive. In other embodiments, e.g., pursuant to other sets of rules, a timer's ticking or paused state may be independent on whether a given player is active or inactive.

Accordingly, a method in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention generally includes associating a timer set to a value with each player before a game of pool or billiards is initiated. Timers may be set to any effective value. The values will generally depend on the game being played, the level of skill of the players, and the level of difficulty desired. The values will generally also depend on the specific rules followed for a game, for example, whether a player must wait until all balls come to rest before shooting, whether a player must wait until the cue ball comes to rest before shooting, whether a player may shoot balls while they are still in motion, and the like. Generally timers are set such that they are a factor in the game, but that it is still possible to win a game by completing the object of the game without running out of time. Preferably there is an about 50% chance that a game will end because a player ran out of time and 50% chance that a game will end because a player completed the object of the game before their time expired. However the ratio may be changed depending on the level of excitement desired, or based on other considerations.

Generally, for games like 8 ball, 9 ball, cutthroat and the like, and, for example, the game is being played such that all balls must come to rest before a player may shoot, each timer will be set to a value in a range from about 1 minute to about 15 minutes, or in a range from about 2 minutes to about 10 minutes, or in a range from about 2:30 minutes to about 5 minutes. In one preferred embodiment the timers are each set to 2 minutes. In another preferred embodiment the timers are each set to 2 minutes 30 seconds. In another preferred embodiment the timers are each set to 3 minutes. In another preferred embodiment the timers are each set to 4 minutes. In another preferred embodiment the timers are each set to 5 minutes. When a match involves winning more than one game, the timers may be set by multiplying the above values by the number of matches required to win.

In another embodiment of the present invention, a handicap is provided to one player by providing said player's timer with more time than said player's adversary. Said timers may then be adjusted game to game until there generally is an equal chance of one player or the other winning a game.

After the timers are set, the game is then generally initiated and played according to the traditional rules of said game. Traditional rules of pool and billiards games are available from reference books, including, for example, “Billiards, Revised and Updated: The Official Rules and Records Book” by R. A. Dyer and Billiards Congress of America (Paperback—May 1, 2005), “Billiards: The Official Rules & Records Book, 2004 Edition (World-Standardized Rules)” by Billiard Congress of America (Paperback—April 2004), and other editions of said books published by the Billiards Congress of America, which books are incorporated herein by reference in their entirety as if fully set forth herein. While the particulars may vary according to the specific embodiment, generally time on a timer associated with a player expires while said player's inning (or set of innings) progress. The timers associated with the device are generally controlled by the players using the timer controls 14, 16, generally by pressing their respective timer control 14 or 16 at the end of their inning. The game generally ends whenever the first of a set of rules including rules (a), (b) or (a) and (b) is satisfied. Rule (a) generally ends a game when a player completes the game according to the rules of said game before said player's time completely expires. Rule (b) generally ends a game when at least one player's time has expired. In one embodiment of the present invention, a winner or non-loser of a pool or billiards type game is determined as a player satisfying a set of rules for said pool or billiards type game pursuant to rule (a). In another embodiment of the present invention, a winner or non-loser of a pool or billiards type game is determined as a player whose opponent has run afoul of rule (b), e.g., their opponent has run out of time. Accordingly, in another embodiment of the present invention, a winner or non-loser of a pool or billiards type game is determined as a player satisfying a set of rules for said pool or billiards type game, wherein said set of rules also including rules (a), (b) or (a) and (b).

In another embodiment, a further rule, rule (c) generally ends a game when a player scratches more than a predetermined number of times during a game. For example, a winner or non-loser of a pool or billiards type game is determined as a player whose opponent scratched three (or another predetermined number) times, despite said opponent still having time available in his or her clock, and despite said player not having completed the game according to the rules of said game.

In another embodiment, a further rule, rule (d) generally penalizes a player who presses his or her timer controller while by rule it is still their turn. In one embodiment said player is penalized by losing the game. In another embodiment said player is penalized by being charged with a scratch. In another embodiment said player loses his or her turn.

In another embodiment a timing device in accordance with the present invention is implemented virtually and is functionally associated with a virtual billiards or pool table, or the like.

In another set of embodiments, the present invention may be described in the form of a system. The system is generally functionally associated with a pool or billiards table, real or virtual. The system may be implemented in any effective manner, including, for example, mechanical, electronic, with a processor, and the like. One embodiment of a system in accordance with the present invention is illustrated in FIGS. 7-10.

Any effective process may be used to initially activate a system in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. A flow diagram illustrating a process or routine 700 enabling an initial activation of a system in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention is shown in FIG. 7. The system may be activated 702 in any effective manner, such as, for example, receiving the input of a control, the acceptance of a certain value, token, and the like. In one embodiment, the activation of the system is generally associated with making the balls available for play. After the system is activated, a time interval for each player or team is generally received, stored and displayed by the system 704, 706. In an alternative embodiment, time intervals may also be pre-set to a certain value, such that time intervals need not, or may not, be modified by the players, but only by an authorized system administrator, or the like. In one embodiment, the time intervals are the same for all players, in which case setting one said time interval is sufficient. The system generally idles until it receives a start signal 708.

Any effective process may be used after a system in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention receives a start signal. A flow diagram illustrating a process or routine 800 enabling processing of this event in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention is shown in FIG. 8. In the embodiment shown, the system generally activates a first player's timer 802. The system then assesses whether it has received a signal to change the active timer 804. If the system has received a signal to switch the active timer, the system determines the next timer it should activate 806 and activates that timer while deactivating the previously active timer 802, 808. If the system has not received a signal to change the active timer, the system assesses whether there is time remaining in the active timer 810. If time remains in the active timer, the time available in the active timer is decreased and the active timer display is updated to reflect the time remaining in the active timer 812. If time does not remain in the active timer, the system generally activates an indicator that indicates the timer is out of time 814. After decreasing the time available in the active timer or otherwise indicating the timer is out of time, the system assesses whether it has received a signal to pause 816. If the system has not received a signal to pause, the system loops back to assess whether it has received a signal to change the active timer 804.

Any effective process may be used when a system in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention receives a pause signal, or the like. A flow diagram illustrating a process or routine 900 enabling a response to a pause signal in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention is shown in FIG. 9. In the embodiment shown, if the system has received a signal to pause 902, the system pauses the timers 904 and assesses whether time remains in the timers 906. If no time remains in at least one timer, the system terminates the game 908 and proceeds to determine a winner (see, e.g., FIG. 10). If time remains in the timers, the system idles 910, 912 until it receives a signal to activate a timer 914, 916, in which case it resumes its function (see, e.g., FIG. 8).

Any effective process may be used for a system in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention to determine a winner. A flow diagram illustrating a process or routine 1000 enabling determination of winner in a system in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention is shown in FIG. 10. In the embodiment shown, once the system has assessed that one timer is out of time (e.g., 814, 906, 908) 1002, the system assesses whether at least one timer still has time 1004. If no time remains in any timer, the system displays a draw 1006. If time remains on one timer 1008, 1010, 1012, the system displays said timer as associated with a winner 1014.

In one embodiment, for example where the game is implemented virtually, the timer functions may be switched without input from the players. According to this embodiment, when an algorithm or set of algorithms determines that a player's inning has come to an end, the same or another algorithm or set of algorithms may stop the player's timer while activating the next active player's timer. In one embodiment, when an algorithm or set of algorithms determine that a player has won according to a set of rules, wherein the set of rules includes rules (a), (b), (a) and (b) or a combination of rules (a) and (b) with rules (c) and (d) supra, an algorithm or set of algorithms may end the game and declare a winner.

EXAMPLE 1

Eight Ball

The balls are racked according to the rules of eight ball on a pool table functionally associated with a device of the present invention. Two timers of the device are set to a predetermined value, five minutes, for example. The player that will break sets up (the “first player”), and his or her opponent (the “second player”) starts the first player's timer. The first player breaks and continues to play until the end of their inning. At the end of their inning, the first player activates the timer control, which changes the active timer such that the first player's timer is paused and the second player's timer is running. The second player then plays their inning. At the end of their inning, the second player activates the timer control, which changes the active timer such that the second player's timer is paused and the first player's timer is running. The players continue to alternate generally until one of the timers expires, one player scratches the eight ball, or one player makes all his or her balls and the eight ball before their time expires.

EXAMPLE 2

Nine Ball Match

The balls are racked according to the rules of nine ball on a pool table functionally associated with a device of the present invention. Two timers of the device are set to a predetermined value. The player that will break sets up (the “first player”), and his or her opponent (the “second player”) starts the first player's timer. The first player breaks and continues to play until the end of their inning. At the end of their inning, the first player activates the timer control, which changes the active timer such that the first player's timer is paused and the second player's timer is running. The second player then plays their inning. At the end of their inning, the second player activates the timer control, which changes the active timer such that the second player's timer is paused and the first player's timer is running. The players continue to alternate innings according to the rules of 9 ball, generally until one of the timers expires, one player forfeits the match as the result of a foul, or one player has won the required number of games or scored the required number of points before their time expires.

Generally the timers are paused in between games while the balls are being re-racked. Generally the winner of each game breaks in the next. In other embodiments, the following options may be designated in advance: (a) players alternate breaks; (b) loser breaks; (c) player trailing in game count breaks the next game.

Thus, a novel billiards table functionally associated with a timing device and novel games of skill have been shown and described. Many changes and modifications can of course be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. The invention, therefore, should not be limited, except by the following claims, and their equivalence.