Title:
POWER PATH BONUS METHOD
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A gaming machine is described wherein one or more moving indicators travel near or amongst slot machine symbols or playing cards granting awards, bonuses, attributes or selection criteria that may affect the game outcome for the current play, subsequent plays or other game segments.



Inventors:
Taylor, William Arthur (Evergreen, CO, US)
Application Number:
12/205497
Publication Date:
02/12/2009
Filing Date:
09/05/2008
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63F9/24
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
DEODHAR, OMKAR A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
William, Arthur Taylor (1326 Aspen Drive, Evergreen, CO, 80439, US)
Claims:
I claim:

1. A method of providing game play to a player, the method of providing game play comprising: a) offering to such player a chance game; b) the chance game having a first outcome; c) the chance game having a second outcome that may alter the first outcome; d) allowing such player to play the game.

2. A method of providing game play to a player, the method of providing game play comprising: a) offering to such player a chance game; b) the chance game having a first outcome; c) the chance game having a second outcome that may alter subsequent outcomes; d) allowing such player to play the game.

3. A method of providing game play to a player, the method of providing game play comprising: a) offering to such player a chance game; b) the chance game having a first outcome; c) the chance game having a second outcome that may alter subsequent game segments; d) allowing such player to play the game.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application is a Continuation-in-Part of application Ser. No. 11/527,317 entitled “Gaming device with perimeter bonusing”, filed Sep. 27, 2006, and is also based on and is a Continuation-in-Part of Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/728,083, entitled “Gaming device with perimeter bonusing”, filed Oct. 19, 2005. The disclosure of each of these earlier applications is incorporated herein by this reference, with each of these earlier applications being commonly owned with this application.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE

This document may contain copyrighted or copyrightable materials. The owner consents to photocopying by anyone only in the form as may be published by the United States Patent Office. Otherwise the owner reserves all rights whatsoever.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The invention relates to games generally and in particular to gaming devices such as slot and video poker machines.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Slot machines and video poker machines are forms of gambling devices well known in the art. New methods and technologies are incorporated regularly for efficiency, for marketing and to keep things fresh. Some recent innovations involve the use of touch screen panels, programmable buttons (with or without displays), and computer networking where games are played individually, collectively, remotely, collaboratively, competitively or in any combination. Video games are popular, but games with mechanical parts or those that simulate mechanical functions do well, too. New game designs and play methods are necessary to stimulate player interest, excitement and wagering as well as to serve changing demographics.

SUMMARY

During the play of a slot machine a moving indicator travels amongst the reel symbols. When the indicator stops it applies a bonus trait to one or more of the nearest symbols or symbol positions. Various schemes are disclosed to assure swift and practical design, desirable mathematical characteristics, regulatory compliance and approvability, and, ultimately, better games for players. This invention applies equally to card games such as video poker and playing cards may substitute for reel symbols or positions.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 illustrates a slot machine reel window surrounded by a traveling award marker 10.

FIG. 2 illustrates one set of possible payline paths in a typical video slot machine reel window.

FIG. 3 illustrates a slot machine reel window surrounded by several amounts and multipliers that may be variously highlighted 20 to simulate a traveling award.

FIG. 4 illustrates one use of a traveling award indicator over a bank of multiple machines.

FIG. 5 illustrates five slot machine reels surrounded by a perimeter of possible dollar values and a $5 award 30 indicated.

FIG. 6 shows an alternative slot machine configuration displaying 22 symbols surrounded by a curvilinear perimeter whose pay 100 award 40 may apply to more than 1 reel symbol.

FIG. 7 illustrates one possible power path around and in between 5 reels.

FIG. 8 is one possible power path display example where perimeter spaces take up more than one position, and/or adjacent awards of the same value are represented as a single award.

FIG. 9 is a flowchart detailing steps involved in one embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE EMBODIMENTS

In a primary embodiment an invention is described where slot machine reels are surrounded by a border containing values. As the reels spin an indicator or marker moves through adjacent spaces in the border. After the reels stop the moving marker stops on a value, and said value is applied to all payline/s that coincide with the nearest symbol.

Said indicator may be represented by an arrow, a highlight, a halo, a circle, a backlight, a color change or any suitable means.

In a standard video configuration there are 5 reels displaying 3 symbols each (a “5×3”). A symbol may be comprised of or referred to herein as indicia. Assuming there is one stopping position for each perimeter symbol, there are 12 possibilities as shown in FIG. 1. Normally the moving marker begins at top left and travels clockwise. Stopping is decided by the RNG. Of course there are various other video configurations such as a 4×4, 5×5, 6×3 and more, such as that shown in FIG. 6, which may or may not be symmetrical.

The value of the moving marker typically varies from play to play and from position to position. Said value is a multiplier applied to any award paid on or otherwise based on the payline/s using the nearest symbol to the marker even if the marked symbol is not directly involved in the win (if, for example, a 2 of a kind pay is made and the 5th symbol position is highlighted). Alternatively the marker or indicator may act as an actuator to apply special characteristics or attributes to a symbol or to any aspect of indicia instead of an award. Said special characteristics may extend beyond the original confines of the symbol to new positions.

For example, a player gets 5 bars on line 4 whose path resembles an “A” configuration across the 5 reels. The moving marker stops above reel 3. Five bars pay 100 and the moving marker's multiplier value is 3 (which may optionally be displayed as 3×). Thus the player is paid 300 instead of 100.

There are several variations related to this embodiment. The stopping position of the indicator may not be random or pseudo random, but predetermined at the time of betting, it may be weighted so that some positions are more likely than others, it may be a function of other game events such as the bet, game or event history or otherwise. The movement of the indicator may take any motion such as every other space, random or other and not take a direct path through adjacent positions. The distance traveled may be any.

An indicator or indicated symbol may result in a value or award that is fixed, random, stratified random or weighted, a function of the wager or that is determined by one or more other events. The award may not only be a multiplier, but may be an award such as a number of credits and/or something else of value. For example, tools may be awarded for use in a subsequent game segment, or value may lie in triggering one or more bonus events offering the potential for additional wins. As shown in FIG. 5, the perimeter award may be dollar amounts 30. Other things of value may include, but are not limited to, any combination of awards and they may even change in function, value or amount at any time.

The indicator may alternatively ascribe initial or subsequent values or characteristics to blank symbols or playing cards.

The indicator may or may not directly or indirectly affect a payline. It may or may not only affect the nearest symbol when that symbol is used in a win. For example, if a 4-in-a-row winner occurs and the indicator stops adjacent to a 5th dissimilar symbol on the same payline, there may be no bonus, additional value or award. In another form an indicator might simply pay an award when it stops next to a predetermined collect symbol, or only if one or more collect symbols appear anywhere onscreen having nothing to do with a payline. Or, an award may be paid or a benefit ascribed even if the nearest symbol is not involved directly, or indirectly, in a win.

Similarly a bonused symbol may be at the intersecting point for multiple paylines and so may (or may not) pay multiple times or grant multiple benefits.

In another embodiment the indicator may affect symbol/s other than the nearest symbol/s. For example, the perimeter path taken by the moving marker may take the form of a skating hockey player. At appropriate times a shot is taken and the puck designates one or more symbols to receive an award, characteristic or other benefit. Similarly, other applications may use a path that is not adjacent to the reels or symbols at all, if, for example, the video reel screen is surrounded by a strip of lamps that turn off and on to simulate the position of the moving marker and to highlight values.

In another embodiment activating the indicator requires an additional bet.

In another embodiment the nature of the gaming device screen may take any form such as physical reels or video, which may display any number or type of reels or symbols.

In another embodiment the indicator is only activated by another event or combination of events.

In another embodiment the indicator causes one or more characteristics of the nearest symbol to change. For example, the indicator may cause the nearest symbol to become wild.

In another embodiment a characteristic ascribed to a particular symbol under the manner of the present invention may be perceived as a negative if, for example, it takes away a previously awarded free spin or reduces a symbol's winning value in the paytable.

In another embodiment the player may select one or more actions that the indicator may take upon a symbol from any number of choices provided. Said choices may be predetermined, randomly granted or bought.

In another embodiment the reel indicator moves between or around symbols and reels, either horizontally, vertically, diagonally, around the perimeter, in a non-contiguous fashion or in any combination. The indicator may travel back and forth or around playing cards in games like poker.

In another embodiment the indicator pays or acts differently if it lands on a corner or in other predefined position/s.

In another embodiment there may be any number of indicator stopping positions that correspond to each symbol or in total and it may vary between plays, within a play or at any time.

In another embodiment the indicator continues moving for some time after the reels stop moving. Similarly the indicator may start or stop at any suitable time, or at any position.

The indicator may be stopped and restarted offering the possibility of multiple applications, player choices and/or bets.

In another embodiment there may be multiple indicators moving simultaneously, consecutively, together, independently or in any combination. Each may take the same or different paths or offer the same or different actions. That is, one might pay an award value, while another might be a multiplier, while still another might cause adjacent symbol/s to become wild. Multiple bonused symbols may act in combination if, for example, a 2× bonus and a 3× bonus affect the same or different symbols involved in a pay then 6× may be granted.

In another embodiment, and as illustrated in FIG. 6, a single indicator 40 may affect more than one symbol. Adjacency may or may not be required.

The value granted by the indicator, the benefit conferred by the indicator or the indicator itself may remain active and span multiple plays of the gaming device, with or without an additional bet option.

In another embodiment the indicator of this invention is applicable to skill games or card games including video poker. In a skill game the indicator may provide some time interval and require a specific player action or game event to occur promptly in order to ascribe the benefit displayed to the current symbol/s. After a time, it may move on.

In another alternative embodiment the games may be networked and all or any aspects shared across multiple machines or ascribed to individual machines. Referring now to FIG. 4, the indicator may apply to a representation of several machines and move from machine to machine. Similarly, it may apply to any subset of represented machines, to only certain lines or symbols of represented machines, or to any portion or combination of represented machine/s and their displays. Benefits may be ascribed to represented machines individually where further actions may be undertaken, or not, by the game program or by the player/s collectively or separately. The indicated benefit may be applied globally to all machines, multiple machines, or applied to all symbols, or to any selection or subset of symbols such as scatters, special symbols, major or minor symbols, blue symbols or paylines. Network versions may optionally employ any or all of the above elements in any combination. Network games may be played and paid individually, or they may be competitive or collaborative among multiple players, gaming positions and/or games. Gaming devices may be standalone machines or function as terminals as in the case of server-based gaming or lottery games.

Thus, this invention adds a new aspect to gaming devices such as slot machines. This adds a favorable anticipation factor beyond just spinning reel outcomes. This invention can also affect the volatility of gaming device returns. In a typical embodiment after the reels spin players are eager to see what their benefit might be from a still moving indicator. The form of this invention is easy to implement, aesthetically pleasing and commercially viable.

This invention may be practiced in many ways. The perimeter track described herein may be referred to as the Power Path (“PP”). Commonly it contains values, multipliers or bonuses that may affect slot machine or poker game outcomes. The PP itself may take any course around, between or amongst the reels. FIG. 7 shows one alternative. Which items are possible on the PP may be called its palette.

The composition of said palette may vary in different embodiments of the present invention. It may vary from game to game in a single embodiment. If each palette item is drawn independently as is common, the full set or only a subset of items may be displayed for any game. For example, if the palette is comprised of values 1 through 10 and each has an independent probability of 10%, then for one game you might only have 1s, 2s, 4s, 7s, 8s, 9s and 10s on the PP, while for the next game you might only have 2s, 3s, 4s, 5s, 6s and 8s. In an embodiment having 32 PP spaces filled from a palette (set) of 10 or fewer items, the same item may appear often in adjacent positions. That is, you may have a 5, 5 and another 5 right next to each other. Practically, then, there is no restriction on how this is displayed and PP spaces themselves may be variously sized and any PP item or space may be larger or smaller than its neighbor. Whether or not the PP is generated pursuant to the example, perimeter items and spaces may vary in size and apply to any number of reel symbols. For example, instead of three 5s a single 5 may be shown 80 as in FIG. 8.

In a preferred embodiment, the RNG is called multiple times during a game equipped with the PP. First the composition of the PP is found. That is, each PP item is selected individually. Next, the traveling indicator chooses one of the, commonly 32, positions. Finally the RNG chooses the normal gaming device outcome and winners are decided. See FIG. 9. Other embodiments may be different.

PP items may permit unique and interesting bonuses. Three adjacent 5s in the above example may alternatively pay 15. This may be displayed to the player in innumerable ways including repeating the underlying event 3 times paying 5 each time. This may also lead to sequential pays of another sort. For example, a PP having a 1, 2, 3 in adjacent spaces may pay 6 and/or be paid according to new, additional and/or sequential pay schedules. Note while these examples are simple for illustration these means and methods may be used to play or trigger more complicated events and bonuses such as second-screen (subsequent segment) games or qualifiers to participate in other games or segments that may or may not require additional bets.

In other versions time and the number of plays factor in. The gaming device may provide for multiple plays or play sessions for a wager or by other means, and the number of plays and individual or overall game duration may be fixed, variable, contingent on skill play, random outcomes, player choices, free games, altered by wager, by other players in a networked fashion or otherwise. Gaming sessions may similarly be lengthened, shortened, extended, terminated, paused, suspended and/or resumed to facilitate game play, player choices, qualification procedures or processes, other players, community play, player communications, wagering, etc., and the pay schedules may be altered accordingly. This invention may also be used with new play intervals and to promote unique session-play bonuses wherein some or all game segments involve extended play, time-based play or rewards acquired, managed or ascribed by any internal or external source or means. Any or all of these options and more may be traits obtained, displayed or delivered by way of the PP or otherwise.

The PP may also provide a means to select players, teams or other sets from a network pool of gaming stations or player positions for collaborative or competitive play or for other purposes. PP indicia may represent other players, and the PP may establish subsets of linked players for team play—to “choose sides”, for example. Spin the bottle, anyone? Accordingly the PP may change its function (and form) from a bonus indicator to a selection means or otherwise between or during different game segments.

Similary the PP may play a role in deciding opponent/s during a game feature or segment. Say, for example, you must beat all other players to win the game and a prize or benefit. Players may be represented by any suitable means including caricatures that may or may not denote player attributes. That is, a player immune to harm during the next game segment may be depicted with a halo and/or smiling, while a player with a large bankroll or number of credits may be shown with moneybags, and still another that has attained an experience or other advanced level of play may have gold stars.

While one advantage of the PP games is that it adds a wonderful enhancement to traditional style games for a single wager, the composition of the PP palette may be bought in some embodiments. That is, coincident with a greater wager more or better awards are possible, and said awards may include more fixed or variable play time, more game segments, other bonuses or features and the like. These more and better awards may be obtained through any interplay or combination of events or outcomes between the PP and the base game reels, symbols, playing cards and/or indicia thereon. Similarly fewer undesirable outcomes may be bought.

Players often wonder if their bonuses are rigged. A common question from players is, “Does it matter which treasure chest I choose from the 5 offered, or is my award predetermined no matter which I choose?” Or, “Is the next card drawn from the remaining draw poker deck already decided, or does it matter which card I discard and replace?” While the answers may not matter statistically speaking, they do reveal players commonly don't understand statistics or are otherwise untrusting of the methods used in casino games.

In most casino games and bonuses there is no way to know that perhaps the player's last outcome was just one number away from the $10,000,000 jackpot. But the present invention in preferable embodiments allows players to know and see for themselves if and when they just missed something good.

It should be noted with enthusiasm PP games naturally provide a new level of enticement. That is, you get near misses frequently without the negativity of the former Enticer program sold by Universal in the 1990s. (That game first determined a win or loss, and if a loss manipulated reel outcomes to display a near jackpot miss. It was subsequently barred from most U.S. jurisdictions by regulators.) Commonly the PP will display very large values or favorable bonuses, but you may or may not get them. For example the selected PP item may be a 100 or number of free spins, but the adjacent symbol position isn't used in a win and you don't get it. Or, you may only get a PP award of 2, but there's a 50 right next to it. You might even get a randomly generated PP full of desirable awards (50s, 100s, free spins, wilds, bonus triggers, double and triple wilds [items that not only make one or more nearby symbols wild, but that also multiply awards by 2 or 3 times, respectively]), but not get any of them! Very few gambling games have a means to display a near miss, and ones that do generally elicit solid player acceptance. Witness the Big Wheel that has withstood the test of time, and also IGT's Wheel of Fortune and derivative games, even though the latter obviously has a software bias towards smaller winners. (That is, unlike a form of the present invention that weights the PP possibilities first and then stops randomly and fairly, the wheel has no means to adjust awards from play to play and therefore must stop in a programmed and obviously biased fashion.) The point is to a greater degree than most any other game you get to see what was possible, the selection from PP items displayed is random and fair, and an inducement and enticement to play on is created in a perfectly natural and allowable way.

Another great benefit of the present invention is its impact on volatility and the traditional paytable. For example, a very small payline win of 2 may be combined with a PP bonus of 100 paying 102! A lowly winner can pay big! But the same PP award of 100 over a line win of 2500 isn't that big of a deal. In the latter case you would much prefer a 2 times multiplier (2×) to get 5000! But if you had the 2× multiplier over your small win of 2, it would only be worth 4. So, what you want and what you get from the PP has a very unique impact on traditional gaming payouts.

Having described with some peculiarity independent generation of items displayed on the PP, it should be reiterated this is not a requirement, and that in certain embodiments it may be preferable more traditional mapping or other methods be used. Consider the 32-space PP that surrounds a traditional 3×5 video reel game as shown in FIG. 3. Most U.S. jurisdictions require that as bets increase a game must average an equal or greater payout to the player. Here payline 1 (see FIG. 2) is the center line from left to right across all 5 reels. Notice this line has only 2 symbols coincident with the PP, its endpoints on reels 1 and 5. However, the symbols on paylines 2 and 3 (the top and bottom of all 5 reels, respectively) all touch the PP and mathematically are normally the best possible paylines. Further, corner symbols have 4 perimeter touches each instead of the usual 2. Finally paylines 4 and 5 (a “V” shape and “A” shape through the reels, respectively) have only 3 symbols each that touch the PP. Since, in the case of common 20-line video slots the payline bet conventions offer only 1 line, 3 lines, 5 lines, 10 lines and 20 lines cumulative play buttons, these can pose a problem when this PP is used. That's because a 3-line selection has so many more possible PP hits, relatively speaking, than any other selection. In other words, with all else being equal, the return to the player would increase from 1-line to 3-line play, but drop from 3-line to 5-line play, and this is not allowable in many markets.

Fortunately, this problem is easily overcome. One way is to change the payline selections offered. A preferred embodiment retains perhaps the best characteristics of the game, whereby each PP item is generated independently and the same as any other position, but restricts the bet selections to only 1-line, 5-line, 10-line and 20-line play. Note this is illustrative, but for a given implementation these bet options may vary, since payline paths themselves vary greatly. (Individual paylines may be left-to-right, right-to-left, extend from one side to another [as in starting from reel 3 and finishing on reel 2], be vertical in whole or part, be non-contiguous as with scatter pays, be reel-dependent only without regard to position, or be any.) Enabling the PP may simply be re-priced depending on the number, path, length or composition of paylines selected or otherwise. There are many options in design.

Another way to overcome this potential problem is to weight different PP items differently depending on the bet. Assume the palette for each of 32 PP spaces is normally comprised of the same 10 items cited above, awards of 1 through 10, and each has a probability of occurrence of 10%. The PP items above payline 2 and below payline 3 may be skewed, such that the highest-paying 5 items only have a probability of 5% each and the lowest 5 paying items have a combined probability of 75%. Or, the 9s and 10s may be removed entirely from some spaces, such that only 1s through 8s are possible. It follows that any PP subset or item may have a different possible set of outcomes and/or different weighting means for different games, betting schemes or as needed to achieve any objective. Various PP palettes may be specific to paylines, wagers, or other predefined bet or wins alone or in combination.

Another approach would be to map the PP similar to reel mapping conventions. For example, the PP may be 1, 3, 2, 6, 9, 10, 8, 7, 4, 1, 3, 2, 6, 5 . . . and so on. This is a map of sorts or layout that may be fixed by position (each item is always in the same PP space), variable, fixed, or that may be rotated or “spun” similar to a reel. In the case of a fixed means lower valued items may be adjacent to reel 2 and 3 symbols, and higher valued items may be adjacent to reel 1 symbols. (It's optional if similar amounts are adjacent.) Similarly detrimental, negatively-perceived or 0 value items including blanks may only occur at certain points within the PP. Any of the above methods and others may be employed in whole, in part or in combination to achieve any objective within the scope and spirit of the present invention.

The PP may also be used as a match game and not necessarily as a slot machine or gambling device. For example, matching PP outcomes to reel or other outcomes may be appealing to players. The PP palette may contain symbols that match reel symbols and when aligned ascribe a benefit or attribute. Q to Q, for example, might make that reel position wild or pay double for all involved wins.

The PP may be itself may be a secondary event, game segment or bonus! It may be earned or bought with a separate or additional or combined bet option. For example, the PP may occur randomly or only come up when certain conditions have been met. It may be considered a second game-segment, it may be used as a shared feature by multiple devices or betting stations similar to that in FIG. 4 or it may only be enabled at certain times of day for selected players.

Players may also select from a plurality of palettes that may or may not be included, purchased separately, tied to particular bet selections including line or credit per line bets or that may be won. For example, a particular reel combination may trigger a bonus, said bonus including an option to select from a set of PP palettes.

When a PP bonus is paid there are many ways to display it. If, as in some embodiments, it is only applied to affected line wins, then some line or other wins may not be affected. Since traditional slot machines often have only Credits, Bet, Win and Paid meters the Win meter only shows a total. The present invention contemplates using popup screens to show PP wins separately. These may or may not be added in a popup or other manner to arrive at the win total. This does not preclude one or more new display meters to count or accumulate PP wins, awards, tools, bonuses or related data.

When a PP indicator means is used it may be preferable to offer players a speed control. It can be difficult for new players, older players or the visually impaired to follow a traveling highlight, especially while the reels are spinning. While the indicator may stop at any time—even before the reels stop—it often continues for a short time after the reels. A speed control available to players can slow this down so it may be followed (and enjoyed) more easily. Experienced players may want it to travel and/or stop faster than others. A player stop button may also stop the PP indicator immediately, adding a skill component in fact or implied.

Also, while 1 or more perimeter awards may be indicated, it may be that all perimeter awards are active and no PP indicator, highlighter or selection process is needed at all! Accordingly the PP may be fully active at all times, or it may pop in and out depending on any rule, criteria, game, bet, win or by any other design, means or method.

A nice embodiment is to have a means such as a special symbol within a reel game that triggers the PP. You play a traditional game, get the Power Path trigger, the PP appears, and the indicator/s selects one or more PP items for a possible bonus or other award.

Yet another implementation is to treat part or all of the PP as reel extensions. A new way to pay is to include PP symbols that match reel symbols. Say you have 5 Queens on reels 1 through 5 on a payline that coincide with a Queen on the PP adjacent to the 5th reel symbol position. This PP Queen may have attributes similar to a Powerball in state Lotto. Further assume you have 2 more Queens adjacent to the first coincident PP Queen. Now you have 8 Queens! Extension of the PP concept as described could provide for huge, mega jackpots and standalone or linked progressives. (Reel extension items do not have to match reel symbols exactly. Queens may have a blue background and matching PP items may be any provided they are blue, for example.)

OBJECTS AND ADVANTAGES

Several advantages are apparent.

1. First, it's fun. This invention adds to traditional spinning reel play creating anticipation and excitement.

2. Second, players like more choices. In some embodiments the player decides by virtue of the wager whether this invention is activated or not. Thus, it is optional and need not detract from a traditional gaming device if any player desires to play without it.

3. This invention gives games designers new options in game design. It may be used in virtually any slot machine and other gaming devices.

4. This invention may be used to extend playtime and hence perceived value, since the indicator may continue for some time after the reels stop. This invention also provides a new way to bestow more time and features.

5. There is not necessarily a presumption of fairness using such an indicator, so very large bonuses may be displayed but programmed not to hit in an equally weighted fashion.

6. This invention gives player more and new ways to win. Bonuses may be granted in more interesting combinations.

7. In the vein of the best inventions this, in hindsight, is straightforward. It's easy to understand, simple to play and easy to implement.

8. More player involvement leads to more entertainment value, a primary goal of game designers and manufacturers. Various Power Path embodiments provide for many more player choices within a PP game.

9. The Power Path is an enticement to continue play. Displaying genuine possibilities first (and accordingly, unbiased near misses) in an ethical and aesthetically pleasing manner assures regulatory and player approval (unlike less desirable methods used in the past). Any bona-fide inducement to keep playing is a powerful motivator, critically important to casino operators.

10. This invention illustrates solutions to mathematical design problems to assure equal or increasing player returns, a requirement in many jurisdictions.

11. The PP concept may drive mega-jackpot progressives and be engaged over multiple devices or gaming positions, serving trends in casino gaming today.

12. Volatility is greatly enhanced. Unique awards are made possible by use of the PP. Typical small reel awards of 2 may pay 100 or more!

This disclosure is provided to allow practice of the invention by those skilled in the art without undue experimentation, including the best mode presently contemplated and the presently preferred embodiment. There are numerous variations falling within the scope of the invention. Any subset or combination of the above methods, player selections, means or forms of wagering or paying, finding winners and losers and/or displaying or otherwise presenting selections, indicators or outcomes may be used. This invention may be employed with any combination of games or options including, but not limited to, bonuses, random or mystery awards, multipliers, progressives, other games, player skill components, other features, side bets, wagering or play methods. This invention may be employed in whole or in part, in online games, as a bonus, add-on or otherwise in conjunction with new or traditional gaming devices or methods. Thus, these and all embodiments described should be viewed as illustrative, rather than limiting. Nothing in this disclosure should be taken to limit the scope of the invention, which is susceptible to numerous alterations, equivalents and substitutions without departing from the scope and spirit of the invention. The scope of the invention is to be understood from the appended claims.