Title:
Slot machine enhancement
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A slot machine enhancement which provides an incentive to users who have lost one or more games to continue playing. A loss counter tracks the number of losses and a user can choose to redeem the losses for at least one prize. Such prizes can include, but are not limited to, one or more free games, one or more guaranteed wining games, one or more guaranteed wining games with a guaranteed minimum payout of an amount greater than the least possible payout, and the like. When the user wins a game, the loss counter is reset to zero.



Inventors:
Staw, Michael (Atlanta, GA, US)
Michael II, Parker Mcmain (Cumming, GA, US)
Application Number:
10/418310
Publication Date:
01/01/2004
Filing Date:
04/18/2003
Assignee:
RealTime Gaming, Inc. (Atlanta, GA)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
G07F17/32; (IPC1-7): A63F9/24
View Patent Images:
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20100069147AWARD SYSTEM BASED ON A USER TOUCH INPUT ON A GAMING DEVICEMarch, 2010Parham
20080125206Techniques to award bonuses to users based on a machine pay from another userMay, 2008Mouchou et al.
20060240886Omnipotent OpponentOctober, 2006Patten
20040219961Computer games having variable execution dependence with respect to spatial properties of a mobile unit.November, 2004Ellenby et al.
20080318683RFID based positioning systemDecember, 2008Rofougaran et al.
20090124379Transparent Card DisplayMay, 2009Wells
20040009815Managing access to contentJanuary, 2004Zotto et al.
20050020355Apparatus and method for controlling an electronic gaming player stationJanuary, 2005Haga



Primary Examiner:
HSU, RYAN
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
GREENBERG TRAURIG, LLP (DC/ORL) (Chicago, IL, US)
Claims:

We claim as our invention:



1. A system for awarding a game participant, comprising: a payment acceptor; a wager indicator, for indicating the amount of a payment to be wagered on at least one game; a game play interface; a game outcome determiner, for monitoring game play; and a payment calculator, wherein the payment calculator is capable of awarding a plurality of additional games based on the outcome of a game.

2. The game participant award system of claim 1, wherein the payment acceptor is capable of accepting payment by credit card.

3. The game participant award system of claim 1, wherein at least one of the awarded plurality of awarded games is guaranteed to win.

4. The game participant award system of claim 3, wherein all of the awarded plurality of additional games are guaranteed to win.

5. The game participant award system of claim 3, wherein the at least one guaranteed winning game awarded is guaranteed to pay at least a minimum amount, and wherein the minimum amount is greater than the lowest possible payment for a winning game.

6. The game participant award system of claim 1, wherein payment calculator awards are based on a winning game, as determined by the game outcome determiner.

7. The game participant award system of claim 1, further comprising a player identification means.

8. The game participant award system of claim 7, wherein the payment calculator awards are based on a number of losing games experienced by an individual player.

9. The game participant award system of claim 7, wherein the payment calculator awards are based on a number of consecutive losing games experienced by an individual player.

10. The game participant award system of claim 7, wherein the payment calculator awards are based on a percentage of losing games experienced by an individual player.

11. The game participant award system of claim 1, wherein the payment calculator awards are based on a number of losing games.

12. The game participant award system of claim 1, wherein the payment calculator awards are based on a number of consecutive losing games.

13. The game participant award system of claim 1, wherein the payment calculator awards are based on a percentage of losing games.

14. A game participant award method, comprising: setting a loss counter related to a game to zero; accepting payment from the participant; allowing the participant to set a wager amount for at least one game; letting the participant play the at least one game; incrementing the loss counter for each game lost by the participant; resetting the loss counter to zero for each game won by the participant; indicating the current loss counter value to the participant; and, permitting the participant to cash in their accrued losses, wherein the participant can select from a set of at least one available award based on the loss counter value, wherein the at least one available award includes at least one free game, and wherein the loss counter is decremented by the number of cashed in losses.

15. The game participant award method of claim 14, wherein at least one of the at least one free game is guaranteed to win.

16. The game participant award method of claim 14, wherein the participant may only cash in the total number of accrued losses.

17. The game participant award method of claim 14, wherein the loss counter is reset to zero for each game won by the participant where the prize awarded is above a preset level.

18. The game participant award method of claim 14, wherein credit card payment is accepted.

19. A computerized, wager-based game, playable by a player, comprising: at least one computing device; at least one visual display device; at least one user interface element, for allowing the at least one player to interact with the computing device; a payment acceptor; a wager indicator; a game play interface; a game outcome determiner; a loss counter; and, a payment calculator, for awarding payment based on the outcome of a game.

20. The computerized game of claim 19, wherein the computing device is a server.

21. The computerized game of claim 20, wherein the server is located remotely from the player.

22. The computerized game of claim 19, wherein the computing device is a handheld computer.

23. The computerized game of claim 19, wherein the computing device and the visual display device are part of the same device.

24. The computerized game of claim 23, wherein the user interface element is a touch sensitive screen.

25. The computerized game of claim 19, wherein the at least one user interface element is a touch sensitive screen.

26. The computerized game of claim 19, wherein the at least one user interface element is a mouse.

27. The computerized game of claim 19, wherein the payment acceptor accepts payment by credit card.

28. The computerized game of claim 19, wherein the payment calculator can award payment based on the number of consecutive losses.

29. The computerized game of claim 19, wherein the payment calculator can award payment based on a percentage of losses experienced by the player.

30. The computerized game of claim 19, wherein the payment calculator can award a plurality of free games.

31. The computerized game of claim 30, wherein at least one of the awarded free games is guaranteed to win.

32. The computerized game of claim 31, wherein at least one of the awarded free games is guaranteed to win at least a minimum amount.

33. A game participant award method, comprising: monitoring the number of games in which the participant loses in a loss meter; incrementing the loss meter for each game lost by the participant; allowing the participant to cash in at least one but less than all of the accrued losses for a prize; subtracting the number of losses cashed in by the participant from the loss meter; and, resetting the loss meter to zero in the event the participant wins a game.

34. The game participant award method of claim 33, wherein the participant cashes in the accrued losses prior to initiating the game.

35. The game participant award method of claim 33, wherein the loss meter is reset to zero for each new participant playing the game.

36. A game participant award method, comprising: initiating a game, wherein the game has at least one possible winning outcome; determining whether the participant wishes to cash in any losses as represented in a loss meter; determining whether the losses qualify for a jackpot prize, if the participant is cashing in any losses; awarding the jackpot prize to the participant if the losses qualify for the jackpot prize; awarding a first prize if the losses do not qualify for a jackpot prize; resetting the loss meter to zero if the participant cashes in any losses; allowing the participant to place a bet for a current game; playing the game; incrementing the loss counter if the participant loses the game; awarding a second prize based on the outcome of the game if the participant wins the game; and, resetting the loss meter to zero if the participant wins the game.

37. The game participant award method of claim 36, wherein the first prize is determined from a pay table.

38. The game participant award method of claim 36, wherein the second prize is determined from a pay table.

39. The game participant award method of claim 36, wherein the first prize and the second prize are determined from pay tables.

40. The game participant award method of claim 36, wherein a portion of the participant's wager is added to a progressive jackpot.

41. The game participant award method of claim 40, wherein the second prize is determined from a pay table, and wherein the pay table includes at least one winning combination for which the progressive jackpot is the prize.

Description:

PRIORITY CLAIM

[0001] The present invention is related to and claims priority from U.S. Provisional Patent Application Serial No. 60/392,037, entitled “Slot Machine Enhancement”, filed by Michael Staw et al., on Jun. 28, 2002, the contents of which are incorporated herein by reference in their entirety.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0002] The present invention relates to the field of gaming, and more particularly provides a system and methods for enhancing a slot machine or other similar game.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0003] Slot machines have been around for almost 125 years. Early slot machines resembled pachinko machines, where a user would place a coin in a slot near the top of the machine and the coin would bounce around on different metal pins, spinning wheels, or the like. The coin would land in a space at the bottom of the machine, and an attendant would pay the player, or participant, based on where the coin landed.

[0004] As slot machines became more popular, their designs became more intricate. The first poker trade stimulators appeared around 1890, and by the mid 1890's San Francisco was in a poker slot craze. The early poker machine employed cards arranged on five spinning drums. Later models had cards affixed to reels, and were similar to modern day slots. An attendant paid the winnings for all these early poker machines.

[0005] By the turn of the century, the first three-reel, automatic payout slot machines began to hit the market. These machines quickly became popular with gambling establishments because they did not require as many employees to service and attend to the machines.

[0006] As slot machines became more popular, new bells and whistles were added, including sounds and flashing lights. In fact, slot machines have been very quick to implement new technologies almost as soon as they become available. However, one limitation has always hindered slot machines—they were designed to play only a single game, and when interest in that game faded, the entire inner workings of the slot machine had to be revamped to support a new game.

[0007] Then along came video slot machines. In a video slot machine, a computer monitor or other display device presents an interface to a player. In many cases, the interface presented is similar to an old-fashioned slot machine, and the user interacts with the interface in a similar way. The big advantages to video slot machines are that they can be configured to play multiple games, new games can be added and old games removed easily, and the computers inside the video slot machines can control payouts and other features to a very high degree of accuracy. In addition, it is more difficult to cheat video slot machines than mechanical slot machines.

[0008] While video slot machines have increased demand for new slot machine oriented games, perhaps the biggest demand has been generated with the introduction of Internet gaming. Many states and countries either completely prohibit games of chance or limit such gaming to specific regions, specific types of games, or only allow it where the proceeds will benefit a charity or other non-commercial entity. These restrictions have made games of chance inaccessible to a large portion of the population. By making games of chance available via the Internet, Internet gaming has broadened the potential market for games of chance such as slot machines. This, in turn, has increased demand for new video slot machine games that can increase the marketability of an online or real casino or other gaming establishment.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0009] Accordingly, the present invention is directed to a system and methods for enhancing the desirability of existing slot machine games and obviates one or more of the problems due to limitations and disadvantages of the related art.

[0010] An object of the present invention is to provide a new slot machine style game.

[0011] Another object of the present invention is to provide a slot machine style game which can be implemented as a physical machine, or as an electronic game.

[0012] Additional features and advantages of the invention will be set forth in the description which follows, and in part will be apparent from the description, or may be learned by practice of the invention. The objectives and other advantages of the invention will be realized and attained by the structure particularly pointed out in the written description and claims hereof as well as the appended drawings.

[0013] While slot machines have existed for almost 125 years, one significant disadvantage of slot machines, at least from a player's perspective, was the player's inability to exercise some control over the machine. Many players have expressed frustration with slot machines because they would play a specific machine for a long time, adding to its coffers and perhaps occasionally winning a relatively small amount. A first player would then walk away from the machine and the next person to sit down would, some times as soon as on the first or second game, win a significant amount of what the first player considered to be his or her money. It is therefore anticipated that giving a player more control over the game and rewarding the player for losses will encourage a player to play longer and potentially increase the profits of the gambling establishment.

[0014] One approach to addressing this need used in the prior art is the slot machine apparatus taught in U.S. Pat. No. 6,270,409, issued Aug. 7, 2001, to Schuster. The Schuster patent discloses a mechanical slot machine, complete with physical spinning reels, a pull arm, and the like. The Schuster patent also discloses a method of tracking the number of consecutive losses experienced by a player and permitting the player “cash in” all of the losses for an individual prize based on discrete loss levels.

[0015] The present invention is a slot machine that implements a novel gaming system which allows a player to exercise limited control over the game while still allowing the gambling establishment to make a profit. In a preferred embodiment, the present invention is implemented as a video slot machine which is playable over the Internet. It should be apparent to one skilled in the art that alternative embodiments, including, but not limited to, mechanical slot machines and stand-alone video slot machines may also be implemented without departing from the spirit or the scope of the invention.

[0016] A preferred embodiment of the present invention functions similar to a standard progressive slot machine, gradually increasing a “jackpot” amount should a specific winning combination be obtained by the player. However, the present invention also tracks the number of losing games played by a player. A player can redeem some or all of the losses for one or more prizes.

[0017] In one embodiment, losses may be redeemable for a “jackpot” in a manner similar to a progressive slot machine. That is, the present invention can offer a player a payout based on the number of losing games played, and also preferably offers a gradually increasing “jackpot”. The progressive jackpot can be awarded if the number of consecutive losses increases above a certain level, if the number of consecutive losses increases beyond a certain level and one of a set of winning slot machine combinations is obtained, a pre-defined percentage of losses occurs over a number of games, a predefined percentage of losses occurs over a number of games and one of a set of winning slot machine combinations is obtained, or other event occurs.

[0018] The present invention can allow a player to “cash in” his or her losses for a prize at any time between games. Prizes available through the present invention can include, but are not limited to, one or more free games, one or more guaranteed wining games, one or more guaranteed wining games with a guaranteed minimum payout of an amount greater than the least possible payout, and the like.

[0019] When a player cashes in his or her losses, the loss tracking means is preferably reset to zero. In an alternative embodiment, the value indicated by the loss tracking means may be decremented based on the number of losses cashed in by the player. The loss tracking means is also preferably reset to zero each time a player wins a game. Alternatively, the loss tracking means may be reset to zero each time the player wins a game in which the prize is above a preset value. By way of example, without intending to limit the present invention, the preset value may be the lowest possible prize level. Thus, the player's losses may not be forfeited if the lowest payout is obtained.

[0020] While the preferred embodiment described herein is implemented as an online playable version of a traditional, progressive slot machine, it should be apparent to one skilled in the art that the present invention is equally applicable to alternative styles of slot machines, and even other slot machine style games, such as, but not limited to, video poker, video blackjack, video roulette, and the like.

[0021] One contemplated embodiment of the present invention includes a payment acceptor; a wager indicator, for indicating the amount of a payment to be wagered on at least one game; a game play interface; a game outcome determiner, for monitoring game play; and a payment calculator, wherein the payment calculator is capable of awarding additional game plays based on the outcome of a game.

[0022] The game participant award method of the present invention preferably involves setting a loss counter related to a game to zero; accepting payment from the participant; allowing the participant to set a wager amount for at least one game; letting the participant play the at least one game; incrementing the loss counter for each game lost by the participant; resetting the loss counter to zero for each game won by the participant; indicating the current loss counter value to the participant; and, permitting the participant to cash in their accrued losses, wherein the participant can select from a set of at least one available awards based on the loss counter value for at least one award, and wherein the at least one available award includes at least one free game.

[0023] An alternative participant award method involves monitoring the number of games in which the participant loses in a loss meter; incrementing the loss meter for each game lost by the participant; allowing the participant to cash in at least one but less than all of the accrued losses for a prize; subtracting the number of losses cashed in by the participant from the loss meter; and, resetting the loss meter to zero in the event the participant wins a game.

[0024] Still another alternative game participant award method comprises initiating a game, wherein the game has at least one possible winning outcome; determining whether the participant wishes to cash in any losses as represented in a loss meter; determining whether the losses qualify for a jackpot prize, if the participant is cashing in any losses; awarding the jackpot prize to the participant if the losses qualify for the jackpot prize; awarding a first prize if the losses do not qualify for a jackpot prize; resetting the loss meter to zero if the participant cashes in any losses; allowing the participant to place a bet for a current game; playing the game; incrementing the loss counter if the participant loses the game; awarding a second prize based on the outcome of the game if the participant wins the game; and, resetting the loss meter to zero if the participant wins the game.

[0025] It is to be understood that both the foregoing general description and the following detailed description are exemplary and explanatory and are intended to provide further explanation of the invention as claimed.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0026] The accompanying drawings, which are included to provide a further understanding of the invention and are incorporated in and constitute a part of this specification, illustrate embodiments of the invention and together with the description serve to explain the principles of the invention.

[0027] In the drawings:

[0028] FIG. 1 is a flowchart illustrating a preferred control structure implemented in the present invention.

[0029] FIG. 2 is a screen capture of a preferred slot machine interface.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

[0030] Reference will now be made in detail to the preferred embodiments of the present invention, examples of which are illustrated in the accompanying drawings.

[0031] FIG. 1 is a flowchart illustrating a control structure implemented in a preferred embodiment of the present invention. As a player initiates a single play of the game (Block 100), the player first decides whether or not to redeem, or “cash in”, losses for a prize (Block 110). Such prizes may be single awards, such as, but not limited to, a fixed sum of money, or multiple awards, including multiple free games, free games and money, free games guaranteed to win, or the like.

[0032] If a player redeems the losses for a prize, a preferred embodiment of the present invention first determines whether the user is redeeming a Jackpot prize (Block 150). If so, a prize based on a progressive Jackpot value is awarded (Block 160) and the Jackpot meter is reset to a default value (Block 165). If the player is not redeeming a Jackpot prize, then the player is awarded one or more prizes based on a pay table (Block 155). Once any appropriate prizes have been awarded, the loss meter is reset to zero (Block 170). In an alternative embodiment, a player may choose to cash in some, but not all, of the accrued losses. In such an embodiment, the loss meter is not reset to zero unless the player has cashed in all or almost all of the accrued losses.

[0033] If a player has no losses to redeem or decides not to redeem losses in an attempt to allow any losses to accrue, the player makes a bet for a single play, or “spin”, of the game (Block 115). A portion of the player's bet is added to the progressive meter (Block 120) and the outcome is checked to see if it is a winner or a loser (Block 125). If the outcome is a winner, the player is paid according to a pay table (Block 135) and the loss meter is reset to zero (Block 140). If the outcome is a loser the loss meter is incremented by 1 (Block 130).

[0034] At this point the game is over (Block 180) and a player can decide to play again, in which case the process begins anew at Block 100. A player can continue playing the game until he or she decides to quit. In a preferred embodiment, the loss counter is reset to zero for each new player. In an alternative embodiment, the loss meter may carry over from one user to another. Such an alternative embodiment may be preferable in a casino environment, where the combination of the progressive jackpot value and the number of losses currently registered on a slot machine may make that slot machine more attractive to a player than another slot machine.

[0035] Another aspect of the present invention that may make it more attractive to gaming establishments like casinos is that the present invention can provide increasingly valuable prizes based on the number of accrued losses. By way of example, without intending to limit the present invention, a player may earn one free, guaranteed winning game for the first five losses; a free, guaranteed winning spin for every three additional losses until the eleventh loss; and a free, guaranteed winning spin for every two additional losses beyond that point. As another example, again without intending to limit the present invention, the prize may be a monetary value based on a formula which provides increasing prize value for each additional accrued loss. Such increasingly valuable prizes may encourage players to not cash in their losses in the hopes of an even larger payout.

[0036] FIG. 2 is a screen capture of a video slot machine in which the present invention is implemented. In this embodiment, a player is given, or pays to receive, a starting balance, which is tracked in “balance” 295. The player can then determine the value of his or her bet based on the desired level of winnings as represented on pay table 285. The player can insert varying amounts of money into the machine, such as by pressing buttons 230, 235 or 240. Money inserted into the machine is stored as credit, and the credit value is reflected in credit display 250. Credit display 250 preferably displays the credit value in terms of the number of coins available to be bet.

[0037] Alternatively, the player can press manual coin inserter 242 to insert individual coins to place a bet. In this case coins bet display 245 indicates the number of coins bet in this manner. Any coins entered above the maximum bet allowed by the machine are simply stored as machine credits and shown in credit display 250.

[0038] Once the machine holds credits, the player can make bets on the machine. Single coin bets are made using button 215, and button 225 can be used to bet the maximum number of coins in a single action. The number of coins bet is displayed in bet meter 245.

[0039] Once the player has entered a desired bet, the player can activate reel arm 265 or press spin reel button 220 to play the game. A portion of the bet is added to the progressive Jackpot and the change is reflected in progressive Jackpot display (not shown).

[0040] In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 2, game window 200 acts like three separate, rotating reels that stop after a certain time. In some alternative embodiments, the user interface may include a button to stop each reel successively, or multiple buttons to control each reel individually.

[0041] In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 2, when the reels have stopped the game determines whether the player has won or lost. As described above, if the player has won the game, loss counter 280 is reset to zero. In addition, if the player has won, a payout is calculated based on pay table 285. The calculated payout is reflected in player winnings 255, and is added to machine credits 250.

[0042] A player can “cash out” the credits held in the machine reflected in credit display 250 by pressing cash out button 205. When cash out button 205 is pressed, the value of credit display 250 is added to fun balance 295 and the credit display 250 is reset to zero.

[0043] If the player has lost the game, loss counter 280 is incremented. A user can choose to redeem his or her losses for a free prize, as reflected in loss pay table 210, by pressing redeem button 205. In a preferred embodiment, prizes available for redeemed losses include a number of free games or free spins. In the example game illustrated in FIG. 2, this is indicated by the five free, guaranteed winning spins shown in free prize meter 260. If the user has lost enough games to warrant winning the Jackpot as reflected in loss pay table 210, the redeem button 205 allows them to redeem the Jackpot. Such a Jackpot may consist of a special prize, including a portion of or the entire progressive Jackpot, a straight monetary payout, a number of free spins, or the like.

[0044] While the invention has been described in detail and with reference to specific embodiments thereof, it will be apparent to those skilled in the art that various changes and modifications can be made therein without departing from the spirit and scope thereof. Thus, it is intended that the present invention cover the modifications and variations of this invention provided they come within the scope of the appended claims and their equivalents.