Title:
Wagering accommodation application
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An application for accommodating wagering arrangements between users. A set wagering line is presented for an event having first and second opposing outcomes. The set wagering line is generally applicable to wager submissions on the event, whether in support of the first outcome or the second outcome. A wager submission is received from a first user in connection with presented wagering line, for a particular amount in support of the first outcome. It is then determined whether a counterpart wager (a wager on the event for the same amount in support of the second outcome) has already been received or is ultimately received from a second user during an applicability period. A wagering arrangement is accommodated between the first user and the second user when the counterpart wager submission is determined to be present.



Inventors:
Tobin, Christopher M. (McLean, VA, US)
Application Number:
11/183061
Publication Date:
01/26/2006
Filing Date:
07/15/2005
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63F9/24
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
YOO, JASSON H
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Christopher M. Tobin (McLean, VA, US)
Claims:
1. A computer implemented method for providing a wagering activity, the method comprising: presenting a set wagering line corresponding to an event that has a first outcome and a second outcome that opposes the first outcome, the set wagering line ostensibly being a house wagering line that is generally applicable to wager submissions on the event; receiving a wager submission from a first user in connection with the presentation of the set wagering line, the wager submission including a wager amount in support of the first outcome for the event according to the set wagering line; determining whether a counterpart wager submission from a second user is present, the counterpart wager submission also being for the wager amount, but in support of the second outcome for the event according to the set wagering line; and accommodating a wagering arrangement between the first user and the second user for the event according to the set wagering line where it is determined that the counterpart wager submission is present.

2. The method of claim 1, wherein determining whether a counterpart wager submission is present comprises: determining whether the counterpart wager submission has already been received from the second user in response to receiving the wager submission from the first user; determining whether the counterpart wager submission is received from the second user before the expiration of an applicability period where it has not been determined that the counterpart wager submission has already been received; and determining that the counterpart wager submission has been received if it has already been received from the second user or it is received from the second user before the expiration of the applicability period.

3. The method of claim 1, wherein accommodating the wagering arrangement between the first user and the second user entails charging the first user and/or the second user a discounted rate that is substantially lower than a house rate.

4. The method of claim 2, wherein accommodating the wagering arrangement between the first user and the second user entails charging the first user and/or the second user a discounted rate that is substantially lower than a house rate.

5. The method of claim 4, further comprising: accepting the wager according to the house rate where it is determined that the counterpart wager submission remains unavailable as of the expiration of the applicability period.

6. The method of claim 1, further comprising: determining that the counterpart wager submission has not been received from the second user; determining whether the first user accepts an alternative wagering option; and accepting the wager submission from the first user where it is determined that the user accepts the alternative wagering option.

7. The method of claim 6, wherein the alternative wagering option is accepting the wager submission from the first user according to a house rate.

8. The method of claim 6, wherein the alternative wagering option is accepting the wager submission from the first user according to a pari-mutuel line in lieu of the set wagering line.

9. The method of claim 2, wherein the expiration of the applicability period is determined by a predetermined amount of time lapsing.

10. The method of claim 2, wherein the expiration of the applicability period automatically occurs upon a change in the set wagering line.

11. An apparatus for providing a wagering activity, the apparatus comprising: means for presenting a set wagering line corresponding to an event that has a first outcome and a second outcome that opposes the first outcome, the set wagering line ostensibly being a house wagering line that is generally applicable to wager submissions on the event; means for receiving a wager submission from a first user in connection with the presentation of the set wagering line, the wager submission including a wager amount in support of the first outcome for the event according to the set wagering line; means for determining whether a counterpart wager submission from a second user is present, the counterpart wager submission also being for the wager amount, but in support of the second outcome for the event according to the set wagering line; and means for accommodating a wagering arrangement between the first user and the second user for the event according to the set wagering line where it is determined that the counterpart wager submission is present.

12. The apparatus of claim 11, wherein the means for determining whether a counterpart wager submission is present determines whether the counterpart wager submission has already been received from the second user in response to receiving the wager submission from the first user; determines whether the counterpart wager submission is received from the second user before the expiration of an applicability period where it has not been determined that the counterpart wager submission has already been received; and determines that the counterpart wager submission has been received if it has already been received from the second user or it is received from the second user before the expiration of the applicability period.

13. The apparatus of claim 11, further comprising: means for determining that the counterpart wager submission has not been received from the second user; means for determining whether the first user accepts an alternative wagering option; and means for accepting the wager submission from the first user where it is determined that the user accepts the alternative wagering option.

14. The apparatus of claim 13, wherein the alternative wagering option is accepting the wager submission from the first user according to a house rate.

15. The apparatus of claim 13, wherein the alternative wagering option is accepting the wager submission from the first user according to a pari-mutuel line in lieu of the set wagering line.

16. An apparatus for providing a wagering activity, the apparatus comprising: a line presentation module, which presents a set wagering line corresponding to an event that has a first outcome and a second outcome that opposes the first outcome, the set wagering line ostensibly being a house wagering line that is generally applicable to wager submissions on the event; an interface module, in communication with the line presentation module, which receives a wager submission from a first user in connection with the presentation of the set wagering line, the wager submission including a wager amount in support of the first outcome for the event according to the set wagering line; and a wager processing module, which determines whether a counterpart wager submission from a second user is present, the counterpart wager submission also being for the wager amount, but in support of the second outcome for the event according to the set wagering line, and accommodates a wagering arrangement between the first user and the second user for the event according to the set wagering line where it is determined that the counterpart wager submission is present.

17. The apparatus of claim 16, wherein the wager processing module determines whether a counterpart wager submission by determining whether the counterpart wager submission has already been received from the second user in response to receiving the wager submission from the first user; determining whether the counterpart wager submission is received from the second user before the expiration of an applicability period where it has not been determined that the counterpart wager submission has already been received; and determining that the counterpart wager submission has been received if it has already been received from the second user or it is received from the second user before the expiration of the applicability period.

18. The apparatus of claim 17, wherein the wager processing module accepts the wager according to a house rate where it is determined that the counterpart wager submission remains unavailable as of the expiration of the applicability period.

19. The apparatus of claim 15, wherein the wager processing module determines that the counterpart wager submission has not been received from the second user; determines whether the first user accepts an alternative wagering option; and accepts the wager submission from the first user where it is determined that the user accepts the alternative wagering option.

20. A computer implemented method for engaging in a wagering activity, the method comprising: prompting a presentation of a set wagering line corresponding to an event that has a first outcome and a second outcome that opposes the first outcome, the set wagering line ostensibly being a house wagering line that is generally applicable to wager submissions on the event; submitting a wager in connection with the presentation of the set wagering line, the wager submission including a wager amount in support of the first outcome for the event according to the set wagering line; prompting a determination whether a counterpart wager submission from an other user is present, the counterpart wager submission also being for the wager amount, but in support of the second outcome for the event according to the set wagering line; and entering into a direct wagering arrangement with the other user for the event according to the set wagering line where it is determined that the counterpart wager submission is present.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims the benefit under 35 U.S.C. § 119 of provisional patent application No. 60/589,451, filed on Jul. 20, 2004 and entitled “Application for Accommodating Wagering Arrangements,” the entire contents of which are hereby incorporated by reference.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

This invention relates generally to wagering systems and processes, and more particularly to accommodating wagering between individuals.

2. Description of the Related Art

Various types of wagering are known. A wager may be a simple direct wager among friends. For example, you may have a favorite football team that is playing your friend's favorite football team. In a direct wagering arrangement, you and your friend might elect to wager an amount on the contest. If one outcome occurs (i.e., your team winning), then you may win the wagered amount, but if the opposing outcome occurs (i.e., your friend's team winning), she may win the wagered amount.

An alternative to directly making a wager with a friend is making a wager with a gambling house. A gambling house is typically a building where games of chance may be played. An example of a gambling house is a casino. Sometimes the gambling house can be provided by a local bookmaker or some other party that is generally open to taking wagers. The gambling house may often be referred to as “the house.” With event outcome based wagering, the house typically offers a betting line that is generally applicable to anyone who wants to make a wager with the house. This betting line may be referred to as the house line. Betting lines are typically structured to attract an equal amount of wagering on a first outcome and the opposing outcome for an event. The house generates revenue by charging a premium over the wagered amount for each wager. This premium may be referred to as “the juice,” and is often a percentage of the wagered amount, such as 10%. Accordingly, to attempt to win $100 back from the house on the outcome of a given event, a bettor might be required to “put up” $110 that goes to the house if the opposing outcome occurs. The additional value that one pays in order to make a wager with the house, such as the juice, may be referred to as the house rate.

There are also various types of wagering lines that can be incorporated into a wagering arrangement. A set wagering line remains the same once a wagering arrangement is completed, even if the wagering line offered to future bettors fluctuates. To explain, suppose that one wagers a given amount for a given team to win an event, where the given team is favored by 3 points, and the wager is accepted (e.g., by the house) according to a set wagering line of 3 points. For one reason or another (e.g., an injury to a star player), the line offered by the house may change after this wager is made and accepted. In this instance, the initial wager remains intact according to the established criteria, including the set wagering line of “minus 3 points” for the favorite. Although this can be a source of angst to those making wagers, it is often preferable to wager according to a set wagering line because bettors like to “lock in” at an currently available wagering line.

Pari-mutuel wagering is distinguished from set wagering in various regards. First, pari-mutuel wagering is sometimes incorrectly described as head to head wagering. In actuality, pari-mutuel wagering involves a pooling of money coming from numerous parties making wagers on a given event. The administrator of the pari-mutuel wagering system (e.g., the racetrack, which is another example of “the house”), takes a percentage of the pool. The remainder of the pool is distributed among those individuals who have wagered correctly. Because it is unknown who will wager how much on an event, and because the proceeds are divided among the winning parties, the pari-mutuel wagering line fluctuates as wagers are made. Thus, with pari-mutuel wagering the bettor does not have the opportunity to lock in as one can with a set wagering line.

Some systems have been established to accommodate online wagering. Some of these systems merely replicate traditional house wagering. In lieu of going to a “brick & mortar” casino to place a wager with the house on a given event at a betting window, a user may navigate to an online gaming site to make a wager on an event. Although online wagering is convenient, to wager there is still typically an associated house rate such as the traditional house “juice.”

For reasons including avoidance of the house rate, some online providers have provided venues that purport to allow one wagering party to find another wagering party. These are sometimes referred to as peer-to-peer venues. These services allow a user to post an offer for a wager for any amount according to any betting line that they would like. Users may also review and try to find a previously posted wager to see if anything looks acceptable. If such is the case, the user can accept the posted wager offer to make a purportedly direct wager with the posting party. While this type of system is helpful in eliminating the house (and the associated house rate) from the wager, it is not necessarily desirable. One reason for this is that merely providing the capability for individuals to post wager offers provides for a cumbersome array of options that are confusing to the user. Even if the user is willing to take the time to navigate among all of the available options, the user may likely be unsuccessful in finding anything acceptable. Moreover, what the user deems acceptable upon a review of the available wager offers may not have been exactly what the user wanted. In the end, these types of systems have been found to be too cumbersome and insufficiently fulfilling to be acceptable.

Another system purports to provide direct wagering according to a more simplified selection. However, this system is in actuality a pari-mutuel based system. As described, with such a system the wagering line is not fixed. Thus, although this type of system can provide a more simplified interface (i.e., no need to choose from among a hodgepodge of options), it remains undesirable because it does not allow a user to lock in according to a set wagering line. Moreover, rather than being a direct wager among individuals, it involves a betting pool, which involves a house rate (as explained, the pool administration fee) just like any other house gambling activity. Accordingly, online pari-mutuel based wagering systems have also been found to be inadequate for certain users.

Thus, there remains a need for online wagering that accommodates direct wagering opportunities between individuals, yet does so offering the consistency and ease of use offered by traditional betting houses.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention accommodates wagering arrangements between users. A set wagering line is presented for an event having first and second opposing outcomes. The set wagering line is ostensibly a house line that is generally applicable to wager submissions on the event, whether in support of the first outcome or the second outcome. A wager submission is received from a first user in connection with presented wagering line, for a particular amount in support of the first outcome. It is then determined whether a counterpart wager (a wager on the event for the same amount in support of the second outcome) has already been received or is ultimately received from a second user during an applicability period. A wagering arrangement is accommodated between the first user and the second user when the counterpart wager submission is determined to be present.

Presenting a set wagering line and accepting wager submissions against the line gives the system a consistent, simplified feel of a wager made with a traditional house, but does so in the context of a system the accommodates and better facilitates direct wagering arrangements between individual users. The system thus confers the benefits of direct wagering without the typically associating drawbacks of such systems.

In one aspect, the wagering arrangement may be accommodated according to a standard rate that is substantially less than a house rate.

According to another aspect, wager submissions have an applicability period. If a counterpart wager is determined to be present during the applicability period, then a direct wagering arrangement is established between users corresponding to a wager submission and the counterpart wager submissions. The applicability period may be user defined, or a default period. The applicability period may also be determined based upon changes to the set wagering line.

According to still another aspect, alternative wagering options allow a user to attempt to engage in a direct wager with another user based upon the presented wagering line, and to engage in an alternative wagering options should a counterpart wager submission fail to materialize. In one embodiment, the system takes the wager submission as the house where a counterpart wager from another user is not found. The alternative wagering option allows the user to ensure that a wager will be accepted in some form if such is desired by the user.

The present invention can be embodied in various forms, including business processes, computer implemented methods, computer program products, computer systems and networks, user interfaces, application programming interfaces, and the like.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

These and other more detailed and specific features of the present invention are more fully disclosed in the following specification, reference being had to the accompanying drawings, in which:

FIG. 1 is a schematic diagram illustrating a system including an entertainment service provider having a wagering accommodation application.

FIG. 2 is a block diagram illustrating an embodiment of an wagering accommodation application in accordance with the present invention.

FIG. 3 is a flow diagram illustrating an embodiment of a method for accommodating a wagering activity in accordance with the present invention.

FIG. 4 is a flow diagram illustrating another embodiment of a method for accommodating a wagering activity in accordance with the present invention.

FIG. 5 is a display diagram illustrating an embodiment of a screen for presenting a wagering line and accepting a wager submission in accordance with the present invention.

FIG. 6 is a display diagram illustrating an embodiment of a screen for presenting account information corresponding to submitted, pending and completed wagers in accordance with the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

In the following description, for purposes of explanation, numerous details are set forth, such as flowcharts and system configurations, in order to provide an understanding of one or more embodiments of the present invention. However, it is and will be apparent to one skilled in the art that these specific details are not required in order to practice the present invention.

FIG. 1 is a schematic diagram illustrating a system 100 including an entertainment service provider 104 having a wagering accommodation application 110 in accordance with the present invention. In one embodiment, the entertainment service provider 104 provides a variety of entertainment services by connecting with users. The users, who also may be referred to as customers, participants, registrants or the like, engage in communications with the entertainment service provider 104. Such communication may be through a network such as the Internet using appropriately configured computers 102a,b.

Any conventional hardware and software may be used to facilitate the communication of information between the users' computers and the entertainment service provider 104. In one embodiment, the entertainment service provider 104 is a conventional web server, and the computers 102a,b are conventional processor based machines running the Windows™ operating system and implementing the Internet Explorer™ browser, both provided by Microsoft Corporation of Redmond, Wash. The user may implement conventional techniques, such as inputting an URL corresponding to the entertainment services provider 104, to navigate among relevant interfaces provided for accommodating the functionality described herein. There are various other ways that the functionality may be accommodated. For example, in lieu of using a personal computer, a personal digital assistant, cellular phone, browser enabled appliance, interactive television, or various other devices may be used to communicate with the entertainment services provider. Additionally, the network that accommodates communication between a user and the service provider may include technology beyond that shown in the figure. For example, a computer may be connected to a Local Area Network (LAN), which in turn provides a connection to the Internet through a gateway server or the like. The LAN may also implement wireless fidelity (Wi-Fi) technology to accommodate communication. Other systems may implement a conventional telephone system to provide a dial up connection to the Internet. Still other systems will include networks that do not implement the Internet. The artisan will recognize the alternative forms of communication and the present invention is not limited to the particular systems described herein.

The wagering accommodation application 110 provides a wagering accommodation functionality consistent with embodiment of the present invention. The wagering accommodation application 110 is preferably provided as software that includes instructions which, when executed by a processor, provide the described functionality. Although software is a preferred implementation, it may also be provided as any combination involving software, hardware, and/or firmware.

The wagering accommodation application 110 provides a series of interfaces and corresponding functionality that allows users to make direct wagers between each other, but does so by presenting a generally applicable betting line in lieu of merely providing a venue through which users may make ad hoc wager submissions, which results in a confusing hodgepodge of opportunities. By providing the opportunity for direct wagering, the wagering accommodation application 110 allows the user to avoid paying traditional house rates or “juice” as part of their wager submission. However, through presentation of generally applicable betting lines, the wagering accommodation application 110 provides the more consistent and predictable experience that one would find in making an ordinary house wager. Moreover, the wagering accommodation application 110 provides an improved potential for acquiring a matching counterpart wager, because the wager submissions are made according to the posted line, and thus better facilitates the establishment of a direct wager between user parties.

Generally, wagering accommodation as provided by the wagering accommodation application 110 is as follows. As described, various users may access the entertainment service provider 104. Preferably, the users are individuals seeking to make online wagers with other individuals using the wagering accommodation application 110.

Although embodiments without registration may of course be provided, in one embodiment each user will engage in a typical registration sequence with the entertainment service provider 104. This will involve submission of sufficient personal information to establish registration. In addition to personal information, it is preferred, although not necessarily required, that the user establish a viable account with a balance (e.g., in a denomination such as U.S. dollars) that must be retained to accommodate wagering activity. The account may be replenished using various techniques, including but not limited to sending a check to the service, sending funds to the account using an online account with a funds transfer service, providing funds using a credit card, or the like. There may be other techniques for establishing and replenishing the account in lieu of these traditional resources. In one embodiment, a business process wherein a user is offered a free wager, with the user agreeing to register and deposit the winnings (if applicable) into the account may be provided. Alternatively, the user may augment the account by convincing other users to register and use the system, by participating in an affiliate program, or through any number of incentives.

The system may also allow a user to implement a “screen name” that may be randomly selected. The user may in turn select to conceal or reveal personal information in association with the screen name, such as a real name, e-mail address, telephone number, etc. This is potentially beneficial to the user, as the system allows the user to engage in direct wagers with other parties using a name that is essentially anonymous should the user elect to do so. Through the unique combination of facilitating direct wagering, allowing relatively anonymous screen name based wagering, and ensuring that wagers are backed by a valid and sufficiently resourced account, the wagering accommodation application 110 provides a secure and user friendly wagering experience, that offers the apparent ease and predictability of traditional house wagering without necessarily imposing house rate wagering costs upon the user.

Once the account is established, the user may then seek to make a wager. Interfaces for presenting wagering opportunities and receiving wagers are described further below. Generally these interfaces present a set wagering line corresponding to an event that has a first outcome and a second outcome that opposes the first outcome. The set wagering line may be said to ostensibly be a house wagering line. This does not mean that the line is necessarily a house wagering line (although it may be) nor does it mean that the user is deceived or misled into believing that such is the case. Rather, it is the presentation of a line that is generally applicable during its pendency, similar to those typically presented by the house, so that the presentation of wagering options has the look and feel of a house wager to the user submitting a wager. In using the wagering accommodation application 110, the user will know that the actual wager will likely be with another user, rather than with the house.

One example of a submitted wager will be in support of one outcome for an event, for a given dollar amount, according to a given wagering line (e.g., a points line). The wagering accommodation application 110 retains and manages the submitted wager for the user.

A counterpart wager may be a wager on the same event, for the same dollar amount, according to the given wagering line, but in support of the opposing outcome for the event. If a counterpart wager is received (and it may have already been received) from a second user, then the wager and the counterpart wager are matched together, and a wagering arrangement between the first and second users is accommodated by the wager accommodation application 110. Messages to each of the users can be sent, confirming the successful matching of wagers. Additionally, each user's account status information can be updated so that the wager can be listed as pending in user account status pages that are made available to each user.

In one embodiment, the wager between the first user and the second user is provided at a discounted rate that is substantially lower than a house rate. As explained above, a typical house rate is 10% of the wagered amount. The standard rate may be various amounts. In one embodiment, it is a percentage that is low compared to a traditional house rate percentage, such as between 1 and 4 percent. In another embodiment, the standard rate is zero on a per-wager basis, with the entertainment service provider realizing alternative revenue such as registration fees. In still another embodiment, the standard rate is zero, with the entertainment service provider realizing an alternative revenue stream such as user acceptance of advertising exposure or the like. Many of various combinations or further alternative options for accommodating the discounted rate may be provided.

Although the present invention can be practiced without any house rate option, in one embodiment the user is given the option of allowing an alternative wagering option in the event that a counterpart wager is not found or does not become available within a certain amount of time. Examples of the alternative wagering option include allowing the wager to be accepted as a house wager, at a house rate, or allowing the wager to be entered into a pari-mutuel wagering pool for the same event. In these embodiments, the discounted rate may be any of the types noted above. Or, the discounted rate may be zero, provided that the user allows the house rate to apply where counterpart wagers are not found.

FIG. 2 is a block diagram illustrating an embodiment of a wagering accommodation application 210 in accordance with the present invention. The wagering accommodation application 210 is shown as part of a computer system 200 that includes a processor 202 and memory 204. The computer system 200 is typically a conventional server based system as previously described, but may be any of systems and architectures which will be readily apparent to the artisan and need not be named herein.

The wagering accommodation application 210 runs on a conventional operating system in memory 204 and carries out the described functionality by execution of computer instructions. The artisan will readily recognize the various alternative programming languages and execution platforms that are and will become available, and the present invention is not limited to any specific execution environment.

Although the wagering accommodation application 120 is preferably provided as software, it may alternatively be hardware, firmware, or any combination of software, hardware and firmware. Although one modular breakdown is described, such is provided by way of example only, as the functionality of the wagering accommodation application 210 may be provided in any number of alternative designs having greater or fewer component modules.

The wagering accommodation application includes a registration module 212, a wagering line presentation module 214, an interface module 216, a wager processing module 218, and a wager database 220.

The registration module 212 includes instructions that accommodate the previously introduced registration operations. These are generally conventional, as provided by any number of web sites and services. Preferably, account information is collected and an account is established by the registering user as described.

The line presentation module 214 includes instructions for accommodating the display of wagering lines. The interface for presenting such lines is described further below. Although the line presentation module 214 may accommodate other types of lines, it preferably includes a set wagering line presentation capability.

Various sources for the wagering line information may be implemented. In one embodiment, the entertainment service provider may determine and thus provide the line. Alternatively, an external source such as a Las Vegas casino, a national newspaper, or some other source may be used for the line. Regardless, the line is presented as being generally applicable for the relevant event while the line remains pending.

The line presentation module 214 has associated date and time tracking capabilities that allow it to determine whether lines remain pending and thus available in connection with wager submissions. Although time is a typical factor for dictating whether a line remains pending, other factors may apply. For example, if the source of the wagering line information is an external source such as a Las Vegas casino, the line presentation module 214 may merely adopt changes in the wagering line as they are introduced by the external source.

The user may navigate among various event categories to view wagering lines corresponding to some category of events, such as the National Football League games being played on a particular day. Preferably, only pending lines for events on which wagers may still be accepted are displayed.

The interface module 216 provides user interfaces that convey and receive information from users, and communicates with the relevant modules to accommodate the same. Not all of the provided interfaces need be shown for an understanding of the invention. For example, there are registration interfaces in addition to the interfaces described below. Some interfaces are described below, such as those the are used to convey wagering lines and receive corresponding wager submissions, and those that report successfully matched wagers and other wagering activity.

The wager processing module 218 includes instructions for receiving wager submissions; determining whether the wager submissions remain applicable (e.g., the time for wagering on the event may expire, the wagering line may change and render the previous line no longer applicable, etc.); matching wagers and counterpart wagers, and providing information that accommodates messages, displays and reports regarding wager matching and related activity.

The wager database 220 communicates with the wager processing module 218. The artisan will recognize the various ways that wager information may be retained and organized, but in one embodiment submitted wager information may include an event identifier, wager amount, a wagering line (which may be optional, particularly where wagers are automatically associated with a current line, and expire after the current line is no longer pending), and an outcome identifier (e.g., a team in the event). The wager information is stored and maintained for comparison to other wager submissions, and for association upon matching conditions. The information about the wager may be referred to as a wager submission record. An individual wager submission may be variously tracked such as by assigning a unique number in association with each wager submission record.

In one embodiment, a matching operation is accommodated by searching for an event, determining whether the amount matches, and determining whether the outcomes are opposing. A successful match is retained in the database accordingly, and the first and second users are variously informed regarding the successful direct wager as described further below. Maintenance of matched wagers may be variously provided using conventional database management techniques, such as maintaining an association of counterpart wagers based upon the above described wager submission records and associated unique numbers. A field in the database may also be used to indicate that the wager has been successfully matched, so that they are ineligible for matching with additional (e.g., future) wagers.

The functionality of the wagering accommodation application 210 is now further described with reference to the flow diagrams of FIGS. 3-4 in conjunction with the display diagrams of FIGS. 5-6.

FIG. 3 is a flow diagram illustrating an embodiment of a method 300 for accommodating a wagering activity. A wagering line is presented 302 for an event having a first outcome and a second outcome, and a wager is received 304 from a first user in support of a first event outcome. The wager will preferably have an associated amount, such as a number of U.S. dollars.

FIG. 5 is a display diagram illustrating an embodiment of a screen 500 for presenting a wagering line and accepting a wager submission. The display diagram includes a main display panel 502 that variously updates depending upon navigation within and among the elements shown therein. In the circumstances corresponding to FIG. 5, a user has navigated to an area where panels 504, 506 are displayed for navigation among and entry of wagering information. Specifically, navigation panel 504 displays categories from which the user may make selection. Based upon the selection made in the navigation panel 504, a wagering line presentation panel 506 updates to display pending wagering lines according to the selection.

Navigation may be variously provided, such as through a hierarchical arrangement of categories and sub-categories. For example, the user may navigate among professional sports, and select options such as NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, or others within that domain. Other categories may include college sports, other sports, international sports, other types of events, thoroughbred racing, or any event with which a set wagering line may be associated.

Here, the user has selected an “NFL” link 508, which prompts the line presentation panel 506 to display options related to that. As indicated in the figure, a set wagering line is presented for each of a number of events under the selected category, here all of the NFL games taking place on a given date such as Sep. 12, 2004. The source of the wagering lines may also be displayed if desired (e.g., the name of the external source where applicable). There are various examples of events having opposing outcomes in the figure. For example, ST. LOUIS is shown to be hosting Arizona and is favored by 10 points. Here, the opposing outcomes are dictated by the performance of one team (St. Louis) or the other team (Arizona) in the contest to be played. The set wagering line is −10. Thus, if St. Louis wins by more than 10 points in the contest, a first outcome will have resulted. If St. Louis does not do so (i.e., Arizona wins, or loses by 9 or less), then the opposing outcome will have resulted. A user may elect to submit a wager by selecting an appropriate check box, and including an amount in association with the event. In FIG. 5, boxes corresponding to the favorite in the event are denoted as elements 510a, whereas those corresponding to the underdog are denoted as elements 510b. The terms favorite and underdog are just descriptive of certain examples and might not be associated with certain types of events.

Continuing with the example, checking the box next to St. Louis indicates a wager in support of that team, whereas checking the box next to Arizona indicates support for its opposing outcome. Boxes 512 for entering the amount may also be provided. Here, the user has checked off the St. Louis box, and entered $100 in the corresponding box. This means that the user would like to submit a wager on St. Louis, at minus ten points over Arizona. Multiple wagers may be submitted through the same screen. For example, the user has also checked Cincinnati (plus two points) for $200, and Miami (minus one point) for $100. Once the user is satisfied with the wagering selections, clicking a button 514 prompts submission of the wager to the wagering accommodation application, which receives the information and then retains it for associating with counterpart wagers.

Still referring to FIG. 3, upon receipt 304 of the wager from a user, it is determined 306 whether a counterpart wager is received from another user. The counterpart wager may have already been received based upon an earlier wager submission. Thus, the wagering accommodation application accesses the database of received wagers and determines whether an available entry is present having the required characteristics. Continuing with the example, suppose that a wager submission on NY Jets (minus two points) for $200 had already been received by another user. The database of wagering information would be accessed. Initial searching for the event identifier field would find any entries corresponding to the NY Jets v. Cincinnati contest. From those entries, in searching for a counterpart wager to the user's Cincinnati wager, the wagering accommodation application would determine those entries having the opposing outcome (NY Jets) in the outcome identifier field. The event identifier and the outcome identifier can be variously represented using numerals, alphanumeric characters, or the like, with predictability of course being desirable for consistent operation. Given a match on the event and opposition on the outcome, the system next confirms that the amounts wagered match. Here, it would be determined whether the wagered amount was $200.

The system is arranged such that all wagers are according to the presented wagering line, so it will typically be unnecessary to also match that piece of information in the database. However, the system also accommodates changes in the wagering line. That being the case, the system may void pending wager submissions that have not yet been matched at the time that the wagering line changes. Alternatively, the system may retain the wagering line for a submitted wager in the database, if desired, particularly for embodiments where a house wager may take place in the event of a failure to find a counterpart wager.

If is determined 306 that a counterpart wager is received from another user, then a direct wagering arrangement is accommodated 308 between the two users according to the wagering line.

The direct wagering arrangement may be referred to as a wagering agreement between the two users. The characterization of what the wagering arrangement is can be established as part of the user registration process. For example, the users may be effectively entering into a contractual arrangement where one agrees to pay the other from their account depending upon the outcome. The legal requirements and restrictions to accommodating the direct wagers may also be dictated by state, regional or local laws, which may be variously applicable depending upon who the users are, where they reside, where they are presently located (e.g., as determined using GPS provided with the computing device that they connect to the system with for the wager submission). The contractual particulars and legal restrictions and accommodations may be variously provided in accordance with embodiments of the present invention, and accommodation of wagering is intended to broadly cover any way in which direct wagering between parties is facilitated.

As described previously, the direct wager is preferably provided at a discounted rate as compared to the house rate. This provides an incentive for users to register and use the system over traditional house-only systems.

There will be instances where a counterpart wager is not determined to have already been received upon submission of a wager by a party. In those circumstances, the wager submission is retained for eventual matching. The wager submission will typically have an associated applicability period. In a simple form, this may be based upon the time that the event will start. For example, the wager submission may be retained until the start time of the event. The applicability period also may be determined based upon whether the wagering line at which the wager was made remains pending. As described, in some embodiments those wagers that are not matched may be discarded when the line changes. Accommodations can be made for users under these circumstances, such as asking them whether they want to leave the wager offer pending under the new wagering line. Still further, the applicability period may be a fixed and definable period of time. For example, the user may be able to set the time period. This could be accommodated through additional screens that might be shown after initial submission of the wager. This feature would be useful for users who want to know whether they have a direct wager arranged at a given time that may be well before the event is to take place. For example, the user may want a determination within 90 minutes of submitting the wager, and may enter that information accordingly.

FIG. 4 is a flow diagram illustrating a method for accommodating a wagering activity in more detail, including the applicability period functionality. Elements 402-408 in FIG. 4 are analogous to the previously described 302-308 and the description of those steps need not be repeated. The applicability period allows the system to manage wager submissions in the database and to retain them as long as needed. Provided that it is determined 410 that the applicability period for the wager has not lapsed, the system will continue to determine 406 whether a counterpart wager is or becomes available.

If the applicability period is determined 410 to have lapsed without a counterpart wager having been received, then in one embodiment (e.g., FIG. 3) of the present invention the process may end.

However, according to another embodiment a house rate option accommodates acceptance of the wager even though the counterpart wager was not found for the particular wager submission. If it is determined 412 that the house rate wagering option is available and enabled, then the wager is accepted 414 from the user according to a house rate, and a message is provided to the user indicating the same. Again, the user can control the options. For example, the user may want to seek a direct wager in order to avoid paying the house rate, but might be interested in making the wager to an extent that the house rate would be acceptable should a direct counterpart wager with another user be unavailable. The user could also set the applicability period to provide the greatest chance of a direct wagering match. For example, the user might indicate that the applicability period for the submitted wager shall extend until one minute before the event is to start, with the house rate option enabled. This allows a long period in which to seek a counterpart wager, and also guarantees that the wager will be accepted in some form (whether by another user or the house).

FIG. 6 is a display diagram illustrating an embodiment of a screen 600 for presenting account information corresponding to submitted, pending and completed wagers. Here, the main display panel 602 includes an account status panel 604, an accepted wagers panel 606 and a pending wager submissions panel 608. The appearance of the main display panel 602 may be prompted from other pages through links to the account.

The account status panel 604 preferably provides an overview of account information and recently completed wagering activity. Useful information may include the user's account balance and wagering activity information that identifies the event wagered and the result of the recently completed wager.

The accepted wagers panel 606 displays accommodated wagers for events that have not yet taken place. Useful information such as the date, identification of the event, wagering line, amount wagered, and type of wager (e.g., a direct wager with another party is denoted as “direct”, a wager with the house may be denoted as “house”, etc.). The screen name of the party whom the direct wager has been made may also be displayed if desired. In the illustrated example, indicia that Zicker has entered into a direct wager with Red Dog, with $200 wagered on Cincinnati plus two points. The accepted wager panel 606 updates to indicate wagering that is accommodated by the system by receiving a wager submission and determining a corresponding counterpart wager as previously described.

The pending wager submissions panel 608 lists information regarding wager submissions that have been received but have not yet been accommodated. This will typically be the case when a wager has been submitted and the system is awaiting receipt of a counterpart wager. In addition to displaying useful information about the relevant event and wager (date, team wagered on, wagering line, amount), information about the pendency of the wager submission may also be provided. For example, where a wager submission is to remain pending for a given period of time, a “time remaining” field may indicate how much longer the wager submission will remain pending. Additionally, for systems that accommodate alternative wagering options, the “type” field may indicate what the user has elected to do in that regard. Continuing with the example, the user Zicker has submitted a $100 wager offer on Miami minus one point and indicated that the wager submission is “Direct Only”, meaning that if pendency (e.g., the indicated time remaining) lapses prior to receipt of a counterpart wager by another user, that the user is content with no wager being accommodated. However, the wager of $100 on St. Louis minus 10 points is indicated as “Direct/House”, which means that should no counterpart wager be received within the pendency period for the direct wager submission, the alternative wagering option (e.g., a wager with the house) will be accommodated by the system.

Thus embodiments of the present invention various accommodate wagering activity through systems, apparatus, methods and articles of manufacture. Although the present invention has been described in considerable detail with reference to certain embodiments thereof, the invention may be variously embodied without departing from the spirit or scope of the invention. Therefore, the following claims should not be limited to the description of the embodiments contained herein in any way.