Gaming device method involving multiple classes of credits, wagering of contingent winners, a special purpose meter therefor, and a player-determinable bonus round
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A gaming device is described where various events pay players in multiple classes of credits. One class of special credits has no cash value and may only be rewagered in an attempt to win traditional cash-equivalent credits. The player decides when to play a bonus game where the special credits are bet.

Taylor, William Arthur (Evergreen, CO, US)
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William Arthur Taylor (Evergreen, CO, US)
1. A gaming device comprising: at least one symbol display that includes at least one award symbols, said award symbol associated with at least one award; a plurality of prize indicators, wherein each has an associated number of awards needed to access said prize indicator, and each of said prize indicators includes at least one prize; a processor operable with said symbol display to generate the award symbols and to enable the player to selectively access at least one prize.


This application claims priority to U.S. Provisional Application Serial No. 60/702,305 filed on 07/23/2005, which is incorporated by reference in its entirety herein.


A portion of the disclosure of this patent document contains or may contain material subject to copyright protection. The copyright owner has no objection to photocopy reproduction of the patent document or the patent disclosure as appearing in the Patent and Trademark Office patent file or records, but otherwise all copyright rights whatsoever are reserved. 37 CFR 1.71(d).


The invention relates to gambling devices generally and in particular to a new method for playing slot and poker machines.


Gambling devices, or gaming devices including slot machines, allow players to wager something of value in the hopes of winning something of greater value. Originally slot machines were mechanical devices employing 3 physical reels with various symbols painted or affixed to them. Upon inserting a coin and pulling a spring-loaded handle, the reels were set in motion and players were paid or not depending upon where the reels stopped and which symbols were shown across the display portion of the machine.

Slot machines have evolved greatly since the original gaming devices discussed above. Most slot machines in use today are electronic computers, and the symbols are displayed in video form. Players often prefer video display slot machines over traditional slot machines using mechanical reels. The video platform also offers more flexibility in development for manufacturers. The common term today for a gambling machine is a gaming device, which is used herein to include gambling devices such as slot machines, video poker, and other gambling games whether reel, video or otherwise.

Newer video slots typically display 5 reels side-by-side that spin on a common axis instead of the traditional 3 (or more) mechanical reels. These newer video slots usually show 3 stopping positions of each reel yielding a visible matrix of 3 rows by 5 columns. Sometimes the number of reels and reel positions displayed vary.

Players typically wager on 1 or more paylines that run in different paths through the reel positions displayed. Unlike newer models of gaming devices, early slots paid only for matching symbols straight across the center (a single payline). Traditionally the path of each payline takes I adjacent position of each reel, so on a 5-reel game the payline is usually 5 positions in length. However, today these payline paths may number in the hundreds, they may take any path, and they may not always span adjacent reels nor even be on contiguous positions. One newer game entitled Hoot Loot even has a special payline comprised only of symbols containing a star. Generally, players may wager on multiple paylines and may even wager multiple credits per payline. Reel symbols occurring in various combinations on the paylines are compared to a schedule of winning events commonly called a pay table to determine a win or loss. Often there are wild symbols that substitute for other symbols, and symbol combinations that trigger a bonus or feature game. Scatter pays are also common where certain symbol(s) pay anywhere in the visible display, and they don't have to be on any payline. Wins are usually rewarded with monetary awards from a coin hopper provided in the machine or tickets redeemable for cash.

Second screen features (or more) are common. A “second-screen” bonus game is usually separate and distinct from the normal reel display, and a player might select a car in a car race or scratch from a selection of video lottery tickets to earn credits, free games or anything of value. Some games even offer third screens or more, enhancing player interest and intrigue. These bonus game features typically occur randomly every 50 plays or so and are embedded in the game mathematics. Their occurrence is not conditioned upon an additional bet.

Some games let creative players play consecutive games without manual intervention. Sometimes players wedge a toothpick or folded matchbook cover in such a manner as to keep the play button depressed. Provided they have sufficient credits, consecutive games play off by themselves. Although these players have basically fashioned an autoplay device, each game is still a single, discrete event that requires a separate wager. However, in newer gaming devices a “game” might be comprised of multiple slot machines spins of a traditional nature plus other interactions and events.

In general, the more interactive a gaming device is, the more entertaining it is, and the greater its entertainment value the more players will play it. Accordingly, more play normally translates to greater profits for gaming device operators.

Other types of gaming devices offer side bets. For example, in one game players play blackjack, but may wager separately who gets closest to a “21” point score. In another a gaming device is provided that offers a side bet to participate in a super jackpot game.

Side bets have also been around for a very long time. Aristocrat, a major slot machine manufacturer headquartered in Australia, makes games that offer side bets embedded within a video slot machine. Their Cashman series offers bonus features that can only be achieved when a side bet is made. This side bet is only offered when the player has first bet the maximum number of lines offered on the machine. For example, after a player bets the maximum 20 paylines they are offered the chance to make a side bet that costs the equivalent of betting another 5 paylines. Thus, these games entice the player to raise their bet. Since casinos and operators normally retain a percentage of the bet, this side bet usually results in greater revenues and profits. While this is a somewhat creative means to offer a side bet, it is still just an additional bet. Side bets are separate wagers on separate events.

Some gaming devices offer multiple bets. Triple Play Poker permits player's held cards to be played as multiple poker hands with each draw performed independently, usually resulting in 3 different outcomes. Each additional hand requires an additional wager that can become expensive, since it costs 3 times as much to play.

Regardless of the type or form of gaming device—whether reel slot, video game, some other type or combination—the basic method of wagering has remained largely the same for years. The player inserts coins or otherwise obtains credits on a machine, commits a wager, plays the game and then is paid or not depending on the outcome.

Slot machines today play in many different denominations. Credits on one machine might be worth 1 cent (or less), while others are worth $100. Some machines even allow you to select the denomination at the machine and to change it between games. One advance in slot machine development was the use of a credit meter. With a credit meter, a player could insert more coins than were needed to play a single game, and thus have a pool of funds to draw upon. Ten nickels inserted would yield ten credits, for example. Then, the player could play one game that required ten nickel credits, ten games that required one nickel credit each, or anything in between. The use of a credit meter also allowed winnings to be accumulated on the machine, instead of always being paid out in coins each time the player won. A player could rack up credits and then choose to cash out at their leisure by the use of a special button on the machine for this purpose.

In 1990s, most slot machine manufacturers began offering currency acceptors with their machines. Players could obtain machine credits by simply inserting paper currency. In recent years, manufacturers have even added devices that could dispense currency instead of, or in addition to, coins. (These are known as note hoppers and operate similar to bank cash machines or ATMs). Many new machines pay players in paper tickets or scripts that may be redeemed elsewhere or reinserted into similar machines that read and accept such paper. These are often called ticket-printer machines. Some machines may even accept credit cards or other cards that have value.

A traditional video slot machine commonly has 2 rows of bet buttons plus a service and cashout button. The top row dictates the number of paylines, often from 1 to 9 or more. (In the case of the Cashman example cited earlier, the top row also contains the side bet button.) The bottom row has the credit per line bet buttons, which are commonly from 1 to 10. These limits change depending on the game. A typical one-cent game today may offer up to 20 paylines and 20 credits per line for a total bet of 400 credits or $4.00 per play, or more. Play is commonly initiated by pressing the credit per line button, which is multiplied by the number of currently selected paylines to arrive at the total bet.

As a promotion, casinos sometime configure certain slot machines for tournament play. Slot tournaments are player versus player competitions administered by casino staff. Players gain entry through a variety of means, such as achieving VIP status in the casino's players club, paying an entry fee or simply for signing up. In these tournaments, players do not wager anything directly or at all, but person(s) with the highest credit scores receive something of value from the casino. Since there is no wager, the slot machines are set to a free play mode where the goal is to get more credits than the other players. Players are not paid directly for credits earned. Tournaments are marketing programs that rely on gaming devices for implementation.

Time on a particular device is a huge factor in the gaming industry today. Time on device is important not only for direct profits to gaming device operators, but also indirectly. The more time spent in one gambling property means more profit opportunities for the casino. Restaurants, shows, gift shops, hotel rooms, etc., all give the casino the chance for more profits. In general, the more time a player spends in a gaming establishment, the greater the likelihood they will return and spend even more. Operators strive to keep you in their establishment, which generally means more profits, and typically provide numerous incentives such as free or inexpensive food and drinks specifically for this purpose.

Marketing studies have revealed that players do not mind losing so much, as long as they can have a good time playing. Most casino gamblers don't really expect to win, but they do expect to play for a reasonable amount of time. This is consistent with newer trends in gaming where gambling for the typical patron is more of an entertainment experience. With the proliferation of casinos in America in recent years, casino gambling has become mainstream entertainment. Perhaps the most important part of that entertainment value is “time on device”, or how long you get to play for your money. Time on device is critical to a positive gambling experience.

Accordingly, recent attempts have been made to ensure greater time on device for players. Perhaps the most common method today on slot machines is to offer more winners of lesser amounts. To this end slot makers design games with a greater mathematical win frequency and a reduced pay table. Especially in newer video slots these win or hit frequencies reach 50% or more. In practice, this means you might bet 10 coins per line on 9 paylines (90 coins total) only to win 20 coins. Even though this is clearly a net loss for the player, the 20 award is still advertised as a win. This trickling back of credits to the player takes their money more slowly, recognizes them as winners (even if they're losing) and extends their playtime for a given amount of money to bet.

One problem with high hit frequencies is that player returns become meaningless. While time on device is generally lengthened, betting 90 to win 20 eventually becomes tedious and boring. Players soon realize that with these gaming products they are not really winning even if the machine displays “winner”, but rather, they have simply lost less. The reduced payable means the allure of big winners is diminished. The tradeoff of more common winners is smaller winners.

Other enticements also keep players playing longer. As mentioned occasional bonus features or second-screen events that award free plays or credits are common ways to motivate players. Random payouts and mystery jackpots (typically paid anywhere on a bank of networked gaming machines) are also popular. Progressive awards, where certain outcomes pay an amount that increases with credits played until won, also give players something special to play for. Qualifying for progressive awards is often conditioned on players first wagering the maximum allowable bet.

Some less common gaming devices employ a hold and re-spin feature. In these games the reels are spun once, then desirable symbols are held similar to draw poker and the rest are spun again in order to make more favorable combinations. Still other esoteric and non-traditional concepts let players buy a predetermined amount of time and play remotely without even being near the machine. But, this lesser involvement detracts from the experience.

Different jurisdictions impose different regulations onto casino operators and gaming machine manufacturers. For example, riverboat casino legislation in Mississippi resulted in casinos being built in the mud that don't even float. These riverboats don't navigate and can't even move. In other markets, riverboat casinos are required to cruise some distance periodically to qualify under the regulations.

Similarly, different states place different requirements onto gaming devices. One common rule requires a skill component. Thus in some markets video draw poker games are the standard. Skill is needed to make the best choice as to cards retained and cards replaced on the “draw.”

Some states don't allow traditional slot machines, but only bingo or lottery games that resemble slot machines. These games, often called “Class II” games, usually require another button press or two to set the reels spinning. Commencing with the bet, a bingo card is selected. The next button push selects a series of bingo balls, and a win or loss outcome is determined in accordance with the rules of bingo. The next press sets slot machine reels spinning and the resulting outcome is that commensurate with the bingo game. As an example, a bingo winner paying 10 is represented as a slot machine result paying 10. Thus clever manufacturers have fashioned a bingo game simulating a slot machine that is legal in some markets.

Still other markets require “central determination.” Unlike traditional slot machines that stand alone independent of each other, centrally determined gaming devices are networked to a central server. This server dishes random numbers or gaming device outcomes to each device on the network. Thus a central accounting point may be maintained in a government office that controls each device statewide. While imposed by regulation, this also helps with accounting controls, general security and the verification process over large jackpot payouts. These are sometimes called video lottery games. Many other variations exist on gaming devices and the systems that work with them.

As indicated lower denomination games have become very popular recently. In the early 1990s games were generally nickel, quarter and dollar denomination. Today one-cent games are among the most popular. Since the denomination has fallen, so have average bets. Thus, manufacturers and gaming device operators are striving for ways to keep the bets high to maintain profitability. To these ends, some gaming device makers incorporate elaborate second- and third-screen bonuses with multiple bonus features embedded within their video slots. But, irrespective of the wagering method, games that are too complicated are generally less successful, since most players prefer new games that are easy to learn and play. So, it is a balancing act to keep games interesting and engaging, but simple. Likewise, keeping the bets high enough to return traditional or better profits while offering lower denominations is also a major objective of game designers today.

Almost all gaming devices retain a portion of wagers for the operator or house. This is called the hold percentage. This percent of the wager is used to cover operator expenses and contribute to profits. What is not retained is returned to players in the form of winnings, and this proportion of wagers is called the payback percentage. Note player returns or winnings may be in the form of prizes, accrued payouts, annuities or other things of value that are normally paid for or arranged by the device operator.

Hold and payback percentages are predetermined at the gaming device design stage. The casino game The Big Wheel yields a straightforward example. The Big Wheel is typically a single large spinning wheel with approximately 54 dollars bills pinned to its perimeter in different denominations. The player makes a wager, spins the wheel and receives the bill indicated when it stops. Assuming the example shown below having 40 equally likely positions, the expected value of playing this game is $9.55. (The award is multiplied times its possibility, which yields a contribution to the total. Dividing by the total number of possibilities yields an expected value. Alternatively, as in the case of slot machines, each award is multiplied by its probability yielding a contribution, which is then summed to find the expected value of play and ultimately the payback percentage.) If it costs $10 to play, the casino on average keeps $0.45 or 4.5% of bets. Thus the hold percentage in this case would be 4.5% and the payback percentage would be 95.5% as illustrated below (for demonstration purposes only).

AwardPossibilitiesContributionExpected Value
 $1 bill12$12
 $2 bill5$10
 $5 bill10$50
$10 bill6$60
$20 bill5$100
$50 bill1$50
$100 bill 1$100
Total40$382$382/40 = $9.55

As discussed slot machine percentages are found similarly, being typically a function of symbol occurrences and the pay table. The pay table (containing the awards) is predominantly fixed and unchanging during game play, while the symbols (the possibilities) vary. Symbols are ultimately dictated by a computer algorithm acting as a random number generator that determines where the reels stop in fact or virtually.

Hold and payback percentages on slot machines have been determined in largely the same way for many years. Winning outcomes (usually symbol combinations) are predetermined and listed in a pay table, or published schedule of pays. A higher value award or payoff is typically given to scarcer symbols or symbol combinations. The reels are then mapped with symbols, with the number of symbols and total positions ultimately determining the odds of getting any particular outcome or combination. For example, with one reel containing 1 each of 10 symbols and a random spin, the odds of getting any particular symbol are 1 in 10. With 2 such reels, the odds of getting a particular symbol on reel 1 and a particular symbol on reel 2 at the same time are 1 in 100, and so on. Using math or statistical methods, game developers ascertain the chances of each outcome and fashion a pay table accordingly to assure the house retains a mathematical advantage—it's desired hold percentage. One hundred percent less the hold percentage is equal to the payback percentage.

Note the term reel mapping refers to the fashioning of a reelstrip. A reelstrip is a way of laying out symbol possibilities on a reel. Commonly reelstrips are mapped such that identical symbols are not in adjacent positions. Symbols are normally at least 2 positions away from identical symbols on a reel when a typical 3 row by 5 reel array is used. (The term reelstrip developed from machines where these plastic “strips” were affixed to mechanical reels.)

There are some simple enhancements to the above method. Wild symbols often substitute for other symbols. They may even substitute for other symbols on other reels, for other symbol positions on the current reel or for multiple positions at the same time. Other games treat each displayed symbol position independently. That is, there is no reel in the traditional sense and each symbol or position is determined individually without any deference to a reel or to which symbol(s) is adjacent.

The term reel as used herein is a convenient way to reference the action, method and means of finding symbols and displaying outcomes, and it stems from the old mechanical machines. However, since most gambling devices today are based on computer platforms, physical reels are now less common. Virtual reels that simulate a physical reel are most common today. Instead of using springs and reels to achieve or simulate randomness, a computer means generates a random or pseudo-random number that determines either which symbol(s) is displayed and in which position or some other outcome, which is then displayed or otherwise used in the course of play.

Some special cases effectively modify one or more pay table awards between games. Progressive awards usually have a reset value and increase as a percentage of the bet. For example, a progressive jackpot might start out at $1 million and increase with 1% of monies wagered on all networked machines. This is how IGT's Megabucks works. The odds or winning are remote, but with hundreds of machines linked to the progressive system Megabucks has paid awards well over $20 million. Once paid, the progressive jackpot resets to its starting value and the cycle repeats.

Unlike progressives, random pays and mystery awards are paid when no advertised winning event or symbol combination occurs. Both are usually smaller pay table values paid frequently. The timing of their payouts is often based on some random or other event with pre-set limits. For example, the operator may specify that ½% of bets are accumulated in a hidden pool, and that a mystery award always pays between $25 and $75. The gaming device selects a random value between these limits. Whoever's wager causes the hidden pool to reach this value is then paid this amount. Since the player never knows in advance what the selected random value is, the win is a mystery. It has nothing to do with achieving any winning outcome on the game, and it may be paid with or without any coinciding win on the machine. Random pays are similar, although the internal method that determines when they're paid and how much may vary. Both random pays and mystery awards are triggered separately from advertised pay table events, and both are paid from some reserved portion of the payback percentage that is typically influenced, directly or indirectly, by the cumulative wager.

Some games modify the pay table's schedule of winning events between games. In IGT's Hoot Loot one special symbol combination pays an award, and that combination changes with each play.

Regardless, with the traditional means of using reelstrips and pay tables to determine gaming device payback percentages, it is normally required that some symbols occur less frequently than others. For example, if 5 “red sevens” pays 10000, and 5 “bars” pays 10, it follows that red sevens won't occur as often. After all, the operator must normally retain a mathematical advantage. In practice this means that some symbols or combinations are elusive and rare.

Higher paying symbols are the most sought after. Game designers usually make them the most ornate, the most animated or otherwise the most attractive. But, they occur least frequently. Players know these are the most valuable, but get frustrated when they don't get them very often. Thus it's obvious to players that the reels do not contain an equal number of symbols, or that the game is somehow designed with a bias towards lower paying symbols. This restricts naturally expected symbol combinations, and clearly reinforces that odds are against players with every play.

As indicated above bonus events are very common today. A spin of the slot machine reels may yield a combination of symbols that trigger a second screen event. The second-screen (or bonus) event may itself be a “nested” event. That is, the bonus may yield an ongoing series of events that ultimately yield award/s or not. For example, in an Egyptian-themed game a player might be offered one of 3 sarcophogi. One of the 3 may then yield access into King Tut's tomb. Inside the tomb, the player may be prompted to select from several doors or passages. Making the right selection might offer the player the choice of 3 golden idols to choose from, each offering a different credit value or even a jackpot. At any point in the bonus a wrong choice might terminate bonus play. Thus each bonus screen may itself yield a subset of possibilities, thus the nested effect. At any point during the bonus a wrong selection may terminate the bonus round paying no prize, a consolation prize, a single prize, an accrued prize or a jackpot or something else of value.

These bonuses take many forms. Sometimes they are simple selections, that is, choose 1 of 5 treasure chests. They may be nested as in the Egyptian example above. They may yield match games where players select from a multitude of offerings until they reveal hidden prized that match.

Bonus presentation options are unlimited with the proliferation of video in gaming today. The common thread, however, is that each bonus represents a pre-determined contribution to the overall device payback. An example helps to illustrate the bonus math.

Assume a base slot machine returns $0.90 for each $1.00 wagered, but it offers a simple bonus. This bonus occurs once in each 100 plays on average, and the bet is fixed at $1.00 per play. The bonus offers the choice of 5 treasure chests that contain hidden prizes of 100, 200, 300, 400 and 500 1-cent credits, respectively, and the odds of selecting any treasure chest is fair at 1 in 5. So, 1 time in 100 the bonus occurs, and the average bonus award is 300 ((100+200+300+400+500)/5=1500/5=300). The bonus contribution to the overall payback is then 1/100×300 or 3. Thus this game returns on average $0.90+$0.03, or $0.93 on average for each $1.00 wagered, and the overall payback percentage is then 93%.

What is most important to recognize in the above example is that the bonus adds a 3% return to the base game to arrive at the 93% overall payback. Players don't get 3% consistently in the short run, but only in the long term. That 3% is a long-term average pre-determined by game developers and is a function of the math model underlying the game.

The problem with this is that the inherent volatility is limited by what's offered in the bonus round/s. (Volatility is the attribute of slot machines that make them fun to play and allows some players to win at the expense of those that don't.) Since the bonus frequency is predetermined on average, that part of the equation is simply fixed in advance.

The present invention adds a new and unique aspect to gaming devices by awarding a special class of credits for the primary purpose of rewagering. (Note the terms wagering and rewagering are sometimes used interchangeably herein.) These credits are accounted for on a special meter for this purpose, and the player alone decides when to play a special bonus game to bet them. As will be shown this new feature allows many new options giving players more control and involvement leading to more interesting games and ultimately more profits for operators and more sales for manufacturers.


This new invention is more involving and thus more entertaining for players. It gives players more to do without being too complicated. Now players can win multiple classes of credits. Some awards are paid in the form of traditional credits that can be played or cashed out and some are paid in the form of wagering-only credits that can only be played. In the primary embodiment these wagering-only credits are in the form of acorns. Acorns have value because they can be wagered like traditional credits to win cash.

It's fun for players to have this separate “acorn bank” going. Although in the Nuts for Nuts! (“NFN”) embodiment described below players may bet their acorns anytime, part of the fun is racking up large stores of acorns. (Squirrels like this, too.)

The NFN game gives the player unprecedented control over the volatility of their returns. As the acorn count increases, so do the corresponding payoffs when the player eventually does bet. To keep volatility low, the player may bet their acorns frequently resulting in more wins of lesser value. Alternatively, players may choose to bet their accumulated acorns infrequently or only at the end of their session for fewer chances at much greater returns! Payoffs are a function of the number of, or in some cases the value of, the acorns wagered. In any case, the player alone decides when to play the bonus game where their acorns may be bet, which is another unique aspect of NFN!

NFN is good for manufacturers. Since a portion of the pay table is returned to players in the form of bet-only credits, playtime is extended. An extra step is commonly required to convert these special credits to cash, and that's only if the player wins. In general, longer playtime translates to greater profit opportunities for operators and ultimately more sales for their suppliers.

The NFN game method may circumvent bet limits in some jurisdictions. For example, Colorado has a $5 bet limit. While the player may not bet more than $5 at one time, the NFN embodiment lets players bet an unlimited number of acorns irrespective of their underlying value. (Acorns typically have no cash value and cannot be cashed out or otherwise taken directly to the credit meter for cash.)

This new play method and second class of rewagering-only credits also opens the door for many new and creative games and fun game themes for designers.

NFN is great for operators. Casinos and gaming device operators work in competitive environments where players get bored and demand new games. Not only is NFN fun in its own right, but it overcomes a huge problem some games have with increasing-probability bonuses—vulturism. (Vulturism is a phrase coined for the undesirable effect of persons intimidating players from their machines when their game approaches a positive payoff expectation.) Since NFN players can “bet the bank” of acorns at anytime, they need never leave a game in a state better than that they found it.


In a primary embodiment of the present invention a portion of the gaming device is reserved for the posting and/or accumulation of a special class of credits (or their equivalents) that may only be rewagered. Said credits typically have no cash value, but may be used like cash or traditional credits for betting purposes. The player alone decides when to bet these special credits.


FIG. 1 is a sample pay table that may be used in one embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a sample video slot machine screen display that may be used in one embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 3 is a flowchart demonstrating the basic steps involved in one embodiment of the present invention.


In a primary embodiment of the present invention the base game is a standard 5-reel video slot machine. A unique pay table rewards certain outcomes with symbols instead of credits. Said symbols are accumulated like credits, and may be wagered by the player at any time.

As indicated this embodiment is referred to by the working title Nuts for Nuts. NFN employs a squirrel theme where the slot machine symbols are squirrels, trees, nuts and the like. The pay table rewards certain symbol combinations as is traditional in the art with traditional credits. However, some symbol combinations reward the player with acorns instead of credits. Refer to FIG. 1 for a sample NFN pay table.

Credits are logged in a meter as is traditional in the art. However, NFN employs another meter to keep track of acorns. This acorn meter is displayed in a suitable portion of the video screen. Refer to FIG. 2 for a sample NFN screen display.

The player may choose to bet their acorns anytime they have a positive acorn balance on a secondary game that is, in the primary embodiment, different from the base slot machine game. Each acorn corresponds to a numerical value internally, although this value is not normally revealed to the player, and so rewards in the secondary game depend upon how many acorns are wagered. In NFN you must wager all of your acorns at once and winners, if any, are paid off in traditional credits posted to the credit meter. After the acorn wager is made the acorn meter count resets to 0.

Refer to FIG. 3 for a flowchart of the NFN play method.

Thus the NFN invention contains a significant departure from traditional gaming device methods by paying players in a unique form of credits that must be rewagered, and NFN employs a separate rewagering credit meter for this purpose.

It should be pointed out that since the disposition of acorns isn't decided until later, accumulating acorns are not, by themselves, true winners in the traditional sense. Accumulated acorns in NFN are simply held in a form of stasis or escrow under the present invention. While NFN may purport these acorns as wins this is mainly for marketing purposes or for convenience, since the end result may in fact be a loss. (The player may bet their accumulated acorns and lose.) Calling acorns contingent winners may be technically more correct. Similarly what we call rewagering herein is just the next (or last) step to determine the ultimate outcome from a previous event, that is, whether a win or a loss occurred and for how much. Since in NFN there is no additional cash required to wager acorns, but there is typically an internal mathematical value assigned to them, it is an important point to make clear. While the internal value of accumulated acorns might exceed bet limits in some markets this shouldn't matter, since our rewagering does not really involve a new wager at all.

As rewagerable only credits, our acorns may never be assigned a cash value or surrender value to the player, regardless of how they are accounted for internally. Similarly, acorns may have no internal or external value. It would be easy to apply a probability to the chance that acorns may ultimately yield something of value with said probability changing, or not, as additional acorns are accumulated or other game privileges are earned, accrued or granted. (A privilege may simply be that a player can open a certain door in a bonus round once they have a golden acorn, for example.)

In one alternative embodiment, acorns are achieved in other ways. The pay table might pay acorns along with traditional credit pays for certain wins. For example, 3 Daisy symbols might pay 5 credits and 1 acorn. Acorns might be granted only upon scatter pays, they might be granted randomly or their acquisition might be conditioned first upon an additional bet, greater credit per line bet or some other event. Awarded acorns may be worth different amounts so that a red acorn is worth 2 white acorns, and white acorns are worth 2 blue acorns. Acorn values may even be variable or random.

In another alternative embodiment only rewagerable acorn credits are paid according to the pay table, and no traditional credits are awarded in the base game. The player must undertake the acorn bonus game or other event in order to make the conversion to traditional credits, cash or other things of value.

In another alternative embodiment any theme may be employed. For example the game might be entitled Bet the Bank and employ a Fort Knox, Wall Street or Bank Robber theme.

In another alternative embodiment accumulated acorns may be tracked and reported or displayed in any suitable manner. For example, a graphical acorn hierarchy might be displayed onscreen where brown acorns are worth 1 acorn, red acorns are worth 10 and golden acorns are worth 100. Acorns may be sized differently to represent different values or other characteristics. Other symbols or means may be used in addition to, or instead of, acorns. The acorn count may be displayed onscreen, tracked by a mechanical meter or by any suitable means.

In another alternative embodiment awarded acorns may have different characteristics. Green acorns may only be used in one form of bonus game, or portion of any game, while red acorns may only be used in another.

In another alternative embodiment players may simply buy acorns with cash, credits, player tracking points or other things of value.

In another alternative embodiment accumulated acorns may have a cash value and be exchanged for traditional credits in whole or in part. Or, accumulated acorn credits may be wagered in the base game without first requiring an exchange process. Accumulated acorn credits may be valued at and used 1 for 1 with traditional credits or any fixed, variable or random exchange rate, conversion value or ratio may apply.

In another alternative embodiment the acorn bonus game is not invoked by the player, but is triggered by another event within the game, or may be random or may require an additional bet or any combination of events.

In another alternative embodiment the acorn meter does not reset to 0 when the acorn bonus game is invoked and/or played.

In another alternative embodiment you do not have to wager all acorns at once, but may bet a subset. The player may or may not have the option of selecting which acorns to bet.

In another alternative embodiment the player must bet or otherwise use their acorns within a fixed period of time or within certain limitations, if, for example, when 100 acorns are accumulated the game automatically enters a bonus round and all acorns are automatically wagered. In another all acorns greater than 100 are automatically wagered. In yet another all acorns greater than X are forfeit.

In another alternative embodiment acorns may be worth anything of value and not just wagered for credits. That is, once 50 acorns are accumulated the player may earn the right to play the next base game with all pays doubled. (This may or may not require surrendering the 50 acorns.)

In another alternative embodiment it may be possible to win more acorns while you are in an acorn bonus game.

In another alternative embodiment it may be possible to win another class of special credits while in the base game or in an acorn bonus game so that 3 or more classes of credits exist. These special credits may or may not be wagered or wagerable in still yet another bonus game and so on.

In another alternative embodiment the acorn bonus game (or any bonus game) may take any form including the base game, a poker game or other game, with any number of rounds and played by any set of rules. Similarly, acorns may be bet in an entirely different game.

In another alternative embodiment the player may select from any number or type of bonus games when wagering their acorns. For example, the player may be offered the choice of 3 games: a shake the tree bonus game, a cross the telephone wire bonus game or a raid the neighbor's treehouse bonus game. Said bonus games may or may not require an additional bet or minimum number of acorns to play.

In another alternative embodiment symbols or other events may act as acorn multipliers. For example, when the player gets a large acorn it may multiply the value of the other acorns by 3 or it may multiply win amounts by any number or in any fashion.

In another alternative embodiment acorns may have different internal mathematical values while looking identical to the player. For example, a player may bet 1 credit per payline, get 3 brown acorn symbols in a row and earn 2 acorns, which yields an internal mathematical value of 2. Next game the player might bet 5 credits per payline and get 3 brown acorn symbols in a row, which yields 2 acorns with an internal mathematical value of 10. Thus the player is shown 4 acorns by virtue of having won 2 acorns twice, but the combined internal mathematical value is 12. These mathematical values may be assigned to individual acorns (e.g., the first 2 are worth 1 each and the next 2 are worth 5 each) or spread among all acorns (e.g., all 4 acorns are worth 3 each).

In another alternative embodiment accumulated acorns have the same underlying mathematical value.

In another, acorns with different internal mathematical values look different.

Acorns may be traded up, if, for example, 2 silver acorns=1 gold acorn. Conversely, acorns may be traded down.

Different acorns may provide different game privileges, which themselves may vary in different portions of the game.

A player may have an option to take class I acorns or class II acorns on a winning combination or other event.

The amount, number and type of acorn wins may be based on a multiple of the credit per line bets similar to how cash awards are commonly paid in the art.

Any option related to acorn use, accumulation, trade, privilege or otherwise may be restricted to a certain time period, bonus period, pop-up window or similar use fashion or application period triggered by any game event or randomly.

In another alternative embodiment the internal mathematical value of acorns is represented to the player in fact, or implied by showing different pay table values possible in the bonus game or otherwise.

In another alternative embodiment the player may receive a minimum award, consolation prize or thing of value even if they lose in the acorn bonus game or games.

In another alternative embodiment the manner of the present invention may be used in other games or gaming devices such as draw poker machines. For example, certain cards or poker hands might grant acorns or their equivalents, which may be wagered later in a bonus game.

In another alternative embodiment the present invention may be used on or across 2 or more linked or networked games, including web-based or internet, for competitive or cooperative play purposes between players, contributing to progressives, shared jackpots or other awards or for sharing any aspect or aspects of the present invention.

It should be clear that many options exist to practice the present invention. Letting the players decide when to bet their acorns gives them more control and direct influence on the frequency and amount of their wins. Acorns may or may not be considered credits, and they may or may not have a cash equivalent value.

There are numerous variations falling within the scope of the present invention. Any combination of the above embodiments may be used. This invention may be employed with any combination of options including, but not limited to, other bonus or feature games, lottery games, any skill game or games having a player skill component, side bets, additional bets, different wagering methods, play methods or game rules. Implementation may take any form or utilize any suitable means. This invention may be employed in whole or in part, or itself as a bonus, add-on or otherwise in conjunction with traditional gaming devices or methods. Thus, these and all embodiments described should be viewed as illustrative, rather than limiting.