Title:
Modified multi-level table game apparatus and method
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An improved multi level game table (100) and method of playing three dimensional games such as a pool where the improvements (136) include upward level change of game piece without the use of moving parts. Further improvements directed to the playing surface and game piece control are also taught, so that any game play may be modified and the skill of player challenged and game play enhanced



Inventors:
Pearson, Kent D. (Antelope, CA, US)
Pearson, Melanie A. (Antelope, CA, US)
Application Number:
10/573521
Publication Date:
02/15/2007
Filing Date:
06/23/2005
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63D15/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
ARYANPOUR, MITRA
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Robert M Ashen (Beverly Hills, CA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An improved multilevel game apparatus for play with a plurality of movable pieces, said game having a plurality of generally level playing surfaces, each having raised boundaries and at least one piece receiving structure (pocket), support structure holding said surfaces in generally stacked relation to one another with sufficient space between adjacent surface to afford players access to the lower of such adjacent surfaces, and at least one conduit connected to and extending between piece receiving structure of each adjacent pair of said surfaces to provide a pathway for travel of a movable piece between said pair of surfaces, said improvements comprising: accelerator plates aproning the piece receiving structure, said plate of a material with a degree of friction different from that of the playing surface and said plate positioned at a positive or negative angle relative to the playing surface; and conduits being generally spiral-shaped.

2. The improved game as in claim 1 wherein the conduit is generally curvilinear in shape such that the shape is sufficient to permit upward motion of a game piece without additional moving parts

3. The improved game as in claim 1 wherein the conduit further includes a transition ramp.

4. The improved game as in claim 1 wherein the conduit further comprises: an overhang functioning to assist in control of the game piece.

5. The improved game as in claim 3 wherein the overhang further includes downwardly projecting ribs functioning to assist in control of the game piece.

6. The improved game as in claim 1 wherein the conduit further includes: on the interior surface, features operable to guide the game piece, including one or more of the following: generally horizontal game piece guides; generally vertical game piece guides; director region downwardly angled between the accelerator plate and the pocket rim; and game piece director on the interior surface of the conduit including the upper portion of the spiral.

7. The improved game as in claim 1 wherein the game piece is substantially spherical.

8. The improved game as in claim 1 further including a stick for imparting motion to said game piece.

9. The improved game as in claim 7 wherein said stick is more than 30 inches in length.

10. The improved game as in claim 1 wherein the game piece is substantially a disc.

11. The improved game as in claim 1 wherein the playing surface is reversible.

12. The improved game as in claim 1 wherein the conduit and playing surface include molded mateable regions whereby assembly and dis-assembly may be performed using the human hand.

13. An improved method of playing a multi level game with moving pieces comprising the steps of providing a plurality of generally level, stacked spaced apart playing surfaces including a top surface, a bottom surface and at least on intermediate surface disposed between the top and bottom surface, the intermediate surface having at least one bidirectional pocket in communication via conduits to both a higher and lower surface, further providing a plurality of moving pieces and means for players to cause selected moving pieces to move along the surface, and further providing guide means at the bidirectional pocket for directing a moving piece entering that pocket either upwardly to a higher surface or downwardly to a lower surface dependent upon the speed of the moving piece, and having the players take turns in directing the moving pieces, wherein said improvement comprises: adjusting the friction of at least one playing surface to adjust play rate.

14. An improved method as in claim 12 further including a means for changeably modifying one or more playing surface to enable playing of different game with different game pieces.

15. An improved method as in claim 12 further including selecting a movable game piece that is substantially spherical.

16. An improved method as in claim 12 further including selecting a movable game piece that is substantially non-spherical.

17. An improved method as in claim 12 further including stacking more than three playing surfaces.

Description:

RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims priority from U.S. provisional application No. 60/583,194 by the same inventors, filed Jun. 25, 2004 and which is incorporated by reference in its entirety.

BACKGROUND

This invention relates to a modified multi-level table game apparatus and method, useful in, for example the playing of table games such as pool. Such an apparatus and method is disclosed in several forms in U.S. Pat. No. 6,712,710. The apparatus illustrated in U.S. Pat. No. 6,712,710 is a multi-level game for pool having two or more generally horizontal, game piece supporting playing surfaces or levels supported in stack relation, spaced sufficiently apart from one another to allow player access to lower surfaces to impart movement to the game piece along said surfaces. Each surface may have one or more piece receiving pockets. Conduits extend between pockets at adjacent surfaces to provide pathways between such adjacent surfaces. In one form of the apparatus that has three or more playing surfaces, the conduits associated with a pocket at an intermediate playing surface provides both upward and downward pathways from that intermediate surface. Those conduits include guides that interact with a piece entering the pocket aligned with those conduits to direct the piece either to a higher surface or a lower surface, dependent upon, among other factors, the speed of the piece. The device disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 6,712,710 provided flippers or so-called “shooters”: movable parts operable to assist the pool ball in going up to and down from one playing level to another. Such flippers were positioned within conduits connecting the playing surfaces. What is desirable is such a game table preserving the multi level playing action yet eliminating the need for moving parts.

SUMMARY

In general terms, the apparatus illustrated herein is an improved multi-level game for pool, or similar games, having two or more generally horizontal, game piece supporting playing surfaces or levels supported in stack relation, spaced sufficiently apart from one another to allow player access to lower surfaces to impart movement to the game piece along said surfaces. Each surface may have one or more piece receiving pockets. Conduits extend between pockets at adjacent surfaces to provide pathways between such adjacent surfaces. In one form of the apparatus that has three or more playing surfaces, the conduits associated with a pocket at an intermediate playing surface provides both upward and downward pathways from that intermediate surface. Those conduits include guides that interact with a piece entering the pocket aligned with those conduits to direct the piece either to a higher surface or a lower surface, dependent among other factors, upon the speed of the piece.

The apparatus and method illustrated below include a number of changes or modifications from the apparatus and method disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 6,712,710. First, the shape of the conduit is one of a range of curvilinear shapes, and most especially generally spiral The conduit back wall is shaped first in a tightly curved lower section and then in a shallowly curved upper section, both to conserve space and provide better upward acceleration for a game piece without the use of moving parts. Moreover, a transition ramp included in the curvilinear conduit shape further obviates the need for any moving parts to enable level transition. Using the modified conduits as provided herein, game piece-accelerating flippers or shooters are no longer required at the intermediate levels.

The configuration, size and shape of the conduits have also been modified to enhance performance. The back wall of each such conduit has been widened to maximize the allowable shooting angle of the game piece. The side portions of the conduit back wall are angled at about 15° in each direction so that game pieces angling to the side 15 degrees or less will strike the back wall directly and be more likely to proceed upwardly to the next higher level. Said another way, the back of the conduit is configured such the at 15 degree hit off center can assume a tangent on impact with the conduit back wall

On the game playing surface, accelerator plates are provided at the pockets on the surfaces surrounding the pockets. The accelerator plates are made of a smooth low-friction material such as plastic, metal or the like. Each plate is slightly angled—within a range of about +3 to −3 degrees—toward the associated pocket. In the preferred embodiment for the game of pool, a positive angle of about 1 degree is used when the players seek a moderately challenging game. Negative angles changes the play as the game piece tends to change levels more easily. A positive angle of about 1 degree add inhibition to motion thereby preventing the ball or other playing piece from spontaneously entering into the pocket based on extraneous movement (jarring the table as a whole, for example). Moreover, the said 1 degree angle provides a slight ramp which has the effect of aiding in upward level change. Each accelerator plate aprons the pocket opening mouth. Further, the accelerator plate may have a slightly conically shape, such shape tending to direct a game piece into the center region of the associated pocket. The angle of the accelerator plate and the slight conical shape together with accelerator plate's smooth surface (relative to the higher friction surface of the remainder of the playing surface which may covered with felt or a like material) combine to direct the game piece and cause an acceleration of a game piece when the piece reaches the accelerator plate moving toward the associated pocket. This increase in acceleration improves the ability of the game piece to travel upwardly rather than downwardly when entering a pocket at an intermediate surface at a higher velocity. In the case where the player strikes the game piece more softly, the game piece will travel down the conduit. The overall effect is creating a game apparatus where skill of the player may be refined and developed.

Further improvements include the provision of overhangs of the conduits at the pockets; such conduit upper region extending toward the adjacent playing surface so as to better control the game pieces and prevent them from flying up and off of the table. The conduit overhang on levels other than a top or bottom level also includes an additional piece guide extending downward from the overhang toward the playing surface, operable to guide the playing piece.

Also improved is the region immediately adjacent to the pocket, by means of the addition of a “director” region: the director region is provided by an extended plastic (or the like) part at the pocket rim. The director region extends from the playing surface at approximately 45 degrees, has a width of approximately 3A of an inch and angles downward toward the opening of the hole. The director region aids in directing the bounce of playing pieces as such pieces descend from the games piece director in the conduit wall, and specifically reduces the likelihood a playing piece will drop from highest to lowest playing level of a multilevel game without exiting on a intermediate level. By means of the director region, the corner of the table where the hole is located is lowered approximately 0.1″ lower than the raised bump on the game piece director. In the event the playing piece descends into pocket region without contacting the bump on the game piece director, the lowered about 45 degree director region aids in causing the game piece to bounce back up onto the nearest playing surface rather than hitting an un-chamfered playing surface edge and deflect in such a way as to continue dropping to a lower level.

Improvements to the playing surface include an invertible design—the playing surface itself may be inverted, making the top the bottom, and making the bottom the playing surface. In the preferred embodiment, the bottom surface includes a honey comb design, that affords structural integrity to the playing surface in addition to providing a surface upon which game pieces may be placed. In another embodiment, the playing surface may be modified by means an insert-able sheet of a low friction material fitting flush with and covering some or all of the playing surface. Such insert-able sheet changes the surface characteristics, permitting games such as hockey, as well as the use of game pieces having shapes other than substantially spherical.

Further improvements include use of a stick or other means to impart motion to game piece where the length of such stick is more than 30 (thirty) inches.

Also provided is the tool-free assembly and disassembly of the game table. Molded, mate-able alignment pins and receiving regions along with snap connectors permit snap assemblage under guiding pressure from human hands.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a schematic prospective view of a three level table game apparatus illustrating a presently preferred embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 2 is a schematic side sectional new of the apparatus of FIG. 1, illustrating movement of balls from upper levels to lower levels.

FIG. 3 is a schematic side sectional new of the apparatus of FIG. 1, illustrating movement of balls from lower levels to upper-levels.

FIG. 4 is an enlarged schematic partial side sectional view illustrating balls moving from a top-level to a lower level

FIG. 5 is in an enlarged schematic partial side sectional view illustrating balls arriving from a higher level onto a lower level.

FIG. 6 is an enlarged schematic partial side sectional view illustrating balls traveling from an intermediate level toward a lower level.

FIG. 7 is an enlarged schematic partial sided sectional view of balls arriving from a higher level to a lower level.

FIG. 8 is an enlarged schematic partial side sectional view illustrating balls leaving a lowermost level and moving downwardly to a reservoir.

FIG. 9 is an enlarged schematic partial side sectional view illustrating balls leaving a lower section and traveling toward an upper section

FIG. 10 is an enlarged schematic partial side sectional view illustrating balls moving upwardly from a lower level to an intermediate level.

FIG. 11 is an enlarged schematic partial side sectional view illustrating balls leaving an intermediate level and traveling upwardly to a higher level.

FIG. 12 is an enlarged schematic partial side sectional new of balls moving upwardly on to a higher level.

FIG. 13 is schematic side sectional view illustrating the pockets and conduits connecting a lower, an intermediate, and an upper level.

FIG. 14 is a schematic partial top plan view illustrating a pocket and associated conduits with a widened receiving angle.

FIG. 15 is a schematic transverse sectional view of the structure illustrated in FIG. 13.

FIG. 16 is a schematic perspective exploded view of the pocket and conduits for accommodating lower, intermediate and upper level surfaces.

FIG. 17 is a schematic prospective view similar to FIG. 1, having two rather than three playing levels.

FIG. 18 is a schematic plan view of a cue, a cue ball and a set of player balls.

FIG. 19 is a schematic perspective view similar to FIG. 1, but having four playing levels.

FIG. 20 is a schematic perspective view of a playing surface having an accelerator plate at each corner pocket.

FIG. 21 is a perspective plan view of one of the accelerator plates.

FIG. 22 is a side view of one of the accelerator plates.

FIG. 23 is a schematic perspective view of a modified apparatus wherein the playing surfaces may be inverted to provide a plurality of surfaces for the play of an additional type of game.

FIGS. 24, 25 and 26 are perspective views of ball guides.

FIG. 27 is a schematic cross-sectional perspective view of a portion of the apparatus at a pocket.

FIG. 28 illustrates an unassembled condition of the preferred embodiment.

FIG. 29 depicts a removable plate, herein denominated as a game piece director, in the inner conduit surface.

FIG. 30 depicts tool-free joining features of the table and conduits.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

FIGS. 1 through 16, 18, 20 through 22, and 24 through 28 illustrate a presently preferred three level embodiment of the invention. The table game depicted is pool, although other games involving movable game playing pieces are intended to be included in the scope of the invention. Table hockey is an alternate embodiment, requiring a surface-friction-lowering insert of smooth plastic or cardboard/chip board cut to fit the playing surface. The current preferred embodiment includes one or more reversible playing surfaces, depicted in FIGS. 23 and 28.

In the case when the table game played is pool, and the game piece (also referred to herein as “playing piece” or “game playing piece”) correspondingly is generally spherical (referred to herein as a “ball”) the players may utilize means such as a cue stick and a cue ball to strike the playing balls so as to cause the playing balls to enter the pockets (game piece receiving regions) at the corners of the playing surfaces. The aligned pockets at each corner are connected to one another by the generally upright conduits 136. The conduits 136 between the pockets at the uppermost level and the intermediate level allow balls to travel downwardly from the upper level to the intermediate level and upwardly from the intermediate level to the uppermost level. The conduits between the pockets at the intermediate level and lower level allow balls to travel in either direction to between the lower level and the intermediate level. It will be noted that the pockets at the intermediate level connect both to the conduits extending upwardly to the uppermost level and to the conduits extending downwardly to the lowermost level. A ball or other game piece entering such a pocket from the intermediate level can be made to selectively travel either upwardly or downwardly by virtue of the speed imparted to that ball. If a ball moves sufficiently slowly, it will go downwardly to the lowermost level. If a ball has sufficient speed, it will travel upwardly to the uppermost level. The same is true of the lowermost level where a high-speed ball can be made to travel upwardly while a low-speed ball will travel downwardly from a pocket to a reservoir or collector.

FIG. 2 illustrates travel of the balls downwardly, while FIG. 3 illustrates travel of the balls upward. FIGS. 4 through 12 are enlarged views showing more particularly travel of the balls at various approaches to and from the pockets.

FIGS. 20 through 22 illustrate in particular the accelerator plates 140 provided in front of each of the corner pockets of a surface 34. As noted above, the accelerator plates have a smooth low-friction upper surface; when a ball leaves the main portion of the play surface 34, which is covered with a higher friction material such as such as felt, and arrives at the low friction accelerator plate, the ball will tend to accelerate toward the pocket. Further, each accelerator plates is angled slightly upwardly toward its associated pocket, which further tends to further control the movement of a ball, preventing unintended rolling toward that pocket, and aiding in “ramping up” so as to aid in movement to an upper playing surface. The accelerator plate may also be slightly conical or channel shape which tends to direct a slow moving ball toward the center of the pocket.

As seen in FIG. 27, and also in FIG. 20, a director region 150 is adjacent to the pocket rim or mouth on one side and the accelerator plate on the other. The director region 150 features an extended plastic (or the like) part at the pocket rim. The director region extends from the playing surface at approximately 45 degrees, has a width of approximately 3A of an inch and angles downward toward the opening of the hole. The director region aids in directing the bounce of playing pieces 110 as such pieces descend from the games piece director 148 in the conduit wall, and specifically reduces the likelihood a playing piece will drop from highest to lowest playing level of a multilevel game without exiting on a intermediate level. By means of the director region 150, the corner of the table where the pocket hole is located is lowered approximately 0.1″ lower than the transition ramp 152. hi the event the playing piece descends into a pocket region without contacting the transition ramp 152, the approximately 45 degree lowered director region 150 aids in causing the game piece 110 to bounce back up onto the nearest playing surface rather than hitting an un-chamfered playing surface edge and deflect in such a way as to continue dropping to a lower level.

FIGS. 13 and 16 best illustrate the shape of the conduits 136 as viewed from the side; the lower portion 132 of each conduit is generally curvilinear, then curved about a relatively small radius to create a relatively sharply curved portion, then the upper portion 134 curved about a much larger radius to create a relatively shallow curve portion leading up to the next higher playing level. This configuration of the conduit contributes to the upward movement of a rapidly propelled ball from a lower surface to the adjacent higher surface. In the preferred embodiment, conduit geometry is substantially spiral, although other modified spirals or curvilinear shapes may be used. Further, the inclusion of a transition ramp 152 within the curvilinear or spiral conduit shape obviates the need for moving parts to accomplish controllable transition of a game piece between playing levels.

As also illustrated best in FIGS. 13 and 16, lip or retainer portion or overhang 146 is provided to overhang in front of the entrance to each of the pockets. The length of the overhang 146 ranges from about 0.5 to 2 inches In particular, when a ball is rapidly propelled upwardly and out of a pocket onto a playing surface, the overhang is positioned to prevent excessive upward travel of the ball which might cause it to leave the playing surface. This is illustrated in particular by FIGS. 10 and 12. In the preferred embodiment, the mid level overhand underside features one or more ribs 145 (see FIG. 10) such ribs creating a pattern of raised projections (height of about 0.08 of an inch) that provides ball guidance and control.

FIG. 14 illustrates in particular the shape of the conduit as viewed from the top (a top cross section view across A-A as in FIG. 15). The side walls extend outwardly at a slight angle from the pocket opening toward the rear wall of the associated conduit. The rear wall of the conduit is wider than the opening of the pocket. The side walls diverge at an angle of about 15° in the preferred embodiment, although angles may be increased up to about 30 degrees, depending on the play action desired. The preferred embodiment allows balls that pass through the pocket opening at an angle to one side or the other of about 15° or less, avoid contact with the side walls while making direct initial contact with the rear wall. This provides for the maximum conservation of energy required for the ball to reach the next upper level.

FIG. 29 depicts the preferred embodiment of the game piece director 148—a removable plastic section that press-snaps into the interior curve of the upper section 134 of the conduit 136. The game piece director 148 as depicted aids in directing the ball or other playing piece 10 to the center of the back of the curve, as shown in FIGS. 4 and 5 (the alternate embodiment of a game piece director 148b) thereby minimizing bouncing and promoting a game piece path smoothly following the curve of the conduit. The removable aspect of the game piece director 148, and the shape selected permits the nested coupling of unassembled conduits 136 as depicted in FIG. 28. Additional ball guide features—game piece guides 149—are depicted in FIGS. 24, 25 and 26.

As may be easily seen in FIGS. 16 29 and 30, the inventive playing table permits “tool free’ construction, featuring coupleable alignment and structural securing elements. FIG. 29 depicts an enlarged view of an alignment pin 138 and the receiving slot for said pin 138b is shown in FIG. 27. Further enabling tool-free construction are snap connectors 154 depicted also in FIGS. 15 and 29.

FIG. 17 shows a two level version 101 and FIG. 19 shows a more than three level version 103. It is possible, owing to the modularity of the conduit construction, to increase or otherwise adjust the number of levels to any desired playing environment.

Moreover, the scalability—reducing to miniature sizes, for example, is inherent in the design.

Such various sizes can include all or any combinations of features taught herein. Although movement may be imparted to game playing pieces using hands or any device, FIG. 18 depicts a stick as may be used in pool. Said stick may be increased in size yet remain portable by a two coupleable sections. The preferred embodiment includes a stick of 36 inches in length assembled from two sections. The preferred embodiment includes a pool cue as the stick, and pool balls as the playing pieces. A playing piece in a spherical shape may range in size from as large as a full size billiard ball (2.25 inch diameter) to as small as a ball bearing (on the order of 0.375 inch diameter) with a preferred size in the preferred embodiment of about 1.5 inch diameter. The playing piece material may be resin, rubber, plastic, glass, foam or even wood or metal if desired. The playing piece may be in a disc like shape, such as may be used in table hockey, or any other selected shape as the desire game play may suggest.

The playing surface itself may be changeably modified. The playing surface itself may be inverted 102 (see FIG. 23), making the top the bottom, and making the bottom the playing surface. In the preferred embodiment, the bottom surface includes a honey comb design, that affords structural integrity to the playing surface in addition to providing a surface upon which game playing pieces may be placed. In another embodiment, the playing surface may be modified by means an insert-able sheet of a low friction material fitting flush with and covering some or all of the playing surface. Such insert-able sheet changes the surface characteristics, permitting games such as hockey, as well as the use of game playing pieces having shapes other than substantially spherical. Moreover, the game table is scaleable in size from mini-travel size to larger sizes not intended to be portable. Further, the game table may be modular in construction, allowing users to add or eliminate layers as desired.