Title:
PLAYING A SPINNING REEL GAME
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Methods and apparatus, including computer program products, implementing and using techniques for playing a spinning reel game on a gaming device. A selection is received from a player of one or more paylines among several paylines that the player thinks will contain a winning reel symbol combination at the end of the game. The gaming device selects one or more paylines among the paylines that will have a winning reel symbol combination at the end of the game. At the end of the game it is determined whether at least one payline selected by the player matches at least one payline selected by the gaming device.



Inventors:
Johnson, Bradley W. (Henderson, NV, US)
Application Number:
12/397776
Publication Date:
09/10/2009
Filing Date:
03/04/2009
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63F9/24
View Patent Images:
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20050064939Electronic mail gaming systemMarch, 2005Mcsheffrey et al.
20040048673Gaming device having alternating displayMarch, 2004Kaminkow
20060178211Remote controller sweat installationAugust, 2006Chien
20050049028Gaming machine with extendable graphical displaysMarch, 2005Gornez et al.
20060063577System for monitoring the game of baccaratMarch, 2006Downs III et al.
20090305767MECHANICAL-BASED CONTROL OF VIDEO REELS IN A GAME MACHINEDecember, 2009Rasmussen



Primary Examiner:
FAN, SU JYA
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MOLLBORN PATENTS, INC. (BOULDER, CO, US)
Claims:
1. A computer-implemented method for playing a spinning reel game on a gaming device, the method comprising: receiving a selection from a player of one or more paylines among a plurality of paylines that the player thinks will contain a winning reel symbol combination at the end of the game; selecting, by the gaming device, one or more paylines among the plurality of paylines that will have a winning reel symbol combination at the end of the game; and determining at the end of the game whether at least one payline selected by the player matches at least one payline selected by the gaming device.

2. The method of claim 1, further comprising: paying a monetary award to the player in response to determining that at least one payline selected by the player matches at least one payline selected by the gaming device.

3. The method of claim 2, wherein the monetary award is paid in accordance with a paytable that defines monetary awards for winning reel symbol combinations.

4. The method of claim 1, wherein: the gaming device is a slot machine and the spinning reel game is implemented as a video game on the slot machine; and the selection by the player is made in response to the player touching a payline on a video touch screen on the slot machine, or in response to the player pressing buttons on a panel on the slot machine.

5. The method of claim 1, wherein: the gaming device is a slot machine and the spinning reel game is a mechanical spinning reel game on the slot machine; and the selection by the player is made in response to the player selecting a payline using buttons on a panel on the slot machine.

6. The method of claim 1, wherein each payline in the plurality of paylines has a theme and the selection by the player is based on one or more themes that are to the player's liking.

7. The method of claim 1, further comprising: repeating the receiving, selecting, and determining steps; and paying a bonus to the player based on a number of consecutive won or lost games.

8. The method of claim 7, wherein the bonus is paid to the player as credits that are exchangeable for cash money.

9. The method of claim 7, wherein the bonus is a fixed jackpot or a progressive jackpot.

10. The method of claim 7, wherein paying the bonus includes: awarding the player several free games; and paying the player bonus credits depending on the outcome of the free games.

11. The method of claim 6, further comprising: displaying a game history providing information about how often each category or theme or payline has won in past games on the gaming device.

12. The method of claim 11, wherein the game history displays one or more of: how often each payline in the plurality of paylines has won, how often each theme has won, and what percentage of games each payline has won during a previous number of games.

13. The method of claim 1, wherein the reels in the spinning reel game are replaced with wheels with symbols shown in pie slices of the reels.

14. The method of claim 1, wherein a set of reels under each payline is an independent reel set.

15. The method of claim 1, wherein: receiving a selection from a player includes receiving a quick pick selection from the player, wherein the quick pick selection causes the gaming device to select one or more paylines or themes for the player; and paying a monetary award to the player in response to determining that at least one payline selected by in the quick pick matches at least one payline selected by the gaming device.

16. A computer-implemented method for playing a spinning reel game on a gaming device, the method comprising: receiving a selection from a player of one or more scatter symbols among a plurality of scatter symbols that the player thinks will be winning symbols at the end of the game; selecting, by the gaming device, one or more scatter symbols among the plurality of scatter symbols that will be winning symbols at the end of the game; displaying the winning symbols selected by the gaming device to the player on a video screen on the gaming device; and determining at the end of the game whether a predetermined number of the winning symbols selected by the gaming device match the player selection.

17. A gaming device, comprising: a housing; a display unit operable to display a spinning reel game including one or more reels and a plurality of paylines; an input control panel operable to receive input from a player of the spinning reel game; and a control unit operable to: receive a selection from the input control panel of one or more paylines among the plurality of paylines, the selection indicating paylines that the player thinks will contain a winning reel combination at the end of the game; select one or more paylines among the plurality of paylines that will have a winning reel combination at the end of the game; and determine at the end of the game whether at least one payline selected by the player matches at least one payline selected by the gaming device.

18. The gaming device of claim 17, wherein the control unit is further operable to: pay a monetary award to the player in response to determining that at least one payline selected by the player matches at least one payline selected by the control unit; and wherein the monetary award is paid in accordance with a paytable that defines monetary awards for winning reel combinations.

19. The gaming device of claim 17, wherein the gaming device is a slot machine and the input control panel is one of: a touch sensitive area on the display unit, and one or more physical buttons on a panel of the slot machine.

20. The gaming device of claim 17, wherein the control unit is further operable to: repeat the receiving, selecting, and determining steps; and pay a bonus to the player based on a number of consecutive won or lost games, wherein the bonus is paid to the player as credits that are exchangeable for cash money.

Description:

BACKGROUND

This invention relates to casino games. There are two general categories of games in a casino; games that are based on pure luck and require no skills, and games that require some degree of luck and significant skills. The games that require no skills are usually very easy to play and the chances of winning are fixed, so no player has an advantage over another player. The enjoyment for people in playing these games lies primarily in sounds, animations, audio and in the winning. For skill games, on the other hand, the enjoyment lies in making the right set of decisions and winning. Since it is possible to earn more money by playing better is very attractive to players who like to play skill games.

Spinning reel games is an example of casino games that require no skill. Players like spinning reel games because they are easy and fast to play. However, many players do not like the spinning reel games because there is little to no thinking involved. Thus, many players feel as if winning the game is completely out of their control and that the game therefore is boring. A player's only decisions in playing spinning reel games are how much they want to bet and how many paylines they want to bet on. Thus, the player has little or no impact on their ability to win. Once the player pushes the spin button on the slot machine, the player's ability to win or lose is entirely up to the game software on the slot machine, which determines the winning symbol combination.

Almost every spinning reel slot machine pays out roughly the same amount of money back to players over the long term. Players determine which games they like or dislike by how much they win or lose on a specific game. One player may love a certain game because they won big on the game, while another player may dislike the same game because they just lost a significant amount of money on the game. Basically, the player's entire experience of playing a spinning reel slot machine rests on the game itself. If the game pays off, the players will enjoy their experience. If the game does not pay off, the players will not enjoy playing that game.

The main reason players like playing live or video poker, blackjack, keno and roulette is that they get to make some decisions that may help them win the game. For example, in video poker, the player looks at their dealt hand and decides which cards to keep and which cards to discard. The player's decision is based on their desire to make the best possible poker hand with the hope they get a winning poker hand. A player's knowledge of poker and of an optimum strategy will allow them to win more than a player who does not have this knowledge.

SUMMARY

In general, in one aspect, the invention provides methods and apparatus, including computer program products, implementing and using techniques for playing a spinning reel game on a gaming device. A selection is received from a player of one or more paylines among several paylines that the player thinks will contain a winning reel symbol combination at the end of the game. The gaming device selects one or more paylines among the paylines that will have a winning reel symbol combination at the end of the game. At the end of the game it is determined whether at least one payline selected by the player matches at least one payline selected by the gaming device.

Various implementations can include one or more of the following features. A monetary award can be paid to the player in response to determining that at least one payline selected by the player matches at least one payline selected by the gaming device. The monetary award can be paid in accordance with a paytable that defines monetary awards for winning reel symbol combinations.

The gaming device can be a slot machine and the spinning reel game can be implemented as a video game on the slot machine; and the selection by the player can be made in response to the player touching a payline on a video touch screen on the slot machine, or in response to the player pressing buttons on a panel on the slot machine. The gaming device can be a slot machine and the spinning reel game can be a mechanical spinning reel game on the slot machine; and the selection by the player can be made in response to the player selecting a payline using buttons on a panel on the slot machine.

Each payline can have a theme and the selection by the player can be based on one or more themes that are to the player's liking. A player can be paid a bonus based on a number of consecutive won or lost games. The bonus can be paid to the player as credits that are exchangeable for cash money. The bonus can be a fixed jackpot or a progressive jackpot. Paying the bonus can include awarding the player several free games, and paying the player bonus credits depending on the outcome of the free games.

A game history can be displayed that provides information about how often each category or theme or payline has won in past games on the gaming device. The game history can display one or more of: how often each payline has won, how often each theme has won, and what percentage of games each payline has won during a previous number of games.

The reels in the spinning reel game can be replaced with wheels with symbols shown in pie slices of the reels. A set of reels under each payline can be an independent reel set. Receiving a selection from a player can include receiving a quick pick selection from the player. The quick pick selection can cause the gaming device to select one or more paylines or themes for the player. A monetary award can be paid to the player in response to determining that at least one payline selected by in the quick pick matches at least one payline selected by the gaming device.

In general, in another aspect, the invention provides methods and apparatus, including computer program products, implementing and using techniques for playing a spinning reel game on a gaming device. A selection is received from a player of one or more scatter symbols among several scatter symbols that the player thinks will be winning symbols at the end of the game. The gaming device selects one or more scatter symbols among the scatter symbols that will be winning symbols at the end of the game. The winning symbols selected by the gaming device are displayed to the player on a video screen on the gaming device. At the end of the game whether it is determined whether a predetermined number of the winning symbols selected by the gaming device match the player selection.

In general, in another aspect, the invention provides a gaming device. The gaming device as a housing, a display unit, an input control panel, and a control unit. The display unit displays a spinning reel game including one or more reels and several paylines. The input control panel receives input from a player of the spinning reel game. The control unit receives a selection from the input control panel of one or more paylines. The selection indicates paylines that the player thinks will contain a winning reel combination at the end of the game. The control unit selects one or more paylines that will have a winning reel combination at the end of the game. The control unit determines at the end of the game whether at least one payline selected by the player matches at least one payline selected by the gaming device.

Various implementations can include one or more of the following features. The control unit can pay a monetary award to the player in response to determining that at least one payline selected by the player matches at least one payline selected by the control unit. The monetary award can be paid in accordance with a paytable that defines monetary awards for winning reel combinations. The gaming device can be a slot machine and the input control panel can be a touch sensitive area on the display unit, or one or more physical buttons on a panel of the slot machine. The control unit can pay a bonus to the player based on a number of consecutive won or lost games. The bonus can be paid to the player as credits that are exchangeable for cash money.

The invention can be implemented to include one or more of the following advantages. The player can play a spinning reel game where the player has more control in their winning and losing than with current spinning reel games. The player can be rewarded with additional bonuses for consecutive win streaks and/or consecutive loss streaks. The player can review the game history to make calculated decisions on their next selection for the upcoming game. This will also attract a larger number the players and benefit the casinos hosting the game. Various versions of community games and/or networked games can be implemented.

The details of one or more embodiments of the invention are set forth in the accompanying drawings and the description below. Other features and advantages of the invention will be apparent from the description and drawings, and from the claims.

DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 shows a flowchart with a process depicting an overview of a use scenario, in accordance with one embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 2 shows a slot machine in which a spinning reel game is loaded, in accordance with one embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 3 shows a schematic view of a video screen with a primary game, in accordance with one embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 4 shows how a player selects a theme, in accordance with one embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 5 shows how winning and losing paylines are displayed to a player after the spinning reels have come to a stop, in accordance with one embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 6 shows a game history feature, in accordance with one embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 7 shows an example of a spinning wheel, in accordance with one embodiment of the invention.

Like reference symbols in the various drawings indicate like elements.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Overview

Generally, the various embodiments of the invention described herein relate to improvements to spinning reel games. In particular, the spinning reel games are improved by allowing the player to make more decisions about the game, in order to make the game more of a skill game. Instead of the winning and losing being left entirely to the slot machine on which the spinning reel game is running, various embodiments of the invention allow players to make decisions that to some extent can affect their chances of winning the spinning reel games.

As will be described in further detail below, a slot machine upon which a spinning reel game in accordance with an embodiment of the invention is loaded will show multiple symbol combinations, with one being a winner in every game. If the player can guess which payline will have the winning symbol combination, the player will win the game. If the player guesses the wrong symbol combination and payline, the player loses the game. Thus, in the various embodiments of this invention, the objective for the player can be described as trying to “outguess the slot machine” and pick the same payline that is selected by the slot machine, where the winning symbol combination is.

The invention will be described below by way of example with reference to a spinning reel game running on a slot machine. However, it should be realized that the embodiments set forth in the examples below are not a complete list and that many variations are possible within the scope of the invention, as defined by the claims.

Definitions

Below is a list of terms that will be used throughout this specification, along with an explanation of their respective meanings.

Mechanical or Spinning Reel Slot Machines—Players in casinos have been playing mechanical and video spinning reel machines for many years. The game play is very simple. The player wagers a certain amount of money on the game and presses a spin button which causes reels (typically three to seven reels, depending on the machine) to spin and come to a stop after some time. The machine picks a winning or losing symbol combination for each game. The player decides how much to bet and how many paylines to bet on. The machine takes care of everything else.

Reels—In most casinos, the majority of the slot machines contain spinning reel games that use either animated or mechanical reels.

Reel Symbols—Each reel contains several reel symbols. The reel symbols are graphical representations of things that are associated with the theme of the spinning reel game. The types of reel symbols that artists and game designers create can virtually be anything. Some traditional reel symbols are fruit, numbers, and playing card symbols, but they could be people, cartoons, animals, and so on.

Reel Combinations—When the all the reels come to stop after spinning, the symbols directly under the payline is referred to as a reel combination. Only reel combinations matter as to whether the player winning. Winning reel combinations are those that appear on the paytable. The game software reviews the reel symbol combination against the game's paytable, and the player is paid based on the paytable and the size of their bet.

Paylines or Lines—Once the reels are activated to spin, they will finally come to a stop, typically after a few seconds. The payline can be, for example, a straight line or an irregular line that is drawn or animated across all the reels in a row or column, or diagonally across rows. Symbols that are squarely under a payline are considered the selected symbols. As will be seen below, in some embodiments of the invention, paylines that go across each row of reels are used, although it should be realized that other types of paylines are also possible. For example, some games today have hundreds of paylines with almost every possible irregular shape.

Paytable—The paytable is a chart or diagram that details all the different ways to win a game. The paytable explains what reel combinations are needed to win each one of the prizes. The player can either view the paytable adjacent to the game itself, such as on the glass of the game, or can push a button to view the paytable on the video screen if the game is a video game.

Wagering or Betting—In mechanical and video spinning reel games the player wagers certain number of credits on each payline. For example, if a game has three paylines and the player has bet five credits per payline, then the player has then bet a total of 15 credits. If each credit is a worth twenty-five cents, the player bet a total of $3.75 on that one game. If the player wins, the player is paid based on how much they wagered. For example, if the winning reel combination pays ten credits if one credit is bet, and the player bets five credits, then the player would get 50 credits, which is equivalent to $37.50, for that one payline. The player can win on one payline or on multiple paylines depending on the game version.

Payouts—The mechanical and spinning reel games can vary, for example, by how many lines the games offer and how many credits a player can bet on each line. In some games, a player either wins or loses. For example, if the player bets ten credits he or she can either lose ten credits or win ten or more credits. In some games the player can win back a portion of their bet. For example, the player can bet 100 credits and win 80 credits back, which means that the player won on the game, but lost money at the same time.

Base or Primary Game—This is the main game that is being played on the slot machine.

Bonus Game—This is a secondary event or game that can be separate or part of the base game. The bonus game is typically another way to win within a primary game. When the player hits a lucky symbol or symbol combination in the base game, the player goes into a separate game, that is, the bonus game, in which they are usually guaranteed to win credits. Once the bonus game is over the player reverts back to the base game and they continue to play. Bonus games usually are very entertaining with sophisticated graphics, sounds, and methods of awarding bonus credits.

Top Box—The top box is a cabinet placed on top of the regular slot machine cabinet. The top box comes in different sizes and shapes. Newer games commonly use the top box to house a second LCD display. The LCD display can be used, for example, for bonus games or for attracting players with game animations, sounds, and graphics.

Symbol Categories—This is a term that will be used herein specifically to describe the various embodiments of the invention. Symbol categories are essentially all the reel symbols used in the game divided into categories or themes. The symbols in each category are all related to a central theme. Thus, typically it would be obvious to the player which symbols belong to which symbol category. In the various embodiments of this invention, each symbol category is represented by a player button, which can either be a physical button and/or a touch screen button. As will be described in further detail below, the player selects a symbol category and payline they think will win on the next game. For example five different symbol categories could be animals, cars, flowers, jewelry and signs of the zodiac. The player may choose to select “Cars,” hoping the symbols that fall under the payline as selected by the game software will be symbols from the “Car” category.

Theme—a theme is related to art or animations, or even to naming conventions revolving around a particular topic. Herein, the theme refers to the overall game. For example, the different symbol category themes and the different paylines could have a theme.

Use Example

In order to provide a better understanding of the overall operation of the invention, a use example will now be described with reference to the figures. FIG. 1 shows a process (100) for of a use scenario, in accordance with one embodiment of the invention, and FIGS. 2-7 show various details of a spinning reel slot machine and the game running thereon, in accordance with an embodiment of the invention. It should be noted that of course there are many alternative uses to the one that is described below. Typically, what happens is the following:

A player walks into a casino and wants to play to a spinning reel slot machine. The player locates a slot machine with a video spinning reel game (200) that contains an embodiment of this invention (step 102). On the slot machine (200), there is a touch screen LCD display in the main cabinet (202) and a LCD display in the top box (204). In front of the player is a player panel (206) that includes a set of buttons similar to those found on most slot machines. On the display in the main cabinet (202) are four rows and five columns of animated spinning reels. A schematic example of such a display is shown in FIG. 3. Of course, the number of rows and columns of reels can vary from game to game. Each row of reels is considered one “payline.” The number of paylines can vary in the different embodiments. For example, if there are four rows of reels, then there are four paylines. Each row of reels/payline is independent from the other paylines/rows of reels.

The player has the option to wager as many credits as allowed by the game. Once the player has decided on the wager, the player will next decide which payline they think will be the winner in the upcoming game (step 104). The player chooses, for example, by pressing a button either on the video screen in the main cabinet (202) or on the player panel (206), a payline that the player thinks will win the next game. In some embodiments, the player can touch the payline on the screen. Each payline has its own reels and symbols. Each row of reels also has their own theme. The theme for each payline is stated somewhere near (or on) each payline at the beginning of each game. For example, in FIG. 3, the themes are “The Steel Magnate,” “Super Executive,” “The Oil Barron” and “Countess von Million.” In some embodiments, buttons on the player panel could represent each of the paylines as well as each theme.

The player looks at each theme and decides which theme they think will win the upcoming game (step 104). The selection can be made, for example, by touching a payline on a touch screen, as shown in FIG. 4, where the “Super Executive” theme is selected. In some embodiments, the selection can be made by the player by touching actual buttons on the player panel (206). The theme that is chosen by the player is highlighted and the button the player pressed, if that is how the payline was selected, is also highlighted. Once the player has made their decisions, they press the Spin button, which causes all the reels from all rows of reels to spin (step 106). In some embodiments, once the player has selected their payline the reels may automatically spin after a slight hesitation. After a short while, the reels come to a stop at the selected winning combination (step 108). It should be emphasized that the game software selects a winning combination in every game. The winning payline is compared with the player's selection (step 110). If the player did not pick the winning payline, the process ends. If the player's selection matches the winning payline, it is determined whether the player qualifies for a consecutive win bonus (step 112), as will be described in further detail below. It should be noted that this step does not have to be performed in all embodiments, but the process can in some instances continue straight to step 114, where the winnings are paid out and the process ends.

It should be noted that each reel has a set number of reel symbols. When the reel symbols of one reel is combined with the reel symbols from other reels in the same row, a large number of different combinations of reel symbols can be produced. Thus, for winning combinations, the amount won can vary based on the reel symbol combination under the payline. The amount won is based upon the game's paytable and the number of credits wagered.

FIG. 5 shows the reels after they have come to a stop. Only one of the paylines has a winning symbol combination, in this case the “Super Executive” payline, which was selected by the player. The winning payline is clearly marked with the word “Winner” and the number of credits earned, while the remaining losing paylines are marked “Sorry.” The paylines that were not chosen by the player are grayed out but are transparent, so the player can see the reel symbols. The row chosen by the player is not grayed out. If the player picked the same row of reels that was selected by the game software, they player wins their bet. If the player did not pick the same row of reels, then the player loses their bet.

For a game with four paylines, the player has a one of out of four chance of picking the right row of reels. Of course the number of paylines can vary in different embodiments of the games, which will affect the player's likelihood of picking the correct row of reels. Since the game software always chooses one of the paylines to have a winning symbol combination, the player can get lucky and pick several winners in a row.

In some embodiments, the player can receive bonuses for picking consecutive winners. In the flowchart of FIG. 1, this is represented by step 112. The more consecutive winners a player pick, the bigger the bonuses will get. Thus, if the player does qualify for a consecutive win (or in some embodiments, a consecutive loss) bonus, the regular game and bonus are paid out to the player (step 116), and the process ends. If the player does not qualify for the consecutive bonus, the regular game winnings are paid out and the process ends (step 114).

To assist the player in deciding which theme or which row of reels to pick, in some embodiments the game software can provide an optional game history feature, as shown in FIG. 6. The game history can be displayed, for example, next to each row or somewhere on the video screen in the main cabinet or in the top box, and shows how often each theme has been chosen by the game software. For example, the game software can show the percentage of how often each theme has been a winner in the last 100 games. The player can make a decision, for example, based on their own gut feeling or maybe by analyzing trends shown in the game history, about which theme they think will win in the upcoming game.

In some embodiments, besides the player only winning when they select the correct payline, the player can win when they get certain symbols in other paylines that are considered winning symbols as stated in the paytable. Many game features such as “free spins”, “scatter symbols”, “stacked wilds”, and almost any other way to win which are found in conventional spinning reel games can also be implemented in various embodiments of this invention. Thus, in these embodiments, the player knows that one payline will always get a winning symbol combination, and in addition other winning features could show up or on other paylines or other areas within the primary game, more or less frequently.

Finally, once the game is over, the player can change their selection or bet for the next game or they can keep their bet the same and then simply push the Spin button to start the next game.

Game Software—“Independent Reel Set” Feature

This section describes in further detail how the game software in accordance with one embodiment determines which sets of reels will show winning symbol combinations and how others will show losing symbol combinations, as well as how the game software places the independent reels in each payline on the video screen. The game software needs to go through a process to decide which payline on the screen will be the winner. This process must be designed in such a way that it is fair to the player, while at the same time the game is profitable for the casino.

Normal video spinning reel games can have one or several rows of reels. The player spins the reels and winning symbol combinations that fall under the payline(s) will win money for the player. The following steps describe how the game software in accordance with one embodiment of the invention chooses a winning symbol combination and a payline under which the winning symbol combination should be placed.

Here it is assumed that there are four or more rows of reels. Consequently, instead of the player winning on any row of reels based on the paylines and game features, as is done in conventional games, the player chooses which payline will get a winning combination. Each payline has a theme and only one row of reels will get the winning reel symbol combination under a payline. The other rows will get losing symbol combinations under their respective paylines.

Thus, as was described above, the game in accordance with various embodiments of the invention gives the player more control of their winnings, since if the player succeeds in picking the payline under which the game software places the winning reel symbol combination, the player will win their bet. The player could theoretically win every game, whereas in conventional spinning reel games the game software is designed so that a certain number of symbol combinations are not winners. Since only one payline will be a winner and the other paylines will be losers, the game software needs to randomly rearrange the independent sets of reels between games so that the player cannot predict which symbol and payline combination will constitute the next winner. The player then needs to guess which payline the winner will be in the next game.

Herein, the reels in a row are referred to as the “Independent Reel Set,” which includes a group of reels, with each reel having a set number of reel symbols. One independent reel set in the game software has reel symbols which in any configuration is always a winning symbol combination, based on all symbol combinations matching symbol combinations on the paytable for the game. The remaining independent reel sets in the game software have reel symbols which in any configuration is always a losing symbol combination, based on no symbol combination matching any symbol combination on the paytable for that game.

In some embodiments, each theme (or each payline) can have two independent reel sets, one which has all winning symbol combinations and one which has all losing symbol combinations. For example, for a game with four paylines, there are eight independent reel sets (each theme has two independent reel sets). The game software selects one payline to show the independent reel sets that has all winning symbol combinations. The other three paylines will use the independent reels sets that only show losing symbol combinations. Winning and losing symbol combinations are all based on what symbol combinations are listed on the paytable as combinations that pay out awards. It should be noted that some symbols on the losing independent reel sets can contain symbols that, when matched with other symbols from other independent reels sets, can create winning symbol combinations.

The game software then randomly positions the independent reel sets on the video screen under each payline. The player pushes the spin button which spins each of the reels and the game software using an RNG (Random Number Generator) randomly chooses a symbol combination for each independent reel sets. Although, the game software spins the reels on the video screen for the player to see them, the game software has already chosen the reel symbol combination for each payline. The reels initially spin fast and then come to a slow stop. This is done primarily for the player's visual entertainment. Those independent reel sets that show only losing symbol combinations will show a losing symbol combination. The one independent reel set that can only show a winning symbol combination will show a winning symbol combination. If the player selected the payline that has the winning symbol combination under it, the player will be paid based on how much they bet and the symbol combination they get based on the paytable. If the player chose a row with a losing symbol combination the player loses their bet.

In yet another embodiment, each reel on the video screen has a set of symbols and the game software directs each reel to spin and stop on a certain symbol. The game software makes sure that one row of reels always stops on a symbol combination that is a winner and that the other three rows stop on losing symbol combinations.

Understanding Reel Symbol Combinations

The math behind each winning reel combination is very complex for the following reasons. Each reel can have a number of different “stops,” which are made up of symbols and blank spaces, respectively. The reel can stop on a symbol or a blank space. Some stops are actual symbols which the player can see and others are virtual, meaning that the software has created stops that the player cannot see. The virtual stops create a lower probability of certain symbol combinations from hitting, which allows the game to have large jackpots, in some cases millions of dollars. Basically, the gaming regulatory agencies ensure that every possible symbol combination can come up. This will be discussed in further detail below.

With three to seven reels in a row and the possibility of one to four rows of reels, there can be a very large number of different reel combinations that could occur, based on each reel having many different of stops and depending the number of paylines. For example, if there is one “7” on each of the four reels and there are 23 stops on each reel, the chance of getting a “7” on each reel is (1/23)4, that is, a 1 in 279,841 chance.

Now, if one of the symbols was that of “lemons” and there are eight stops on each reel that are lemons (the remaining 15 symbols can be, for example, bland “virtual” stops), the chance of getting lemons across all reels is about 1 in 70 (or more specifically, (8/23)4). It should be noted that eight lemon stops does not necessarily mean there are eight different symbols of lemons, but rather the same lemon symbol can be used by the software to represent each of the eight different lemon symbols. That is, the game software allows for certain symbols to be weighted so that certain symbols are selected more or less frequently.

In the embodiment described herein, rows of reels are divided into two different categories. The first category is a group of reels which has symbols that in any combination will not show up on the paytable, and thus are considered losing symbol combinations. The second group of reels has reel symbols that in any symbol combination will show up on the paytable and are considered winning symbol combinations.

These principles can be applied in a wide range of game embodiments. Some of these embodiments will now be described. It should however be noted again, that this is no exhaustive list of embodiments.

Video Poker Embodiment

In a video poker embodiment, the game uses hands of poker rather than spinning reels. For example, the game software can deal four hands face down. One of the hands is already a winning hand. No matter what poker hand the player picks, the player has the option to hold the cards they want and then draw cards to finish their poker hands. The player is paid based on a poker paytable.

Multi-Game Spinning Reel Embodiment

In this embodiment the player chooses a one category from a group of categories. Each category has a theme. On the video screen, miniature independent sets of reels are displayed. The number of sets can vary, for example, from about two to 100 miniature sets of reels. All the reel symbols on each set of reels fall under a particular theme.

The player's objective in this embodiment is to select a theme that will win on most of the independent sets of reels. For example, the player chooses a theme and also makes a wager on each of the reel sets. Each set would contain one or more reels. The player then pushes the Spin button which causes all the reels on the video screen to spin. For example if there were 100 tiny sets of reels, they would be spinning at the same time. Each set of reels will come to a stop and under each payline is a symbol combination for one of the themes.

The player is paid based on the number of reel sets won with the same theme as the player selected. For example, the player wagers five credits on 20 different sets of spinning reels, the player places a 100 credit bet. The player may win only 8 of the 20 games but the total credits won is, for example, 180 credits due to symbol combinations. The credits won are determined by the paytable, which pays out different amounts for different symbol combinations. The amount paid does not have to follow any particular mathematic formula. The paytable is typically created by a game designer who wants the game to payout a certain percentage back to the player and to the casino. Thus, the game designer decides which symbols and symbol combinations will be winners and attaches an amount to each symbol combination. All the pays of the game must comply with the intended hold percentage for the casino. The only basic rule that is used is that the amount bet proportionally increases the amount won, so that a player who bets two credits per game wins twice as much as a player who bets one credit for the same winning symbol combination.

Further Embodiments

In some embodiments, there can be a single row of reels with a single payline. In this case, the player has different categories or themes to choose from. The player picks a theme. The game software shows a winning symbol combination for only one of the themes in each game. If the player picks the same theme that the game software chooses, the player wins.

Various embodiments of this invention can be adapted for mechanical spinning reel games found in casinos or spinning reel games that are played on the Internet. Yet other embodiments can be adapted for home video games, or any games played on hand held gaming devices.

The spinning reels games can be wagering games or non-wagering games. Various embodiments of this invention can be used for downloadable gaming and for server-based gaming, where different games or game versions reside at a central system and are downloaded or accessed at a central system upon request.

The amount bet on each payline, as well as the number and shape of paylines, can vary in the various embodiments of the games. The number of reel symbols or physical or virtual stops that are used in any game version can also vary. The types of symbols can also vary from game version to game version.

Various embodiments of this invention can be implemented as a feature on existing spinning reel games in casinos, where the player for example can pay extra to use an embodiment of the invention in combination with the regular game. This could work as follows: the primary game is played as usual but the player can make an extra wager (typically referred to as “buy-a-pay”), and the player gets the feature where one payline is a guaranteed winner in each game, but the amount won for each payline will vary based on the symbol combination under the payline. The player does not choose the payline, the game software does.

Also another embodiment of this invention is that some players won't want to pick a theme or payline, in that case there could be a version of the invention where the game offers a “quick pick” and game software picks a payline or theme for the player. The player wins if the game software then picks the payline or theme for the winning symbol combination.

Spinning Wheels Embodiment

Instead of reels on the display there can be wheels, which spin around and around and then stop on a category. The main difference between reels and wheels is that on reels it is only possible to see the symbols on the perimeter of the reel. That is, on the screen only a small portion of the total number of symbols can be seen at any given time. On wheels, on the other hand, all the symbols on each wheel can be seen at one time (unless a window is used over the wheel, which limits the view to only a small portion of the wheel).

Thus, as the wheels spins, the player can see all the symbols spinning. The wheels then come to a stop, normally under a pointer which signifies the selected symbol. The wheels can be used in the same manner as the reels, except that you can see all the symbols on each of the wheels at one time. This embodiment can be used, for example, with four wheels on the video screen. All four wheels spin and come to stop with one symbol under each wheel pointer. The symbols under each respective pointer form a symbol combination. If the theme chosen by the player is the same as the one selected by the wheels, the player wins.

There could be one large wheel rather than multiple reels. On one large wheel all the symbols on the wheel belong to one of four themes. The player chooses a theme and hopefully the wheel stops on their theme. For example, the big wheel can have 40 slices so that each theme can contain 10 different symbols. Each of the 10 different symbols can be worth a different amount, so if the player guesses right and the wheel stops on their chosen theme the player would get a different amount depending on what symbol the wheel stopped on. For example, assume that the player chooses a theme called “precious jewels.” If the wheel stops on a precious jewel symbol, the player may win more if the symbol is a diamond versus a ruby. There could also be other game features that the wheel could stop on within a particular theme, such as one slice that has a symbol which awards the player 10 free spins. One example of a wheel is shown in FIG. 7.

Symbol Categories/Themes Features

As will now be described, there are also many variations of the symbol categories or themes that can be implemented in various embodiments. In some embodiments, instead of the player choosing one symbol category for each game, the player can have the option to choose more than one symbol category. For example, if there are 15 symbol categories and the player selects three symbol categories, the player has three different categories that could result in the player winning the game.

In some embodiments, there can be various levels of symbol categories to choose from. One use of the various levels can be for the player to not only pick a symbol category they expect to win, but to get extra bonuses for being correct on the specific symbols to come up. For example, assume that the player chooses a top level choice such as “Animals.” The player can also make a second level choice, such as “Big Cats.” The player can also make a third level choice, such as “Tigers.” The levels can mean choosing which symbols will win and in what order across the reels. If the player picks the right symbols, and also the right order, they may win a progressive jackpot or a fixed bonus prize.

The symbol categories can be essentially anything. The key is that all symbols within a category are related to that symbol category. For example, one example of a symbol category can be traditional gaming symbols (7's, fruits, and so on). Another example of a symbol category is signs of the zodiac. Yet further symbol category examples can be different sports, famous people, animals, cars, colors, objects, lucky symbols, and so on.

The symbol categories can be simply colors or numbers. The symbols in these categories can be credit amounts and can be differentiated by the color of the credit amount. For example, the four symbol categories can be the colors red, blue, green and purple. The symbols within each category can be the credit amounts 5, 10, 30 and 100. However the credit amounts are also colored to go to with each symbol category, so there is a red 5, blue 5, green 5 and purple 5, and so on.

The symbol categories can be player selectable. For example, assume that a player is not having luck with “lucky symbols” and wants to switch to “TV Shows”. Another example is when a new player comes up to game and the current symbol categories are “Race Cars” and they want to change all of the symbol categories to “Jewelry” related categories.

The number of symbol categories can change from game to game. The number of symbol categories can be a player option. The number of rows or paylines can change from one game to the next to keep the player's interest up. A lower number of symbol categories increases the frequency of winning but typically lowers the payouts, just like a higher number of symbol categories lowers the win frequency but typically raises the payouts.

In some embodiments, the player gets to see before the reels spin how much they can win if the player chooses the right payline. When the player selects a category or payline, the game software generate a jackpot amount from a range of jackpots that the player can win if they make the right selection. The player could also win a multiplier that multiplies amount the player bet. For example, assume that the player chooses “Baseball” symbol category. The game software reveals that if Baseball is the winner they will win two times their bet. On the next game, the player makes a selection and the game reveals that the player will win 1000 times their bet if they win this next game.

Game Button Features

As will now be described, there are also a range of variations for game buttons in the various embodiments, that can be used by the player to push or touch in order to make their decision of which symbol categories they want to pick in each game. For example, the game can use standard casino style slot machine buttons that are physical buttons on the control panel in front of the player.

The buttons can be icons on the display screen where player touches the icon and the icon activates that command. This embodiment can for example be implemented by using touch screen technology for video screens. In some embodiments, the player can use home video game type devices, such as joysticks or other types of hand held devices that can be used to make a selection. The number of symbol category buttons can be any number, based on the game configuration.

Game History Feature

In some embodiments, a game software database can keep track of all previous winners as selected by the game software. As a feature of the game, the player can be shown for each symbol category how many times the symbol category was selected by the game software out of a predetermined number of past games. The number of games the software will track and show can vary from game to game. How the information is shown can also vary from game version to game version.

How the information is categorized can vary from game version to game version For example, the information can be shown as a percentage of how often each symbol category has won, or the total number out of a specific number of games, such as 100 games. For example, out of the last 100 games, the game history can show that symbol category one has been a winner 35 times, symbol category two has been chosen 30 times, category three 20 times, category four 10 times, and symbol category five has only been a winner 5 times. The player can then analyze this information and decide to go with category five since that category has not won in a while. Another player may decide to go with category one, since category one appears to be winning more often than the other categories.

Consecutive Win Streak Feature

In various embodiments, the game can be adapted to record each win. This can be used to pay the player a bonus for winning a certain number of games in a row. This can be marketed and displayed in many different ways. The number of consecutive wins needed on the base game to win a bonus award can vary from game version to game version. The amount paid for consecutive win streaks can vary from game version to game version. In some instances, the player could win a progressive jackpot. How the win streak information is displayed can also vary from game version to game version. The player could also win a bonus for consecutive losses. This would reward players who have not had much luck winning on the regular base game. An onscreen meter can count the number of consecutive win streaks as well as measure the number of loses at the same time. The player can be rewarded for consecutive wins and for consecutive losses.

Communal Bonus Game Embodiment

Various embodiments of the invention can also be used for a new trend in gaming, which is commonly referred to as “Community gaming.” In community gaming, several players typically play their own slot machine but in addition, the players either compete for or share bonus jackpots. In these embodiments, a group of slot machines are linked together. Each game has its own primary game LCD, but instead of a top box there is a shared plasma screen that each of the games is facing, and on which the players typically can see the current bonus jackpot.

There are several different ways players can qualify for a community bonus. For example, in one version each game linked to a community bonus contributes a certain percentage of each bet to the bonus jackpot. The first player to win (or possibly lose) a certain number of games in a row wins the bonus jackpot. In another version, there are bonus circles on the plasma screen. A player needs to get three wins in a row to light up one of the bonus circles. Once all circles are lit, the players who lit a circle will share in the bonus. In yet another version, all players linked to a community game contribute to an overall total number of wins. The number of wins needed changes with each bonus round and is unknown to the players. Once the total number of wins is equal to the mystery number set by the bonus system, the next player who gets a win makes it to the bonus. Alternatively, once the number of total number of games requirement is met, then all players who are actively playing qualify for the bonus.

There are several ways to conduct the bonus round to reward the players. In one version, the players that qualify for the bonus will get, for example, 20 free games. The player will try to pick the winning payline in each of these free games, and for each correct pick the player wins bonus credits. If the player does not pick a single winning payline, they get consolation credits.

Progressive or Mystery Version Embodiment

In some embodiments, a small percentage of each player's wager can be added to a Progressive or Mystery Prize award. If the player reaches a predetermined number of consecutive wins or losses they can win a mystery prize or a progressive prize.

Media & Licensing & Sounds Features

In order to attract players, various embodiments of the invention can implement different types of entertaining methods could be used. For example, “Hollywood” type symbol categories, such as popular movies or actors, can be used. Entertaining videos or animations can be created and shown on the video screens. There can be sponsorships where companies pay to have their logos used as symbol categories in the game. Different types of music or recorded sounds can be used to create increased fun and excitement. Various embodiments of the invention can be a part of marketing promotions or gaming tournaments.

Hardware & Software & Configurations Descriptions

This section discusses the basis setup of the gaming unit, software and system setup (if one is used) in various embodiments of the invention. The various embodiments of this invention can use spinning reel slot machines similar to those that are currently found in casinos around the world. These spinning reel slot machines can be modified to accommodate various embodiments of the invention by adding new game software for the base game and any secondary games, if applicable. Optional additions also include new symbol category buttons, unless touch screen buttons are preferred. In some embodiments, this invention uses two LCD display screens in the slot machine; one in the regular cabinet and one in the top box. This is currently a trend in video spinning reel games.

Gaming Unit

The design of the gaming units can vary for the different embodiments. For example, some gaming units can be any type of casino gaming unit and can have various different structures and methods of operation. Other gaming units can be a casino gaming unit, or a general purpose computer (e.g., a desk top computer, lap top computer, tablet computer, server, work station, main frame, personal digital assistant (PDA), cellular phone, and so on. Further, some units may be incorporated into other devices such as a cable or satellite set-top box, a video game system (Playstation™, Xbox™, Game Cube™) or from hand held devices (e.g. a Game Boy™)

One example of a gaming unit includes a housing or cabinet and one or more input devices, which can include a coin slot acceptor, a paper currency acceptor, a ticket reader/printer and a card reader and/or writer which may be used to input value to the gaming unit. A value input device can include any device that can accept value from a customer. As used herein, the term “value” can encompass gaming tokens, coins, paper currency, ticket vouchers, credit or debit cards, and any other object representative of value.

If provided on the gaming unit, the ticket reader/printer can be used to read and/or print or otherwise encode ticket vouchers. The ticket vouchers can be made of paper or some other printable or encodable material and can have one or more of the following informational items printed or encoded thereon: the casino name, the type of ticket voucher, a validation number, a bar code with control and/or security data, the date and time of issuance of the ticket voucher, redemption instructions and restrictions, a description of an award, and any other information that may be necessary or desirable. Different types of ticket vouchers can be used, such as bonus ticket vouchers, cash-redemption ticket vouchers, restaurant ticket vouchers, show ticket vouchers, and so on.

The gaming unit can include one or more audio speakers, a coin payout tray, an input panel and a display unit for displaying display data relating to the game or games provided by the gaming unit. The audio speakers can generate audio representing sounds, such as the noise of spinning slot machine reels, a dealer's voice, music, announcements or any other audio related to a casino game. The input control panel can be provided with several pushbuttons or touch-sensitive areas that can be pressed by the player to select games, make wagers, make gaming decisions, and so on. The display unit can be a two-dimensional display unit, such as a color video display unit (e.g., a holographic display), a stereoscopic display, a three dimensional display volume, and so on.

Although one possible control panel is described above, it should be understood that different buttons could be used in the control panel, and that the particular buttons used can depend on the game or games that could be played on the gaming unit. Although the control panel is shown to be separate from the display unit, it should be understood that the control panel can be generated by the display unit. In that case, each of the buttons of the control panel can be a colored area generated by the display unit, and some type of mechanism can be associated with the display unit to detect when each of the buttons was touched, such as touch sensitive screen.

Networked System

Embodiments of this invention can include network communication capabilities, which enable communication with any networked system. That system can be, for example, a player tracking system, a downloadable gaming system, a server based system, a progressive system, a media system, or any other gaming related system.

The server can be a computer such as a desk top computer, a laptop computer, a work station, a server, a mainframe, and so on. The server can include a controller that has a program memory, a microcontroller or microprocessor, a random-access memory (RAM), and an input/output (I/O) circuit, all of which may be interconnected through an address/data bus. A display and one or more input devices can be operatively coupled to the I/O circuit, each of those components being so coupled by either a unidirectional or bidirectional, single-line or multiple-line data link, which can depend on the design of the component that is used.

The gaming unit can transmit to the server an indication that the player submitted the requested payment to the gaming unit by, for example, inserting currency, deducting value from a smart card, authorizing a charge to a credit card or debit card, authorizing a deduction form an account, and so on. Additionally or alternatively, the gaming unit can transmit to the server information for charging an entry fee to a credit card or debit card for deducting the entry from an account.

Software

Appropriate software can be loaded onto the gaming unit, for example, through a network connection, a floppy disk, a CD-ROM, a DVD, a PC card, a smart card, and so on. Alternatively, the software can be loaded through a portable memory device, a multi-media card memory device, a smartmedia memory device, memory stick memory device, or similar devices. The software can include executable files, configuration files, data files, pay tables, and so on. The software can also include seeds for a random number generator. The seeds can be, for example, randomly or pseudo-random generated.

The software can be used to configure the controller. The software can be different for different types of gaming units. Once the software has been loaded onto a gaming unit, the player can use the game that corresponds to the loaded software. In most casino games, such as poker or spinning reel games, there is a RNG (Random Number Generator). This is a very complicated algorithm which the game uses to select symbol combinations and other parts of bonus games.

Security

In some embodiments, the server can be invoked to authenticate the software on the gaming unit prior to enabling the gaming unit to play. If the software cannot be authenticated, the server will not enable the gaming unit. The server can try to prevent players from playing in a game if the software is not from a known or trusted source, and/or if the software has been modified.

Other concerns for the casino, is that a player leaves in the middle of a game and someone new comes by and takes advantage of the previous play such as acquiring the points earned in the game from the previous player. Various embodiments of this invention prevent this by the player having a number of choices when they quit. For example, they can receive a ticket to resume playing in the future, or they can decide not to play this round of the game again and can choose not to resume and receive their consolation prize right away. In either case, the system will reset the points and games to zero for the next player.

The various embodiments of the invention can be implemented in digital electronic circuitry, or in computer hardware, firmware, software, or in combinations of them. Apparatus of the invention can be implemented in a computer program product tangibly embodied in a machine-readable storage device for execution by a programmable processor; and method steps of the invention can be performed by a programmable processor executing a program of instructions to perform functions of the invention by operating on input data and generating output. The invention can be implemented advantageously in one or more computer programs that are executable on a programmable system including at least one programmable processor coupled to receive data and instructions from, and to transmit data and instructions to, a data storage system, at least one input device, and at least one output device. Each computer program can be implemented in a high-level procedural or object-oriented programming language, or in assembly or machine language if desired; and in any case, the language can be a compiled or interpreted language. Suitable processors include, by way of example, both general and special purpose microprocessors. Generally, a processor will receive instructions and data from a read-only memory and/or a random access memory. Generally, a computer will include one or more mass storage devices for storing data files; such devices include magnetic disks, such as internal hard disks and removable disks; magneto-optical disks; and optical disks. Storage devices suitable for tangibly embodying computer program instructions and data include all forms of non-volatile memory, including by way of example semiconductor memory devices, such as EPROM, EEPROM, and flash memory devices; magnetic disks such as internal hard disks and removable disks; magneto-optical disks; and CD-ROM disks. Any of the foregoing can be supplemented by, or incorporated in, ASICs (application-specific integrated circuits).

To provide for interaction with a user, the invention can be implemented on a computer system having a display device such as a monitor or LCD screen for displaying information to the user. The user can provide input to the computer system through various input devices such as a keyboard and a pointing device, such as a mouse, a trackball, a microphone, a touch-sensitive display, a transducer card reader, a magnetic or paper tape reader, a tablet, a stylus, a voice or handwriting recognizer, or any other well-known input device such as, of course, other computers. The computer system can be programmed to provide a graphical user interface through which computer programs interact with users.

Finally, the processor optionally can be coupled to a computer or telecommunications network, for example, an Internet network, or an intranet network, using a network connection, through which the processor can receive information from the network, or might output information to the network in the course of performing the above-described method steps. Such information, which is often represented as a sequence of instructions to be executed using the processor, may be received from and outputted to the network. The above-described devices and materials will be familiar to those of skill in the computer hardware and software arts.

A number of implementations of the invention have been described. Nevertheless, it will be understood that various modifications may be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention as defined by the claims. For example, the player can choose a symbol or a symbol from a group of symbols, and if a predetermined number of the selected symbols show up in any of the paylines on the video screen, the player also wins. This can be referred to as “scatter symbols,” since the symbols are scattered on the screen and not lined up in a particular payline and do not have to be in combination with any other symbols. Thus, essentially any casino slot game where the player gets to pick the winner of the next game, and if they pick the same winner that is selected by the game software and the player wins, then the game falls within the scope of this invention. Accordingly, other embodiments are within the scope of the following claims.