Title:
GAMING MACHINE WITH FRACTIONALLY ENHANCED PAYOUTS
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A gaming machine generates a first payout when a first pattern of symbols is displayed and a second payout when a second pattern of symbols is displayed that differs from the first pattern of symbols by one symbol. The one symbol indicates a fractional amount and the second payout is higher than the first payout by a fraction equivalent to the indicated fractional amount.



Inventors:
Wilson, John (Peterborough, CA)
Application Number:
12/352203
Publication Date:
11/12/2009
Filing Date:
01/12/2009
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
463/25
International Classes:
A63F9/24
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
PINHEIRO, JASON PAUL
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
SMART & BIGGAR LLP (TORONTO, ON, CA)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A method of establishing a payout for a gaming machine, comprising: displaying symbols; generating a first payout where said symbols displayed match a first payout pattern; generating a second payout where said symbols displayed, apart from one symbol, match said first payout pattern and said one symbol is a fractional symbol, said second payout being fractionally higher than said first payout.

2. The method of claim 1 wherein said fractional symbol indicates a given fractional amount and wherein said second payout is higher than said first payout by said given fractional amount.

3. The method of claim 1 wherein where said symbols displayed, apart from two symbols, match said first payout pattern, and where each of said two symbols is a fractional symbol, generating a third payout which is higher than said first payout and fractionally higher than said second payout.

4. The method of claim 3 wherein said two symbols comprise a first fractional symbol indicating a first fractional amount and a second fractional symbol indicating a second fractional amount and wherein said third payout is higher than said first payout by a fraction comprising a sum of said first fractional amount and said second fractional amount.

5. The method of claim 4 wherein each payout is measured in units and wherein said first payout, said second payout, and said third payout comprise an integer number of said units.

6. The method of claim 5 wherein said first payout pattern comprises a plurality of horizontally arranged adjacent identical symbols.

7. The method of claim 1 wherein said symbols are randomly displayed.

8. The method of claim 1 wherein said first payout pattern comprises at least two jackpot symbols.

9. A gaming machine comprising: a user interface for allowing a user to commence a symbol displaying game; a display for displaying symbols; control means for controlling display of symbols on said display and for generating a first payout when a first pattern of symbols is displayed and for generating a second payout when a second pattern of symbols is displayed that differs from said first pattern of symbols by one symbol, said one symbol indicating a fractional amount, said second payout being fractionally higher than said first payout.

10. The gaming machine of claim 9 wherein said second payout is higher than said first payout by said fractional amount.

11. The gaming machine of claim 9 wherein said control means is also for generating a third payout when a third pattern of symbols is displayed that differs from said first pattern of symbols by two symbols, each of said two symbols indicating a fractional amount, said third payout being higher than said first payout and fractionally higher than said second payout.

12. The gaming machine of claim 11 wherein said two symbols comprise a first fractional symbol indicating a first fractional amount and a second fractional symbol indicating a second fractional amount and wherein said third payout is higher than said first payout by a fraction comprising a sum of said first fractional amount and said second fractional amount.

13. The gaming machine of claim 9 further comprising a plurality of parallel reels, at least a portion of each of said reels forming part of said display, each reel bearing a plurality of symbols.

14. The gaming machine of claim 13 wherein at least one of said reels has said one symbol indicating a fractional amount.

15. The gaming machine of claim 14 wherein said control means is for rotating said plurality of reels to provide different combinations of symbols on said display.

16. A method of establishing a payout for a gaming machine, comprising: displaying symbols; generating a first payout where said symbols displayed match a first payout pattern; generating a second payout where said symbols displayed, apart from one symbol, match said first payout pattern and said one symbol is a fractional symbol, a quotient of said second payout over said first payout equalling a non-integer value greater than one.

Description:

BACKGROUND

This invention relates to gaming machines, such as slot machines and video poker machines, and to payout methods in relation to such machines.

Slot machines are popular in casinos and other gaming establishments. A typical slot machine has a number of (physical or animated) reels which spin during play and stop to display a pattern of symbols on one or more payout lines. Certain symbol patterns are “winners” resulting in a payout to the player.

Slot machines are designed to provide a profit margin, which may be on the order of five percent. This means that for every 100 coins fed into the machine, on average, the machine will pay out 95 coins and retain 5. The profit provided by a slot machine is generally proportional to the time the machine is in use. Machines with higher entertainment value are generally more heavily used. Therefore, slot machines have been designed with a variety of features to enhance their entertainment value, such as colourful graphics, exciting sounds, and player bonuses. A typical bonus is a payout multiplier. In a known method, if in an otherwise winning pattern, one of the symbols of the pattern has been replaced by a payout multiplier symbol, the payout which results from the winning combination is multiplied by the multiple indicated by the symbol. If two symbols of a winning pattern have been replaced by a payout multiplier symbol, then the payout is multiplied by the product of these two symbols. Thus, for a 2× multiplier symbol, the payout is doubled. And for a 2× and 3× multiplier symbol substituted in winning pattern, the payout is multiplied by 6. In such machines, multipliers of 2×, 3×, 4×, 5×, 10, 12×, and higher, are common.

Despite the wide variety of entertainment enhancing features of known slot machines, there remains a need to provide machines with high entertainment value.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

It is believed that a machine with bonus symbols and, as well, a high payout frequency, would be considered by players to be an exciting machine to play, and hence one that would hold their interest longer. The present invention achieves this by providing bonus symbols which, in winning patterns, fractionally enhance payouts. Because the payout is fractionally enhanced (i.e., multiplied by a non-integer multiplier greater than one) and not multiplied by an integer value (greater than one), a greater number of bonus symbols may be used in winning patterns for a given profit margin set for the machine.

Accordingly, the present invention provides a method of establishing a payout for a gaming machine, comprising: displaying symbols; generating a first payout where said symbols displayed match a first payout pattern; generating a second payout where said symbols displayed, apart from one symbol, match said first payout pattern and said one symbol is a fractional symbol, said second payout being fractionally higher than said first payout.

In accordance with another aspect of the present invention, there is provided a gaming machine comprising: a user interface for allowing a user to commence a symbol displaying game; a display for displaying symbols; control means for controlling display of symbols on said display and for generating a first payout when a first pattern of symbols is displayed and for generating a second payout when a second pattern of symbols is displayed that differs from said first pattern of symbols by one symbol, said one symbol indicating a fractional amount, said second payout being fractionally higher than said first payout.

Other features and advantages of the present invention will be apparent from the following description in conjunction with the drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

In the figures which illustrate example embodiments of the invention,

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a slot machine made in accordance with the subjection invention,

FIG. 2 is a schematic view of the machine of FIG. 1,

FIG. 3 is a schematic view of a reel strip in accordance with this invention which may be used with the slot machine of FIG. 1,

FIG. 4 is an exemplary pay table for use with the machine of FIG. 1, and

FIG. 5 is a flow diagram illustrating operation of the machine of FIG. 1.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

As used herein, the word fraction means any positive non-integer value.

Turning to FIG. 1, a slot machine 10 has a symbol display 12 for displaying symbols 14 on a payline 16 and user inputs 20 for allowing a user to commence a symbol generating game. The user inputs may include a coin input 22 and a bill input 24 so that a user may accrue game playing credits with a payment. Alternatively, the machine could have a token input for the same purpose. These credits may be displayed on credit display 26. The inputs may also include buttons 28 to allow a user to select the size of a bet and a button 32 and/or a handle 34 to allow a user to commence play. A further button 36 may allow a user to cash out accrued credits. Cashed out, or paid out coins or tokens may drop to a coin or token dispensing bin 37. In other embodiments, the machine may dispense a ticket indicative of cashed out tokens or may transfer an indication of cashed out tokens to a player card inserted by the player. Other buttons or the like may be provided to allow special play functions, as will be understood by those skilled in the art. The machine 10 may also have a sign 38 setting out winning symbol patterns and their associated payouts.

With reference to FIG. 2, a controller 40 may be connected to receive indications of user inputs from inputs 20. The controller may output to credit display 26 and to a coin/token dispenser 46. The controller may be connected for two way communication with a random number generator 44 and with stepper motors 48a, 48b, 48c. Each stepper motor may be operatively connected to selectively spin a reel 50a, 50b, 50c associated with display 12.

With reference to FIG. 3 along with FIG. 2, each reel may support a tape 60 with symbols 14 and blanks 15. As is typical, each symbol on tape 60 has a blank on either side of it. At least one of the symbols is a fractional symbol. As illustrated, symbol 14a is a fractional symbol indicating the fraction 20/100 as a percentage: 20%. The tape of each reel may have either the same pattern of symbols, or the pattern of symbols on each tape may be different. For example, a second tape may have the fractional symbol 30% rather than the symbol 20% of tape 60.

Controller 40 may be, for example, a microprocessor with a persistent memory, a field programmable gate array, or an electromechanical controller. The controller may hold a pay table—which may be stored in a persistent memory where the controller is a microprocessor, or which may be hardwired into a field programmable gate array controller or an electromechanical controller.

FIG. 4 illustrates a portion of an example pay table. Turning to FIG. 4, the symbol pattern of 2×2×2× on the three reels is shown in pay table 70 as a winning combination that returns the maximum payout, of 6400 credits for a bet of one credit, 12,800 credits for a bet of two credits and 19,200 for a bet of three credits. The symbol pattern of 1BAR 1BAR 1BAR is shown to return 10, 20, or 30 credits for a bet of one, two, or three credits, respectively. Notably, a symbol pattern of any of 1BAR 1BAR 20%, 1BAR 20% 1BAR or 20% 1BAR 1BAR returns 12, 24, or 36 credits for a bet of one, two, or three credits, respectively. This is 20% higher than the return for the symbol pattern of 1BAR 1BAR 1BAR. Thus, the substitution of the fractional symbol, 20% for one of the 1BAR symbols in the winning symbol pattern 1BAR 1BAR 1BAR, enhances the payout of the winning pattern by 20%. In other words, the substitution of the fractional symbol 20% multiplies the payout of the winning pattern by the non-integer value 1.2.

Also notable is that a winning symbol pattern of any of 1BAR 20% 20%, 20% 20% 1BAR or 20% 1BAR 20% returns 14, 28, or 42 credits for a bet of one, two, or three credits, respectively. This is (20%+20%=) 40% higher than the return for the symbol pattern of 1BAR 1BAR 1BAR. Thus, the substitution of the fractional symbol 20% for two of the 1BAR symbols in the winning symbol pattern 1BAR 1BAR 1BAR, enhances the payout of the winning pattern by 40%.

The pay table may also include non-winning patterns, i.e., patterns for which there is a zero payout.

The tape of FIG. 3, as is typical, has a blank on either side of each symbol. There are twenty-two different stops on tape 60: the first stop being the blank at the top of the strip, the second stop being the symbol 2BAR, the third being another blank, and so on.

Turning to FIG. 5, which is a flow diagram illustrating operation of machine 10, along with FIG. 2, in use controller 40 registers credits on credit display 26 responsive to payments made by the user (S110). The controller also registers the size of a bet made by a user (S112) and, in response to the user initiating play (S114), controls stepper motors 48a, 48b, 48c to spin reels 50a, 50b, 50c (S116). The stepper motors return step signals to the controller so that it is aware of the current reel stop (i.e., position) of each of the reels. Additionally, the controller interrogates random number generator 44. On interrogation, the random number generator may be configured to generate, and return to the controller, one number. In this case, controller 40 parses the returned random number to obtain one random number for each reel 50a, 50b, 50c (S118). Alternatively, on an interrogation, the random number generator 44 may be configured to return one random number for each reel. The random number for each reel may be mapped to a reel stop for each reel (S119). The random number for a reel may represent the reel stop for the reel so that, in effect, the random number is the reel stop. (For example, considering a reel bearing the tape 60 of FIG. 3 which has twenty-two reel stops, the random number for this reel may be a number selected from the numbers from 1 to 22.) Alternatively, the random number may represent a virtual reel stop which must be mapped to a physical reel stop. (For example, considering again a reel bearing the tape 60 of FIG. 3, there may be seventy-two virtual reel stops which map to the twenty-two physical reel stops of the tape. The mapping table which maps the virtual stops to physical stops may be created so as to reduce the probability of the appearance of symbols associated with higher payouts.) The controller may then control motors 48a, 48b, 48c so that each reel stops at its determined reel stop (i.e., each reel stops so that the symbol or blank associated with the determined reel stop is at the payline of display 12) (S120). The pattern of symbols and/or blanks associated with the determined reel stops is also used to interrogate the pay table (S122). If there is a payout associated with the pattern, the controller then controls dispenser 46 to dispense coins or tokens in equal number from the machine 10 (S124). This process may continue with the user placing a further bet. In this regard, if the user has insufficient credits remaining for the desired bet, the user must first pay for additional credits (S110) in order to be in a position to place the bet. Alternatively, the user may cash out (S126, S128).

As will be appreciated, the architecture of FIG. 2 is only one of many suitable architectures for slot machine 10. For example, where the controller includes a microprocessor, a video graphics card input by the controller could take the place of motors 48a, 48b, 48c and reels 50a, 50b, 50c. In such instance, under control of the controller, the video graphics card could generate video images of animated symbol bearing reels on display 12. In this regard, in further possible embodiments, animated reels can be replaced with any other animated symbol bearing constructs. For example, some known slot machines display animated icons, each representing a symbol or blank, falling to the payline of the display.

Pay table 70 does not need to include every possible pattern explicitly, instead it could include payouts for basic winning patterns (e.g., 1BAR, 1BAR, 1BAR) and a rule set by way of which enhanced payouts are derived from these basic winning patterns. For example, a rule set could include the following rules:

Payout for 1BAR, 1BAR, 1BAR is 10× credits bet.

Payout for any combination including two 1BAR symbols and a 20% symbol is 20% higher.

Alternatively, rather than using paytable 70, an odds table for each winning pattern could be provided and the controller could apply a formula to generate a payout based on the odds table.

Of course, a reel could have symbols indicating a variety of different fractional enhancements to a payout. For example, 10%, 30%, and 50% symbols might appear on the reels. In such instance, a winning combination that pays, say, 10 credits, pays 30% more, or 13 credits if a 30% symbol is substituted for one of the symbols in the winning combination. And if both the 30% and 10% symbol were substituted in the winning combination, the payout would be enhanced by (30%+10%=) 40%.

Thus, in general, the fraction indicating symbols increase a payout by the fraction indicated (which multiplies the payout by a non-integer value greater than one) and if two (or more) fraction indicating symbols are substituted in a winning combination, they increase the payout by their arithmetic sum.

The fraction indicating symbols may, of course, be expressed directly as fractions rather than percentages (e.g., ⅕, instead of 20%).

It may be desirable (or necessary, depending upon local regulation) that all payouts are integer values. In other words, it may be necessary or desirable to avoid a payout value of, for example, 5.5 tokens. Such a result can be avoided by judicious choice of both the base payout values and the potential fractional enhancements of these values.

The teachings of this invention are applicable to any gaming machine which generates payouts for winning combinations of symbols. For example, a video poker machine generates sets of animated cards during play, with certain sets of cards resulting in a payout. In accordance with this invention, certain of the cards may indicate fractional amounts (e.g., 20%). In such instance, a set of cards which would have resulted in a winning combination but for the card indicating the fractional amount, is considered to be that winning combination with a payout enhanced by the fractional amount.

A drawback with the use of multiplier symbols is that they necessarily significantly reduce the payout frequency of a machine for any given profit margin for the machine. A reduced frequency of payouts reduces player excitement. Thus, although the multipliers may be considered exciting, this is likely outweighed in the mind of a player by the lower payout frequency. The use of the fractional symbols of the subject invention may also enhance player excitement in the same manner as do multiplier symbols. However, the fractional symbols provide the benefit that they can have a significantly lesser impact on payout frequency. The result is a game that may, overall, be considered significantly more exciting than one relying solely on multiplier symbols. Further, a game having fractional symbols may also have a few, low multiple, multiplier symbols so that the game provides a similar player “feel” to a game relying solely on multiplier symbols. Alternatively, rather than using any multiplier symbols, the game may use a few larger fractions, such as 3/2(150%).

Other modifications than those expressly mentioned herein will be apparent to those skilled in the art and, therefore, the invention is defined in the claims.