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Publication numberUS20070167208 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/331,716
Publication date19 Jul 2007
Filing date13 Jan 2006
Priority date13 Jan 2006
Also published asWO2007087156A2, WO2007087156A3
Publication number11331716, 331716, US 2007/0167208 A1, US 2007/167208 A1, US 20070167208 A1, US 20070167208A1, US 2007167208 A1, US 2007167208A1, US-A1-20070167208, US-A1-2007167208, US2007/0167208A1, US2007/167208A1, US20070167208 A1, US20070167208A1, US2007167208 A1, US2007167208A1
InventorsJohn Acres
Original AssigneeAcres John F
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Randomly enabled bonus game with controllable frequency of occurence
US 20070167208 A1
Abstract
Method of conducting a game of chance having a randomly enabled bonus game with controllable frequency of occurrence, including the steps of: making a wager to initiate play on a base game; initiating a random bonus enablement determination which is separate from base game outcome; and allowing bonus game play only if the bonus is enabled.
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Claims(20)
1. A method of conducting a game of chance having a bonus game comprising the steps of:
a. making a wager to initiate play on a base game;
b. initiating a random bonus enablement determination which is separate from base game outcome; and
c. allowing bonus game play if the bonus is enabled.
2. The method of claim 1 wherein bonus game play occurs prior to initiation of base game play.
3. The method of claim 1 wherein bonus game play occurs during base game play.
4. The method of claim 1 wherein bonus game play occurs after completion of base game play.
5. The method of claim 1 wherein the random bonus enablement is triggered by the occurrence of a predetermined event.
6. The method of claim 5 wherein the predetermined event is selected from the group of occurrences consisting of start of base game play cycle, credit deposit, credit deposit magnitude, credit exhaustion, wager, wager of certain magnitude, base game play cycle, base game symbol outcome, base game win, base game win magnitude, specific time, specific date, passage of window of time, rate of game play, level of House defined activity, House evaluating strength of competing gaming houses, and player historical wagering parameters.
7. The method of claim 1 wherein the base game is selected from the group of games consisting of slot machines, video poker machines, and video slot machines.
8. The method of claim 1 wherein the bonus game play is automatically initiated after bonus enablement.
9. The method of claim 1 wherein the bonus game play is initiated by human activation after bonus enablement.
10. The method of claim 1 further comprising the step of playing the bonus game.
11. The method of claim 1 wherein the bonus game is selected from the group of games consisting of slot machines, video poker machines, rotatable mechanical wheel games, spinning wheel video games, pachinko game machines, pinball game machines, Monopoly® games, race car games, and horse race games,
12. The method of claim 1 further comprising the step of randomly paying a bonus award.
13. The method of claim 1 wherein the bonus award is paid in addition to a base game award.
14. The method of claim 1 wherein the bonus award is paid in place of a base game award.
15. A method of conducting a game of chance having a bonus game comprising the steps of:
a. making a wager to initiate play on a base game wherein the base game is selected from the group of games consisting of slot machines, video poker machines, and video slot machines;
b. initiating a random bonus enablement which is separate from base game outcome wherein bonus enablement is triggered by the occurrence of a predetermined event; and
c. allowing bonus game play if the bonus is enabled.
16. The method of claim 15 wherein bonus game play requires human activation.
17. A method of conducting a game of chance wherein the game includes a spinning mechanical wheel bonus game comprising multiple award segments and an award pointer, the method comprising the steps of:
a. making a wager to initiate play on a base game selected from the group of gaming machines consisting of video slot machines, video poker machines, three reel slot machines and five reel slot machines;
b. initiating a random bonus enablement which is separate from base game outcome wherein the bonus enablement is triggered by a predetermined event;
c. allowing bonus game play if the bonus is enabled;
d. randomly selecting a bonus award is to be paid when the spinning wheel bonus game is played; and
e. indicating the selected bonus award wherein the spinning wheel comes to rest and the award pointer indicates the selected bonus award.
18. The method of claim 17 wherein the predetermined event is the start of base game play.
19. The method of claim 17 wherein bonus game play requires human activation.
20. The method of claim 17 wherein bonus game play is automatically initiated after bonus enablement.
Description
    BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
  • [0001]
    1. Field of the Invention
  • [0002]
    This invention relates to novel methods of providing games of chance having a bonus game. More specifically, it relates to methods of providing games of chance having randomly enabled bonus games with precisely adjustable frequencies of occurrence.
  • [0003]
    2. Description of the Related Art
  • [0004]
    Games of chance such as slot machines, poker and blackjack are well known. In commercial environments these and other games of chance are operated by the “House” for play by customers known as “players”. The operator or House side of the business may be a casino, government lottery, internet gaming site or other enterprise. Players risk a wager value in return for a chance to win an award. Wagers and awards usually have monetary value but wagers may be provided free of charge as inducement to begin play or in a sweepstakes. Games of chance may be implemented with a live person such as a blackjack dealer or through an automated mechanism such as a slot machine or video poker machine.
  • [0005]
    To succeed as a commercial enterprise, the House must entice players to play without paying out more in prizes than is taken in as wagers. The term “payout percentage” describes the ratio of total prizes paid divided by total wagers. A game that pays 850 units for every 1,000 units wagered is said to have a payout percentage of 850/1,000 or 85%. The 150 units not paid in prizes represent gross profit to the operator and the ratio of what is kept by the game divided by the total amount wagered is the “hold percentage”. In this case the hold percentage is 150/1,000=15%. The sum of hold percentage plus payout percentage always equals 100%.
  • [0006]
    A game of chance with 100% payout will return exactly as much in awards as it takes in from wagers. The House cannot commercially survive with a payout percentage of 100% or more as there is nothing left to cover expenses such as rent, electricity and labor and certainly there is no opportunity for profit. Correspondingly, the House cannot profit from a 0% payout, even though it keeps all wagers in that case, because players will not play long if there is no reasonable chance to win. For maximum profit, the House must set overall payout percentages to something under 100%, while still keeping it high enough to maintain player enthusiasm. Table 1 illustrates a day's performance of a hypothetical game of chance set to payback percentage to 80%, 90%, 95% and 99%.
    TABLE 1
    Payout % $ Wagered $ Held
    80% 400 80
    90% 1,000 100
    95% 3,000 150
    99% 10,000 100
  • [0007]
    At 80% payback, players are discouraged by the high rate of loss and only $400 is wagered. The House keeps 20% of that amount or $80. When the payback percentage is increased to 90%, wagers grow to $1,000 because players are more enthused by the increased awards. Even though the House keeps only 10% of all money wagered, the take has grown to $100.
  • [0008]
    When payback is increased to 95%, wagers again grow dramatically and the House holds $150. Raising the payback percentage even further brings diminishing returns. At 99%, total wagers grow to $10,000 but the House only keeps $100—a loss of income when compared to the 95% payout. Modern casinos often operate thousands of games of chance on their gaming floor and even a tiny change in payback percentage can profoundly influence profits. In a casino with 3,000 gaming machines, for example, even a 0.1% change in overall payback percentage could increase, or decrease, profits by millions of dollars annually. Therefore it is highly desirable that games of chance offer the maximum possible flexibility in setting payout percentages.
  • [0009]
    Although players of games of chance often say they play to win, monetary reward is not the sole reason people gamble. In fact, if most players won more than they lost, casinos, lotteries and other operators of games of chance would soon go out of business. Most players simply think of gambling as a form of entertainment and the chance to win awards that exceed wagers is simply part of the fun. One highly successful method of raising entertainment value on games of chance is the “combination game” which consists of a “base game” that is played on every wager and a “bonus game” that is made playable when the base game results in specific predefined outcomes. One example of a combination game is the International Game Technology “Wheel of Fortune®” game that places a mechanical spinning wheel bonus game atop a slot machine base game. Upon each wager, the base game is played and, if a specific outcome is achieved on the base game, the bonus game is enabled.
  • [0010]
    During the bonus game, the player is allowed to spin the bonus wheel, which is divided into segments with an award value assigned to each. An award pointer sits atop the wheel and serves as the award indicator. When the bonus wheel comes to a stop, the player is awarded the value assigned to the segment indicated by the award pointer.
  • [0011]
    Other games of chance may be substituted in place of the bonus wheel, such as slot machines, video poker and games emulating pinball, pachinko, roulette, race cars, race horses, and the like.
  • [0012]
    Combination games preferably utilize sounds and lights to alert surrounding patrons that the bonus game is underway. The player enjoys the attention of being watched by others, especially when the outcome is a winning one. Most bonus games are configured to have no losing outcomes, although it is possible to assign a zero value to one or more specific outcomes. Bonus games generally employ a random generator to determine bonus game outcome. The random generator is usually “weighted” to make some outcomes far more or less likely than others. In this way, bonus games may be implemented with a large award portrayed as one of only a few possible outcomes. For example, a bonus wheel may be divided into ten segments, with one segment assigned a value of $100,000. Without weighting, there would be a one in ten chance of striking the $100,000 award each time the bonus game is played, costing an average of $10,000 per game before considering the cost of the other nine outcomes.
  • [0013]
    Such a large cost per game is impracticable in commercial gaming environments. If the bonus wheel outcome is weighted so the wheel segment worth $100,000 only occurs every 100,000 plays instead of every ten plays, the average cost for this prize is lowered to $1 and the House can still offer the excitement of a large bonus award value, even though that award will rarely occur. It is well known that players enjoy the excitement created by the possibility of a large win, even if the chance of winning the large award is quite remote.
  • [0014]
    The process of merchandising games by offering the possibility of large bonus awards accompanied by the drama of anticipation accompanied by effective sound and light displays heightens the perceived value of game play, thereby providing a more entertaining game for the player and a more profitable game for the House.
  • [0015]
    The frequency with which a bonus game is enabled in traditional combination games is difficult to precisely adjust because bonus game enablement is caused directly by specific outcomes on the base game. For example, consider a three reel slot machine with sixty-four outcomes available on each reel. In this example, the bonus game is enabled when a specific symbol occurs on the third reel, as is common practice in combination game design. If bonus game enablement is assigned to just one of the possible sixty-four outcomes of the third reel, the bonus game occurrence frequency is 1/64 or 1.5625%.
  • [0016]
    To increase frequency, bonus game enablement may be assigned to a second third reel outcome. Now the frequency of occurrence is doubled to 2/64 or 3.125%. Each time a bonus enablement is added to another outcome position, frequency increases again by 1.5625%.
  • [0017]
    Such changes in the frequency of bonus game occurrence bring significant change to the total payback percentage of a combination game. Given that even a 0.1% difference in payback percentage can be important, there is needed a method for more precisely controlling the frequency of bonus game occurrence.
  • [0018]
    Another disadvantage of traditional combination games is that bonus game play can ensue only after the outcome of the base game is known, thereby diminishing opportunities for surprise and entertainment.
  • [0019]
    In sum, a need remains for a method of providing bonus games which allows the House to precisely control the frequency of bonus game enablement and that allows bonus game play before, during or after base game play. Accordingly, an object of my invention is to provide such methods.
  • SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • [0020]
    The present invention provides a method of conducting a game of chance having a bonus game with controllable frequency of occurrence, including the steps of: making a wager to initiate play on a base game; initiating a random bonus enablement which is separate from base game outcome; and allowing bonus game play only if the bonus is enabled.
  • [0021]
    In an alternative embodiment, the present invention provides a method of conducting a game of chance having a bonus game with controllable frequency of occurrence, including the steps of: making a wager to initiate play on a base game, wherein the base game is selected from the group of games consisting of slot machines, video slot machines and video poker machines; initiating a random bonus enablement which is separate from base game outcome wherein random bonus enablement is triggered by the occurrence of a predetermined event; allowing bonus game play only if the bonus is enabled; playing the enabled bonus game by human or time activation; and randomly determining whether a bonus award is to be paid when the bonus game is played.
  • [0022]
    In an another preferred embodiment, the present invention provides a method of conducting a game of chance having a randomly enabled bonus game with precise, controllable frequency of occurrence wherein the game includes a spinning wheel bonus game having multiple award segments and an award pointer, the method including the steps of: making a wager to initiate play on a three-reel slot machine; initiating a random bonus enablement which is separate from base game outcome wherein the bonus enablement is triggered by the start the base game play cycle; enabling bonus game play only if the bonus is enabled; playing the spinning wheel bonus game by human activation; randomly determining whether a bonus award is to be paid when the spinning wheel bonus game played; and indicating a bonus award wherein the spinning wheel comes to rest and the award pointer stops at an award segment corresponding to the randomly determined bonus award.
  • [0023]
    The foregoing and other objects, features, and advantages of the invention will become more readily apparent from the following detailed description of preferred embodiments which proceeds with reference to the drawings.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • [0024]
    FIG. 1 illustrates a prior art combined base game and bonus game.
  • [0025]
    FIG. 2 is a flow chart illustrating the operation of the prior art combined game depicted in FIG. 1.
  • [0026]
    FIG. 3 is a flow chart illustrating the operation of a combined base game and bonus game according to my invention.
  • [0027]
    FIG. 4 illustrates a preferred embodiment of a base game to be combined according to my invention.
  • [0028]
    FIG. 5 is a flow chart illustrating bonus game play prior to base game play according to my invention.
  • [0029]
    FIG. 6 illustrates an alternative embodiment of a bonus game according to my invention.
  • [0030]
    FIG. 7 is an alternative embodiment of my invention illustrating a combined base game and bonus game.
  • [0031]
    FIGS. 8 and 8A depict a diagram illustrating a preferred hardware and software combination according to my invention.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
  • [0032]
    My invention provides a method for precisely controlling the frequency of bonus game occurrence by using a random generator that is separate from base game outcome to determine when the bonus game is enabled for play. This additional random generator is herein referred to as the Bonus Enablement Random Generator (BERG) and is triggered by any one, or any combination of triggers, including, but not limited to: credit deposit occurrence, credit deposit magnitude, credit exhaustion occurrence, wager occurrence, wager magnitude, occurrence of base game play cycle, base game symbol outcome, occurrence of base game win, base game win magnitude, occurrence of a specific time or date, occurrence of a window of time, rate of game play, level of House activity, House evaluation of strength of competing gaming houses, player historical wagering activity, desirability of player, and criteria of performance which have been met by the player.
  • [0033]
    Each time BERG is triggered, its result determines whether or not a bonus game will be enabled. BERG may be configured to have any desired likelihood of enabling the bonus game. In a preferred embodiment the outcome is expressed as a percentage of between 0% and 100%. BERG can be set with great precision, such as 0.001% increments, although random generators of greater or lesser precision may also be utilized.
  • [0000]
    Prior Art Bonus Games:
  • [0034]
    Referring now to FIGS. 1 and 2, I first describe a prior art combined game 100 consisting of base game 110 with three spinning reels 130, each with symbols marked around its circumference. Wagering panel 135 is used to insert funds, make wagers, initiate game play and collect funds. Bonus game 120 sits atop base game 110 and displays nine separate award values 140, each of which is backlit with a light source that can be turned on or off.
  • [0035]
    Game play begins after a player adds credits to the game and places a wager using wagering panel 135. The base game 110 then causes all three of its reels to spin. One by one, each reel 130 comes to a stop. A base game award may be paid depending on what symbol combinations are displayed on the three reels 130 as the outcome of the base game. Certain base game outcome combinations are predetermined to enable bonus game 120, causing the lights behind each award value 140 to turn on and then off in a sequential pattern. Initially the speed with which the lighting sequence proceeds is very fast. Over a period of several seconds, the sequence slows and finally stops with a single award value 140 remaining lit, representing the amount won on the bonus game. The combined awards of base game and bonus game are added to the player's credit account as the game comes to an end. The player may play additional game cycles for so long as his funding allows or he decides to cash out and leave the game.
  • [0036]
    Referring now specifically to FIG. 2, I depict a flowchart showing the sequence of play 200 in a prior art combined game. Player makes a wager 210 and initiates game play 220. A first random generator determines Base Game Outcome (BGO) 230. That base game is displayed (slot reels are shown to spin, for example) to the player at 240 and ends with the display of the predetermined BGO outcome (slot reels come to a stop) 250. The BGO is next compared to one or more Predetermined Bonus Enablements (PBE) 260. If there is no match, the bonus game is not enabled. Any awards won because of the BGO are paid 295 and the game ends.
  • [0037]
    If step 260 determines that BGO equals one of the PBE values, the bonus game is enabled and a second random generator determines boNus Game Outcome NGO 270. The bonus game is displayed to the player 280 and is caused to end with the predetermined NGO outcome 290. Any awards due from either the base or bonus games are paid 295 and the game ends.
  • [0038]
    Although BGO and NGO execution are represented as occurring after base game play begins, either or both could be implemented prior to the start of base game play or at any other time desired, so long as the result of each is known at the time it is needed.
  • [0000]
    Bonus Games with Controllable Frequency of Occurrence:
  • [0039]
    As a first example of my invention, consider the above described prior art combination game of FIGS. 1 and 2, now equipped with the additional random generator of my invention. In this example BERG operation is triggered only by the initiation of the base game play cycle, by which I mean each time the player begins a new game. If an enablement results from BERG execution, a bonus game ensues.
  • [0040]
    Game play begins after a player adds credits to the game and places a wager using wagering panel 135, which initiates the start of base game play and triggers BERG operation. The base game 110 then causes all three of its reels to spin. One by one, each reel 130 comes to a stop. A base game award may be paid depending on what symbol combinations are displayed on the three reels 130 as the outcome of the base game. If BERG execution results in a bonus enablement, bonus game play ensues, causing the lights behind each award value 140 to light in a sequential pattern. Initially the speed with which the lighting sequence proceeds is very fast. Over a period of several seconds, the sequence slows and finally stops with a single award value 140 remaining lit, representing the amount won on the bonus game. The combined awards of base game and bonus game are added to the player's credit account as the game comes to an end. The player may play additional game cycles for so long as his funding allows or he decides to cash in and leave the game.
  • [0041]
    In this example, game play of my invention is identical to that of the prior art combination game play, except that bonus game enablement is determined separately from base game outcome, allowing an enablement frequency selection that is different from the frequency of any base game outcomes. Importantly, changes in bonus game enablement frequency require absolutely no change to the base game outcome determination.
  • [0042]
    Referring now to FIG. 3, I depict a flowchart showing the sequence of play 300 in a combined game that implements my invention. Player makes a wager 310 and initiates game play 320. A first random generator determines Base Game Outcome (BGO) 330 and a second random generator determines Bonus Enablement BE as TRUE (bonus game enabled) or FALSE (bonus game not enabled) 335. Base game play is displayed (slot reels are shown to spin, for example) to the player at 340 and ends with the display of the predetermined BGO outcome (slot reels come to a stop) 350.
  • [0043]
    BE is tested 360 and if BE=FALSE, the bonus game is not enabled. Any awards won because of BGO are paid 395 and the game ends.
  • [0044]
    If step 360 determines that BE=TRUE, the bonus game is enabled and a third random generator determines boNus Game Outcome NGO 370. The bonus game is displayed to the player 380 and is caused to end with the predetermined NGO outcome 390. Any awards due from either the base or bonus games are paid 395 and the game ends.
  • [0045]
    Although BGO and NGO determination are represented as occurring after base game play begins, either or both could be implemented prior to the start of base game play or at any other time desired, so long as the result of each is known at the time it is needed.
  • [0000]
    Bonus Enablement:
  • [0046]
    In a preferred embodiment, the random generator used to determine Bonus Enablement (BE) is of high precision. For example, a Bonus Index (BI) is randomly chosen with equally weighted distribution from the set of integers ranging from 1 to 100,000 and compared against a Threshold Value (TV). If BI is greater than or equal to TV, then BE=TRUE, which thereby enables bonus game play. Otherwise BI is less than TV and BE=FALSE and bonus game play is disabled. Now suppose the desired frequency of bonus game enablement is 13.546%. In other words, for every 100,000 times the combination game is played, the bonus game will be enabled 13,546 times.
  • [0047]
    To achieve this precise enablement frequency, TV is set to a value of 13,546. Since a new BI is randomly chosen with equally weighted distribution from range 1 to 100,000 for each game, the odds of BI<=13,456 are exactly 13.546% for that game. To achieve a bonus game frequency of 4.003%, as another example, TV is set to 4,003. Using this method I can achieve any bonus game frequency between 0 and 100% with a precision of one thousandth of one percent or 0.001%. I can achieve even more precision by expanding the permissible BI range to, for example, 1 to 1,000,000 as representative of 0.0001% to 100.0000%. This scheme of randomly determining bonus enablement, and the precision of frequency with which bonus enablement occurs is only one example. Other schemes may be used, including schemes utilizing non-integer numbers, and adapted to achieve greater or lesser precision as circumstances require. One skilled in the art of designing games of chance will recognize there are many schemes which may be utilized to randomly determine bonus game enablement at any desired frequency with any desired precision.
  • [0048]
    My invention is particularly useful with games of a fixed outcome schedule such as video draw poker in which a deck of a fixed number of cards are used and it is not possible to increase or decrease the set of outcome possibilities. With a separately generated random bonus enablement signal, the bonus game occurrence frequency may still be set to any desired frequency without alteration to the base game's card set.
  • [0000]
    Bonus Game Play Prior to Base Game Play:
  • [0049]
    With my invention, bonus enablement is determinable prior to base game completion and therefore bonus game play can occur before or during base game play as well as after base game play is finished. Referring to FIG. 4, game play begins after a player adds credits to the game and places a wager using wagering panel 435, after which BERG is executed. If bonus enablement occurs, the bonus game is immediately played before base game play is undertaken. Once bonus game play finishes, base game play may ensue. After both bonus and base games are completed, prizes won on either game are paid and the game ends.
  • [0050]
    There are distinct benefits to bonus game play prior to base game play. One is the element of surprise: Players have come to expect bonus game play to occur only after base game play is completed and play that falls out of this expected sequence can enhance entertainment value. Importantly, the bonus game outcome can be used to enhance and dramatize awards later won on the base game.
  • [0051]
    Referring now to FIG. 4, I describe a preferred embodiment of my invention. Wagering panel 435 is used to insert funds, make wagers, initiate game play and collect funds. Bonus game 420 sits atop base game 410 and displays nine separate segments 440. Two of the bonus award segments 440 are multipliers—shown in FIG. 4 as 2× and 5×—instead of award values as depicted in FIG. 1, previously described, each of which is backlit with a light source that can be turned on or off.
  • [0052]
    Game play begins after a player adds credits to the game and places a wager using wagering panel 435. The base game 410 then causes all three of its reels to spin. One by one, each reel 430 comes to a stop. A base game award may be paid depending on what symbol combinations are displayed on the three reels 430 as the outcome of the base game.
  • [0053]
    When bonus game play results in winning either of the multiplier values (2× or 5×), the value of any winnings that later occur on the base game play are multiplied by the given amount. For example, bonus game play precedes base game play and results in a 5× win. Base game play is then completed and ends in an award of 100 credits. Because of the bonus game multiplier, the player is paid 5× that amount or 500 credits. Of course, the base game might result in a non-winning outcome, in which case the 5× multiplier won on the bonus game is of no value. The combined awards of base game and bonus game are added to the player's credit account as the game comes to an end. The player may play additional game cycles for so long as his funding allows or until he decides to cash out and leave the game. Players are entertained by the enhanced drama of learning the base game outcome after knowing that a multiplier award has already been won and that any winnings on the base game will be paid with a larger award.
  • [0054]
    Referring now to FIG. 5, I describe an alternative embodiment of my invention. Flowchart 500 illustrates bonus game play prior to base game play. Player makes a wager 510 and initiates game play 520. A first random generator determines Base Game Outcome (BGO) 530 and a second random generator determines Bonus Enablement BE as TRUE (bonus game enabled) or FALSE (bonus game not enabled) 535. BE is tested 540 and if BE=TRUE, a third random generator determines Bonus Game Outcome (NGO) 550, after which the bonus game play is displayed 560 followed by display of the NGO 570. Next, base game play is displayed 580 followed by a display of BGO. Any awards due from either the base or bonus games are paid 595 and the game ends.
  • [0055]
    If at step 540, BE=FALSE, no bonus game play is executed and control passes to 580 where the base game play is displayed followed by presentation of BGO 590 and award payment 595.
  • [0056]
    With my invention it is possible to play the bonus game even while base game play is underway. For example, all three reels of the base game begin to spin after base game play begins. If a bonus game enablement has occurred, the base game reels could continue to spin without stopping while bonus game play ensues. As another example, if a video draw poker machine is used as the base game, bonus game play could ensue after the “deal” hand appears and before the “draw” function is completed. A wide variety of such variations are possible on video slots, mechanical reel slots, video draw poker, live tables games and other games of chance because in my invention, bonus game enablement is determined before base game play is completed.
  • [0000]
    Types of Bonus Games and Base Games:
  • [0057]
    Any type of game of chance may be used as the base game and any type of game of chance may be used as the bonus game. For example, the base game can be selected from the group of consisting of slot machines, video poker machines, video slot machines, live table games and other games of chance. Although any game of chance can be used, I prefer to use a video slot machine, three-spinning-reel slot machine, or video poker machine as the base game for my invention.
  • [0058]
    In one embodiment of my invention, I use a first instance of a specific type of game of chance as the base game and an identical but separate instance of that specific type of game of chance as the bonus game. For example, I can use a spinning three reel slot machine as the base game and use another identical spinning three reel slot machine as the bonus game. In a preferred embodiment of my invention, I use one specific type of game of chance as the base game and an entirely different type of game of chance as the bonus game. For example, I can use a video slot game, such as the M9000 model manufactured by Bally Gaming of Las Vegas Nev., as the base game and a mechanical spinning wheel such as that used in the IGT Game King “Wheel of Fortune® Special Edition™ Video Slots Money Spin™” as the bonus game.
  • [0059]
    In a preferred embodiment, the bonus game outcome display is implemented as a physical entity completely separate from the base game outcome display, with both displays mounted in a common cabinet as depicted in FIG. 4.
  • [0060]
    When a changeable display, such as a video screen is used to display the base game outcome, that same display may also be used to present the bonus game either by utilizing a reserved area of the display for bonus game presentation or by allowing the bonus game to appear in place of the base game while the bonus game is enabled. One skilled in the art of designing games of chance will recognize there are many other methods of sharing a common display to present both the base and bonus games are possible.
  • [0061]
    Bonus games may be live games that utilize a human dealer or attendant or machine based games such as slot machines or video poker games. In a preferred embodiment, the bonus game is a simpler game with fewer outcomes than the base game. An example of a simple bonus game is the nine outcome bonus game 420 illustrated in FIG. 4.
  • [0062]
    Referring now to FIG. 6, I describe another preferred embodiment of my invention: a bonus game, which is a mechanical spinning wheel 600 divided into eight award segments 620. Each segment 620 is assigned an award value. During bonus game play, the wheel spins or rotates and then slows and stops. The bonus award is indicated on the segment that comes to rest directly beneath award pointer 630; for example an award value of 75 as shown in FIG. 6.
  • [0063]
    Alternately, I can implement the bonus wheel as a video representation of a spinning wheel. Or I may implement the bonus wheel as a fixed wheel with backlit segments, wherein the lighting of each segment is turned on and off in sequence around the wheel so as to indicate the selection process as a simulation of a rotating mechanical wheel.
  • [0064]
    Other bonus wheel implementations that can be used with my invention utilize a moving pointer that rotates about a fixed wheel or a rotating pointer that rotates about a rotating wheel. Still other bonus wheels utilize multiple pointers which are alternately selected during bonus game play with one pointer arbitrarily left active at the end of the game. In other multiple pointer implementations, two or more pointers remain active at the end of a bonus game and the player wins the higher of the awards indicated or even the sum of all the awards indicated.
  • [0065]
    Simple bonus game indicators may be implemented as award values placed along a single horizontal or vertical line or arranged about the circumference of a geometric shape. Alternatively, bonus award indicators may be arranged in any pattern or placed randomly within a sign or other container. Bonus indicators may contain numbers that indicate award amounts, numbers that indicate a multiplier value or both. Also, the bonus indicators may contain any combination of symbols that indicate a prize, such as a car, or that require reference to another schedule to determine the actual award. For example, a money bag symbol could be used to represent a progressive jackpot of an ever-changing value which is indicated elsewhere, or a star or other symbol could represent a different kind of prize such as a coupon for a free meal.
  • [0066]
    The bonus game may be represented by standard casino games such as blackjack, roulette, craps, slot machines, and the like. Many non-traditional casino games have been used as bonus games that are activated by the outcome of the base game and are equally useful with my invention. These non-traditional games include race cars where the winning car dictates the award, race horse games, pachinko machines, pinball machines and board games such as Monopoly®, Battleship®, Yahtzee® and the like. Depictions of game show games may also be used. In sum, any sort of game which begins with at least two possible outcomes and ends with the indication of a prize which consists of less than all possible outcomes can be used beneficially with my invention.
  • [0067]
    Those of ordinary skill in the art of designing games of chance will recognize that a wide variety of bonus games, bonus selection indicators and bonus displays are desirable according to the goals of the House operating the game and all are applicable to this invention.
  • [0068]
    Referring now to FIG. 7, I describe another preferred embodiment of my invention. The base game is a video slot machine 710 offering a five reel game with three pay lines. An eight segment bonus wheel 720 is mounted atop the base game.
  • [0000]
    Bonus Game Activation:
  • [0069]
    When the bonus game is enabled, it may automatically play, either immediately, or after a player action, or after a time delay. For example, a randomly enabled bonus wheel game is placed above a video poker machine. If the bonus game is enabled by the BERG, bonus game play automatically ensues immediately after the base game reaches the point in play sequence at which the bonus game is to be played. Alternately, a time delay may be built in after the base game reaches the point in play sequence at which the bonus game is to be played in order to allow the player, and the audience around, to recognize that a bonus game play is about to occur. Sound and lighting may be used to enhance the drama of the approaching bonus game play.
  • [0070]
    In a preferred embodiment, an enabled bonus game does not begin play until an action occurs such as the player, or a casino employee, pressing a button to consummate bonus game play. When player action is required to initiate bonus game play, it can impart a feeling of control as the player determines exactly when the bonus game is played. A timer may be utilized to automatically consummate bonus game play, or simply cancel bonus game play, if the required human action does not occur within a reasonable time. One of ordinary skill in the art of designing games of chance will recognize there are many actions that can be utilized to consummate play on an enabled bonus game.
  • [0000]
    Adding Credits and Placing Wagers:
  • [0071]
    Players may obtain play credits for the base game by a variety of methods. For example, if the base game is a table game, the player may buy chips from a dealer. If the base game is a machine, the player may insert coins, tokens or paper currency, in any combination allowed by the House, to add credits to the machine. If the House allows it, the player may also use an account instrument such as a credit card or debit card, biometric identifier or other such device to transfer amounts from an account outside the casino to the game to be played. If allowed by the House, the player may also transfer funds from a casino account by using a coupon, player card biometric identifier or other device. If the House is running a sweepstakes, the player may add credit to the machine by entering a code or using a coupon or other such instrument.
  • [0072]
    Once credit is obtained, the player may utilize a variety of means to apply those credits to a specific wager. If the game is a live table game, for example, the player may place one or more chips in each of one or more specific play areas on the game's play field to represent his wager. In roulette, for example, the player may place a stack of five $10 chips on the number 12 to specify a wager of $50 on that number 12.
  • [0073]
    When the base game is a machine, it is standard practice to equip the machine with a variety of betting buttons such as “bet one” and “bet maximum”. Each time the player presses the bet one button, another unit of credit is transferred to the wager. A single press of the maximum bet button transfers the maximum allowed number of credits to the wager. Many gaming machines offer multiple wagering opportunities, such as multiple betting lines that increase the chances of winning in return for bigger wagers. Buttons or other mechanisms are provided on such machines to allow player selection of the specific wager placements desired. One of ordinary skill in the art of designing games of chance will recognize there are a wide variety of methods by which to add credits to a game and place wagers and that all such methods are compatible with my invention.
  • [0000]
    Bonus Game Award Payment:
  • [0074]
    Bonus awards are preferably paid in addition to any awards won on the base game. In some instances it may be desirable to pay the bonus game award and cancel the base game and its award or to cancel the bonus game award and pay only the base game award. Bonus game awards are preferably paid through the same payment mechanism utilized by the base game. A typical method adds credits won on either the base or bonus game to the machine's credit balance. To cash out the credit balance, a player generally will press a “Collect” button to transfer the credit balance to coins, currency, coupons or electronic account. One of ordinary skill in the art of designing games of chance will recognize there are a wide variety of methods by which to award payments and cash out credits and that all such methods are compatible with my invention.
  • [0000]
    Implementing the Invention:
  • [0075]
    The current best means of implementing my invention is through an electronic system with a software controlled computer. Such systems are commonly used and well known to those of ordinary skill in the art of designing games of chance. In my invention, it may be desirable, for cost and packaging considerations, to implement the base game and the bonus game on a single computer platform. The hardware and software used to implement this invention is unimportant so long as the base game outcome and the bonus game enablement are separately determined.
  • [0076]
    Referring now to FIGS. 8 and 8A, I describe a hardware and software combination that I prefer to use to implement my invention. A video slot machine 810 is the base game and a mechanical wheel indicator 890 is the bonus game. The base game Central Processing Unit (CPU) 812 executes program code which was copied into Random Access Memory (RAM) 884 at startup from NonVolatile Random Access Memory (NVRAM) 886. NVRAM 886 may be constructed of rotating disk media, Read Only Memory, Flash memory, battery backed RAM or other technologies. RAM 884 is also used to hold data and program variables during CPU operations.
  • [0077]
    The base game is presented to players on display screen 880. Images are rendered by graphics processor 882, which operates under control of CPU 812. Players add gaming credits through either the currency and coupon acceptor 820 or coin acceptor 822. The currency and coupon acceptor communicates with the CPU through serial port 821. Coin acceptor 822 communicates with the CPU via Input/Output Interface 823.
  • [0078]
    Players specify wager amounts through the Bet One Credit switch button 824 and Bet Maximum Credit switch button 826. Base game play is initiated by pressing Play switch button 828. Bonus game play is initiated through switch button 830. Sounds for both the base and bonus games are created under CPU 812 control and output via Audio processor 850 and Audio speaker 855. Lights 860, to emphasize both base and bonus game play, are also controlled by CPU 812 via Input/Output Interface 823.
  • [0079]
    Before game play commences, the player inserts currency or coupons through Currency and Coupon Acceptor 820 or through coin acceptor 822. The CPU executes program steps to convert these inputs to credits which are stored in RAM and displayed to the player on Display 880. To begin game play, the player makes a wager by pressing the Bet 1 credit switch button 824 one or more times. The player may choose to make a maximum wager by pressing the Maximum Bet switch button 826 one time. Credits wagered on the upcoming game are decremented from the player's credit balance and added to the game wager value. After the desired wager is placed, the player presses Play switch button 828.
  • [0080]
    Program steps executed by CPU 812 randomly determines base game outcome and separately randomly determines bonus game enablement through BERG execution. If the bonus game is not enabled, the base game plays without interruption and results in the randomly determined base game outcome. If that outcome is a winning one, an appropriate number of credits are added to the player account and displayed on Display 880, and the game ends.
  • [0081]
    If the bonus game is enabled, CPU 812 will interrupt base game play and notify the player that the bonus game is active. The player activates play on the bonus game in this example by pressing the Bonus Spin switch button 830. CPU 812 executes program steps which randomly determine the bonus game outcome and sends that information, along with a bonus game activation signal, to the bonus game controller 891 via serial port 888. The bonus controller is implemented with a separate microcomputer such as the Renesas H8/332, a single chip computer that includes RAM, Nonvolatile memory and Input/Output Interface circuitry (not shown).
  • [0082]
    Upon receipt of a bonus game activation signal, the. Bonus Game Controller 891 causes bonus wheel 896 to spin by applying electrical power through interface circuitry (not shown) to direct current electric motor 892 which is mechanically coupled to bonus wheel 896. The bonus game controller 892 senses the position of bonus wheel 896 through a position sensing encoder 894. After bonus wheel 896 has spun for several rotations, the Bonus Game Controller 891 causes the wheel to slow its rotational speed by gradually reducing and then completely removing electrical power applied to motor 892. This is done in order to simulate a mechanical wheel which, due to friction, slows and then ultimately stops.
  • [0083]
    When the bonus game controller 891 senses the specific bonus wheel segment 897 which represents the randomly determined bonus game outcome is aligned with indicator 898, the bonus game controller turns off the motor and thereby stops the bonus wheel at the desired position, bonus game controller 891 signals CPU 812 via serial port 888 that the wheel has stopped. CPU 812 executes program steps to complete base game play (if it has not already been completed) and then add the number of credits won on the base game and the number of credits won on the bonus game to the credit balance and displays the updated total to the player. The combination game is then ready for a new wager and a new game.
  • [0084]
    As will be obvious to one skilled in the art of designing games of chance, the bonus game outcome could be determined by bonus game controller 891 instead of CPU 812. In this instance CPU 812 would signal the bonus game controller 891 that the bonus game is enabled and the bonus game controller 891 would determine the bonus game outcome, spin the bonus wheel 896 and stop it in the position representing the randomly determined outcome. Bonus game controller 891 would then signal CPU 812 that the bonus game is completed and provide information about the amount won, which the CPU would add to the player's credit totals.
  • [0085]
    It is also possible for bonus game controller 891 to determine both bonus game enablement and bonus game outcome. In the embodiment, CPU 812 signals bonus game controller 891 that a new game is underway. Bonus game controller 891 then executes software logic to determine if the bonus game is enabled and signals CPU 812 so the base game can be paused if the bonus game is to be played prior to completion of base game play.
  • [0086]
    It is also possible to eliminate the Bonus Game controller 891 by driving Motor 492 directly from CPU 812 through additional interface circuitry (not shown). Such an arrangement would reduce cost by eliminating the components needed to implement a Bonus Game Controller but would place an additional burden on CPU 812, which may already be busy implementing base game functions. A person of ordinary skill in the art of designing games of chance will recognize that the examples just given are only a few of many possible implementations of this invention. The specific method of implementation is unimportant to this invention, so long as bonus game enablement is determined by a random generator that is separate from the base game outcome.
  • [0087]
    Returning to FIG. 8, CPU 812 may enable the bonus game at any time after the wager is made, including before, during or after base game play.
  • [0088]
    While I believe electronic computers are the current best means of implementing my invention, other means may be used, including but not limited to; optical computers, gated logic, analog computers, and other such mechanisms. Live games may be adapted as either the base game, bonus game, or both, so long as the bonus game initiation is controlled by events independent of the base game outcome.
  • [0000]
    Additional Bonus Enablement Triggers:
  • [0089]
    In all above discussed examples and explanations, BERG (Bonus Enablement Random Generator) execution has been triggered only by the start of a new game play cycle. It is possible to trigger BERG by a variety of other occurrences as well, including but not limited to: credit deposit occurrence, credit deposit magnitude, credit exhaustion occurrence, credit cash out, wager occurrence, wager magnitude, occurrence of base game play cycle, base game symbol outcome, occurrence of base game win, occurrence of base game loss, base game win magnitude, occurrence of a specific time or date, occurrence of a window of time, rate of game play, level of House activity, House evaluation of strength of competing gaming houses, player historical wagering activity, evaluated desirability of player, and performance criteria which have been met by the player.
  • [0090]
    The credit deposit occurrence and/or credit deposit magnitude provide incentives to place register credits on a game. For example, a BERG with a 50.00% chance of enabling the bonus game could be triggered each time a new deposit of $20 or more was placed into a game, as a way to encourage larger wager amounts. Using light and sound and any available video display, the game could inform the player that a bonus game is available. The player can receive the bonus game immediately or the player can be required to wager on a base game before the bonus game becomes available.
  • [0091]
    Credit exhaustion occurs when the player has spent all funds that have been deposited into a game or has only a predefined number of credits remaining on the game: for example 5 credits remaining. When this event is used as a BERG trigger, it provides an incentive for the player to insert additional funds. For example, a player that has just spent her last credit receives a message that a bonus game is available. She has only to insert new credits into the game and make a wager to play the bonus game and collect its award. Alternatively, the player can be given the additional bonus game without requirement of making a new wager. In this case, the bonus game is a kind of thank you for playing and is useful to end a losing wagering session on a note of good-will.
  • [0092]
    Credit cash out occurs when a player chooses to remove all remaining credits from the game. This often occurs because a player perceives the machine as “cold” or not paying awards at a sufficient frequency. Randomly offering a bonus game enablement upon credit cash out is useful to provide incentive for players to again play the machine.
  • [0093]
    Wager occurrence and wager magnitude may be used as BERG triggers to randomly award bonus games based upon wagers made and size of wagers made. For example, a BERG may be triggered only when a maximum credit wager is made.
  • [0094]
    Occurrence of base game play cycle is useful when providing a random chance of bonus enablement on each game played. This is the trigger utilized in the preceding discussion of BERG operation as exemplified by FIG. 5.
  • [0095]
    Base game symbol outcome may be used to trigger a random bonus enablement selection is especially useful on games which utilize a fixed set of outcomes, such as a deck of cards. In five card video draw poker with 53 cards (a 52 card deck and one joker), for example, the odds of being dealt a “two pair” hand are one in 19.7 hands or 4.83%. In this example, a combination game is used which offers an average award of 50 units for each bonus game played so the average bonus game cost per game played (regardless of game outcome) is 50 units×4.83%=2.4 units. However, the overall House budget allows only a 2 credit per game bonus game cost. By using each occurrence of a dealt “two pair” hand, as a stimulus for a BERG with an 83.333% probability of bonus enablement, the 2 unit cost per game is achieved (2.4 units×83.333%=2 units). This is but one example of my invention's usefulness to scale award values on fixed outcome possibility games (such as video draw poker) to fit House defined award budgets.
  • [0096]
    Those skilled in the art of designing games of chance will find the following trigger stimuli also useful, whether used alone or in combination, to achieve specific game marketing goals while achieving a desired overall payout percentage budget:
  • [0097]
    Occurrence of base game win event. A win of a specific size occurs: 25 units for example.
  • [0098]
    Occurrence of base game win of a comparative magnitude: A win occurs that is greater than, or less than a particular amount: A win of 25 units or greater, or a win of 10 units or less, for example.
  • [0099]
    Occurrence of a sequence of base game wins: Three winning base game outcomes in a row, for example.
  • [0100]
    Occurrence of a sequence of base game wins with a total of a comparative magnitude: A series of wins within a specified number of games that cumulatively total at least a specified threshold. For example, winning at least 200 units within a seven game period. This requirement is met with successive game wins of 0, 20, 0,100, 50, 0, 50 because the total win over the seven games is 220 units, which is greater than 200. The requirement is also met with a sequence of 250, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0 because the first award of 250 units surpasses the total. Any combination of awards that meets threshold criteria over any specified number of games may be used, including a trigger stimuli that occurs when a sequence of wins totals less than a predetermined threshold.
  • [0101]
    Occurrence of base game loss: A trigger stimulus could be generated after each base game loss outcome.
  • [0102]
    Occurrence of a sequential number of base game losses: Having five game in a row of losses, for example.
  • [0103]
    Count of base games played since occurrence of an event: At least twenty games played since the last time a bonus game occurred, for example,
  • [0104]
    Occurrence of a specific time or date and occurrence of a window of time: Times or dates can be used alone—a BERG with a 10% likelihood of enablement is triggered once at the top of each hour—or in combination with other trigger stimuli. For example, weekday mornings are traditionally slow times at many casinos. During this time a BERG offering a 12% likelihood of bonus game enablement for every 50 credits wagered
  • [0105]
    Rate of game play: completion of at least thirty games within a five minute period, for example.
  • [0106]
    Level of House activity. If play within the gaming venue, such as a casino, is slow, new BERGs that are stimulated by any combination of triggers could be enabled in order to stimulate play. Conversely, when play levels climb above a specific threshold, other BERGs could be disabled to lower overall payments during times when play demand is at maximum.
  • [0107]
    House evaluation of competing gaming houses: If a particular gaming venue perceives they are at a competitive disadvantage to competing venues, BERGs can be enabled to raise payout percentages and thereby stimulate play. Conversely, if a particular gaming venue perceives that it is in an advantageous position, it could lower the number of triggers that stimulate BERGs and/or lower the probability that a particular BERG would enable a bonus game event.
  • [0108]
    Player historical wagering activity. Many gaming venues maintain a history of player actions. If a player's past activity warrants, BERG's may be enabled or disabled and/or altered in probability of bonus game enablement.
  • [0109]
    Evaluated desirability of a player: A gaming venue may want to provide more, or fewer bonus enablement opportunities—by altering the number of BERGs in use, the triggers used to stimulate them and the probability that any given BERG would result in a bonus enablement—based upon a player's reputation, even if the player has no prior wagering history with the gaming venue.
  • [0110]
    Performance criteria which have been met by a player. Gaming venues often keep detailed records of player activity. Any such activity may be used to directly trigger a BERG and/or enable BERGs that are triggered by other stimuli and/or alter the likelihood that any BERG action will result in a bonus game enablement.
  • [0111]
    Each event stimuli can be assigned its own BERG and the player receives the sum of all. For example, a game could offer a randomly occurring bonus game enablement of 35% triggered by each base game play cycle, a randomly occurring bonus game enablement of 80% triggered by a specific base game symbol outcome, and a randomly occurring bonus game enablement of 27.52% after each five minutes of continuous play in which total wagers by the player exceed $100.
  • [0112]
    It is desirable to use a BERG to randomly determine bonus game enablement after a repetitive event such as credit exhaustion to prevent the event from being entirely predictable as it would be if a bonus game were awarded after each credit exhaustion event. It is also sometimes useful to use one trigger occurrence to modify the BERG probability of another event. For example, a casino wishes to provide a 75% chance of a free bonus game each time a player exhausts her credits. However, if she does not wager on at least 20 base game occurrences prior to credit exhaustion, the probability drops to zero. This prevents players from purposely depositing only small amounts of credits into a game in order to acquire more bonus games for frequent credit exhaustion. One skilled in the art of designing games of chance will recognize there are many useful ways to utilize various stimuli such as those just described to in combination and alone to serve as triggers for BERG activation and to modify the likelihood that any given BERG activation will result in an enablement outcome.
  • [0113]
    As will be readily apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art of designing games of chance, my invention is useful with games of chance operated in casinos or in networked game of chance environments such as internet casinos or lottery games. My invention is also beneficial when used in games implemented for sweepstakes or home entertainment purposes, whether or not monetary wagers are made.
  • [0114]
    Having illustrated and described the principles of my invention in preferred embodiments thereof, it should be readily apparent to those skilled in the art that my invention can be modified in arrangement and detail without departing from such principles. I claim all modifications coming within the spirit and scope of the accompanying claims.
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Classifications
U.S. Classification463/16
International ClassificationA63F9/24
Cooperative ClassificationG07F17/32
European ClassificationG07F17/32
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
27 Mar 2009ASAssignment
Owner name: BALLY GAMING INC., NEVADA
Free format text: SECURITY AGREEMENT;ASSIGNOR:ACRES-FIORE PATENTS, FORMERLY KNOWN AS ACRES-FIORE, INC.;REEL/FRAME:022462/0367
Effective date: 20090326
Owner name: BALLY GAMING INC.,NEVADA
Free format text: SECURITY AGREEMENT;ASSIGNOR:ACRES-FIORE PATENTS, FORMERLY KNOWN AS ACRES-FIORE, INC.;REEL/FRAME:022462/0367
Effective date: 20090326
11 Sep 2012ASAssignment
Owner name: PATENT INVESTMENT & LICENSING COMPANY, FORMERLY KN
Free format text: RELEASE BY SECURED PARTY;ASSIGNOR:BALLY GAMING INC.;REEL/FRAME:028938/0677
Effective date: 20120827