US20090005150A1 - Slot machine tournament apparatus and method - Google Patents

Slot machine tournament apparatus and method Download PDF

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Publication number
US20090005150A1
US20090005150A1 US11824302 US82430207A US2009005150A1 US 20090005150 A1 US20090005150 A1 US 20090005150A1 US 11824302 US11824302 US 11824302 US 82430207 A US82430207 A US 82430207A US 2009005150 A1 US2009005150 A1 US 2009005150A1
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Prior art keywords
player
players
tournament
apparatus
game
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Abandoned
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US11824302
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Brian D. Haveson
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LIGHTNING POKER Inc
PokerMatic Inc
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PokerMatic Inc
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    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07FCOIN-FREED OR LIKE APPARATUS
    • G07F17/00Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services
    • G07F17/32Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services for games, toys, sports or amusements, e.g. casino games, online gambling or betting
    • G07F17/3202Hardware aspects of a gaming system, e.g. components, construction, architecture thereof
    • G07F17/3204Player-machine interfaces
    • G07F17/3211Display means
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07FCOIN-FREED OR LIKE APPARATUS
    • G07F17/00Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services
    • G07F17/32Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services for games, toys, sports or amusements, e.g. casino games, online gambling or betting
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07FCOIN-FREED OR LIKE APPARATUS
    • G07F17/00Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services
    • G07F17/32Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services for games, toys, sports or amusements, e.g. casino games, online gambling or betting
    • G07F17/3202Hardware aspects of a gaming system, e.g. components, construction, architecture thereof
    • G07F17/3216Construction aspects of a gaming system, e.g. housing, seats, ergonomic aspects
    • G07F17/322Casino tables, e.g. tables having integrated screens, chip detection means
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07FCOIN-FREED OR LIKE APPARATUS
    • G07F17/00Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services
    • G07F17/32Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services for games, toys, sports or amusements, e.g. casino games, online gambling or betting
    • G07F17/326Game play aspects of gaming systems
    • G07F17/3272Games involving multiple players
    • G07F17/3276Games involving multiple players wherein the players compete, e.g. tournament

Abstract

An amusement gaming apparatus for conducting tournaments having a plurality of player stations for playing a slot-machine-type game. Each player station has a display and user interface controls for providing inputs to the player station. A controller allows each player station to participate in the tournament and provides a display showing progress of each game at each respective players' display. A common display provides a visual display representing progress of all participants. The common display is positioned to provide all players at the player stations substantially similar and easy viewing of the common display. The computer messages all aspects of the tournament.

Description

    FIELD OF INVENTION
  • The present invention relates to slot machines used for entertainment gaming activities and more particularly to slot machine method and apparatus for tournament applications.
  • BACKGROUND
  • Slot machines find widespread use in gaming establishments and other like facilities and typically encompass a wide variety of different games and/or objectives. For example, slot machines may provide any one of a variety of “wins” during a single play, such as by aligning one (1) or more symbols or other indicia, monetary of otherwise.
  • Alternatively the slot machine may be configured to play a game such as poker, blackjack or the like.
  • Then uses of the type described above have operated slot tournaments wherein a number of players, each provided with an individual play station, compete against one another. A game computer determines a winner or winners from among the competing players and awards of play out to the winner or winner based on a predetermined schedule at the end of the tournament.
  • In present day slot tournaments the competing players have no idea as to their rank or position as the tournament progresses and are not aware of the winners and/or rank until the tournament is over. As a result, tournaments presently in use at lack a display which enables the players to know their position relative to all other participants at any time during the progress of the tournament, which would otherwise contribute heightening of the excitement and contribute to the energy and drive of the individual players if such capabilities were to be provided.
  • SUMMARY
  • The present invention accomplishes these objectives by providing an electronic slot machine apparatus and method for managing an electronic slot tournament game engaged in by a plurality of players. In one preferred embodiment, a table or other like surface is provided for supporting a plurality of individual player stations incorporating electronic slot machines with video representations such as video generated reels or poker games, a substantially centrally located display and a game computer.
  • In one preferred embodiment, the individual player positions are arranged at spaced locations about the table, each player position incorporating a player interface enabling interaction with the player at the position. A common display is arranged to display information easily visible to all of the participating players at the table. The game computer interfaces with the individual player stations and the common display for managing the tournament. The common display is configured to present the progress of each player in relation to the other players participating in the tournament and is created in such a manner as to present both an aesthetically pleasing display as well as one which is easily understood by the players and enables the players to quickly determine their rank or position in the tournament as play progresses.
  • The display may take a variety of forms which are analogous to other sports or games, enabling each player to easily identify the indicia associated with the player and to determine his position or rank as the tournament progresses and further to identify the other players leading or trailing his place in the tournament. For example, each player may be assigned a different color or a different icon such as a geometric figure, a likeness of an animate object (a person, an animal, etc.) or an inanimate object (such as a car, building, airplane, etc.).
  • The common display employing the indicia for each player may present the relative progress of the players in the form of a racetrack which may either be a straight line or an oval-shaped race track having an easily identifiable “start” and “finish” line with the indicia being moved about the track by the tournament game computer. Alternatively, a number may be closely associated with the indicia representing each player wherein the number changes according to the rank of each player as play progresses.
  • The tournament computer may be utilized to provide a number of different functions related to the tournament play to enhance and heighten the interest and excitement in the tournament such as modifying the rate of play. Alternatively, the tournament computer may provide for recess intervals, and/or providing players at two (2) or more tables to be moved to another table in tournaments where players are dropped at various levels or points during tournament play in tournaments where the number of players participating require two (2) tables and the remaining players are moved to one of the two tables as other players are dropped from the tournament.
  • The tournament computer may also provide players with an opportunity to choose a refreshment or to be apprised of other upcoming tournaments or other information, preferably during start-up of the tournament as well as at various intervals during tournament play.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING(S)
  • A more detailed understanding of the invention may be derived from the following description, given by way of example and to be understood in conduction with the accompanying drawings, wherein like elements are designated by like numerals, and wherein:
  • FIG. 1 is a perspective view of one embodiment of the present invention;
  • FIG. 2 is a use case diagram of the amusement gaming system of FIG. 1;
  • FIG. 3 is a class diagram for player, game, rules, and tournament classes for the amusement gaming system of FIG. 1;
  • FIG. 4 is a class and subclass diagram for determining the rate of play for the amusement gaming system of FIG. 1;
  • FIG. 5 is an activity diagram for the set rate use case for the amusement gaming system of FIG. 1;
  • FIG. 6 is an activity diagram for the debit award points use case for the amusement gaming system of FIG. 1;
  • FIG. 7 is an activity diagram for a select sponsor use case for the amusement gaming system of FIG. 1;
  • FIGS. 8A and 8B show two embodiments of the common display which are adaptable for use in the tournament apparatus of the present invention;
  • FIG. 9 is an example of a Graphical User Interface (GUI) showing a title/opening screen for use with the amusement gaming system of FIG. 1;
  • FIG. 10 is an example of a GUI showing a keypad interface screen for use with the amusement gaming system of FIG. 1;
  • FIG. 11 is an example of a GUI showing a user interface/game screen for use with the amusement gaming system of FIG. 1;
  • FIG. 12 is an example of a GUI showing an alternative embodiment of a keypad interface screen for use with the amusement gaming system of FIG. 1;
  • FIG. 13 is an example of a GUI showing a last hand review screen for use with the amusement gaming system of FIG. 1;
  • FIG. 14 is an example of a GUI showing a player option menu screen implemented in the amusement gaming system of FIG. 1;
  • FIG. 15 is an example of a GUI showing an operator's options menu screen for use with the amusement gaming system of FIG. 1; and
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT(S)
  • Although the features and elements of the present invention are described in the preferred embodiments in particular combinations, each feature or element can be used alone (without the other features and elements of the preferred embodiments) or in various combinations with or without other features and elements of the present invention.
  • As used herein a slot machine includes, but is not limited to, a mechanical or electromechanical or all electric slot machine and includes a display and a player operated user interface.
  • FIG. 1 is a perspective view of one embodiment of the present invention.
  • FIG. 1 shows an embodiment 10 of the present invention comprising a table 12 provided with a plurality of player stations.
  • Table 12 includes player locations 11 for players to sit at and play. Referring to FIG. 1, player locations 11 each have an individual display 15 that is preferably built into the table. Alternatively, the individual displays 15 may be removable, movable, or independent of the table 12. Also, at substantially the center of the table 12 there is a common display 17 for displaying the progress of all players in the tournament as well as community information, which is information concerning aspects of the game that must be displayed to all players. As one example, in the game of Texas Hold'em poker, community information includes, but is not limited to, the flop, the turn, the river, the amount of money in the pot. The table top 13 allows players to rest drinks or food at the table. In one embodiment, the area of the tabletop 13 is preferably made larger than that shown in FIG. 1 so that players have additional room for food and beverages.
  • The individual displays 15 need not all be the same type and/or size. Preferably, the individual displays 15 are embedded within the table 12, such that all or a significant portion of the individual displays 15 are below the tabletop 13 of the table 12. As shown in FIG. 1, the individual displays 15 are preferably angled, such that the upper surfaces thereof slope downwardly and outwardly toward the outer edge of the table 12. Such a configuration helps to ensure that only the player at that particular seat is able to view the content and images displayed on the corresponding individual display 15. In another embodiment, the upper surface of the individual displays 15 is even or flush with the tabletop 13 of the table 12. In yet another embodiment, the upper surface of the individual displays 15 resides completely below the tabletop 13 of the table 12. A player uses the individual display 15 at his designated seat to view, follow, participate and otherwise interact with game play at the table 12. The two types of displays, i.e., the common display 17, and the individual displays 15, each have Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs) associated therewith. The setup of the GUIs for these screens is controlled by establishment owners, at least so that information such as advertising opportunities are maximized. Alternatively, the amusement gaming system 10 allows users to customize their individual displays 15, but not the common display 17. Associated with each of the individual displays 15 at table 12 is an input device 19, such as a video-type or computer-type touch screen mechanism. In another embodiment, the input device 19 is a keyboard (with one of a telephone-type key array and/or keys assigned to specific functions), mouse or rollerball (not shown). Those skilled in the art will recognize that there are many possible input devices that are suitable for use with the amusement gaming system 10.
  • FIGS. 9-14 depict various representative GUIs which allow the user to interact with the amusement gaming system 10. The features of the GUIs associated with the individual displays 15 are described in greater detail below.
  • The common display 17 may be controlled by the management computer to display other information such as upcoming tournaments, recesses/intermissions, reassignment of player positions relative to the play stations 11, advertising, forms of entertainment, available food and beverage selections, and the like.
  • One or more tables may be connected via hardwire, Internet, intranet or other local network or electronic exchange mechanisms. Some of these capabilities are described in greater detail in copending U.S. application Ser. No. 11/788,601 filed Apr. 20, 2007, now U.S. Pat. No. (left blank) assigned to the assignee of this application.
  • By connecting multiple tables 12 via the intranet 20 and/or the Internet 26, tournaments can be organized between different tables. The Internet 26 or other electronic exchange mechanism allows for larger tournaments than just one table 12.
  • The amusement gaming system 10 has several modes of operation in respect to the organization of games. An example of the first mode of operation of the amusement gaming system 10 is a single game where all players in the game are playing at the same table: single game, single table mode. Another mode of operation is a single game, multiple table mode. In this mode a single game is played, however, not all players are at the same table. In the tournament mode, a tournament is organized. The tournament may involve one or multiple tables and, may provide that a certain number of players from each table advance depending on the setup of the tournament. Alternatively, the tournament only involves one table and players may take turns using the table. The number of tables and players participating in a tournament is preferably limited to the ability to present a common display of all players and their progress, which display is simple to observe and readily understandable by all of the players in the tournament.
  • FIG. 2 illustrates a Unified Modeling Language (“UML”) use-case diagram for the amusement gaming system 10 and associated systems and actors in accordance with the present method and system. UML can be used to model and/or describe methods and systems and provide the basis for better understanding their functionality and internal operation as well as describing interfaces with external components, systems and people using standardized notation. When used herein, UML diagrams including, but not limited to, use case diagrams, class diagrams and activity diagrams, are meant to serve as an aid in describing the present method and system, but do not constrain its implementation to any particular hardware or software embodiments. Unless otherwise noted, the notation used with respect to the UML diagrams contained herein is consistent with the UML 2.0 specification or variants thereof and is understood by those skilled in the art.
  • Referring now to FIG. 2, the amusement gaming system 10 allows for the play of multiple players 40, 42, 44, . . . 46. The amusement gaming system 10 includes an activate game use case 48 that allows players 40, 42, 44, . . . 46 to activate a game on the amusement gaming system 10. The activate game use case 48 includes a select game type use case 50. The select game type use case 50 allows players 40, 42, 44, . . . 46 to select the particular type of game they want to play, so long as is permitted by the tournament rules. For example, players may choose to participate in a game organized under one of the multiple modes of operation of the amusement gaming system 10, or may choose a particular card game, including but not limited to, Texas Hold'em, Five Card Stud, Omaha Hold'em, seven card stud, seven card high-low stud, razz, etc. In the event that the tournament players may select one of a plurality of games permitted by tournament rules, the tournament i.e., game, computer “weights” the permissible games to provide all players with “an even playing field” and prevent players selecting one of the permitted selections to have an advantage over players selecting another permitted game. An example of a Graphical User Interface (GUI) employed by the select game use case 50 is a title/opening screen 500 depicted in FIG. 9. The activate game use case 48 (FIG. 2) may utilize a keypad interface screen 540 such as that shown in FIG. 10 to obtain: the number of players desired in a tournament; player names; and loyalty card numbers, discussed in greater detail below.
  • Further, the select game type use case 50 preferably includes a pay fee use case 52. Settings related to the pay fee use case are stored in a cost of pay class 174, shown in FIG. 4. The pay fee use case 52 collects money from players 40, 42, 44, 46 and the amusement gaming system 10 may issue the players 40, 42, 44, 46 virtual chips (that have no cash value). Alternatively, if used for gambling, the amusement gaming system 10 issues virtual chips equal to the value of the money deposited into the amusement gaming system 10 or debited from the player's house account, credit or debit card or the like (minus any possible fees). Games are preferably paid for using a recharge or debit card specific to the amusement gaming system 10. The amusement gaming system 10 allows players to recharge the card with cash and also preferably contains the player loyalty number. Those skilled in the art will realize that other forms of currency may be used for payment, including but not limited to credit cards, cash, or other forms of payment.
  • Depending on the type of game selected by the house or the type of game the players 40, 42, 44, 46 have selected to play through the select game type use case 50 (if and when permitted by tournament rules), fees are collected in different ways. The pay fee use case 52 represents many alternative fee schemes. One fee scheme which the pay fee use case 52 utilizes is a buy-in fee. In tournament mode, a buy-in is set to enter the tournament. For the buy-in, players preferably receive a certain number of virtual chips. The amusement gaming system 10 automatically calculates the cost of the buy-in depending on the minimum rate of play and the number of players in the tournament so that the establishment owner may take the desired profit margin from the play of the game. Alternatively, other factors in addition to the minimum rate of play and the number of players is used to determine the buy-in, including but not limited to the value of prizes rewarded for winners, the tournament advancement scheme, the number of virtual chips given for a buy-in, and the experience level of the players involved (which may be obtained from loyalty card information, discussed below). Depending on the business strategy of the establishment owner, the profit margin may be set to a negative value. This type of strategy focuses on attracting customers at a small loss by offering, a poker game, for example, with a low “rake” (discussed in greater detail below) and compensating for that loss with an increase in the sale of beverages, food, items, or play at other games. The amusement gaming system 10 also allows the establishment owner to override the automatically calculated buy-in and set the buy-in at whatever level desired. The amusement gaming system 10 has data on preset average game lengths depending on the type of game played.
  • The buy-in is also set according to the desired profit margin or alternatively the establishment owner can set the buy-in. Alternatively, no set buy-in is established, and players are given virtual chips according to how much money they deposit, if and when permitted by tournament rules. In this embodiment the number of virtual chips a player is given is determined according to the profit margin desired, based on the minimum rate of play, the number of players, and other factors as described above or alternatively the establishment owner can set the buy-in.
  • In order to increase the rate at which players lose their chips a “rake” scheme is employed by the pay fee use case 52. As it is generally understood in the art, a “rake” is when the house takes a percentage of any pot as a fee for hosting the game. Alternatively, a “time pot” fee scheme is used. As it is generally understood in the art, in a “time pot” fee scheme, a player must pay a certain amount of money after a set or variable interval in order to continue playing. This fee scheme may be used in games played for amusement (for example, it could cost fifty cents for 5 minutes of play) or in the case of actual gambling (for example, $50 for a half an hour of play). Alternatively, in the amusement style game play, players are given a bonus amount of time if they are more successful in their play. Alternatively, in a “time pot” scheme, the pay fee use case 52 takes a percentage of a player's stack (the amount of virtual chips a player has) on a set interval.
  • A debit rewards points use case 100 is used with the pay fee use case 52. The debit rewards points use case 100 debits reward points from a player's loyalty card account in lieu of money. Rewards points are issued to a player based on their loyalty (how often, for how long, and for how much a player plays in terms of wager, time period, and number of hands or rounds). The rewards points are related to the player's loyalty number. Preferably, this number is stored on a loyalty card.
  • FIG. 6 depicts an activity diagram for a debiting rewards points activity 300. In a receive loyalty number step 301, the loyalty number of the player is received. The loyalty number is read from a debit card configured to work with the amusement gaming system 10, or from a loyalty card. In another embodiment, the loyalty number is manually entered by the player (e.g., by keypad). In yet another embodiment, the player enters his phone number or other identifying information and a database looks up his loyalty number based on the information entered. In an access loyalty card database step 302, a database storing the number of points accumulated for players is accessed and the number of points a player has accumulated is retrieved. In a present game redemption menu step 304 the amusement gaming system 10 may ask the player whether they want to redeem loyalty/rewards points awarded by the tournament. The selection is received by a receive redemption selection step 306, and then the points are redeemed in a redeem points step 308. Additional features of loyalty card numbers are discussed below.
  • The amusement gaming system 10 may include a rebuy use case 98 through which establishment owners 56, 58, 60 may allow tournament players to buy back into a game after they have run out of chips, whether they are chips with monetary value or chips without monetary value. The rebuy use case 98 is applicable to games where there is an initial buy-in pay scheme. The rebuy use case 98 allows the establishment owners 56, 58, 60 to enable rebuy depending on what type of tournament is being held. In tournament mode games it is advantageous for the establishment owners 56, 58, 60 to limit rebuy, because the point of a tournament is to eliminate players until only the best player remains (and is declared the winner). In contrast, in non-tournament mode, it is desirable for establishment owners 56, 58, 60 to allow players to rebuy into the game with no restrictions, because a single best player is not being determined. Additionally, the pay fee use case 52 may extend the rebuy use case 98 and allow players 40, 42, 44, . . . 46 to buy back into a game if they have been eliminated. Further, debit rewards points use case 100 may extend the rebuy use case 98 by allowing reward points to be used in place of money to rebuy a place in a game.
  • The speed of play of the amusement gaming system 10 is determined at least in part through a set rate use case 54. The set rate use case 54 automatically sets the rate of play depending on the settings of the amusement gaming system 10. The set rate use case 54 also allows establishment owners to override automatic settings and to set the rate of play. The set rate use case 54 also controls the amount of time players 40, 42, 44, . . . 46 have to complete various actions, such as betting, folding, calling, and checking. The set rate use case 54 also controls the amount of time between hands. In one embodiment the rate of play is not controlled. Situations where rate of play may not be controlled include at the end of a high stakes tournament or a tournament where a large field has been narrowed down significantly. Aspects concerning the rate of play in reference to the set rate use case 54 are stored in a game rate class 172 (see FIG. 4).
  • The pay fee use case 52 is related to the set rate use case 54 in that the set rate use case 54 allows establishment owners 56, 58, 60 to set the rate at which players 40, 42, 44, 46 play, either in terms of time or money. Therefore, the pay fee use case 52 may extend to the set rate use case 54, in that, depending on the parameters of the tournament game, players have to pay a higher rate to play.
  • The amusement gaming system 10 establishes games with different rates of play so that players that desire to play quickly can find a game that fits their need, while there are slower paced games for other players. Preferably, this preference may be indicated upon selecting a game, when permitted by tournament rules. Alternatively, the information concerning the desired speed of play is stored in relation to a player's loyalty card number, and may be used to match a player with a tournament game that functions at the desired rate. In one embodiment, players waiting to enter into a tournament play are organized into a queue and the matching up of each player is carried out while the players wait for an open position. The queue is an organized list of players, identified by their loyalty number, name, or any other identifying information.
  • Referring to FIG. 4, the game rate class 172 contains the attributes: time to bet, time between games, round of betting, round of tournament, and modify in respect to round. By controlling the maximum time players have to make a decision, the maximum length of time for a game is controlled. It should be noted that the time to play a game may be one of the factors for determining the players' ranks and progress in the tournament. It is noted that the actual rate of the game may differ from the maximum rate of the game because players may take action in a shorter time period than they are allowed.
  • The time to bet attribute contains the maximum length of time that players have to take action when it is their turn to raise, fold, call, or check. The round of betting attribute holds the round of betting a particular hand is in. The round of tournament attribute holds the round of the tournament the players are playing in. The modify in respect to round attribute holds information concerning whether the tournament manager (establishment owner) desires the amount of time players have to bet to change in respect to the round. For instance, in the early rounds of a particular tournament game, it is desirable to set the time to bet attribute to 15 seconds. Once the pot is larger and a number of players have folded, it is desirable to increase the amount of time players have to bet, perhaps to one (1) minute. Similarly, in the early rounds of a tournament it is desirable to have the games move faster so that the weaker players are quickly eliminated. The set rate use case 54 allows a tournament manager to set the modify in respect to round attribute, such that the attribute indicates the time to bet attribute is to be at its initial setting early in a tournament and also indicates that in later rounds the time to bet attribute should be set to double its initial setting. The time between games attribute may be similarly (and automatically) modified in respect to the round of betting and the round of the tournament.
  • As previously mentioned, the time to bet attribute of the game rate class 172 sets an amount of time for a player 40, 42, 44, 46 to bet, check, call, or fold. After the time to bet is up, the amusement gaming system 10 automatically causes players to fold. A bet use case 72 causes this fold in response to input from a time actor 70 that provides the time elapsed. In another embodiment, after the time period for decision expires, the amusement gaming system 10 will automatically cause players to call or check. Players have the option to override defaults and configure the amusement gaming system 10 to automatically fold, check, call, or bet for them if time expires. This option is available to players in a player option menu 650, shown in FIG. 14. The player's preference in relation to automatically folding, checking, calling, or betting is stored in relation to his loyalty card number. Alternatively, the player's preference in relation to automatically folding, checking, calling, or betting is stored in relation to any other unique identifier.
  • In another embodiment of the present invention, each player is individually given an amount of time to complete all bets, checks, calls, or folds for a particular hand. Preferably, if the betting continues for many rounds, players are granted additional time. In another embodiment, if players are close to running out of time and they continue to take action quickly, after a number of quick actions they may be granted an additional period of time to play.
  • Further, the set rate use case 54 allows the establishment owner to set the rate of tournament play to slow down when individuals order food or drinks. This allows players to enjoy their food and drinks and order additional food and/or drinks without feeling time pressure, again, so long as provided in the tournament rules. In one embodiment, an additional attribute (e.g., slow for drinks) is added to game rate class 172. This attribute stores the indication that the establishment owner desires the time players have to bet to increase if food or drinks are served. This procedure is accomplished by associating each player's loyalty card number with the seat that player is sitting in and the order associated with it. Since the player option menu 650 allows players to select an order food button 670, the amusement gaming system 10 associates a particular order with a particular loyalty card number at a particular game. The amusement gaming system 10 allows additional time to every player at the table when food or drink is being consumed. The game computer generate a display inquiry if players want a beverage/food slow down or recess and accept a vote from the players. When the “yes” votes reach a given threshold, a slow-down or recess may be provided.
  • Further, a number of subclasses relate to the game rate class 172. As previously noted, the set rate use case 54 allows the game manager to modify the attributes of the game rate class 172. Additionally, the values stored in the attributes of the subclasses 174, 176, 177, 178, automatically change the attributes of the game rate class 172 depending on a preset relationship programmed into the amusement gaming system 10. For example, the time to bet attribute of the game rate class 172 may be directly related to the rake percentage attribute of the cost of play subclass 174, in that when the time to bet attribute decreases, the rake percentage attribute decreases by a proportional amount. One example of a proportion for the relationship between the rake percentage attribute and the time to bet attribute is one half of a percentage point for every minute of time to bet. Another example is, as the time to bet attribute increases, the blind amount attribute of the blind/ante subclass 176 increases a proportional amount. Yet another example is, as the time to bet attribute increases, the minimum raise attribute of the bet structure subclass 177 increases a proportional amount. Those skilled in the art will realize that the amusement gaming system 10 is not limited to the relationships described and encompasses many possible relationships between the classes and subclasses and proportions for those relationships.
  • The set rate use case 54 not only allows establishment owners to directly change the rate of play, but also to change the relationship between the subclasses and the game rate class 172. Preferably, the preset relationships of the classes and subclasses include a tournament setting, a high volume time setting, a low volume time setting, and many other possible presets. Alternatively, there are additional presets covering other scenarios of tournament play known to those skilled in the art.
  • The amusement gaming system 10 allows the establishment owner to preset the minimum amount of money collected per hour. For example, the amusement gaming system 10 calculates the settings of various attributes of the classes and subclasses to attain that minimum. The amusement gaming system 10 periodically recalculates the attributes needed in order to stay on track. This system is advantageous to establishments because establishment owners only need to bring in the proper number of people to play and do not need to be concerned with whether the fee structure is being properly managed. The amusement gaming system 10 automatically calculates the correct charge per virtual chip. Further, the amusement gaming system rounds costs to the nearest reasonable unit of money in the case of a tournament game played for amusement. This unit is preferably either a quarter dollar or a dollar, in the case of amusement play.
  • The cost of play subclass 174, stores the cost of play. This subclass is related to the pay fee use case 52 and stores values that determine the amount that the use case debits for. In a game played for amusement, the cost of play is the amount of money it takes to buy a number of virtual chips. For a game played for real money (gambling), an amount of money buys the corresponding number of chips. The rake percentage attribute stores the rake percentage. The entrance fee attribute stores the buy-in fee for a particular tournament. If the cost of play is low, then the attributes of the game rate class 172 are set so that players have a shorter period of time to make decisions. The amusement gaming system 10 is preset with a relationship between the cost of play subclass and the game rate class 172. The amusement gaming system 10, through the set rate use case 54, allows establishment owners to modify this relationship. If a “rake” payment system is used, having a faster rate of play compensates for the low “rake” because more hands may be played in a shorter period of time.
  • A blind/ante subclass 176 relates to the game rate class 172 in a similar manner to the cost of play subclass 174; the higher the blind amount attribute, the slower the required rate of play. An establish blind use case 64 allows establishment owners to set the attributes of the blind/ante subclass 176. The blind amount attribute stores the amount of the first blind. The blind for new players attribute stores whether a blind must be paid by new entrants to the tournament.
  • A bet structure subclass 177 contains the attributes: minimum raise, maximum raise, and all in. The minimum raise stores the minimum raise bet a player may make, just as the maximum raise stores the maximum amount a player may raise. The “all in” attribute stores whether players may go all in or not. Again, these attributes are related to the game rate and preferably controlling these attributes modifies the game rate class 172 by a set ratio or relationship. In alternative embodiments, the bet structure subclass may have additional attributes, know to those skilled in the art, that store values to control betting operations. The amusement gaming system 10 allows the establishment owner to override defaults and change the attributes of the bet structure subclass 177.
  • A wait list subclass 178 stores the queue of individuals waiting. The attributes player loyalty number and name store the player loyalty number and the name of the player waiting. The wait list subclass 178 is related to the game rate class 172 attributes, such that, when the tournament waiting list is long, the game will be set to move faster. Further, although not included in the embodiment depicted in FIG. 4, the waiting list subclass 178 is interrelated to the cost of play subclass 174, the blind/ante subclass 176 and the bet structure subclass 177. In one embodiment, when the waiting list is long, the cost of play, the blinds, and the bet structure all increase, so that it is more expensive to play.
  • The cost of play subclass 174, the blind/ante subclass 176, and bet structure subclass 177 independently affect the actual rate of play. Players tend to play slowly if there is a large amount of money at stake, and when they are betting smaller amounts they tend to play more quickly. Also, high blinds and betting rules that require players to bet large amounts tend to increase the speed at which players run out of chips and are thus eliminated. Therefore, the overall length of time a player plays is shortened if blinds and minimum bets are set at a high level.
  • The amusement gaming system 10 allows the game rate of play class 172 and the subclasses 174, 176, 177, 178 to relate to a number of additional factors including, but not limited to, the game selected for play and the number of players playing in that game. For instance, in respect to the game selected for play, there are differences in the typical length of a game of Texas Hold'em as compared to Seven Card Stud. Since these differences in the length of game exist, the amusement gaming system 10 adjusts the cost of play subclass 174 in relation to the game selected. In other embodiments the amusement gaming system 10 adjusts the game rate class 172, the blind/ante subclass 176, and/or the bet structure subclass 177, in relation to the tournament game selected. If Seven Card Stud typically takes longer to play than Texas Hold'em, then the amusement gaming system 10 increases the cost of play for Seven Card Stud. This increase in cost is realized through a variety of different methods, including but not limited to, issuing less virtual chips for money deposited, increasing the rate that players use their stack by modifying the betting structure and/or antes and blinds, and limiting time for betting, and changing the “rake” percentage. In one embodiment, for amusement gaming, the increase in cost is realized by requiring more money to be entered for the same amount of virtual chips. In an alternative embodiment, for gambling, the increase in cost is realized through an increase in the “rake” percentage.
  • The amusement gaming system 10 reduces the cost of play if more individuals participate in a game. Alternatively, other attributes of the rate of play class 172 and the subclasses 174, 176, 177, 178 are modified individually or in combination to reduce the cost of play (or allow for more time) if more individuals participate in a tournament game. For instance, if the amusement gaming system 10 starts a tournament for amusement between 2-5 players, the cost will be $1.00 per player, whereas, if the game is for 6-10 players, the cost will be $0.75 per player. The amusement gaming system 10 reduces the cost as an incentive for having a game with more players. Adding players to a game generally only marginally increases the time of play, therefore, the cost of play for the players is decreased. The above illustration is not intended to limit reductions in the cost of play to any particular method or to tournament games played for amusement. The number of players at a table and the type of game played may be a factor in calculating the cost of play and/or the rate of play as it applies to all aspects of the amusement gaming system 10, including, but not limited to, the game rate of play class 172 and the subclasses 174, 176, 177, 178.
  • The bet use case 72 allows players 40, 42, 44, 46 to complete a bet, check, call, or fold. The bet use case 72 interfaces with the keypad interface screen 580 (see FIG. 12) and the user interface screen 550 (see FIG. 11). The keypad interface screen 580, allows players 40, 42, 44, 46 to enter a bet amount with the keypad 582 or touch one of the common bet buttons 584, which has commonly bet amounts set as defaults in order to place a bet. In one embodiment of the present invention the common bet buttons 584 change to reflect the common bets of individual users. If a user commonly bets a certain amount not shown, after a number of occurrences of betting that amount, the bet will be substituted as one of the common bet buttons 584.
  • An ante/blinds use case 62 is included in the amusement gaming system 10. The ante/blinds use case allows players 40, 42, 44, . . . 46 to place a blind or ante. When the ante/blinds use case 62 requires a player to offer a blind or ante, the player must do so or he or she will be required to leave the game. In order to improve the speed of the game, the ante/blind use case 62 allows the time actor 70 to automatically cause the placement of a blind or the player to leave the tournament if a player 40, 42, 44, . . . 46 does not respond within some period of time. The game of poker is structured such that forced bets are imposed on players at certain times in the tournament game. Traditionally, the small blind is paid by the person immediately to the left of the dealer and the big blind is paid by the person two seats to the left of the dealer. Preferably, the ante/blinds use case 62 automatically deducts the blind from a player's stack. Alternatively, the ante/blind use case 62 requires the player to indicate that the blind should be deducted. The amusement gaming system 10 requires a blind to be paid when a person enters any game. Alternatively, the amusement gaming system 10 need not require a blind to be paid.
  • The ante/blinds use case 62 may be extended by the establish blind use case 64 by establishing different amounts for the blinds depending on many different factors, including but not limited to the time and day that the game is being played, the number of players, the stage of the game, a special event status, etc, as discussed previously in relation to the set rate use case 54. Preferably, the establish blind use case 64 allows the establishment owners 56, 58, 60 interact to establish different blind levels for different play situations. For instance, during a very popular time at the amusement gaming system 10 (e.g., Friday night), the blind levels are set much higher than a much less popular time (Tuesday at 3:00 pm). The blind level may affect the length of time it takes tournament players to use up their chips; the higher the blind level, generally the faster players burn through chips. Preferably, during levels of high demand the costs of continuing to play are set higher. The settings related to the ante/blinds use case 62 are stored in the blinds/ante sub class 176.
  • FIG. 5 depicts an activity diagram for the set rate activity 200. The set rate activity 200 monitors the rate of play in a monitor rate of play step 201. The decision to change the rate of play is made according to presets. The amusement gaming system 10 enables the establishment owner to control these presets through the set rate use case 54, which utilizes the GUI operator's option menu 700, depicted in FIG. 15. For instance, a preset could state that if the actual rate of play drops below a certain rate then certain parameters should be changed by a corresponding amount to increase the rate of play. As previously stated, changeable parameters include, but are not limited to: changing the time allowed to check, call, fold, or bet; changing the time between hands; changing the blind amount; changing the bet structure; and changing the cost of play.
  • The amusement gaming system 10 through the set rate use case 54 allows the establishment owner to set a minimum rate of play and modifies parameters in response to the rate of play dropping below that minimum. In one embodiment, the amusement gaming system 10 has limits establishing how much any parameter may be changed to ensure that the parameters controlling play are not unreasonable. For example, an establishment owner might think that it is unreasonable to set the amount of time to bet to less than 30 seconds and therefore the amusement gaming system 10 would be prevented from setting it below this level. Preferably, this process is realized according to the previously discussed FIG. 4. The rate of play is output to the establishment owner, including the average rate of play and the median. If during the monitoring of the rate of play the establishment owner decides the rate of play is too low, the set rate use case 54 allows the establishment owner to increase the minimum rate of play for all of the tournament players at a rate change request step 202. In one embodiment, the decision of the establishment owner to change the rate is based on actual observation of the change in rate. The effect of changing any parameter upon the speed of game play is predicted according to a cumulative probability distribution or a Poisson's distribution. The predicted change in rate of play is displayed to the establishment owner so that he may evaluate whether changing an attribute to increase the rate of play is worthwhile, considering the effect on player enjoyment. In one embodiment, the prediction is further based on the recorded history of the betting speeds of the tournament players participating in a game and therefore may combine Poisson's analysis with historical analysis of betting times.
  • In response to a rate change request step 202 the amusement gaming system 10 receives new parameters at a receive new parameters step 204, either as defined through the set rate use case 54 in an automated fashion or alternatively as input by the establishment owner. The adjust rates step 206 adjusts the parameters in response to the rate change request. Parameters include, but are not limited to, the attributes of the game rate class 172, the cost of play class 174, the blind/ante class 176, and the bet class 177.
  • The amusement gaming system 10 includes a deal down cards use case 80, a deal flop use case 82, a deal turn use case 84, and a deal river use case 86. These use cases perform the functions of dealing virtual cards to players. The deal down cards use case 80 deals cards to each player. The deal flop use case 82 deals the three cards that compose the flop into the community. The deal turn use case 84 causes the turn card to be dealt into the community. The deal river use case 86 causes the river card to be dealt into the community.
  • The amusement gaming system 10 includes an establish tournament use case 90 that allows an establishment owner, such as owner 56, to create single or multi-table tournaments. Preferably, these features maintain lists of the players waiting to participate, notify players when a seat has become available, keep track of winners and losers, advance table winners to play other table winners, and perform other actions related to organizing a tournament. When amusement gaming system 10 combines players to form new games, the amusement gaming system 10 automatically notifies the players as to which table they should move to. An operator options menu 700, shown in FIG. 15, depicts an example of a GUI that the establish tournament use case 90 may utilize to allow the establishment owner to decide the type of tournament by setting advance rules and other features of the tournament. The establish tournament use case 90 may be extended by check rules database use case 94 which provides jurisdictional rules that may limit what type of rewards are given for the winners of a tournament, including, but not limited to, whether money may be wagered (i.e. gambling).
  • The establish tournament use case 90 may create many different types of tournament structures. One such tournament is characterized as a traditional Texas Hold'em tournament. The amusement gaming system 10 implements this type of gaming structure in relation to tournaments run under the tournament mode. In this type of tournament, players start with a fixed number of chips and play until one player has all the chips. Blinds and antes increase as the tournament progresses, and as players are eliminated, tables are consolidated together when more than one table is utilized. The number of tables is eventually reduced to one final table which is composed of the top table winners of the field. The total sum of all the entry fees is divided up and awarded to the top players in accordance to the total amount of entries for the tournament. This type of tournament utilizes tables that seat either ten players or six players. If a ten person table is utilized, tables may be combined when there are either five, two, or one players left at table. If a six person table is utilized, tables are combined when there are either three, two, or one players left at a table. Alternative embodiments in respect to the number of players that should remain at a table before consolidation include all possible numbers of players known to those skilled in the art. A tournament where tables are not combined until there is one player remaining at a table is often referred to as a “shootout.”
  • Other possible tournaments include, but are not limited to, “Freeroll” tournaments or “Satellite” tournaments. Those skilled in the art will appreciate that the amusement gaming system 10 is capable of organizing many different types of tournaments.
  • The amusement gaming system 10 determines ranks for players according to their performance in tournaments. The ranking a player receives depends, for example, on the number of points collected. Points are awarded based on the number of people in a tournament and the place a player finished. In one embodiment, only players who finish in the top ten percent of a tournament receive points towards their ranking. Alternatively, the amusement gaming system 10 can be designed to award points to a percentage of players. Points (P) are awarded based on the square root of the number of players in a tournament (n) divided by the place of the player (p), i.e. (P=[≈n/p]). Alternatively, in a game where money is gambled, the number of points awarded, may depend on the stakes of the game (the previous points method is multiplied by the logarithm of the buy-in plus 1, i.e., (P=[√n/p]*[1+log(b+0.25)]), where n is the number of people, p is the place, and b is the buy in). The amusement gaming system 10 automatically records the number of points a player has received in association with the player loyalty card number. The amusement gaming system 10 ranks players by the number of points earned in respect to the other players in a tournament. Other methods of rewarding points are generally known to those skilled in the art. For example, points may be awarded based on the size of the pot won or for beating out other players when the odds are against a player.
  • An alternative scheme for determining ranks is based on the average of player finishes in a tournament, after it has been normalized. This method employs the standard statistical normalization equation z=(x−u)/s where z is the normalized vector, x is the original vector, u is the mean of vector x, and s is the standard deviation. The vector x may be determined by taking the number of players in the tournament plus one minus every player's finish and dividing it by the number of players in a tournament. The standard statistical normalization vector is applied to the vector x. Over many tournaments a player's normalized rank value are averaged. Based on these values players are rank ordered from lowest value to highest value for normalized and averaged rank with the lowest values being given the rankings closest to number one. Other methods of ranking players will be known to those skilled in the art, including but not limited to ranking players based on the ranking of players they defeat in a particular tournament.
  • The amusement gaming system 10 allows tournaments and games to be organized according to player ranking. The amusement gaming system 10 through the establish intra-establishment tournament use case 90 allows an establishment owner to organize a tournament comprising the establishment's best regular players. Further, the amusement gaming system 10 through the establish tournament use case 90 allows an establishment owner to organize a tournament with his establishment's best players against another establishment's best players.
  • In order to create additional revenue, the amusement gaming system 10 includes a manage ads use case 96, which enables establishment owners 56, 58, 60 to control the type of and the manner in which ads are displayed. The manage ads use case 96 moderates what ads are displayed on various screen displays during the play of the game. In one embodiment, these ads are related to the type of tournament which is taking place. The ads advertise the sponsor of the tournament or the refreshments available at the tournament. In another embodiment the ads are targeted to a particular user, related to the information gathered or provided by a player concerning his or her profile related to a loyalty card number. Since establishments which are not permitted to have gambling do not have that additional revenue source, they must seek revenue elsewhere in the form of ad sales, product sales, and food and beverage sales. In one embodiment, the ads shown are related to the success of a player. If a player is very successful, then ads relate to luxury items or items that a player might splurge on, including but not limited to, jewelry, watches, cars, vacations, clothing, and art work. If a player is about to lose, ads might relate to comfort items, for example various alcoholic beverages, spa treatments, massages, or any other type of product or service known to be relaxing or comforting. There are many possible ways of targeting advertising known to those skilled in the art. These methods of targeting ads may be used individually or in combination.
  • FIG. 3 depicts a class diagram for objects related to the amusement gaming system 10. A player class 150 contains the attributes: name and loyalty card number. In one embodiment, additional attributes not shown, include but are not limited to, profile information about a particular player related to the display of advertisements; favorite drink or food, consumption history (e.g., how often a player tends to need a new drink), and playing history, including but not limited to, whether a player tends to play with the same players all of the time. Preferably, the establishment utilizes this information to deliver selective marketing in the form of targeted ads and the suggestion of services by wait staff or the amusement gaming system 10 during the play of the game. The amusement gaming system 10 keeps track of the players playing at any one time, based on tracking their loyalty card number attribute. If a player tends to play with the same individuals repeatedly, the amusement gaming system 10 offers to organize a tournament, upon reading a loyalty card number, with the player's typical opponents if the players are currently in the system. Alternatively the amusement gaming system 10 offers to set up special monthly tournaments for players that frequently play together.
  • The amusement gaming system 10 keeps a database of when particular players play, for how long they play, what type of stakes they play for, their skill level, and their winning percentage. In the amusement gaming system 10, this information is tracked according to the player's loyalty card number, although in alternative embodiments it may be tracked according to other identifying information, such as social security number, telephone number, name, or any other sufficiently unique identifier. The amusement gaming system 10 links together profile information stored in relation to loyalty card number to other available profiles that will occur to one skilled in the art. In one embodiment, the profile a player uses for online play is linked with the profile a player uses for electronic table play in a tournament. Utilizing this linked information, the amusement gaming system 10 makes suggestions as to how players may improve their tournament play. For instance if a player performs much better online than at an electronic table, the player is likely revealing his chances for winning by his facial expressions or other actions. The amusement gaming system 10 also analyzes this linked information to better target advertisements to players.
  • Further, the amusement gaming system 10 analyzes player attributes stored related to loyalty number or any other identifying information to match up players that previously have no relation to each other. The amusement gaming system 10 offers to players whose attributes match up the chance to play with each other. The amusement gaming system 10 compares when the players typically play. A player that plays at approximately the same time and same day as another player is offered the chance to play in a tournament with that other player. By matching up players that keep similar playing schedules they are able to engage in tournament play with each other repeatedly. This increases the chance that a personal relationship will develop between the parties. This personal relationship related to playing the amusement gaming system 10 makes it likely that players will build friendships and enjoy playing more.
  • If the time a player typically plays matches up with many possible players, the amusement gaming system 10 looks to other attributes such as skill level, stakes typically played for, typical time of play, or any other player attribute. The amusement gaming system 10 also matches players based on their recorded likes, dislikes, and other preferences. By matching players that share interests, there is a greater likelihood that friendships will form. Further, the amusement gaming system 10 matches players based on their actual physical location, either inputted by the user or determined according to their IP address. This method of matching players offers the opportunity for individuals who typically play remotely to meet face to face and engage in tournament play at a given location. Players who typically play remotely include, but are not limited to, those who play on the internet and those who play at different establishments. Further, the amusement gaming system 10 extends invitations (in one embodiment via email) to players that typically play together to compete in an electronic card table tournament. In one embodiment, players are targeted based on demographic similarities or features.
  • In one embodiment of the present invention, the amusement gaming system 10 does not inform players that they are being matched up with player with similar profiles. The amusement gaming system 10, matches up players who are queued (waiting for an open slot to play in a tournament), based on available preference information, without informing the players of this matching. This is preferable to both of the players because they want to have a good time and to the host because if players have a good time they are likely play for longer and spend more money. In the case of games played at establishments that serve food and beverages, longer and repeated play is likely to lead to higher sales of food and beverages.
  • The above described procedure of matching players based on profile information is not intended to be limited to profiles derived from tournaments involving electronic table gaming and may be extended to profiles derived from online games, where players connect to games remotely, via a personal computer or other individual electronic device (e.g., cell phone, PDA, etc.). The amusement gaming system 10 matches players playing online based on actual physical location derived from a player's profile or IP address. This is profile gathering approach is advantageous because players may form connections (friendships) online and have the desire to meet those individuals who they have met online face to face. Alternatively, the amusement gaming system 10 matches players according to other profile information as discussed previously. It is more likely that an individual is able to meet another individual if they reside in the same geographical vicinity. For example, the above described principle of matching players without their knowledge is applicable to online gaming: when a player enters a command to be placed at a tournament table, the amusement gaming system 10 automatically places them at a table based on the player's profile and profiles of individuals at various tables. The amusement gaming system 10 extends invitations to players who typically meet and play in an online environment to play as competitors in a tournament at an electronic gaming table. This offers cross-promotional opportunities between online gaming and gaming in establishments with electronic gaming tables.
  • During the loyalty card signup process, players are asked about likes, dislikes, and other preferences so that demographic data concerning players may be obtained. Alternatively, a loyalty point bonus is awarded for filling out a survey either online or on paper. If the player approves profile linking, the amusement gaming system 10 obtains additional profile information by linking any online player profile information available.
  • In addition to attributes, the player class 150 has various operations associated therewith. The register operation registers the information of a new player. Alternatively, register operation registers a player to play in a particular tournament. A pay operation, utilized by the pay fee use case 48, instructs the user to pay an amount to participate in a tournament game. As previously discussed, depending on what sort of fee scheme the system is running on, the pay operation requests that the user pay a certain amount of money every set time period to continue playing (“time pot”). In one embodiment, the pay operation does not request that the user pay particular fees associated with the cost of playing, but instead automatically deducts costs from the player's stake.
  • A bet operation functions in conjunction with the bet use case 72, and requests that the player either check, call, raise, or fold. A quit operation, may allow for a player to leave a game.
  • A game class 170 has attributes of location, table, game type, and game rate, and many other possible attributes. The location attribute contains the location of the table. Preferably, the location attribute includes where in the establishment the table is located as well as the geographical location of players. In one embodiment, the location attribute includes information concerning the location of all players in a particular game. The players may be located all at the same table, or at different tables in the same establishment when two tables are used for the same tournament, for example. The amusement gaming system 10 moderates the interaction between the players, the games, and the entire tournament, so that they all comply with the tournament rules, as well as the gambling laws of the jurisdiction depending on the information contained in the rules class 180.
  • For instance, if the tournament occurs within the state of Illinois, then the rules contained in rules class 180 carry instructions that the amusement gaming system 10 gives out rewards in the form of a free replay, in this case the amusement gaming system. In application, the amusement gaming system 10 may give players a loyalty point bonus for winning a tournament that may be redeemed for a replay. In New York however, this type of reward may not be legal, so no reward will be allowed.
  • In one embodiment, the amusement gaming system allows for incremental rewards for players. Games played at an establishment level have certain levels of prizes, while games played during tournaments may have higher value prizes.
  • The game rate attribute of the game class 170 preferably contains information concerning the speed of play, the cost of play, the minimum bet, the blind amount, or other information which may control the rate of play. The game rate attribute is related to the game rate class 172, depicted in FIG. 4.
  • Referring again to FIG. 3, the tournament class 190 is composed of many games, and each game class 170 may be associated with one tournament. Preferably, the tournament class 190 has the attributes, namely, storing: the official name of a tournament; the sponsor of a tournament; ads; what advertisements run during the tournament, and the tournament type, for storing the rules for elimination and progression in the tournament. As previously discussed, preferably, advertisements are targeted according to a number of factors. In one embodiment, advertisements are related to the sponsor of the tournament or are related to the type-of player participating in the tournament.
  • The tournament class 190 has operations: add game, remove game, and change game rate. Games are added to the tournament according to the established rules for the tournament and the game class 170 and the rules class 180. The change game rate operation changes the rate of the game according to the methodology previously discussed, in relation to FIG. 4. In one embodiment, speed of game play is increased or decreased based on minimum game rates so that they all preferably finish at similar times.
  • FIG. 7 is an activity diagram for a select sponsor procedure 400 for a tournament. In a transmit tournament notification step 410, the amusement gaming system 10 sends out notifications to potential sponsors. The sponsors automatically receive these notifications and automatically respond. The sponsors bid for spots (multiple sponsors bid to sponsor the Friday night tournament) and the highest bid for a tournament spot is automatically granted sponsorship. In one embodiment sponsorship is determined based on a previous contractual arrangement with the establishment (e.g. one sponsor for all Friday night tournaments). Alternatively, sponsors are selected based on the players' demographics as determined by use of their loyalty cards or by obtaining demographic or behavioral data through other means including online profile information associated with loyalty card numbers. The sponsors may be given access to the demographic data and/or other information collected in relation to loyalty cards. This helps sponsors determine whether their ads will reach likely consumers of their product.
  • The amusement gaming system 10 enables establishment owners to form tournaments based on demographic data; players are invited to participate from hard to reach market segments. By analyzing information collected in relation to player loyalty card numbers, the amusement gaming system 10 can predict the demographics of participants who will compete in an upcoming tournament and can forward that information to tournament sponsors to use in their bidding process. In another embodiment, demographics of potential participants are based on the average or cumulative distribution of players at an establishment.
  • In reference again to FIG. 7, a receive sponsorship offers step 412 automatically receives offers. A remove unauthorized sponsors step 414 removes offers that are not appropriate. Reasons a particular sponsor may not be appropriate include, but are not limited to: the sponsor may conflict with products currently carried by the establishment (i.e., Coors® as a sponsor for an establishment that only carries Budweiser® products). A determine optimal offer step 416 determines the best offer. In one embodiment the amusement gaming system automatically determines the optimal offer. In another embodiment, it is determined by establishment owner review. Preferably, the offer that is best depends on a variety of factors, including but not limited to: the monetary sponsorship provided, the advertising opportunity, collateral benefits, etc. After the best offer is determined, the sponsorship is accepted in an accept sponsorship step 418. In one embodiment this acceptance is automatic. At least one benefit of tournament sponsorship is that the amusement gaming system 10 allows tournament sponsors to display ads between hands or games.
  • FIG. 9 depicts a start screen display 500 GUI that the user interacts with during the activate game use case 48, the select game type use case 50, and the pay fee use case 52. Preferably, a title 510 is located on the page. The title 510 states the title given to the amusement gaming system 10, as well as the type an/or name of the tournament, to enable players to remember it and seek it out again. In one embodiment the title 510 offers simple instructions to the user. Further, instructions 512 instruct the user how to begin a game. Game buttons 514, 516, 518, 520, allow players access to commonly played games for a tournament. Game buttons 514, 516, 518, 520 are examples of games that the amusement gaming system 10 allows to be selected and those skilled in the art know that any applicable game may be substituted for the ones shown in FIG. 9. Other games buttons 522 allows the user to access other games. Game options button 524 allows the user to change the settings of the game. Changeable options include but are not limited to, automatically posting blinds, activating possible gaming hints, enabling the play of side games, or many other potential options, with the proviso that the selections are permitted in the given tournament.
  • FIG. 10 is an example of a keypad interface screen 540 that allows the player to perform a number of tasks including but not limited to, setting the number of players which may play in a given tournament, adding a payment to acquire either chips that represent actual money or credit to play, and entering the names of a player. The instructions 512 prompt the user to enter the necessary information. The necessary information includes but is not limited to: the player's name, the payment the player desires to enter, and the number of players the user desires to play with. Preferably, the information may be entered on a virtual telephonic keypad 542 (created on a touch screen, for example). Alternatively, any other keypad known to those skilled in the art, including, but not limited to an alpha numeric keypad replaces the virtual telephonic keypad 542.
  • In FIG. 11, a user interface/game screen 550 is depicted. An options button 552, allows the user to change game options and perform actions like ordering food or drinks. Actuating the options button 552 causes a player option menu 650, depicted in FIG. 14, to display. The player option menu 650 contains a back button 612 that returns the user to the game user interface/game screen 550 when actuated. Preferably, the player option menu 650 has one or many ads 654 displayed. Preferably, these ads 654 will be targeted ads. In one embodiment, ads 654 are related to the tournament sponsor. Alternatively, ads are related to the establishment hosting the tournament. In yet another embodiment, ads are based on user profile information collected in a database organized by the user's loyalty number.
  • Referring to FIG. 14, preferably a number of game related options are available to the user, including but not limited to an auto post blinds button 656, an auto muck button 658, a sit out hand button 660, and a leave table button 662. The user controls the display in the user interface/game screen 550 using a deck style button 664 and a chip style button 666. All of these buttons 656, 658, 660, 662, 664, 666 cause other screens to display or are toggle type buttons.
  • The user can order services using buttons 668, 670, 672, 674. Actuating the service buttons 668, 670, 672, 674 causes a corresponding screen to be displayed. The screens offer details and additional buttons for the selection of particular menu items. Alternatively, these buttons alert a server that service is needed at a particular table to take an order. In one embodiment, the menus or lists of selections displayed on screens corresponding to each button 668, 670, 672, 674 are customized. The menus are customized according to player buying history (obtained from looking up information stored in relation to the loyalty number) frequently ordered items will appear at the top of the menu or in a place of prominence. The layout of the screens also positions items that the player has not ordered, but are similar to items that the player has historically ordered. Further, in one embodiment, the screen displayed by actuating the Food/Drink Specials button 668, is customized to offer specials on items that are similar to those items historically ordered by a particular user.
  • In one embodiment, information collected concerning player food, beverage, and other service habits that has been collected in the database related to the user's reward number is used to inform service staff of the player's preferences. The service staff is instructed by the amusement gaming system, through point of sale terminals, to offer items of preference to the player. Alternatively, service staff is notified over a headset or an electronic device that displays text. Alternatively, service staff offers items that the player has never ordered but that are similar to the items the player typically orders. The food/beverage selection buttons may be disabled by the central computer during play and enabled only during breaks or recesses or repositioning of players remaining in a tournament (to eliminate a table when the occasion arises).
  • Player image button 676 and view player history button 678 allow the player to access and change profile information related to him or her. Alternatively, the player image button 676 and view player history button 678 allows the player to access information about other players. Preferably, the player image button 676 allows the player to change his or her listed name, nickname, virtual avatar, or other profile information. Alternatively, players are given access to recorded preferences, so that he or she may modify selected preferences. The view player history button 678 when actuated, displays to the player his history of wins and losses and the total amount of money won or lost. Alternatively, limited or more complicated statistical analysis of player history is available. Alternatively, access to win and loss records are available to players over the Internet, according to their loyalty number.
  • The events button 670, special offers button 672, and on screen promos button 674, allow the player to access special promotions. The promotions may include but are not limited to upcoming tournaments, less expensive times to play, events targeted to users of a particular profile (and the user fits this profile based on loyalty card information), suggestions of other players who typically play at the same time as the user, or other offers.
  • Referring again to FIG. 11, a fold button 554, a call/check button 556, and a bet button 558 allow the user to perform the appropriate game action. If the bet button 558 is actuated then a keypad interface screen 580 will be displayed (see FIG. 12). A last hand button 560 preferably allows the user to see a record of the last hand played. A next screen button 564 and the previous screen button 562 allow the player to switch between the screens of multiple games, or between the last hand review screen 600 depicted in FIG. 13. Preferably, a table display icon 566, FIG. 11, displays ten positions for players, although the numbers of positions may vary depending on the rules of the game or tournament. In each player position 567, a chip count (not shown) for each player is displayed. An individual player position 567 is highlighted when it is that player's turn to play. Further, names and nicknames of players are displayed. In one embodiment, avatars for each player may be displayed in each player position 567. In one embodiment these avatars are customizable. In one embodiment these avatars are animated. Card display positions 568 and 570, display the cards that a player has been dealt.
  • Referring to FIG. 12, the keypad interface screen 580 allows players to enter their bet amount using a keypad 582. Using the common bet buttons 584, the user can quickly place a typical bet by clicking on a button. The common bet buttons 584 are preset. In one embodiment, they are preset depending on the type of game being played. In another embodiment, the common bet buttons 584 are established based on player history, (which is recorded in a database associated with player loyalty number) to include the amounts most commonly bet by a particular player.
  • Referring now to FIG. 13, a last hand review screen 600 is preferably accessed from the player option menu 650, FIG. 14, but in one embodiment it is accessed from the user interface/game screen 550, FIG. 11, or other display screen. The last hand review screen 600 contains a back button 612, which returns the user to the last viewed screen. Displayed in the last hand community cards area 602 are the community cards from the previous hand that is being reviewed. Displayed in the player hand area 604 are the cards that the player held during the previous hand. Although the embodiment shown depicts review for a Texas hold'em game, in other embodiments, the 600 review screen is designed to display the proper cards and analysis for other game variations. A hand detail area 606 displays a review of the betting and other actions that took place in relation to the history of the hand that was played. A scroll bar 608 allows the player to selectively scroll up and down the list of events. The change hand area 610 allows the user to select the desired previous hand.
  • Referring to FIG. 15, an operator's option menu screen 700 gives the establishment owner or other amusement gaming system operator the ability to control the various features of the game. From this exemplary embodiment of an operator's option menu, the establishment owner controls many different table settings. A deck style button 701 and a chip style button 702, activate another display that contains options for changing the deck style and chip style. In one embodiment, sound effects are added to simulate the sounds of chips and dealing. In another embodiment the chips and deck are animated in a cartoon fashion, such that when bets are made, chips grow animated legs and walk themselves to the pot and the face cards contain animated characters. Any possible animation and sound effect schemes known to those skilled in the art are incorporated here. Preferably, a community screen logo/image button 704, when actuated, displays options for changing the title screen logo and image. The establishment owner may desire to change the title screen logo and image for particular tournaments with different sponsors. A user terminal logo/image button 706 and title screen logo/image button 708 change features of the terminal logo and image and the title screen logo and image. The advertising/promotions button 710 accesses advertising options. Preferably, the establishment owner is able to change various advertising options, as previously discussed. The allow user customization button 712, allows the establishment owner to set the amusement gaming system to allow players to customize their display. Various aspects of the rate of play are controlled from this screen by a cost of play button 714, a blind/ante button 716, a betting structure button 718, a tournament set up button 720, and a waiting list button 722. A table location button 724 and a networking button 726 control whether tables in an establishment can be linked to tables in other establishments. The table location includes information concerning the geographic location of a table. The buttons 701-726 each cause screens such as are shown in FIGS. 10 and 11, for example, to select the desired change.
  • As was briefly described above, the control computer generates a player ranking image presented on the common display 17. Some of the possible displays include: a display simulating a race track shown in FIG. 8A wherein each player is represented by a different geometric shape (circle, square, triangle, etc.). The shapes may represent animate object (animals, for example) and/or inanimate objects (cars, planes, for example). The indicia may be the same for all players but distinguish from one another by color, etc. Also, each player may be represented by a number (such as “1,” “2”, . . . , “10” to represent the ten (10) player positions 11 at table 12 of FIG. 1. The indicia may also be numbers in front of each player. The above alternatives are hereinafter referred to as indicia for identifying the players and distinguishing them from one another. At the start of play the players' indicia are aligned at the “start” line, as shown in solid fashion. As play progresses the indicia “move” along the “race track” towards the “finish” line, as shown in dotted fashion, representing the players ranks relative to one another and relative to the finish line. The indicia may preferably be created to have distinctive colors and may be half of one color and half another color when the conventional single colored indicia are all in use and are insufficient in number to allocate each player a color which provides a clear contrast with the colors of the other indicia. The track in FIG. 8A may alternatively be a substantially oval-shaped track.
  • FIG. 8B shows a histogram in which each player is represented by a “bar,” which are preferably of different colors, the height of the bars representing the ranking of the players. To provide the players with an indication of their progress relative to the end of the game/tournament, a dotted line is provided above the bars. As an alternative to illuminating each bar a single light (i.e. LED) may be lit along the region from start to finish, each vertical portion having LEDs at spaced intervals between start and finish and respectively lit only one at a time to indicate the present progress of a player. The histogram may be oriented either vertically, as shown, or horizontally. Alternatively or in addition, the image of a digital or analog clock may be provided as part of the display to indicate the time remaining in the tournament, which may be a criteria for determining a winner.
  • The embodiments of the present invention may be implemented with any combination of hardware and software. If implemented as a computer-implemented apparatus, the present invention is implemented using means for performing all of the steps and functions described above.
  • The embodiments of the present invention can be included in an article of manufacture (e.g., one or more computer program products) having, for instance, computer useable media. The media has embodied therein, for instance, computer readable program code means for providing and facilitating the mechanisms of the present invention. The article of manufacture can be included as part of a computer system or sold separately.
  • It will be appreciated by those skilled in the art that changes could be made to the embodiments described above without departing from the broad inventive concept thereof. It is understood, therefore, that this invention is not limited to the particular embodiments disclosed, but it is intended to cover modifications within the spirit and scope of the present invention.

Claims (26)

  1. 1. An amusement gaming apparatus for conducting tournaments comprising:
    a plurality of player stations each configured for playing a slot-machine-type game;
    each player station provided with a display and user interface controls for providing inputs to the player station by a user;
    a controller for configured to enable each player station to participate in the slot-machine-type game and provide a display showing progress of each game at each respective players' display; and
    a common display configured to provide a visual display representing progress of all participating in the tournament, respective to the central controller; and
    the common display and player stations being positioned relative to one another to provide all players at the player stations substantially similar viewing capability of the common display.
  2. 2. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the player stations are arranged in a substantially annular manner, said common display and being substantially equidistant from said player stations.
  3. 3. The apparatus of claim 1 further comprising a table;
    said player stations being arranged at spaced intervals about a perimeter of said table.
  4. 4. The apparatus of claim 3 wherein said table has a substantially oval-shaped perimeter.
  5. 5. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein said control display is configured to present a racetrack-type display with markers of a given type, each marker having a different feature, each of said features associated with one of said display stations.
  6. 6. The apparatus of claim 5 wherein said feature is a color.
  7. 7. The apparatus of claim 5 wherein said feature is one of numeral and a letter.
  8. 8. The apparatus of claim 5 wherein said feature is a given shape.
  9. 9. The apparatus of claim 5 wherein the track is oval shaped.
  10. 10. The apparatus of claim 5 wherein the track is linear.
  11. 11. The apparatus of claim 5 wherein the track has indicia indicating a start portion and a finish portion.
  12. 12. The apparatus of claim 3 wherein the common display is arranged at a central portion of the table.
  13. 13. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein each player station display is configured to substantially reduce viewing such that each player is substantially limited to viewing his (her) own player station display.
  14. 14. The apparatus of claim 12 wherein the common display is substantially flush with a main surface of the table.
  15. 15. The apparatus of claim 3 wherein the player station displays are inclined at an angle chosen to ease viewing by players at said player stations.
  16. 16. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein each player station has a reader configured to receive a member configured to enable a player to participate in the tournament.
  17. 17. The apparatus of claim 16 wherein said member is a conventional credit card.
  18. 18. The apparatus of claim 10 wherein said member is an affinity card issued by a venue of a tournament.
  19. 19. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the controller is configured to regulate at least one of:
    a rate of play and bet limits.
  20. 20. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein player station interactive user control comprises a touch screen.
  21. 21. The apparatus of claim 20 wherein each touch screen is configured to provide at least one of fixed selections for betting and a numeric keyboard for betting.
  22. 22. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the controller is configured to provide points for wins which are weighed based on bets made by a player winning a game.
  23. 23. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the controller is configured to weight games played by the players in a tournament where players may select different games in the tournament to equalize the player's chances for winning.
  24. 24. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the common display is configured to present a histogram-like display.
  25. 25. The apparatus of claim 24 wherein the common display is further provided with indicia showing time remaining for play.
  26. 26. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the computer is further configured to present an inquiry in the display of each player requesting interest in a game change which is one of a recess and slow-down in play, and to provide the game change when a given number of players answer “yes”.
US11824302 2007-06-29 2007-06-29 Slot machine tournament apparatus and method Abandoned US20090005150A1 (en)

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US9471953B1 (en) * 2013-07-27 2016-10-18 Gregory Leon Crowe Digital sports table

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