US20090075714A1 - Multi-card bingo patterns and wild balls - Google Patents

Multi-card bingo patterns and wild balls Download PDF

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US20090075714A1
US20090075714A1 US12118966 US11896608A US2009075714A1 US 20090075714 A1 US20090075714 A1 US 20090075714A1 US 12118966 US12118966 US 12118966 US 11896608 A US11896608 A US 11896608A US 2009075714 A1 US2009075714 A1 US 2009075714A1
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bingo
ball
wild
number
player
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Abandoned
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US12118966
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Adam M. Meyer
Bryan D. Wolf
James Coleman
Mark Bansemer
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IGT Inc
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IGT 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
    • G07F17/3286Type of games
    • G07F17/329Regular and instant lottery, e.g. electronic scratch cards
    • 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
    • G07F17/3204Player-machine interfaces
    • G07F17/3209Input means, e.g. buttons, touch screen
    • 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
    • G07F17/3244Payment aspects of a gaming system, e.g. payment schemes, setting payout ratio, bonus or consolation prizes
    • G07F17/3258Cumulative reward schemes, e.g. jackpots
    • 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
    • G07F17/3286Type of games

Abstract

Methods and devices are provided for enhanced bingo play, particularly multi-card play. Multi-card bingo patterns can provide low hit probabilities and correspondingly high payouts, even if the underlying bingo cards have relatively few spots. Some multi-card patterns can only be hit one way. “Wild” bingo balls, which may be placed on any available spot on a bingo card, are also provided.

Description

    CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION
  • This application claims priority to U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 61/066,137, entitled “MULTI-CARD BINGO GAME FEATURES” (Attorney Docket No. IGT1P456P/P-1285 PROV) and filed on Sep. 18, 2007, which is hereby incorporated by reference.
  • BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
  • The present disclosure relates to gaming networks and, more particularly, to gaming networks for providing multi-player bingo games.
  • Gaming in the United States is divided into Class I, Class II and Class III games. Class I gaming includes social games played for minimal prizes, or traditional ceremonial games. Class II gaming includes bingo and bingo-like games. Bingo includes games played for prizes, including monetary prizes, with cards bearing numbers or other designations in which the holder of the cards covers such numbers or designations when objects, similarly numbered or designated, are drawn or electronically determined, and in which the game is won by the first person covering a previously designated arrangement of numbers or designations on such cards. Such an arrangement will sometimes be referred to herein as a “game-winning pattern” or a “game-ending pattern.” Class II gaming may also include pull tab games if played in the same location as bingo games, lotto, punch boards, tip jars, instant bingo, and other games similar to bingo. Class III gaming includes any game that is not a Class I or Class II game, such as a game of chance of the kind typically offered in non-Indian, state-regulated casinos.
  • Two basic forms of bingo exist. In traditional bingo, the players purchase cards after which a draw takes place. The first player to achieve a designated pattern wins. In one type of bingo game known as Bonanza Bingo, the draw for the game takes place before the players know the arrangements on their bingo cards. After the draw occurs, the players may purchase cards and compare the arrangements on the cards to the drawn numbers to determine whether predetermined patterns are matched. Play continues in Bonanza Bingo until at least one of the players matches a designated game-winning pattern. Bonanza Bingo may also encompass bingo variations wherein a partial draw is conducted for some numbers (generally fewer than the number of balls expected to be necessary to win the game) prior to selling the bingo cards. After the bingo cards are sold, additional numbers are drawn until there is a winner.
  • In a typical bingo game, a “ball drop” display indicates randomly-drawn numbers to be used in playing the bingo game. Accordingly, the term “ball drop,” “ball draw” or the like will be used herein to signify the random selection of numbers used in a bingo game; accordingly, the selected bingo numbers themselves will often be referred to as “balls.” Those of skill in the art will realize that the numbers used in an electronic bingo game may be displayed in any convenient fashion, that a simulated “ball drop” is merely one such example and that bingo numbers do not need to be associated with balls and/or representations of balls. The number of balls drawn and the timing of the ball drops may vary according to the type of bingo game.
  • As indicated above, a bingo game is played until at least one player covers a predetermined game-winning pattern on the player's bingo card. The game may also include interim winners of prizes based on matching predetermined interim patterns on the bingo card using the same ball draw. The interim pattern wins do not terminate the bingo game. For interim pattern awards, players covering certain interim patterns may receive an additional award as the game continues. Some exceptional bingo versions may allow bingo draws beyond those needed to achieve the bingo game win so as to pay out interim pattern wins at a desired rate. The game-winning awards are generally pari-mutuel in nature. That is, the bingo win award is based upon the total amount wagered on a given occurrence of the bingo game. However, interim pattern awards typically are not pari-mutuel.
  • One way of making wagering games, including Class II games, more interesting is to provide players a chance to obtain a large payout, such as that made possible by a progressive bonus award. However, providing a large progressive award for a bingo game can be challenging, as described in more detail below.
  • Another way of making bingo games more interesting is to provide players with the chance of obtaining one or more extra selected bingo numbers after the normal ball drop of a bingo game. Yet another way of making bingo games more interesting is to increase the paytable percentage for the bingo game, at least temporarily.
  • Although prior art methods exist for providing players with a chance for obtaining extra bingo numbers and for modifying a paytable percentage for the bingo game, these prior art methods have some shortcomings. For example, one method for of modifying a paytable percentage that is commonly used outside of the United States is to modify the number of winning patterns and/or of awarding a different amount for a pattern. A casino may, e.g., lower the payback percentage of a bingo game by temporarily eliminating certain patterns. Such methods can easily be noticed by players and may lead to player dissatisfaction.
  • As such, it would be desirable to provide improved gaming methods, devices and systems for providing Class II games, including but not limited to bingo games, especially on networked gaming machines.
  • SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • Novel methods, devices and systems are described for implementing Class II games, especially bingo games. Some such implementations provide one or more “wild balls” that may represent any bingo number selected by the player, by a server, by an electronic wager gaming machine (“EGM”), etc. For example, a machine may determine a spot on a player's bingo card that would benefit the player the most and assign the wild ball the number corresponding to this optimal location.
  • In some implementations, the wild ball or balls may be provided after the main ball drop of a bingo game. For example, a wild ball may be provided after the main ball drop of a bingo game and during a phase in which a player may be able to purchase extra balls, is awarded one or more extra balls, etc. However, in some implementations the wild ball(s) may be provided during the main ball drop of a bingo game. If a wild ball is drawn during the main ball drop of a bingo game, in some implementations the position of the wild ball is not determined until after all of the normal bingo balls are drawn. However, in other implementations, if a wild ball is drawn during the main ball drop of a bingo game, the wild ball will be positioned before the remaining bingo balls are drawn.
  • In some implementations, the wild ball may be assigned to a spot corresponding to a bingo number that is subsequently drawn. According to some such implementations, the wild ball may be re-assigned to another position. In other implementations, however, the wild ball is not re-assigned to another position.
  • Some wild ball implementations designate one or more bingo balls as wild balls. The designated balls may not be associated with any specific bingo number. If one of the designated balls is selected, it will be recognized as a wild ball (e.g., according to an associated code or the like) and treated as a wild ball.
  • Alternative implementations randomly designate drawn bingo balls as wild balls according to a predetermined probability. The probability of awarding a wild ball may be determined by a game provider, by a gaming establishment, etc. Some such implementations allow a gaming establishment to select a probability of drawing a wild ball and/or to select a paytable percentage for the bingo game. A probability of awarding a wild ball may be determined, at least in part, according to a desired paytable percentage for the bingo game (or vice versa).
  • Some implementations of the invention provide multi-card bingo games. Awards, including but not limited to interim awards, game-winning awards and progressive bonus awards, may be provided in connection with such multi-card bingo games. In some such implementations, a player may be required to hit a predetermined pattern on more than one bingo card in order to obtain an award. For example, the pattern may be a single, fixed pattern that spans multiple bingo cards, which will sometimes be referred to herein as a “metapattern” or the like. The number of hits in the pattern(s) and/or the number of bingo cards involved may be determined according to a desired award size and/or a desired probability of obtaining the award.
  • Some multi-card implementations may provide an inducement to the player to play additional bingo cards. For example, the highest-paying patterns may require the player to pay for multiple bingo cards. Some implementations of the invention allow players an opportunity to purchase one or more additional bingo numbers (often referred to herein as “extra balls” or the like) after the main ball drop of a bingo game. If so, the possibility of hitting a high-payout multi-card pattern may induce a player to purchase extra bingo balls after the main ball draw has completed. In some implementations, the overall payback percentage may increase if a player plays multiple bingo cards, e.g., due to the effect of high-payout multi-card patterns.
  • Some implementations of the invention involve methods for providing a bingo game. Some such methods include the following steps: selecting N bingo numbers in a base game ball draw and up to E extra balls after the base game ball draw; providing a bingo number indication for the selected bingo numbers; determining whether a selected ball is a wild ball that may be placed on any available spot on a bingo card; and providing a wild ball indication when it is determined that a ball is a wild ball. Such methods may be performed, at least in part, by one or more logic devices (e.g., one or more processors, programmable logic devices, etc.) of a wager gaming machine, a server, a host device, etc.
  • The determining may comprise applying a predetermined probability to determine whether a selected ball will be treated as a wild ball. The determining may involve determining whether a predetermined ball corresponding with a wild ball has been selected.
  • The method may further comprise assigning a bingo number to the wild ball. For example, the bingo number may be assigned to the wild ball according to an optimal bingo number for bingo cards displayed on a wager gaming machine. In such implementations, the bingo number assigned to the wild ball may differ from one wager gaming machine to the next. For example, a first bingo number may be assigned to the wild ball according to a first optimal bingo number for a first wager gaming machine, whereas a second bingo number may be assigned to the wild ball according to a second optimal bingo number for a second wager gaming machine.
  • Alternatively, the bingo number may be assigned to the wild ball taking into account a plurality of wager gaming machines, e.g., taking into account all wager gaming machines participating in the bingo game. At least one of the selecting, determining and assigning may be performed by a device of a central system.
  • In some implementations, the bingo number may be assigned to the wild ball based, at least in part, upon input received from a player. The input may, for example, comprise input from a touch screen of a wager gaming machine, from a button or other user input device.
  • The determining may involve determining that one of the N bingo numbers in the base game ball draw is a wild ball. The assigning may involve assigning a bingo number to a wild ball after non-wild bingo balls in the base game ball draw are selected. The assigning may involve assigning a bingo number to a wild ball before all of the non-wild bingo balls in the base game ball draw are selected.
  • Some embodiments involve a system for providing a bingo game that includes the following: apparatus configured for selecting N bingo numbers in a base game ball draw and up to E extra balls after the base game ball draw; apparatus configured for providing a bingo number indication for the selected bingo numbers; apparatus configured for determining whether a selected ball is a wild ball that may be placed on any available spot on a bingo card; and apparatus configured for providing a wild ball indication when it is determined that a ball is a wild ball. Such apparatus may include one or more logic devices (e.g., one or more processors, programmable logic devices, etc.) of a wager gaming machine, a server, a host device, etc., configured to provide, at least in part, these aspects of the bingo game. A single logic device may, in some instances, comprise one or more such apparatus. Conversely, multiple logic devices may, taken together, comprise one or more such apparatus.
  • In some such embodiments, the determining apparatus may apply a predetermined probability to determine whether a selected ball will be treated as a wild ball. The determining apparatus may be configured for determining whether a predetermined ball corresponding with a wild ball has been selected. The determining apparatus may be configured to determine whether one of the extra balls selected after the base game ball draw is a wild ball. The determining apparatus may be configured to determine whether more than one selected ball is a wild ball.
  • The system may further comprise apparatus configured for assigning a bingo number to the wild ball. The assigning apparatus may assign the bingo number to the wild ball according to an optimal bingo number for bingo cards displayed on a wager gaming machine. In some such embodiments, the wager gaming machine may include the assigning apparatus. The assigning apparatus may assign a first bingo number to the wild ball according to a first optimal bingo number for a first wager gaming machine and may assign a second bingo number to the wild ball according to a second optimal bingo number for a second wager gaming machine. For example, a logic device of the first wager gaming machine may assign the first bingo number to the wild ball, whereas a logic device of the second wager gaming machine may assign the second bingo number to the wild ball.
  • In some implementations, a device of a central system (e.g., a server) may comprise at least one of the selecting, determining or assigning apparatus. In some such implementations, the assigning apparatus may assign the bingo number to the wild ball taking into account all wager gaming machines participating in the bingo game.
  • The system may further comprise apparatus configured for receiving input from a player (e.g., a touch screen of a wager gaming machine, a graphical user interface, a button, or other user input device) regarding which bingo number should be assigned to the wild ball. The assigning apparatus may determine which bingo number should be assigned to the wild ball based, at least in part, on input received from a player.
  • The determining apparatus may determine that one of the N bingo numbers in the base game ball draw is a wild ball. The assigning apparatus may assign a bingo number to a wild ball after non-wild bingo balls in the base game ball draw are selected. The assigning apparatus may assign a bingo number to a wild ball before all of the non-wild bingo balls in the base game ball draw are selected. The system may further comprise apparatus configured for determining whether a non-wild ball is drawn having a bingo number previously assigned to a wild ball. The system may further comprise apparatus configured for assigning a new bingo number to the wild ball when it is determined that a non-wild ball is drawn having a bingo number previously assigned to the wild ball.
  • Alternative methods for providing multi-card bingo games are described herein. Some such methods include the following: providing information to a plurality of wager gaming machines, the information corresponding to a representation of multiple bingo cards; selecting randomly N bingo numbers in a base game ball draw; determining whether a metapattern has been hit, the metapattern being a single, fixed pattern that spans multiple bingo cards; and indicating to a wager gaming machine when the metapattern has been hit.
  • The method may further comprise selecting up to E extra bingo numbers after the base game ball draw. The determining may involve determining whether a metapattern has been hit by one of the extra bingo numbers.
  • The providing may involve providing information for up to R bingo cards. In some such implementations, a metapattern can only be hit if all R bingo cards are played.
  • Some implementations provide awards for completing one or more predetermined parts of a metapattern. For example, some implementations provide an award for completing all spots of a metapattern on 2 or more bingo cards. Accordingly, the determining may involve determining whether sufficient components of a metapattern have been completed on fewer than R bingo cards. The method may further comprise providing an award if it is determined that sufficient components of a metapattern have been completed on fewer than R bingo cards.
  • The method may involve receiving player input regarding how bingo cards are arranged. In some such implementations, some metapatterns can only be hit if all bingo cards played are arranged in a predetermined manner.
  • The method may also involve determining whether a selected ball is a wild ball that may be placed on any available spot on a bingo card and providing a wild ball indication if it is determined that a ball is a wild ball. The assigning may comprise assigning the bingo number to the wild ball according to an optimal bingo number for bingo cards displayed on a wager gaming machine. For example, the assigning may comprise assigning a first bingo number to the wild ball according to a first optimal bingo number for a first wager gaming machine and assigning a second bingo number to the wild ball according to a second optimal bingo number for a second wager gaming machine. The optimal bingo numbers may be determined, e.g., according to expected value and/or according to a wild ball placement table. In some implementations, the assigning may comprise assigning the bingo number to the wild ball taking into account a plurality of wager gaming machines participating in a bingo game, e.g., all wager gaming machines participating in the bingo game.
  • The method may involve receiving input from a player indicating which bingo number should be assigned to the wild ball. If so, the assigning may involve assigning the bingo number according to the input. The input may be received in various ways, e.g., via a touch screen of a wager gaming machine, via a button, via another user input device, etc.
  • Alternative systems for providing a multi-card bingo game are described herein. Some such systems include the following: apparatus for providing information to a plurality of wager gaming machines, the information corresponding to a representation of multiple bingo cards; apparatus for selecting randomly N bingo numbers in a base game ball draw; apparatus for determining whether a metapattern has been hit, the metapattern being a single, fixed pattern that spans multiple bingo cards; and apparatus for indicating to a wager gaming machine when the metapattern has been hit.
  • Such apparatus may include one or more logic devices (e.g., one or more processors, programmable logic devices, etc.) of a wager gaming machine, a server, a host device, etc., configured to provide, at least in part, these aspects of the bingo game. A single logic device may, in some instances, comprise one or more such apparatus. Conversely, multiple logic devices may, taken together, comprise one or more such apparatus.
  • The system may further comprise apparatus for selecting up to E extra bingo numbers after the base game ball draw. The determining apparatus may be configured to determine whether a metapattern has been hit by one of the extra bingo numbers.
  • In some implementations, the bingo game can be played with up to R bingo cards. According to some such implementations, at least some metapatterns can only be hit if all R bingo cards are played. The determining apparatus may further comprise apparatus for determining whether sufficient components of a metapattern have been completed on fewer than R bingo cards. The system may further comprise apparatus for providing an award if the determining apparatus determines that sufficient components of a metapattern have been completed on fewer than R bingo cards.
  • The may further comprise apparatus for receiving player input regarding how bingo cards are arranged. In some implementations, at least some metapatterns can only be hit if all bingo cards played are arranged in a predetermined manner.
  • The system may further comprise apparatus for determining whether a selected ball is a wild ball that may be placed on any available spot on a bingo card and apparatus for providing a wild ball indication when it is determined that a ball is a wild ball. The assigning apparatus may assign the bingo number to the wild ball according to an optimal bingo number for bingo cards displayed on a wager gaming machine. The wager gaming machine may comprise the assigning apparatus. For example, the assigning apparatus may assign a first bingo number to the wild ball according to a first optimal bingo number for a first wager gaming machine and may assign a second bingo number to the wild ball according to a second optimal bingo number for a second wager gaming machine.
  • In some embodiments, the assigning apparatus may assign the bingo number to the wild ball taking into account a plurality of wager gaming machines participating in the bingo game, e.g., all wager gaming machines participating in the bingo game. The assigning apparatus may determine which bingo number should be assigned to the wild ball based, at least in part, on input received from a player. The input may be received from the player via, e.g., a touch screen of a wager gaming machine, a button, a graphical user interface, etc.
  • In some implementations, a player may be provided the option of purchasing a block of more than one additional bingo number after the main ball drop. The player may be offered such a block at a discount, as compared to the price for purchasing the additional bingo numbers individually. Some such implementations may be combined with one or more of the “free ball” implementations and/or the progressive implementations described herein. Similarly, some progressive bonus implementations may be combined with one or more of the “free ball” implementations and/or with implementations that involve purchasing additional bingo numbers after the main ball drop of a bingo game.
  • According to some implementations, after the main ball drop of a bingo game, a player may be given a free extra bingo number (sometimes referred to herein as a “free ball” or the like). Some implementations allow the probability of awarding a free ball to be changed, e.g., by a gaming establishment. Some such implementations allow a gaming establishment to select a desired paytable percentage for the bingo game. A probability of awarding a free ball may be determined, at least in part, according to a desired paytable percentage for the bingo game (or vice versa).
  • Some implementations of the invention provide multi-card bingo games. Progressive bonus awards may be presented in connection with such multi-card bingo games. In some such implementations, a player may be required to hit a predetermined pattern on more than one bingo card in order to obtain the progressive award. The number of hits in the pattern(s) and/or the number of bingo cards involved may be determined according to a desired progressive award size and/or a desired probability of obtaining the progressive award. Some such implementations provide a higher average progressive award than implementations which require a pattern on only one bingo card.
  • Alternative implementations of the invention allow players an opportunity to purchase one or more additional bingo numbers after the main ball drop of a bingo game. In some such implementations, a player may be provided the option of purchasing a block of more than one additional bingo number after the main ball drop. The player may be offered such a block at a discount, as compared to the price for purchasing the additional bingo numbers individually. Some such implementations may be combined with one or more of the “free ball” implementations and/or the progressive implementations described herein. Similarly, some progressive bonus implementations may be combined with one or more of the “free ball” implementations and/or with implementations that involve purchasing additional bingo numbers after the main ball drop of a bingo game.
  • Some embodiments of the invention provide an apparatus for controlling a bingo paytable percentage. The apparatus includes a network interface and a logic system comprising at least one logic device. The logic system may be configured to do the following: receive an indication of a desired bingo paytable percentage for a bingo game involving a selection of N bingo numbers; determine a probability of awarding a free (N+1)th bingo number to a player, the probability corresponding to the desired bingo paytable percentage; and provide an indication of the probability. The logic system may be configured to receive the indication of the desired bingo paytable percentage from the network interface, from the GUI, from another user interface, etc. The apparatus may be configured to provide the indication to another device via the network interface.
  • The apparatus may further comprise a display device. The logic system may be further configured to provide a graphical user interface (“GUI”) configured to receive the indication of the desired bingo paytable percentage. The logic system may be further configured to control the display device to provide the indication of the probability.
  • The apparatus may comprise a server, a host device or another device that is further configured to provide, at least in part, the bingo game. For example, the apparatus may comprises a random number generator configured to determine when to award the free (N+1)th bingo number to a player according to the indicated probability. The bingo game may involve winning patterns of bingo numbers on bingo cards. Changing the bingo paytable percentage preferably does not involve changing a number of winning patterns or a payout for any winning pattern of the bingo game. The bingo game may be a multi-card bingo game. Each of the bingo cards provided to a player for a single instance of the bingo game may or may not indicate different bingo numbers from each of the other bingo cards provided to the player for the single instance of the bingo game.
  • Some implementations of the invention involve methods of controlling a bingo paytable percentage. Some methods include these steps: receiving an indication of a bingo paytable percentage for a bingo game involving a selection of N bingo numbers; and determining a probability of awarding a free (N+1)th bingo number to a player, the probability corresponding to the bingo paytable percentage. The method may involve providing an indication of the probability.
  • The method may also include these steps: providing the bingo game; and awarding the free (N+1)th bingo numbers to players according to the probability. A change to the bingo paytable percentage preferably does not produce a change to winning patterns of the bingo game or produce a change a payout for any winning pattern of the bingo game. The offering step may involve offering players the entire plurality of additional bingo number in exchange for the indicium of value. The method may involve offering players at least one additional bingo number in exchange for an indicium of value. The method may involve offering players a block of additional bingo numbers in exchange for an indicium of value.
  • The method may include the step of receiving an indication of the value of N. The determining step may involve determining the probability based, at least in part, on the value of N. The method may involve receiving an indication of how many bingo numbers are used in the bingo game. The determining step may involve determining the probability based, at least in part, on how many bingo numbers are used in the bingo game. The method may include the step of receiving an indication of how many bingo cards are used in the bingo game. The determining step may comprise determining the probability based, at least in part, on how many bingo cards are used in the bingo game. The method may involve receiving an indication of how many spots are on the bingo cards used in the bingo game. The determining step may comprise determining the probability based, at least in part, on how many spots are on the bingo cards.
  • Some embodiments of the invention provide a gaming system that includes these elements: apparatus for receiving an indication of a bingo paytable percentage for a bingo game involving a selection of N bingo numbers; and apparatus for determining a probability of awarding a free (N+1)th bingo number to a player, the probability corresponding to the bingo paytable percentage.
  • The gaming system may also comprise apparatus for providing an indication of the probability. The gaming system may further comprise apparatus for providing the bingo game and apparatus for awarding the free (N+1)th bingo numbers to players according to the probability. The gaming system may include apparatus for offering players at least one additional bingo number in exchange for an indicium of value. The gaming system may include apparatus for offering players a plurality of additional bingo numbers in exchange for an indicium of value. The offering apparatus may comprise apparatus for offering players the entire plurality of additional bingo numbers in exchange for the indicium of value.
  • Methods of controlling a progressive bonus for a bingo game are provided herein. Some such methods include these steps: receiving an indication of a desired probability of winning a progressive award in a bingo game involving multiple bingo cards; determining a number M of hits on R of the bingo cards that will provide an actual probability of winning the progressive award that approximates the desired probability, where R>1; and indicating M and R.
  • The method may involve indicating at least one pattern of hits for each of the R bingo cards. The indicating step may involve indicating at least one pattern on a display device. The pattern may be the same for each of the R bingo cards. Each of the bingo cards may indicate N bingo numbers. In some instances, M>N.
  • The method may include these steps: calculating an average size of the progressive award based, at least in part, on the actual probability of winning the progressive award; and indicating the average size of the progressive award. The calculating step may also be based on a percentage of wagers to be contributed to a progressive award pool. The calculating step may also be based on a required wager per bingo card. The required wager per bingo card may be received from, e.g., at least one of a network interface, a graphical user interface, a user input device or a memory. The indicating step may involve indicating at least one of M or R on a display device.
  • Alternative methods for controlling a progressive bonus for a bingo game are provided herein. Some such methods include these steps: receiving an indication of a desired probability of winning a progressive award in a bingo game involving multiple bingo cards, wherein each of the bingo cards indicates N bingo numbers; determining a number M of hits on bingo numbers of the bingo cards that will provide an actual probability of winning the progressive award that approximates the desired probability, where M>N; and indicating M.
  • In some instances, the M hits must be on R of the bingo cards. If so, the method may involve indicating R. The method may involve indicating at least one pattern of hits for each of the R bingo cards. The pattern may or may not be the same for each of the R bingo cards. The indicating step may comprise indicating at least one pattern on a display device. The indicating step may comprise indicating M on a display device.
  • The method may further comprise these steps: calculating an average size of the progressive award based, at least in part, on the actual probability of winning the progressive award; and indicating the average size of the progressive award.
  • Some embodiments of the invention provide an apparatus for controlling a progressive bonus for a bingo game. The apparatus may include a network interface and a logic system comprising at least one logic device. The logic system may be configured to do the following: receive an indication of a desired probability of winning a progressive award in a bingo game involving multiple bingo cards, each of the bingo cards having N bingo numbers; determining a number M of hits on R of the bingo cards that will provide a probability of winning the progressive award that approximates the desired probability, where R>1; and indicating M and R.
  • The logic system may be further configured to indicate a pattern of hits for each of the R bingo cards. The pattern may or may not be the same for each of the R bingo cards.
  • The apparatus may also include a display device. The logic system may be further configured to indicate M and R on the display device. The logic system is further may be configured to indicate a pattern of hits for each of the R bingo cards on the display device. The logic system may be further configured to provide a graphical user interface (“GUI”) on the display device, the GUI configured for receiving parameters such as the indication of the desired probability of winning the progressive award, a desired progressive award size, etc. The GUI may be further configured for receiving a value of N, a maximum number of bingo cards that may be played in the bingo game and/or other parameters.
  • Some implementations of the invention provide methods for controlling purchases of extra bingo numbers for a bingo game. Some such methods include these steps: providing a bingo game involving a selection of N bingo numbers; indicating hits on bingo cards corresponding to selected bingo numbers; and offering at least some bingo players an option of purchasing a predetermined quantity of (N+1)th through (N+A)th bingo numbers for a first indicium of credit, where A is an integer greater than 1.
  • The method may involve determining whether a player has been awarded a free (N+1)th bingo number prior to the offering step. When it is determined that a player has been awarded a free (N+1)th bingo number prior to the offering step, the method may further comprise offering the player an option of purchasing a predetermined quantity of (N+2)th through (N+B)th bingo numbers for a first indicium of credit, where B is an integer greater than 2. Alternatively, or additionally, the method may comprise offering at least some bingo players an option of purchasing a single (N+1)th, (N+2)th or other extra bingo number for another indicium of credit.
  • The present invention provides hardware (such as gaming machines, network devices, host devices and components of such devices) that is configured to perform the methods of the invention, as well as software, firmware, etc., to control devices to perform these and other methods.
  • These and other features of the present invention will be presented in more detail in the following detailed description of the invention and the associated figures.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • FIG. 1 illustrates one example of a display for a multi-card bingo game.
  • FIG. 2 is a flow chart that illustrates some examples of providing free and/or purchased extra balls after an initial ball drop of a bingo game.
  • FIG. 3 illustrates another example of a display for a multi-card bingo game.
  • FIG. 4A is a flow chart that outlines some methods of the invention.
  • FIG. 4B illustrates components of a device that may be used to implement some aspects of the invention.
  • FIG. 4C depicts a data structure that may be used to implement some aspects of the invention.
  • FIG. 5A depicts data structures that may be used to implement additional aspects of the invention.
  • FIGS. 5B through 5J depict representative bingo card patterns that may be used to implement some aspects of the invention.
  • FIG. 6 depicts a data structure that may be used to implement some aspects of the invention.
  • FIG. 7 is a flow chart that outlines some methods of the invention.
  • FIG. 8 depicts data structures that may be used to implement some aspects of the invention.
  • FIG. 9 is a flow chart that outlines some examples of extra ball and wild ball implementations.
  • FIGS. 10A and 10B outline steps of extra ball pricing according to some implementations.
  • FIG. 11 outlines steps of creating an extra ball expected value table according to some implementations.
  • FIG. 12 provides one example of an extra ball expected value table.
  • FIG. 13 provides examples of outcomes and ball placement values for a 4-spot bingo card.
  • FIG. 14 is a table that indicates examples of game rules, winning patterns and other criteria that were used to create some of the expected value and wild ball placement tables described herein.
  • FIG. 15 outlines steps of creating a wild ball expected value table and a wild ball best placement table according to some implementations.
  • FIG. 16A provides one example of a wild ball expected value table that may be populated, e.g., according to the method outlined in FIG. 15.
  • FIG. 16B provides one example of a wild ball best placement table that may be populated, e.g., according to the method outlined in FIG. 15.
  • FIG. 17 outlines steps of creating a wild ball placement table according to some implementations.
  • FIG. 18A depicts the wild ball expected value table of FIG. 16A and the wild ball best placement table of FIG. 16B with an additional priority column.
  • FIG. 18B depicts the tables of FIG. 18A re-ordered according to priority.
  • FIG. 18C provides an example of a wild ball placement table created according to one example outlined in FIG. 17 and described herein.
  • FIG. 19 indicates steps that may be followed to select the position of a wild ball with reference to a wild ball placement table.
  • FIG. 20 indicates steps that may be followed to select the position of a wild ball with reference to an extra ball expected value table.
  • FIG. 21 illustrates one example of a network topology for implementing some aspects of the present invention.
  • FIG. 22 is a block diagram that illustrates a simplified network topology that illustrates some implementations of an Arbiter.
  • FIG. 23 illustrates a network device that may be configured according to some aspects of the invention.
  • FIG. 24 illustrates a gaming machine that may be configured according to some aspects of the invention.
  • FIG. 25 illustrates a gaming machine and a gaming network that may be configured according to some aspects of the invention.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION
  • In this application, numerous specific details are set forth in order to provide a thorough understanding of the present invention. It will be obvious, however, to one skilled in the art, that the present invention may be practiced without some or all of these specific details. In other instances, well known process steps have not been described in detail in order not to obscure the present invention.
  • Although much of the discussion herein pertains to bingo games, at least some aspects of the invention are not limited to bingo games. Instead, the invention at least some aspects of the invention apply generally to various types of wagering games, particularly central determination games. Moreover, while much of the discussion herein pertains to multi-card bingo games, some aspects of the invention apply to single-card bingo games.
  • Multi-card bingo games have become popular. Existing games often have a similar layout, providing multiple bingo cards and indicating winning patterns. One example display for a multi-card bingo game is shown in FIG. 1. Such a display may be presented, for example, on a display device of a wager gaming machine. The wager gaming machine may be configured for communication with a game server, a progressive server and/or other devices, e.g., as described in more detail herein. Those of skill in the art will realize that the bingo display shown in FIG. 1 is merely an example and that other display layouts (including but not limited to bingo card layouts), numbers of bingo cards, bingo numbers (also known as “spots”) on each bingo card, types of win patterns, numbers of win patterns, progressive award requirements, etc., than those illustrated in FIG. 1 are contemplated by the present inventors.
  • In this example, display 100 includes 4 bingo cards 105. Each of bingo cards 105 has 3 rows and 5 columns of bingo numbers 110, making a total of 15 bingo numbers 110 per card. This makes a total of 60 bingo numbers 110 in total, for all four bingo cards.
  • Bingo numbers may or may not be duplicated across the multiple bingo cards provided to a player for a particular bingo game, according to the implementation. In this example, the bingo numbers on each card are unique. For example, only Card 1 includes a bingo number 13. Each of the four 15-spot bingo cards 105 has different bingo numbers, ranging from 1 to 60.
  • In bingo games, the draws or “ball drops” of bingo numbers normally involve a predetermined number N of balls, at least for the initial or main ball drop. In this example, N=30 out of a total of 60 possible bingo numbers. The selected bingo numbers are displayed in area 115. During the ball drop, the player may be presented with video images of balls with bingo numbers dropping into area 115 from above.
  • After the initial ball drop, “hits” 120 are displayed on the bingo cards 105. The darkened bingo numbers of bingo cards 105 indicate the hits 120. A hit 120 occurs when a selected bingo number (from the ball drop) matches a bingo number on one of the player's bingo cards 105. For example, the indicated hit 120 on bingo number 4 corresponds with ball 4 displayed in ball drop area 115.
  • The hits may or may not produce a “win pattern” that entitles a player to an award. The possible non-progressive win patterns for this bingo game are displayed in area 125. In this example, the hits 120 on Card 1 have produced a winning inverted “V” pattern 132, entitling the player to 40 credits. The number of credits paid for this game are indicated in “paid” window 133.
  • In some bingo games, a player will only receive credit for the highest-level pattern of hits on a bingo card. However, in this example, a player will receive credit for all patterns that are not subsumed by another pattern. For example, if all spots in a card are hit, the player will receive 15000 credits for “blackout” pattern 134, but no other patterns will be paid for that card. The player does not obtain additional awards for completing a “V” pattern, a line pattern, etc. The paytables shown and described herein are based on the assumption that a player will receive credit for all patterns that are not subsumed by another pattern.
  • Area 135 indicates some conditions for winning a progressive award or “jackpot.” In this example, there are two progressive jackpots. The current amounts of Jackpot 1 and Jackpot 2 are indicated by jackpot meters 136 and 137, respectively. The jackpots are funded by a percentage of each player's wager, as described in more detail below.
  • In this example, a player must play all four bingo cards and must bet at least 3 credits per card in order to be eligible for a progressive award. In this example, if the player plays all four bingo cards, bets at least 3 credits per card and obtains a “double line” pattern 138 on any 2 bingo cards, the player will win Jackpot 2. Here, double line pattern 138 may be completed by filling in any 2 of the 3 rows of a bingo card. In this example, a player may indicate a desired wager level by interacting with the “credits bet” area 140 of display 100. If the player plays all four bingo cards, bets at least 3 credits per card and obtains a predetermined 11-spot pattern (not shown) on any 2 bingo cards, the player will win Jackpot 1.
  • Even if the player attains double line pattern 138 on 2 bingo cards but does not wager at least 3 credits per card, the player will not win the Jackpot 2. Instead, the player would only receive 1000 credits for each pattern. However, in this implementation, a percentage of the player's wager would still be added to the progressive pools for Jackpot 1 and Jackpot 2.
  • Some bingo games provide a player the opportunity to purchase one or more additional bingo numbers after the initial ball drop of N balls. In this example, after the initial ball drop of 30 balls, a player may purchase up to 9 additional bingo numbers (sometimes referred to herein as “extra balls” or the like), making a total of up to 39 balls. Other implementations may involve more or fewer balls in the initial ball drop. Similarly, other implementations may provide the option of purchasing more or fewer extra balls, or even no extra balls.
  • Bulk Purchases of Extra Balls
  • Some implementations of the invention provide a player with the option of purchasing extra bingo balls either one at a time or in “bulk.” Rather than buy one extra ball at a time, the player may choose to buy a group of 2 or more extra balls. In some such implementations, the player may be able to purchase the group of extra balls for a lower price than if the player had purchased each extra ball separately. This provides a potential benefit to both the player and the casino. The player may be able to purchase the extra balls at a discounted price. The casino benefits by selling all of the extra balls, rather than having the player buy them one at a time and possibly quitting earlier.
  • Some implementations of the invention provide players with opportunities to obtain one or more “free” extra balls (without requiring the player to provide an indicium of credit for the extra ball or balls). According to the implementation, the extra balls may be obtained for free, by purchasing them, or by some combination of the two. In some implementations, there may be one or more requirements (e.g., of wagering, credits input, etc.) for a player to become eligible to purchase any extra balls. According to some such implementations, a player will not be eligible to obtain a free ball if the player is not eligible to purchase additional extra balls. In other implementations, an aspect of game play may determine whether a player qualifies for an extra ball. For example, in some such implementations, the player must be only one spot away from hitting a pattern of a particular value (e.g., a pattern that pays at least a predetermined number of credits). In yet other implementations, there are no such requirements for obtaining a free extra ball.
  • Some examples of providing free and/or purchased extra balls are illustrated by flow chart 200 of FIG. 2. After a player has provided indicia of credit and wagered, there is an initial ball drop of N balls for a bingo game. (Step 201.) In the example shown in FIG. 1, N=30, but N may be any convenient number. N may be selected by a casino, at least in part, according to the number of bingo cards that could be played at one time, the number of spots on each card, etc. After the initial selection of N bingo numbers, the resulting hits are displayed on a player's bingo card(s). (Step 203.)
  • In this example, a player has a chance to obtain a single “free” extra ball. The extra ball may be considered an (N+1)th selected bingo number.
  • Accordingly, it is determined in step 205 whether a player will obtain an extra ball without charge. This determination may be made, at least in part, according to a predetermined probability P, which may be configurable by a gaming establishment. The determination may also be made according to other criteria, such as a player's wagering level, credit level, etc.
  • For example, a casino may modify probability P according to the time of day, machine occupancy, and/or according to a player's rank in a player loyalty program. In some implementations (described in more detail below), a gaming establishment may adjust probability P to produce a desired paytable percentage.
  • Step 205 may be performed, for example, by a server, a host device or another device involved with providing the bingo game. Step 205 may involve using a random number generator (“RNG”) to make a selection from a range of numbers. For example, if the probability P were 0.05, an RNG might make a random selection from among 10,000 numbers. Step 205 may involve determining whether one of 500 numbers corresponding to a free extra ball is selected out of the 10,000 numbers.
  • If the player is awarded a free extra ball, it is provided in step 210. When a free extra ball is given to a player, the extra ball is preferably awarded with some fanfare. For example, the player may see and/or hear, “YOU GOT A FREE BALL!!!” There may be a characteristic sound, characteristic lighting, etc., associated with obtaining a free extra ball. Preferably, nearby players can also see whether a player has obtained a free ball.
  • In this example, the player has selected to play all available bingo cards in a multi-card game. Moreover, in this game, each ball drawn will provide a hit on one of the bingo cards. The hit resulting from the free extra ball, if any, is indicated on the player's bingo card. (Step 213.)
  • In this implementation, whether or not the player obtains a free extra ball, the player is provided a chance to purchase one or more additional extra balls. (Step 215.) For example, the player may be offered the first extra ball for 5 credits. Suppose the player accepts the offer and pays 5 credits. (Step 220.) The hit is indicated on the player's card. (Step 225.) However, in this example, the player still does not get a desired “hit” to complete a pattern.
  • If the player decides to continue (step 230), the player may be offered another ball. (Step 215.) The price of each additional ball preferably increases, because the chances of obtaining a desired (or desirable) result increase with each ball. This is so because there are fewer and fewer remaining bingo numbers to draw from. Here, for example, the player may be offered another ball for 6 credits.
  • Suppose the player accepts the offer and pays 6 credits. (Step 220.) The hit is indicated on the player's card. (Step 225.) Unfortunately, the player still does not get a desired “hit” to complete a pattern. If the player decides to continue (step 230), the player will be offered another bingo number for 8 credits. Suppose the player accepts the offer and pays 8 credits. (Step 220.) The hit is indicated on the player's card. (Step 225.)
  • In step 215, the player may be presented with the chance to purchase more than one extra ball at a time. For example, if a player has not been awarded a free extra ball, the player may be offered an option of purchasing a predetermined quantity of (N+1)th through (N+A)th bingo numbers, where A is an integer greater than 1. If a player has been awarded a single free extra ball, the player may be offered an option of purchasing a predetermined quantity of (N+2)th through (N+B)th bingo numbers for a first indicium of credit, where B is an integer greater than 2.
  • The player could be offered a group of balls for a slight discount. For example, instead of buying each of the balls separately (as described above) for a total of 19 credits, the player might be offered a chance to buy the first 3 extra balls for 18 credits.
  • If the player does not wish to purchase additional balls, the player will be awarded the credits corresponding to the win patterns (if any) achieved on the player's bingo card(s). (Step 235.) The process ends in step 240.
  • There is preferably a limit on the number of additional balls that a player may obtain. The limit may be selected, for example, to keep the extra ball price from becoming unreasonably high. In one such example, illustrated in FIG. 3, the player may obtain up to 9 balls. Area 305 of FIG. 3 indicates 9 extra balls that a player may obtain. Here, the player has already obtained 8 extra balls. Only ball 310, the 39th ball, remains. As indicated below the extra balls, the player has the option of purchasing the 39th ball for 18 credits. If the player wishes to make this purchase, the player can press “Buy Ball” button 315.
  • Display 300 includes other features of interest. On this display, bingo numbers that are “hit,” such as bingo number 13 of Card 1, are displayed with a dark background. Most bingo numbers that have not been hit, such as bingo number 2 of Card 1, are displayed with a light background.
  • However, this display draws attention to un-hit bingo numbers which, if hit, would complete a pattern. The patterns in “Win Patterns” area 325 are also highlighted to indicate missing spots in nearly-completed patterns. Highlighting such features provides additional player excitement and encourages players to purchase extra balls in an attempt to complete the patterns.
  • One example is bingo number 15 of Card 1. If bingo number 15 were hit, a line pattern would be completed on the bottom row of Card 1. Bingo number 15 appears as an intermediate grayscale in FIG. 3, but in practice bingo number 15 might be bright green, bright yellow, etc. Corresponding pattern 320 also indicates the almost-completed line pattern indicated by the bottom row of Card 1, with actual hits displayed with an X and the un-hit bingo number in a bright color, which appears gray in FIG. 3. In some implementations, the color of the un-hit bingo number in the pattern is the same color used for the un-hit bingo number in the bingo card (here, number 15) which, if hit, would complete the pattern. Another example is provided by bingo number 27 of Card 2 and the corresponding pattern 330.
  • Controlling Payback Percentage According to the Probability of Obtaining One or More Wild Balls or Free Extra Balls
  • Gaming establishments often find it advantageous to change the payback percentage for wagering games, including bingo games. For example, a gaming establishment may choose to lower the payback percentage during peak wagering times and to raise the payback percentage during off-peak wagering times.
  • One method for changing the payback percentage of bingo games that is sometimes used outside of the United States is to modify the number of winning patterns and/or of awarding a different amount for a pattern. For example, a casino may lower the payback percentage of a bingo game by temporarily eliminating certain patterns (e.g., the “four corners” pattern). If the number of displayed win patterns changes, this can easily be noticed by players and may lead to player dissatisfaction.
  • Some implementations of the invention provide methods of altering a payback percentage of a bingo game without changing the number of win patterns or the amount of a win for each pattern. According to some such methods, a payback percentage of a bingo game may be modulated by changing a probability of awarding a free extra ball and/or the probability of obtaining a “wild ball,” e.g., as described in more detail elsewhere herein. The correlation between the payback percentage and the probability of awarding the free extra ball may depend on various factors, including but not limited to the number of balls N in the main ball drop and whether all players are eligible to receive a free extra ball.
  • Some implementations involve requirements for obtaining an extra ball, including but not limited to requirements for receiving a free extra ball. For example, there may be a wagering requirement, a “coin in” or similar credit requirement, a game-related requirement, etc. In some such implementations, a player will only be eligible to obtain an extra ball if the player has nearly completed (e.g., is one spot away from completing) a win pattern of at least a threshold value (e.g., corresponding to an award of a threshold number of credits). In some implementations, for example, a player will only be eligible to receive a free extra ball if the player is also eligible to purchase additional extra balls. Moreover, in some implementations only extra balls may be wild balls. In such implementations, the possibility of winning a free extra ball and/or a wild ball will not only add excitement, but could provide an inducement for a player to purchase additional extra balls. (In alternative implementations, however, there is no requirement for obtaining an extra ball except providing the required number of credits [unless the extra ball is a free ball].)
  • FIG. 4A provides an outline of steps of one such method 400. In step 401, an indication is received of a desired paytable percentage for a bingo game. This indication may be received via a user interface, such as a graphical user interface (“GUI”), another such user interface (e.g., a keyboard, a mouse, etc.), via a network interface, or by any other convenient means. As will be discussed in more detail below, the paytable percentage and its relationship with the probability of awarding a free extra ball and/or a wild ball may depend on various parameters, including but not limited to the win patterns involved, the hit frequency and award of each win pattern, the number of bingo balls selected in the main “ball drop,” the number of extra balls available, the total number of balls available, etc. These parameters (some of which are described in more detail elsewhere herein) may be received, verified and/or changed in step 405.
  • For the sake of simplicity, this example will focus primarily on the interplay between a paytable percentage and the probability of obtaining a free extra ball. However, by applying the methods described elsewhere herein for determining the expected value of a wild ball, etc., this method may be extended to the interplay between a paytable percentage and the probability of obtaining a wild ball. In step 410, a probability of awarding a free extra bingo ball is determined, based on the desired bingo paytable percentage in the context of the other relevant parameters. The probability is indicated in step 415, e.g., on a display screen or in any other convenient manner. In some alternative implementations, a user may input a probability of awarding a free extra bingo ball and the paytable percentage will be determined and indicated accordingly.
  • Some implementations of the invention may involve calculating a free ball probability F according to the formula F=(D−B)/(C−B). In this example, B is the paytable percentage for the main ball drop, involving N balls. C is the paytable percentage corresponding to a free ball scenario, involving (N+1) balls in total. D corresponds to a desired paytable percentage.
  • If the indicated probability is accepted (as determined in step 420), the probability will be set accordingly. (Step 425.) Other related parameters may be changed, if indicated. The results may be used to control a bingo game. For example, the results may be provided to a server, a host device, or to another device involved with providing the bingo game. In some implementations, a device involved with providing the bingo game may also perform, at least in part, the steps of method 400.
  • The steps of method 400 (and/or similar methods) may be performed, for example, by an apparatus such as apparatus 440 of FIG. 4B. Apparatus 440 may be, for example, a host device, a server, or another device that is configured for controlling a bingo paytable percentage. Such an apparatus may include, for example, interface system 442 and logic system 448. The interface system preferably includes at least one network interface 444, which may be configured for communication with a gaming network and/or other networks. A more detailed description of gaming networks and related devices is provided below.
  • The logic system 448 includes at least one logic device, such as a processor, a programmable logic device, etc. The logic system may be configured to do the following: receive an indication of a desired bingo paytable percentage for a bingo game involving a selection of N bingo numbers; determine a probability of awarding a free (N+1)th bingo number to a player, the probability corresponding to the desired bingo paytable percentage; and provide an indication of the probability. Pertinent information, such as data structures described herein (e.g., with reference to FIGS. 4C and 5) may be stored in memory 446.
  • In this example, apparatus 440 includes display device 450. Logic system 448 may be configured to control display device 450 to provide information such as the indication of the probability described in step 415 of FIG. 4A. Logic system 448 may also be configured to provide a graphical user interface (“GUI”) on display device 450 configured to receive the indication of the desired bingo paytable percentage and/or other related parameters. Alternatively, or additionally, a user may interact with user input system 452 to provide such information. User input system 452 includes at least a keyboard in this example, but may be also include any convenient type of input device known in the art, e.g., a mouse, a keypad, etc.
  • The logic system may also receive such information from network interface system 442. Similarly, apparatus 440 may be configured to provide indications (e.g., according to step 415 of FIG. 4A) to another device via interface system 442.
  • Apparatus 440 may be configured to provide, at least in part, a bingo game. The bingo game may be a single-card or a multi-card bingo game. For example, apparatus 440 may comprise a random number generator (e.g., as part of logic system 448) configured to determine when to award the free (N+1)th bingo number to a player according to the indicated probability, after a “ball drop” wherein N bingo numbers are selected. Preferably, a change in the bingo paytable percentage does not affect winning patterns of the bingo game or a payout for any winning pattern of the bingo game.
  • Alternatively, or additionally, apparatus 440 may be configured to control offers to players for extra bingo balls in exchange for indicia of value. For example, apparatus 440 may send configuration information to wager gaming machines via interface system 442 indicating, e.g., the number of extra bingo balls that may be offered, the price per extra bingo ball and/or for blocks of extra bingo balls, etc.
  • FIG. 4C indicates a representative data structure 460 that may be involved in a conversion from the odds of receiving an extra bingo ball to bingo paytable percentage, or vice versa. Field 465 indicates the odds of receiving an extra bingo ball and field 470 indicates the corresponding overall paytable percentage.
  • Some parameters of the underlying game are as follows. The bingo game is a multi-card bingo game wherein up to four, 3 by 5 bingo cards may be played per game. All 60 bingo numbers in the four bingo cards are unique; in other words, a bingo number will only appear on one of the bingo cards. Thirty balls are drawn in the initial ball drop (N=30). With the particular patterns, pays and hit frequencies chosen (see FIG. 5A), the payback percentage may be modulated from approximately 85% to approximately 95% by changing probability of providing a “free” 31st ball to a player from 114 out of 1000 to 775 out of 1000.
  • In preferred implementations, regardless of the payback percentage, the same win patterns are used and the payout remains the same for each pattern. Accordingly, the bingo game presents itself in the same way to a player, regardless of the payback percentage. The only difference is how frequently the player receives the “free” extra ball.
  • FIG. 5A provides additional information for the 90% probability instance of data structure 460. In some implementations of the invention, a display (e.g., display device 450 of FIG. 4B) may indicate one or more areas of FIG. 5A. For example, a user may alter one or more fields indicated (e.g., by interacting with a GUI on display device 450 and/or by interacting with user input system 452) and related fields will automatically adjust (e.g., according to instructions from logic system 448).
  • Area 500 indicates base game parameters. In this example, area 500 indicates how many bingo numbers or “balls” are involved (60 in this example), how many bingo numbers are initially selected (N=30 in this example), how many bingo cards may be played, wager limits, etc.
  • Area 505 includes parameters relating to an extra ball. The odds of a player obtaining a free extra ball in any one game are 444 out of 1000 in this example. A maximum of 8 extra balls may be awarded, including the free extra ball (if any). In this example, a player must be one spot away from attaining a win pattern that is worth 30 credits or more to obtain a free extra ball.
  • Area 510 indicates bet levels and payback percentages. In this case, there are two progressive awards for the bingo game. In order to qualify for the base game, a player must bet one credit per card. However, in order to qualify for progressive 2, the player would need to bet at least 3 credits per card. Eligibility for progressive 1 requires the “max bet,” which is a wager of 10 credits per card. Here, the total payback percentage from all non-progressive patterns (the “base payback percentage”) is approximately 90%. However, the overall payback percentage is over 92% if one takes into consideration the base game and progressive 2.
  • Details regarding the win patterns are provided in area 515, including the pattern number, a depiction of the pattern, the pattern name, the odds of hitting the pattern and the corresponding hit frequency. The non-progressive patterns of the base game only need to be attained on a single card, in addition to having lower wager requirements. However, the 9-spot “H” pattern for progressive 1 and the 8-spot “O” pattern of progressive 2 must be hit on two different bingo cards. This novel feature will be discussed in more detail in the next section of the disclosure.
  • Area 520 indicates the paytable details for each of the patterns indicated in area 515 and at each of the required bet levels indicated in area 510. In this example, the win amount remains the same for the patterns in the base game, regardless of wager level. In alternative implementations, the win amounts for patterns in the base game vary according to wager level.
  • Win Patterns that Span Multiple Bingo Cards
  • One novel feature provided herein involves win patterns that must be obtained on more than one bingo card. Such features are desirable for various reasons. Ideally, a casino would like the payout for at least some patterns, e.g., those corresponding to a progressive jackpot, to be large. The possibility of hitting a high-payout bingo pattern can add substantial excitement to a bingo game.
  • For the same target size of jackpot, the lower the odds of hitting the progressive pattern, the higher percentage must come from each game. The 25-spot bingo cards commonly used in the United States can provide single-card progressive patterns that have low enough odds for providing a large progressive award, even if multiple bingo cards are played.
  • However, smaller bingo cards present challenges. With the 15-spot card, 4-card bingo game that is common in Mexico, for example, the lowest probability for a single-card pattern is approximately 1/85,000, which is the probability of hitting all 15 numbers on a card, with 4 cards and 30 out of 60 balls drawn. Therefore, this pattern is hit more frequently than is desirable for high-payout award such as a progressive award. In one example, 12% of the base wager for each game was being used to fund the progressive jackpot. This is too high to also provide a reasonable overall payback percentage.
  • One way to reduce the chance of a hitting a pattern is to use a bingo card with more spots, e.g., the 25-spot cards that are common in the United States. However, some players prefer to play bingo games using bingo cards with fewer spots on a bingo card. For example, players in Mexico have shown a preference for using bingo cards with 15 spots.
  • Therefore, some implementations of the invention provide high-payout bingo patterns with a commensurately lower probability by implementing win patterns that span multiple bingo cards. Some such implementations require a player to hit the same pattern on each card, e.g., a “Four Corners pattern on all four bingo cards.” The player needs to hit only one additional spot (here, 16 spots instead of 15 spots for a single-card “blackout”), but the probability of the former is much lower (1 chance in 1,028,783). The player has 4 ways to hit the 15-spot “blackout,” because this could occur on any one of the 4 bingo cards. In contrast, the player would only have 1 way to hit the 16-spot Four Corners pattern on all four bingo cards.
  • Not only do such implementations allow a lower contribution percentage for a desired progressive jackpot size, such multi-card progressive win patterns may have additional benefits. For example, multi-card win patterns may have the appearance of being easier to hit than they really are. This may increase player excitement and/or player participation.
  • Some implementations provide a hierarchy of patterns and bingo cards played. In other words, the bingo game could optionally be played with just one bingo card. If so, wins would be based on single-card patterns. However, some patterns would require the player to play multiple cards. Some multiple-card patterns might require 2 cards, other multiple-card patterns might require 3 cards, others four cards, etc. Some examples are provided below.
  • Like the 16-spot Four Corners pattern described above, other multi-card patterns of the invention require hits on all spots of a single, fixed pattern that spans multiple cards. Such patterns are sometimes referred to herein as “metapatterns” or the like. Requiring that the multiple-card patterns be hit only one way allows for more control over the payback and for very low probabilities, if so desired.
  • Some additional examples of metapatterns are provided in FIGS. 5B through 5J. In all of these examples, there is one way of hitting a predetermined number of spots. The particular pattern shape is not important. Factors that matter include the “one way to hit” aspect, the number of spots in the metapattern, the number of cards that the metapattern spans, the number of spots on each bingo card, the number of balls drawn and the number of balls available.
  • Although any bingo card shape and/or size may be used, the examples shown all involve the small, 3 by 5 bingo cards commonly used in Mexico. Similarly, the number of balls drawn in the initial ball drop (30 balls) and the total number available (60 balls) is the same in all of the 4-card examples shown below. Although the methods of the invention could be implemented with other numbers of balls in the main ball drop, with varying numbers of available balls, etc., these factors have been kept constant only by way of example and to permit a more convenient comparison (e.g., of probabilities) between the examples.
  • FIG. 5B is a “two columns” pattern that spans 4 cards, in which the left columns of the two left cards and the right columns of the 2 right cards must be hit. This pattern requires 12 spots to be hit only one way. FIG. 5C illustrates another 12-spot metapattern, which in this case is a “HI” pattern that can be hit with only 2 bingo cards played. If 30 balls are drawn out of a total of 60 available balls, the probability of hitting either of these 12-spot patterns is 1 in 16,179.
  • Therefore, while the metapatterns shown on FIGS. 5B and 5C are visually appealing, they do not provide a lower probability or a correspondingly higher payout than, e.g., a “blackout” pattern on any one of the cards. In some preferred implementations, the large payouts from at least some multi-card patterns may not be attainable by hitting any pattern on a single card, even if all squares are hit. In other words, it may not be possible for a player to hit high-payout multi-card patterns unless the player is playing multiple cards, which costs more than playing just one card.
  • Therefore, multiple-card, high-payout bingo patterns, including but not limited to metapatterns, may motivate many players to purchase and play more bingo cards per game. As discussed in more detail elsewhere herein, multiple-card, high-payout bingo patterns may also motivate players to purchase extra balls, if extra balls are available.
  • The increased wager for multiple cards may benefit the player and/or the casino in other ways. For example, the overall payback percentage may increase as the player plays more cards, or at least if the player plays the maximum number of cards.
  • The casino can still benefit even if the player obtains a higher payback percentage by purchasing extra bingo cards. For example, a casino is better off having 4% of the necessary credits for playing 4 bingo cards played than having 5% of the necessary credits for playing just one bingo card. Therefore, having an overall higher payback percentage if a player plays more cards can be good for both the player and the casino.
  • FIG. 5D illustrates some variations of “HI” metapatterns that require hits on 4 bingo cards. In one example, the required pattern on the two left cards is a 13-spot “H” and in another example, the required pattern on the two left cards is a 15-spot “H.” Here, each metapattern requires a 6-spot “I” that can only be hit one way.
  • In the example with the 15-spot “H,” the metapattern requires 21 spots to be hit one way. The probability of hitting this metapattern, if 30 balls are drawn out of a total of 60 available balls, is approximately 1 in 558 million. This provides very low probability and could allow a correspondingly high payout.
  • However, this 21-spot metapattern would be hit so rarely with 30 balls drawn that, for some implementations (e.g., those in which no extra balls and/or wild balls are available), alternative metapatterns may be preferable. If 30 balls are drawn out of a total of 60 available balls, the probability of hitting the “HI” metapattern having a 13-spot “H” (19 spots in all) is approximately 1 in 37 million.
  • Alternative “hi” metapatterns are shown in FIGS. 5E and 5F. In the example shown in FIG. 5E, a 12-spot “h” and a 6-spot “I” must each be hit one way, for a total of 18 spots. The probability of hitting this metapattern is 1 in 10,694,821 if 30 balls are drawn out of a total of 60 available balls. However, in the example shown in FIG. 5F, a 12-spot “h” and a 4-spot “I” must each be hit one way, for a total of 16 spots. If 30 balls are drawn out of a total of 60 available balls, the probability of hitting this metapattern is 1 in 1,028,783.
  • An intermediate 17-spot “hi” metapattern may be formed, for example, by requiring 2 specific spots to be hit on the upper right card. The probability of hitting this 17-spot metapattern is 1 in 3,233,318 if 30 balls are drawn out of a total of 60 available balls.
  • Preferably, a metapattern will have high enough payout (and therefore a low enough probability) to provide a lot of interest, but yet have a high enough probability to be hit often enough to cause player excitement. Preferably, the payout will be large enough to be interesting, yet will also seem to be attainable.
  • The likelihood of hitting high-payout patterns is increased for implementations that allow players to obtain extra balls and/or wild balls, as discussed in more detail below. FIGS. 5G and 5H provide two “Big O” metapatterns, the former of which requires 16 spots to be hit one way and the latter of which requires 20 spots to be hit one way. Accordingly, if 30 balls are drawn out of a total of 60 available balls, the probability of hitting the 16-spot metapattern is 1 in 1,028,783 and the probability of hitting the 20-spot metapattern is 1 in 10,694,821.
  • However, if a player is allowed to purchase 9 extra balls (normal, non-wild balls in this example), the probability of hitting the 16-spot metapattern becomes 1 in 3,967. The probability of hitting the 20-spot metapattern is 1 in 60,819. In other words, allowing players to obtain extra balls makes these high-payout patterns much more likely to hit and makes the corresponding awards reasonably attainable. If some of the extra balls are (or could be) wild balls, these probabilities decrease still further.
  • Hierarchical Awards According to Patterns that Span Multiple Bingo Cards
  • Some implementations of the invention involve awarding a player when part of a multi-card pattern has been completed. For example, if a metapattern spans N bingo cards, a player may be awarded a prize (or an opportunity to win a prize) when the pattern as been completed on fewer than N of the bingo cards. Some such implementations provide a multi-level progressive award, according to the number of bingo cards on which a metapattern has been completed.
  • For example, consider a “Four Corners” metapattern, in which four bingo cards must be played and the balls drawn must hit the spots on each corner of each of the four cards played. If all four corners on two bingo cards are hit, the player may be awarded a first progressive award (“level 1”). If all four corners on three bingo cards are hit, the player may be awarded a second, higher-level progressive award (“level 2”). If all four corners on four bingo cards are hit, the player may be awarded a third level of award (“level 3”), which corresponds to the full metapattern award in this example.
  • In some implementations, the first level award may be awarded when the metapattern is completed on more or fewer than two bingo cards. For example, if the metapattern is a 20-spot pattern that must be hit on four cards (e.g., such as depicted in FIG. 5G or FIG. 5H), the player may only need to hit the metapattern on one bingo card in order to win a “level 1” progressive award. In some such implementations, the player could win a “level 2” progressive award by hitting the metapattern on two bingo cards and could win a “level 3” progressive award by hitting the metapattern on three bingo cards.
  • Although in some implementations, the awards relate to completion of the same pattern on multiple cards (as in the “four corners” example above) or a slight variation of the same pattern on multiple cards (as in the “Big O” examples above), in other implementations the pattern on each bingo card may vary.
  • Referring to FIG. 5F, for example, it will be observed that a somewhat different pattern needs to be completed on each of the four bingo cards in order to achieve the complete, 16-spot “hi” metapattern. In some such hierarchical award implementations, various combinations of card completion may be used to trigger an award.
  • Some bingo card pattern completions, standing alone, may be insufficient to trigger an award. For example, completing the single “dot” in the upper right card would complete one bingo card's portion of a metapattern but may not be sufficient to trigger an award, at least if no other part of the metapattern has been completed. However, completing a relatively simple pattern such as the single “dot” pattern, in addition to completing one or more other parts of a metapattern, may result in an award.
  • In one example, a level 1 award may be issued when one of the 3-dot patterns of the upper left card or lower right card are completed and the single “dot” in the upper right card has been hit. A level 2 award may be issued when a player completes both of the 3-dot patterns of the upper left card and lower right card. A level 3 award may be granted when both of the 3-dot patterns and the single “dot” pattern in the upper right card. A level 4 award may be granted when the 9-spot pattern of the lower left card is completed. A level 5 award may be granted when the 9-spot pattern of the lower left card and the single “dot” in the upper right card are completed. A level 6 award may be granted when the 9-spot pattern of the lower left card and either of the 3-dot patterns of the upper left card or the lower right card are completed. A level 7 award may be granted when the 9-spot pattern of the lower left card and either of the 3-dot patterns of the upper left card or the lower right card, plus the single “dot” in the upper right card are completed. A level 8 award may be granted when the 9-spot pattern of the lower left card and both of the 3-dot patterns of the upper left card and the lower right card are completed.
  • Providing awards for the completion of parts of a metapattern may encourage players to purchase extra balls and/or play additional bingo games. For example, after winning one level of award, a player may purchase extra balls knowing that there are further chances to win a higher-level award as the game advances. Even if a player is not close to completing an entire metapattern, the player may be close to completing some portion of a metapattern that is sufficient to trigger an award.
  • Such awards may or may not be mutually exclusive. For example, in some implementations which involve the same pattern and different numbers of cards, the game may award only the highest level progressive that is attained.
  • FIG. 6 indicates one example of a data structure 600 that may be used for some implementations of the invention. In this example, the values of data structure 600 are based upon the same type of 4-card, 15-spot bingo game described above, but alternative data structures may be used for other bingo game parameters.
  • In some implementations of the invention, a display (e.g., display device 450 of FIG. 4B) may indicate data structure 600 or a similar data structure. For example, a user may alter the value of bet size field 605 and/or contribution percentage field 610 (e.g., by interacting with a GUI on display device 450 and/or by interacting with user input system 452) and progressive size field 620 will automatically adjust (e.g., according to instructions from logic system 448).
  • Field 615 indicates the number of hits required for each pattern. Field 620 indicates the number of cards on which the pattern must be hit. For each combination of pattern size and number of cards on which the pattern must be hit, the odds are provided in field 625. In this example, the same size of pattern (number of hits) must be attained on each card. However, in other implementations, a different size pattern, different pattern shape, etc., may be hit on different cards.
  • Controlling Parameters Relating to Bingo Patterns
  • FIG. 7 is a flow chart that depicts steps of some related implementations of the invention. In step 701, parameters are received for a desired bingo pattern. For example, the desired payout of the pattern, the desired probability of the pattern, number of bingo cards played, bingo card size, etc., may be indicated. Other parameters may be indicated for progressive patterns, such as contribution rate. Maximum bet size, the number of credits required for a bingo card, etc., may also be indicated. Such parameters may be received via a GUI or other user input device, a network interface, etc.
  • In step 705, the parameters of a pattern that most nearly matches the desired progressive are determined (e.g., by logic system 448 of FIG. 4B, by reference to one or more data structures stored in memory 446). The results are indicated in step 710 (e.g., on display 450 of FIG. 4B, according to instructions from logic system 448).
  • In this example, step 701 involves receiving an indication of a desired probability of winning a progressive award in a bingo game involving a predetermined number of bingo cards. Step 705 may involve determining a number M of hits on R of the bingo cards that will provide an actual probability of winning the progressive award that approximates the desired probability. In some instances, R may be greater than 1. Step 710 may involve indicating M and R. When each of the bingo cards indicates N bingo numbers, M may be greater than N.
  • Step 710 may also involve indicating an expected average progressive size, given the actual probability, a wager size and a contribution percentage. Step 710 may also involve indicating one or more proposed M-hit pattern shapes. If the parameters are not accepted, a prompt may be provided to indicate modified parameters, e.g., a different desired progressive size and/or probability, a different contribution percentage, etc.
  • If the parameters indicated in step 710 are accepted, the patterns may be set for the bingo game. (Step 725.) Other parameters of the bingo game (such as contribution percentage, required wager size for a progressive award, etc.) may be changed, if necessary. The process ends in step 730.
  • FIG. 8 indicates some additional examples of data structures that may be useful for some implementations of the invention. As before, these data structures apply to a four-card bingo game, but other implementations apply to other numbers of bingo cards played.
  • In area 805, the total balls, balls drawn, card size (number of “spots” or bingo numbers) and maximum number of cards playable are indicated. In some implementations of the invention, a display (e.g., display device 450 of FIG. 4B) may indicate one or more of data structures 805, 810, 815, 820 or similar data structures.
  • For example, a user may modify one or more of the total balls, balls drawn and/or card size fields (e.g., by interacting with a GUI on display device 450 and/or by interacting with user input system 452) and other related parameters will be automatically re-calculated and displayed (e.g., according to instructions from logic system 448). In other implementations, the “max cards” field may also be modified. Related parameters will be re-calculated automatically.
  • In another example, a user may alter one or more of the fields in area 810. For example, a user may change the value of the pattern size in area 810 and/or the number of cards on which a pattern must be obtained for a progressive award and the pattern, description, odds and average award fields may automatically be re-calculated and displayed. Similarly, a user may wish to determine how the average progressive award size (or other parameters) may change if one or more of the denomination field, required cards bet field, required bet per card field, percent contribution field and/or the portion to main progressive pool field of area 815 were modified.
  • Area 820 indicates data regarding estimated contributions from players at various wager levels. In this example, the percentage of each wager applied to progressive 1 and progressive 2 does not vary according to wager level. (As noted in area 815.) The contribution level changes only because the wager level changes. However, a player must wager 10 credits on each of 4 cards to be eligible for progressive 1. This means that players who wager from 1 to 9 credits per bingo card contribute to progressive 1, but are not eligible to obtain the progressive award even if they hit the required pattern on the required number of cards.
  • Accordingly, changes to the “percent of play” values for the various wagering levels of area 820 will affect the expected average size of a progressive bonus. In some implementations, a user may interact with a GUI (or the like) to determine relevant sensitivities. In some implementations, actual wager data may be acquired, stored and used as input for the “percent of play” fields. Based on such wagering data, a casino may alter parameters such as minimum wager for a progressive, contribution percentage, etc.
  • Rearranging Bingo Cards
  • The present invention could use any number of bingo cards, according to the desired implementation. The bingo cards may or may not all be the same size. The bingo cards could be laid out in an N×N grid or in other configurations.
  • Some implementations of the invention allow different arrangements of bingo cards when multiple cards are played. In some cases, the attainable multiple-card patterns may depend on how the bingo cards are arranged. In one example, a 2-card bingo game may be provided in which particular patterns can only be hit if the cards are arranged vertically and other patterns that can only be hit if the cards are arranged horizontally.
  • In some such implementations, the player may decide how to arrange the cards. Alternatively, the cards may be arranged automatically according to predetermined criteria, e.g., according to the highest likely resulting payback percentage. Some implementations may allow the bingo cards to be arranged only before the ball drop, whereas others may allow the bingo cards to be arranged after at least some balls are dropped (e.g., after the ball drop for the base game).
  • Accordingly, in some implementations, the player may have to make (or may have the option of making) a strategic decision, based on which pattern or patterns could be formed by rearranging the bingo cards. In some such implementations, the bingo card arrangement will determine which patterns the player may possibly hit and which patterns the player will not be able to hit.
  • In the examples shown in FIGS. 5I and 5J, a player cannot hit the illustrated “T” metapatterns unless the bingo cards are arranged as indicated. FIG. 5I, for example, indicates a 19-spot metapattern, which could potentially be a very high-payout metapattern. FIG. 5J indicates a 22-spot metapattern, which could potentially be an even higher-payout metapattern.
  • In some implementations, a player will not be able to hit certain other patterns, such as the “Big O” patterns and the “HI” and/or “hi” patterns described above, if the bingo cards are arranged to allow one of these “T” patterns to hit. In addition, the “T” pattern shown in FIG. 5J requires the player to purchase 5 bingo cards. Therefore, the player (or a machine) may have a strategic decision to make, particularly if bingo cards may only be rearranged prior to a ball drop.
  • At least four general bingo-card-shifting implementations are contemplated herein. One type would allow/require a player to choose the card arrangement prior to a ball drop. The player may or may not be prompted by a machine as to the most advantageous bingo card arrangement, according to the implementation. For example, the player may be informed of the highest-paying pattern that could be hit and/or the overall paytable percentage corresponding to each position of the bingo cards. Alternatively (or additionally), the patterns attainable in each position could light up, flash, or the like.
  • In some such implementations, if a player does not arrange the cards, the cards may automatically be arranged by the wager gaming machine, by a server, etc. The automatic arrangements may be made, e.g., according to a maximum payout percentage corresponding to the payouts of patterns that could be hit, etc.
  • A second general type of bingo-card-shifting implementation may allow the player to re-arrange the cards after a ball drop. For example, a player may be able to re-arrange bingo cards after a ball drop of a base game and prior to obtaining one or more extra balls and/or wild balls. Again, some such implementations may provide information to the player regarding the highest pattern that the player could hit.
  • A third type of implementation may automatically select a card arrangement before a ball drop. Player input may or may not be allowed, according to the implementation. As noted above, in some implementations an automatic card arrangement may be made if the player does not select a type of card arrangement. A fourth type of bingo-card-shifting implementation may automatically re-arrange the cards after a ball drop.
  • Additional Features Involving Extra Balls
  • Obtaining extra balls and/or wild balls can make a high-payout, low-probability pattern much more likely to hit. FIGS. 5I and 5J illustrate this point. The probability of hitting the 19-spot metapattern of FIG. 5I, for example, is 1 in 37,431,873 (with 30 balls drawn out of 60 balls). The probability of hitting the 5-card 22-spot metapattern shown in FIG. 5J in 30 balls (assuming 75 balls are available) is only about 1 in 882,000,000,000. However, these probabilities increase to 1 in 1,533,299 and 1 in 101,197,760, respectively, if 9 extra non-wild balls are drawn.
  • The probability of hitting a single 18-spot pattern spanning 5 cards in 30 balls (75 balls available) is 1 in 1,105,465,057. If the player can purchase 9 more non-wild balls, the probability is reduced to 1 in 1,533,299. Accordingly, the possibility of hitting such patterns can provide a strong incentive for players to purchase extra balls.
  • Referring now to FIG. 9, some implementations of the invention will be described with reference to flow chart 900. FIG. 9 provides an overview of various processes, some of which will be described in more detail below with reference to FIG. 10 et seq. These steps may be performed, at least in part, by one or more devices in a central system, a casino computer room, etc., such as one or more servers. Some steps may be performed, at least in part, by wager gaming machines or the like. As with other methods described herein, some implementations involve more or fewer steps than those indicated and/or described. Moreover, the steps of this and other methods described herein may or may not be performed in the order indicated.
  • In step 905, the base game is completed. A predetermined number of balls are drawn/bingo numbers are selected. In some implementations, one or more of the balls drawn may be “wild balls.”
  • In step 910, eligibility for one or more extra balls is determined. For example, a player may need to be within 1 spot of hitting a pattern, within another predetermined number of spots of hitting a pattern, may need to have wagered a predetermined amount, may need to be at least at a predetermined level of a player loyalty program and/or may need to satisfy other criteria. In alternative implementations, there is no eligibility determination.
  • In step 915, it is determined whether the first extra ball is a free ball. For example, there may be a random determination of whether to award a free ball. If so, in this example the next step is to determine whether the free ball will also be a wild ball (step 940).
  • However, if it is determined in step 915 that the extra ball will not be a free ball, the price of the extra ball is determined. (Step 920.) Various methods of pricing an extra ball are described herein, some of which will be described below with reference to FIGS. 10A and 10B. In some implementations, the price for an extra ball may differ according to various factors. The extra ball price may vary from player to player and/or from ball to ball.
  • The extra ball is offered to the player(s) at the determined extra ball price(s). (Step 925.) If the player rejects the offer, the process ends. (Step 970.) If the player accepts the offer, the player is charged for the extra ball. (Step 935.)
  • In step 940, it is determined whether the extra ball will be a wild ball. If so, the value to assign the wild ball is determined in step 945. In some implementations, a player may be offered the opportunity to determine where to place a wild ball. However, in this example, the value to assign the wild ball is automatically determined. In some implementations, this determination is based in part on comparing the expected values that correspond with placing the wild ball in each available spot. Examples of extra ball expected values, wild ball expected values and wild ball placement are described below with reference to FIG. 11 et seq.
  • If it is determined in step 940 that the extra ball will not be a wild ball, the bingo number corresponding to the extra balls will be determined by randomly selecting the bingo number from a pool of available bingo numbers. (Step 950.) The selected bingo number is preferably removed from the pool of available bingo numbers. (Step 955.)
  • It is then determined whether there are any extra balls available to be drawn. (Step 960.) Some implementations may provide only a predetermined number of extra balls, even though there may be additional bingo numbers that have not been selected. For example, if the initial ball draw involves 20 balls out of a total of 40 balls, some implementations may not make all 20 remaining balls available as extra balls. Instead, a predetermined number less than 20 (e.g., 5 to 10 of the remaining balls) may be available as extra balls.
  • If there are extra balls available to be drawn, there may be an additional step of determining eligibility for the next extra ball. (Step 965.) If there are no extra balls available to be drawn, the process ends. (Step 970.)
  • The Price of Extra Balls
  • Various pricing schemes for extra balls may be used within the scope and spirit of the invention. Preferably, the pricing structure allows an attractive payout for the base game, e.g., 94% or so for the initial ball draw. The price of an extra ball preferably has some relationship to the expected value for that ball, based on where it could hit, how much good it could do the player, etc.
  • Extra ball pricing may be made, at least in part, according to simulations of large numbers of bingo game outcomes. For example, a Monte Carlo simulation may be used of hundreds of thousands, millions or tens of millions of bingo game outcomes. The simulations should involve the same general parameters as the actual game, e.g., the same number of bingo cards available, the same patterns, the same number of balls drawn in the base game, the same number of balls available, the same number of extra balls available, etc.
  • Based on such simulations, an average expected value may be calculated for each extra ball drawn. This expected value may be scaled according to a desired payback percentage. Alternative methods of extra ball pricing are provided below, some of which involve extra balls that may be wild balls.
  • Some extra ball pricing methods spread the cost of extra balls out to include the cost of playing the base game. For example, one could make the payback percentage of the base game (here, the first 30 balls) lower, e.g., 84%, then offer a low price per extra ball so that the overall payback percentage is quite high if you buy all the extra balls but quite low if you buy none.
  • However, such methods may be less acceptable to players. Most of the machines currently in the field pay back 90% to 96% on the base game. If a player were to walk up to a machine and look at the winning patterns in the paytable, the player could see that one machine pays more credits for hitting the same pattern. Players may not want to play the lower-credits machine. Therefore, it seems preferable to use an extra ball pricing structure that makes the payback percentage of the base game still seem attractive to players.
  • Pricing Extra Balls that May Include Wild Balls
  • One simplified pricing method will now be described. This method assumes that the process of determining whether the next extra ball is a wild ball is generally as described above, e.g., by assigning a probability. In this simple example, the probability of a wild ball hit is 1 out of 10.
  • The expected value of the game may be evaluated based on the 30 regular, non-wild balls, given the spots that have already been hit during the ball draw during the base game. This method involves keeping track of what number would cause the greatest payout and the max payout itself (MAX) at each step. This maximum value may be treated as the value of the wild ball.
  • The payouts that would result from each of the 30 balls may then be summed and divided by 30. The result R can then be multiplied by the probability of NOT drawing the wild ball, which is 9 out of 10 or 0.9 in this example. The greatest payout value, which is the wild ball value, is multiplied by 10% or 0.1. Adding the two numbers (0.9R+0.1 MAX) provides the overall expected value. The price may be determined by scaling the overall expected value according to the desired payout percentage.
  • This process would need to be repeated for each extra ball that is available. In other words, after the 31st ball is drawn, the value for each of the remaining 29 balls should be evaluated, according to the spots already hit on the players' bingo cards. The maximum value is noted and treated as the wild ball value, etc.
  • A variation of this general method will now be described with reference to FIGS. 10A and 10B. These steps (as with steps of various other methods described herein) may be performed, at least in part, by one or more devices in a central system, a casino computer room, etc., such as one or more servers. Some steps may be performed, at least in part, by wager gaming machines or the like. As with other methods described herein, some implementations involve more or fewer steps than those indicated and/or described. For example, some implementations that do not involve wild balls may omit the calculation of a maximum potential win. Moreover, the steps of this method and other methods described herein may or may not be performed in the order indicated.
  • In this example, the process involves determining various quantities relating to the expected value of the next extra ball that may be drawn. Here, the process involves determining the highest expected value of any “hit” on a player's bingo card, which will be referred to as the “Max Potential Win.” The process also involves summing all of the potential payouts that could be obtained from a “hit” on each remaining spot on a player's bingo card to obtain a quantity which will be referred to as the “Total Potential Win.” The Total Potential Win and the Max Potential Win are first set to 0 (step 1005).
  • The Total Potential Win and the Max Potential Win may be calculated in various ways, depending on the implementation. For example, the expected value of obtaining a “hit” on a particular spot of a bingo card may or may not take into consideration patterns that could be completed by hitting more than one spot. In some implementations, the Max Potential Win may be determined by taking into account only those patterns that could actually be completed with one additional spot. Other implementations may “look ahead” and consider the value of patterns that could be completed with more than one additional spot.
  • By way of illustration, suppose that after the ball draw of the base game, one of a player's bingo cards has hits on all but two spots. This means that the player needs to hit those two spots in order to attain a “blackout” pattern on that bingo card. Here, we will assume that the player qualifies for obtaining extra bingo balls and that up to 8 extra bingo balls may be obtained. According to some implementations, the possibility of hitting the blackout pattern in two balls will be taken into account for an expected value calculation when determining the expected value of the first extra ball. In other implementations, the possibility of hitting the blackout pattern will only be taken into account when determining an expected value if one of the two spots has already been hit and the blackout pattern could potentially be obtained by the extra ball under consideration.
  • Accordingly, some implementations involve “looking ahead” more than one ball to determine the expected value of the next extra ball, whereas other implementations do not. Implementations that involve looking ahead may do so to varying degrees. For example, some implementations may look ahead 2 balls, some may look ahead some other number of balls (possibly less than the total number of remaining extra balls) and others may take into account all remaining extra balls. Some examples presently described take into account all remaining extra balls.
  • Moreover, some implementations take into account the expected value of each extra ball with respect to all players. For example, some such implementations may involve assigning a single bingo number to an extra ball as to all participating players, even if the extra ball is a wild ball. Accordingly, in some such implementations the Total Potential Win and the Max Potential Win may be calculated with respect to all players' bingo cards. However, in the example presently being described, wild balls may be different for each player. The Total Potential Win and the Max Potential Win are calculated separately with respect to each individual player's bingo card(s).
  • In step 1010, a player's current outcome is evaluated according the current bet per card to determine the corresponding current payout. Before drawing an extra ball, the current outcome is the outcome obtained after the initial ball draw. In subsequent steps (if any), the “current” outcome and payout will be those resulting after each extra ball is drawn.
  • In this example, the process iterates through all possible balls/bingo numbers that are available to be drawn. Each remaining bingo number will be evaluated to form a corresponding “potential outcome” of hits on the player's bingo card(s) that would result if the bingo number currently under consideration were actually drawn. (Step 1020.)
  • The potential outcome is then evaluated according to the current bet per bingo card to determine the potential payout to the player. (Step 1025.) One could conceive of this evaluation as an answer to the question, “How much could the player win if this ball were drawn?” The process may or may not take into account the potential value of patterns that would be almost, but not quite, completed if this bingo number were actually drawn.
  • In this example, certain payouts may be excluded from the potential payout determination. Such payouts may be referred to herein as “excluded wins” or the like. For example, in some implementations, a large payout associated with a metapattern may be excluded (at least in part) from the potential payout determination for an extra ball. As described elsewhere herein, this may be desirable to avoid having the extra ball price seem unreasonably large to a player that has nearly completed a metapattern or other excluded win.
  • In some such implementations, payouts for excluded wins may be funded (at least in part) by means other than the price of extra balls, e.g., by a percentage of the base game cost. As described below, however, some implementations may take an almost-completed metapattern or other high-value “excluded win” pattern at least partly into account when determining an extra ball price.
  • In this example, the potential win amount is calculated to be the potential payout minus the current payout (step 1030). In other words, the potential win amount is determined to be the additional payout that would result from the extra ball under consideration. The potential win (and possibly other values) are preferably saved and associated with the bingo number under consideration. The potential win is then added to the Total Potential Win. (Step 1035.)
  • In step 1040, it is determined whether the potential win is greater than the Max Potential Win. If so, the Max Potential Win is set to this potential win value. (Step 1045.) If not, the Max Potential Win value will not be changed.
  • It will then be determined whether all remaining bingo numbers (balls that could potentially be drawn) have been considered. (Step 1050.) If not, the next bingo number is selected (step 1055) and considered as described above. If it is determined in step 1050 that all remaining bingo numbers have been considered, the process continues to step 1060 of FIG. 10B.
  • In step 1060, it is determined whether the Max Potential Win is zero. In this example, if the Max Potential Win is zero, the extra ball price will be set to a predefined minimum price. (Step 1065.) This price may be a relatively low price, such as 1 or 2 credits. In some implementations, the extra ball will be offered to the player at this predefined minimum price. (Step 1095.)
  • However, in some implementations, the extra ball price may be adjusted according to a determination of whether the player is close to obtaining an excluded win. (Step 1087.) In this example, the expected value of such an “excluded win” (such as a metapattern award) would not have been previously evaluated in steps 1005 through 1060. For example, if it is determined that the player is only 1 or 2 spots away from hitting a high-payout excluded win pattern (such as a metapattern), the extra ball price may be increased to a predetermined amount. This amount may or may not approximate the expected value of the extra ball, but even a smaller price increase will nonetheless enhance revenues. If a player is close to obtaining a high-payout pattern, it is very likely that the player will decide to pay some additional amount for the extra ball. Preferably, the predetermined increase will not be so large as to discourage many players from purchasing an extra ball.
  • If it is determined in step 1060 that the Max Potential Win is not zero, in this example the process then adjusts the expected value according to the probability that the extra ball is a wild ball. (Step 1070.) Here, the expected value (EV) of the extra ball is set to equal (Total Potential Win/Balls Available)*(1−Wild Ball Probability)+Max Potential Win*Wild Ball Probability. In other words, the EV is set to equal the average of the potential win times the probability of not obtaining a wild ball, plus the Max Potential Win times the probability of obtaining a wild ball. This example assumes that the bingo number corresponding with the Max Potential Win will be the value selected if the extra ball is a wild ball. If the game does not feature a wild ball, this step may be omitted and/or the Wild Ball Probability may be set to zero.
  • Excluded wins may be funded, at least in part, according to a mechanism such as that indicated in step 1075. In this example, EV is set to equal the value of EV calculated in step 1070, divided by the quantity (1—a percentage for excluded wins). As mentioned elsewhere herein, excluded wins may also be funded (at least in part) by a percentage of wagers for the base game.
  • Free balls are accounted for in step 1080. In this example, EV is set to equal the value of EV calculated in step 1075, divided by the quantity (1—the probability of obtaining a free ball). Here, “free” extra balls are funded, at least in part, according to this mechanism. In some implementations, “free” extra balls may be funded, at least in part, by a percentage of the base game wager.
  • The extra ball price is then marked up according to a desired payback percentage. (Step 1085.) In this example, the value of EV determined in step 1080 is further adjusted by dividing EV by a desired payback percentage. The extra ball price may be rounded up to the nearest integer. This payback percentage is not necessarily the same as the one for the base game. In some implementations, the extra ball will then be offered to the player at price determined in step 1085. (Step 1095.)
  • In this example, the extra ball price may be adjusted according to a determination of whether the player is close to obtaining an excluded win. (Step 1087.) As noted above, the upward adjustment may or may not approximate the expected value of the extra ball. In some implementations, the extra ball will then be offered to the player at price determined in step 1087. (Step 1095.)
  • However, in this implementation (but not necessarily in others), a maximum profit value may be imposed: in step 1090, it is determined whether the extra ball price would exceed one or more maximum profit criteria. For example, it may be determined in step 1090 whether the extra ball price is greater than an EV value (e.g., the value of EV determined in step 1080) plus a predetermined maximum profit percentage, a predetermined absolute maximum profit, etc., for a single extra ball.
  • If it is determined that the extra ball price would exceed one or more maximum profit criteria, the extra ball price is adjusted accordingly. (Step 1092.) The maximum profit adjustment may be determined in various ways, e.g., according to an absolute value (e.g., a predetermined number of credits, a predetermined dollar or other currency amount) or a relative value (e.g., a predetermined percentage of another value). For example, the extra ball price may be set to (EV+a predetermined maximum profit value), to (EV+[EV*a predetermined maximum profit percentage]), etc.
  • For example, when the extra ball's EV is determined to be 900 credits in step 1080, applying a desired payback percentage in step 1085 may result in a price of 1000 credits. In step 1090, it may be determined that this price exceeds a maximum profit criterion, e.g., of 20 credits per extra ball. If so, the extra ball price will be set to 920 credits in step 1092.
  • Such “maximum profit” implementations can potentially benefit both players and casinos. Such methods may be used, inter alia, for keeping the extra ball price low enough for players to purchase extra balls in some of the higher EV scenarios. If players are motivated to purchase additional extra balls, casinos revenues may still be enhanced even if the return on some extra balls is not as high. A casino may be willing to accept a lower profit margin on some individual purchases under the assumption that players will purchase more of such high-cost extra balls.
  • This decision and/or the selected maximum profit criterion may, for example, be based upon historical data regarding how often players will purchase an extra ball for various prices and/or under various circumstances, e.g., how often players will purchase an extra ball 1000 credits, 950 credits, 920 credits, etc. In some implementations, the likelihood of the purchase may be normalized according to expected value. For example, the price may be based, at least in part, upon historical data regarding how often players will purchase an extra ball for 500 credits, 490 credits, 475 credits, 460 credits, etc., when the EV of the extra ball is approximately 450 credits.
  • Suppose a casino were deciding whether to price an extra ball having an EV of 450 credits at either 460 credits or 475 credits. If it were determined that players are, on average, 10 times more likely to purchase an extra ball for 460 credits than for 475 credits when the EV is approximately 450 credits, a casino might choose to price the extra ball at 460 credits, expecting to make four times the profit overall (a profit of 100 credits for 10 purchases at 460, as compared to a profit of 25 credits for 1 purchase at 475), though making only 40% of the profit on each purchase (10 credits each for the 460-credit balls instead of 25 credits each for the 475-credit balls).
  • In some such implementations, the casino may choose to indicate a higher payback percentage that corresponds with the reduced extra ball price after imposing a maximum profit criterion, e.g., “THE PAYBACK PERCENTAGE IS 99% FOR THIS EXTRA BALL!!!” This could make the player realize that the casino is conferring a benefit and may also entice the player to purchase the extra ball.
  • However, some implementations do not include a step of imposing a maximum profit criterion. For example, there are implementations in which the process may proceed directly from step 1065, from step 1085 or from step 1087 (or the like) to step 1095.
  • In step 1095, the extra ball is offered to the player at the determined extra ball price. In some implementations, this step will correspond with step 925 of FIG. 9.
  • Some examples of creating an extra ball expected value table will now be described with reference to FIG. 11 et seq. These steps may be performed, at least in part, by one or more devices in a central system, a casino computer room, etc., such as one or more servers. Some steps may be performed, at least in part, by wager gaming machines or the like. These simplified examples involve 4-spot bingo cards and 4 possible extra balls that may be drawn. However, other data structure types, calculation methods, card sizes, numbers of extra balls, etc., may be used to implement the methods of the present invention. As with other methods described herein, some implementations involve more or fewer steps than those indicated and/or described. Moreover, the steps of these and other methods described herein may or may not be performed in the order indicated.
  • In step 1105, a data structure of expected values is initialized. In this example, the data structure is a table 1205 (see FIG. 12) with one row for each possible outcome and one column for the expected values corresponding with an outcome and each possible number of extra balls drawn (here, 0 through 4). In this example, the rows correspond with each possible single-card outcome.
  • However, some implementations may evaluate multiple-card outcomes such as metapattern outcomes. For example, all bingo cards may be treated as a single card (here, a single 16-spot bingo card) for the purpose of evaluating one or more metapattern outcomes and corresponding expected values.
  • The possible single-card outcomes for this example are illustrated in FIG. 13. According to this outcome numbering system, outcome 0 has no hits. Outcome 1 has a hit in the lower right spot of the bingo card. Outcome 2 has a hit in the lower left spot. Outcome 3 has hits in the lower left and lower right spots. Outcome 12 has hits in the upper left and upper right spots. Outcome 15 is a “blackout” with all four spots hit.
  • Table 1405 of FIG. 14 indicates a rule set used for this example. As noted in table 1405, this bingo game involves 16 total bingo numbers, with 6 balls drawn in the base game. A player must be no more than one spot away from a winning pattern on at least one 4-spot bingo card to be eligible for an extra ball. This will happen approximately 75% of the time when a player plays one bingo card and approximately 99% of the time when a player plays four bingo cards.
  • There are 3 single-card patterns corresponding to an award: the blackout pattern of outcome 15, the upper horizontal line pattern of outcomes 12 through 14 and the lower horizontal line pattern of outcomes 3, 7 and 11. The awards, odds, hit frequencies and paytable percentages corresponding to each winning pattern (for this example) are also shown in table 1405.
  • In this implementation, extra ball EV table 1205 of FIG. 12 is populated from right to left. Alternative implementations may involve populating a table (and/or another data structure) in a different sequence, e.g., from left to right. Here, the first column to be populated is the last extra ball column. Accordingly, in step 1110 of FIG. 11, the current column is set to the last extra ball column 1210 of extra ball EV table 1205.
  • All EVs in column 1210 are then set to zero. (Step 1115.) The EVs are set to zero because in this example, only 4 extra balls are potentially available. Because 4 extra balls have already been drawn, there is no chance of hitting a pattern with another extra ball.
  • The process continues so that extra ball EV table 1205 is populated from right to left. In step 1120, the current column is set to the penultimate extra ball column 1215, which corresponds to situations in which 3 extra balls out of 4 have already been drawn. In this example, the current row is initially set to be the first row 1220, corresponding to the first single-card outcome. (Step 1125.) It will sometimes be the case that after drawing 3 balls, a player is only one spot away from hitting an award-winning pattern. Therefore, at least some of the EVs in column 1215 may be (and in this example are) non-zero.
  • In step 1130, the EV for this cell is initially set to zero. The first blank spot on the bingo card corresponding with the current outcome is selected and a new outcome is created by filling in the selected blank spot. (Step 1135.) It will be appreciated that this process does not need to involve actually filling in spots on a physical bingo card (or a representation of a physical bingo card). However, such language provides a convenient way of describing a process of evaluating bingo outcomes.
  • The payout corresponding to the “current outcome,” which in this instance refers to the outcome after 3 extra balls have been drawn, is then subtracted from the payout of the “new outcome” currently being evaluated. (Step 1140.) This leaves the “delta” corresponding to the additional payout (if any) that would result if an extra ball actually produced the outcome under consideration.
  • In step 1145, the process references the “next” EV in a row that corresponds with each “new outcome” being considered. The EV of the outcome currently being evaluated is referenced in the Extra Ball EV Table at column=Current Column+1, row=New Outcome. The EV of the new outcome is added to the previous value of EV. Because all of the EVs in column 1210 are zero, step 1145 will not affect the EV calculation for outcomes in column 1215. However, because many of the outcomes in column 1215 are non-zero, step 1145 will affect the EV calculation for outcomes in column 1235. This affect becomes more significant as the process continues from right to left.
  • It is then determined whether all blank spots on the bingo card corresponding to the “current outcome” have been considered. (Step 1150.) If not, there are additional “new outcomes” that could result from an extra ball hit. The next blank spot is selected (step 1155) and the process returns to step 1135, wherein another new outcome is determined and evaluated.
  • If it is determined in step 1150 that all blank spots on the bingo card corresponding to the “current outcome” have been considered, the EV of the current outcome in the next column is determined and multiplied by the number of extra balls that can be drawn that do not hit the bingo card currently being considered. (Step 1160.) This value is then added to the EV.
  • In step 1165, EV is divided by the number of extra balls in the pool available to be drawn. In step 1170, it is determined whether all outcomes have been evaluated in the column currently being populated. If not, the row is incremented (step 1172) and the next cell/current outcome in the column is evaluated.
  • If all outcomes have been evaluated in the column currently being populated, it is determined whether the column currently being populated is the last column to be populated. (Step 1175.) If not, the current column is set to the previous extra ball column. (Step 1120.) For example, after all of the rows in column 1215 of FIG. 12 have been populated, column 1235 would then be evaluated. After all rows and columns have been populated, the process ends. (Step 1180.)
  • Wild Balls
  • There are at least two general ways that a “wild ball” may be determined. The first is to consider the wild ball(s) as one or more extra balls. In other words, if there are N bingo numbers available for a bingo game, the wild ball(s) would be considered the N+1st ball, the N+2nd ball, etc., depending on how many possible wild balls there are. For example, if one wild ball is authorized, instead of having N balls available for selection, (e.g., 60 balls) N+1 balls would be available. The N+1th ball (e.g., the 61st ball) would correspond to a wild ball.
  • Another general method of determining a wild ball is to have a random determination as to whether a wild ball has been drawn. For example, there may be a fixed probability of converting a normal ball into a wild ball. In the foregoing example, one or more of the N balls available might be converted to wild balls, according to a random determination for each ball drawn.
  • In preferred implementations of the invention, wild balls are determined, if at all, after a main ball drop of a base game. In such implementations, only extra balls can be wild balls. These implementations are described first. However, in some alternative implementations, one or more wild balls may be determined during the base game. These implementations are described after the “extra ball” implementations. Still other implementations allow a wild ball to be drawn either during the base game or during an extra ball phase.
  • Wild Balls Drawn as Extra Balls
  • One variation of the “random determination” method proceeds as follows, in the context of an extra ball phase. These steps may be performed, at least in part, by one or more devices in a central system, a casino computer room, etc., such as one or more servers.
  • In this example, it is possible to limit the number of wild balls is allowed per game. Therefore, in order to determine whether the next extra ball (or any subsequent extra ball) could potentially be a wild ball, the game parameters are checked for a Maximum Number of Wild Balls Per Game (or the like). If this maximum value exists and has been met, the next extra ball is not a wild ball.
  • However, if no maximum value exists or, as in this example, a maximum value of wild ball is determined but has not been met, there is a possibility that the next extra ball could be a wild ball. Therefore, the game parameters are checked and the probability of a wild ball is determined.
  • In this example, the probability is 4% or 4 out of 100. Here, a random number is drawn in the range 0 to 99. If the number is less than 4, the extra ball is a Wild Ball. If a wild ball is drawn, this fact should be communicated to the participating wager gaming machines, e.g., as described elsewhere herein. There could be a presentation made on the participating wager gaming machines, e.g., “WILD BALL!” or the like. In some implementations, a gaming machine may present a graphic of a ball moving around and/or un-hit bingo spots lighting up. This presentation may be made, for example, while the server, the wager gaming machine or another device is determining where to place the wild ball.
  • If the number drawn is 4 or more, in this example the extra ball is not a wild ball. If it is determined that the extra ball is not a wild ball, one of the available bingo numbers/balls is randomly drawn. The corresponding bingo number should be communicated to the participating wager gaming machines, the bingo cards should be marked and wins (if any) issued as appropriate.
  • Placement of a Wild Ball
  • The machine and/or the player may select a spot for the wild ball, depending on the details of the particular implementation. The selection could be totally “manual” (e.g., entirely the player's choice), made by the player according to a recommendation by a machine, or made automatically by the machine. In some implementations, the player may indicate where the wild ball will be placed by interacting with a user input of a wager gaming machine, e.g., by touching a screen, pressing a button, etc.
  • Some implementations assign a bingo number to a wild ball according to what hit on the player's bingo card would do the most good. For example, the machine may select a bingo number corresponding to a spot on a bingo card that has the highest present value to the player, according to the bingo cards currently being played. This determination may be based on the patterns available, pattern values, how many spots the player needs to hit in order to complete a pattern, how many additional balls are available and/or other factors.
  • If the player chooses the spot/number, the player may decide to use the wild ball to complete a pattern or to get closer to a desired pattern without completing it. E.g., even after using a wild ball, a player may still be one spot away from a desired pattern. The player may hope to complete the pattern with subsequent balls, e.g., purchased extra balls.
  • If a machine automatically assigns a bingo number to a wild ball, in some implementations the machine will select the wild ball number to achieve the greatest immediate payout. For example, the gaming machine or the server could choose a spot that would complete the highest-paying pattern. If no pattern could be completed with one additional spot, the machine could, e.g., evaluate whether another pattern could be completed with two additional spots. If more than one pattern could be completed, the odds of completing each pattern could be compared. In some implementations, spots could be selected according to the pattern most likely to be completed. In others, the determination could be made according to the likely value of the spot, e.g., by dividing the payout for each pattern by the probability of hitting the pattern with the remaining available balls.
  • The machine could, e.g., evaluate the odds of completing, e.g., each pattern that is 2 or more away, assuming that the player buys all extra balls available, and evaluate the expected value of placing the wild ball in each spot.
  • In some implementations, a wild ball is placed by reference to one or more data structures, rule sets, etc. The data structures and rule sets may correspond with, inter alia, the number of spots on each bingo card, the number of cards that may be played, the number of patterns that correspond with payouts, the payouts per pattern, whether any metapatterns are involved, etc.
  • One such example will now be described in detail. In this example, at least some extra balls may potentially be wild balls. The expected values of extra balls in general and of wild balls in particular are used to create what will sometimes be referred to herein as a “wild ball placement table” or the like.
  • Referring now to FIG. 15, one example of a process will now be described for populating a data structure that will often be referred to herein as a “wild ball EV table” or the like. Such a data structure may be used for various purposes, e.g., to determine how the possibility of a wild ball may affect the likely payout for an extra ball. Accordingly, such a table may be used to determine, in part, the price of an extra ball for implementations in which an extra ball may be a wild ball.
  • In this example, the process begins by completing an extra ball EV table (or the like). (Step 1505.) In some such implementations, the EV table is completed in a manner similar to that described above. In alternative implementations, the EV table is populated in a different manner, e.g., is completed left to right and/or populated according to a simulation (e.g., a Monte Carlo simulation) of bingo game outcomes. If a simulation-based method is used, evaluating a large number of bingo game outcomes (e.g., hundreds of thousands, millions or tens of millions of bingo game outcomes) may provide relatively more accuracy.
  • In this example, at least one data structure is then initialized. (Step 1510.) In this example, a wild ball EV table is initialized and all EVs are initially set to zero. Here, the wild ball EV table includes expected values corresponding to outcomes and extra balls drawn, as described above with reference to the extra ball EV table of FIG. 12.
  • In step 1512, what will sometimes be referred to herein as a “wild ball best placement table” or the like is initiated. The wild ball best placement table indicates the optimal placement of a wild ball on a bingo card given a particular “current outcome” of hits (if any) that have already been made. In the example presently being described, wild ball placement will be indicated by numbers that correspond to areas of a four-spot bingo card. Referring now to FIG. 13, the “WB placement” card shown there indicates positions 0, 1, 2 and 3 of such a 4-spot bingo card.
  • In this example, the same outcome numbers and bingo game rules referenced above (e.g., with reference to FIGS. 13 and 14) that were used to populate the extra ball EV table of FIG. 12 will be used to populate wild ball EV table 1605 of FIG. 16A and wild ball best placement table 1655 of FIG. 16B. Moreover, the tables will be populated from right to left in this example, also as described above with reference to FIG. 12 et seq.
  • Accordingly, the first column of wild ball EV table 1605 to be considered is column 1610, corresponding to situations in which all four of the extra balls have already been drawn. All EVs in column 1610 are set to zero, because no additional balls are available to be drawn. (Step 1515 of FIG. 15.)
  • The next column of wild ball EV table 1605 to be populated is column 1615, corresponding to situations in which 3 of the 4 possible extra balls have already been drawn. (Step 1520.) Row 1620, corresponding to outcome zero, is considered first in this example.
  • The first blank spot of the current outcome is then considered. (Step 1525.) A new outcome is created by filling in the selected blank spot. (Step 1530.) A “delta” between the value of the current outcome and the value of the new outcome is then calculated and set to be the new EV value. (Step 1535.)
  • Step 1540 is similar to step 1145 of FIG. 11. In step 1540, the EV of the new outcome is determined by reference to the EV in the extra ball EV table for the row corresponding to the outcome presently being considered, but in the column to the right. In this example, suppose that the first blank spot is spot zero. The first “new outcome” corresponds to outcome 1. Therefore, the first such EV may be found in extra ball EV table 1205 in column 1210, row 1225 (corresponding to outcome 1): here, the corresponding EV happens to be zero. The value found in the extra ball EV table is then added to the EV value determined in step 1535.
  • In step 1545, it is determined whether the present value of EV is greater than a stored EV value, which is initially set to zero. If so, the present EV value and a value corresponding to the current wild ball placement are stored. In this example, these values are stored in memory locations corresponding to those wherein wild ball EV table 1605 of FIG. 16A and wild ball best placement table 1655 of FIG. 16B are stored. In this example, the memory locations would correspond to column 1615, row 1620 of wild ball EV table 1605 and column 1660, row 1665 of wild ball best placement table 1655. These values may be overwritten if it is subsequently determined (in step 1545) that another wild ball placement results in a higher EV. Alternatively, these values may be temporarily stored in another memory the value, then used to populate wild ball EV table 1605 and wild ball best placement table 1655 after the highest EV value and corresponding best wild ball placement are determined.
  • If it is determined in step 1545 that the present value of EV is not greater than the stored EV value, the stored values are not updated. It is determined whether all blank spots for the current outcome have been evaluated. (Step 1555.) If not, the next blank spot for the current outcome is selected (step 1560) and another new outcome is created by filling in the selected blank spot. (Step 1530.)
  • The process continues until it is determined in step 1565 that all rows for the column under consideration have been evaluated and populated. Then, it is determined whether the column presently being evaluated is the last column. (Step 1575.) If not, the current extra ball column is set to be the previous extra ball column. (Step 1520.) The process continues until all extra ball columns and the corresponding outcomes/rows have been evaluated. The process ends in step 1580.
  • In this example, a data structure for storing wild ball placement values (often referred to herein as a “wild ball placement table” or the like) may be created with reference to a wild ball EV table and a wild ball best placement table. One such process will now be described with reference to FIG. 17.
  • In step 1705, a wild ball EV table is created. A column is added for priority. The wild ball EV table is then sorted from the lowest priority to the highest. (Step 1710.) In this example, when two entries are being compared, the last column is compared first, then the previous column(s).
  • A priority is then assigned to each row (in other words, to each corresponding outcome) according to the row's new sorted position. (Step 1715.) In this example, rows with higher EVs have higher priorities.
  • FIGS. 18A and 18B illustrate example results of steps 1705 through 1715, wherein the wild ball EV table created in step 1705 is wild ball EV table 1605. In FIG. 18A, priority column 1801 a has been added to wild ball EV table 1605, indicating priorities corresponding to each of outcomes zero through 15. In FIG. 18B, priority column 1801 b indicates priorities in ascending order. Wild ball EV table 1805 and wild ball best placement table 1855 were produced by re-ordering the corresponding rows of wild ball EV table 1605 according to priority column 1801 b.
  • In step 1720 of FIG. 17, the wild ball placement associated with the last column of a wild ball EV table that has a non-zero EV is selected. For example, referring to FIG. 18B, the last column corresponding to a non-zero EV for outcome 7 is the column corresponding to 3 extra balls already drawn. The corresponding wild ball placement value of 3 is selected for the wild ball placement table.
  • The rows are then re-sorted according to their original outcomes (step 1725). Each outcome, the corresponding priority and the corresponding wild ball placement value are included in the wild ball placement table. (Step 1730.) An example of a resulting wild ball placement table 1875 is shown in FIG. 18C. The process ends in step 1735 of FIG. 17. Please note that the sorting and re-sorting processes described above are not necessary, but have been done in this example to illustrate how priorities may be assigned.
  • One example of how a wild ball placement table may be used will now be described with reference to FIG. 19. Some steps of method 1900 may be performed, at least in part, by wager gaming machines or the like. As with other methods described herein, some implementations involve more or fewer steps than those indicated and/or described. Moreover, the steps of this and other methods described herein may or may not be performed in the order indicated.
  • In step 1905, a wild ball is drawn. There may be an announcement, e.g., “WILD BALL!” or the like. A gaming machine may present a graphic of a ball moving around and/or un-hit bingo spots lighting up while the gaming machine, a server or another device is determining where to place the wild ball. In this example, step 1905 may correspond, at least in part, to a positive determination of step 940 of FIG. 9. Accordingly, the wild ball may or may not be a free ball, according to the implementation.
  • The first bingo card to be evaluated is then selected. (Step 1910.) The card's outcome is determined by reference to a wild ball placement table to determine this card's priority and this card's wild ball placement. (Step 1915.) For example, if wild ball placement table 1875 were being referenced, the placement of the wild ball would be determined by the outcome on the first bingo card to be evaluated. If the outcome were, e.g., outcome 5, the corresponding priority would be 11 and the wild ball placement would be position 1.
  • The Best Card is initially set to equal the bingo card currently being evaluated. Similarly, the Best Priority is initially set to equal this card's priority (11) and the Best Wild Ball Placement is initially set to equal this card's wild ball placement (position 1). (Step 1920.)
  • In step 1925, it is determined whether the bingo card currently being evaluated is the last card that needs to be evaluated. If so, the wild ball is placed on the Best Card, in the Best Wild Ball Placement position. If not, the next bingo card is then selected. (Step 1930.) In this example, the player is playing 3 bingo cards, so additional cards need to be considered.
  • The next card's outcome is evaluated by reference to a wild ball placement table (in this example, by reference to wild ball placement table 1875) to determine the card's priority and wild ball placement. (Step 1935.) For example, if the outcome on the bingo card were, e.g., outcome 9, the corresponding priority would be 9 and the wild ball placement would be position 1.
  • It is then determined whether the Best Priority is less than the priority of the bingo card currently being evaluated. (Step 1940.) Here, the Best Priority is currently 11, so the Best Priority is not less than the priority of the bingo card currently being evaluated (9). The process then returns to step 1925, wherein it is determined that there is an additional bingo card left to be considered.
  • The next card's outcome is evaluated by reference to wild ball placement table 1875 to determine the card's priority and wild ball placement. (Step 1935.) In this example, the outcome on the bingo card is outcome 11, the corresponding priority is 14 and the wild ball placement is position 2.
  • It is then determined whether the Best Priority is less than the priority of the bingo card currently being evaluated. (Step 1940.) Here, the Best Priority is currently 11, so the Best Priority is less than the priority of the bingo card currently being evaluated (14). The process returns to step 1920, wherein the Best Card is set to equal the bingo card currently being evaluated, the Best Priority is set to equal this card's priority (14) and the Best Wild Ball Placement is set to equal this card's wild ball placement (position 2).
  • The process then returns to step 1925, wherein it is determined that there are no bingo cards left to be considered. The wild ball is placed on the Best Card, in the Best Wild Ball position. In this example, the wild ball is placed on the third and last bingo card to be evaluated, in position 2.
  • Although this example pertains mainly to games having no metapatterns, the method can be modified to include games that involve metapatterns. For example, all of a player's bingo cards could be considered another bingo card for evaluation. In some implementations, such a metapattern evaluation may be performed only when the player has nearly completed a metapattern, e.g., is within 1 or 2 hits of completing a metapattern.
  • In the foregoing process, the wild ball placement is optimized for each individual player, whether there is a single player or multiple players. In alternative multi-player implementations, a single bingo number may be assigned to a wild ball, e.g., by performing an optimization based upon all participating players' bingo cards. For example, the process may involve computing the highest overall expected value taking all players into account. In such implementations, all players may receive the same wild ball value. There could still be an announcement, e.g., “THIS IS A WILD BALL!” or the like. A gaming machine may present a graphic of a ball moving around and/or un-hit bingo spots lighting up while the server (or another device) is determining where to place the wild ball. The gaming machine may show a picture, streaming video, audio, etc. of a player who just won a huge jackpot as a result of the wild ball. There may be celebration sounds. It may be exciting for some players to hear about big payouts that the wild ball made for other players.
  • After a bingo number has been assigned to a wild ball, the assigned bingo number may be withdrawn from the pool of bingo numbers available to draw from. There are various ways for implementing such a withdrawal for bingo games with multiple players. If a server (or other device) determines a single best spot to place the wild ball that will apply to all players, that value may then be withdrawn from the pool of bingo numbers available to draw from.
  • For implementations wherein the wild ball placement is optimized for each individual player, the process will often involve selecting a different wild ball placement (and corresponding bingo number) for each player. If the same number is drawn later, in some implementations the number is discarded and the next ball drawn is selected. For example, a server may transmit to a gaming machine at least one more than the usual number of balls drawn. For example, a server may send down selections for each ball of the full range of balls available to be drawn: i.e., when drawing from a pool of 60 balls, the server may draw all 60 and sends them down in the order drawn, even though fewer balls are actually available as extra balls.
  • It is preferable that there is some variation between the extra balls drawn for individual players. Otherwise, one player could cheat by looking at another player's results. Thus, for the extra ball, there really is no problem caused when a different wild ball is determined for different players. Moreover, in some implementations one player may sometimes obtain a wild ball when another player does not.
  • A process of determining a wild ball placement with reference to an extra ball EV table will now be described with reference to FIG. 20. Method 2000 may be used, for example, in bingo game that involve metapatterns. Some steps of method 2000 may be performed, at least in part, by wager gaming machines or the like. As with other methods described herein, some implementations involve more or fewer steps than those indicated and/or described. Moreover, the steps of this and other methods described herein may or may not be performed in the order indicated.
  • In step 2005, a wild ball is drawn. The Best EV is initially set to zero. (Step 2010.) In step 2015, the first spot where the wild ball may be placed is selected. A New Outcome is created by placing the wild ball on the spot selected. (Step 2020.) As previously mentioned, this process does not need to involve actually filling in spots on a physical bingo card (or a representation of a physical bingo card). However, such language provides a convenient way of describing a process of evaluating various possible wild ball placements.
  • The entry in the extra ball EV table corresponding to the New Outcome, at one more than the current number of balls drawn, is then determined. (Step 2030.) This value is then added to the current EV value. For example, suppose that extra ball EV table 1205 of FIG. 12 were being referenced in step 2030. Suppose further that no other extra ball has yet been drawn and that the New Outcome corresponds to outcome 9. The corresponding EV from column 1240 for outcome 9 would be determined (4).
  • In step 2035, the first metapattern is selected. The EV of the first metapattern is determined to be the first metapattern's payout times the probability of completing the first metapattern in any one of the remaining extra balls drawn after the Wild Ball is placed. (Step 2040.) In this example, there are 3 additional extra balls available after this wild ball is placed. Suppose that 2 additional hits would be needed to complete the first metapattern. Step 2040 would involve determining the probability of obtaining those 2 hits in the next 3 extra balls drawn, then multiplying this probability by the first metapattern's payout. The first metapattern's EV is then added to the prior value of EV. (Step 2045.)
  • In step 2050, it is determined whether the first metapattern is the last (only) metapattern. If not, the next metapattern is selected (step 2055) and the process resumes at step 2040.
  • If it is determined in step 2050 that the first metapattern is the only metapattern, it is then determined whether the current value of EV is greater than the Best EV. (Step 2060.) Initially, the Best EV was set to zero, so any non-zero value of EV will result in setting the Best EV to the current EV. (Step 2065.) The wild ball placement will be set to the current placement.
  • In step 2070, it is determined whether the spot currently under consideration is the last spot where the wild ball may be placed. If all spots have not yet been considered, the next spot where the wild ball may be placed is selected. (Step 2072.) When it is determined in step 2070 that all spots have been considered, the wild ball is placed in the spot indicated by the wild ball placement.
  • Wild Ball as Part of Base Game
  • In some implementations, a wild ball may be drawn as part of the ball draw in a base game. In the case of a 30-ball drop for the base game, for example, if the wild ball is drawn as, e.g., the 4th ball and there are 26 more to draw, a player (or a machine) may put the wild ball in a place where a bingo number later hits. In other words, if the player (or a machine) decides the wild ball should be put in the spot for bingo number 7, it is possible that number 7 would be drawn later.
  • In some implementations, if the corresponding bingo number is drawn later, the wild ball could be moved. For example, it could appear to the player as if the player has won a second wild ball.
  • In alternative implementations, however, if the corresponding bingo number is drawn later, the same spot is hit again. Such implementations are simpler to implement, but may cause player disappointment. It may seem to a player, for example, that the previously-drawn wild ball was wasted, or even that the player was made worse off, not better off, by the effect of the wild ball.
  • Other implementations that involve having a wild ball picked during the base game do not require moving the spot hit by a wild ball (or wasting the wild ball). Instead, some such implementations select the wild ball during the base game, but hold it “in escrow” until the rest of the balls are drawn and hits indicated on the bingo cards. There may be an indication such as “WILD BALL DRAWN!” or the like, but the wild ball is not placed until after all the other balls are drawn and spotted. As mentioned elsewhere, a graphical representation of a ball moving around may be presented and/or un-hit bingo spots may light up while the EGM or the server is determining where to place the wild ball.
  • For implementations wherein the wild ball is the last ball for the initial ball draw (e.g., the 50th ball out of 50 drawn in the base game), some implementations do the following: (1) evaluate all the possible patterns almost hit (e.g., 1 spot away) after 49 balls are drawn; and (2) place the wild ball where it would do the most good (locally or globally, according to the implementation.
  • It is desirable to have as many gaming machines as possible participating in the same bingo game. Having a large number of participating gaming machines allows larger jackpots to accumulate and reduces the time that players spend waiting for additional players. Therefore, some implementations provide a system wherein a plurality of electronic gaming machines are configured for communication with a central system that includes, e.g. a bingo server, a progressive server, etc. By linking many participating electronic gaming machines to a single server, some implementations of the invention allow progressive contributions from all of the participating electronic gaming machines to be pooled into one or more progressive jackpot.
  • Alternatively, or additionally, the game theme of a particular networked gaming machine (or a group of networked gaming machines) may be changed according to instructions received from a central system: some gaming networks described herein include a central system that is configured to download game software and data, including but not limited to the underlying bingo patterns, pays and game outcomes, to networked gaming machines. Such gaming networks allow for the convenient provisioning of networked gaming machines.
  • Some networks described herein provide methods and devices for managing one or more networked gaming establishments. Such networks may sometimes be referred to herein as server-based gaming networks, Sb™ networks, or the like. Some such gaming networks described herein allow for the convenient provisioning of networked gaming machines and other devices relevant to casino operations. Game themes may be easily and conveniently added or changed, if desired. Related software, including but not limited to player tracking software, peripheral software, etc., may be downloaded to networked gaming machines and other devices, such as kiosks, networked gaming tables, player stations, etc.
  • Relevant information is set forth in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/225,407 (Attorney Docket No. IGT1P237/P-1051), by Wolf et al., entitled “METHODS AND DEVICES FOR MANAGING GAMING NETWORKS” and filed Sep. 12, 2005, in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/757,609 by Nelson et al., entitled “METHODS AND APPARATUS FOR GAMING DATA DOWNLOADING” (Attorney Docket No. IGT1P213/P-657) and filed on Jan. 14, 2004, in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/938,293 by Benbrahim et al., entitled “METHODS AND APPARATUS FOR DATA COMMUNICATION IN A GAMING SYSTEM” (Attorney Docket No. IGT1P199/P-909) and filed on Sep. 10, 2004, in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/225,337 (Attorney Docket No. IGT1P185/P-1017) by Nguyen et al., filed Sep. 12, 2005 and entitled “DISTRIBUTED GAME SERVICES,” in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/225,408 (Attorney Docket No. IGT1P253) by Kinsley et al., entitled “METHODS AND DEVICES FOR AUTHENTICATION AND LICENSING IN A GAMING NETWORK” and filed Aug. 1, 2005, in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/078,966 (Attorney Docket No. IGT1P034X2/P-277 CIP2) by Nguyen et al., filed Mar. 10, 2005 and entitled “SECURED VIRTUAL NETWORK IN A GAMING ENVIRONMENT,” in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/173,442 (Attorney Docket No. IGT1P153/P-991) by Kinsley et al., filed Jul. 1, 2005 and entitled “METHODS AND DEVICES FOR DOWNLOADING GAMES OF CHANCE” and in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/810,888 (Attorney Docket No. IGT1P390/P-1200) by Graham et al., filed Jun. 6, 2007 and entitled “DATABASE QUERIES WITHIN A GAMING MACHINE,” all of which are hereby incorporated by reference in their entirety and for all purposes.
  • One example of an Sb™ network is depicted in FIG. 21. Those of skill in the art will realize that this architecture and the related functionality are merely examples and that the present invention encompasses many other such embodiments and methods.
  • Here, casino computer room 2120 and networked devices of a gaming establishment 2105 are illustrated. Gaming establishment 2105 is configured for communication with central system 2163 via gateway 2150. Gaming establishments 2193 and 2195 are also configured for communication with central system 2163.
  • In some implementations, gaming establishments may be configured for communication with one another. In this example, gaming establishments 2193 and 2195 are configured for communication with casino computer room 2120. Such a configuration may allow devices and/or operators in casino 2105 to communicate with and/or control devices in other casinos. In some such implementations, a server in computer room 2120 may control devices in casino 2105 and devices in other gaming establishments. Conversely, devices and/or operators in another gaming establishment may communicate with and/or control devices in casino 2105.
  • For example, a server of casino 2105 or central system 2163 may be provisioned with relatively more advanced software (e.g., 3-D facial recognition software) for patron identification than servers of other networked locations. Such a server may process patron identification requests from devices in casino 2105 as well as patron identification requests from devices in gaming establishments 2193 and 2195.
  • Here, gaming establishment 2197 is configured for communication with central system 2163, but is not configured for communication with other gaming establishments. Some gaming establishments (not shown) may not be in communication with other gaming establishments or with a central system.
  • Gaming establishment 2105 includes multiple gaming machines 2121, each of which is part of a bank 2110 of gaming machines 2121. In this example, gaming establishment 2105 also includes a bank of networked gaming tables 2153. However, the present invention may be implemented in gaming establishments having any number of gaming machines, gaming tables, etc. It will be appreciated that many gaming establishments include hundreds or even thousands of gaming machines 2121 and/or gaming tables 2153, not all of which are necessarily included in a bank and some of which may not be connected to a network.
  • Some gaming networks provide features for gaming tables that are similar to those provided for gaming machines, including but not limited to bonusing, player loyalty/player tracking and the use of cashless instruments. Relevant material is provided in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/154,833, entitled “CASHLESS INSTRUMENT BASED TABLE GAME PROMOTIONAL SYSTEM AND METHODOLOGY” and filed on Jun. 15, 2005 (attorney docket no. IGT1P035X3), U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/858,046, entitled “AUTOMATED PLAYER DATA COLLECTION SYSTEM FOR TABLE GAME ENVIRONMENTS” and filed on Nov. 10, 2006 (attorney docket no. IGT1P061X5P), U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/129,702, entitled “WIDE AREA TABLE GAMING MONITOR AND CONTROL SYSTEM” and filed on May 15, 2005 (attorney docket no. IGT1P115), U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/425,998 entitled “PROGRESSIVE TABLE GAME BONUSING SYSTEMS AND METHODS”, filed Jun. 22, 2006 (attorney docket no. IGT1P238/P-1049) and U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/225,299, entitled “UNIVERSAL CASINO BONUSING SYSTEMS AND METHODS” and filed on Sep. 12, 2005 (attorney docket no. IGT1P243), all of which are incorporated herein by reference. Accordingly, software related to such features may be provided and/or controlled, and related data may be obtained and/or provided, according to the present invention.
  • Some configurations can provide automated, multi-player roulette, blackjack, baccarat, and other table games. The table games may be conducted by a dealer and/or by using some form of automation, which may include an automated roulette wheel, an electronic representation of a dealer, etc. In some such implementations, devices such as cameras, radio frequency identification devices, etc., may be used to identify and/or track playing cards, chips, etc. Some of gaming tables 2153 may be configured for communication with individual player terminals (not shown), which may be configured to accept bets, present an electronic representation of a dealer, indicate game outcomes, etc.
  • Some gaming networks include electronically configurable tables for playing table games. U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/517,861, entitled “CASINO DISPLAY METHODS AND DEVICES” and filed on Sep. 7, 2006 (attorney docket no. IGT1P106X2), describes some such tables and is hereby incorporated by reference. An operator may select a desired game, such as a poker game or a blackjack game, and the table will be automatically configured with geometrical patterns, text, etc., which are appropriate for the desired table game. The desired type of table game may be selected by a control on the table itself or according to instructions received from, e.g., a server or a casino manager via a network interface.
  • Gaming establishment 2105 also includes networked kiosks 2177. Depending on the implementation, kiosks 2177 may be used for various purposes, including but not limited to cashing out, prize redemption, redeeming points from a player loyalty program, redeeming “cashless” indicia such as bonus tickets, smart cards, etc. In some implementations, kiosks 2177 may be used for obtaining information about the gaming establishment, e.g., regarding scheduled events (such as tournaments, entertainment, etc.), regarding a patron's location, etc. Software related to such features may be provided and/or controlled, and related data may be obtained and/or provided, according to the present invention. For example, in some implementations of the invention, kiosks 2177 may be configured to receive information from a patron, e.g., by presenting graphical user interfaces similar to those described above and illustrated in FIGS. 4A through 6D.
  • In this example, each bank 2110 has a corresponding switch 2115, which may be a conventional bank switch in some implementations. Each switch 2115 is configured for communication with one or more devices in computer room 2120 via main network device 2125, which combines switching and routing functionality in this example. Although various communication protocols may be used, some preferred implementations use the Gaming Standards Association's G2S Message Protocol. Other implementations may use IGT's open, Ethernet-based SuperSAS® protocol, which IGT makes available for downloading without charge. Still other protocols, including but not limited to Best of Breed (“BOB”), may be used to implement various aspects of the invention. IGT has also developed a gaming-industry-specific transport layer called CASH that rides on top of TCP/IP and offers additional functionality and security.
  • Here, gaming establishment 2105 also includes an RFID network, implemented in part by RFID switches 2119 and multiple RFID readers 2117. An RFID network may be used, for example, to track objects (such as mobile gaming devices 2170, which include RFID tags 2127 in this example), patrons, etc., in the vicinity of gaming establishment 2105. Some examples of how an RFID network may be used in a gaming establishment are set forth in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/655,496, entitled “DYNAMIC CASINO TRACKING AND OPTIMIZATION” and filed on Jan. 19, 2007 (Attorney Docket No. IGT1P082C1X1/P-713 CON CIP) and in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/599,241, entitled “DOWNLOADING UPON THE OCCURRENCE OF PREDETERMINED EVENTS” and filed on Nov. 13, 2006 (Attorney Docket No. IGT1P118C1X1/P-303 CON CIP), all of which are hereby incorporated by reference.
  • As noted elsewhere herein, some implementations of the invention may involve “smart” player loyalty instruments, such as player tracking cards, which include an RFID tag. Accordingly, the location of such RFID-enabled player loyalty instruments may be tracked via the RFID network. In this example, at least some of mobile devices 2170 may include an RFID tag 2127, which includes encoded identification information for the mobile device 2170. Accordingly, the locations of such tagged mobile devices 2170 may be tracked via the RFID network in gaming establishment 2105. Other location-detection devices and systems, such as the global positioning system (“GPS”), may be used to monitor the location of people and/or devices in the vicinity of gaming establishment 2105 or elsewhere.
  • Various alternative network topologies can be used to implement different aspects of the invention and/or to accommodate varying numbers of networked devices. For example, gaming establishments with large numbers of gaming machines 2121 may require multiple instances of some network devices (e.g., of main network device 2125, which combines switching and routing functionality in this example) and/or the inclusion of other network devices not shown in FIG. 21. Some implementations of the invention may include one or more middleware servers disposed between kiosks 2177, RFID switches 2119 and/or bank switches 2115 and one or more devices in computer room 2120 (e.g., a corresponding server). Such middleware servers can provide various useful functions, including but not limited to the filtering and/or aggregation of data received from switches, from individual gaming machines and from other devices. Some implementations of the invention include load-balancing methods and devices for managing network traffic.
  • Storage devices 2111, Sb™ server 2130, License Manager 2131, Arbiter 2133, servers 2132, 2134, 2136 and 2138, host device(s) 2160 and main network device 2125 are disposed within computer room 2120 of gaming establishment 2105. In practice, more or fewer devices may be used. Depending on the implementation, some such devices may reside in gaming establishment 2105 or elsewhere.
  • One or more devices in central system 2163 may also be configured to perform, at least in part, tasks specific to the present invention. For example, one or more servers 2162, storage devices 2164 and/or host devices 2160 of central system 2163 may be configured to implement the functions described in detail elsewhere herein. These functions may include, but are not limited to, communications with and/or collecting data from devices such as cameras 2109, RFID readers 2117, wager gaming machines 2121, gaming tables 2153, mobile devices 2170, etc.
  • For example, one or more of the servers of computer room 2120 may be configured with software for receiving a player's wager gaming notification parameters, determining when a wagering condition corresponds with the wager gaming notification parameters and/or providing a notification to the player when the wagering condition corresponds with the wager gaming notification parameters. Moreover, one or more of the servers may be configured to receive, process and/or provide image data from cameras 2109, to provide navigation data to patrons (e.g., to indicate the location of and/or directions to a gaming table, a wager gaming machine, etc., associated with a wager gaming notification), etc.
  • For example, navigation data (which may include map data, casino layout data, camera image data, etc.) may be provided by one or more of the servers of computer room 2120 to mobile devices 2170. Some implementations of the present invention include a plurality of networked cameras 2109, which may be video cameras, smart cameras, digital still cameras, etc. In some such implementations, such cameras may provide, at least in part, real-time navigation features such as those described in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/106,771 (attorney docket no. IGT1P410/P-1222), entitled “Real-Time Navigation Devices, Systems and Methods,” which is incorporated herein by reference.
  • Other devices that may be used in connection with the present invention do not appear in FIG. 21. For example, some networks for implementing the present invention may include not only various radio frequency identification (“RFID”) readers 2117, but also RFID switches, middleware servers, etc., some of which are not depicted in FIG. 21. These features may provide various functions related to the present invention. For example, a server (or another device) may determine a location of a mobile device 2170 according to the location of an RFID reader that reads an RFID tag 2127.
  • The servers and other devices indicated in FIG. 21 may be configured for communication with other devices in or outside of gaming establishment 2105, such as host devices 2160, kiosks 2177 and/or mobile devices 2170, for implementing some methods described elsewhere herein. For example, host devices 2160, kiosks 2177 and/or mobile devices 2170 may be used to provide some of the graphical user interfaces and related functionality described above, e.g., with reference to FIGS. 4A through 7C. Servers (or the like) may facilitate communications with such devices, receive and store patron data, provide appropriate responses, etc., as described elsewhere herein.
  • Some of these servers may be configured to perform tasks relating to accounting, player loyalty, bonusing/progressives, configuration of gaming machines, etc. One or more such devices may be used to implement a casino management system, such as the IGT Advantage™ Casino System suite of applications, which provides instantaneous information that may be used for decision-making by casino managers. A Radius server and/or a DHCP server may also be configured for communication with the gaming network. Some implementations of the invention provide one or more of these servers in the form of blade servers.
  • Some preferred embodiments of Sb™ server 2130 and the other servers shown in FIG. 21 include (or are at least in communication with) clustered CPUs, redundant storage devices, including backup storage devices, switches, etc. Such storage devices may include a “RAID” (originally redundant array of inexpensive disks, now also known as redundant array of independent disks) array, back-up hard drives and/or tape drives, etc.
  • In some implementations of the invention, many of these devices (including but not limited to License Manager 2131, servers 2132, 2134, 2136 and 2138, and main network device 2125) are mounted in a single rack with Sb™ server 2130. Accordingly, many or all such devices will sometimes be referenced in the aggregate as an “Sb™ server.” However, in alternative implementations, one or more of these devices is in communication with Sb™ server 2130 and/or other devices of the network but located elsewhere. For example, some of the devices could be mounted in separate racks within computer room 2120 or located elsewhere on the network. Moreover, it can be advantageous to store large volumes of data elsewhere via a storage area network (“SAN”).
  • Computer room 2120 may include one or more operator consoles or other host devices that are configured for communication with other devices within and outside of computer room 2120. Such host devices may be provided with software, hardware and/or firmware for implementing various aspects of the invention. However, such host devices need not be located within computer room 2120. Wired host devices 2160 (which are desktop and laptop computers in this example) and wireless devices 2170 (which are PDAs in this example) may be located elsewhere in gaming establishment 2105 or at a remote location.
  • Some embodiments of the invention include devices for implementing access control, security and/or other functions relating to the communication between different devices on the network. In this example, arbiter 2133 serves as an intermediary between different devices on the network. Arbiter 2133 may be implemented, for example, via software that is running on a server or another networked device. Some implementations of Arbiter 2133 are described in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/948,387, entitled “METHODS AND APPARATUS FOR NEGOTIATING COMMUNICATIONS WITHIN A GAMING NETWORK” and filed Sep. 23, 2004 (the “Arbiter Application”), which is incorporated herein by reference and for all purposes. In some preferred implementations, Arbiter 2133 is a repository for the configuration information required for communication between devices on the gaming network (and, in some implementations, devices outside the gaming network). Although Arbiter 2133 can be implemented in various ways, one exemplary implementation is discussed in the following paragraphs.
  • FIG. 22 is a block diagram of a simplified communication topology between gaming machine 2121, network computer 2223 and Arbiter 2133. Network computer 2223 may be, for example, a server or other device within computer room 2120 or elsewhere. Although only one gaming machine 2121, one network computer 2223 and one Arbiter 2133 are shown in FIG. 22, it should be understood that the following examples may be applicable to different types of networked devices in addition to gaming machine 2121 and network computer 2223, and may include different numbers of network computers 2223, Arbiters 2133 and gaming machines 2121. For example, a single Arbiter 2133 may be used for secure communications among a plurality of network computers 2223 and tens, hundreds or thousands of gaming machines 2121. Likewise, multiple Arbiters 2133 may be utilized for improved performance and other scalability factors.
  • Referring to FIG. 22, the Arbiter 2133 may include an arbiter controller 2221 that may comprise a program memory 2222, a microcontroller or microprocessor (MP) 2224, a random-access memory (RAM) 2226 and an input/output (I/O) circuit 2228, all of which may be interconnected via an address/data bus 2229. The network computer 2223 may also include a controller 2231 that may comprise a program memory 2232, a microcontroller or microprocessor (MP) 2234, a random-access memory (RAM) 2236 and an input/output (I/O) circuit 2238, all of which may be interconnected via an address/data bus 2239. It should be appreciated that although the Arbiter 2133 and the network computer 2223 are each shown with only one microprocessor 2224, 2234, the controllers 2221, 2231 may each include multiple microprocessors 2224, 2234. Similarly, the memory of the controllers 2221, 2231 may include multiple RAMs 2226, 2236 and multiple program memories 2222, 2232. Although the I/O circuits 2228, 2238 are each shown as a single block, it should be appreciated that the I/O circuits 2228, 2238 may include a number of different types of I/O circuits. The RAMs 2224, 2234 and program memories 2222, 2232 may be implemented as semiconductor memories, magnetically readable memories, and/or optically readable memories, for example.
  • Although the program memories 2222, 2232 are shown in FIG. 22 as read-only memories (ROM) 2222, 2232, the program memories of the controllers 2221, 2231 may be a read/write or alterable memory, such as a hard disk. In the event a hard disk is used as a program memory, the address/data buses 2229, 2239 shown schematically in FIG. 22 may each comprise multiple address/data buses, which may be of different types, and there may be an I/O circuit disposed between the address/data buses.
  • As shown in FIG. 22, the gaming machine 2121 may be operatively coupled to the network computer 2223 via the data link 2225. The gaming machine 2121 may also be operatively coupled to the Arbiter 2133 via the data link 2249, and the network computer 2223 may likewise be operatively coupled to the Arbiter 2133 via the data link 2247.
  • Communications between the gaming machine 2121 and the network computer 2223 may involve different information types of varying levels of sensitivity resulting in varying levels of encryption techniques depending on the sensitivity of the information. For example, communications such as drink orders and statistical information may be considered less sensitive. A drink order or statistical information may remain encrypted, although with moderately secure encryption techniques, such as RC4, resulting in less processing power and less time for encryption. On the other hand, financial information (e.g., account information, winnings, etc.), download information (e.g., game and/or peripheral software, licensing information, etc.) and personal information (e.g., social security number, personal preferences, etc.) may be encrypted with stronger encryption techniques such as DES or 3DES to provide increased security.
  • As disclosed in further detail in the Arbiter Application, the Arbiter 2133 may verify the authenticity of devices in the gaming network, including but not limited to devices sending queries and/or remote procedure calls to gaming machines. The Arbiter 2133 may receive a request for a communication session from a network device. For ease of explanation, the requesting network device may be referred to as the client, and the requested network device may be referred to as the host. The client may be any device on the network and the request may be for a communication session with any other network device. The client may specify the host, or the gaming security arbiter may select the host based on the request and based on information about the client and potential hosts. The Arbiter 2133 may provide encryption keys (session keys) for the communication session to the client via the secure communication channel. Either the host and/or the session key may be provided in response to the request, or may have been previously provided. The client may contact the host to initiate the communication session. The host may then contact the Arbiter 2133 to determine the authenticity of the client. The Arbiter 2133 may provide affirmation (or lack thereof) of the authenticity of the client to the host and provide a corresponding session key, in response to which the network devices may initiate the communication session directly with each other using the session keys to encrypt and decrypt messages.
  • Alternatively, upon receiving a request for a communication session, the Arbiter 2133 may contact the host regarding the request and provide corresponding session keys to both the client and the host. The Arbiter 2133 may then initiate either the client or the host to begin their communication session. In turn, the client and host may begin the communication session directly with each other using the session keys to encrypt and decrypt messages. An additional explanation of the communication request, communication response and key distribution is provided in the Arbiter Application.
  • Referring again to FIG. 21, the communication link(s) between casino 2105 and central system 2163 preferably have ample bandwidth and may, for example, comprise one or more T1 or T3 connections and/or satellite links having comparable bandwidth, etc. Network 2129 is the Internet in this example. However, it will be understood by those of skill in the art that network 2129 could include any one of various types of networks, such as the public switched telephone network (“PSTN”), a satellite network, a wireless network, a metro optical transport, etc. Accordingly, a variety of protocols may be used for communication on network 2129, such as Internet Protocol (“IP”), Fibre Channel (“FC”), FC over IP (“FCIP”), Internet SCSI (“iSCSI,” an IP-based standard for linking data storage devices over a network and transferring data by carrying SCSI commands over IP networks) or Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing (“DWDM,” an optical technology used to increase bandwidth over existing fiber optic backbones).
  • If a host device is located in a remote location, security methods and devices (such as firewalls, authentication and/or encryption) should be deployed in order to prevent the unauthorized access of the gaming network.
  • Similarly, any other connection between gaming network 2105 and the outside world should only be made with trusted devices via a secure link, e.g., via a virtual private network (“VPN”) tunnel. For example, the illustrated connection between Sb™ server 2130, gateway 2150 and central system 2163 (that may be used for communications involving peripheral device software downloads, etc.) is advantageously made via a VPN tunnel. Details of VPN methods that may be used with the present invention are described in the reference, “Virtual Private Networks-Technologies and Solutions,” by R. Yueh and T. Strayer, Addison-Wesley, 2001, ISBN#0-201-70209-6, which is incorporated herein by reference and for all purposes. Additionally VPNs may be implemented using a variety of protocols, such as, for example, IP Security (IPSec) Protocol, Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol, Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) Protocol, etc. Details of these protocols, including RFC reports, may be obtained from the VPN Consortium, an industry trade group (http://www.vpnc.com, VPNC, Santa Cruz, Calif.).
  • Alternatively, a permanent virtual circuit (“PVC”) can be established to provide a dedicated and secure circuit link between two facilities, e.g., between a casino and central system 2163. A PVC is a virtual circuit established for repeated use between the same data terminals. A PVC could be provided, for example, via AT&T's Asynchronous Transfer Mode (“ATM”) switching fabric. Some implementations provide a dedicated line from an endpoint (e.g., from casino 2105) into the ATM backbone. Other implementations provide a connection over another network (e.g., the Internet) between an endpoint and the nearest device of the ATM backbone, e.g., to the nearest edge router. In some such implementations, the fixed-sized cells used in the ATM switching fabric may be encapsulated in variable sized packets (such as Internet Protocol or Ethernet packets) for transmission to and from the ATM backbone.
  • For security purposes, information transmitted to, on or from a gaming establishment may be encrypted. In one implementation, the information may be symmetrically encrypted using a symmetric encryption key, where the symmetric encryption key is asymmetrically encrypted using a private key. The public key may, for example, be obtained from a remote public key server. The encryption algorithm may reside in processor logic stored on the gaming machine. When a remote server receives a message containing the encrypted data, the symmetric encryption key is decrypted with a private key residing on the remote server and the symmetrically encrypted information sent from the gaming machine is decrypted using the symmetric encryption key. A different symmetric encryption key is used for each transaction where the key is randomly generated. Symmetric encryption and decryption is preferably applied to most information because symmetric encryption algorithms tend to be 100-10,000 faster than asymmetric encryption algorithms.
  • Some network implementations may use Trusted Network Connect (“TNC”), which is an open architecture provided by the Trusted Network Connect Sub Group (“TNC-SG”) of the Trusted Computing Group (TCG). TNC enables network operators to provide endpoint integrity at every network connection, thus enabling interoperability among multi-vendor network endpoints. Alternatively, or additionally, the Secure Internet File Transfer (“SIFT”) may be employed. SIFT allows devices to send and receive data over the Internet in a secure (128-bit encryption) method of transport.
  • Providing secure connections between devices in a gaming network, such as the connections between the local devices of the gaming network 2105 and central system 2163, allows for the deployment of many advantageous features. For example, a customer (e.g., an employee of a gaming establishment) may be able to log onto an account of central system 2163 to obtain the account information such as the customer's current and prior account status. Automatic updates of a customer's software may also be enabled. For example, central system 2163 may notify one or more devices in gaming establishment 2105 regarding new products and/or product updates. For example, central system 2163 may notify server (or other device) in computer room 2120 regarding new software, software updates, the status of current software licenses, etc. Alternatively, such updates could be automatically provided to a server in computer room 2120 and downloaded to networked gaming machines.
  • After the local server receives this information, relevant products of interest may be identified (by the server, by another device or by a human being). If an update or a new software product is desired, it can be downloaded from the central system. Similarly, a customer may choose to renew a software license via a secure connection with central system 463, e.g., in response to a notification that the software license is required.
  • In addition, providing secure connections between different gaming establishments can enable alternative implementations of the invention. For example, a number of gaming establishments may be owned and/or controlled by the same entity. In such situations, having secure communications between gaming establishments makes it possible for a gaming entity to use one or more servers in a gaming establishment as an interface between central system 2163 and gaming machines in multiple gaming establishments. For example, new or updated software may be obtained by a server in one gaming establishment and distributed to gaming machines in that gaming establishment and/or other gaming establishments. A server in one gaming establishment may perform services, such as patron identification services, in response to a request from a device in another gaming establishment.
  • FIG. 23 illustrates an example of a network device that may be configured for implementing some methods of the present invention. Network device 2360 includes a master central processing unit (CPU) 2362, interfaces 2368, and a bus 2367 (e.g., a PCI bus). Generally, interfaces 2368 include ports 2369 appropriate for communication with the appropriate media. In some embodiments, one or more of interfaces 2368 includes at least one independent processor and, in some instances, volatile RAM. The independent processors may be, for example, ASICs or any other appropriate processors. According to some such embodiments, these independent processors perform at least some of the functions of the logic described herein. In some embodiments, one or more of interfaces 2368 control such communications-intensive tasks as encryption, decryption, compression, decompression, packetization, media control and management. By providing separate processors for the communications-intensive tasks, interfaces 2368 allow the master microprocessor 2362 efficiently to perform other functions such as routing computations, network diagnostics, security functions, etc.
  • The interfaces 2368 are typically provided as interface cards (sometimes referred to as “linecards”). Generally, interfaces 2368 control the sending and receiving of data packets over the network and sometimes support other peripherals used with the network device 2360. Among the interfaces that may be provided are FC interfaces, Ethernet interfaces, frame relay interfaces, cable interfaces, DSL interfaces, token ring interfaces, and the like. In addition, various very high-speed interfaces may be provided, such as fast Ethernet interfaces, Gigabit Ethernet interfaces, ATM interfaces, HSSI interfaces, POS interfaces, FDDI interfaces, ASI interfaces, DHEI interfaces and the like.
  • When acting under the control of appropriate software or firmware, in some implementations of the invention CPU 2362 may be responsible for implementing specific functions associated with the functions of a desired network device. According to some embodiments, CPU 2362 accomplishes all these functions under the control of software including an operating system and any appropriate applications software.
  • CPU 2362 may include one or more processors 2363 such as a processor from the Motorola family of microprocessors or the MIPS family of microprocessors. In an alternative embodiment, processor 2363 is specially designed hardware for controlling the operations of network device 2360. In a specific embodiment, a memory 2361 (such as non-volatile RAM and/or ROM) also forms part of CPU 2362. However, there are many different ways in which memory could be coupled to the system. Memory block 2361 may be used for a variety of purposes such as, for example, caching and/or storing data, programming instructions, etc.
  • Regardless of network device's configuration, it may employ one or more memories or memory modules (such as, for example, memory block 2365) configured to store data, program instructions for the general-purpose network operations and/or other information relating to the functionality of the techniques described herein. The program instructions may control the operation of an operating system and/or one or more applications, for example.
  • Because such information and program instructions may be employed to implement the systems/methods described herein, the present invention relates to machine-readable media that include program instructions, state information, etc. for performing various operations described herein. Examples of machine-readable media include, but are not limited to, magnetic media such as hard disks, floppy disks, and magnetic tape; optical media such as CD-ROM disks; magneto-optical media; and hardware devices that are specially configured to store and perform program instructions, such as read-only memory devices (ROM) and random access memory (RAM). The invention may also be embodied in a carrier wave traveling over an appropriate medium such as airwaves, optical lines, electric lines, etc. Examples of program instructions include both machine code, such as produced by a compiler, and files containing higher-level code that may be executed by the computer using an interpreter.
  • Although the system shown in FIG. 23 illustrates one specific network device of the present invention, it is by no means the only network device architecture on which the present invention can be implemented. For example, an architecture having a single processor that handles communications as well as routing computations, etc. is often used. Further, other types of interfaces and media could also be used with the network device. The communication path between interfaces may be bus based (as shown in FIG. 23) or switch fabric based (such as a cross-bar).
  • Turning next to FIG. 24, a video gaming machine 2 of the present invention is shown. Machine 2 includes a main cabinet 4, which generally surrounds the machine interior (not shown) and is viewable by users. The main cabinet includes a main door 8 on the front of the machine, which opens to provide access to the interior of the machine. Attached to the main door are player-input switches or buttons 32, a coin acceptor 28, and a bill validator 30, a coin tray 38, and a belly glass 40. Viewable through the main door is a video display monitor 34 and an information panel 36. The display monitor 34 will typically be a cathode ray tube, high resolution flat-panel LCD, or other conventional electronically controlled video monitor. The information panel 36 may be a back-lit, silk screened glass panel with lettering to indicate general game information including, for example, a game denomination (e.g. $0.25 or $1). The bill validator 30, player-input switches 32, video display monitor 34, and information panel are devices used to play a game on the game machine 2. The devices are controlled by circuitry (e.g. the master gaming controller) housed inside the main cabinet 4 of the machine 2.
  • Many different types of games, including mechanical slot games, video slot games, video poker, video black jack, video pachinko and lottery, may be provided with gaming machines of this invention. In particular, the gaming machine 2 may be operable to provide a play of many different instances of games of chance. The instances may be differentiated according to themes, sounds, graphics, type of game (e.g., slot game vs. card game), denomination, number of paylines, maximum jackpot, progressive or non-progressive, bonus games, etc. The gaming machine 2 may be operable to allow a player to select a game of chance to play from a plurality of instances available on the gaming machine. For example, the gaming machine may provide a menu with a list of the instances of games that are available for play on the gaming machine and a player may be able to select from the list a first instance of a game of chance that they wish to play.
  • The various instances of games available for play on the gaming machine 2 may be stored as game software on a mass storage device in the gaming machine or may be generated on a remote gaming device but then displayed on the gaming machine. The gaming machine 2 may executed game software, such as but not limited to video streaming software that allows the game to be displayed on the gaming machine. When an instance is stored on the gaming machine 2, it may be loaded from the mass storage device into a RAM for execution. In some cases, after a selection of an instance, the game software that allows the selected instance to be generated may be downloaded from a remote gaming device, such as another gaming machine.
  • The gaming machine 2 includes a top box 6, which sits on top of the main cabinet 4. The top box 6 houses a number of devices, which may be used to add features to a game being played on the gaming machine 2, including speakers 10, 12, 14, a ticket printer 18 which prints bar-coded tickets 20, a key pad 22 for entering player tracking information, a florescent display 16 for displaying player tracking information, a card reader 24 for entering a magnetic striped card containing player tracking information, and a video display screen 42. The ticket printer 18 may be used to print tickets for a cashless ticketing system. Further, the top box 6 may house different or additional devices than shown in FIG. 24. For example, the top box may contain a bonus wheel or a back-lit silk screened panel which may be used to add bonus features to the game being played on the gaming machine. As another example, the top box may contain a display for a progressive jackpot offered on the gaming machine. During a game, these devices are controlled and powered, in part, by circuitry (e.g. a master gaming controller) housed within the main cabinet 4 of the machine 2.
  • Understand that gaming machine 2 is but one example from a wide range of gaming machine designs on which the present invention may be implemented. For example, not all suitable gaming machines have top boxes or player tracking features. Further, some gaming machines have only a single game display—mechanical or video, while others are designed for bar tables and have displays that face upwards. As another example, a game may be generated in on a host computer and may be displayed on a remote terminal or a remote gaming device. The remote gaming device may be connected to the host computer via a network of some type such as a local area network, a wide area network, an intranet or the Internet. The remote gaming device may be a portable gaming device such as but not limited to a cell phone, a personal digital assistant, and a wireless game player. Images rendered from 3-D gaming environments may be displayed on portable gaming devices that are used to play a game of chance. Further a gaming machine or server may include gaming logic for commanding a remote gaming device to render an image from a virtual camera in a 3-D gaming environments stored on the remote gaming device and to display the rendered image on a display located on the remote gaming device. Thus, those of skill in the art will understand that the present invention, as described below, can be deployed on most any gaming machine now available or hereafter developed.
  • Some preferred gaming machines of the present assignee are implemented with special features and/or additional circuitry that differentiates them from general-purpose computers (e.g., desktop PC's and laptops). Gaming machines are highly regulated to ensure fairness and, in many cases, gaming machines are operable to dispense monetary awards of multiple millions of dollars. Therefore, to satisfy security and regulatory requirements in a gaming environment, hardware and software architectures may be implemented in gaming machines that differ significantly from those of general-purpose computers. A description of gaming machines relative to general-purpose computing machines and some examples of the additional (or different) components and features found in gaming machines are described below.
  • At first glance, one might think that adapting PC technologies to the gaming industry would be a simple proposition because both PCs and gaming machines employ microprocessors that control a variety of devices. However, because of such reasons as 1) the regulatory requirements that are placed upon gaming machines, 2) the harsh environment in which gaming machines operate, 3) security requirements and 4) fault tolerance requirements, adapting PC technologies to a gaming machine can be quite difficult. Further, techniques and methods for solving a problem in the PC industry, such as device compatibility and connectivity issues, might not be adequate in the gaming environment. For instance, a fault or a weakness tolerated in a PC, such as security holes in software or frequent crashes, may not be tolerated in a gaming machine because in a gaming machine these faults can lead to a direct loss of funds from the gaming machine, such as stolen cash or loss of revenue when the gaming machine is not operating properly.
  • For the purposes of illustration, a few differences between PC systems and gaming systems will be described. A first difference between gaming machines and common PC based computers systems is that gaming machines are designed to be state-based systems. In a state-based system, the system stores and maintains its current state in a non-volatile memory, such that, in the event of a power failure or other malfunction the gaming machine will return to its current state when the power is restored. For instance, if a player was shown an award for a game of chance and, before the award could be provided to the player the power failed, the gaming machine, upon the restoration of power, would return to the state where the award is indicated. As anyone who has used a PC, knows, PCs are not state machines and a majority of data is usually lost when a malfunction occurs. This requirement affects the software and hardware design on a gaming machine.
  • A second important difference between gaming machines and common PC based computer systems is that for regulation purposes, the software on the gaming machine used to generate the game of chance and operate the gaming machine has been designed to be static and monolithic to prevent cheating by the operator of gaming machine. For instance, one solution that has been employed in the gaming industry to prevent cheating and satisfy regulatory requirements has been to manufacture a gaming machine that can use a proprietary processor running instructions to generate the game of chance from an EPROM or other form of non-volatile memory. The coding instructions on the EPROM are static (non-changeable) and must be approved by a gaming regulators in a particular jurisdiction and installed in the presence of a person representing the gaming jurisdiction. Any changes to any part of the software required to generate the game of chance, such as adding a new device driver used by the master gaming controller to operate a device during generation of the game of chance can require a new EPROM to be burnt, approved by the gaming jurisdiction and reinstalled on the gaming machine in the presence of a gaming regulator. Regardless of whether the EPROM solution is used, to gain approval in most gaming jurisdictions, a gaming machine must demonstrate sufficient safeguards that prevent an operator or player of a gaming machine from manipulating hardware and software in a manner that gives them an unfair and some cases an illegal advantage. The gaming machine should have a means to determine if the code it will execute is valid. If the code is not valid, the gaming machine must have a means to prevent the code from being executed. The code validation requirements in the gaming industry affect both hardware and software designs on gaming machines.
  • A third important difference between gaming machines and common PC based computer systems is the number and kinds of peripheral devices used on a gaming machine are not as great as on PC based computer systems. Traditionally, in the gaming industry, gaming machines have been relatively simple in the sense that the number of peripheral devices and the number of functions the gaming machine has been limited. Further, in operation, the functionality of gaming machines were relatively constant once the gaming machine was deployed, i.e., new peripherals devices and new gaming software were infrequently added to the gaming machine. This differs from a PC where users will go out and buy different combinations of devices and software from different manufacturers and connect them to a PC to suit their needs depending on a desired application. Therefore, the types of devices connected to a PC may vary greatly from user to user depending in their individual requirements and may vary significantly over time.
  • Although the variety of devices available for a PC may be greater than on a gaming machine, gaming machines still have unique device requirements that differ from a PC, such as device security requirements not usually addressed by PCs. For instance, monetary devices, such as coin dispensers, bill validators and ticket printers and computing devices that are used to govern the input and output of cash to a gaming machine have security requirements that are not typically addressed in PCs. Therefore, many PC techniques and methods developed to facilitate device connectivity and device compatibility do not address the emphasis placed on security in the gaming industry.
  • To address some of the issues described above, some gaming machines may include a number of hardware/software components and architectures may be utilized in that are not typically found in general purpose computing devices, such as PCs. These hardware/software components and architectures, as described below in more detail, include but are not limited to watchdog timers, voltage monitoring systems, state-based software architecture and supporting hardware, specialized communication interfaces, security monitoring and trusted memory.
  • A watchdog timer is normally used in IGT gaming machines to provide a software failure detection mechanism. In a normally operating system, the operating software periodically accesses control registers in the watchdog timer subsystem to “re-trigger” the watchdog. Should the operating software fail to access the control registers within a preset timeframe, the watchdog timer will timeout and generate a system reset. Typical watchdog timer circuits contain a loadable timeout counter register to allow the operating software to set the timeout interval within a certain range of time. A differentiating feature of the some preferred circuits is that the operating software cannot completely disable the function of the watchdog timer. In other words, the watchdog timer always functions from the time power is applied to the board.
  • IGT gaming computer platforms preferably use several power supply voltages to operate portions of the computer circuitry. These can be generated in a central power supply or locally on the computer board. If any of these voltages falls out of the tolerance limits of the circuitry they power, unpredictable operation of the computer may result. Though most modern general-purpose computers include voltage monitoring circuitry, these types of circuits only report voltage status to the operating software. Out of tolerance voltages can cause software malfunction, creating a potential uncontrolled condition in the gaming computer. Gaming machines of the present assignee typically have power supplies with tighter voltage margins than that required by the operating circuitry. In addition, the voltage monitoring circuitry implemented in IGT gaming computers typically has two thresholds of control. The first threshold generates a software event that can be detected by the operating software and an error condition generated. This threshold is triggered when a power supply voltage falls out of the tolerance range of the power supply, but is still within the operating range of the circuitry. The second threshold is set when a power supply voltage falls out of the operating tolerance of the circuitry. In this case, the circuitry generates a reset, halting operation of the computer.
  • The standard method of operation for IGT slot machine game software is to use a state machine. Different functions of the game (bet, play, result, points in the graphical presentation, etc.) may be defined as a state. When a game moves from one state to another, critical data regarding the game software is stored in a custom non-volatile memory subsystem. This is critical to ensure the player's wager and credits are preserved and to minimize potential disputes in the event of a malfunction on the gaming machine.
  • In general, the gaming machine does not advance from a first state to a second state until critical information that allows the first state to be reconstructed is stored. This feature allows the game to recover operation to the current state of play in the event of a malfunction, loss of power, etc that occurred just prior to the malfunction. After the state of the gaming machine is restored during the play of a game of chance, game play may resume and the game may be completed in a manner that is no different than if the malfunction had not occurred. Typically, battery backed RAM devices are used to preserve this critical data although other types of non-volatile memory devices may be employed. These memory devices are not used in typical general-purpose computers.
  • As described in the preceding paragraph, when a malfunction occurs during a game of chance, the gaming machine may be restored to a state in the game of chance just prior to when the malfunction occurred. The restored state may include metering information and graphical information that was displayed on the gaming machine in the state prior to the malfunction. For example, when the malfunction occurs during the play of a card game after the cards have been dealt, the gaming machine may be restored with the cards that were previously displayed as part of the card game. As another example, a bonus game may be triggered during the play of a game of chance where a player is required to make a number of selections on a video display screen. When a malfunction has occurred after the player has made one or more selections, the gaming machine may be restored to a state that shows the graphical presentation at the just prior to the malfunction including an indication of selections that have already been made by the player. In general, the gaming machine may be restored to any state in a plurality of states that occur in the game of chance that occurs while the game of chance is played or to states that occur between the play of a game of chance.
  • Game history information regarding previous games played such as an amount wagered, the outcome of the game and so forth may also be stored in a non-volatile memory device. The information stored in the non-volatile memory may be detailed enough to reconstruct a portion of the graphical presentation that was previously presented on the gaming machine and the state of the gaming machine (e.g., credits) at the time the game of chance was played. The game history information may be utilized in the event of a dispute. For example, a player may decide that in a previous game of chance that they did not receive credit for an award that they believed they won. The game history information may be used to reconstruct the state of the gaming machine prior, during and/or after the disputed game to demonstrate whether the player was correct or not in their assertion.
  • Another feature of gaming machines, such as IGT gaming computers, is that they often contain unique interfaces, including serial interfaces, to connect to specific subsystems internal and external to the slot machine. The serial devices may have electrical interface requirements that differ from the “standard” EIA 232 serial interfaces provided by general-purpose computers. These interfaces may include EIA 485, EIA 422, Fiber Optic Serial, optically coupled serial interfaces, current loop style serial interfaces, etc. In addition, to conserve serial interfaces internally in the slot machine, serial devices may be connected in a shared, daisy-chain fashion where multiple peripheral devices are connected to a single serial channel.
  • The serial interfaces may be used to transmit information using communication protocols that are unique to the gaming industry. For example, IGT's Netplex is a proprietary communication protocol used for serial communication between gaming devices. As another example, SAS is a communication protocol used to transmit information, such as metering information, from a gaming machine to a remote device. Often SAS is used in conjunction with a player tracking system.
  • IGT gaming machines may alternatively be treated as peripheral devices to a casino communication controller and connected in a shared daisy chain fashion to a single serial interface. In both cases, the peripheral devices are preferably assigned device addresses. If so, the serial controller circuitry must implement a method to generate or detect unique device addresses. General-purpose computer serial ports are not able to do this.
  • Security monitoring circuits detect intrusion into an IGT gaming machine by monitoring security switches attached to access doors in the slot machine cabinet. Preferably, access violations result in suspension of game play and can trigger additional security operations to preserve the current state of game play. These circuits also function when power is off by use of a battery backup. In power-off operation, these circuits continue to monitor the access doors of the slot machine. When power is restored, the gaming machine can determine whether any security violations occurred while power was off, e.g., via software for reading status registers. This can trigger event log entries and further data authentication operations by the slot machine software.
  • Trusted memory devices are preferably included in an IGT gaming machine computer to ensure the authenticity of the software that may be stored on less secure memory subsystems, such as mass storage devices. Trusted memory devices and controlling circuitry are typically designed to not allow modification of the code and data stored in the memory device while the memory device is installed in the slot machine. The code and data stored in these devices may include authentication algorithms, random number generators, authentication keys, operating system kernels, etc. The purpose of these trusted memory devices is to provide gaming regulatory authorities a root trusted authority within the computing environment of the slot machine that can be tracked and verified as original. This may be accomplished via removal of the trusted memory device from the slot machine computer and verification of the secure memory device contents is a separate third party verification device. Once the trusted memory device is verified as authentic, and based on the approval of the verification algorithms contained in the trusted device, the gaming machine is allowed to verify the authenticity of additional code and data that may be located in the gaming computer assembly, such as code and data stored on hard disk drives. A few details related to trusted memory devices that may be used in the present invention are described in U.S. Pat. No. 6,685,567 from U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/925,098, filed Aug. 8, 2001 and titled “Process Verification,” which is incorporated herein in its entirety and for all purposes.
  • Mass storage devices used in a general purpose computer typically allow code and data to be read from and written to the mass storage device. In a gaming machine environment, modification of the gaming code stored on a mass storage device is strictly controlled and would only be allowed under specific maintenance type events with electronic and physical enablers required. Though this level of security could be provided by software, IGT gaming computers that include mass storage devices preferably include hardware level mass storage data protection circuitry that operates at the circuit level to monitor attempts to modify data on the mass storage device and will generate both software and hardware error triggers should a data modification be attempted without the proper electronic and physical enablers being present.
  • Returning to the example of FIG. 24, when a user wishes to play the gaming machine 2, he or she inserts cash through the coin acceptor 28 or bill validator 30. Additionally, the bill validator may accept a printed ticket voucher which may be accepted by the bill validator 30 as an indicia of credit when a cashless ticketing system is used. At the start of the game, the player may enter playing tracking information using the card reader 24, the keypad 22, and the florescent display 16. Further, other game preferences of the player playing the game may be read from a card inserted into the card reader. During the game, the player views game information using the video display 34. Other game and prize information may also be displayed in the video display screen 42 located in the top box.
  • During the course of a game, a player may be required to make a number of decisions, which affect the outcome of the game. For example, a player may vary his or her wager on a particular game, select a prize for a particular game selected from a prize server, or make game decisions that affect the outcome of a particular game. The player may make these choices using the player-input switches 32, the video display screen 34 or using some other device which enables a player to input information into the gaming machine. In some embodiments, the player may be able to access various game services such as concierge services and entertainment content services using the video display screen 34 and one more input devices.
  • During certain game events, the gaming machine 2 may display visual and auditory effects that can be perceived by the player. These effects add to the excitement of a game, which makes a player more likely to continue playing. Auditory effects include various sounds that are projected by the speakers 10, 12, 14. Visual effects include flashing lights, strobing lights or other patterns displayed from lights on the gaming machine 2 or from lights behind the belly glass 40. After the player has completed a game, the player may receive game tokens from the coin tray 38 or the ticket 20 from the printer 18, which may be used for further games or to redeem a prize. Further, the player may receive a ticket 20 for food, merchandise, or games from the printer 18.
  • A gaming network that may be used to implement additional methods performed in accordance with embodiments of the invention is depicted in FIG. 25. Gaming establishment 2501 could be any sort of gaming establishment, such as a casino, a card room, an airport, a store, etc. In this example, gaming network 2577 includes more than one gaming establishment, all of which are networked to game server 2522.
  • Here, gaming machine 2502, and the other gaming machines 2530, 2532, 2534, and 2536, include a main cabinet 2506 and a top box 2504. The main cabinet 2506 houses the main gaming elements and can also house peripheral systems, such as those that utilize dedicated gaming networks. The top box 2504 may also be used to house these peripheral systems.
  • The master gaming controller 2508 controls the game play on the gaming machine 2502 according to instructions and/or game data from game server 2522 or stored within gaming machine 2502 and receives or sends data to various input/output devices 2511 on the gaming machine 2502. In one embodiment, master gaming controller 2508 includes processor(s) and other apparatus of the gaming machines described above in FIGS. 6 and 7. The master gaming controller 2508 may also communicate with a display 2510.
  • A particular gaming entity may desire to provide network gaming services that provide some operational advantage. Thus, dedicated networks may connect gaming machines to host servers that track the performance of gaming machines under the control of the entity, such as for accounting management, electronic fund transfers (EFTs), cashless ticketing, such as EZPay™, marketing management, and data tracking, such as player tracking. Therefore, master gaming controller 2508 may also communicate with EFT system 2512, EZPay™ system 2516 (a proprietary cashless ticketing system of the present assignee), and player tracking system 2520. The systems of the gaming machine 2502 communicate the data onto the network 2522 via a communication board 2518.
  • It will be appreciated by those of skill in the art that embodiments of the present invention could be implemented on a network with more or fewer elements than are depicted in FIG. 25. For example, player tracking system 2520 is not a necessary feature of some implementations of the present invention. However, player tracking programs may help to sustain a game player's interest in additional game play during a visit to a gaming establishment and may entice a player to visit a gaming establishment to partake in various gaming activities. Player tracking programs provide rewards to players that typically correspond to the player's level of patronage (e.g., to the player's playing frequency and/or total amount of game plays at a given casino). Player tracking rewards may be free meals, free lodging and/or free entertainment. Moreover, player tracking information may be combined with other information that is now readily obtainable by an SBG system.
  • Moreover, DCU 2524 and translator 2525 are not required for all gaming establishments 2501. However, due to the sensitive nature of much of the information on a gaming network (e.g., electronic fund transfers and player tracking data) the manufacturer of a host system usually employs a particular networking language having proprietary protocols. For instance, 10-20 different companies produce player tracking host systems where each host system may use different protocols. These proprietary protocols are usually considered highly confidential and not released publicly.
  • Further, in the gaming industry, gaming machines are made by many different manufacturers. The communication protocols on the gaming machine are typically hard-wired into the gaming machine and each gaming machine manufacturer may utilize a different proprietary communication protocol. A gaming machine manufacturer may also produce host systems, in which case their gaming machines are compatible with their own host systems. However, in a heterogeneous gaming environment, gaming machines from different manufacturers, each with its own communication protocol, may be connected to host systems from other manufacturers, each with another communication protocol. Therefore, communication compatibility issues regarding the protocols used by the gaming machines in the system and protocols used by the host systems must be considered.
  • A network device that links a gaming establishment with another gaming establishment and/or a central system will sometimes be referred to herein as a “site controller.” Here, site controller 2542 provides this function for gaming establishment 2501. Site controller 2542 is connected to a central system and/or other gaming establishments via one or more networks, which may be public or private networks. Among other things, site controller 2542 communicates with game server 2522 to obtain game data, such as ball drop data, bingo card data, etc.
  • In the present illustration, gaming machines 2502, 2530, 2532, 2534 and 2536 are connected to a dedicated gaming network 2522. In general, the DCU 2524 functions as an intermediary between the different gaming machines on the network 2522 and the site controller 2542. In general, the DCU 2524 receives data transmitted from the gaming machines and sends the data to the site controller 2542 over a transmission path 2526. In some instances, when the hardware interface used by the gaming machine is not compatible with site controller 2542, a translator 2525 may be used to convert serial data from the DCU 2524 to a format accepted by site controller 2542. The translator may provide this conversion service to a plurality of DCUs.
  • Further, in some dedicated gaming networks, the DCU 2524 can receive data transmitted from site controller 2542 for communication to the gaming machines on the gaming network. The received data may be, for example, communicated synchronously to the gaming machines on the gaming network.
  • Here, CVT 2552 provides cashless and cashout gaming services to the gaming machines in gaming establishment 2501. Broadly speaking, CVT 2552 authorizes and validates cashless gaming machine instruments (also referred to herein as “tickets” or “vouchers”), including but not limited to tickets for causing a gaming machine to display a game result and cash-out tickets. Moreover, CVT 2552 authorizes the exchange of a cashout ticket for cash. These processes will be described in detail below. In one example, when a player attempts to redeem a cash-out ticket for cash at cashout kiosk 2544, cash out kiosk 2544 reads validation data from the cashout ticket and transmits the validation data to CVT 2552 for validation. The tickets may be printed by gaming machines, by cashout kiosk 2544, by a stand-alone printer, by CVT 2552, etc. Some gaming establishments will not have a cashout kiosk 2544. Instead, a cashout ticket could be redeemed for cash by a cashier (e.g. of a convenience store), by a gaming machine or by a specially configured CVT.
  • The above-described methods, devices and materials will be familiar to those of skill in the gaming industry and/or in the computer hardware and software arts. Although many of the components and processes are described above in the singular for convenience, it will be appreciated by one of skill in the art that multiple components and repeated processes can also be used to practice the techniques of the present invention.
  • Although illustrative embodiments and applications of this invention are shown and described herein, many variations and modifications are possible which remain within the concept, scope, and spirit of the invention, and these variations would become clear to those of ordinary skill in the art after perusal of this application. Accordingly, the present embodiments are to be considered as illustrative and not restrictive, and the invention is not to be limited to the details given herein, but may be modified within the scope and equivalents of the appended claims.

Claims (61)

  1. 1. A system for providing a bingo game, comprising:
    means for selecting N bingo numbers in a base game ball draw and up to E extra balls after the base game ball draw;
    means for providing a bingo number indication for the selected bingo numbers;
    means for determining whether a selected ball is a wild ball that may be placed on any available spot on a bingo card; and
    means for providing a wild ball indication when it is determined that a ball is a wild ball.
  2. 2. The system of claim 1, wherein the determining means applies a predetermined probability to determine whether a selected ball will be treated as a wild ball.
  3. 3. The system of claim 1, wherein the determining means comprises means for determining whether a predetermined ball corresponding with a wild ball has been selected.
  4. 4. The system of claim 1, further comprising means for assigning a bingo number to the wild ball.
  5. 5. The system of claim 1, wherein at least one of the selecting means and the determining means comprises a device of a central system.
  6. 6. The system of claim 1, wherein the determining means determines that one of the N bingo numbers in the base game ball draw is a wild ball.
  7. 7. The system of claim 1, wherein the determining means determines that one of the extra balls selected after the base game ball draw is a wild ball.
  8. 8. The system of claim 1, wherein the determining means determines that more than one selected ball is a wild ball.
  9. 9. The system of claim 4, wherein the assigning means assigns the bingo number to the wild ball according to an optimal bingo number for bingo cards displayed on a wager gaming machine.
  10. 10. The system of claim 4, wherein the assigning means assigns the bingo number to the wild ball taking into account all wager gaming machines participating in the bingo game.
  11. 11. The system of claim 4, wherein the assigning means assigns a first bingo number to the wild ball according to a first optimal bingo number for a first wager gaming machine and assigns a second bingo number to the wild ball according to a second optimal bingo number for a second wager gaming machine.
  12. 12. The system of claim 4, wherein the assigning means comprises means for receiving input from a player indicating which bingo number should be assigned to the wild ball.
  13. 13. The system of claim 5, wherein the central system comprises at least one server.
  14. 14. The system of claim 6, further comprising means for assigning a bingo number to a wild ball after non-wild bingo balls in the base game ball draw are selected.
  15. 15. The system of claim 6, further comprising means for assigning a bingo number to a wild ball before all of the non-wild bingo balls in the base game ball draw are selected.
  16. 16. The system of claim 9, wherein the wager gaming machine comprises the assigning means.
  17. 17. The system of claim 12, wherein the means for receiving input from a player comprises a touch screen of a wager gaming machine.
  18. 18. The system of 15, further comprising means for determining whether a non-wild ball is drawn having a bingo number previously assigned to a wild ball.
  19. 19. The system of 18, further comprising means for assigning a new bingo number to the wild ball when it is determined that a non-wild ball is drawn having a bingo number previously assigned to the wild ball.
  20. 20. A method for providing a bingo game, comprising:
    selecting N bingo numbers in a base game ball draw and up to E extra balls after the base game ball draw;
    providing a bingo number indication for the selected bingo numbers;
    determining whether a selected ball is a wild ball that may be placed on any available spot on a bingo card; and
    providing a wild ball indication when it is determined that a ball is a wild ball.
  21. 21. The method of claim 20, wherein the determining comprises applying a predetermined probability to determine whether a selected ball will be treated as a wild ball.
  22. 22. The method of claim 20, wherein the determining comprises determining whether a predetermined ball corresponding with a wild ball has been selected.
  23. 23. The method of claim 20, further comprising assigning a bingo number to the wild ball.
  24. 24. The method of claim 20, wherein at least one of the selecting and the determining is performed by a device of a central system.
  25. 25. The method of claim 20, wherein the determining comprises determining that one of the N bingo numbers in the base game ball draw is a wild ball.
  26. 26. The method of claim 20, wherein the determining comprises determining that one of the extra balls selected after the base game ball draw is a wild ball.
  27. 27. The method of claim 20, wherein the determining comprises determining that more than one selected ball is a wild ball.
  28. 28. The method of claim 23, wherein the assigning comprises assigning the bingo number to the wild ball according to an optimal bingo number for bingo cards displayed on a wager gaming machine.
  29. 29. The method of claim 23, wherein the assigning comprises assigning the bingo number to the wild ball taking into account all wager gaming machines participating in the bingo game.
  30. 30. The method of claim 23, wherein the assigning comprises assigning a first bingo number to the wild ball according to a first optimal bingo number for a first wager gaming machine and assigns a second bingo number to the wild ball according to a second optimal bingo number for a second wager gaming machine.
  31. 31. The method of claim 23, wherein the assigning is based, at least in part, upon input received from a player indicating which bingo number should be assigned to the wild ball.
  32. 32. The method of claim 25, wherein the assigning further comprises assigning a bingo number to a wild ball after non-wild bingo balls in the base game ball draw are selected.
  33. 33. The method of claim 25, the assigning further comprises assigning a bingo number to a wild ball before all of the non-wild bingo balls in the base game ball draw are selected.
  34. 34. The method of claim 31, wherein the input comprises input from a touch screen of a wager gaming machine.
  35. 35. A system for providing a multi-card bingo game, comprising:
    means for providing information to a plurality of wager gaming machines, the information corresponding to a representation of multiple bingo cards;
    means for selecting randomly N bingo numbers in a base game ball draw;
    means for determining whether a metapattern has been hit, the metapattern being a single, fixed pattern that spans multiple bingo cards; and
    means for indicating to a wager gaming machine when the metapattern has been hit.
  36. 36. The system of claim 35, further comprising means for selecting up to E extra bingo numbers after the base game ball draw.
  37. 37. The system of claim 35, wherein the bingo game can be played with up to R bingo cards.
  38. 38. The system of claim 35, further comprising means for receiving player input regarding how bingo cards are arranged, wherein the metapattern can only be hit if all bingo cards played are arranged in a predetermined manner.
  39. 39. The system of claim 35, further comprising:
    means for determining whether a selected ball is a wild ball that may be placed on any available spot on a bingo card; and
    means for providing a wild ball indication when it is determined that a ball is a wild ball.
  40. 40. The system of claim 36, wherein the determining means is configured to determine whether a metapattern has been hit by one of the extra bingo numbers.
  41. 41. The system of claim 37, wherein the metapattern can only be hit if all R bingo cards are played.
  42. 42. The system of claim 39, wherein the assigning means assigns the bingo number to the wild ball according to an optimal bingo number for bingo cards displayed on a wager gaming machine.
  43. 43. The system of claim 39, wherein the assigning means assigns the bingo number to the wild ball taking into account all wager gaming machines participating in the bingo game.
  44. 44. The system of claim 39, wherein the assigning means assigns a first bingo number to the wild ball according to a first optimal bingo number for a first wager gaming machine and assigns a second bingo number to the wild ball according to a second optimal bingo number for a second wager gaming machine.
  45. 45. The system of claim 39, wherein the assigning means comprises means for receiving input from a player indicating which bingo number should be assigned to the wild ball.
  46. 46. The system of claim 41, wherein the determining means further comprises means for determining whether sufficient components of a metapattern have been completed on fewer than R bingo cards, further comprising means for providing an award if the determining means determines that sufficient components of a metapattern have been completed on fewer than R bingo cards.
  47. 47. The system of claim 42, wherein the wager gaming machine comprises the assigning means.
  48. 48. The system of claim 45, wherein the means for receiving input from a player comprises a touch screen of a wager gaming machine.
  49. 49. A method for providing a multi-card bingo game, comprising:
    providing information to a plurality of wager gaming machines, the information corresponding to a representation of multiple bingo cards;
    selecting randomly N bingo numbers in a base game ball draw;
    determining whether a metapattern has been hit, the metapattern being a single, fixed pattern that spans multiple bingo cards; and
    indicating to a wager gaming machine when the metapattern has been hit.
  50. 50. The method of claim 49, further comprising selecting up to E extra bingo numbers after the base game ball draw.
  51. 51. The method of claim 49, wherein the providing comprises providing information for up to R bingo cards.
  52. 52. The method of claim 49, further comprising receiving player input regarding how bingo cards are arranged, wherein the metapattern can only be hit if all bingo cards played are arranged in a predetermined manner.
  53. 53. The method of claim 49, further comprising:
    determining whether a selected ball is a wild ball that may be placed on any available spot on a bingo card; and
    providing a wild ball indication when it is determined that a ball is a wild ball.
  54. 54. The method of claim 50, wherein the determining comprises determining whether a metapattern has been hit by one of the extra bingo numbers.
  55. 55. The method of claim 51, wherein the metapattern can only be hit if all R bingo cards are played.
  56. 56. The method of claim 53, wherein the assigning comprises assigning the bingo number to the wild ball according to an optimal bingo number for bingo cards displayed on a wager gaming machine.
  57. 57. The method of claim 53, wherein the assigning comprises assigning the bingo number to the wild ball taking into account all wager gaming machines participating in the bingo game.
  58. 58. The method of claim 53, wherein the assigning comprises assigning a first bingo number to the wild ball according to a first optimal bingo number for a first wager gaming machine and assigns a second bingo number to the wild ball according to a second optimal bingo number for a second wager gaming machine.
  59. 59. The method of claim 53, further comprising receiving input from a player indicating which bingo number should be assigned to the wild ball wherein the assigning further comprises assigning the bingo number according to the input.
  60. 60. The method of claim 51, wherein the determining comprises determining whether sufficient components of a metapattern have been completed on fewer than R bingo cards, further comprising providing an award if it is determined that sufficient components of a metapattern have been completed on fewer than R bingo cards.
  61. 61. The method of claim 59, wherein the receiving comprises receiving input from a touch screen of a wager gaming machine.
US12118966 2007-09-18 2008-05-12 Multi-card bingo patterns and wild balls Abandoned US20090075714A1 (en)

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US13955781 Active 2029-11-19 US9449468B2 (en) 2007-09-18 2013-07-31 Multi-card bingo game features
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US15266808 Active US9721434B2 (en) 2007-09-18 2016-09-15 Multi-card bingo game features

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US8506384B2 (en) 2013-08-13 grant
US20170004672A1 (en) 2017-01-05 application
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US9449468B2 (en) 2016-09-20 grant
WO2009039029A1 (en) 2009-03-26 application
US20090075715A1 (en) 2009-03-19 application

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