US20100323780A1 - Gaming device having increased award frequency - Google Patents

Gaming device having increased award frequency Download PDF

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Publication number
US20100323780A1
US20100323780A1 US12/816,303 US81630310A US2010323780A1 US 20100323780 A1 US20100323780 A1 US 20100323780A1 US 81630310 A US81630310 A US 81630310A US 2010323780 A1 US2010323780 A1 US 2010323780A1
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game
gaming
player
outcome
winning
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US12/816,303
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John F. Acres
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Patent Investment and Licensing Co
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Acres John F
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Assigned to PATENT INVESTMENT & LICENSING COMPANY reassignment PATENT INVESTMENT & LICENSING COMPANY ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST (SEE DOCUMENT FOR DETAILS). Assignors: ACRES, JOHN F.
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    • G07F17/3244Payment aspects of a gaming system, e.g. payment schemes, setting payout ratio, bonus or consolation prizes
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    • G07F17/3216Construction aspects of a gaming system, e.g. housing, seats, ergonomic aspects
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    • G07F17/3225Data transfer within a gaming system, e.g. data sent between gaming machines and users
    • G07F17/323Data transfer within a gaming system, e.g. data sent between gaming machines and users wherein the player is informed, e.g. advertisements, odds, instructions
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    • G07F17/326Game play aspects of gaming systems
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    • G07F17/34Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services for games, toys, sports or amusements, e.g. casino games, online gambling or betting depending on the stopping of moving members in a mechanical slot machine, e.g. "fruit" machines

Abstract

Embodiments of this invention are directed to gaming devices having increased award frequency and methods of operating gaming systems and gaming devices to provide more frequent awards. These more frequent awards, or secondary awards, may be provided on gaming devices or systems with multiple gaming devices to keep player interest and involvement high. The secondary awards are arranged to have a fairly common or easily achievable triggering criterion or condition and can include awards ranging from non-cashable credits to casino service comps to prize money.

Description

    RELATED APPLICATIONS
  • This application claims the benefit of priority to U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 61/187,975, filed Jun. 17, 2009, entitled “LINKED JACKPOTS AND METHODS FOR AWARDING THEM,” the contents of which are hereby incorporated by reference.
  • FIELD OF THE INVENTION
  • This disclosure relates generally to gaming devices, and more particularly to gaming devices having increased award frequency and methods of operating gaming systems and gaming devices to provide more frequent awards.
  • BACKGROUND
  • Game outcomes on gaming devices are typically determined at random where winning outcomes award a player money, credits, promotions, prizes, or other incentives, and losing outcomes typically result only in a lost wager. Player excitement is typically generated by providing the possibility of winning large awards for a relatively meager wager. Business principles require that most outcomes not be large winning outcomes for the player. However, this often times must be balanced with giving the player some incentive to keep playing. Therefore smaller valued winning outcomes are typically included in the game to drive up the hit frequency of winning outcomes while not awarding extremely large prizes too often.
  • These principles are similarly found in linked jackpot awards where multiple game devices are connected in order to increase the contribution to the jackpot amount, and hence the jackpot size. With this linked format, multiple players are often eligible to win the linked jackpot when it is triggered. However, it is generally a “winner takes all” proposition where a single player wins the entire or most of a jackpot award. While the single winning player receives a large award, the other eligible players lose. As these larger jackpots happen relatively infrequently and wins are awarded to one of many players, the majority of players of gaming devices connected to a linked jackpot never win a linked jackpot.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • FIG. 1A is a functional block diagram that illustrates a gaming device according to embodiments of the invention.
  • FIG. 1B is an isometric view of the gaming device illustrated in FIG. 1A.
  • FIGS. 2A, 2B, and 2C are detail diagrams of exemplary types of gaming devices according to embodiments of the invention.
  • FIG. 3 is a functional block diagram of networked gaming devices according to embodiments of the invention.
  • FIG. 4 is a flow diagram of a method of operating a gaming device according to embodiments of the invention.
  • FIG. 5 is a function block diagram of a gaming system according to embodiments of the invention.
  • FIG. 6 is a flow diagram of a method of operating a gaming system according to embodiments of the invention.
  • FIG. 7 is a detail diagram of an exemplary near-miss outcome trigger on a gaming device according to embodiments of the invention.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION
  • FIGS. 1A and 1B illustrate example gaming devices according to embodiments of the invention.
  • Referring to FIGS. 1A and 1B, a gaming device 10 is an electronic gaming machine. Although an electronic gaming machine or “slot” machine is illustrated, various other types of devices may be used to wager monetarily based credits on a game of chance in accordance with principles of the invention. The term “electronic gaming device” is meant to include various devices such as electro-mechanical spinning-reel type slot machines, video slot machines, and video poker machines, for instance. Other gaming devices may include computer-based gaming machines, wireless gaming devices, multi-player gaming stations, modified personal electronic gaming devices (such as cell phones), personal computers, server-based gaming terminals, and other similar devices. Although embodiments of the invention will work with all of the gaming types mentioned, for ease of illustration the present embodiments will be described in reference to the electronic gaming machine 10 shown in FIGS. 1A and 1B.
  • The gaming device 10 includes a cabinet 15 housing components to operate the gaming device 10. The cabinet 15 may include a gaming display 20, a base portion 13, a top box 18, and a player interface panel 30. The gaming display 20 may include mechanical spinning reels (FIG. 2A), a video display (FIGS. 2B and 2C), or a combination of both spinning reels and a video display (not shown). The gaming cabinet 15 may also include a credit meter 27 and a coin-in or bet meter 28. The credit meter 27 may indicate the total number of credits remaining on the gaming device 10 that are eligible to be wagered. In some embodiments, the credit meter 27 may reflect a monetary unit, such as dollars. However, it is often preferable to have the credit meter 27 reflect a number of ‘credits,’ rather than a monetary unit. The bet meter 28 may indicate the amount of credits to be wagered on a particular game. Thus, for each game, the player transfers the amount that he or she wants to wager from the credit meter 27 to the bet meter 28. In some embodiments, various other meters may be present, such as meters reflecting amounts won, amounts paid, or the like. In embodiments where the gaming display 20 is a video monitor, the information indicated on the credit meters may be shown on the gaming display itself 20 (FIG. 2B).
  • The base portion 13 may include a lighted panel 14, a coin return (not shown), and a gaming handle 12 operable on a partially rotating pivot joint 11. The game handle 12 is traditionally included on mechanical spinning-reel games, where the handle may be pulled toward a player to initiate the spinning of reels 22 after placement of a wager. The top box 18 may include a lighted panel 17, a video display (such as an LCD monitor), a mechanical bonus device (not shown), and a candle light indicator 19. The player interface panel 30 may include various devices so that a player can interact with the gaming device 10.
  • The player interface panel 30 may include one or more game buttons 32 that can be actuated by the player to cause the gaming device 10 to perform a specific action. For example, some of the game buttons 32 may cause the gaming device 10 to bet a credit to be wagered during the next game, change the number of lines being played on a multi-line game, cash out the credits remaining on the gaming device (as indicated on the credit meter 27), or request assistance from casino personnel, such as by lighting the candle 19. In addition, the player interface panel 30 may include one or more game actuating buttons 33. The game actuating buttons 33 may initiate a game with a pre-specified amount of credits. On some gaming devices 10 a “Max Bet” game actuating button 33 may be included that places the maximum credit wager on a game and initiates the game. The player interface panel 30 may further include a bill acceptor 37 and a ticket printer 38. The bill acceptor 37 may accept and validate paper money or previously printed tickets with a credit balance. The ticket printer 38 may print out tickets reflecting the balance of the credits that remain on the gaming device 10 when a player cashes out by pressing one of the game buttons 32 programmed to cause a ‘cashout.’These tickets may be inserted into other gaming machines or redeemed at a cashier station or kiosk for cash.
  • The gaming device 10 may also include one or more speakers 26 to transmit auditory information or sounds to the player. The auditory information may include specific sounds associated with particular events that occur during game play on the gaming device 10. For example, a particularly festive sound may be played during a large win or when a bonus is triggered. The speakers 26 may also transmit “attract” sounds to entice nearby players when the game is not currently being played.
  • The gaming device 10 may further include a secondary display 25. This secondary display 25 may be a vacuum fluorescent display (VFD), a liquid crystal display (LCD), a cathode ray tube (CRT), a plasma screen, or the like. The secondary display 25 may show any combination of primary game information and ancillary information to the player. For example, the secondary display 25 may show player tracking information, secondary bonus information, advertisements, or player selectable game options.
  • The gaming device 10 may include a separate information window (not shown) dedicated to supplying any combination of information related to primary game play, secondary bonus information, player tracking information, secondary bonus information, advertisements or player selectable game options. This window may be fixed in size and location or may have its size and location vary temporally as communication needs change. One example of such a resizable window is International Game Technology's “service window.” Another example is Las Vegas Gaming Incorporated's retrofit technology which allows information to be placed over areas of the game or the secondary display screen at various times and in various situations.
  • The gaming device 10 includes a microprocessor 40 that controls operation of the gaming device 10. If the gaming device 10 is a standalone gaming device, the microprocessor 40 may control virtually all of the operations of the gaming devices and attached equipment, such as operating game logic stored in memory (not shown) as firmware, controlling the display 20 to represent the outcome of a game, communicating with the other peripheral devices (such as the bill acceptor 37), and orchestrating the lighting and sound emanating from the gaming device 10. In other embodiments where the gaming device 10 is coupled to a network 50, as described below, the microprocessor 40 may have different tasks depending on the setup and function of the gaming device. For example, the microprocessor 40 may be responsible for running the base game of the gaming device and executing instructions received over the network 50 from a bonus server or player tracking server. In a server-based gaming setup, the microprocessor 40 may act as a terminal to execute instructions from a remote server that is running game play on the gaming device.
  • The microprocessor 40 may be coupled to a machine communication interface (MCI) 42 that connects the gaming device 10 to a gaming network 50. The MCI 42 may be coupled to the microprocessor 40 through a serial connection, a parallel connection, an optical connection, or in some cases a wireless connection. The gaming device 10 may include memory 41 (MEM), such as a random access memory (RAM), coupled to the microprocessor 40 and which can be used to store gaming information, such as storing total coin-in statistics about a present or past gaming session, which can be communicated to a remote server or database through the MCI 42. The MCI 42 may also facilitate communication between the network 50 and the secondary display 25 or a player tracking unit 45 housed in the gaming cabinet 15.
  • The player tracking unit 45 may include an identification device 46 and one or more buttons 47 associated with the player tracking unit 45. The identification device 46 serves to identify a player, by, for example, reading a player-tracking device, such as a player tracking card that is issued by the casino to individual players who choose to have such a card. The identification device 46 may instead, or additionally, identify players through other methods. Player tracking systems using player tracking cards and card readers 46 are known in the art. Briefly summarizing such a system, a player registers with the casino prior to commencing gaming. The casino issues a unique player-tracking card to the player and opens a corresponding player account that is stored on a server or host computer, described below with reference to FIG. 3. The player account may include the player's name and mailing address and other information of interest to the casino in connection with marketing efforts. Prior to playing one of the gaming devices in the casino, the player inserts the player tracking card into the identification device 46 thus permitting the casino to track player activity, such as amounts wagered, credits won, and rate of play.
  • To induce the player to use the card and be an identified player, the casino may award each player points proportional to the money or credits wagered by the player. Players typically accrue points at a rate related to the amount wagered, although other factors may cause the casino to award the player various amounts. The points may be displayed on the secondary display 25 or using other methods. In conventional player tracking systems, the player may take his or her card to a special desk in the casino where a casino employee scans the card to determine how many accrued points are in the player's account. The player may redeem points for selected merchandise, meals in casino restaurants, or the like, which each have assigned point values. In some player tracking systems, the player may use the secondary display 25 to access their player tracking account, such as to check a total number of points, redeem points for various services, make changes to their account, or download promotional credits to the gaming device 10. In other embodiments, the identification device 46 may read other identifying cards (such as driver licenses, credit cards, etc.) to identify a player and match them to a corresponding player tracking account. Although FIG. 1A shows the player tracking unit 45 with a card reader as the identification device 46, other embodiments may include a player tracking unit 45 with a biometric scanner, PIN code acceptor, or other methods of identifying a player to pair the player with their player tracking account.
  • A player typically plays the gaming device 10 by placing a wager and activating an input mechanism to initiate a game associated with the placed wager. As used herein, a gaming event refers to any activity that affects the calculation or display of a game outcome. Game events include interactions occurring between the gaming device 10, the player, and/or a connected game system. Example gaming events include a player inserting a player account card in a gaming device, a double-pay bonus time period activation, a first spinning reel coming to a stop, a player's input to hold a card in a poker hand, etc. A game refers to the calculation and completion of one game outcome. That is, a game includes a single game cycle that begins with the initiation of the wagered upon game and ends with the completion of all activities relating to the wager placed including any intervening bonuses. In other words, a game encompasses all gaming events dependent on a placed wager during an initiated game including all amounts due the player that are paid directly by the gaming machine, or as a manual payment by casino personnel to the player playing that gaming machine. For example, if an item was awarded as a result of a wager that could be saved and used later, the game would encompass the awarding of the item, which is part of the game outcome, but not the later use of that item since the later use would affect a different game outcome. A game session refers to one or more played games. For example, a game session for a particular player may include each game played on a specific gaming device, each game played between insertions of money or credits, each game played between an initial money or credit insertion and a cash-out or zeroing out of credits, each game played during a casino stay, or each game played over a predetermined time period. Alternatively, game sessions may refer to games played by multiple players over a specified time period or event period with respect to a particular gaming device or group of gaming devices.
  • The player may initially insert monetary bills or previously printed tickets with a credit value into the bill acceptor 37. The player may also put coins into a coin acceptor (not shown) or a credit, debit or casino account card into a card reader/authorizer (not shown). In other embodiments, stored player points or special ‘bonus points’ awarded to the player or accumulated and/or stored in a player account may be able to be substituted at or transferred to the gaming device 10 for credits or other value. For example, a player may convert stored loyalty points to credits or transfer funds from his bank account, credit card, casino account or other source of funding. The selected source of funding may be selected by the player at time of transfer, determined by the casino at the time of transfer or occur automatically according to a predefined selection process. One of skill in the art will readily see that this invention is useful with all gambling devices, regardless of the manner in which wager value-input is accomplished.
  • The credit meter 27 displays the numeric credit value of the money or other value inserted, transferred, or stored dependent on the denomination of the gaming device 10. That is, if the gaming device 10 is a nickel slot machine and a $20 bill inserted into the bill acceptor 37, the credit meter will reflect 400 credits or one credit for each nickel of the inserted twenty dollars. For gaming devices 10 that support multiple denominations, the credit meter 27 will reflect the amount of credits relative to the denomination selected. Thus, in the above example, if a penny denomination is selected after the $20 is inserted the credit meter will change from 400 credits to 2000 credits.
  • A wager may be placed by pushing one or more of the game buttons 32, which may be reflected on the bet meter 28. That is, the player can generally depress a “bet one” button (one of the buttons on the player interface panel 30, such as 32), which transfers one credit from the credit meter 27 to the bet meter 28. Each time the button 32 is depressed an additional single credit transfers to the bet meter 28 up to a maximum bet that can be placed on a single play of the electronic gaming device 10. The game may be initiated by pulling the gaming handle 12 or depressing the spin button 33. On some gaming devices 10, a “max bet” button (another one of the buttons 32 on the player interface panel 30) may be depressed to wager the maximum number of credits supported by the gaming device 10 and initiate a game.
  • If the game does not result in any winning combination, the process of placing a wager may be repeated by the player. Alternatively, the player may cash out any remaining credits on the credit meter 27 by depressing the “cash-out” button (another button 32 on the player interface panel 30), which causes the credits on the credit meter 27 to be paid out in the form of a ticket through the ticket printer 38, or may be paid out in the form of returning coins from a coin hopper (not shown) to a coin return tray.
  • If instead a winning combination (win) appears on the display 20, the award corresponding to the winning combination is immediately applied to the credit meter 27. For example, if the gaming device 10 is a slot machine, a winning combination of symbols 23 may land on a played payline on reels 22. If any bonus games are initiated, the gaming device 10 may enter into a bonus mode or simply award the player with a bonus amount of credits that are applied to the credit meter 27.
  • FIGS. 2A to 2C illustrate exemplary types of gaming devices according to embodiments of the invention. FIG. 2A illustrates an example spinning-reel gaming machine 10A, FIG. 2B illustrates an example video slot machine 10B, and FIG. 2C illustrates an example video poker machine 10C.
  • Referring to FIG. 2A, a spinning-reel gaming machine 10A includes a gaming display 20A having a plurality of mechanical spinning reels 22A. Typically, spinning-reel gaming machines 10A have three to five spinning reels 22A. Each of the spinning reels 22A has multiple symbols 23A that may be separated by blank areas on the spinning reels 22A, although the presence of blank areas typically depends on the number of reels 22A present in the gaming device 10A and the number of different symbols 23A that may appear on the spinning reels 22A. Each of the symbols 22A or blank areas makes up a “stop” on the spinning reel 22A where the reel 22A comes to rest after a spin. Although the spinning reels 22A of various games 10A may have various numbers of stops, many conventional spinning-reel gaming devices 10A have reels 22A with twenty two stops.
  • During game play, the spinning reels 22A may be controlled by stepper motors (not shown) under the direction of the microprocessor 40 (FIG. 1A). Thus, although the spinning-reel gaming device 10A has mechanical based spinning reels 22A, the movement of the reels themselves is electronically controlled to spin and stop. This electronic control is advantageous because it allows a virtual reel strip to be stored in the memory 41 of the gaming device 10A, where various “virtual stops” are mapped to each physical stop on the physical reel 22A. This mapping allows the gaming device 10A to establish greater awards and bonuses available to the player because of the increased number of possible combinations afforded by the virtual reel strips.
  • A game on a spinning reel slot machine 10A typically includes the player pressing the “bet-one” button (one of the game buttons 32A) to wager a desired number of credits followed by pulling the gaming handle 12 (FIGS. 1A, 1B) or pressing the spin button 33A to spin the reels 22A. Alternatively, the player may simply press the “max-bet” button (another one of the game buttons 32A) to both wager the maximum number of credits permitted and initiate the spinning of the reels 22A. The spinning reels 22A may all stop at the same time or may individually stop one after another (typically from left to right) to build player anticipation. Because the display 20A usually cannot be physically modified, some spinning reel slot machines 10A include an electronic display screen in the top box 18 (FIG. 1B), a mechanical bonus mechanism in the top box 18, or a secondary display 25 (FIG. 1A) to execute a bonus.
  • Referring to FIG. 2B, a video gaming machine 10B may include a video display 20B to display virtual spinning reels 22B and various other gaming information 21B. The video display 20B may be a CRT, LCD, plasma screen, or the like. It is usually preferable that the video display 20B be a touchscreen to accept player input. A number of symbols 23A appear on each of the virtual spinning reels 22B. Although FIG. 2B shows five virtual spinning reels 22B, the flexibility of the video display 20B allows for various reel 22B and game configurations. For example, some video slot games 10B spin reels for each individual symbol position (or stop) that appears on the video display 20B. That is, each symbol position on the screen is independent of every other position during the games. In these types of games, very large numbers of pay lines or multiple super scatter pays can be utilized since similar symbols could appear at every symbol position on the video display 20B. On the other hand, other video slot games 10B more closely resemble the mechanical spinning reel games where symbols that are vertically adjacent to each other are part of the same continuous virtual spinning reel 22B.
  • Because the virtual spinning reels 22B, by virtue of being computer implemented, can have almost any number of stops on a reel strip, it is much easier to have a greater variety of displayed outcomes as compared to spinning-reel slot machines 10A (FIG. 2A) that have a fixed number of physical stops on each spinning reel 22A.
  • With the possible increases in reel 22B numbers and configurations over the mechanical gaming device 10A, video gaming devices 10B often have multiple paylines 24 that may be played. By having more paylines 24 available to play, the player may be more likely to have a winning combination when the reels 22B stop and the game ends. However, since the player typically must wager at least a minimum number of credits to enable each payline 24 to be eligible for winning, the overall odds of winning are not much different, if at all, than if the player is wagering only on a single payline. For example, in a five line game, the player may bet one credit per payline 24 and be eligible for winning symbol combinations that appear on any of the five played paylines 24. This gives a total of five credits wagered and five possible winning paylines 24. If, on the other hand, the player only wagers one credit on one payline 24, but plays five games, the odds of winning would be identical as above: five credits wagered and five possible winning paylines 24.
  • Because the video display 20B can easily modify the image output by the video display 20B, bonuses, such as second screen bonuses are relatively easy to award on the video slot game 10B. That is, if a bonus is triggered during game play, the video display 20B may simply store the resulting screen shot in memory and display a bonus sequence on the video display 20B. After the bonus sequence is completed, the video display 20B may then retrieve the previous screen shot and information from memory, and re-display that image.
  • Also, as mentioned above, the video display 20B may allow various other game information 21B to be displayed. For example, as shown in FIG. 2B, banner information may be displayed above the spinning reels 22B to inform the player, perhaps, which symbol combination is needed to trigger a bonus. Also, instead of providing a separate credit meter 27 (FIG. 1A) and bet meter 28, the same information can instead be displayed on the video display 20B. In addition, “soft buttons” 29B such as a “spin” button or “help/see pays” button may be built using the touch screen video display 20B. Such customization and ease of changing the image shown on the display 20B adds to the flexibility of the game 10B.
  • Even with the improved flexibility afforded by the video display 20B, several physical buttons 32B and 33B are usually provided on video slot machines 10B. These buttons may include game buttons 32B that allow a player to choose the number of paylines 24 he or she would like to play and the number of credits wagered on each payline 24. In addition, a max bet button (one of the game buttons 32B) allows a player to place a maximum credit wager on the maximum number of available paylines 24 and initiate a game. A repeat bet or spin button 33B may also be used to initiate each game when the max bet button is not used.
  • Referring to FIG. 2C, a video poker gaming device 10C may include a video display 20C that is physically similar to the video display 20B shown in FIG. 2B. The video display 20C may show a poker hand of five cards 23C and various other player information 21C including a paytable for various winning hands, as well as a plurality of player selectable soft buttons 29C. The video display 20C may present a poker hand of five cards 23C and various other player information 21C including a number of player selectable soft (touch-screen) buttons 29C and a paytable for various winning hands. Although the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 3C shows only one hand of poker on the video display 20C, various other video poker machines 10C may show several poker hands (multi-hand poker). Typically, video poker machines 10C play “draw” poker in which a player is dealt a hand of five cards, has the opportunity to hold any combination of those five cards, and then draws new cards to replace the discarded ones. All pays are usually given for winning combinations resulting from the final hand, although some video poker games 10C may give bonus credits for certain combinations received on the first hand before the draw. In the example shown in FIG. 2C a player has been dealt two aces, a three, a six, and a nine. The video poker game 10C may provide a bonus or payout for the player having been dealt the pair of aces, even before the player decides what to discard in the draw. Since pairs, three of a kind, etc. are typically needed for wins, a player would likely hold the two aces that have been dealt and draw three cards to replace the three, six, and nine in the hope of receiving additional aces or other cards leading to a winning combination with a higher award amount. After the draw and revealing of the final hand, the video poker game 10C typically awards any credits won to the credit meter.
  • The player selectable soft buttons 29C appearing on the screen respectively correspond to each card on the video display 20C. These soft buttons 29C allow players to select specific cards on the video display 20C such that the card corresponding to the selected soft button is “held” before the draw. Typically, video poker machines 10C also include physical game buttons 32C that correspond to the cards in the hand and may be selected to hold a corresponding card. A deal/draw button 33C may also be included to initiate a game after credits have been wagered (with a bet button 32C, for example) and to draw any cards not held after the first hand is displayed.
  • Although examples of a spinning reel slot machine 10A, a video slot machine 10B, and a video poker machine 10C have been illustrated in FIGS. 2A-2C, gaming machines and various other types of gaming devices known in the art are contemplated and are within the scope of the invention.
  • FIG. 3 is a block diagram illustrating networked gaming devices according to embodiments of the invention. Referring to FIG. 3, multiple electronic gaming devices (EGMs) 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, and 75 may be coupled to one another and coupled to a remote server 80 through a network 50. For ease of understanding, gaming devices or EGMs 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, and 75 are generically referred to as EGMs 70-75. The term EGMs 70-75, however, may refer to any combination of one or more of EGMs 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, and 75. Additionally, the gaming server 80 may be coupled to one or more gaming databases 90. These gaming network 50 connections may allow multiple gaming devices 70-75 to remain in communication with one another during particular gaming modes such as tournament play or remote head-to-head play. Although some of the gaming devices 70-75 coupled on the gaming network 50 may resemble the gaming devices 10, 10A, 10B, and 10C shown in FIGS. 1A-1B and 2A-2C, other coupled gaming devices 70-75 may include differently configured gaming devices. For example, the gaming devices 70-75 may include traditional slot machines 75 directly coupled to the network 50, banks of gaming devices 70 coupled to the network 50, banks of gaming devices 70 coupled to the network through a bank controller 60, wireless handheld gaming machines 72 and cell phones 73 coupled to the gaming network 50 through one or more wireless routers or antennas 61, personal computers 74 coupled to the network 50 through the internet 62, and banks of gaming devices 71 coupled to the network through one or more optical connection lines 64. Additionally, some of the traditional gaming devices 70, 71, and 75 may include electronic gaming tables, multi-station gaming devices, or electronic components operating in conjunction with non-gaming components, such as automatic card readers, chip readers, and chip counters, for example.
  • Gaming devices 71 coupled over an optical line 64 may be remote gaming devices in a different location or casino. The optical line 64 may be coupled to the gaming network 50 through an electronic to optical signal converter 63 and may be coupled to the gaming devices 71 through an optical to electronic signal converter 65. The banks of gaming devices 70 coupled to the network 50 may be coupled through a bank controller 60 for compatibility purposes, for local organization and control, or for signal buffering purposes. The network 50 may include serial or parallel signal transmission lines and carry data in accordance with data transfer protocols such as Ethernet transmission lines, Rs-232 lines, firewire lines, USB lines, or other communication protocols. Although not shown in FIG. 3, substantially the entire network 50 may be made of fiber optic lines or may be a wireless network utilizing a wireless protocol such as IEEE 802.11 a, b, g, or n, Zigbee, RF protocols, optical transmission, near-field transmission, or the like.
  • As mentioned above, each gaming device 70-75 may have an individual processor 40 (FIG. 1A) and memory 41 to run and control game play on the gaming device 70-75, or some of the gaming devices 70-75 may be terminals that are run by a remote server 80 in a server based gaming environment. Server based gaming environments may be advantageous to casinos by allowing fast downloading of particular game types or themes based on casino preference or player selection. Additionally, tournament based games, linked games, and certain game types, such as BINGO or keno may benefit from at least some server 80 based control.
  • Thus, in some embodiments, the network 50, server 80, and database 90 may be dedicated to communications regarding specific game or tournament play. In other embodiments, however, the network 50, server 80, and database 90 may be part of a player tracking network. For player tracking capabilities, when a player inserts a player tracking card in the card reader 46 (FIG. 1A), the player tracking unit 45 sends player identification information obtained on the card reader 46 through the MCI 42 over the network 50 to the player tracking server 80, where the player identification information is compared to player information records in the player database 90 to provide the player with information regarding their player account or other features at the gaming device 10 where the player is wagering. Additionally, multiple databases 90 and/or servers 80 may be present and coupled to one or more networks 50 to provide a variety of gaming services, such as both game/tournament data and player tracking data.
  • The various systems described with reference to FIGS. 1-3 can be used in a number of ways. For instance, the systems can be used to track data about various players. The tracked data can be used by the casino to provide additional benefits to players, such as extra bonuses or extra benefits such as bonus games and other benefits as described above. These added benefits further entice the players to play at the casino that provides the benefits.
  • As discussed above, linked jackpots occur relatively infrequently and are only awarded to one of many eligible players. Embodiments of this invention provide gaming devices having increased award frequency and methods of operating gaming systems and gaming devices to provide more frequent awards. To increase the award frequency while maintaining profits for casino operators, various awards and awarding techniques may be utilized. Awards in various embodiments may include one or more of the following award types: credits, non-cashable credits, player points, free games/spins, reel re-spins, nudges, extra-cards, casino comps, or other known awards. These awards may be provided to players in response to gaming session conditions, game play triggers, player characteristics, or based on other gaming scenarios. For example, a $5.00 bonus award of non-cashable credits (i.e., credits that can be used to continue play but cannot be cashed-out) may be provided to a player that has inserted $20.00 bill and has not received any wins or any win with an award value of over $5.00. In another example, a 100 player point bonus may be awarded when a player receives three different symbols on the payline of a three reel slot machine. In yet another example, a reel respin may be awarded to an identified player that has wagered 100 credits during a continuous gaming session. This reel respin may be configured to be used immediately with the current game or saved by the player and used at a later time. If the respin is to be used with the current game, the gaming device may automatically respin a random one of the reels or select a reel to respin based on the game outcome. In other embodiments, the player may be able to select which reel to respin. Numerous other examples exist for providing more frequent awards to players during game play.
  • These awards may be implemented on game devices having larger linked progressive or other award types, or may be implemented on game devices as the sole linked jackpot. In other embodiments, the awards may be implemented on a stand-alone gaming device. These more frequent bonus awards will be referred to herein as secondary bonus awards, even though, as stated above, they may be implemented as the sole bonus award on a gaming device or as the sole linked jackpot on a group of gaming devices. As stated above, secondary awards are used to provide more frequent awards to players to keep player interest and involvement in the games high. Since many gaming devices provide a range of paytables with differing payback percentages, implementation of paytables with a lower payback percentage may be used to offset the cost of providing these secondary awards. Use of a casino's marketing or promotional budget may also be used to help fund these secondary awards. For example, secondary awards that involve extra player points or comps, such as dinner coupons, show tickets, or lodging upgrades, may be taken out of a casino's promotional budget. Alternatively, game play awards may be given that do not necessarily result in loss revenue for the casino, but add to a player's game experience or game session while generating player excitement. These awards may include non-cashable credits, respins, nudges, etc. that by themselves have no value, but potentially could provide a win or a bigger win for a player. By using secondary prizes that do not require a large financial burden, a casino may be able to award these secondary prizes at relatively frequent intervals.
  • FIG. 4 is a flow diagram of a method of operating a gaming device to provide secondary awards according to embodiments of the invention. Referring to FIG. 4, flow 100 begins when a game initiating input is received in process 110. A game outcome is then determined in process 115. In process 120 the determined game outcome is displayed. It is then determined whether a secondary award has been triggered in process 125. If it is determined that a secondary award has been triggered in process 125, process 130 is implemented in which a secondary award notification is displayed. Flow 100 then moves on to process 140 where any awards are provided to the player. Process 140 includes providing awards associated with the determined game outcome, mystery bonuses or other linked awards determined to be provided to the game device, and any secondary awards determined in process 125.
  • In this embodiment, represented by flow 100 in FIG. 4, the process for determining if a secondary award has been triggered (process 125 in flow 100) is implemented after a game outcome has been determined and displayed. However, in other embodiments the process for determining if a secondary award has been triggered may occur anywhere during a game event or game session. For example, a process for determining if a secondary award has been triggered may occur after any player input to the gaming device (e.g., after insertion of a player loyalty card, after placement of a wager, after making an item selection in a bonus game, etc.). In another example, the secondary award determination process may occur every tenth of a second regardless of whether there has been any activity on the gaming device. During a gaming event on a gaming device, other embodiments may direct a gaming device or game component on a game system to determine if a secondary award has been triggered after receiving a game initiating input, after determining the game outcome, or even after providing any awards associated with the determined game outcome.
  • Displaying the secondary award notification in process 130 may include presenting a full-screen award screen informing the player of the secondary award. In addition, this notification may include visual and audio signals, such as varied sounds and light displays, to notify other players that the gaming device has provided an award to the player. If the secondary award is part of linked system with multiple connected gaming devices, process 130 may include scrolling a banner on all connected gaming devices that a secondary award has been provided to one of the gaming devices, and may further include identification of the winning gaming device. Since winning is typically an exciting event and even motivating to other non-winning players, process 130 may be carried out in a variety of ways to inform both the winning player and other players of the award being won.
  • Although these secondary bonuses may be used on a standalone gaming device, there are several advantages to implementing them on a gaming system that includes multiple gaming devices. FIG. 5 is a function block diagram of a exemplary gaming system including multiple gaming devices according to embodiments of the invention. Referring to FIG. 5, a gaming system 150 includes multiple game devices 160 that are connected to a secondary bonus controller 170 through a network 155. A bonus display 180 may also be connected to the network 155 as provide a common bonus display to the gaming devices 160. The bonus display 180 may, for example, be a video or mechanical display positioned above or around a bank of connected gaming devices 160, or may include a metered prize display connected to a room or area of linked gaming devices 160 depending upon the implementation of the gaming system 150.
  • One advantage of implementing the secondary bonus on a network with multiple gaming devices is the ability to provide larger or more frequent secondary awards. For example, suppose a casino includes five hundred gaming devices, which are all commonly connected to a bonus server that provides a large progressive jackpot and a player club server. A secondary gaming system 150 is then setup to connect fifty of the five hundred gaming devices 160 in a specific area of the casino. Each of these fifty gaming devices 160 is connected through a gaming network 155 to a secondary bonus controller 170 and a global secondary bonus display 180 that shows a secondary bonus award that each of the fifty connected gaming devices are eligible to win. The actual physical wires (or wireless connection points) of the network 155 may be common to the wires (or connection points) used for the player club system and/or large progressive jackpot system, or separate signal wires (or wireless connection points) may be used for the secondary bonus network 155 of the gaming system 150. In this example, a casino operator may be able to select a type of secondary bonus at the bonus controller 170 depending on varying gaming conditions without changing any of the settings for the casino-wide progressive jackpot or the player club system. Here, the casino-wide progressive may hit, on average, every one hundred days. It may pay several thousand dollars as a prize, but the majority of casino players will never win it because of the infrequency of it paying out. On the other hand, the secondary bonus managed by the secondary bonus controller 170 may be highly flexible and provide a win, on average, every four hours. With the secondary bonus, players may not walk away with multiple thousands of dollars, but they will walk away winners. Additionally, because of the much higher win frequency of the secondary bonus, many more players (in this example, approximately 6000 times more players) will be bonus winners.
  • Continuing with this example, suppose further that the casino operator can select one of five secondary bonuses to implement on the gaming system 150 having the secondary bonus. Perhaps the casino operator will select a secondary bonus with a higher credit prize during weekday afternoons to entice game play, but choose a secondary bonus that emphasizes longer playing sessions during weekend nights to entice players to play the games a little longer instead of doing other activities. As discussed above, there are many variations in types of, and methods of providing, secondary bonus awards, which can be implemented to increase win frequency and/or linked jackpot win frequency. One of the possible secondary bonuses that can be implemented will now be discussed with reference to FIGS. 6 and 7. This secondary bonus provides an award for particular near-miss game outcomes. This secondary bonus will be discussed with reference to the gaming system 150 example discussed above and shown in FIG. 5, but it may be implemented as the sole bonus on a standalone device or as part of a different gaming system in other embodiments.
  • One reason to implement a secondary bonus with a trigger of a near-miss game outcome is that game outcomes that nearly miss provide the player with an initial feeling of excitement as the reels are stopping and large award looks possible, followed by disappointment that they missed out on the large award. In general, the larger the award that “nearly-misses,” the more intense the emotional rollercoaster is for the player. Of course near-misses of large awards provide a good “fish-that-got-away” story, but if a secondary bonus is tied to the near miss, the player now has both the story and another story of a bonus award that did not get away. Since near-misses of every award happen relatively frequently, in this exemplary embodiment, only near misses of the top two awards trigger the secondary bonus. This triggering criterion may or may not be communicated to players. For secondary awards that depend on length of play or average coin-in amount, it is generally preferable to communicate the criterion or criteria needed to be eligible for or to win the secondary bonus. For near-misses, however, some casino operators may choose to not expressly tell the players what triggers the secondary bonus award. Thus, after a player nearly-misses out on a game outcome with a large paytable award and feels slightly depressed, they are suddenly awarded the secondary bonus award. In other embodiments, the gaming system 150 may be setup so that the 10th near-miss of a specific outcome triggers the secondary bonus. Here, perhaps, the casino operator may communicate this triggering criterion to the players and may even have the common bonus display 180 show how many near-misses are needed until the secondary bonus is awarded. In this particular example implementation, the bonus display 180 shows a bonus award amount for the next player that receives a near-miss outcome on a three reel slot machine of seven, seven, almost seven (7 7 X7, where the first two reels have a “7” symbol land on the payline and the third reel has a “7” symbol land just above or below the payline) or jackpot, jackpot, almost jackpot (JP JP XJ).
  • FIG. 6 is a flow diagram of a method of operating the gaming system according to embodiments of the invention. Referring to FIG. 6, flow 200 begins when a game outcome is determined in process 210. In process 215, it is determined whether the game outcome is a winning outcome. That is, process 215 determines whether the determined game outcome is an outcome recited in the game paytable that has an award associated with it. If it is determined that the game outcome is a winning game outcome in process 215, the gaming device displays the winning game outcome in process 220 and provides the award associated with the winning game outcome in process 225. If is determined in process 215 that the game outcome is not a winning game outcome, flow 200 continues to process 230, where it is determined if the game outcome is a near-miss game outcome that meets the predefined secondary award criterion. In the above example, the secondary award criterion for the near miss is whether the game outcome is a near miss of the “7 7 7” outcome or the “JP JP JP” outcome. That is, whether the game outcome is “7 7 X7” or “JP JP XJ.” If it is determined in process 230 that the game outcome is not a near-miss outcome or otherwise does not meet the predefined secondary award criterion, the determined game outcome is displayed in process 235. However, if the game outcome does meet the predefined secondary award criterion, as determined in process 230, the near-miss gaming outcome is displayed in process 240 along with a secondary prize notification. The secondary award is then provided to the player in process 245.
  • FIG. 7 is a detail diagram of an exemplary near-miss outcome trigger on a gaming device according to embodiments of the invention. Referring to FIG. 7, a three reel gaming device 300 includes a gaming display 320 with a single payline 324 on which a combination of symbols 323 must line up to provide a winning outcome. Here, the gaming display 320 illustrates an example of a near-miss outcome that meets the predefined criterion discussed above. That is, as illustrated in FIG. 7, the player of this game has received a “7” symbol on reels one and two, but as reel three slowed down and stopped, the third “7” necessary for an award just missed landing on the payline 324. As discussed above, this is a classic near-miss outcome where a fairly large-valued outcome just misses filling out a payline and takes the player to an emotional high before ending up a little disappointing. Typically, the symbol that misses the payline, and hence ruins the potential win, is the last symbol or one of the last symbols so that anticipation is built during the game play. That is, after all reels are set in spinning motion, reel one typically comes to a stop first, followed by reel two a short time later, and finally followed by reel three stopping to show the complete game outcome. Here, the player sees a symbol 323 stop on the payline 324 for the first reel, and then sees the same symbol 323 stop on the payline 324 for the second reel. At this point, reel three is still spinning, and the player feels that they might be very close to winning a large award. When the third reel stops and the desired symbol is close to, but not on the payline 324, the player may feel that they just missed the large award. Some gaming devices provide additional emphasis on the third reel if the first and second reels stop with symbols landing on the payline 324. This may include providing special sounds and lights to alert the player of the possibility of a large award, and may also include an increase in the delay time between the second reel stopping and the third, and deciding, reel stopping.
  • Here, however, after the player realizes that they have not won the award associated with lining three sevens up on the payline, they are notified via a display message 330 that they have just won the secondary bonus award, which in this case is worth fifty credits. This win may temper any disappointment from the near-miss outcome and replace it with excitement at winning a linked bonus.
  • Of course the near-miss secondary bonus described above is but one example embodiment of how these secondary bonuses may be implemented. Many different variations exist in both award type and style of triggering the secondary bonus. Thus, although some embodiments of the invention have been described above, and in addition, some specific details are shown for purposes of illustrating the inventive principles, numerous other arrangements may be devised in accordance with the inventive principles of this patent disclosure. Further, well known processes have not been described in detail in order not to obscure the invention. Thus, while the invention is described in conjunction with the specific embodiments illustrated in the drawings, it is not limited to these embodiments or drawings. Rather, the invention is intended to cover alternatives, modifications, and equivalents that come within the scope and spirit of the inventive principles set out in the appended claims.

Claims (20)

1. A method of operating a gaming device, the method comprising:
determining a game outcome on the gaming device responsive to a game initiating event;
providing an award associated with a winning outcome when it is determined that the game outcome is a winning outcome; and
providing a secondary prize when it is determined that the game outcome is a near-miss outcome meeting a predefined criterion.
2. The method of claim 1, wherein the secondary prize is non-cashable credits.
3. The method of claim 1, wherein the secondary prize is a free game.
4. The method of claim 1, wherein the secondary prize is a re-spin of a game reel.
5. The method of claim 4, wherein the gaming device receives a player input in determining which reel to re-spin.
6. The method of claim 4, wherein the gaming device automatically selects a reel to respin.
7. The method of claim 6, wherein the gaming device automatically re-spins a reel having a stopped location that prevents a winning combination of game symbols from aligning on a payline.
8. The method of claim 1, wherein the predefined criterion is a defined sub-set of possible near-miss outcomes.
9. The method of claim 8, wherein the defined subset of possible near-miss outcomes includes those near-miss outcomes associated with winning outcomes having an award value greater than a predefined value.
10. A method of operating a gaming device, the method comprising:
determining a game outcome on the gaming device responsive to a game initiating event;
determining whether the game outcome is a winning game outcome associated with an award;
determining whether the game outcome is a near-miss game outcome;
providing the award associated with a winning outcome when it is determined that the game outcome is a winning outcome; and
providing a secondary prize when it is determined that the game outcome is a near-miss outcome.
11. The method of claim 10, further comprising determining whether the near-miss game outcome meets a predefined criterion when it is determined that the game outcome is a near-miss game outcome, wherein providing a secondary prize when it is determined that the game outcome is a near-miss outcome includes providing the secondary prize only if the near-miss game outcome is determined to meet the predefined criterion.
12. A gaming system comprising:
a plurality of gaming devices; and
a bonus controller connected to the plurality of gaming devices through a network, the bonus controller configured to award a secondary bonus to a winning one of the gaming devices responsive to the winning gaming device achieving a near-miss gaming outcome meeting a predefined criterion.
13. The gaming system of claim 12, wherein the predefined criterion is a defined sub-set of possible near-miss outcomes.
14. The gaming system of claim 13 wherein the defined subset of possible near-miss outcomes includes those near-miss outcomes associated with winning outcomes having an award value greater than a predefined value.
15. The gaming system of claim 12, further comprising a common bonus display connected to the bonus controller.
16. The gaming system of claim 15, wherein the common bonus display shows a numerical value awarded to the winning gaming device.
17. The gaming system of claim 16, wherein the numerical value is an amount of non-cashable credits provided to the winning gaming device.
18. The gaming system of claim 16, wherein the numerical value is incremented during game play of the gaming devices.
19. The gaming system of claim 12, wherein the bonus controller includes at least two different types of secondary bonus games that may be selected for implementation on the gaming system by a casino operator.
20. The gaming system of claim 19, wherein the bonus controller may be configured to automatically implement one of the secondary bonus games in response to triggering condition.
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US14/105,673 Active US9087433B2 (en) 2009-06-17 2013-12-13 Delayed bonus win determination
US14/755,196 Active US9406199B2 (en) 2009-06-17 2015-06-30 Delayed bonus win determination
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