Sneaky Ways To Cheat At Slots

Stand on the gaming floor of any land-based casino and your eyes and ears will be assaulted by the cacophony of hundreds of slot machines being played all at once. Seeing this, it's easy to understand why the slots are so popular, both for players and for the casino’s bottom line. Though the vast majority of punters are perfectly content to pull up a stool and start slowly placing their bets, there are others who are looking for a shortcut to the winnings. These are the casino cheaters who have but a single aim, to circumnavigate any security systems and land themselves a slot machine jackpot.


With that in mind, let us have a look at some of the methods and systems shady gamblers have used in order to try to get one over the casino. We are sure that none of these would work today, as the slot machine manufacturers are quick to catch on and implement new methods to curtail any form of cheating.

Cheat Codes


It's not just the casino’s responsibility to ensure that their slots are operating correctly. The gaming authority they fall under will also be keeping an eye out to ensure that the games are above board and fair. To this end, they will send engineers to both monitor and audit the machines. This leads to an interesting conundrum. What happens if the engineer himself decided to game the system for his own benefit? In other words, who will police those charged with policing the machines?


You probably have an idea where this story is going by now. It involves a casino engineer by the name of Ronald Dale Harris who worked for the Nevada Gaming Commission as an auditing engineer. We're guessing that the temptation to cheat the machines, which he was tasked with keeping secure, became too great. He carried out this underhand activity for years and was only discovered thanks to his partner winning $100,000 on a casino game in 1998.


Shaved Coins


Some years ago, all slot machines used a light censor in order to register the coins being placed into the machine. In those days, slot machines worked with a separate physical comparator as well as the optic sensor.  It wasn't long before some hustler discovered that if you sent a shaved coin down the slot with an object that matched the shape and size of the stake coin, then you were able to retrieve the shaved coin to use again, and thus were able to play the machines for free.


Fake Coins


The famous casino con artist Louis "The Coin" Colavecchio was able to scam the casino for many years until he was finally caught in 1998. His modus operandi was the use of fake coins. Though he was released in 2006, he quickly returned to his devious ways and was later arrested once again.




The Yo-Yo describes a particular technique used to trigger free games. Essentially, a string was glued to a coin that was then sent down the payment channel until it triggered the source of the game. At which point the player simply yanked the coin back out of the machine. In truth, though this seems ridiculously simple, apparently it worked well for a while.


Light Wand


One of the most famous slot cheats in gambling history was Tommy Glenn Carmichael. In the same manner, in which David Blaine or David Copperfield have a capacity to conjure happenings from thin air, Carmichael possessed a small wand that he would wave to win the jackpot magically.


In truth, there was no magic involved. His wand contained a bright light source that would overload the visual sensor of the slot machine. This led to the slot’s programming being uncertain as to how many coins had previously been inserted. The result was that the slot had no idea when to pay out. Carmichael was able to utilise this weakness to turn base wins into huge cash-outs at will.


Piano Wire


Back in 1982, a group of men worked together targeting slot machines at the Caesars Boardwalk Regency Casino in Atlantic City. One of the men would open up a slot machine and then attach a 20-inch-long piano wire to its internal mechanics. By pulling on the wire, they were able to stop the reels in rotation. As a result, they were able to hit a jackpot of $50,000. Unfortunately, all this happened under the watchful eye of the casino security cameras.


Top-Bottom Joint


This technique was a favourite of scammers in the 1970s and 80s and is probably one of the most intelligent ways of cheating slots we've ever seen. A special tool was devised that consisted of two parts. On the top was a metal rod with its end bent in the shape of a q. On the bottom, a long wire was attached. The bottom was inserted into the coin shoot and the top into the coin slot. This jammed the machine and as a default setting, it released all the coins stored within.


Monkey’s Paw


Once again, we have another system devised by Tommy Carmichael. After examining the new programmes on a video poker machine, he built a contraption called the Monkey's Paw. This consisted of a bent metal rod with a guitar string attached. He would push the device into the machine’s air vent. By wiggling it around, he was able to snap the slot’s trigger switch for the coin hopper. All the coins stored in the machine would then flood out.


Bill Validator Device


Two scammers invented a straightforward yet ingenious method for cheating the slot machines. Essentially this tiny object was able to convince the machine into believing that a $100 bill had been placed in the money feed, when in fact it was just a $1 bill.


Computer Chip Replacement


Hats off to Dennis Nikrasch, who, being a thorough type, bought himself an actual slot machine and had it delivered to his garage. Over a number of weeks, he dismantled it and worked out all it’s flaws. By removing the computer chips inside, he was able to reprogram them to pay out a jackpot at will.


To put his plan into practise he took delivery of lots of these chips. Then he hired a team of scammers and somehow managed to get hold of a bunch of slot machine keys. He then started his scamming in earnest and would continue to bleed the casinos for a number of years. Essentially, all he was doing was switching out the independent chips for his own manipulated ones.


In today’s land-based casinos, none of these techniques would stand a chance. Not only are the casino’s own security systems technically sophisticated, but also the slot machines themselves feature tamper-proof settings. No one wants the embarrassment of the slot alarm going off as they try to wedge a device into the coin slot.





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