Cheating at slots is almost impossible today, but it has been done in the past. Read on to find out how it was done and if it was worth the trouble.
So, you fancy wandering on down to your local casino and extracting some easy, risk-free cash from the slots? Sorry to disappoint you, but as will become obvious later in this article, any tricks you may have heard of in the past rarely last very long before casino security become wise to them.
In the modern-day casino era, 360° ultra-fast eye in the sky cameras combined with artificial intelligence and facial recognition software are covering every inch of the entire casino. Let’s just say if you did find a place where one of these tricks was still working then it would be very difficult to actually pull it off and get out of there successfully without being quickly spotted by casino security.
Cheating the Casino
Thinking about cheating the casino? Slots probably aren’t the first thing that comes to mind – card games such as blackjack and poker have been much more common targets over the years. Roulette, too, has had a number of scams pulled on it – from bent wheels to hidden laser devices tracking the speed and position of the ball to enable bets to be placed at the very last moment.
Cheats have been physically manipulating chips, cards, dice, and even entire roulette wheels for decades – perhaps even longer. But the slots have a unique draw for the intelligent cheat: they don’t require any personnel to operate.
Especially in the days before HD cameras were in every corner of the building, all you had to do was learn where the CCTV was located and be sure to get your angle right, and you could manipulate the machine in any way you required. This simply isn’t the case any more though – anything you do to try and interfere with the operation of a machine is likely to be spotted quickly, and you are likely to find yourself barred from every casino in the area whether you successfully steal any money or not.
The Earliest Slot Machines
There’s a certain poetry to the name “one-armed bandit” because the earliest mechanical slot machines which earned that moniker were heavily targeted by traditional bandits – two-armed bandits, if you will. As soon as these machines appeared in the San Francisco saloons of the early 1900s, many such two-armed bandits were immediately exploring ways they could fool those machines into triggering jackpots or other payouts unfairly.
The first slot machines were entirely mechanical and accepted nickels, a very cheap metal that was indistinguishable from other cheap metals of the time – at least using the technology of the period. This led to the invention of the “slot slug”, created by melting down metal and fashioning it into a size and shape that was indistinguishable from a real coin, as far as the machine was concerned.
A slug got you a free spin, but it’s a lot of work creating a few hundred slugs without any guarantee of hitting a jackpot…. and what’s to say you won’t get a load of them back in your “winnings”? It was a good idea, but the bandits needed to find a better way if they were to rob the owners of the machines for any real amount of money.
Next came slot machines which accepted dimes, and these were a godsend for the bandits – just file down a penny to the right circumference, and you will get a ten-cent spin for just a single cent! There’s still the problem of receiving your own shady coins back as part your winnings though – So how could this problem be eliminated? It didn’t take long for the fraudsters of the American West to come up with a way….
Operators Begin Losing Big Money – The Fightback Begins
The next step was to take the special pennies they had previously been using, and drill a hole through the middle of them. Now, with the addition of a simple piece of fishing line secured to the slug, it could be left to fall deep enough into the machine, before being quickly whipped back out using the fishing line. Hard to believe these days, I know – those early mechanisms must really have been junk to be fooled by such tactics!
The cheats could now fashion just one single slug – a few minutes work at best – to get unlimited free spins from the one-armed bandit. Machines began to be cleared out all over San Francisco, as well as the surrounding areas where these machines had now spread to. The owners of the machines demanded that their creators came up with a solution to this, and thus begun an arms race between the creators of the machines and a highly intelligent and motivated group of fraudsters determined to defeat them.
The first attempt was some kind of coin detection mechanism, but it was quickly discovered that this wasn’t enough – the bandits quickly switched from using their slugs to drilling holes in genuine coins. All they had to do was find a spot somewhere inside the coins circumference that they could drill which wouldn’t trigger the coin check protection mechanism, and the scam was quickly back in play.
The first real protection that slot machine manufacturers came up with was the “coin escalator”, a crude mechanism that ensured all coins being inserted into the machine were viewable in an illuminated and windowed glass tube. This made the coins easy to spot by the casino or owner of the machine. Slugs, filed down pennies, or simply a lack of a suitable number of coins that tallied with the number of wagers being placed by the player at the machine were all easy to spot using this mechanism. As this was the Wild West at that time… I wouldn’t like to have been the cheater sitting at that machine whenever a discrepancy was noticed.
Cheating at Slots The Modern Era (1980s Onwards)
As technology moved on and the newer style of video slot machine began replacing the mechanical three reeled games that had been ubiquitous at that time, those who wanted to cheat now had real problems. The machines no longer accepted coins – they only accepted paper money or later, barcoded vouchers with a specification known only to the casino or machine operators.
The drum reels of old with their printed symbols were no longer required, having been replaced by a video screen and digital representation of the symbols on the reels. A random number generator (RNG) was now used to determine which symbols would appear on-screen, and the virtual reel strips themselves could now contain far more symbols and thus the jackpot was now represented by one or perhaps a handful out of several million permutations. There wasn’t going to be any chance of finding the right one manually now… even if there were physical reels which a potential cheater could manually interfere with.
And so, slot cheating died a quick and uneventful death, and the world returned to its usual perfect state. The casinos and owners of slot machines everywhere living happily ever after, never again disturbed by those dastardly two-armed bandits.
Did You Really Believe That? We’re just getting started!
Video slots are effectively just computer software running on what is known as an embedded system. This is a computer that has been created for a specific type of activity, and is designed with all the necessary components on board at the time it is built. This includes any required software, which is often built into a part of the computer known as firmware that is regularly contained on a flash memory chip.
Firmware is normally read-only, but because of the risk of bugs or other issues being found after such a computer has been sold, a specific procedure is usually made possible that allows an embedded system’s firmware to be reprogrammed or updated.
Here are two fascinating tales of firmware being used to cheat the casinos, both of which are well worth a read:
1. The Case of Ronald Harris & Reid McNeal
There have been two huge slot machine scams orchestrated using surreptitiously modified firmware. The first, the case of Ronald Harris & Reid McNeal was discovered in 1995, but may have been going on for years before this. Harris worked at the Nevada Gaming Control Board, and his main duties included analysing the software used in the machines and looking for flaws in their programming.
The firmware in modern slot machines is stored in a chip called an EEPROM, which is short for electronically erasable (and) programmable read only memory. Very few people have access to the code contained in these EEPROMs, and for good reason – even without the ability to modify the software at will, a talented programmer may be able to find ways to exploit a machine simply by analyzing the contents of the EEPROM software.
That was precisely what Harris’ job was supposed to entail. He was supposed to search for bugs in the software contained within the EEPROM of slot machines, patch any bugs or flaws he located and then, critically, he had the tedious obligation to travel to every casino in Las Vegas to distribute and install his updated code on to thousands of active slot machines.
Harris Has a Stunning Revelation
Harris realized early on that his ability to modify the EEPROM software gave him an enormous amount of power. He had the potential to make his own changes to the operation of the random number generator (RNG) which determined the outcome of each spin. He came up with a plan – install the correct, normally functioning EEPROM software into the majority of gaming machines, but select a few into which he would replace the software with a special version of his own design.
The changes that Harris made were well hidden and designed to go unnoticed by anyone who might be tasked with examining the EEPROM code of a specific machine. He also created a specific sequence of actions which needed to be performed to activate the changes he had made, ensuring that the casino would not be alerted to his fraud by particular machines randomly paying out much more than they normally should.
This sequence of actions was based on how many coins were chosen to be bet on a sequence of spins – the winning combination was 3,2,2,1,3,5. Make six bets of exactly this number of coins and the uniquely generous RNG mode would be enabled, guaranteeing Harris an excessive payout that would not be detectable by any kind of regular camera-based surveillance. There was just one problem – as a Gaming Control Board employee, he was prohibited from actually playing any of the machines he worked on. Harris needed a partner, and this is where we meet Reid McNeal.
Introducing Reid McNeal – The Secret Player
Harris knew that Reid McNeal was struggling financially, having just lost his job. He had also managed to build up a large debt which desperately needed to be paid off quickly, making him a perfect partner for Harris. They agreed to a 50/50 split and started off small, winning just a couple of thousand dollars a night to avoid bringing too much attention upon themselves.
So far, so good… but it wasn’t enough. Both Harris and McNeal knew that they had stumbled into a situation that could easily create them both the kind of financial stability most people can only dream of. Harris had travelled to Atlantic City on several occasions to install upgraded EEPROM, and had planned well in advance – a few select machines over that side of the continental United States had already been updated with his poisoned computer chips as well.
And so, just after new-year in 1995, both Reid McNeal and Ronald Harris entered Bally’s Park Place Casino & Hotel in Atlantic City together. The pair were planning their biggest hit to date – McNeal had been shown which machine to use by Ronald during a visit to the casino earlier that day, and decided it was safest to wait in their hotel room whilst McNeal carried out their plan – to use one of the video Keno machines to win a $100,000 jackpot from a stake of just $100.
As Always, Greed Gets the Better of Reid and Ronald
The bet they had chosen had odds of 230,000 to 1, which might have initially sounded plausible given the ludicrous odds attached to many national lotteries … but Keno is a very different ball game. National lotteries have many, many more participants, and even then, any prize with odds this high will only be won a handful of times each year. They could have bet a little more – perhaps on a different configuration of balls and winnings – but unfortunately for the pair, their greed had already gotten the better of them.
Perhaps the hapless pair should have done a little more research? Did they realize exactly how unlikely such an event would be? Such a win had never occurred at Bally’s in Atlantic City, or at any of their other properties. Of course, the casinos do know that such a hit is not impossible but still, the managers of the casino were instantly suspicious. Yet, an initial examination of the machine showed no signs of foul play.
What did trigger further misgivings was McNeal’s unusual behaviour immediately after winning such an enormous jackpot. Imagine how you would act, had you just won $100,000? Would you be screaming? Jumping up and down? Calling family, friends, or your significant other?
McNeal didn’t even seem surprised – he showed no emotion, and a later review of the CCTV recordings of him playing at the machine gave the distinct impression that McNeal had been expecting to win before he even placed his fateful wager.
Playing the situation down as standard procedure – how exactly that can be possible I have no idea – McNeal was asked if it was okay for several police officers to escort him to his room to ensure nothing was amiss there either.
McNeal had no way to warn Harris of the imminent arrival of himself and the officers. Upon entering the room, the police found several items that later turned out to be EEPROM reprogramming equipment, spare memory chips, and detailed instructions on how to enter the enhanced payout mode among other incriminating evidence.
The Results of the Case
Reports from the time make it difficult to ascertain if Harris was actually in the room or not when McNeal and the officers arrived, but he certainly learned what had happened very quickly – throwing his friend and accomplice under the bus, so to speak, Harris immediately flew home but was arrested on arrival at the airport at Las Vegas. McNeal later returned the favour, and managed to get all charges against himself dropped in return for testifying against Harris.
Harris owned up to winning a couple of specific jackpots using information he had been provided as part of his job with the Gaming Control Board. He also pleaded guilty to over twenty separate accounts of rigging jackpots at casinos in both Las Vegas and Atlantic City, but only served two years of his seven-year sentence due to good behaviour.
It is extremely likely that Harris won far, far more than what he admitted to in court – there could even have been previous accomplices. It’s unlikely we will ever find out the truth about this – Harris probably doesn’t even know the exact amount he stole. If you’ve never heard of this heist before though and found the tale interesting, don’t miss the great documentaries available on the Discovery and History channels regarding the case.
As a result of the Harris & McNeal fraud, the Nevada Gaming Control Board drastically increased the security around their most sensitive software code, made changes to their hiring processes, and implemented software version control systems designed to prevent any similar code ever reaching a modern slot machine. Today, all slot machines are updated electronically over the internet, which dramatically reduces the potential for fraud. Surely, nobody could ever pull something like this off again?
2. The Case of John Kane
Almost fifteen years after the previous case, John Kane was on the streak of his life on the Las Vegas strip. On the 3rd of July 2009 he decided to try the Silverton, walked into the high-limit room and sat down to play some video poker. He sat down at one of the multi-game Game King cabinet’s which had become all but ubiquitous across Nevada, the Indian casinos, New Jersey, and much of Europe and Asia too. Just six minutes later, Kane hit a $4,300 jackpot.
A few minutes later, another $2,800 jackpot had the attendant rushing back to sort out a second W2-G – the form required in US casinos for wins of over 1,200 dollars. But he wasn’t done with his streak just yet – it’s not clear what stakes Kane was playing, and these wins really wouldn’t be very eye-raising on a $5 machine playing $25 per hand in something like Double Double Bonus Poker.
Regardless, a third jackpot of $4,150 landed, and by now surveillance were getting twitchy. Charles Williams, director of security at the Silverton began watching carefully. He noticed how well practised Kane was on the Game King – this man knew these machines, and he knew the games he was playing too, as it took him just fractions of a second to choose his holds and discards. But he wasn’t wielding any obvious devices or behaving in a questionable manner of any kind. He was simply winning way too much, far too quickly.
If something seems too good to be true, it probably is…. But maybe just occasionally….
Then, Williams noticed an oddity that gave him something to work with – Kane’s seventh jackpot in ninety minutes was his biggest so far at $10,400, but as he waited for the attendant to come and authorize the win, he finally recognized a major issue – the cards shown on screen were four deuces and a four of clubs, just like Kane’s last jackpot. Hitting four Deuces is a rare event in itself, but with a matching kicker too?
Something wasn’t right here. The odds against an event like this are in the multi hundred million to one kind of range. Combined with the fact this was the players sixth huge win in a very short period of time, Williams knew he had to investigate, and called over the executive in charge of slot machines at the Silverton casino.
The pair reviewed the tapes of Kane’s play together. They discussed the Harris & McNeal case of years earlier. They felt confident that Kane had not interfered with the machine in any way – he didn’t have the kind of links with the gaming industry that Ronald Harris did. No, this was something different… but what?
Suspicion falls on the machine – had Kane just got lucky and found a buggy cabinet?
It’s every gambler’s dream to come across a machine that just seems to be paying out, over and over again. It even happens from time to time – but not for the kinds of amounts that Kane was winning, and certainly not at the low stakes that were being observed in the game logs. In fact, it was quickly noticed that the amounts of the jackpots did not match the amounts that should have been paid for the wagers he was placing.
This is the kind of thing that the casinos dread, and the Nevada Gaming Commission are tasked with ensuring never happens – Kane had found a bug in the Game King software, and was using it repeatedly to trigger winnings that simply should not have been possible. As his next jackpot of $8,200 appeared on screen, Williams made the decision to contact security and order them not to let Kane leave the casino.
Williams still wasn’t sure exactly how this plucky gambler was managing to pull this off, but he knew that the payouts he had received were incorrect, and Kane was now holding payout tickets totalling tens of thousands of dollars. Williams needed answers.
A little background on John Kane
Three months earlier, Kane had been playing the same machine downtown at the Fremont Hotel at Glitter Gulch. He was having a rough time, and some would say was maybe even due a little luck. That’s when he discovered the glitch, but he didn’t really understand how he had pulled it off, only that he got paid one hell of an impossible jackpot for a machine set to $1 denominations.
In truth, Kane had a gambling problem and was spending way too much time playing video poker on Game King machines, and had been for several years. Kane had a good job though, good enough to enable him to drop hundreds of thousands of dollars into these machines on an annual basis without his problem becoming too obvious to those around him.
The addictiveness of video poker is thought to result from the fact you have decisions to make, decisions that, unlike regular slots, actually affect the outcome of the round. To lower the house edge to the lowest possible level, you need to learn the perfect strategy for the variant you are playing. Kane figured the best way to do this – and work out how he had found that all-important glitch – was to get his own Game King machine. The best way to describe the prices of that kind of professional equipment is “eye-watering” at best.
Returning to his previous local, the Boulder Station, Kane lost half a million dollars in 2006 alone, trying in vain to repeat the glitch he was certain must exist – which earned him enough players club points to buy his own Game King machine to play at home, as well as a mandatory cooling-off period as a result of the Boulder Station’s player-friendly responsible gaming rules.
What made the Game King so popular with players like John Kane?
The Game King machine is the culmination of years of work by International Gaming Technology’s (IGT) to exploit the incredible flexibility that computerized gambling machines can offer. Their earlier cabinets offered just one type of video poker, making it incredibly expensive for casinos to purchase all the most popular variants if they wanted a few of each of them on their floor.
All the investment in each cabinet was going into building a high-quality machine that could withstand the rigours of the casino environment – they needed to be spill proof, hold up for millions of game rounds, whilst also looking good in the casino and feeling high quality to the player. The actual gaming software was a tiny proportion of the overall cost of each cabinet. IGT realized that they could include many variants of video poker in one machine at little additional cost, and the casinos would likely buy a similar number anyway – with the advantage that no player would have to wait for their turn to play the game they really wanted.
So, in 1996, IGT perfected the first version of their Game King cabinet, a multi-game video poker machine that proved an instant hit with both players and casinos alike. Furthermore, IGT had now created an additional revenue stream by selling regular firmware upgrades that added new features and video poker variants to their existing customers and cabinets.
Game King was a huge money spinner for IGT, and in 2002 they released their fifth major revision which they confidently advertised offered countless new enhancements. This included the latest graphics and sound technology that was now being developed at an extraordinary rate – think how far your average home computer came between the days of the Pentium machines common in 1996 to the Pentium 4 powered computers being sold in 2002. Back then, a six-year-old PC was obsolete, unlike today when you may well be reading this on a computer of that vintage – or even older.
Unfortunately for IGT, it seems they tried to do too much too quickly, and while the promotional materials stated that these new cabinets would “rule over your casino floor with unprecedented magnificence!”, there was one tiny little detail they hadn’t quite noticed missing from their glossy brochure – a number of errors in the multi-game code that sneaked through all stages of source code review, bug testing and even the watchful eye of the Nevada Gaming Commission’s. The Game King version five was riddled with bugs, but nothing that was identified initially affected the payouts of the machine, and firmware updates quickly patched out some of the worst issues.
So, what exactly had Kane learned that nobody else had? What was the trick?
John Kane didn’t become noticed on the casino circuit until 2009, meaning that there were thousands of these machines out there in the wild for potentially seven years. Despite a series of new updates being released for the machines over the years, nobody else had seemingly found the glitch that Kane did. Even older units, those sold prior to the release of Game King 5, were eventually updated with the version five firmware and managed to pick up bugs they hadn’t suffered previously – a situation not seen in the entire gaming industry before or since.
As far as anyone knows, Kane was the first to discover the flaw, but if you found it, would you tell anyone? Still, without any way of knowing, the story currently stands that Kane first stumbled on the primary flaw whilst playing at a row of four low-limit machines outside the entrance to a Chinese food joint at the Fremont. If anybody else did find this bug back then, they haven’t spoken about it now for well over a decade.
Kane had been switching between games, racking up a decent profit through regular means. Then, upon cashing out his bankroll to switch to a different one of the four machines, the bells went off and the screen locked up with a jackpot payout. He knew something was wrong – he hadn’t even played a hand! When he eventually ended up in court, he received major credit for the fact he immediately reported that error to the casino attendant. Somehow, the member of staff thought he was joking, or that he had lost track of what he was doing, or that it was otherwise him who had made the mistake and not the machine – but John knew differently.
Keeping things straightforward, Kane had discovered a way to turn a jackpot payout in one denomination into the same jackpot in a higher domination – hit those four deuces and a four at a $1 denomination playing five credits and you’ve won yourself $800. Now imagine being able to switch over to the $25 denomination, and the jackpot updates to $20,000 – still sat there ready to be paid out.
This is the bug that Kane had discovered, but surely this would be spotted easily within seven years? The key turned out to be the double up feature. Most casinos have this turned off – it’s unpopular with players, apparently, but the attendant can turn this feature on for you if you ask them nicely. With the double up feature enabled, the bug worked – without it, it did not.
The End of the Game King Bug
Eventually, the casinos realized they were losing way too much money. Kane and his sidekick Nestor, who hasn’t been mentioned up to this point, had taken Las Vegas for millions of dollars. What did they spend it on? I could take a guess, but they didn’t have the cash required to pay the IRS the $400,000+ just in TAXES for all the jackpots they had taken from the casinos.
The thing is, Kane never changed any chips – he never used any devices. He never did anything but use the user interface presented by the machine in a way that the creators had not expected. Many felt that Kane and Nestor should never have ended up in court in the first place.
But, despite several arguments caused by the fact Kane had discovered the bug, shared it with Nestor, and Nestor hadn’t been 100% fair in keeping his end of the bargain regarding splitting his winnings 50/50, the two survived the prisoner’s dilemma which was played on them by the Justice Department whilst they were both in jail on federal charges. Eventually, they both walked free, but those back taxes didn’t disappear. It wouldn’t be surprising if much of the winnings were simply gambled away – after all, if you have a gambling problem but can collect as much free money as you wish at any time you like, who cares if you lose a few dollars?
Cheating at Slots – The Situation Today
First, let me be clear – some of the following methods still work in some parts of the world (probably not in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Macau or Monte Carlo… but many other destinations!) but you are a fool if you actually think about trying them. Using any kind of device is illegal in pretty much every jurisdiction, and there are good reasons not to try the remaining items listed here too. Have fun reading, but leave it at that – it’s just not worth it.
1: The Light Wand
It truly is hard to believe this one still works anywhere, but I can tell you on good authority that it does. It was invented by the legendary Tommy Glenn Carmichael, who earned the nickname of “The Godfather” when it came to cheating at slots.
His earlier inventions, the kickstand, monkey claw, and top and bottom joint were all extremely popular in the smaller venues around Las Vegas and anywhere that low jackpot machines could be found. These devices interfered with the mechanisms of the machines in some way, and so were all easy enough to build in protection against them with a little time and effort after they were first discovered.
The light wand on the other hand can still be used on machines which use a coin hopper – think fruit machines and the low-limit versions of games like Rainbow Riches you might find in bars and public houses.
Much like how John Kane bought his Game King machine to figure out how he had managed to receive a jackpot payout he was not entitled to, Carmichael would purchase the latest IGT machines and then deconstruct them to see how they worked and how they could be beaten. Whereas simple locks and metal plates can be used to defeat devices like the monkey claw or top and bottom joint, the light wand worked differently.
Constructed from nothing more than a miniaturized lightbulb and a camera battery, the light wand can blind the hopper, causing it not to realize it is continuing to spit out coins long after it was supposed to have stopped.
More and more machines are being converted to accept no coins whatsoever, but it’s unlikely that fruit machines and the types of slots found in bars will ever go that way, so the light wand may have some mileage left in it yet. Thinking about using one to make some quick cash? Don’t Bother!
You may get away with this for some time if you pick the right venues and don’t take too much from the same places every week or month – I’ve read that there are gangs dedicated to using tools such as this one in the United Kingdom that travel the country to avoid detection, and still make a good living out of it.
Trouble is, you only need to get caught once, and it’s all over – the police will search your premises, investigate your bank accounts, look at your possessions and then start some sort of recovery procedure against you. It may well be called a Proceeds of Crime Act or something similar, but I, personally, know of someone who robbed slot machines for just a few months before getting caught, and because he couldn’t prove every single entry on his seven-year bank statement, they took his house and car. Still think it’s worth the risk?
2: Become an electronics wizard, then use an Arduino / Raspberry Pi to control the RNG
This is a modern take on an idea first tried by locksmith Dennis Nikrasch back in 1996. Dennis was a trained locksmith who would find ways to block the surveillance teams from seeing what he was doing for the sixty seconds he needed to interface his custom electronics to the circuit board of some slot machines.
The technique remains pretty much the same today, though blocking all surveillance is harder than ever depending on the entry point to the game’s logic boards. You’re going to need a machine at home to test with, you’re going to need to be able to get into it fast, and there’s no time to do any soldering – a minimal number of clips or better yet, direction connection to headers on the motherboard would be the most ideal solution.
Needless to say, there’s a huge amount of time and investment required to make a success of this one, but Dennis Nikrasch somehow managed to pull it off – on his own too, no team required.
Dennis Nikrasch got away with this scam for such a long time because he was never there when the jackpot was actually hit – his hardware would alter the scope of the RNG and cause it to do its additional payout thing a little later on. To be successful pulling this stunt today, you’d probably need to do the same.
BUT… If you have the technical skills required to do something like this, why aren’t you using them for something better? You’re a fool to waste such knowledge trying to hack a few thousand dollars out of slot machines before you inevitably get caught and go to prison. Messing with the internals of the machines is in no way ambiguous – it’s clearly against casino rules, it will get you into more trouble than its worth, and the bottom line… it’s incredibly illegal!
3: Exploit badly designed slot machines by taking advantage of poor RNG programming
An alternative method that has been spotted being used in the wild as recently as last year is using the results of previous spins to calculate some details about the RNG, without interfering with the machine at all. Novomatic and Aristocrat machines were found to be particularly vulnerable to these techniques as a result of poorly programmed Pseudo Random Number Generators.
The “Pseudo” comes from the fact that no computer can actually come up with truly random numbers on its own – a seed value has to come from somewhere, and it is usually time-based. If your RNG uses only milliseconds as its seed, that makes it particularly vulnerable to this type of attack. If you find you can achieve a particular result reliably by hitting the spin button at essentially the same millisecond using some kind of crude timing equipment, you might have just found this kind of flaw.
This could be easier than it sounds, once you factor in that human reaction delay tends to be quite consistent – you might just be able to learn enough from the alignment of the reels at the end each spin, linked with the time the spin button was pressed, to find a way to hit the bonus round every time, for example. Get enough footage of a slot in action or perhaps purchase a second-hand machine, and perhaps you really could get rich just playing slots… good luck with that one, though.
Could you get into trouble for this one? Probably not, but then again John Kane did, and he wasn’t using any kind of devices either. Finding a machine that’s vulnerable though, then going through the effort of figuring out how …. They might have fixed it by the time you’ve worked it out. And you could still go to prison at the end of it all. There has to be a more effective use of your time than this, surely?
4: Become that dodgy guy that hangs around the casino looking for leftover credit
Exactly how much of a bad idea this is will depend on a few things, most importantly, is it legal in your jurisdiction? In many US states any money that is left on a slot machine by a different player legally belongs to the casino, and even if you spin it and lose it, you could still be arrested and charged with theft from the casino.
Sometimes players will leave just a few pennies on a machine because they don’t care for a voucher worth just a few cents, and in such cases, you are probably okay to play the credits… but why not be on the safe side, print off the voucher and leave it on top of the machine? Is It worth the risk for a few pennies?
If it’s a couple of dollars you could end up like “Dan” from Colorado who was charged under Colorado Statute 12-47.1-823(1)(c), and received a criminal record for the sake of just $2 as well as a $250 fine and a ban from all casinos in the state for a period of 12 months.
And if somebody leaves their players card in a machine and you think playing their rewards is okay then I don’t know what to tell you – sort out your morals for a start, because that’s definitely stealing.
In the United Kingdom this isn’t against the law, and you will occasionally see homeless guys who have managed to sneak past the doormen somehow trawling the floor cashing out whatever funds they can find. Hey, if you need the money for food, then I guess this could be a better idea than simply stealing the food – if it isn’t illegal in your country.
Let’s face it, this one is something of a grey area. You may see it as cheating, you may not. But before you think about doing it, be sure you know the laws in your country… and maybe think about having a couple less drinks at the casino because you probably wouldn’t be doing this if you were fully compos mentis.
5: Using Counterfeit Bills or Trick Coins to earn free credits
Let’s finish up with something that’s just plainly silly. Counterfeit bills that will fool the note intake are becoming harder and harder to find these days, especially in countries that have switched to polymer banknotes. Sure, this stuff is available on the dark web, but aside from the chance of being ripped off, get caught using anything like this, and you won’t ever be entering a casino again – when you are released from prison.
This is probably the worst way you can cheat a slot machine that I can think of, and says little for your own ethics and moral code too. Just don’t do it.
So, in conclusion…
Slots are an addictive pastime, and sometimes can feel very unfair. It’s not surprising that some players will feel an urge to try and get one up on the machine or casino they feel has ripped them off. But you haven’t been ripped off at all – you’ve played a high house edge game, and should know that you’re going to have the odd big winning session and lots of smaller losing ones.
If you can’t cope with the way these games work, then simply don’t play them. There is NO easy, risk-free way of getting free money from slot machines. Stick to Blackjack and Baccarat if you want a fairer game – and if even those feel unfair to you, perhaps you shouldn’t be gambling at all. The casinos have won the battle against slot cheats nowadays, and will always have the law on their side going forward.