With the massive payouts available, it’s no wonder that slot machines have always been a game of cat and mouse between cheaters and the house since they were invented.
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Let’s take a look at some of the devious tricks that slot cheaters have used over the years. We don’t recommend trying them yourself, though!
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Engineers design gaming machines to monitor and audit them while also delivering quality gameplay. But what happens when an engineer decides to rig the codes to their own advantage?
Notorious slots cheat Ronald Dale Harris – aka an engineer from The Nevada Gaming Commission – did exactly that. He sure knows how to manipulate a slot machine!
For years, he cheated machines by knowing the source codes. It wasn’t until his partner had a big win – $100,000 in a keno game in 1995 – that the scam was discovered.
As technology developed, slot machines began to use a light sensor to register payment. In a large number of machines, the optic sensor works separately from the physical comparator.
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Basically, that means that if a shaved coin is dropped at the same time as an object that matches the shape and size of the required stake coin, the shaved coin is returned while another object lands on the machine and starts playing.
The counterfeit coins were used by con artist Louis “The Coin” Colavecchio in scams for years until he was arrested in 1998.
He was released in 2006 and quickly resumed his fraud. Several months passed before he was sussed again.
Let’s make one thing clear: it is not really possible to cheat modern slot machines with a magnet, because they are all programmed by computer software and are not magnetic.
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However, people used to be able to cheat with a magnet on older machines, when they were made of metal.
To cheat slots with a magnet, you can spin the reels and then use a strong magnet outside the machine to stop them from spinning when you find your winning combination.
A string is attached to the coin, the coin is sent to the machine until it triggers the start of the game, and then the player returns the coin with the string.
Tommy Glenn Carmichael is one of the most notorious slot cheats in gambling history. He is responsible for the light wand.
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Magicians like David Copperfield, Dynamo and David Blaine may have the ability to create the illusion of something happening but Carmichael will use his light wand to release jackpot winnings into magical air.
The light wand will effectively blind the optical sensor in the slot machines so it cannot detect how many coins have been deposited into the machine, meaning it will not know when to pay or how much.
This means that Carmichael can manipulate a slot machine to his advantage, by turning small wins into large payouts.
A group of men work together at Caesars Boardwalk Regency in Atlantic City in 1982. One man opens a target slot machine and attaches 20-inch piano wires to the spinning guts of the game.
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Wires can be used to jam the clock that measures wheel revolutions, allowing the group to manipulate the revolutions.
They hit the $50,000 jackpot but, unfortunately, their entire scam was caught and the winning player was arrested before he left the area.
This is one of the trickiest ways to cheat on slots and was popular with scammers in the 1970s and 1980s.
They used a special tool that split into two parts. A top (a metal rod whose end is bent into the shape of a “q”) and a bottom (a long wire).
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By putting the bottom through the coin chute and the top through the coin slot, cheats were able to jam the machine and force the game to release all the coins it had stored.
He is the creator of the “monkey paw”. After trying new techniques on a video poker machine, he eventually came up with the right equipment. It’s amazingly simple.
He took a guitar string and attached it to a bent metal rod. He would push it into the machine’s air vent and spin until he clicked the trigger switch for the coin hopper.
It’s a small device wrapped around a bill to trick the slot machine into thinking it’s accepting a $100 bill when in fact it’s only accepting a measly $1 bill.
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He bought a slot machine and messed with it in his garage to find out its flaws.
He found that the computer chips inside the machines could be reprogrammed to be manipulated to pay jackpots on the faucet.
Nikrasch ordered a load of these chips, hired a team of scammers, got hold of a bunch of slot machine keys and began a scamming reign that would bleed for years.
By playing a certain pattern of stakes and games, players can confuse the machine and trigger a glitch that pays the jackpot.
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Many slots cheats have benefited from this over the years but now many jackpot winners are also denied their winnings because of it.
The most famous incident occurred in 2015 when 90-year-old grandmother Pauline McKee, from Illinois, won $41 million on a Miss Kitty slot machine at the Isle Hotel Waterloo.
He tried to sue the first in 2012 but his last appeal was rejected three years later. Unfortunately, historical coincidences were the reason for winning this case.
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Technically speaking, yes, players can trick a slot machine – but it’s not as simple as a ritual break every five spins or anything remotely similar. Rather, it requires a keen interest in technology or a daring adventure in breaking the law.
Of course, it’s never advisable to pursue anything illegal, but here’s a little anecdotal evidence of what some players say they’ve done in the past.
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In the past, some slot machines were prone to the ‘manipulated coin’ trick. With advances in security and technology, this trick probably won’t work today, but legend has it that some scammers got away with them in the past.
The trick involves attaching a coin to a nylon wire. The slot machine can’t detect the wire because of its material, so players feed the coin into the machine, retrieve it, and do it again.
As long as the slot machine with the coin inserted is registered, gameplay will continue! Of course, this is outdated, and more importantly, illegal, so here are some other tips and tricks that can increase your chances of winning.
We’ve all read the stories of experienced card players turned card counters, but what about slot machine players? This happened in the 1980s when Diethard Wendtland took advantage of the manual ‘stop’ function in slot machines.
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This function is not available in all slots, but he has developed the ability to stop slots at the right time. With his lightning fast reactions, he can see when the symbols will light up and the reels will stop.
Unfortunately for us, the casinos soon got wise to this, and eventually, they changed the stop all reels function to allow us to stop only one reel at a time. We can still influence our winnings to some degree, but not like Diethard!
This last one is for computer geeks: over the years, technology has become more secure, but a few decades ago, hackers noticed that slot machine software could be influenced due to vulnerabilities such as hackable processing chips.
You might have a hard time hacking the programming of a slot machine today, but there’s always a route of bugs instead.
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This happens in online games, for example, players report getting their original stake back after freezing online roulette – if you find a bug that rewards you, it makes sense to try and repeat it!
More often than not, the trick takes more time than it should or is illegal, so we suggest sticking to the odds and enjoying the risk.
Katie Thompson is an NCTJ-trained journalist and freelance online gaming