The Rules are there for a Reason

Much like in any casino game, or any job, or any facet of life – slots has experienced its fair share of cheats.  Some have succeeded, and some have failed.  Some methods are now outdated – with slot machines starting to rely more and more on computer circuitry than on internal gears.  Many modern machines have even eliminated the option of inserting coins into the machines: players now use cards.  These totally eliminate certain cheating strategies.  But, this does not mean to say that casinos must not stay on their toes – cheaters will always be looking for the next angle, for the next advantage – nonetheless with great cheaters like Tommy Glenn Carmichael on their side developing anti-cheating technology, it’s hard not to say that the odds are stacked in the casinos favour.

Carmichael is one of the all-time great slots cheats.  He began using a device known as a ‘top-bottom joint’, but was eventually caught and sentenced to jail.  By the time he was released, cheating had advanced significantly, but this left him unperturbed, he invented the ‘monkey’s paw’.  The ‘monkey’s paw’ was a piece of flexible steel, about one foot long with a claw on the end that would be inserted into the payout chute until the cheat reached the coin counter.  Once there, the device would interfere with the machine and cause it to overpay.  To counter this, manufacturers inserted a coin comparator which would validate the coin that had been inserted, thereby rendering the device useless.

Not to fear though, Carmichael had a response for this: he invented a tongue-shaped device which could add credits to the machine – he would later cash these out.  But, not even Tommy could keep fooling the casinos – he was caught again and sentenced to time-served and probation.  Tommy was added to Nevada’s Black Book: this book details known cheats, 27% of which are slots cheats.  Tommy now works to help foil other cheaters.  The moral of the story is that the eye in the sky is always watching – you might have a good run, you might have a great run – but, it won’t last forever.  Play by the rules and you’ll have more fun.  Oh, and you won’t end up in jail.

Other ways people have tried to cheat at slots

The easiest slot machines to cheat are the older ones (mechanical and electro-mechanical) as they are operated by a series of gears and pulleys.  Control where the reels stop and you can cheat the machine.  Problem is: machines like these are few and far between these days.

  1. Using coat hangers to cheat at slots – the hanger is used to interfere with the mechanical coin counter, the machine will not be able to keep up with the payout.  One man made $200 000 off a $100 win.  Unfortunately, he was eventually caught (this tends to be the pattern).
  2. Counterfeit Tokens, Shaved Coins, and Coins on Strings – counterfeit tokens or shaved coins are used to trick the machine.  This allows cheaters to play for free, or for far less than they should be.  Although today’s machines have a catch to catch coins as they are inserted, in the old days cheaters used to play with a coin on a string (then they could play with it repeatedly).
  3. Minilights are used to interfere with optical sensors of modern machines.  If turned on near a machine’s light sensor, the machine is blinded and will lose track of how many coins it pays out.  Recently, manufacturers have developed safeguards against this.
  4. Sabotage – some cheaters have attempted to sabotage machines before they arrive at the casino.  Saboteurs usually get busted, however ambitious they might be.

Although coat hangers and coins on strings may seem awfully primitive, mini-lights and a successful sabotage certainly are not.  As much as technology evolves, so do the minds of the people who use it.  It is a vicious cycle.  But remember, a cheater is always outnumbered and he is always adapting to what has been developed – he can never be one step ahead.  Perhaps it is better to play by the rules – maybe they are there for a reason.  And maybe like Tommy the next time you stick it to the man; you’ll be working for the man.

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