Although we would never recommend or condone hacking a slot machine, there are a number of methods that are used by unscrupulous gamblers around the world to hack the system and get the machine to pay out without actually winning. While there have been many systems in place throughout the history of slots, most of the people who have used them have ended up in prison. However, if you are interested in finding out more about some of the hacks that have been employed in the past and that are still in use today, here is a list of some of the most commonly found methods of cheating when playing slot machines.

The Top-Bottom Joint

The invention of this simple yet clever tool may be attributed to Tommy Carmichael, a famous fraudster. Although he was known to use it and to have modified it to make it even more efficient and convenient to use, he didn’t actually create it. The top-bottom joint had been around for years before Carmichael came along and put his own stamp on it.

This tool is made from a bit of steel and a guitar string and is inserted into the machine’s coin slot so that it could hook its switch, forcing it to dispense coins. While it may be a primitive piece of technology, this simple device was known to bring Carmichael as much as $1,000 an hour and was a popular choice among cheaters during the heyday of the one-armed bandit.

The Monkey Paw

While it may have had a ridiculous name, the Monkey Paw is another cheating tool that is attributed to Carmichael. Made from a long, thin, curved wire, this tool is a modified version of other existing devices. Carmichael’s original form of the tool was made from a metal clothes hanger. However, he improved it over the years to hack traditional mechanical slots. By inserting the hook into the slot, the user could search for the switch, push it, and receive a bunch of chips.

The Light Wand

3d slotsThis is yet another invention from the cheater of all cheaters, Tommy Carmichael. It may have a very primitive design, but, it was proven to be extremely effective. It featured a small flashlight that was attached to a wire and was used to hack slots that used optical sensors to operate. An International Game Technology (IGT) employee rather naively explained the way in which this technology worked at an exhibition, so Carmichael bought one, learned about its structure then worked out how he could force the sensors to malfunction by using a beam of light to blind them. Allegedly, this device is still in use in some real-world casinos.

Fake Coins

When slots that used chips first appeared, cheaters began using fake coins. Although slot machine manufacturers have worked hard on their anticounterfeiting technology, fraudsters are keeping up with the progress and the fake coin isn’t obsolete just yet. The aficionado of the fake coin was Louis Colavecchio, who made fake chips and coins to cheat his way to winning $500,000. Unfortunately, his cheating skill led to him spending seven years in prison.

Chip Replacements

Dennis Nikrasch carried out some amazing scams in Las Vegas. Nikrasch ordered some computer chips from slot manufacturers then bought some gambling machine keys from black market sellers. He then learned how to replace the slots’ chips to rake in millions of dollars (as well as a prison sentence!)

The Yo-Yo

movie themed slot gamesThis clever invention excels in being so simple to use. It consists of a coin that is fixed to a narrow wire. The scammer puts it in the machine’s slot. Then, once the device has registered the chip has been inserted, he or she pulls it back out again. That allows the cheater to play endlessly with a single chip. A similar scam has been used on video slots that took paper bank notes. However, in this case, adhesive tape was used for the bank notes. This was an especially popular technique for hacking slots in early slot halls in post-Soviet regions where primitive slots had poor protection systems.

The Shaved Coin

You don’t actually need to make a fake casino chip or spend any money on making one. Instead, all you need is one chip. Then, cut a small amount off it. This allows it to be used again and again. In 1982, this simple trick was used by several scammers who cut pieces off some real chips to make a tiny change in the shape. The device accepted the chip, enabling the scammers to play. It then ejected the coin because it was unsuitable for use.

Bugs in The Software

These days, with the invention of more complex video slots, one of the most effective methods of slot hacking is to use a software bug. These can be spotted in all kinds of devices, even those that have been made by top software manufacturers. If the bug is variable, that is not such a huge deal. However, if the bug is a permanent one, scammers can use that glitch, again and again, to keep on winning.

One key time this happened was with “The Game King” slots. These slots had a bug that came up periodically -- they paid out too much money to punters in particular situations. While a software bug is primarily the fault of the software developer, if someone deliberately exploits a bug to make money, this is said to be fraud and is against the rules in most casinos.

Cheat Codes

Cheat codes are a relatively recent invention and only came about once electronic slot machines appeared in casinos. Scammers used particular button combinations or algorithms that enabled them to change how the device functioned. Of all the users of this system, the most successful was Ronald Dale Harris. Harris had been working as a software programmer for the Nevada Gaming Commission.

Part of his job involved coding the computers chips used in video slots. Using his insider knowledge, Harris coded the chips in a particular way to enable the possibility of hacking slot machines by using a few simple actions. It was a very simple system. All his accomplices had to do was insert the chips in the right order. Once the sequence had been completed, the machine paid out cash automatically. While Harris was successful in cheating the Nevada Gaming Commission and the casinos, eventually the scam was spotted, and he ended up in jail.

Of course, this article is just for fun, and we would not condone any reader trying to scam casinos or hack slot machines. These days, both online and real-world casinos have complex security systems in place to spot cheaters and hackers and will immediately take serious action if they believe that they are being defrauded. It is, therefore, imperative to never try to scam a casino or you could end up in trouble with the law – just like many of the cheaters mentioned in this article. After all, most of the fun of playing slots is enjoying the fun of the game and the thrill of never knowing whether you are going to scoop the jackpot. So, keep playing and keep enjoying.

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A Massachusetts native, blogger Angeline Everett grew up in the Allston neighborhood of Boston and earned a degree in casino management from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. After graduating, Angeline moved to Atlantic City where she joined the young team at the Borgata Casino as a compliance representative, while blogging on the side. After a few years in the back office, Angeline moved to the floor to work first at a casual poker dealer and later casual poker floor supervisor. Fascinated with games of chance since she was a child, Angeline currently divides her time between blogging and work on her first book.