How to ‘cheat’ at slots: Part 1

Posted By: Date: 09/02/2021 at 4:02 am Leave a comment

We know you’d never actually cheat at slots, but have you ever wondered if it would be possible? To manipulate or hack or fool a slot machine in some way in order to give you the life-changing payout you’ve always wanted? If you’ve thought about it, you’re most definitely not alone – ever since slot machines have been in existence, people have been putting their minds to cheating the system and creating instant paydays for themselves.

The downside for them is that they’ve always been caught, so the house still always wins. Plus these days with online casinos being so popular, the RNG algorithm that determines the outcome of games is impossible to crack – so rest assured there won’t ever be any funny business when you’re playing online. In fact, all of the methods that criminals have applied over the years relate to physical, land-based slot machines – however casino security has always caught on pretty quickly, and brought down the long arm of the law. It’s still interesting to learn about the ingenious and sometimes downright bizarre methods people have used to beat the system – so let’s take a look! And obviously, don’t try any of these for yourself. Just… don’t.

1. Cheat codes
What better way to cheat the system than by rigging it from the inside? That’s exactly what engineer Ronald Dale Harris did when he worked for the Nevada Gaming Commission, and his scheme turned out to be a huge success! For a time, anyway.

As an engineer, Harris’s job was to design slot machines in way that allowed for them to be monitored and audited regularly, to ensure game fairness. However, while searching for any software flaws that needed to be fixed, he hit upon the idea of modifying certain slots in a way that would make them pay out whenever a particular sequence of coins was entered. Simply put, he had the cheat codes – and he made them work for him!

Over a number of years in the 1990s, Harris successfully cheated the system and manipulated slot machines into paying out – until an accomplice he was working with raised suspicion after winning $100,000 in Keno. Harris was sentenced to seven years in prison, but was released after two for good behaviour. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – the house always wins.

2. Counterfeit coins
Obviously if slot machines take coins, using fake or counterfeit coins would seem an easy way to beat the system, right? Well, before scanning technology hit the industry, that’s exactly what chancers would do – use counterfeit coins the same shape, size and weight as real coins, in order to hack slot machines and make off with free money.

One of the most famous con artists, Louis ‘The Coin’ Colavecchio was famous for this scam, and in fact used it successfully for many years, until he was eventually caught and arrested in 1998. Did he learn his lesson while in prison? You’d think so – but upon his release in 2006, he went straight back to cheating, and was again found out just a few months later.

Today counterfeit coin scams are almost impossible to pull off thanks to the new technology employed by slot machines, and the more sophisticated security systems in place throughout casinos. So if you want to win, you’ll have to do it the same way as everybody else – by placing your bets, and hoping for a little luck!

3. Shaved coins
Coin scams were rife before scanning technology, and here’s one that was just as popular as counterfeit coins – shaved coins. Again, it’s not a con that exists anymore, but it’s one that was fairly ingenious at the time.

Devised in order to keep up with changing slots technology that began to include light sensors in order to register bets, coins were ‘shaved’, and then inserted into the slot machine at the same time as another object the same shape and size as a legal coin. As in most slot machines, the optic sensor functioned separately from the physical comparator, meaning that the shaved coin would be released back out of the slot machine while the other object would remain and allow the person to play for free.

Clever, yes. Still possible? Not anymore – because even though scams keep changing, technology keeps evolving past them, rendering them obsolete. Sorry, not sorry.

4. Yo-yo coins
Yes, we’re still on the coins, simply because there were SO many different cons that used them to tamper with slot machines. One of the more innovative coin scams was known as the yo-yo, and this one was all in the wrist (as the name implies).

With this cheat, the player would attach a string to their coin, feed it into the machine to activate it, then flick the coin back up out again using the string, in a type of yo-yo movement. The success rate would all depend on the technique of the player, so experience in using this scam was vital. However, of course the more often it was used, the higher the chance of it attracting attention, so players had to be careful and discreet.

Thankfully today this particular scam has gone the way of all other scams, rendered useless by changing technology. Also when was the last time you saw anyone use an actual yo-yo anyway? The 80s called, they want their hobbies back.

5. Reprogramming computer chips
Of course if you want to get serious about your slots cheating, you’ll need to do more than rock up with tampered coins and bits of string. Instead, you’ll need to learn how slot machines work inside and out, in order to beat the system.

That’s exactly what Dennis Nikrasch did when he purchased a slot machine for himself and tinkered with it at home to learn all its ins and outs. During the course of his investigation, he realised that the computer chips inside the slot machines could actually be reprogrammed to pay out virtually on command.

Armed with this knowledge, Nikrasch put a team together, and got to work. Using individual team members to block security cameras, Nikrasch would pick the lock on a slot machine, open its interface, and insert his manipulated chip to override the system’s RNG. The team member working with him would then play the machine until it paid out. Quick, easy, and effective – so much so that Nikrasch made off with an unbelievable $6 million thanks to his sophisticated scheme.

Unfortunately for Nikrasch, he was eventually found out and sent to prison for seven years, proving that no matter how much success slots cheating can initially bring, karma always wins out in the end. And as Nikrasch never passed his ingenious reprogramming secrets along, the scam no longer exists – to the relief of casino owners everywhere!

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