Is it Possible to Cheat at Slot Machines?

When I told my best friend I was working on a page about slot machine cheats, he asked me, “How can you cheat at slot machines?” He looked baffled.  When I finished writing this page, I emailed it to him to read.

The truth is that there will always be ways to cheat in any kind of gambling, and there will always be people looking to take advantage of those methods. The problem is that cheating, even if you don’t have moral objections to it, is a negative expectation bet. The negative consequences of being caught are so enormous that they far outweigh the money you stand to win.

The consequences of cheating

Nevada is home to Las Vegas, and, as a result, it’s the most popular gambling destination in the world. It’s a good place to look to for ideas about the consequences of cheating. In fact, cheating at gambling in Nevada is a felony.

In many other jurisdictions, no laws regarding cheating exist. These jurisdictions leave it to whatever gambling authority exists to decide how to handle cheaters. Often the penalty for cheating in those jurisdictions is to be banned by the casino.

Advantage play isn’t cheating

I should also point out that legitimate advantage play techniques (like card counting in blackjack) don’t legally constitute cheating. Casinos might consider it cheating, though, and they reserve the right to bar players who are too good at playing their games.

What’s the difference? The difference comes down to lying or being deceitful. It’s cheating to mark cards or to lie about how much you originally bet. It’s not cheating to think about what cards have already been dealt in a game of blackjack when deciding how much you’re going to bet on the next hand.

How DO you cheat at slot machines?

Several methods have existed in the past, but casinos have come up with countermeasures for most of them. New methods of cheating at slot machines surely exist, but Internet writers won’t find out about them until the cheaters are caught and the countermeasures are in place.

The Yo-Yo

The original scheme for cheating at slot machines was actually quite simple. You tie a string around a coin. When you insert it into the machine, you pull the string up and down in order to amass credits that you didn’t have to pay for.

It doesn’t take a nuclear physicist to see how this would be profitable. You’re not risking any money, but you’re generating some wins because, over time, at least some of your spins on a slot machine will turn out to be winners. Gambling without risking your own money is a positive expectation play.

Of course, you can’t get away with this kind of cheat anymore. Optical sensors in the machines can now detect this kind of cheating.

Shaved coins

The new way of cheating after the yo-yo method was to use a shaved coin. This coin would trigger the optical sensors, but it weighed too little to be kept inside the slot machine, so it would get kicked out, even though it had triggered credits on the machine.

It didn’t take long for casinos to modify their machines to make this impossible, either.


Of course, if you could counterfeit coins to use in a slot machine, you’d have the same result—potential winnings with no fear of potential losses. Counterfeiting United States currency is a big-time federal crime, though, so most cheaters are likely to avoid it because of the legal risk.

Tools like the top-bottom joint and the monkey’s paw

Various tools have been used to cheat slot machines, too. One of these is called the top-bottom joint. You can probably guess from the name that such a device has a top and a bottom. The bottom is a wire; the top is a metal rod with a curled end. When casinos still used mechanical reels, a cheater could use a top-bottom joint to manipulate the machinery and trigger the payout motor.

The monkey’s paw was the famous contraption used by Tommy Glenn Carmichael, the most famous slot machine player in history. It worked in a similar fashion to the top bottom join. Carmichael later invented a new device called a light wand, which was basically a tiny flashlight attached to a wire. This light triggered the optical sensors in these newer machines in order to trigger the payoff.

John Kane’s and Andre Nestor’s method of beating video poker

Video poker isn’t the same game as slots, but it’s similar enough to warrant mentioning John Kane and Andre Nestor and their ability to cheat at video poker. Of course, depending on your definition of cheating, they might have been on the up and up. They were just taking advantage of an exploit that the Game King manufacturers had neglected to find in their machines.

The glitch worked like this. On a Game King, you can choose what denomination you play for, from as little as a penny to as much as fifty cents. Kane accidentally discovered that once you’d triggered a jackpot, you could up your denomination and be dealt the exact same hand again at the newer denomination. So you could play for a penny per hand until you hit a large payout, then up your denomination to 50 cents and win a jackpot 50 times larger, guaranteed.

Things didn’t turn out well for Kane and Nestor. They eventually had to give back all their winnings to the casinos once they got caught.

What about Cheating at Online Slots?

Online casino slots use RNGs (random-number-generators) that determine the outcome of each spin. So why can’t they be cheated? While it’s theoretically possible, the odds of someone with the skills needed to gain access to a casino’s server, exploit a casino’s RNG, and cash out the winnings without being detected is astronomical.


Sure, you can cheat at slot machines. But if you want to get an edge over the casinos, you can find easier, lower risk opportunities for doing so. If that’s your goal, I recommend learning how to count cards in blackjack.

Last Updated on by OCG Staff

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