Cheating at Slots

Cheating at Slots - Slot Machine Cheats and Cheaters

Cheating at anything sucks, including cheating at slot machines. So you won't find a "how to cheat at slots guide" on this page, even though we did think that the subject of cheating slotswas interesting enough to actually include an article about it here. Please don't be stupid and go sticking a coat hanger inside a slot machine.

A slot cheat is basically a thief, so just don't do it.

Cheating Slots - A Big Business?

80% of a casino’s revenue comes from slot machines, and over 3,000,000 slots are available at brick-and-mortar establishments around the world. So it’s no wonder that slot cheats look at these machines as golden opportunities. In fact, hundreds of millions of dollars have been stolen from slot machines worldwide, and $100 million in losses have been documented in Nevada alone. Amazingly, though, it is estimated that over 97.1% of slot cheats get away with their crimes.

While casinos are riddled with hundreds of surveillance cameras, most of these are pointed at cages, elevators, doors and table games. A sizable casino may have as many as 5,000 slots, and it’s virtually impossible to watch all of them at any given moment.

This is why experienced slots cheats use blind spots in the casino’s surveillance systems and constantly move from machine to machine to avoid drawing too much attention (also known as “winning heat”). Pros also train new slot machine cheaters in exchange for a cut of their profits. This puts new faces in the casino daily and makes it difficult for security to lock in on one particular person.

An experienced group of slot cheats loose in a casino are akin to a plague of locusts in a crop field. A team of slot cheaters can steal up to $1,000 an hour by employing various methods. When a cheating device is used, they can make up to $350 in under 6 minutes. Over a year, an experienced crew working less than five days a week can make up to $750,000.

Many slot machine cheating devices are relatively simple, and some can be made for under $25. More complicated tools can be purchased on the Internet or through the black market for prices ranging from $1,500 to $25,000.

A Legend Among Slots Cheats

One of the all-time great slot cheats is Tommy Glenn Carmichael. He started by using a device referred to as a “top-bottom joint,” but he was eventually caught and sentenced to jail. Unfazed, he started up again upon his release. Machines had grown more high-tech in this time, but Tommy was a mechanical genius who relished a challenge.

He next invented a device known as the “slider” or “monkey paw,” which was inserted up into the machine and used to trip the payout switch. After the manufacturers countered the device, Tommy responded by creating a tongue-shaped device which would add credits to the machine (which could later be cashed out).

He was eventually caught again and sentenced to time-served and probation. Placed in Nevada’s dreaded Black Book (which details known cheats, of which 27% are slot cheats), Tommy is now working on anti-cheating technology and aims to make a fortune stopping people like himself. He has been featured on The History Channel series Breaking Vegas.

Ways to Cheat at Slots

The easiest slot machines to cheat are the old mechanical and electro-mechanical machines. These machines are operated by a series of gears and pulleys ,and all one has to do is control where the reels stop in order to successfully cheat the machine.

Using Coat Hangers to Cheat at Slots

For example, one cheat used a coat hanger and snaked it up into a $100 machine with a mechanical coin counter. With the coat hanger interfering, the machine could not accurately keep up with the payout, and this particular thief made over $200,000 by using this method on numerous slots. Unfortunately for him, he was eventually caught.

The Monkey's Paw

The monkey’s paw was also an effective device. Invented by the aforementioned Tommy Glenn Carmichael, this device was a piece of flexible steel about a foot long and bent like a claw on one end. The device was inserted into the payout chute until the cheat reached the coin counter. Once there, the device would interfere and cause the machine to overpay.

Most modern machines have what is called a coin comparator. It checks the token inserted into the machine and decides whether or not the coin is valid.

Counterfeit Tokens, Shaved Coins, and Coins on Strings

A classic scam is to use counterfeit tokens or shaved coins to fool the machine. If successful, a cheat can play a machine for free or at least for far less than the listed denomination. In the old days, thieves would tie a string to a coin and pull it back and forth inside the machine to fool it into thinking that money was being inserted. These days, manufactures have inserted a catch inside the machine to prevent such primitive strategies.


Mini-lights have also been used to interfere with the optical sensors of modern machines. The mini-light has a battery at one end and a light emitter at the other end. If turned on near the machine’s light sensor, the machine is basically blinded and can’t keep track of how many coins it pays out. In recent years, manufacturers have developed safeguards against this tactic.


In the past, some cheats have even managed to introduce flaws into the machines before they were delivered to the casino. Of course, this requires the cheat to either have an inside man or be the actual programmer. If done properly, the machine will pay out if the slot buttons are pushed in a certain pattern at a certain time. This is next to impossible, and everyone who’s tried has ended up getting busted. Still, it is an ambitious strategy.

The Future of Slots Cheating

As slot machines become more advanced and begin to rely more on computer circuitry than internal gears, it will become even more difficult for the would-be thief. Many slots now require the player to insert a card into a slot and wager credits, thus totally eliminating an item like the coin comparator.

But whatever the slot manufacturers come up with, you can be sure that the cheats will be looking for a new angle. In the end, however, I’m betting that Vegas will still come out the winner.