Slot machine cheats that changed the game

by Tim | Jan 12, 2023

Slot machine cheats that changed the game

Figuring out how to cheat slot machines has occupied the minds of gamblers for as long as slot machine games have existed. As games evolved over the years, from mechanical one-arm bandits to sophisticated online games, criminal creativity has never been in short supply. Here is a range of slot machine cheats that kept slot designers and creators on their toes over the years. Needless to say, these cheats can’t be used when playing online slots in the UK at The Phone Casino

The big payout swindle

Among the most popular cheats are those fooling slot machines into paying out more than they are supposed to. This usually involves triggering the payout switches and/or tampering with the payout sensors. Here are a few that have been used in the past to great effect. Until the enterprising thieves were caught, that is. 

Lighting the way

The most notorious of these is the use of a light (sometimes referred to as the light wand technique) to blind or “confuse” the sensors as they count the money that falls through the gate. The longer the sensor was blinded, the more cash flowed out of the machine. 

The monkey paw patrol

A guy named Tommy Glenn Carmichael was written into infamy as one of the most prolific slot machine cheaters. Credited with the light wand technique mentioned above, he also introduced the famous “Monkey Paw”. By attaching a guitar string to a bent metal rod (which resembled a monkey’s paw), he would manoeuvre the “paw” through an air vent in the machine and press the coin hopper switch that released all the coins.  

A top-to-bottom jam

Unlike the monkey paw, the top-bottom joint went in through the front of the machine. The top of the device was a bent metal rod which was attached to the bottom, a long wire. By inserting the top into the coin slot and simultaneously inserting the wire into the coin chute (where the coins came out), cheaters were able to jam the machine and trigger a release of all the coins. 

Chipping in and cashing out

A man picking a lock.

Dennis Nikrasch, a criminal locksmith, should have a movie made about him. This unrelenting lock picker figured out that modern electronic machines used computer chips to determine payouts. Industrious as ever, Nikrasch and his accomplices analysed a few machines, programmed replacement chips and managed to scam casinos in Vegas out of over $15m (£12m) in the late 90s. He would get his crew to block cameras while he swapped out the chips. He was eventually ratted out by one of his accomplices for “underpayment”. 

The coin manipulation

If you were alive during the heyday of video game arcades, some of these might be quite familiar. Wherever there was a coin hopper, there was someone who tried to get as many goes as possible with one coin. Here are a few slot machine cheats from the UK and other parts of the world that were fun but short-lived. 

The yo-yo play

Who doesn’t remember drilling a hole in a coin, attaching a string to it and dipping it into the coin hopper to trigger a bunch of games before pulling the coin back out? Essentially playing for free. This technique was wiped out pretty quickly, but it was fairly effective for those who managed to make hay while the sun was shining. 

Shaving to save

Cheaters are incorrigible. As soon as machine designers incorporated light sensors to register payments alongside the physical comparators, cheaters found a workaround. Shave the coin and insert it with an object that matches the physical attributes of the coin. The valueless object would drop, and the shaved coin would be ejected. 

Fake it to make it

The least imaginative yet probably most labour-intensive cheat was making and using fake coins. If you were that enterprising, you probably were good enough to earn a decent living at the local mint. 

Validating the bill

A stack of $100 bills.

This one involved wrapping a $1 bill with a device that tricked the bill validator on more recent machines into believing that it was receiving a $100 bill. Still sometimes used today, most casinos have wisened up to this technique and changed their validators. 

The great reel spin scam

While most of us seek out legal advice on how to win on slot machines, cheaters have spent inordinate amounts of time figuring out how to trick the reels into landing on winning combinations. Here are a few ingenious ways cheaters have manipulated the reels. 

Playing with pianos

One of the oldest cheats was the piano wire trick. In 1982, a few clever thieves connected piano wires to the cogs that turned the reels in a machine at Caesars Boardwalk Regency Casino in Atlantic City. They pulled the wires to manipulate the cogs and set up winning combinations. Needless to say, they were all caught by cameras and severely punished. 


Using magnets to cheat old metal slot machines is part of slot folklore. The idea was to spin the reels and then use a magnet to stop the spin once you spotted a winning combination. Heavy-handed but, for a short time, very effective. 

The online hustle

Cheating online slots is a little more difficult, but not impossible. These are less about cheats and more about working the system. 

The software glitch

Overlapping lines of computer code.

Most online and electronic machines, like most computers, run on software. And, as with most software, they are prone to glitches. This usually means that if a certain pattern of combinations occurs, the machine pays out as part of the “glitch”. Be careful, though; most machines come with a disclaimer which states that a malfunction “voids all pays”. Ask the 90-year-old granny who won $41m (£33m) but was denied payment because it was a glitch. 

The bonus gambit

Most online casinos offer welcome bonuses for new registrations. Usually, for every amount you deposit, the casino will match it. Bonus grinding, as it is called, is the act of signing up to multiple casinos and exploiting the welcome bonus by betting on low volatility slots to avoid something called player-betting management systems that are set up to deal with this sort of thing. 

Hitting the rate

The law dictates that every online slot has to pay out a certain percentage, usually about 95%. This is called the RTP or return to player percentage. Some gamblers try to outsmart the system by suddenly increasing their bets after a run of losing spins. Be careful, though; some casinos have figured this out and have policies to counter this behaviour. 

Win with the Phone Casino

You won’t need to cheat when you play online slots in the UK. Simply register at the Phone Casino to begin your journey to winning at online slots. 

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