Of course, machines weren’t always so difficult to rip off. In fact, though heightened security features and computer technology have made it very difficult to do, casinos still get cheated out of cash from time to time. High-profile cheats make the pages of newspapers and magazines – stories of advantage gamblers who use card-counting and other technically legal tactics to beat the house are fairly common. Not all casino cheating is this easy to recognize, no doubt cheating on a small scale (like stealing cash from a poker machine) occurs to this very day.
But when pokie games were mechanical machines with no electronic or computer components, cheaters had many tactics to take the candy from the baby – read about the infamous “Monkey’s Paw” created by famous American cheater Tommy Glenn Carmichael for an example of just such an unfair advantage. Carmichael’s specially-made tools weren’t even necessary on some machines. Crooks with coat hangers, shaved coins, and even coins on a string could steal cash from hoppers every now and again because the games were so simplistic in design.
Carmichael’s Monkey’s Paw device was simple enough that a wannabe casino cheater could replicate it in a metal shop. Made of steel, the Paw had a hook on one end. A cheater could get away by simply sliding the Paw up a machine’s payout chute, grabbing hold of the coin release door, then holding the door open after the next legal payout. Rather than a few credits, the open door would empty the game, increasing the value of the win many times over.
What about shaved coins? Gamblers who wanted to win a little extra learned that if they sliced the edges of their coins off the coins would pass right through the machine after triggering the game to accept the coin. The bet was recognized but the coin came right back out into the cheater’s hand. Voila, an infinite number of free spins.
Once electricity was added to games, and even after the adoption of rudimentary computer parts in the 1980s, gamblers trying to rip off the house kept trying to build or buy devices to somehow interrupt the way poker machine’s operated. These devices are slightly more sophisticated than Carmichael’s Monkey’s Paw, but thanks to better design they were less likely to work.
Still to this day people sell these devices that supposedly confuse a slot machine’s computer or electronic brain. Usually these devices are just LED bulbs lined up to confuse or interrupt the activity of a game’s internal sensors. The theory goes that these lights might trick a machine into paying more than a player legally won. Suffice it to say that as pokies have grown more sophisticated, so have machine game cheating devices and tactics.