4 Ways Mines Games Bonus You Can Cheat at Video Poker and Why You Shouldn’t
By now, everyone knows about the laundry list of ways you can cheat at traditional poker. A few of the ways include sliding an ace from your sleeve or marking the best cards so you’ll always know what opponents are holding. Even cooperation between players to ensure a desirable outcome constitutes cheating in a live poker game.
But video poker doesn’t seem all that susceptible to cheaters at first glance. With no cards to manipulate, chips to steal, or human dealers to corrupt, the sterilized gameplay offered by a video poker machine suggests a clean, cheat-free experience for players and casinos alike.
On the other hand, video poker is a game, one in which players put real money on the line, hoping to beat odds that are inherently stacked against them. Unscrupulous gamblers in any gambling arena, whether it be blackjack, roulette, craps, or slot machines, have always devised inventive ways to cheat.
Video poker variants like Jacks or Better and Deuces Wild aren’t immune to the threat of cheating by any means, even with a machine-based structure and random number generator (RNG). Sure enough, video poker cheats and con artists have to work a little harder to “crack” the machine, so confirmed cases on the casino floor are rare.
Nonetheless, if a gambler can play the game, a cheater can cheat it, and video poker is no exception.
As you’ll learn in this list of four ways to cheat at video poker, finding the inside track toward guaranteed winnings is more difficult with a machine in the way. Plenty of cheats have succeeded up until their luck ran out. With each method to cheat at video poker, you’ll discover a good reason why you shouldn’t bother to try.
1 – Hacking the Machine to Create Winners at Will
When the famed gambling device manufacturer International Game Technology (IGT) released the latest model of its ubiquitous Game King video poker machine in 2002, here’s how the company described the cutting-edge 5.0 model:
“Full of new enhancements, including state-of-the-art video graphics and enhanced stereo sound, the Game King 5.0 Multi-Game suite is sure to rule over your entire casino floor with unprecedented magnificence!”
Unfortunately for IGT, and the hundreds of casinos worldwide that spread Game King machines on their floor, those “new enhancements” included computer coding that contained a crucial error.
This glitch in the system remained undetected for seven years, until video poker player John Kane stumbled upon the bug. During a low-stakes session in Downtown Las Vegas, Kane went to cash out and change machines when Game King unexpectedly lit up with a $1,000 jackpot. Kane tried to inform the casino about the error, but they wound up paying it off anyway.
Instead of letting it go, he set to work alongside friend Andre Nestor to figure out how a fake jackpot had been produced. You can read more about Kane and Nestor’s “rags to riches” tale in this deep dive by Wired magazine in 2014. But here’s the gist of it.
The bug in Game King 5.0’s software code could be enabled by activating the machine’s “Double Up” feature, which allows players to take a second gamble at doubling their initial payout. With the Double Up in play, Kane and Nestor deduced an exact sequence of buttons to push that would essentially confuse the machine’s coin denomination input.
While playing Double Double Bonus for the lowest $0.01 coin denomination, Kane and Nestor would wait until they hit a premium hand like four aces with a kicker. From there, they kept the winning hand onscreen without pressing “CASH OUT,” then input the magic button sequence to change variants. This allowed them to change the coin denomination, turning a penny ante hand into a $5 play (or whatever that particular machine’s maximum bet was).
With the max-bet now in place, they toggled back to the original four aces and a kicker hand, pressed “CASH OUT,” and scored massive multiples on their original bet.
Nestor described the cheating scheme in reverential tones while speaking to Wired:
“You had complete control over how much you could win. If you wanted to go to a casino and win $500,000 in one day, you could win $500,000 in one day.”
And that they did, touring casinos all over Sin City and hunting for Game King 5.0 machines that had Double Up enabled and bagging six-figure sums without a second thought.
Eventually, the scam became even easier to pull off, as Kane and Nestor realized they didn’t even need to bet in order to win. By simply searching for machines that still flashed the last jackpot hand played, they could sit down, use the magic button sequence, and activate the same cards to claim a second hand pay.
Why You Shouldn’t Try Hacking the Machine
Casinos maintain detailed records on each machine’s performance. In time, the security teams began to suspect something was amiss. After heading back to the east coast to skim the video poker games in Pennsylvania, Nestor received a warning from Kane to stay out of the casinos because he had been caught and arrested in Las Vegas.
Nestor didn’t take the advice, and he was eventually taken down by authorities as well. At the time, an indignant Nestor told local news outlets that what he and Kane accomplished wasn’t cheating at all, as the pair simply took advantage of a design flaw:
“I’m being arrested federally now – for winning at a slot machine! This is what they do to people! They put a machine on the floor, and if it has programming that doesn’t take your money and you win on their machine, they will throw you in jail!”
Michael Chu, Assistant US Attorney for the District of Nevada, argued in his court case against Kane that the cheaters’ use of other players’ jackpot hands represented a textbook definition of cheating:
“To allow customers to access previously played hands of cards at will, would remove the element of chance and obviate the whole purpose of gambling. It would certainly be contrary to the rules of poker.”
Interestingly enough, prosecutors were unable to convince a judge that charges of “computer hacking” were appropriate, as Kane and Nestor never really intruded into the Game King machine’s inner workings. With a questionable case, Kane and Nestor were set free.
That’s not to say they escaped punishment though, which brings us to why one should avoid cheating schemes like this. State gaming regulators forced Kane and Nestor to surrender their ill-gotten gains to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars in asset forfeitures.
And predictably, both players received lifetime bans from casinos in their home states, putting a definitive end to two of the most meteoric rises in gambling history.
2 – Tricking the Machine Into “Thinking” You Paid for a Hand to Play for Free
One of the oldest cheating tricks in machine-based gambling involved fishing line tied to a nickel.
Old-time con artists would insert their coin into a slot machine, let it fall just far enough to trigger the game’s play function, then pull the lever as they slyly withdrew the coin. Once the spin was over, they simply repeated the process over and over again, playing for free until a jackpot inevitably delivered its payload.
Coin operated slots and video poker machines are relics of a bygone era at this point, having been replaced by cash and voucher models to prevent that sort of manipulation. But just because nickels and quarters have been swapped out for $100 bills and paper vouchers doesn’t mean machines are immune to being fooled in similar fashion.
In 2013, several video poker players in Wisconsin were caught using specially-designed tools to “fish” their bills back out from the machine. Here’s how local news outlet Journal Times described this method of cheating:
“The men reportedly put money into the machine and took it back out again using some sort of tool, and never went into their pockets to take out more money. It was obvious they were not playing the poker game, but were accumulating credits using the same dollar. They ended up collecting $235 from the bar and tried to collect another $175 when the bartender called police. Later, when police opened the machine, they only found $41 inside.”
In this case, the scammers weren’t even shooting for a jackpot payout. Instead, they simply fed the same bill into the machine many times over, accumulating credits to redeem for cash.
Another variation of the fishing hustle involves using the same bill to continue playing as many hands as it takes until triggering a topline hand pay jackpot. Every casino player enjoys receiving “free-play” coupons, and this gambit takes that concept to the next level by allowing cheats to play for hours on end without ever paying a penny.
Why You Shouldn’t Try Tricking the Machine
In the Wisconsin case, the fact that bars and taverns were running video poker games illegally actually meant the cheaters got off scot-free.
But if you try to fish your bills back in any jurisdiction where gambling on video poker is actually legal, you can bet your bottom dollar that the cameras overhead will catch you red-handed.
3 – Using a Device to Provide Perfect Strategy Advice as You Play
Video poker experts pride themselves on memorizing and mastering the basic strategy guidelines for their favorite game.
By learning how to play every possible starting hand and drawing scenario perfectly, based on a mathematical expected value over the long run, top players can whittle the house’s edge down to infinitesimal levels.
In fact, in the “full pay” version of Deuces Wild, elite basic strategy users can actually earn a legitimate player edge of over 2% simply by making the correct decisions on their cards.
Utilizing basic strategy requires a tremendous amount of mental energy, as the guidelines for more complex variants can stretch out over dozens of rules and variables.
To make things easier, some players attempt to cut corners by bringing a “cheat sheet” along for the ride. Color-coded basic strategy charts for blackjack are sold in every casino gift shop nationwide and, because they’re nothing more than laminated cards, they’re perfectly legal in the casino setting.
Why You Shouldn’t Use a Device for Perfect Strategy
Video poker players who attempt to use their smartphones, or any other device aside from a basic card, to play the game perfectly can be found guilty of cheating under most state gaming regulations.
Whenever a player relies on an electronic device (a category your smartphone falls under) to aid themselves while gambling, the activity is technically classified as cheating.
The best reason to avoid this technique is that it’s entirely unnecessary.
When printing out the exact same basic strategy tips on paper and carrying them in your pocket is perfectly legal, why would anybody in their right mind risk arrest, fines, and property bans by using an electronic device?
4 – Using Another Player’s Credits After They Leave a Machine Unattended
This one’s a little questionable as to whether or not it should be considered cheating, but in the eyes of the law, using another player’s credits as your own is forbidden.
Imagine yourself grinding along and enjoying a fun game of Jacks or Better. Your neighbor isn’t having as good of a time, however. After losing yet another $100 in short order, they stomp off in a huff, never to return. As you get up to go a little while later, you realize the frustrated loser left a few bucks in their machine, so you slide over and get a few hands in on the house.
And therein lies the problem…
Why You Shouldn’t Use Another Player’s Credits
In almost every state where casino gambling is legal, regulations are on the books stating that lost or forgotten player funds become the house’s property by default. In other words, when you play another player’s credits because they didn’t care enough to spend them, you’re actually stealing from the casino.
This might seem like a minor infraction initially, but as hundreds of cases in Colorado prove every year, taking just a dollar or two from a machine that you didn’t pay to play is considered theft and fraud.
As one of the truly skill-based gambling games out there, video poker doesn’t appear to be prone to cheating like alternatives such as roulette that rely on pure luck alone. A sharp player willing to put in the work needed to excel can easily realize razor thin house edge rates of under 0.5%, or even a player edge in a few cases.
Nonetheless, a few bad apples out there will inevitably remain unwilling to put in that work, so they resort to cheating instead. Trying to rig the game and get one over on the house might seem tempting from time to time, but the lifelong repercussions derived from one day spent cheating just aren’t worth the trouble.