Slot games (commonly called ‘pokies’ in Australia) are one of the most attractive games in the casino. The chimes of the reels, the jackpot potential, and the fun themes can be hard to resist. The pokies offer a level of entertainment like no other casino games.

These thrilling machines offer some enticing payouts, with punters hoping to be the ones to hit that winning spin and clear out the game. The games are so lucrative that they attract cheaters, or at least those who try to swindle the games.

Let’s take a look at some of the methods and tricks punters use (that you should never attempt — land-based and online casinos have many methods to catch trick & cheaters, the consequences will always outweigh whatever you stand to gain) to try and cheat the games out of winning.

However, you should not try these pokie hacks yourself, because you wouldn’t want to get on the bad side of the casino bosses — plus, there are free pokies available if you want to play, but aren’t ready to make a deposit.

Using a Cheat Code

Although this is something that can’t be achieved by most players, it is something that casinos have fallen victim to in the past. Those who are dead set on beating the casino and those with an engineering background can rig the machines to give payouts.

The infamous slots swindler Ronald Dale Harris was an engineer for the Nevada Gaming Commission and he set the slots so he could cheat them and enjoy plenty of wins. He managed to get away with it for many years, enjoying a tidy profit. He was finally caught when his partner won a staggering $100,000 on a game of Keno in 1995.

Shaving Coins

Another old-school scam that was widely used back in the day, is the shaved coins. Although this trick is no longer viable thanks to the development of slot technology, its still worth a mention. Back in the day, slot games used light sensor technology to register the coins being paid into the games.

An optic sensor would determine the coin value, which means that a shaved coin could be inserted at the same time as a fake coin in the same shape, the shaved coin would be returned and the fake coin will be issued as gameplay value.

Fake Coins

blocks spelling scam and fake coins
Don’t risk it and use fake coins at land-based pokie machines.

This was another form of trickery that was used back in the day. The great con artist Louis Colavecchio used fake coins to scam casinos for decades before meeting his date in 1998. Once we served his time, he was up to his old tricks before getting caught again.

Using a Magnet

You can’t cheat a modern or mobile pokie machine with a magnet, but the older manual machine was made of metal so you could spin the reels and uses a powerful magnet device on the machine to halt the reels when a winning combo was coming up. Then you’d move the magnet and claim the payout. Casinos quickly caught on to this scam and would position machines in a way that made it hard to use magnets.

Monkey Paw

The famous cheat Tommy Glenn Carmichael created the “monkey paw” scam that revolved around a special contraction. He used guitar strings and attached them to a bent metal rod and would insert it into the machine’s vent and move it until it triggered the coin hopper, releasing the money.

Using Piano Wire

Another oldie is the piano wire trick. Back in 1982, a group of men worked at the Caesars Boardwalk Regency casino in Atlantic City. One of the men opened the slot machine and linked a 20-inch piano wire to the cogs of the game.

The wire could be used to stop the clock and rotate the reels, allowing him to manipulate where the reels landed. They managed to trigger a big payout but were swiftly caught.


You had to have a bit of skill to pull this one off. The yo-yo scam requires a string attached to a coin, before sending it into the machine and triggering the game. Then you yank the coin out and repeat the process. Of course, you can’t use this on the computerised pokie machines of today.

The Light Wand

Tommy Glenn Carmichael is responsible for this scam too. He used a light wand to blind the optical sensor of the pokie machine so it couldn’t compute the number of coins deposited, so the game wouldn’t know when to pay or how much, allowing the machine to be manipulated.

Replacing the Computer Chip

A famous cheat called Dennis Nikrasch invented this intelligent scam. He purchased an old slot machine and fiddled with the engineering from his garage. He figured out that the computer chips in the machines could be reprogrammed to pay out jackpots.

He then ordered a load of new chips and hired some gang of winnable crooks and got hold of the keys to the slot machines, replacing the chips and making a fortune from the scam.

The Top-Bottom Joint

This stands as one of the most intelligent forms of cheating pokies and was very popular back in the 70s and 80s. The method required a special tool that had a top metal rod with bent ends in the shape of a ‘q’ and a long wire on the bottom. You insert the bottom through the coin chute and the top into the coin slot, this would then allow the cheater to jam the pokie and force payouts.

The Bill Validator Device

This trick is very simple, you use the device with a dollar bill which will fool the pokie into thinking it’s accepted a one hundred dollar bill.

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Has Anyone Successfully Cheated Slots?

There has been no record of someone successfully cheating slot games. However, if they were successful, how would anyone know of it? There have been many of those who have been caught and there will be many more who get caught in the future too. The casinos will always have to deal with those who believe they can beat the system, it’s a never-ending game of cat and mouse.

The best way to beat the casino is by playing responsibly and picking the right game. Let’s take a look at some ways to improve your chances of hitting those payouts.

  • Bankroll management – You should always practise bankroll management when you are playing casino games. This means sticking to your budget and setting win-and-loss limits, so you know exactly when to walk away, whether you are winning or losing. Ignoring your own bankroll rules will only lead to your loss.
  • Casino bonuses – There are many casino bonuses out there to claim. These bonus offers give you more funds to play with but come with terms and conditions. You should pick bonus offers with low wagering requirements, and long expiry times, so you can give yourself the best chance of turning the bonus money into a tidy profit.
  • Picking the best RTP games – All casino games have an RTP (return to player) percentage. For example, most pokies have an RTP of around 96%, this means (in theory) if you wagered $100 on the slot game, you would get $96 back in winnings. This is worked out over the long term so it’s not what you can expect to win from playing with $100, but over the long term, the casino is winning (obviously).

Matthew Vanzetti

Pokies and Casino Expert

Matthew has a passion for pokies, from classic one-armed bandits to the latest and greatest hot drop jackpots. Hailing from Melbourne, Matthew followed in his father’s footsteps working at one of the top casinos in Melbourne after he left college. Matthew brought that knowledge to Gamble Online Australia and is our go-to guy for everything pokies-related.
When he’s not spinning the reels, you can find Matthew supporting his hero Daniel Ricciardo every weekend in Formula 1 or cheering his Dees on to victory.

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