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Best of Barney Vinson

Gaming Guru

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Barney Vinson's World

19 March 2001

Cheaters cost Nevada casinos millions of dollars a year, $20 million alone just to slot machine cheats. In one recent year, Nevada casinos turned in nine tons of slugs that people had put in slot machines.

One gambler tried to loosen up a slot machine by squirting oil into the coin acceptor. When he pulled the handle, the door of the machine blew off, sending him to the hospital. He was treated for cuts and bruises, then left the hospital and went back to the casino. He wanted his cup of nickels back, which was on top of the machine he was trying to cheat.

Two elderly women read a newspaper story about a slot cheating method called "stringing." (A strand of thin wire is attached to a coin through a small hole, and the coin is yo-yoed until it triggers the machine's acceptance switch.) The women made their yo-yo of bright orange yarn, taping the yarn to the coin as they excitedly went to work. When apprehended, the two were astonished. They had read about it in the newspaper, they said, so for goodness sakes how could it be illegal?

Magnets were used on slots before new metal alloys made such trickery impossible. A cheat would place a magnet on the side of the machine, which let the reels float free. When a jackpot was lined up, he pulled away the magnet and — presto! One of these cheats was spotted working a machine. The security guards gave chase, and as he ran down the street he suddenly came to a screeching halt. The magnet he was using was so large that he accidentally magnetized himself to a lamp post.

Another method employed by cheats involved stealing the casino's roulette ball and replacing it with another ball that had a tiny magnet inside. The cheater would then attempt to control the ball's movement by means of a larger magnet he was concealing near the wheel. One cheat had his magnet hidden inside a fake plaster cast on his arm. Unfortunately, the magnet was stronger than the cheat anticipated, and the ball leapt off the wheel altogether and stuck to his cast!

Here's another true story, this one concerning former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. In 1948, she was in Las Vegas on her way to visit Hoover Dam, and made a stop at the old El Rancho Vegas on the Strip. The casino owner invited her to play a 25 cent slot machine, but she had no luck whatsoever. The owner grabbed his slot mechanic and had him fix another machine so it would pay off eight out of ten times. "You're playing a cold machine, Mrs. Roosevelt," he told her. "Why don't you try this one?"

Soon the quarters were dropping into her tray and she was chortling with delight. She wound up cashing in $680, and never did visit Hoover Dam. She went to her death never once suspecting that she had been "took" in Las Vegas.

Barney Vinson

Barney Vinson is one of the most popular and best-selling gaming authors of all time. He is the author of Ask Barney, Las Vegas: Behind the Tables, Casino Secrets, Las Vegas Behind the Tables Part II, and Chip-Wrecked in Las Vegas. His newest book, a novel, is The Vegas Kid.

Books by Barney Vinson:

> More Books By Barney Vinson

Barney Vinson
Barney Vinson is one of the most popular and best-selling gaming authors of all time. He is the author of Ask Barney, Las Vegas: Behind the Tables, Casino Secrets, Las Vegas Behind the Tables Part II, and Chip-Wrecked in Las Vegas. His newest book, a novel, is The Vegas Kid.

Books by Barney Vinson:

> More Books By Barney Vinson