Sore losers: How casinos went after two guys who found a video poker bug

John Kane, who'd lost a fortune to Video King machines, discovered a subtle bug that let him win big — so the casinos put him in handcuffs.

He brought in an accomplice, another problem gambler named Andre Nestor, but the two fell out over the split. Eventually, the casinos figured out that they were winning too big for chance to account for, and had them arrested on suspicion of theft. Fed prosecutors tried everything to get them to plead guilty — even charging them with an absurd count under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act — but finally had to let them go.

t turned out the Game King's endless versatility was also its fatal flaw. In addition to different game variants, the machine lets you choose the base level of your wagers: At the low-limit Fremont machines, you could select six different denomination levels, from 1 cent to 50 cents a credit.

The key to the glitch was that under just the right circumstances, you could switch denomination levels retroactively. That meant you could play at 1 cent per credit for hours, losing pocket change, until you finally got a good hand—like four aces or a royal flush. Then you could change to 50 cents a credit and fool the machine into re-awarding your payout at the new, higher denomination.

Performing that trick consistently wasn't easy—it involved a complicated misdirection that left the Game King's internal variables in a state of confusion. But after seven hours rooted to their seats, Kane and Nestor boiled it down to a step-by-step recipe that would work every time.

Finding a Video Poker Bug Made These Guys Rich—Then Vegas Made Them Pay [Kevin Poulsen/Wired]

(Image: South Point, Jim, CC-BY)