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Don't Let The Slot Machine Get The Best Of You

Jan 3, 2008
As soon as slot machines attained their place in the American scene, people began devising ways to beat them; some fair, but mostly foul. The feeling was that the machines themselves were illegal; therefore, no action would be taken against persons who tried to rob them.

It was possible to tilt some nickel machines so that they would take pennies. This meant that the player only put up 20 per cent of the expected amount, giving him a chance of doubling his money even if the payoff was only on a 40 per cent basis.

Another gimmick was a blower, a rubber tube that could be fitted over the slot and air blown through, giving exactly the same pressure to the mechanism as a nickel falling through. Other gyps used a wire that they pushed up into the payoff pocket and twisted whenever the machine delivered, causing a lot of extra coins to drop through.

Players who practiced pulling the lever fast or slow, hoping to control the spin of the wheels, discovered that if an interior spring were broken, the handle could be retained at an "in-between" point, making it possible to spin the wheels time after time without inserting additional coins. The spring could be broken by feeding coins and yanking the handle rapidly and repeatedly until the coins jammed.

For $35 a player could buy a twenty-five pound magnetic device, complete with dry-cell batteries. He looked rather bulky when equipped with this contrivance, but he was wired for business in the backroom. All he had to do was lean against the slot machine and the magnet would exert control on ratchets and wheels while they were in action.

The biggest claim for the magnetic contraption was that it could pull a lever that would drop the Jackpot on almost any play. But purchasers of the outfit declared it did not fulfill its claims. Either it wasn't powerful enough or the slot machine manufacturers soon found ways to counteract it.

Ready-Gaffed Machines

The slot machine industry is said to have put the quietus on the biggest swindle of all, in which more than $1,000,000 was reportedly grossed through a gyp scheme never suspected by the local operators of machines, the storekeepers who represented the lower levels of the industry.

The gyp was this: As the slot machine craze grew, year by year, it became apparent that it was largely a "hit and run" operation. Wherever the machines infiltrated, they became too much of a good thing, coming into the pincer grip of reformers and racketeers, one group demanding their abolition, the other a slice of the "take." The obvious answer was to flood an area with machines, clean up fast and go elsewhere. As a result, cut-rate machines were popular with operators.

One wild-cat manufacturer made this a specialty, always offering an overstock of cheaper models at an introductory price. The machines were being shipped "ready-gaffed" so that a trick pull of the handle, generally a short, double jerk, would bring a payoff through the money chute.

Stooges planted in towns where these machines were prevalent, cleaned them out with systematic rapidity, while the local operators wondered what had happened to the big profits the slots were supposed to bring. What made this gyp all the stronger was that it could be worked openly. A few strangers, dropping in occasionally, apparently were lucky; that was all.

As the slot machine business took on monopolistic trends, the gyp manufacturers were crowded out. But for years, a lot of wild-cat machines were around - and still may be. Whenever the law clamps down on slots in a given area, squads of One-armed Bandits are promptly camphor-balled and tucked away for future use. All sorts of crazy models may crop up whenever an old territory is reopened.

That's why old time players like to jockey the handles of obsolete machines. They've heard that certain styles pay off if you find the right pull, whether it's a quick tug, a slow squeeze, or a double action.

But let's be honest, it is virtually impossible to cheat a slot machine.
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