From the post:
IN EARLY JUNE 2014, accountants at the Lumiere Place Casino in St. Louis noticed that several of their slot machines had—just for a couple of days—gone haywire. The government-approved software that powers such machines gives the house a fixed mathematical edge, so that casinos can be certain of how much they’ll earn over the long haul—say, 7.129 cents for every dollar played. But on June 2 and 3, a number of Lumiere’s machines had spit out far more money than they’d consumed, despite not awarding any major jackpots, an aberration known in industry parlance as a negative hold. Since code isn’t prone to sudden fits of madness, the only plausible explanation was that someone was cheating.
Casino security pulled up the surveillance tapes and eventually spotted the culprit, a black-haired man in his thirties who wore a Polo zip-up and carried a square brown purse. Unlike most slots cheats, he didn’t appear to tinker with any of the machines he targeted, all of which were older models manufactured by Aristocrat Leisure of Australia. Instead he’d simply play, pushing the buttons on a game like Star Drifter or Pelican Pete while furtively holding his iPhone close to the screen.
He’d walk away after a few minutes, then return a bit later to give the game a second chance. That’s when he’d get lucky. The man would parlay a $20 to $60 investment into as much as $1,300 before cashing out and moving on to another machine, where he’d start the cycle anew. Over the course of two days, his winnings tallied just over $21,000. The only odd thing about his behavior during his streaks was the way he’d hover his finger above the Spin button for long stretches before finally jabbing it in haste; typical slots players don’t pause between spins like that.
On June 9, Lumiere Place shared its findings with the Missouri Gaming Commission, which in turn issued a statewide alert. Several casinos soon discovered that they had been cheated the same way, though often by different men than the one who’d bilked Lumiere Place. In each instance, the perpetrator held a cell phone close to an Aristocrat Mark VI model slot machine shortly before a run of good fortune.
… (emphasis in original)
A very cool story with recording a slot machine’s “pseudo-random” behavior, predicting its future “pseudo-random” behavior, acting on those predictions, all while in full view of security cameras and human observers.
Now, there’s a hacker’s challenge for you!
Legislation is pending to bring casino gambling to Georgia (USA). I assume they will have all new slot machines so newer algorithms are going to be in demand.
Assuming you don’t have access to the source code, how much video of a particular machine would you need to predict the “pseudo-random” behavior?
Thinking that people do have “favorite” machines and there would be nothing odd about the same person playing the same machine for several hours. Or even returning over a period of days. Think of that person as the information forager.
The goal of the information forager being to record as much activity of the slot machine as possible, that is not to play quickly.
One or more players can return to the casino and play the machines for which predictions are available. In that respect, the hackers in the article were smart in trying to keep winnings low, so as to avoid attracting attention.
Casinos’ crunch data like everyone else so don’t expect for unusual winnings to go unnoticed. Still, in college towns, like Atlanta, it should not be too difficult to recruit players with some equitable split of the winnings.
PS: You can buy a slot machine once you know the model being used in the target casino. Hell, install it in a frat house so it pays for itself and avoids a direct connection to you.