Casino game glitches allowed John Kane and Andre Nestor to win hundreds of thousands of dollars, while making Behar Merlaku think he had won $57 million.
In the world of gambling there are games of skill, and there are games of chance. Poker and blackjack fit into the former group, while the majority of electronic games like slots, keno and video poker are games of pure chance.
That’s why we advise people to play skill-based games, because the player has control over the outcome. Games of chance are programmed to have high house edges, anywhere from 2.5 percent to 25 percent.
There have been gambling news stories, however, of electronic gaming machines having glitches that allowed players to win massive amounts of money. Let’s take a look:
John Kane and Andre Nestor win big at video poker
• John Kane and Andre Nestor won hundreds of thousands of dollars playing video poker
• Knowingly exploiting a glitch to win money is illegal in the US
• Casinos Austria refused to pay a $57 million jackpot, claiming a software glitch
Video poker has been a mainstay at American poker rooms and land-based casinos since they hit the scene in the 1970s. The game is a combination of skill and chance, the player is dealt five cards then chooses which ones he wants to keep.
The discards are replaced by a random number generator, and the strength of the final hand determines the payout. The machine’s wager/payout ratio is determined by a preset computer program.
In 2009 Vegas gambler and avid video poker player John Kane discovered a glitch in the popular Game King poker machine that allowed him to choose the same winning hand over and over, consistently receiving large payouts from several Vegas casinos.
An error in the machine’s electronic code meant that entering a certain combination of buttons repeatedly would rig the machine to pay jackpot after jackpot. Kane had stumbled upon the bug by accident, then played until he had figured out how to reproduce it at will. It came to be known as the “double up” bug.
Kane shared the secret with friend and fellow heavy gambler Andre Nestor, and the two took Vegas and Pennsylvania casinos for all they were worth, doing their biggest damage at the Fremont, Silverton and Harrah’s in Vegas and at the Meadows racetrack and casino near Pittsburgh. None of which could be called a luxury casino by any stretch of the imagination.
After several months Nestor had netted $480,000 after taxes, enough money to live off of for years. Kane didn’t keep strict count of his winnings, but they were certain to have been in the hundreds of thousands of dollars as well.
That was when it all unraveled, however. After three months of magically pulling cash out of video poker machines Kane was escorted out of the Silverton in handcuffs, the police telling him he was being booked on suspicion of theft.
A surveillance officer at the casino had been watching Kane all evening and realized that something was wrong. He wasn’t charged with a crime that night, but the Silverton set to work investigating who he was and how he won so much money from them.
Despite being warned by Kane to stay out of casinos Nestor continued to hit Game Kings at the Meadows. That August he continued to play, oblivious to the fact that a forensics team from the Nevada Gaming Commission was building a case against him as well as Kane.
On August 31st casino staff at the Meadows refused to pay him on a four of a kind, and he figured he’d better lay low. One month later, however, Pennsylvania state troopers burst into his suburban home, ordered him onto the floor and proceeded to tear his house apart and go through his computer records.
By January, 2010 both gamblers found themselves in federal court on computer hacking charges (even though no computers were involved and all they did was win a game of faulty manufacture) as well as violation of American gambling laws.
The charges were eventually dropped in both cases, but the two gamblers ended up with penniless and humiliated. The worst part of the story is that all of the money won and lost destroyed their friendship; the two men haven’t spoken since late 2009, before federal proceedings began.
Behar Merlaku wins $57 million but is forced to settle for peanuts
In 2011 a 26-year old Austrian by the name of Behar Merlaku put money into a slot machine in Bregenz, Austria. A few minutes later the screen lit up: jackpot! And not just any jackpot, one worth a staggering $57 million!
But Merlaku’s dream come true was a fleeting moment followed by crushing disappointment. The casino refused to pay him the money, claiming that a “software glitch” caused the jackpot sign to go off when in reality he hadn’t hit the five symbols needed for the win.
Rather than enough money to last a lifetime, Merlaku got barely-dulled bitterness: one hundred euros and a free meal in the casino’s restaurant. Merlaku believes that he did qualify for the jackpot, and that an error on the display didn’t show the five symbols together when in reality that’s what had correctly caused the jackpot sign to go off.
Merlaku took the operator, Casinos Austria, to court on grounds that showing the jackpot symbol amounts to a promise to pay. They ended up awarding him a settlement of $1.6 million in exchange for him dropping the case. Not what he felt he was entitled to, but nothing to scoff at either.