True Crime: Meet the Man Who Beat the Slots

Slot machines pay on a random basis, but what if you could improve the payout a little? Would you do it? Tommy Glenn Carmichael would and did.

Carmichael, now 53, had a long history of inventing devices to cheat slot machines. He was caught with one, called a top-bottom joint, and sentenced to prison. Upon his release, he continued to work on the problem and to devise a better way to cheat the new slot machines. For example, he invented a tool called a slider made from guitar wire that he used to insert into the machine and trip a switch, which released coins from the hopper.

Later, as slot machines became computer based, he had to invent a new tool. He fooled a manufacturer into believing he was a customer and showing him the inside of a slot machine. From that experience, he learned what he needed to know to beat it. Carmichael invented what he called a “light wand.” The wand, built with a camera battery and a bright miniature light, was used to shine into the slot machine and blind a sensor, causing the hopper to pay out coins. The wand was nearly undetectable. Carmichael marketed these wands to other slot cheats, making as much as $10,000 a day. He drove expensive cars, took cruises, and bought two houses.

Eventually, all good things come to an end. For Carmichael, they ended in front of a slot machine at Circus Circus, where he was caught with the light wand when he tried to run from security. While charges from that incident were later dropped, he was caught under similar circumstances in Laughlin and later Atlantic City. By this time, authorities had tapped his phone and recorded conversations with other cheats who used his device. Carmichael was charged and pled guilty to running an illegal gambling enterprise. He served three years’ probation and lost both homes. He has been banned from entering any casino.