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


#1

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#2

From their standpoint, it’s not a bug. It’s a feature.


#3

So two guys figure out how to game the system (arguably somewhat fair considering the casinos already game the system in their own favor), but they then get caught because they argue over splitting the take, and aren’t smart about not attracting attention to the exploit.

Which I suppose is why we’re hearing about it. The guys and gals who are truly good at playing the casinoes don’t get caught.


#4

Casinos exploit the bugs in people’s brains that make them compulsive gamblers - every video poker machine is a wetware hack. So payback seems like justice. Even without that argument though, it seems to me that if the machine doesn’t operate the way it is intended, and pays out differently than it should, it’s the casino’s problem not the player’s. Granted, this trick they were using was pretty shady, and often didn’t involve them actually playing the game (just collecting on another player’s win, essentially) so they lose the ethical argument. But in any other case, where for instance hitting all five buttons at the same time resulted in a double payout or something, I think that should be legal to exploit.


#5

As I said in the previous thread:
I read that article in my magazine yesterday. I still don’t
understand why the Casinos didn’t pull the machine the moment it
cropped up as a statistical anomaly. If you have it pay out unusually
high jackpots more then a 2-3 weeks in a row, I would have thought that
it was a red flag that either something was wrong with the machine, or
it was being exploited some how.

I’m also torn on how they came down on those two guys. Yeah, in a way
it was cheating. But they didn’t hack anything. They didn’t change
anything in the machine. It used their stock software. The fact they
found a way to cause a bug to replicate doesn’t feel like a crime to me.


#6

I hope they get some help with their gambling problem; maybe a Stats class.


#8

This is a bit pedantic, but wetware is the brain itself - the neurons and pathways upon which the “software” of thought and consciousness operates.

A wetware hack would mean literally altering the brain on a physical level. This is more akin to exploiting a programming bug.


#9

Well what about card counting? No physical tampering involved there, just exploiting the nature of the game system. And yet, card counting could quite easily land you in a big mess of trouble back in the day before casinos started dealing from multiple combined decks.

Casinos have never been anything but ruthless predatory establishments, using every scrap of power and leverage to make sure things go exactly the way they want them to. If they can criminalize something that reduces their control, they will damn well do so.


#10

it involved a complicated misdirection that left the Game King’s internal variables in a state of confusion.

That’s the most anthropomorphic description of a bug I’ve heard in a while.

Right after “He got the poker machine all riled up so it couldn’t think straight, and then finished it off with a guilt-trip.”


#11

…tails, you lose.


#12

Pedantic, yes. And not accurate, I think. Certainly using the definition popularized by cyberpunk, wetware refers to the thought processes as well. Even referring to the physical brain though, I still think this qualifies as a wetware hack; games like these slot machines target the low-level brain pleasure center, and look to “short circuit” the logic in those systems with sensory overload and carefully timed rewards. I’d say it’s more akin to exploiting a poorly designed microprocessor.


#13

This lady is my hero. Figured out the shipping schedules and sales volumes and such to predict where the big money scratchers would be delivered in Texas. Hit the lottery four times.


#14

Absolutely yes!

And it isn’t as if the Nevada Gaming Commission isn’t a poster child for regulatory capture.


#15

Is card counting illegal, or just something they will ask you to leave if they figure out that is what you are doing?

I have enjoyed gambling from time to time, but like Thermonuclear War, the only way to win is to not play.


#16

Your first sentence mentions “Video King” as the company that makes the machines, and it should be “Game King”.


#17

That’s like saying “hardware” refers to both a computer and the programs it runs.

Technically you can refer to your entire computational system as your “hardware”, but that’s a figurative usage. When you say “A virus trashed all my hardware”, what you literally mean is that the software your hardware runs was ruined, and thus by extension the hardware itself could be seen as useless.

You would not, however, talk about a web browser exploit or an OS backdoor as being a “hardware hack” - because that’s tampering with is the software, not the machine that runs it. The same applies to “wetware” - it has always fundametally referred to the physical brain, even well before it entered mainstream usage.


#18

The act of card counting itself has never, to my knowledge, been illegal - you couldn’t be taken to court for it.

Neither was exploiting this video poker bug, as I understand it. The casinoes tried to find something they could charge them with, but nothing stuck.

My point was more that IF the casinos can get something made illegal in their favor, they damn well will. They tried here, by trying to get this classed as a form of computer hacking, but failed.


#19

“Put them in handcuffs”? Why? The bug in the software was the game-makers fault, or possibly the casino’s fault, not these two guys who figured out there was a fault. Yes, morally these guys knew they were exploiting a quirk to get money, but that is exactly what casinos do, so it’s not like they are morally superior to these guys.

Casinos can kick you out for winning too much without exploiting a bug or card-counting or even having a good grasp of the odds in Blackjack. If you just happen to be very lucky for too long they will ask you to leave simply because they suspect you are cheating (and because it’s good for their bottom line.)


#20

Because the Casino asked for them to be put into cuffs. You note that they were not able to make any of the charges stick. The guys didn’t alter the machines or do anything else that is actually illegal, so they had to let them go.

You can bet that they have their pictures entered into the casino’s facial recognition system and will be kicked out of most any casino they visit from now on the same way good card counters are blacklisted from casinos.


#21

OTOH, if they think that you’re just lucky, they’ll “comp” you and give you free stuff in the hope that you’ll stay and give them a chance to get their money back.