Gambling machines aren’t typically known for offering big advantages. In fact, these games carry the antique nickname “one-armed bandits” for their ability to quickly drain your bankroll.
Occasionally, though, gamblers figure out how to beat the machines without cheating. Such is the case with a group that crushed Arizona casinos for huge profits.
These players were making $800 per hour apiece. But as you’ll find out below, they were treated badly in the aftermath and had to sue the perpetrators.
How the Gamblers Gained a 2.7% Edge Over the Casino
In 2011, Rahne Pistor and his advantage gambling team discovered an outstanding opportunity at the Mazatzal Casino in Payson, Arizona. They specifically targeted a special promotion for slot machines.
Exact details aren’t available on the promo. However, Pistor’s group found that they could make considerable profits if they played video blackjack machines under this deal.
Video blackjack typically offers a much lower house advantage than slot machines. I’m guessing that the promo was tailored to real money slots players and could be exploited through high-paying blackjack games.
The players managed to gain a 2.7% advantage over the house. This advantage doesn’t sound like much, but it certainly pays off when involving large bets and high volume.
The gamblers spread out around the casino and collectively wagered $500 per minute. They used a combination of their skills, the promotion, and large betting volume to amass $800 in hourly profits.
The Trouble Begins
Mazatzal casino officials weren’t happy when they realized that Pistor and his teammates won at such a rapid rate. They just assumed that the players cheated to have earned so much.
The Tonto Apache Tribe, which owned the casino, called in the tribal police. Aided by security, the police took the gamblers into a back room and interrogated them.
The players explained that they took advantage of the generous slots promotion to win profits. However, Mazatzal officials and the reservation police didn’t like the explanation.
They took the players’ money and kicked them out of the casino. Pistor felt robbed and violated, so he called attorney Bob Nersesian to help make things right.
Casinos don’t have a legal right to confiscate legitimate winnings from players. They’re also not allowed to handle winners roughly either.
Mazatzal casino violated both of these rules. But given that they’re located on sovereign ground, the question revolved around whether American laws apply to them.
Nersesian, who’s been fighting on advantage gamblers’ behalf for two decades, certainly felt that the Native American casino should be held accountable.
He agreed to help Pistor in his mission to sue Mazatzal casino. Pistor claimed that he’d had money stolen and his genitals were grabbed during an illegal search and seizure.
“I simply had won more money than they liked. So they kidnapped me, handcuffed me, forced me into an isolated back room in the casino and physically stole whatever money they could out of my pocket.”
Sovereign Immunity Doesn’t Apply
The Tonto Apache tribal officers filed a motion to dismiss the case. They argued that Arizona courts had no jurisdiction over the incident due to the tribe’s sovereign immunity.
However, a district court denied the motion. The officers appealed and again lost when the court of appeals confirmed the district court’s ruling.
The appeals court noted that sovereign immunity doesn’t apply on claims against the tribal casino and police officials in their “individual capacities.”
In other words, tribal immunity doesn’t apply to defendants who are being sued for money damages in individual roles. It would only apply if the people were being sued as part of Mazatzal casino, for example.
Pistor Wins Damages
With sovereign immunity going out the window, the Tonto Apache police and Mazatzal casino officials didn’t have much of a case. Nersesian explained the ruling in the aftermath:
“I got the money back, received a couple hundred thousand dollars from the state and resolved the matter with individual security officers. You have to remember that outright theft occurred in this case; they had no right to take my clients’ money or to detain them.”
How much Pistor’s team won has never been disclosed. Therefore, it’s difficult to say whether $200,000 covered the winnings and unfair treatment.
But the gamblers definitely got a nice sum in a situation where they might have otherwise walked away with nothing.
Pistor’s Story Inspires Other Advantage Gamblers
This advantage gambling team’s harrowing experience would seemingly scare off prospective pros from tribal casinos. However, Nersesian noted that these stories have the opposite effect.
Mazatzal casino probably didn’t see an uptick in visitors after the story broke. After all, they were pretty mean to Pistor and the other players. But Nersesian’s logic likely applies to other tribal and commercial casinos.
Other Legal Methods for Beating Gambling Machines
The key to Rahne Pistor earning $800 in hourly profits revolved around benefiting from a generous promotion and high RTP.
Of course, these types of opportunities don’t come around all of the time. If you’re wondering about some other methods for beating gambling machines, then you should try the following techniques.
Play +EV Video Poker
Real money video poker features some variations that deliver over 100% return to player (RTP). Such games offer positive expected value (+EV).
Of course, these machines aren’t available everywhere. Not all casinos like gifting you a legitimate way to beat them.
You’ll find full-pay Double Bonus (100.17%) and Double Double Bonus (100.07%) in greater supply throughout Sin City.
The problem with +EV video poker is that it doesn’t offer serious profits. You’re not going to win anywhere close to $800 per hour like Pistor did.
At best, you’ll earn between $5 and $10 an hour through Deuces Wild or Joker Wild. However, this rate is still far better than the average casino game, which takes money from you in the long run.
Play Mystery Progressive and Accumulator Slot Machines
Slot machines typically carry the highest house edges among casino games. But you can still beat certain versions of slots.
Mystery progressive and accumulator slots can each provide an advantage under the right circumstances. The key is that you need to wait until the payoff point to profit.
A mystery progressive game delivers its jackpot at a specific amount (e.g. $300). Assuming you can consistently play these games when they’re about to award the jackpot, then you’ll eventually profit.
An accumulator slot delivers bonuses when the accompanying meter is filled with special scatter symbols. You want to hop on these games when meters are nearly full to win.
The biggest problem with pursuing profits through accumulator and mystery progressive games is that other gamblers have the same idea. Nevertheless, this technique does work if you spend enough time looking for opportunities.
Look for Slot Machine Flaws
Once in a while, the gaming gods gift a flaw that results in big winnings. A group of New Jersey online gamblers once found a programming mistake that enabled them to earn nearly $1 million.
The players discovered that the Ocean Magic slot featured a dropping wild symbol that reset when the bet size was changed. A dropping wild symbol moves one row down following every spin.
Normally, these symbols are supposed to exit the screen when they reach the bottom. However, the advantage players kept them in play by switching their bet sizes.
New Jersey online casinos eventually found the flaw, but they weren’t quick enough to avoid losing serious money to the gamblers.
The vast majority of players rely on luck to beat gambling machines. They also need lots of luck when considering the house edge and uneven payout structures of slots and video poker.
However, Rahne Pistor and his friends figured out how to win convincingly through machines. They earned the kind of money that CEOs and high-priced lawyers demand, all while playing video blackjack.
Such feats are difficult to replicate. After all, casinos aren’t in the business of giving you huge advantages through games or promotions.
Nevertheless, you may find opportunities if you obsess over the matter. And if you do win, you should be prepared to fight for your winnings!