John Kane and Andre Nestor: The Video Poker Cheats
People count cards and are immortalised for it. But what John Kane (Pictured) and Andre Nestor did was make a fortune on something that nobody really thought possible. Together, the two men are the number one (and two) video poker cheats, and they were exceptionally good at what they did. Their secret was quite simple, find a bug in the video poker software and exploit it. But did it work? Here’s their story…
John Kane’s Winning Streak
In the summer of 2009, John Kane appeared in the Silverton Casino in Las Vegas alone. He sat down at a video poker game known as Game King, and six minutes later, he won a $4,300 jackpot. So what, right? That’s just luck! Well, not quite. Once the win was verified, he played on. Eleven minutes later, he scooped another $2,800 win, and shortly after that, another $4,150. Naturally, Charles Williams – the casino’s Director of Surveillance – was watching through a camera in the ceiling.
Kane was using none of the known devices to cheat the machines. He simply pressed the buttons like he was entitled to do to hold and discard cards, and he was winning. Surely there was nothing untoward about it, not that Williams could see. And yet, he was winning far too often for it to be luck. At gone midnight, the Game King lit up once more, and Kane won his seventh jackpot. This time, for $10,400. Something was definitely wrong. Kane had won with four deuces and a four of clubs, the same hand that he had used to win his last jackpot. True, it was possible to do it again, but the odds on this would have been baffling. A short while later, Kane notched another win, this time for $8,200. Williams contacted the casino’s head of security and demanded that he made certain that Kane did not leave the casino.
Kane had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars playing the Game King, and had no luck. He’d discovered the bug three months earlier at another casino at the opposite end of town. The game he had played there was a low-limit game, which could not offer more than $1,000, and yet he had won much more. Honestly, he declared it the attendant, but thinking he was joking, the attendant paid him anyway. Kane then decided to tell his tale to a friend.What Kane had discovered, was a bug in the game, every casino’s worst nightmare.
John Kane had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars playing the Game King, and he’d had no luck. He’d discovered the bug three months earlier at another casino at the opposite end of town. The game he had played there was a low-limit game, which could not offer more than $1,000, and yet he had won much more. Honestly, he declared it the attendant, but thinking he was joking, the attendant paid him anyway. Kane then decided to tell his tale to a friend. What Kane had discovered, was a bug in the game, every casino’s worst nightmare.
Andre Nestor had been sour at the gambling industry ever since he had neglected to play his favourite numbers at on the lottery, and missed out on scooping a massive jackpot. But when John Kane called and told him what he had discovered, his eyes must have lit up. Together, they played the Game King machines endlessly, desperately trying to figure out how to trigger the bug. Once discovered the glitch could be activated simply. The bug allowed the player to adjust the coin value after the hand had been played, meaning that they could play endless hands at 1c per pop, but when a good hand came up, they could adjust the value of the coin to its maximum limit, without setting off the machine. The outcome was a substantially larger pay-out that normal.
Expansion and Double-Up
Once they had discovered the secret, the pair set about using their new theory on all the Game King machines they could find in the area. The one at the Fremont worked. However, they couldn’t play there forever – somebody would get wise to their game, and it would all be over. So, they branched out to the Hilton, the Cannery and onto the Stratosphere, Terrible’s, Hard Rock, Tropicana, Luxor and other casino resorts. In those other casinos, though, the button sequence did not work. They didn’t understand – it only seemed to work on the Game King in the Fremont Casino.
Kane would go on to pocket $100,000 from the Fremont by using the double-up feature, all the while trying to work out where it had gone wrong. The Fremont would notice. Each of the machines is wired to a server, and this provides the owners with information about money going into the machine, and money going out. The four machines that they played normally brought in $14,500 a month to the casino, now they were costing the casino $75,000 a month.
Kane was approached by the casino, who suspected something, but had no evidence of him cheating. They decided to turn off the much used double-up feature, since they believed that this was where Kane was making his money. It wasn’t really. Kane noticed though, that when the double-up feature was deactivated, the button sequence did not work. When it was activated, it did.
Nestor worked on it a little, and realised that if they acted as high-rollers, the casino would happily turn on the double-up feature. It was only deactivated in many casinos, since it was an unpopular option with players. Dressed sharply, they entered Harrah’s where they asked for it to be switched on, and the casino staff willingly obliged. It worked, and they left with $10,000, on what should have been a $500 hand. Together and apart, they did casino after casino. One played the machine and won, then they would wait whilst the other had a crack, so as to not give the game away.
The Unravelling Begins
Because each of the wins required IRS receipts, they were taxed. Nestor had to pay a higher tax sum due to all of his winnings. He had had a deal with Kane to pay him half of his winnings, and vice-versa, but suddenly grew reluctant to do so. In the end Kane accepted 30% of Nestor’s winnings, but both men went their separate ways.
Nestor travelled to Vegas and then went to Pennsylvania, to pocket over $152,250 in cash. Kane took Vegas by storm, claiming over $500,000 in prizes. Nestor was careful, Kane was not. That night in the Silverton Casino saw Kane arrested on suspicion of theft, and the machines were sealed off. The next morning, he warned Nestor not to keep playing. The FBI would soon take apart the Game Kings in the Silverton to get to the bottom of the matter, and they would find what they were looking for.
Nestor ignored him and planned his trip to Pennsylvania. He continued to play for a few more months, taking home $480,000. The Pennsylvania casinos soon become wise to his game, and he disappeared before they could talk to him. But on October 6, 2009, state and local police arrested Andre Nestor at his home.
John Kane and Andre Nestor Today
Both Nestor and Kane were charged with conspiracy and violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. The case was still slim though, for to jail somebody for beating the casino at their own game is a law which has been proven tough to enact. Many have tried to obtain sentences, and unsuccessfully. Knowing their case was sinking, the prosecutors made a deal, whereby one person would get five years of probation and no jail time, if they squealed on the other. Both refused to talk, and so the prosecution lost, and the men were free. Neither has spoken to the other since 2009. Kane has gone into piano teaching and may potentially still have his winnings. Nestor does not and is being chased by the IRS for back-taxes. He still gambles small sums in casinos in neighbouring states, though. If there is one powerful lesson to be learnt from the Game King machines, from John Kane and Andre Nestor; it is not “don’t cheat”, it is “to quit when you are ahead!”
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