Slot Machine Jackpot Stories

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The motto for most gamblers who come to Las Vegas on a lark is rather simple – go big or go home.

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  • A woman won thousands off of a slot machine at a Maryland casino, but said she can't collect her winnings because employees wrote her Social Security number down wrong. Cynthia Obie was at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland, last Friday when she won the jackpot on a slot machine, she told FOX 5 DC.

If you’re going to wager real American dollars on games of chance and skill, there’s no reason to take the conservative route. Bankroll management notwithstanding, the goal for any gambler in Sin City is to hit it big, win the jackpot, and walk away with more money than you know what to do with.

Of course, the vast majority of us who take these shots don’t mint themselves instant millionaires. Instead, the house’s inexorable edge and every gambling game’s inherent odds against the player combine to pour our money straight into the casino’s coffers.

For this reason, what happened at the Excalibur casino on March 21st of 2003 when a random tourist from Los Angeles decided to hit the slots has become the stuff of Las Vegas legend.

On that day, an anonymous 25-year old gambler arrived in town to visit his family. With the annual “March Madness” college basketball tournament in full swing, the player figured they might as well get some action down on Duke, Arizona, and the rest of the sport’s heavyweights.

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The young man’s uncle heard about the trip to Excalibur Hotel & Casino and offered his nephew a little sage advice from a Las Vegas local – play the Megabucks slot machine and see what happens.

At the time, Megabucks – which boasts the largest wide area progressive jackpot network in the world – had gone nearly a year without paying out.

And with a $10 million starting seed* – not to mention millions of tourists plunking down the requisite $3 per spin to give themselves a chance – the Megabucks jackpot had swelled to an astounding $39.7 million.

*Megabucks initially offered a $1 million starting seed, before increasing to $7 million in 1997, and $10 million in 2005

Thus, the visitor from L.A. found a Megabucks machine and took a seat with $100 in hand.

What happened next made history…

How Does the Megabucks Slot Machine Work?

First things first though… in case you’re unfamiliar with the Megabucks slot, here’s a quick crash course on the greatest progressive jackpot game of them all.

Casino game manufacturer International Game Technology (IGT) introduced its Megabucks slot way back in 1986. At the time, slot machine jackpots were static in nature, meaning each individual machine offered its own kitty based on how many coins had been previously deposited in between major payouts.

IGT had a revolutionary idea, however, so the company linked its various Megabucks machines all over the Silver State together. In other words, whenever a player in Reno, Mesquite, or anywhere in Nevada for that matter played one Megabucks machine, their coins contributed to the same jackpot total.

This wide area progressive jackpot concept proved to be an immediate hit with players, who loved to watch the meter continuously climb into the seven-figures.

And those meters did climb on a daily basis too, thanks to the Megabucks game’s enormous odds against on the topline jackpot.

Megabucks is a deceptively simple game, one which eschews the multiple paylines and expanded reels that make up the bulk of a casino’s slot inventory nowadays. For a maximum bet of $3, players send three reels spinning, each featuring traditional symbols like 7s, cherries, and BARs. To form winning combinations, players hope to hit three matching symbols along a single payline.

Yep, no bonus games or free spins, no scatter symbols or wilds, and no video clips or sound effects. Just straight up slot spinning gameplay as gamblers have known it for more than a century and counting.

The game’s jackpot symbol is a golden “Megabucks Eagle” which depicts the slot’s distinctive logo. The only thing is, landing even one of these crucial symbols along the payline requires the player to beat odds of 1 in 368. Knowing this, the odds against spiking all three at once come to an astronomical 1 in 49,836,032 – or (1/368)3.

For this reason, the Megabucks progressive jackpot often goes unclaimed for extended stretches, many of which lasting more than a year. With so much time in between big winners, and so many players statewide tossing $3 per spin into the kitty, Megabucks jackpots soon became notorious for reaching epic proportions.

Before that fateful day in 2003, Megabucks players enjoyed an incredible run which saw the jackpot rise to a then record $27.5 million in 1998. That life-changing sum was won by a lucky slot spinner at Palace Station in November of 1998, but the record was eventually broken with a $34.9 million payout awarded to a cocktail waitress playing at the Desert Inn in January of 2000.

A little more than three years later, a new record was waiting to be set at the Excalibur.

$100 Flier Turns Into Life-Changing Record Jackpot Win

Starting out with only $100, the player from L.A. had just 33 spins to work with given the $3* price of play.

*Megabucks can be played for $1 or $2 spins, but the progressive jackpot is only awarded to players who opt for the max-bet of $3

Even so, as a press release issued by IGT later revealed, the player with a birthdate featuring three 7s seemed to have Lady Luck on his arm from the very start. Within the span of those 33 spins, the man watched as not one, not two, but three of the “Megabucks Eagle” symbols slowly spun and came to a rest alongside one another.

Just like that, the player had beaten odds of nearly 1 in 50 million to put nearly $40 million in his pocket.

Well, not all at once anyway. The winner elected to take $1.5 million installments over the course of 26 years – which means he’s still receiving seven-figure payouts annually to this day. In fact, the winner has another 10 years and $15 million remaining on his record-setting payment plan.

Although he chose to remain anonymous, the winner provided the following statement to IGT:


“I’m still stunned; it doesn’t seem real yet. But both of my parents are still working, so some of this money will be used to fund their retirement.”

/happy-piggy-slot-machine.html. Plus, the bonus game feature will break up the spinning action with interactive selection side games with the chance to win even more money.

Largest Megabucks Jackpot Ever – And By a Long Shot

John Sears – who served as vice president of IGT’s MegaJackpots program at the time – confirmed that the $39,713,982.25 payout smashed the previous record for largest slot machine jackpot ever awarded:

“This MegaJackpot is nearly $5 million more than the previous world record slot jackpot amount of $34.9 million – this one goes into The Guinness Book of Records.”

Check out the table below – featuring 10 real megabucks jackpot wins – to get a better sense of just how ridiculous the record-setting jackpot really is:

Megabucks Jackpot History (Wins of $10 Million or More)

3/21/2003ExcaliburLas Vegas, NV$39,713,982.25
1/26/2000Desert InnLas Vegas, NV$34,955,490.00
4/12/2009Terrible’s Rail City CasinoSparks, NV$33,000,563.00
11/15/1998Palace StationLas Vegas, NV$27,580,878.00
5/27/2002Bally’s Las VegasLas Vegas, NV$22,621,229.00
6/1/1999Caesars PalaceLas Vegas, NV$21,346,937.00
9/15/2005CanneryLas Vegas, NV$21,147,947.00
11/14/2003StardustLas Vegas, NV$19,600,523.30
12/14/2012M ResortLas Vegas, NV$17,329,817.67
11/30/2014Rampart CasinoLas Vegas, NV$14,282,544.21

Competing Jackpot Hunters Lament Loss of Record-Setting Total

Within the slot machine gaming enthusiast community, learning that Megabucks’ massive jackpot had been won proved to be bittersweet indeed.

In an interview with the Las Vegas Sun conducted shortly after the news broke, Kim Wong from Kailua, Hawaii told the newspaper how she felt watching the meter reset back to $10 million:

“I was here at lunchtime around 12:30 and it was still around $39.7 million. Then I came back around quarter after one and it was resetting. It was such a drag. It was a little more enticing with the $39 million up there, but I’m still playing.”

Judy Selasky from Lavonia, Michigan provided a similar story, telling the paper that even though a record payout was off the table, she and her husband would still play in hopes of a “lightning strikes twice” type of moment:

“I said, ‘Hurry up and get up to the room, so I can get downstairs. I figure if he won, there might be some magic here. I’m not a hog.”


In a city like Las Vegas which was founded on excess, setting the world record for slot machine jackpot winnings really is something special. And while we don’t know much about the software engineer from L.A. who did the deed, learning that a 25-year old tourist took the honors should give hope to every gambler who makes the sojourn to Sin City.

More than 16 years have passed since the record-setting spin, and nobody has even come close to claiming such an incredible Megabucks jackpot over that span – which shows just how astonishing that memorable moment in March of 2003 really was.

Slots are the golden geese of the gaming industry. They are the cash cows of every casino, responsible for more than 50% of all revenues in real-life establishments and close to 80% in the online sphere.

Their appeal lays in their simplicity. True games of chance that require little to no skill and offer massive payouts, thousands of times a player’s initial bet. Given that they are technology-dependent, it’s safe to assume that many have attempted to manipulate them and tip lady luck in their favor. Here are a few slot machines hack stories.

Russian Hacks Slot Machine by Decoding RNG

In early 2011, casinos throughout Europe reported incidents of Novomatic slots paying out improbable winnings. The company’s engineers launched an investigation but could not find any evidence that the machines in question had been tampered with. This led them to believe that someone had figured out a way to predict the slot’s behavior.

A security expert by the name of Darrin Hoke, an employee of the L’Auberge du Lac Casino Resort, in Louisiana, decided to do some investigating of his own. He was able to identify a 25-man operation. These field operatives were part of a larger group from St. Petersburg, Russia, and they scammed casinos from all around the globe.

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After involvement by the FBI, Murat Bliev, one of the group’s main field operatives was spotted in Hollywood Casino in St. Louis, and he, and three others of his cohorts were arrested. They were brought up on fraud charges and eventually agreed to plea bargains. Each of the four got a sentence of two years in federal prison.

How to Hack a Slot Machine With iPhone

The success of this group was thanks to a Russian mathematician and programmer named Alex. He used his talents to reverse engineer the slot’s Random Number Generator algorithm. Because he knew how to predict the machine’s behavior, he passed along this insight onto his field agents who did all the leg work.

Armed with iPhones, the field agents recorded the slots in action. Then, they sent the footage back to St. Petersburg for analysis. Once Alex and his team back in Russia looked at the video, they could determine the wisest time to bet and spin the reels. They would send data to the field agents on a custom app, that would vibrate at a given time and tell them when to press “Spin”. /no-deposit-bonus-with-no-max-cashout-for-grand-casino.html. This cue was most useful and would result in big wins.

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If you’re wondering – can a slot machine be hacked with an android phone? Well, this Russian outfit only used their iPhones as a recording device, as one part of a multi-step process. So, they could have just as well used an android phone for filming.

Can Online Slots Be Hacked?

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It’s very difficult, if not impossible to hack real money online slots. The scam described above targeted older machines with more primitive random number generators. Today’s online casino games are practically hack-proof.

RNGs use mathematical algorithms to generate random numbers. This process initializes with a seed value. If someone can figure out what variable the algorithm uses as the seed value, in theory, they could figure out the pattern used to generate the numbers. But it’s very difficult to obtain this kind of information, due to high-end security measures. Even if someone has managed to figure out the seed value, casinos can simply re-adjust the RNG.

Nowadays, most online casinos use cryptographic RNGs, and these are very difficult to hack compared to normal ones.

Three Players Exploit Slot Machine Software Glitch

In 2011, federal agents arrested one, Andre Nestor, and brought him up on 650 felony counts of theft, computer trespassing, criminal conspiracy, and many other charges. He was in cahoots with a certain John Kane of Las Vegas, as they stood trial for winning hundreds of thousands of dollars in fraudulent jackpots.

After devising the scheme in 2009 on how to hack slot machines in casinos around the US, Nestor brought roommate Kerry Verde onto the team. The trio went to work and cashed out winnings of close to $430,000 before getting caught.

What Was the Glitch?

According to authorities, these criminals had insight into a software glitch in one of the high-roller machines. For the glitch to be available, a special feature had to be internally activated. This was called a – double-up feature, and was the norm for players that like to bet big. Nestor convinced employees to activate it so he could play for large sums.

The feature allowed players to risk doubling their winnings or losing it all. However, when a player would push a specific sequence of buttons, the machine displayed a false jackpot. These jackpots weren’t recorded in the machine’s internal system and went unnoticed.

The trio’s enterprise came to a screeching halt when a gaming control board agent noticed the big payoffs and launched a formal investigation.

Bulgarian Hackers Gain Remote Access to Slot Machines

In 2018, officers of the Cybercrime Department of the General Directorate Combating Organized Crime (GDCOC) of Bulgaria neutralized an organized criminal group of four. The special operation took place in late March of that year.

The group used a slot machine hack device to gain access to slots in casinos throughout the country to manipulate the game’s outcome. The four became suspects after an investigation into a large theft at an unnamed Bulgarian casino.

The GDCOC soon after discovered and raided the group’s property and seized large sums of cash along with the devices used to perpetrate the crimes.

How They Gained Access to the Slots

The four acted extremely conspiratorially and professionally. Each member had a specific role. One member’s job was to secure access to the machine. Another would step up to simulate playing the slot, while the others would remotely access the game and tamper with the outcome.

The person who created the device was among the four arrested and was brought up on specific charges for his clever invention.