Brilliant Russian Slot Machine Cheat

Staff at the Lumiere Place Casino, St Louis, had noticed something strange. For a couple of days several of their slot machines had gone 'haywire''. 

What confused the staff was that several slots machines had made a loss. Considering the software was guaranteed to return 7% profit on every dollar gambled it was an anomaly that shouldn't be possible!

Someone was cheating.

Security watched hour of CCTV footage and eventually found the culprit. He was in his mid thirties, dressed in a casual polo shirt and carried a brown purse. What was stranger, is that he didn't tinker with the slot machines. However, he targeted older models. He simply pressed the play button while holding his iPhone close to the screen.

He would play for a short time and then walk away only to come back and play again. That's when his fortune's changed. 

He would play $20 and win $1,300 before cashing out and going on to another slot machine. 

Over the course of two days, he won just over $21,000. There seemed nothing strange about his behavour apart from the way his finger hovered over the place button for a long time before pressing the button!

Concerned with what they had seen, the Lumiere Place shared the footage with the Missouri Gaming Commission, which issues an alert to casinos in other states. Upon this news, several casinos reported similar losses. A man with a cell phone. Then a mysterious winning run.

Car rental records identified the man as Murat Bliev and 37-year old Russian national Bliev has flown back to Russian but the operation he belong had sent him back to the Unite States as part of a cheating team who were manipulating slot machines around the world. The move to send Bliev back to the US was a rare mistake which had seen the operation milk millions of dollars by cracking the slot machine algorithms. 

This story relates back to Russia in 2009. The country outlawed gambling as a way to stop crime which forced casinos to sell thousands of slot machines at huge discounts to customers all over the world. 

Some of these machines went to Bliev's boss who was eager to learn about its source code for vulnerabilities.   

By 2011, casinos across Europe were detailing incidents in which slot machines made by Australian company Novomatic. However, engineers could find no foul play as the slots had not been tampered with. 

In that sense, they simply considered that someone had learned the behaviour of the machines. 

This may have been possible but almost impossible. The slot machines are made to be random and that would seemingly be impossible to learn. However, it was learned that the numbers are not actually random. Because these codes are created by humans they have aspects which can be determined. If hackers can identify a few facts related to the algorithm they have the potential to predict results. They couldn't do this manually and reason why the iPhone was needed to help.

Casino security expert Darrin Hoke took it upon himself to investigate the cheating. He was able to identify 25 operatives cheating slots across the US. On July 14, one of Bliev's associates as detained by agents from the California Department of Justice. They confiscated four iPhones and took $6,000 in cash. 

The information gleaned revealed that the phones were used to video two dozen spins of a slot machine they intended to cheat. This was uploaded to bosses in St. Petersburgh who analyzed the data to know the slots pattern of play and learn its number generator. The team at ST. Petersburgh would would transmit a list of timing markers to a custom app on the phone which caused the handset to vibrate approximately every 0.25 seconds before the operative should press the spin button. This is because the normal reaction time of a human is a quarter of a second. 

The timed spins were not always successful but they resulted in far higher win rates which saw considerable profits. Typically, a scammer would win $10,000 a day. 

Players would try to restrict their wins to about $1,000 to avoid suspicion. 

A four-person team would win $25,000 a day.