In 2009 two gambling addicts – John Kane from Las Vegas and Andre Nestor from Pittsburgh – discovered a glitch in IGT's “Game King” video poker machines that enabled them to win hundreds of thousands of dollars. Unfortunately for them, the Vegas casinos noticed the pair were winning significantly more than they should have done, and had them arrested and tried for theft and conspiracy to commit fraud.
It had been Kane – a confirmed video poker addict who'd already lost thousands of dollars because of his gambling – who'd first noticed the glitch purely by accident. He'd somehow managed to turn a $100 win on a Game King into a $1,000 jackpot, but wasn't sure how he'd done it.
Kane enlisted Nestor – an old friend of his – to see if they could work together and re-trigger the glitch. The pair set to work on a row of four low-limit Game Kings in Fremont, Las Vegas.
Fixing the jackpot
Eventually they worked out what was happening. The Game King machines allowed you to set your own bet level, from $1 to $10. If you won a decent amount – say $50 – at the $1 limit, you could “re-set” your jackpot win to the highest bet amount by pressing the keys on the machine in a certain combination , turning your modest $50 win into a $500 jackpot. Buoyed by their discovery, Kane and Nestor took the Fremont machines for as much as they dared, then decided to use the same strategy on other Game Kings in Las Vegas. To their amazement and disappointment, the glitch didn't work anywhere else.
They returned to the Freemont machines to continue their cashing out, but the manager of the four “glitched” machines noticed his Game Kings – which usually gave a handsome annual profit of $175,000, had lost $75,000 in the month of May alone. Convinced that players were taking advantage of the machine's “Double Up” feature where players could “double or nothing” their winnings, the manager had the Double Up feature disabled.
Amazingly, this brought more joy to Kane and Nestor, as without the Double Up feature enabled, the glitch no longer worked. This explained why the glitch never worked on Game Kings outside of Freemont, as the Double Up feature was disabled by default.
Bandits are busted
Armed with this knowledge, the pair attacked Las Vegas and asked casino staff to enable the Double Up feature on the Game Kings they found. Within an hour, Nestor had managed to turn a $500 win for four fours and a kicker into a $10,000 jackpot.
As with many stories like this, the ending is not a happy one. Kane and Nestor got into an argument about how their winnings should be divided, and Nestor ended up taking what he saw as his share of the money and running. Kane continued to take advantage of the Game Kings glitch, and rang up over $11,000 in wins at the Silverton Casino in Las Vegas in little under half an hour. The casino manager suspected foul play and had Kane handcuffed then thrown into jail under suspicion of theft.
Technology experts were called in to examine the Game Kings video poker machines. They discovered that the glitch Kane had found had been introduced by mistake into the Game King's code in 2002, but had lain undiscovered for seven years until Kane's lucky break.
Nestor had continued to exploit the Game Kings glitch back home in Pittsburgh, winning close to half a million dollars, but he too was found out and arrested in October, 2009. Nestor had his winnings confiscated and spent 10 days in jail, charged with nearly 700 felony counts.
In 2011 both Kane and Nestor were charged by the federal government with conspiracy, computer fraud and computer abuse. The basis of the case was that Kane and Nestor had abused the machines, winning money that was contrary to the normal rules of video poker, which is what the machines had been designed to provide.
The case dragged on for two years, and even though Kane and Nestor hadn't spoken since their 2009 falling-out, they refused to testify against each other. Eventually, in March 2014, the charges were dropped and Kane and Nestor were released.
Both Kane and Nestor remain candid about how much of their winnings they have remaining, although Nestor has revealed the IRS are demanding a $240,000 tax payment which he cannot afford. It seems difficult to ascertain if, out of this whole mess, anyone came out a winner.