Lucky at Video Poker or a Hacker?

03 May 2013 | 04:29 Author: Seth Shafer

Two men have been charged in a federal hacking case after winning half a million dollars by exploiting a bug in popular video poker games in casinos throughout the U.S.

The strange case doesn't involve any real hacking, however, as the two men charged -- John Kane and Andre Nestor -- didn't alter the machines or use any devices to cheat. They simply discovered that hitting a fairly random sequence of buttons could produce big winning jackpots on certain Game King video poker machines.

Kane was allegedly the first to discover the bug, which involved first winning a big payout on a certain video poker game then immediately switching to another game, playing it until he booked any win, then triggering a double-up bonus bet before returning to the original game he was playing where he'd won the first big payout.

That sequence of events would trigger a bug that would multiply his original win by ten, turning a $820 win into a $8,200 jackpot that he could immediately cash out. Which Kane did, over and over and over.

He eventually called his friend Nestor who flew into Vegas where the pair hit up casinos including the Fremont, the Golden Nugget, the Orleans, the Texas Station, Harrahs, the Rio, the Wynn, and the Silverton, with big jackpots following them at every casino they visited.

Nestor would eventually return to Pennsylvania and continue to exploit the same bug in casinos there, while Kane would continue to pillage casinos in Las Vegas. Greed would eventually get the better of the two after going to the well too many times, with authorities in Nevada and Pennsylvania eventually getting savvy to the bug they were exploiting and shutting the two down.

While software bug such as this are very rare the far more unusual twist is tha the federal government is trying to two under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, legislation that was originally intended to prosecute computer hackers who compromised important banking and defense computers.

The law has been broadly applied to include other cases but the case against Kane and Nestor is unique in that it involved no hacking or illegal access of a Web site; the two simply hit a series of buttons on video poker machines.

A federal magistrate found last fall that the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act didn;t apply and recommended the hacking charges be dismissed, with the case now being argued in front of U.S. District Court Judge Miranda Du. 

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