A Russian mathematician and programmer named Alex called it quits even though his scheme of 8 years hacking into slot machines and making millions is still thriving. According to him, even though his firm is successful, has grown tired of having to deal with payroll, hiring, and management headaches. What he wants to deal with now is an exit strategy. However, since his business is not exactly everything legal, he could not easily liquidate what he owns.
Overall, the venture that Alex had built was reverse engineering algorithms - known as pseudorandom number generators (PRNG) - an algorithm that governs how slot machines behave. Because of this knowledge, he is able to predict on when certain games are the likeliest to spit out money.
The slot machine hacking racket he does is not exactly targeting just one machine and infiltrating its system until is spews out the jackpot money, but it is actually a well-organized and more complicated and time-consuming effort. Basically, his agents roam casinos from Poland to Macau to Peru in search of slot machines whose PRNG has already been deciphered by him. The agents then use smartphones to video the vulnerable machines in action.
The videos taken are sent online back to the office with which Alex and his employees analyze the video to determine the odds. The office then sends timing data to a custom app on the agent's smartphone. The app program causes the phone to vibrate a split second before the agent needs to press the "Spin" button. Through this method, a four-person team can rack up more than $250,000 a week.
According to Alex, this type of hacking does not violate Russian Law. He says that what he does is just a little counterweight to the global gambling system where the house always wins.
One of Alex's exit strategies was to make a deal with Aristocrat Leisure, an Australian slot machine manufacturer that has been one of his team's chief targets. By revealing to them the vulnerabilities of their machines, he hopes its developers will be able to iron out their compromised flaws. Although he did not say the exact amount he was paid for his services, he however directed his agents to stop working on Aristocrat slots.
In the beginning, Alex said that he had no interest in slot machines. "As a mathematician, I was aware of how odds work at an early age," he says. "Mostly gambling appeared to me as nothing more than taxation on stupidity."
Things however changed during his freelance hacker days when a Russian casino hired him to learn how to tweak a Novomatic machine so that the odds would favor the house more than usual. Basically, the machine had been programmed to pay out 90 percent of the money it took in, a figure that Alex's client wanted him to adjust down to 50 percent.
While reverse engineering the software, Alex encountered his first PRNG. This algorithm fascinated him as the design was intended to spew an endless series of results that were seemingly impossible to forecast. Writing such algorithm is quite complex as it requires tremendous mathematical skill. He spent 6 months learning all he could about PRNG knowing that it could be profitable if he was able to master it.
In 2008, he hired a small group to milk Novomatic machines. In 2009, Russia outlawed its casino industry, thus resulting in a massive sell-off of gaming equipment. This enabled Alex to get a hold of an Aristocrat Mark VI slot machine cabinet. He mastered how the machine's PRNG worked - and since there are more than 100,000 of such machines around the world, the Mark VI became their company's favorite prey.
As one of Alex's exit strategy, Aristocrat's Tracey Elkerton was reluctant to pay the 8 figure sum that Alex wishes to gain from the services he could provide. She asked Alex why, after many years of earning millions with his milking system, is he now eager to cut a deal with Aristocrat? Elkerton was not convinced that a cheat was made, even despite proof of photograph of a Helix machine being targeted by Alex's organization. Unable to strike a deal with Aristocrat, Alex is now toying with the idea of approaching IGT, another slot machine manufacturer. Alex also claims of selling his milking system to interested parties. One party that is interested in his system is a New York-based crew Mafiosi.
According to Alex, once he grows tired of the racket, he is prepared to exit the industry in a blaze of mischief. "Sometimes I fantasize about just putting my tech out there for everyone to use," he says. "Can you imagine something like that?" Alex asks. "It could uproot the entire slot machine industry. And the world just might become a slightly better place. Well, for most people at least."