The Edison of the Slot Machines

Over the course of his career, Tommy Glenn Carmichael has stolen a lot of money from casinos. In The Edison of the Slot Machines, Michael LaPointe chronicles Carmichael’s exploits from a repairman to someone who could beat any slot machine created.

While I seem to really enjoy stories about individuals beating rules and systems, Carmichael’s story is also compelling in that he’s overcoming a tech/mechanical problem. Using delightfully named tools like a “top-bottom joint,” “the Monkey Paw,” and “the light wand.”

Although lacking the romance of card sharps, or the freakish genius of card counters, slot cheats are uniquely innocuous, almost laudable characters. If you cheat at table games, you’re siphoning money from your fellow gamblers. But if you cheat at slots, it’s just you versus the casino. There’s a reason that slots are nicknamed “one-armed bandits”: we intuitively sense that their gains are ill-gotten.

As someone who’s only been in one or two casinos ever, I seem to be drawn to the glamor of a gambling lifestyle. I know I definitely don’t have the stomach (or the funds) for such a thing, but it sure is fun to read about. It seems very American to want to hear and tell stories about someone beating the odds… even if that story involves the aid of a camera battery, miniature light bulb, and a metal wand.

// Edit: LaPointe’s name seemed familiar to me, and I’m realizing now that this article is part of his Dice Roll column for the Paris Review. I had previously come across his writing via The Phantom Gambler, a story about a man who walked into a casino in 1980 and put $777,000 in chips down on a single bet.

The Body is the Cause of Love
The Results of Me Giving Chris $5 to Gamble With, While in Vegas
The Gambler Who Cracked the Horse-Racing Code
Gaming the Lottery: Math, Cash WinFall, and the Players That Can’t Lose
The Man Who Broke Atlantic City

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