What makes Tommy Glenn Carmichael “The Edison of the Slot Machines”

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In a dream, Tommy witnessed the answer. He recalled, “I’m seeing myself from behind, and I’m holding [the instrument].” Since 1990, he had been hunting for a way to cheat the newest slot machines. To replace the awkward old equipment that had landed him in jail, he required a new one. He spent the day and night in his Vegas condo focused exclusively on a Fortune One video poker machine. But no matter what he did, a puzzle deep inside the unit would halt him.

The answer suddenly came to him in the deepest slumber in all its magnificent simplicity: a flexible metal piece wedged at the head and some piano wire. Tommy told the History Channel, “I got out of bed and created it”. The Monkey Paw, which Tommy has unearthed, is the answer.

Tommy Glenn Michael in 1980

When a friend of Tommy Glenn Carmichael went to Ace TV Sales and Service in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1980, Carmichael was a repairman in addition to a pool hustler. Although the thirty-year-old had a few minor drug convictions and some juvenile misdemeanors on his record, nothing about him suggested that he would someday be regarded as one of the most cunning fraudsters in gambling history.

To play with, Carmichael’s friend had brought along a Bally’s slot machine and a top-bottom joint fraud device. When asked how his thriving illegal business got started that day, Carmichael simply responded, “We started playing around.”

To start a payout using the top-bottom joint was a clumsy method. The tool had a piece of guitar string for its “bottom.” It entered the machine’s left corner and pressed up against the circuit board, delivering low-wattage power to the component. The “top” was a metal disc that was bent and shaped like the number 9. It completed a strong enough circuit after it was entered into the coin slot to hot-wire the coin hopper.

The Jackpot

Carmichael shut down his repair business and moved to Las Vegas to use the top-bottom joint. He made about $35 in nickels from his first attempt; it wasn’t much, but it was enough to prove that he was onto something important. “You believe you’ll have boats and cars,” he later told the media. “You know, the American Dream.”

On July 4, 1985, that ideal was destroyed. After a few successful years, Carmichael was gambling slots at Denny’s near the Las Vegas Strip, and police pushed him into the wall and discovered his invention.


Last but not least, Tommy Glenn Carmichael has acquired the moniker “The Edison of Slot Machines” for his skill as a creator and hacker of slot machines as well as his knowledge of electronics and computer programming.