Tommy Glenn Carmichael: One of the Biggest Casino Cheats in History
Tommy Glenn Carmichael spent nearly four decades cheating Las Vegas casinos out of their money by rigging slot machines. Having originally started off in the television repair business, manipulating the mechanics of slot machines came naturally to him.
Tommy was able to develop several advanced cheating tools that would guarantee him instant wins.
As the years went on and the technology got more advanced, Tommy had to strategically adjust his methods to accommodate those changes. He even collaborated with other casino cheats to form a group of cheats that would cause Las Vegas casinos to lose millions of dollars.
Of course, Tommy’s luck eventually ran out, causing him to serve time in prison for his crimes. In an interview with USA Today, Carmichael told them this about how his experiences in prison impacted his life.
“You think about what you did, and the mistakes, and how to correct them. You either get straight or get better.”
For more details on the rise and fall of this legendary casino cheat, please continue reading.
How It All Started
Tommy Glenn Carmichael was born in the mid-1950s during a time when technology was starting to advance more rapidly. Even as a child, knowing how and why a piece of technology works the way it does interested Tommy, which is probably why he decided to open a television merchandise and repair shop in the 1980s.
His shop was located in Tulsa, Oklahoma and it was called, “Ace TV Sales and Service.” Tommy’s business was an instant success, as it was the first of its kind in Tulsa, but as more and more stores like it started to open up, Tommy soon was losing too much revenue to stay afloat.
His business was breeching a shutdown around the same time that his third divorce was being processed. In addition to that, Tommy was still doing community service for his earlier convictions of drug possession. His life was falling apart right before his eyes but he was determined to turn things around.
Tommy’s friend from High School, Ray Ming, showed up to save the day.
When he arrived, he encouraged Tommy to open the trunk of his car,
claiming that the object inside would turn his life around.
He was certainly right! In the trunk was a miniature slot machine and a classic cheaters tool: a top-bottom joint.
Carmichael took the machine apart and started to learn the mechanics of the slot machine, so that he could truly understand how to use the top-bottom joint to his advantage. After many hours of practice, Tommy was finally ready to try out his new methods on a casino in Las Vegas.
Since it was his first time, Tommy decided to use this strategy on one of the nickel machines, somehow managing to win thirty-five dollars in just a matter of minutes. He then moved on to other machines in various casinos across Las Vegas, winning nearly ten thousand dollars in one weekend.
Getting Caught for the First Time
Tommy Glenn Carmichael spent the next few years accumulating millions of dollars from casinos on the Strip by using these strategies. The casinos become more aware of cheater’s tools like the one Tommy was using, so they decided to update their machines using the latest available technology. Slot machines now were operating through RNGs or Random Number Generators.
This caused Tommy to spend more time at smaller Gambling Halls that could not afford this advance technology but it became much easier for him to be spotted. Unknowingly to Tommy, the police had been following him for nearly a week, fully aware of his cheating abilities.
When they had enough evidence to convict him of his crimes, they arrested him in a Denny’s parking lot.
Tommy tried to say he was innocent but the police found the top-bottom joint in his coat pocket.
Tommy Glenn Carmichael was sentenced to five years in prison, as he was still on probation for drug possession. In prison, Tommy met Michael Balsamo, who just happened to be serving time for similar reasons.
They spent their down time coming up with ways they could team up and take down the casinos together once they were released. However, when that day came, the two mean realized that their old methods were a thing of the past due to even more advancements in slot machine technology.
Changing His Methods
Once of these advancements was the video poker slot machine, which was launched by Bally and International Game Technology just a few months before Tommy was released from prison. This new gaming system operated on enhanced random number generators and microprocessors.
Tommy knew he could overcome these new obstacles, but he didn’t have the bankroll to do so. He worked at several minimum wage, part time jobs until he had enough capital to buy a video poker machine.
Nearly six month later, he brought home his video poker machine in order to dissect it and figure out how to conquer it. After over a year of trial and error, Tommy Glenn Carmichael was ready to test out his latest development: The Monkey Paw.
Uniquely named, this cheating tool was made out of the same wire used for guitars and flexible spring steel. If this device was placed up the payout chute, the micro switch would be triggered and the machine would release its coins.
The Monkey Paw worked very well for a while, with Tommy earning thousands of dollars every night.
Slot machines were constantly being updated and monitored for flaws, so Tommy once again had to find a more discreet and effective cheating tool. He disguised himself as a customer who was interested in purchasing one of the latest slot machines.
He asked the casino employee to open up the machine and explain to him how everything works. This gave him the insight he needed to develop, “The Light Wand.”
This worked similarly to the Monkey Paw in the fact that it had go up the payout shoot, but this time the light would trigger the sensor, forcing it to payout coins.
Tommy wasn’t the only the one who benefitted from his creations, as he would also sell his inventions on the black market to any paying customer.
He was raking in so much money that he decided to leave Las Vegas for a while to go on gambling cruises to different countries in the Caribbean, using his tools to win nearly a hundred thousand dollars by the time his six month break was over.
When Tommy returned to Nevada, he teamed up with Ramon David Pereira and his former partner Michael Balsamo to form one of the most well-known groups of cheating professionals to ever exist.
They added a few more people to their group, who had had experience in cheating casinos in the past. Different people in their group would focus on different aspects to cheating.
There were people on lookout to make sure security wasn’t paying too much attention to their actions and there were blockers who would strategically stand in places that would hinder the cameras from being able to see the cheaters in action.
Once their system was in place, the group brought in an average of five million dollars every day. They eventually hit almost every casino on the Las Vegas Strip, occasionally travelling to Atlantic City casinos too.
It was around this time that Tommy became romantically involved with Lisa Luxem, a stripper from one of the casinos he stopped at.
Finally Getting Caught
This group flourished for nearly four years until the end of 1996 when Tommy and his crew were visiting the Circus Circus Hotel and Casino of Las Vegas.
As soon as he started using his light wand tool to manipulate the machine, security guards rushed in with hand-cuffs to take him into custody.
New surveillance cameras that Tommy was unaware of were able to see past the men who were blocking the other cameras, which lead to him being caught.
This time, Tommy Glenn Carmichael was charged on accounts of cheating, possessing a cheating device, and manufacturing a cheating device. There apparently wasn’t enough evidence to retain him for long and Tommy was released less than twenty-four hours later.
He would be arrested several more times before being federally convicted as a leader of America’s most wanted cheating operation.
Tommy was sentenced to serve just under a year in jail and three years of probation. In addition to that, his two homes were repossessed and he was forced to stay away from all casinos until after his probation was over.
Learning from His Mistakes
Tommy Glenn Carmichael volunteered to team up with the Nevada Gaming Commission to develop anti-cheating devices that could be implemented into new slot machines. His most successful creation is referred to as “The Protector,” as it was created to block all known cheating devices that people still use to this day.
Nevada Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Carvalho said this regarding Tommy’s anti-cheating inventions.
“He says he has developed an anti-cheating device for slot machines. However, that device can be readily converted to a cheating device.”
The Nevada Gaming Commission chose to put Tommy Glenn Carmichael on Nevada’s Black Book, meaning he would never be able to set foot in a casino there again. In response to their decision, all Tommy had to say was,
“They cannot stand the thought of me righting a wrong and possibly making a little money off it.”