It’s 2:30am, and I’ve fallen into a YouTube deep dive that dumps me right in the middle of a Las Vegas casino floor. I click on a video titled “Live Play on Sex and the City Platinum Slot Machine with Bonuses and Huge Win!!!” and watch a slightly shaky camera capture the bright lights and manic noise of a Sex and the City-themed slot machine.
The reels spin at a bet of $6 a pull, and after three minutes of watching high heels, glasses of champagne, and Carrie Bradshaw spinning across 20 reels, a bonus activates. A man yells, “If it’s Charlotte I’m going to fucking take a shit in this seat!” I laugh and can’t help but almost hope it stops on Charlotte—the lowest-paying bonus at a measly $12.27—just to hear his reaction.
After this video, I fend off sleep to choose another of the thousands of slot machine play videos loaded on YouTube. They run anywhere from one minute to 30 in length, and I’m bleary-eyed in the morning.
Contemporary slot machines use themes from movies (Willy Wonka, The Hangover), TV shows (Orange Is the New Black, Wheel of Fortune) and musicians (Elvis, Britney Spears) to entice players. Others slots like Kitty Glitter and Plenty of Penguins seem derivative of a fever dream with their avalanche of neon.
Once a player triggers a flashy bonus game, the machine’s touch screen allows them to pick different elements to determine their winnings. These loud and interactive contraptions sometimes place speakers right next to players’ ears in a rumble seat for a completely encompassing experience. It’s a time-tested entertainment medium in casinos, but there are 1,690,000-plus videos that pop up when searching “slot play” on YouTube.
To understand the appeal of watching and making these clips, I spoke with three of the most popular and prolific slot machine YouTubers, Dianaevoni, SDGuy1234 Slot Machine Videos, and Vegas Low Roller. All of them are self-aware about perceptions of gamblers as addicted thrill junkies. They note that they don’t want to end up looking like grumpy, miserable burnouts. They also each preferred to remain anonymous save for first names and channel monikers.
The weekend warrior
Like many avid slot players, Diana doesn’t live in Las Vegas and prefers not to disclose her hometown. She tells the Daily Dot that she needs “down time away from gambling and the glitz of the Vegas fantasy.” She only records for YouTube when she’s on vacation, “since I only gamble at a casino where I’m comped. I will play anywhere from five or more hours a day with breaks for fine dining, shows, meeting up with friends, spa, etc.”
Diana’s channel contributes to an online Vegas culture she was already a part of through message boards, social media, and her travel blog. In a video posted this summer, Diana and members of VegasFanatics.com pooled their money to put $3,000 into a Pharaoh’s Fortune machine. After 15 minutes, the group switched to a Kitty Glitter slot where players root for matching housecat graphics and hoped to snag three bowls of glitter to trigger bonus games. At the end of the 20-minute video, the team reached a $1,925 payout on Kitty Glitter, and an overall profit of $31 each. But as Diana says in the video, “the fun was priceless.”
“Hand pays” typically amount to above $1,200 and require payment from a casino employee to collect tax information. Recording this level of a win is important for YouTubers like Diana to satisfy viewer’s curiosity and vicarious feeling of victory. But Diana doesn’t pretend that she comes out ahead: “Bottom line is that most gamblers like myself that play slots will usually lose more than we win on slots by the end of the year,” she says.
“This is entertainment for me, and while I might have a lucky winning year now and then, most years will be losers and I like to periodically remind my viewers of this, so they don’t think I’m making money from gambling,” she warns.
Despite knowing the risks and the fact that slot machine manufacturers insist each pull generates a new, random firing of a computer algorithm, Diana can’t help but feel like she can sense when a machine is “hot or cold.” Her fun nature, calm demeanor, and wealth of knowledge about Vegas activities keep viewers returning to her channel.
The face of the genre
The ultimate entertainer in the slot machine YouTuber world is SDGuy1234. With 23,407 subscribers and 26 million views, it’s no wonder I found his Sex and the City slot machine video during my delirious binge.
“I’m a very opinionated player and I’m a very vocal player, so as the reels are spinning I’m saying, ‘I like this, I don’t like that,’ throw a joke in here, comment on that,” he says. His welcoming, spicy personality pulls in viewers and makes him loyal fans. One follower even told him that his videos helped them through kidney dialysis.
Like Diana, SDGuy prefers to not disclose his hometown. Even though some fans have sleuthed to find his address to send him packages, he still prefers privacy where he can get it. Also like Diana, he often loses on slots but never attempts to hide it. He posts all of his plays and admits his revenue from YouTube barely chips away at his slot expenses. As a self-proclaimed workaholic with a full-time job outside of Vegas, he makes an effort to travel to Sin City once or twice a month with friends like actor Rex Lee (Entourage) to record slot machine play and vlog as part of his “Vegas Realness” series.
The “Vegas Realness” videos show his face, but while playing slots, SDGuy usually keeps the camera focused on the machine. Despite the lack of screen time, SDGuy often gets recognized by his voice alone due to his signature displays of excitement like yelling, cursing, and energetically celebrating.
“I couldn’t give two shits about who’s around me in a casino. It’s not a library, if you’ve got issues you can go elsewhere” he laughs. “I get the most bang for my buck as I possibly can. You’d be surprised how much more you enjoy the experience… I understand that it’s an inanimate object but I’m going to yell at it anyway, and tell it what I want, and I’m going to celebrate the wins and curse at the misses.”
Slot machine manufacturer Aristocrat took notice of SDGuy’s personality and popularity. Execs invited him to Los Angeles, where he received professional zombie makeup and became a “walker” in the Walking Dead slot machine. Distinct opportunities like these take the immersive experience he loves about slot machines and propel more than just his slot playing into the spotlight. It’s a big-time move for a gambler with ambitions of stardom.
The mystery journeyman
Unlike Diana and SDGuy, Vegas Low Roller doesn’t show his face in his videos. In fact, VLR remains very private in his videos, but his channel provides him with an active and talkative community despite his introversion.
He says he started his channel after “going down the rabbit hole of YouTube videos. I came across slot videos and thought to myself, ‘Oh what a great idea. I should record and share my bonuses too,’” he says.
His fascination for Vegas took root during his childhood.
“My parents were total Vegas fanatics and would go one to three times a year,” he says. “They would hand me a roll of quarters and leave me in the capable hands of the arcade.”
But around age 16, the arcade stopped providing enough excitement. “I started taking that roll of quarters, putting on a baseball cap, and sitting at Keno machines in the darkest corner of the casino hoping not to get caught. My greatest joy was the day I got to give my parents a ‘loan’ because they had exhausted their gambling budget for the day, and I had killed it on Keno.”
Though VLR has the least amount of videos loaded of the three YouTubers at a not-so-meager 787 (SDGuy has 5,348 and Diana has 1,139), the candid enthusiasm in his voice while playing and posting is infectious.
VLR points to the curiosity of players either hoping to see new games or bonuses they couldn’t trigger, or simply wanting to watch it all unfold again, as the key to his success.
“Some people like to enjoy the slot videos between trips to the casino. Whatever reason they have, there’s a slot channel out there that’s suited to their needs,” he says.
It can initially feel bizarre, but watching slot machine videos is no stranger than watching people play XBox, and gaming YouTubers like PewDiePie have broken records across the platform for subscribers. Adding to the allure is the idea that those who love slot machines associate the exciting atmosphere of a casino (wide-eyed tourists looking on, gleeful noise, an ever-changing casino floor) into these voyeuristic look-ins. It’s a no-risk, no-cost way of traveling to Vegas and tapping into the feverish thrill of gambling, while sharing the experience with someone who has allowed you into their life as a companion.
SDGuy expects that even though the “YouTube Slot community is very under recognized, [it’s] going to explode.” He notes the success of claw machine videos, saying that there are “huge channels out there… Who the hell is watching these guys win tickets?”
Perhaps the popularity of slot machine recording will increase once casinos catch up with the times. (Other than the Aria and Cosmopolitan, most casinos frown upon recording slot machines even though it is not illegal.) Or maybe this phenomenon will always remain hidden among millions of views of spinning reels and hopeful hand pays. Dianaevoni, Vegas Low Roller, and SDGuy1234 plan to keep playing and recording—as long as the adventure stays fun and light.