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How TheBigPayback Went From Software Engineer to Accidental Slots Star

TheBigPayback is one of the OG slots influencers who’s pretty much seen it all. From the introduction of game-changing slot mechanics to the rise of superstar Youtube influencers like Brian Christopher and Scott Richter, TheBigPayback has been collecting jackpots the entire time.

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TheBigPayback, AKA Tim, might not be the type of person you’d normally associate with a wildly-popular YouTube channel.

The 53-year-old software engineer from Cleveland admits he’s naturally introverted. But that didn’t stop him from grabbing footage of slot machines nearly a decade ago in an effort to get some exposure for his website (thebigpayback.com). It’s safe to say, people responded in a positive manner.

What started as a side hustle has turned into the main event for Tim. Over the years he’s posted over 3,600 videos and acquired over 155,000 subscribers with tens of millions of views. His YouTube channel just continues to grow.

Tim was kind enough to chat with SlotsFan and explain just how he came to the wild world of slots on YouTube.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Arthur Crowson: So first off, if you’re comfortable, just share your name and where you’re from.

TheBigPayback: Sure, my name is Tim, and I’m from Cleveland Ohio. I’ve lived in Cleveland all my life. I love to travel around the world. But Cleveland is my home.

How did this all start for you? I feel like you were one of the original slots streamers.

TheBigPayback: Yeah, it’s kind of a crazy story, and it’s been over 10 years now.

So, just to give you a little background about myself: I’ve always been an entrepreneur, and my background is actually in computer engineering. I started a company a long time ago, right at the beginning of the internet revolution. As part of that, we developed online properties, websites, and custom internet solutions.

We also provided consulting services and created awesome websites for national brands. However, there was always something in the back of my head, thinking, ‘We could do this for ourselves.’

I always loved to play slots and at the time I thought, “Well, let’s create the world’s best land-based casino locator.” Technically, we could do it. At the time, there was nothing truly usable out there. So we attempted to make one but it wasn’t drawing the engagement we hoped. So, I decided to put something on YouTube. Keep in mind that I had never done any kind of social media before – not even a Facebook post – But I thought, ‘Why not?’ I created a video on YouTube and tried to drive traffic from there to the website.

One of the earliest videos on TheBigPayback channel. The bonus round of Queen’s Knight slot machine.

That’s how it started?

TheBigPayback: The website never got developed—maybe one day it still will—but I posted that first video. I still remember the day. I was actually in Hawaii at the time, but I realized the video got 10,000 views in a day! I started posting more videos after that.

Pretty soon 10,000 became 20,0000 and it started to grow and grow. Before you knew it, the channel was providing more than half the revenue of my company.

Back in the day, none of us really knew what we were doing. Brian Christopher and Scott Richter (The Big Jackpot) were the ones who really took things to the next level. I really credit those two names with turning this into a business.

How did you feel the first time you recorded yourself playing slots?

TheBigPayback: I was terrified. I was because one of my first slot videos was actually the largest slot jackpot I ever got in my life. And I’m winning and I’m like, “Oh my God, I just won $20,000”  but I wasn’t reacting at all.

I wasn’t reacting because at the time because I didn’t want to draw attention to myself. I thought I’d get busted, right? And at the time I didn’t know people really wanted to hear your reactions or anything like that. I didn’t know what I was doing. All the camera settings wrong. I still got the video though.

Did you have immediate traction in the space or did it take a long time to build the channel?

TheBigPayback: It was really just something in my company that we were experimenting with. It wasn’t like a rocket to the moon. It was a hobby for all of us, but it did start to grow. We thought it was impressive to make $100 a month from it. I mean, looking back, it was potentially a business mistake not to invest more into it in the early days, which is what Brian Christopher and some of the others managed to do. Now that’s the blueprint.

Was there a moment where you realized you could do it full time?

TheBigPayback: I don’t know about that. I mean you could look at the success of a lot of channels right now and say “Hey, if I’m fully funded and I have a plan. I have a personality you can jump into it.” It’s not easy though.

But with the right mixture of ingredients you can make it work. I should say you will be able to gain a certain level of success, but whether or not you’re profitable is another story because people could just throw money at this all day long get a lot of views but whether or not it’s profitable – that’s a different story.

It must have been when I started seeing some of the success of the other channels. Some of them were very transparent about their earnings. I mean, some of the channels are grossing millions of dollars a year, so it’s absolutely doable for me when there’s ad revenue from YouTube and sponsorships from companies.

Companies are starting to reach out, “Hey Tim, Can you promote our online property? Hey come to the casino have a meet and greet and promote our casino.” When a few of those things happened plus high traffic in December, I think it was maybe 2020 or so and I realized wow, I just grossed over $30,000 in one month and this is cool. This is doable.

What do you think is most appealing about watching people play slots?

TheBigPayback: I mean, there are a number of things. It’s the same games people love to play. You add a live component and it’s completely engaging. I’ve met so many great people and great friends through streaming.

I stream on the floor every Tuesday and it’s such an experience. Sometimes just when you think it’s all over you win $10,000 live and people are right there with you to celebrate.

That’s one of the things I guess that took me a little bit by surprise. I never dreamed that I would meet so many nice people now that are good friends. It’s kind of ironic being an introverted person and this forced me to get out of my shell at 53 years old.

It’s completely unexpected. We are so connected in the world at this point yet you hear all the time that everyone is lonely. Hey, at least in our community, we’re pushing back against that. We’re having live events and people come out. They love to meet us. We did an event in Foxwoods earlier in the year and there was a line out the door. We moved the needle that day. It surprises me every time.

The BigPayback live on the casino floor.

For someone who hasn’t seen your stream before how would you describe it?

TheBigPayback: I focus on variety of games and a variety of different bets. I’m a regular person. I’m not wealthy so I’m not doing $500 a spin. What I like to do is I like to play all the games and unlock their secrets. So, I’ll play a game and if the game has three bonuses, I’ll try and get all three bonuses and showcase to people how the games play especially nowadays, slots design has gotten so much more complex than it used to be.

So a great game could be on the floor, but if you don’t understand it, I mean, it could be gone before you even learn to play it. We educate people on how the games play.

You also livestream, correct?

TheBigPayback: I go live on the floor every Tuesday. Between two and three hours. I basically just float from game to game. I try to come out on top and I take some shots but really it’s just about getting everyone together and having some fun.

Anything else you’ve added to your channel recently?

TheBigPayback: I’m streaming some of these social gaming sites sweepstakes sites on Wednesdays and that’s been an eye-opener. The design of online games is so interesting because you don’t need to have physical casinos to support them games so you can have a much greater return to player. We’re talking 95-96%. You get so much more of an in-game experience with that kind of model.

I love game design and they are pushing the envelope online. They’re doing whatever they want. At physical casinos the innovation is just not there. So I’ve really started to love the online space.

Soon I will be launching what I’m calling Big Payback TV, which is a continuous live stream. It’s kind of like you see a lot of streaming stations doing it now. Basically you can click a button and we’ll have something playing for you. It will play all sorts of different things with previously recorded content. Extra stuff that might not work as a standalone video. Smokey the dog might make an appearance or two. Hey, maybe even this interview. We’re going to experiment with it.

The BigPayback playing online on social casino McLuck.

Would you have any tips for people to going to the casino to play slots?

TheBigPayback: Yeah for sure. An obvious example would be for the ‘linked games’ (Dragon Link, Lightning Link), you should play the game with the bigger major jackpot. You see people playing the machines with the lower jackpots. It’s silly.

You might say, “oh, well I never win a major jackpot, Tim,” but my answer is: You don’t until you do.

Scouting out progressives makes sense. You should take advantages wherever you can. If you have an offer to play on Wednesday than you should play on a Wednesday. You have to take advantage of promotions. You have to.

How did you get started with slots?

TheBigPayback: I’ve always loved to play.  I would take my mom on trips and she always loved to play and so we go to Vegas together and go half and half and play on one game.

I would play a lot of the regular casino games, but as slots became more engaging I started playing them and then when I started to do that experiment for the Big Payback dot com. I loved to play from that point on. It’s awesome to be able to do something you love. Although it is a job. Make no mistake though, when you are spending 60 hours a week in a casino, it is a job.

How much better do you think slots have gotten over the last decade?

TheBigPayback: I mean it’s a really interesting question because I think there’s certainly a debate there as to whether they’ve gotten better. I mean people love the old slot machines.

They’ve certainly gotten more immersive, but is the innovation there?

There are some incredible games out there in 2024. So you look at like, the Hold and Spin play mechanic by Aristocrat. It’s a monster. it was an industry-changing play mechanic now that is in so many games out there and it’s awesome.

And then the whole concept of metamorphic bonuses bonuses that combine – the Three Pot games – that was another game changer for sure. But we’re at an interesting point. What is the next hold n spin? What is the next three-pot play mechanic?

It seems like people develop a personal connection with machines.

I mean game design fascinates me because you’re talking about a game that, in the end, is going to take your money. It’s gonna take your money and yet you want to play it. How does that work? I mean there’s an art aspect to it.

If it was an easy formula to crank out hits then they’d be doing it. They spend millions developing machines and they flop sometimes.

It’s fascinating.

Do you have three favorite games?

TheBigPayback: Three of my favorites it’s always a tough question because the games you want to play many times depend on your mood but sure I can absolutely highlight a couple. One such game is Huff and More Puff by Light and Wonder. It’s such a fantastic game. The theme is fun. The music is great. The features are there. what you have to do. I just got another jackpot on it yesterday. I mean, is it beatable? No. But I mean hey, over the short term, when the major is high and you take a shot like I did yesterday and you win over $3,000 it feels pretty good.

It feels like it gives you a chance. It’s a brilliant game.

Another one that comes to mind is Wonder 4 Boost by Aristocrat where you can choose four different games you could play at once. The mathematics of the game boggle my mind. The first time I sat down at the game I won $13,000. Is that why I love it? It doesn’t hurt.

I’ve played it so many times. I love the fact that’s it’s playable but you can win crazy amounts on a modest bet. It’s got classic themes, awesome music and great graphics to boot.

I also love so many classic games, such as Ultimate Fire Link and Double Top Dollar, which is awesome for a mechanical game. They are just fun to play.

Can you tell us about your biggest win?

TheBigPayback: So my biggest slot win was on the original Zeus. I had some free play and I remember I had a family event, like a birthday party to go to but I’m like, okay, I’ll stop at the casino. Let me run my free play and at the time they had high-limit Zeus so you could do $45 spin.

I think I had three spins. I could do two on free play and half of a third. So I did the second one nothing, and the third one, I got the bonus. I filled the screen with Zeus and wild symbols for, I think, $22,500, and then I almost did it again. That year, I had over a hundred thousand dollars in W-2G’s on that game alone.

It was a unicorn slot machine. Then I remember seeing it in maintenance mode one day and it never played the same. Then they got rid of it.

TheBigPayback’s biggest win ever.

Do you have any favorite properties?

TheBigPayback: Yeah, locally I love the Jack Thistledown Racino. And now I’m even playing more at the Jack Cleveland property. Both properties get a lot of new games in all the time and I love that. It’s kind of ironic you think you have to go to Vegas for the new games but on the Strip a lot of the casinos are basically clones of each other and they aren’t really that interesting.

I do really like the Four Winds properties in South Bend and New Buffalo. So yeah, those are a couple that I really enjoy going to.

Don’t get me wrong, I do love Vegas. I like what they are doing with the Rio. A lot of offstrip casinos have a great selection of games as well.

What’s been the most surprising thing about your slots experience?

TheBigPayback: Maybe that people want to see me play the games. They don’t just want to see the games. They want to see Tim play the games. They want to see Brian [Christopher] play the games. They want to see Scott play the games, and while we all do the same thing in some respects, we’re all very very different. I’m trying not to think that I’m doing this for others because I’m doing it for myself and people hopefully will see that authenticity and enjoy the product. I mean I can’t not be me.

Anything else?

TheBigPayback: It’s also been surprising – I learned this a few years ago – all the developers watch us.

I would have never imagined 10 years ago that I would be able to developers come up to me and say hey, I love your channel and I love what you do.

Is it true that originally recorded your videos anonymously? How come?

TheBigPayback: Yeah that’s absolutely case and it’s for a few different reasons. The first is – especially when I was first getting started – the casinos weren’t as open to it as they are now. So to be honest, I kind of follow a don’t ask, don’t tell policy. I’m discreet. I’m not invading anyone’s privacy. 

Part of it was just a technology thing. I used a Blackberry for some of my recording and it didn’t work great for catching my reactions.

Finally it was also my intention. I didn’t think at the time it was about me. I thought it was just about the games. I realized it was about both.

Do you have any goals for the channel?

TheBigPayback: Absolutely. I want to take it to the next level. I’m super psyched about launching the TV portion of the channel.

I love the online portion. I’m really interested in growing that part of the channel.

There is so much competition now that in order to do this you have to put in a tremendous amount of work just to survive. I want to grow, not just survive.

It’s a bit scary with YouTube sometimes because you never know exactly what’s going to happen. I don’t think they will ban gambling content but you never know. A lot of people tell me they don’t receive notification when I post new content and that’s a huge problem for me.

For anyone listening I’d say slots streaming is an awesome side hustle but it can also be a little scary when your income is dependent on it.

From my end I just keep trying to innovate. I’d like to thank my content over the past year is the best it’s ever been. Even if the views maybe aren’t the best they’ve ever been.

Thanks for your time.

TheBigPayback: No problem at all. I can talk about this stuff all day. And I’d encourage everyone to check out the Big Payback on YouTube. Just come by and say hi. Mention that you read this interview on Slotsfan. That would be awesome.

You can read our TheBigPayback profile to learn more. Tim also ranks in the top 20 in our YouTube slots streamer rankings.

Author: Arthur Crowson
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