About This Site
This site was born on June 19, 1997. At first it was titled Mike's Gambling Page. It was a good time to start a web site about gambling, as there were few good ones at the time. With plenty of shelf space, the site quickly became popular and took on a life of its own. Three years later I left my job as a government actuary to dedicate myself full time to the site.
Our goal is nothing less than to be the best gaming site on the Internet. Here's what we mean by best:
A ton of content that is original, exclusive, and high quality.
We offer stuff that's really useful and that you can't get anywhere else. (Well, we've allowed a few other sites to reprint some of our articles, but most of our stuff is available only here.) The Wizard provides the mathematically correct strategies and information for nearly every casino game in existence. We are the most recognized authority in the world for accurate playing strategies.
An excellent experience for the reader.
We take quality seriously. We don't have popup windows or animated ads, and we don't spam. The net is littered with cheap gambling sites that seem to want nothing better than to give you an epileptic seizure. We're trying to set the standard for a quality gambling site. We hope others will follow.
We're picky about who can advertise here. The Wizard himself personally reviews all potential advertisers before they can buy an ad, and he turns down about half of all applicants. The Wizard won't advertise a casino unless he feels it's a safe and honest place to gamble, and promises to act as an arbitrator if a reader has a problem with an advertiser that they can't resolve on their own.
About gambling itself, our philosophy is that if you're going to gamble you should have the best information possible so you can have the best chances of winning, and can minimize your losses if you do lose. We don't actually encourage or promote gambling, and we're not just saying that to cover ourselves — we simply want to provide readers with the opportunity to be educated gamblers if they're going to gamble anyway. In fact, if you read the site thoroughly, the inescapable conclusion is that with very few exceptions, there is no way to beat the house.
About the Wizard
The Wizard of Odds is Michael Shackleford, A.S.A., a professional actuary who has made a career of analyzing casino games. He runs the numbers on new games for casinos and game developers and has helped design many of the popular slot machines on the Internet. He is currently an Adjunct Professor of Casino Math at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, a former contributing editor to Casino Player magazine, and the author of the book Gambling 102, recently published by Huntington Press. The Wizard's landmark research into the actual returns of slot machines on the Las Vegas strip garnered international attention in 2002, and he has appeared numerous times on national television as a recognized expert on gambling strategy.
What I do
I write most of the content for this site, drawing on my training in mathematics and actuarial science. This site started out as a hobby, then as it grew and became more popular I moved it to its own domain and had it professionally designed. I'm proud to have built something that's used by thousands of people every day and is known around the world for providing quality, authoritative information.
My Life Story
I was born in Pasadena, California in 1965. Shortly after that my family moved south to Orange County where I grew up and lived off and on until 1992. My interest in computers led me to a computer science major at the University of California at Santa Barbara. In my sophomore year I switched majors to math/economics and graduated with a BA in 1988. After I graduated I put my mind toward the actuary exams. If you don't know what an actuary is please visit this explanation by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While working at the exams I stumbled into a job as a claims adjuster for the Social Security Administration. With my background in Social Security and having passed a few exams I moved to the agency headquarters in Baltimore in 1992. In my capacity as a Social Security actuary, my main responsibility was estimating short-range costs and benefits of changes in Social Security law. Some of my work can be found at the Office of the Chief Actuary web site.
The most fun part of my job was tabulating the most popular baby names. My lists of the most popular names have been featured in almost every major newspaper or news magazine at one time or another. You can also find my lists at BabyCenter, Babynames.com, and many books including Beyond Jennifer & Jason, Madison & Montana, The Very Best Baby Name Book, and the 2000 edition of the World Almanac. On January 8, 1999 the Los Angeles Times ran a front page story titled Jose Moves Into Top Spot in Name Game, when I determined the most popular name for Boys in California and Texas was Jose.
After I finished with the actuary exams and became an associate in 1995 I put my mind toward analyzing casino games. This was just for fun and I never expected it to lead to anything. After I went through the trouble of analyzing about a half dozen games I put up the information on my home page (which no longer exists). Although I didn't advertise at all people starting wandering to the page which encouraged me to keep making additions and improvements. Eventually this led to work doing analysis of new games and a regular column in Casino Player magazine.
In early 2000 I decided to take the leap from a non-profit page to accepting advertising. The combined income from private consulting and advertising allowed me to leave my job with SSA on April 21, 2000 and devote myself full time to this website and to gaming consulting. I made it my goal to become the most known and trusted name in gambling advice for the whole gamut of casino games. In February, 2001, I moved from Baltimore to Las Vegas to be at the center of the gambling business.
In early 2003 I split with my old partners who had taken care of the design of the site and ad sales, and I brought my friend Michael Bluejay on board to take care of the web administration. The first thing we did was to get rid of the popup windows and a lot of the gratuitous advertising. With full control over the site again I became very picky about who could advertise here. To this day I personally review all potential advertisers before they can buy an ad here. I turn down about as many as I approve.
I didn't turn the ad sales over to Bluejay until a year later in 2004, and when I did the site changed significantly. He got rid of the blinking banners but still managed to find advertisers who were willing to have static ads. He also added some small text ads to the site and made other various improvements.
Gambling has always been a major interest of mine. Before turning 21 I mainly played poker, acey-deucy, and guts. When I reached legal age I developed a strong interest in blackjack. I started with the basic strategy and then moved to card counting. Other than gambling my hobbies are chess, computer games, juggling, unicycling, and license plate collecting.
Here is my biography.
- Blackjack Blog von Radek Vegas Interview mit dem "Wizard of Odds" — Michael Shackleford at blackjack-vegas.de, translated into German. (August 29, 2014)
- Michael Shackleford Wizard of Odds interview at Casino.org (June 16, 2014)
- Interview with Michael Shackleford, The Wizard of Odds at CasinoListings.com (May 16, 2014)
- TwinSpires Horse Racing Podcast: Radio interview (Dec. 17, 2013)
- ThePOGG Interviews Michael Shackleford, The Wizard of Odds: at the POGG (Nov. 1, 2012)
- Affiliate interview with Michael Shackleford from WizardofOdds.com: at the Gaming Affiliates Guide (Mar. 9, 2012)
- 'Wizard' predicts state will tighten blackjack rules: by Mark Gruetze, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Nov 19, 2010)
- Audio interview about baccarat at americancasinoguide.com (Oct 2010)
- Interview about blackjack at onlineblackjack.com (Sep 2010)
- Isa-Guide interview (May 2008)
- Steve Bourie MP3 interview (June 2007)
- professional-poker.com interview (2004)
- KGO (San Francisco) radio interview (Dec 15, 2006)
- How to lose $1 billion in video poker. Article in the U-T San Diego in which I'm heavily quoted. (Feb 15, 2013)
- How to win at the casino: Las Vegas expert shares 3 big casino secrets: Interview of me by ABC news in Phoenix on slot machines.
- Wizard of Odds interview: Video on YouTube by the American Casino Guide author Steve Bourie.
- All about Video Poker: Video on YouTube by the American Casino Guide author Steve Bourie.
- Slot Machine Instruction: Video on YouTube by the American Casino Guide author Steve Bourie.
- Mitt Romney's $10K Gamble Was Worth It, and About Right for His Wealth. Article at The Daily Beast, Dec. 12, 2011.
- Vegas Oddsmaker Bets on 2012. Article at The Daily Beast, Oct. 18, 2011.
With the Bodog models. Click here for larger image.
In April, 2010, I took a personality test, mainly designed to find my strengths and weaknesses in a leadership role. The following is a summary of the results:
Michael, you fall within our Assertive Technician personality group. This means you describe yourself as a bit of a contradiction; you demonstrate comfort with risk, yet also have strong need to avoid criticism and failure. You have the assertiveness to take charge but prefer doing so within your area of expertise or in situations where the variables are either known or easily controlled. You believe in action, resourcefulness and goal-oriented solutions. Your tall column 4 indicates keen critical thinking aptitude, a strong analytical versus social mindset. You use an objective, logical reasoning process rather than intuition to solve problems. As such, data-intensive, mentally-challenging tasks likely appeal to you. You appear to be a direct, pull-no-punches communicator. You likely convey information clearly and succinctly. For you, interaction in a work context is probably more about informing and collaborating than on building relationships. If you manage people, you probably focus more on finding and fixing problems than on motivating. Be sure to look for the positives and to recognize even the ordinary achievements of those working with and for you.
Fast paced, you have a strong sense of urgency for working under time pressure, managing the unexpected and dealing with competing demands on your time. You likely adapt easily to change and like moving between different tasks to keep things interesting. Unvarying routine might frustrate you. Michael, your column 8 points to a heightened respect for structure and meticulous work habits. You aim for excellence and are constantly looking for ways to improve performance. Trusting the quality of your own work, it might sometimes challenge you to delegate work to others, especially if they have not proven their worth. Be sure to let go of some details so you can focus on the big picture.
About the Wizard's Helpers
The Wizard could not run this site all by himself. Here is a little about the Wizard's assistants.
- JB: The mysterious JB is the webmaster for this site and Wizard of Vegas. He is very shy and prefers to be just known as JB.
- Cindy Liu: Cindy is a brilliant gaming mathematician who just teamed up with the Wizard on March 21, 2011.
- Kristi M: Kristi is the Wizard's much-needed proofreader.
- The models: Lisa, Nichole, Karina, Susie, and Susan are the Wizard's lovely models who can be seen here and at Wizard of Vegas.