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Ask the Wizard #165

What do you consider bonus abuse? Almost every online casino has conditions that are vague when it comes to bonus abuse, which makes me leery. As an example, recently I took an offer of 100% match on a $300 deposit with a 20X rollover and 60 day requirement. I went bust trying for a big hit, so they made another similar offer with the same results and have now made a third offer. My concern is that should I make a big hit now, they could argue that since I didn’t make a "normal" deposit, I would be considered a bonus abuser. Should I be concerned?

Kevin from Van Nuys, CA

Good question. The industry has added so many rules to bonuses that often it is like navigating a minefield to stay in compliance. Break just one rule and not only can they take back the bonus but winnings as well. It is acceptable for a casino to seize a bonus if the terms aren’t met but it is not fair for them to seize winnings as well. Even if the player doesn’t break any rules most casinos may still seize a player’s winnings for any reason it wishes under the "management discretion" clause found buried in most terms and conditions. As an example look at one of the most respected casinos in the industry, King Neptune’s, as discussed at Casino Meister. They seized £8000 from a player for playing the wrong game, which was added to a list of excluded games the day before the player played.

I regret that it has come to this but terms and conditions in the industry have become so complicated and change so frequently that as a general rule I advise recreational gamblers to not accept bonuses. Only bonus hunters experienced at parsing the fine print should take the risk. Ironically, these are the same gamblers the casinos are trying to protect themselves from, and are the only ones they are going to be left with if the true gamblers get scared off by the minefield.

So, yes, you should be concerned. However that is also a good bonus. I would read the rules very carefully. Then be aggressive and go for a big win early or go bust trying.

Update (May 31, 2006): Within hours of the publication of this column I received a response from Micki representing Trident Entertainment Group, of which King Neptunes Casino is a part. I originally incorrectly stated that the player played the bonus the same day as the rules were changed. In fact the player played the following day, based on server time. So I apologize for that misunderstanding. The letter also details other points arguing the casino’s point of view. In the interests of expressing both versions I present the following message from Micki.

Hello Michael

I would just like to correct your statement regarding the issue with the player at King Neptune’s. I know you are ethical and accurate and therefore find it strange that your information is incorrect.

Our Terms & Conditions state very clearly the month they are valid for. This is a sign-up bonus, so who would we inform that we are changing any clauses. The Terms and Conditions also state that they apply from the date the bonus is claimed. This player claims to have read the T & C’s when they stated March 1-31. She did not however register or deposit to play until April 1 9:36pm Server time. They April 1-31 T & C’s were actually loaded soon after 10:00pm on March 31, over 21 hours before she registered, deposited and claimed her bonus. It should also be noted that this player used her bonus money to play on the excluded game. No clause in our T & C’s is buried, everything is in the same font with the Excluded Game list highlighted for the benefit of the player. Had she not used Bonus money to play on the excluded game she would have been paid. Never the less we still left her account with 400 in it, so she could start again. The funds are still there and still available to her.

I thought you should be aware of the facts.

Regards

Micki

In your recent Ask the Wizard column there was a question about a player showing cards before delcaring a decision in Hold’Em. Depending on house rules, this can be allowed in a heads up situation, where no other player is involved. (IE: It’s a hand in a ring game that is down to 2 players, OR it is a heads-up tournament) In a standard tournament you cannot expose your cards early (even if you are heads up with another player) becuase you are theoretically affecting everyone else still alive in the tournament.

Ryan from Renton, WA

You are the third person to claim that J.B.’s answer was incorrect. To get a disinterested third opinion I asked the poker foreman at the Red Rock hotel/casino. He said that exposing cards is not allowed in a tournament or if more than two players are still in the hand. However with only two players left in a cash game hand if one of them wants to be a fool and expose his cards that would be allowed at the Red Rock. I later asked the same question at the Wynn and the answer was the same.

Putting ethical considerations aside for the moment, what is the best way to go about colluding in poker (cash games and tournaments)?

Anonymous

As I have said many times, poker is one of my weakest games when it comes to gambling. For this one I turned to Tony Guerrera, author of Killer Poker by the Numbers, to be published January 2007.

Tony’s response was two pages long. To summarize one technique is to build up a pot with the two colluders reraising each other, in the interests of pulling more money into from other players or driving other players out. In tournament play another technique is to dump chips to just one player. For more details please see Tony’s reply in its entirety.

What is the "buffalo" bet in craps?

Anonymous

I asked the Bone Man of Next Shooter.com. He said it is all the hard ways and either the 7 or 11. It is referred to either "buffalo -- seven" or "buffalo -- eleven."

I'm a regular reader of your site, and appreciate your long history. Since you seem open to non-gaming questions from time to time, I thought I'd pose this to you: I recently returned from a Las Vegas vacation, and while there, noted the extreme absence of solar-panels on buildings. Do you know if there is a reason for this? Of all cities, Las Vegas seems ripe for lots of solar energy production. Conventional solar systems can be done with photo-voltaics, to produce electricity, which doesn't seem to be terribly high demand in Vegas. Solar systems can also be used to heat water. Given the extreme volumes of hot water consumed in hotel showers, laundries, swimming pools and hottubs, I’d expect huge energy savings could be possible here. Any insight into the lack of solar adoption there would be appreciated.

Aaron from Renton, WA

I'm letting my webmaster Michael Bluejay answer this one, since he has the #1 website on saving electricity, at least according to Google. Here is what he says.

You're wondering about the "extreme absence" of solar panels in Las Vegas? What part of the planet do you inhabit where solar panels are in such abundance that you notice the "extreme absence" of them when you visit Las Vegas? I can't remember the last time I saw a solar panel, in or out of Las Vegas.

Okay, so there are three parties who could use solar panels: homeowners, businesses, and utility companies. Homeowners haven’t installed solar panels in droves because the panels and batteries aren’t cheap, and neither is installation or maintenance. Payback time for photovoltaics is maybe 12 years. It's just not very attractive economically to most people. Businesses could afford the investment, and as soon as they think they'll save money by doing so I imagine they will. Actually, it's very possible that some casinos already use solar energy, but I don't know since I don't make it a habit of checking the rooftops of the casinos, and apparently neither do you. I do know that many area schools have solar panels or are slated to get them.

As for utility companies, and they are investing in solar in a big way. There's the Clark Photovoltaic System at the Clark Generating Station, a 3.1 megawatt facility being built as we speak, and a 70-megawatt solar plant being built near Boulder City, which will be the third-largest in the world. And it will be one of only nine that exist on the whole planet. There's also Daystar1, a smaller facility right next to UNLV, about a mile and a half from the Strip. Also, if I remember right, I saw some traffic signs or streetlights in Vegas with little photovoltaic panels on top, presumably storing the energy in a battery to light the sign/light at night.

Everyone focuses on energy production, but the plain truth of the matter is that we could lessen our environmental impact a lot more and a lot easier through energy conservation. With global oil production declining (we've used half of the oil that exists on the planet), the question everyone's asking is, "How can we find other ways to generate energy so we can keep using ridiculous amounts of it?" The question we should be asking is, "How can we save energy so we don't have to generate so much of it in the first place?" For some answers to that question, see my site on saving electricity.

Hello, my name is Patty. You have a very nice site and you seem like a very knowledgeable man. Definelty the kind of man I want by my side in a Casino!!!!!!! I was wondering if you could help me. I told my boy friend that I would look for an answer to a problem on the internet. If you were to help me, it would really make me look good.

My boy friend is a coin collector. He bought a bag of wheat pennies. I don’t know much about coins myself. (He is teaching me as time goes by) But he said that he was amazed that one certain year wasn’t represented in the bag because they are so common. He said the odds of that happening had to be a billion to one. I told him I would try to ask people in my office (the self proclaimed geniuses!!) and if they didn’t know, I would try to do a little research online. I came across you.

Anyway if you can help. I would greatly appreciate it. The bag had approximately 5,500 pennies. The total amount of wheat pennies minted by all the US mints was 24,267,000,000 The number of 1955’s that were minted (The one he was looking for) was 330,000,000. Some of the guys in my office say that there are other factors like; demographics, the fact that the MInts may not have distributed all the pennies etc. ...................... I would assume that they are correct but, I (and I’m sure my boy friend also) would settle on knowing the approximant odds!!!!!!!!! I hope you can help.

Patty

Your mintage numbers are close to those of Mountain View Coins. Assuming that every wheat penny ever minted has the same probability of being in the bag the probability of any one penny not being a 55 is (24,267,000,000-330,000,000)/24,267,000,000 = 0.986401286. The probability of 5500 coins not being a 55 can be very closely approximated as 0.9864012865500 = 1 in 507,033,772,284,213,000,000,000,000,000,000.

My father is a coin collector so I asked him for help on this one. Here is what he said,

Here is my guess. In the year 1955, there were a small number of Lincoln cents struck in Philadelphia with the date struck twice. no one knows exactly how many They were mixed with other cents for circulation before the error was discovered. An uncirculated specimen today is worth about $2000.to $6000. I suspect that the bag of "wheats" had already been culled of all of its 1955’s by someone looking for double-die specimens. Here is a picture of one: 1955 Doubled Die Obverse One Cent.

Note that this website is selling "wheats" and you can bet that some culling of dates has already occurred after the coins were collected by the dealer. I would have thought that the 1955’s that were not double-die would have been returned to the collection, but perhaps they are sold separately, or melted down. The copper in wheat pennies is worth much more than one cent today. That is why they switched to copper-plated zinc cents a few decades ago. There is a possibility that the mint itself decided not to distribute many of the 1955’s, and melted them down after minting to avoid a frantic scramble for the rare double-die specimens. The mint and Post Office has always been embarrassed by printing errors, and tries to keep them out of circulation