My trip to Salt Lake City, Wendover and Ely -- September 11, 2004

The Wizard's News
September 11, 2004

From the Wizard....

Quoted in Playboy

I'm proud to announce I'm quoted in the September 2004 issue of Playboy, on sale now. In the Playboy Advisor somebody posed the same question asked in the May 5 2004 Ask the Wizard column about the guy who bet his life savings on a single bet in roulette. My answer is more or less the same as what is in my column.

My trip to Salt Lake City

As promised in the last newsletter this issue I will bore, I mean regale, you with the story of my trip to Salt Lake City, West Wendover, and Ely. The reason for the trip was simply to go somewhere I haven't been before that isn't too far away.

On August 14 my wife, two kids, mother in law, and myself set out for Salt Lake City via the I-15. We stopped in Mesquite for a buffet lunch at the Oasis. I checked out the casino scene but there was nothing of interest. After a 430-mile drive we arrived at our destination, the Super 8 in downtown Salt Lake City. Normally I'm a big fan of Super 8's and have stayed in them all over the country. However they really let me down this time. The SLC property was a dump. The entire building smelled badly, sink fixtures were loose, and the lobby was full of boxes throughout most of my stay.

You can't help but visit Temple Square on a visit to SLC. The Mormons have two city blocks featuring the temple itself, the tabernacle, office buildings, visitor buildings, sites of historic interest, and who knows what else. Tours of the highlights begin every ten minutes at the flagpole, and they are very accommodating if you don't speak English. The two young women who led our tour were extremely nice, as were all the staff there. Everyone was very nicely dressed with name-tags with flags showing where they hailed from. The tour does touch on the basics of the church, by both videos and personal testimonies, but it isn't too preachy. After the tour they ask you to fill out a comment card, in which they offer to visit you for more information. As I turned in my card my tour guides offered me a free Book of Mormon and a church DVD but I politely declined because I already have both when the missionaries visited me in Vegas. After lunch we returned for a free 30-minute organ recital in the tabernacle, which was quite good. In the evening we went to the Spaghetti Factory for dinner, which I highly recommend.

Other activities in SLC were a side trip to a ski resort in Park City to ride the alpine slide but it was closed due to inclement weather. A trip to SLC would not be complete without a swim in the Salt Lake itself. It was not clear where to actually get into the lake but I stumbled upon a dilapidated resort called Saltair about 10 miles west of SLC on the I-80 (exit 104). The water level in the lake is quit low so it was a long walk from the car to the lake itself but I made it and I did indeed float like a cork.


West Wendover, Nevada

Our way back home we went west through the salt flats on I-80 to the border town of West Wendover, Nevada. I was only expecting one or two small casinos but Wendover was much bigger than I thought. There were five casinos as follows:

  • Montego Bay (480 slots, 27 table games)
  • Peppermill (986 slots, 24 table games)
  • Rainbow (973 slots, 33 table games)
  • Red Garter (401 slots, 12 table games)
  • Wendover Nugget (820 slots, 53 table games)

Source: Casino City

With the family in tow I didn't have too much time to poke around but we did have a pretty good meal at the diner at the Rainbow. I checked out the blackjack and video poker at Rainbow, Red Garter, and Peppermill, and it was surprisingly good. As I recall the blackjack rules at all three casinos were single decks, double any first 2 cards, dealer hits soft 17. I don't remember if double after split was allowed but it probably was not. Penetration at the game I played at the Rainbow was about 65%. In the video poker department I saw lots of 9/6 jacks or better, 9/7 Double Bonus, 9/6 Double Double Bonus, and 16/10 Deuces Wild. There didn't seem to be anything to do in West Wendover besides gambling but for gambling it seems like a great location.


Ely, Nevada

From there it was south bound on the U.S. 93 to Ely where we stayed the night at the historic Hotel Nevada. Opened in 1929, the Hotel Nevada is one of Nevada's most historic buildings and at one time was the tallest building in the state. Today the walls are covered with murals, guns, mining equipment, animal heads, and everything else from A to Z. The restaurant was delicious, the staff were all very friendly and our rooms well decorated and comfortable. In short, the Hotel Nevada is highly recommended.

One complaint I will make is the blackjack rules were horrible. 6 decks, dealer hits soft 17, no double after split, and a bet range of $2 to $25. Yes, the maximum bet was $25. I had all evening to kill and with such lousy blackjack rules I decided to give the 7 PM poker game a try. There was no other live gaming in Ely and the video poker was rather stingy too.


Texas Hold 'em

Live poker has always been one of my weakest areas when it comes to gambling. I've always been intimidated to play because the expression, "If you can't tell who the sucker is at a poker table within 10 minutes, then the sucker is you." Unless a player was really bad I wouldn't know it and thus I was afraid everyone would be looking at me and thinking that I was the sucker.

However as a gambling writer I can't go around being afraid to play poker forever and besides I had all night to kill. So at 7:00 I went down to play but the table was already full, so I put my name on the waiting list. At 8:00 I came back to check my status on the waiting list and just as I arrived a seat became available. I think they were not following the waiting list very religiously and just gave it to me. So I bought in for $100 not knowing the stakes, blinds, or anything. I didn't want to look like a beginner asking questions so I figured I would just fold a few hands while I learned the gist of the game.

So what happens, on my first hand I get a very strong hand, as I recall an unsuited ace and king. You have to go in with that, which I did. I don't remember all the details so to cut to the end I won my first hand of Texas Hold'em. This was not my first hand that night, it was my first hand EVER! [Editor's note: It's rare that the cold, calculating Wizard expresses any kind of emotion, so you can tell he was pretty excited about this. I think I can count the number of times he's used an exclamation mark in The Wizard's News on one hand. — M. Bluejay]

As the first hour went by I caught on to the game pretty quickly. Fortunately I was seated right next to the dealer and he was very helpful, quietly reminding me when it was my turn to do something, without embarrassing me. The other players all seemed to be locals who knew each other. Many were in various states of inebriation and it made for a very lively game. One player said he was a former disc jockey and introduced himself to me and shook my hand. I definitely felt very welcome and the game was a lot of fun.

After four hours my $100 had turned into $130. If it had not been for tipping I'm sure it would have been more like $160. When I left the dealer and some of the players nicely said good-bye. Overall my first foray into Hold'em was a huge success! [Look, there he goes again. -Ed.] I also consider myself bitten by the poker bug and plan to be playing a lot more in the future.

In fact a few days later I played 3/6 hold'em at the Mirage. It was not as much fun as the Hotel Nevada but I still liked it. The players were a lot tougher and most were pretty quiet by comparison. One big difference is in Ely the average number of players in at the flop was 7, and at the Mirage was I'd say 3.5. It wasn't my goal to win but just survive and go beyond getting my feet wet in Ely to getting wet up to my knees. Despite what appeared to be a tougher game after three hours I walked away up $11.

I don't want to give the impression that anyone can win money at hold'em with no experience. A few years ago I read Winning Low Limit Hold'em by Lee Jones and recently added a section to my site ranking the best initial two-card hands (link removed). All I really know is a rough idea of the best starting hands from my own site and what I remember from the book was that as a beginner to play conservatively and only stay in on the best of hands. I saw lots of hands I would have won had I stayed in but I stuck to my policy of "when in doubt, fold."

So stay tuned for more about poker from me in the years to come. It may seem an intimidating game to play, but if players are as bad at poker as they are in all other casino games, how bad can it really be? I haven't enjoyed gambling so much since my early days of playing blackjack just after turning 21.

So if you are just the least bit tempted then I encourage you to give poker a try yourself.


From Bluejay....

Bluejay's handy Internet tip of the month

In the last issue I showed you how to turn off annoying animated ads. This time I'll let you in on another secret: the "www" is optional. That's right, for 99% of sites you don't have to type in the frickin' www. For example, to get to our site, you can just type in "". You don't have to screw around with the longer " This trick works on just about every website out there. If it doesn't work on some certain site then you can always type in the www for that one.

In fact, if you try to type in "", notice that we automatically remove the www as soon as you hit enter. That's our way of trying to remind you, "Hey, why the hell are you wasting your time typing in www? Life's too short!" Every time sometime types in "www" when going to our site a little bell rings on my desk and I go in and remove the www from your screen. Go ahead, try it now if you don't believe me.

Just think of how many times a day you used to type www, and think of all the time you'll save. Now you'll have more time to play with the kids.

And I hope it goes without saying that the "http://" is also optional. Don't ever waste time typing that! [Bluejay uses those ! symbols a lot more than me. — wiz]


Advertiser Spotlight

Our newest advertiser is BoDog Sportsbook & Casino. I have no idea what the name means, but my guess is that has something to do with a dog. This is the first sportsbook we've advertised since I started selling ads for the Wizard, and true to our style we picked a good one. Heck, if you go to Google and type in "online sportsbook" they have the #1 result! That's a pretty impressive feat. Of course they also have a traditional casino too, for those who aren't into sports.

And there's two neat things about BoDog's bonus: First of all, they give it on every deposit, not just the first one. Second, almost every game counts towards the play requirement. The only ones that don't count are Pontoon, Caribbean 21, and opposites bets (e.g., both Red/Black in roulette, or Pass/Don't Pass in craps). The bonus is 10%, and the playthrough requirement is 5x deposit+bonus in the sportsbook or 20x at the casino. The bonus was 20% until today, by the way — sometimes casinos start off advertising a big bonus on our site and then they reduce it after they've been on the site for a few weeks, so it pays to check out periodically to see what bonus offers are available. Here's what the Wizard says:

I deposited a $5000 [Ed. note: Wow!] at BoDog and the 20% bonus was given immediately. I'm currently playing it at the sports book. Right now I'm at $6569 after playing through through $15,000 in action. The lines at Bodog are not the most competitive online but the bonus makes it a respectable value. I'm mainly using it to hedge other bets made elsewhere. I know Bodog's president, Rob Gillespie, and Bodog seems like a very reputable operation to me. I haven't had any problems there at all and I think Bodog is a safe place to put your sports betting money.

That's all. Until next time, set your expectations high.