October 6, 2004

The Wizard's News
October 6, 2004

From the Wizard....

I've been bitten by the poker bug

In the last newsletter I reported that I was bitten by the poker bug. My case is worse than I first reported. Since then I've been playing about two hours a day at Pacific Poker. Usually I can be found at the $2/$4 hold'em tables under the handle of curacao. If you see me say hello and give me your best game.

At first my results were okay. Then I started to read a poker book given to me to review. This book freaked me out, emphasizing that when in doubt you should fold, and to be deathly afraid of anyone who raises. In retrospect I think I took the advice too literally and bailed out of many decent hands. The advice may be better suited for the more conservative play seen in live games. However on the Internet, at least at Pacific Poker, there are lots of loose players who chase after every straight and flush. Once I started putting more emphasis on characterizing each player and being more aggressive with good cards my results got much better.

However when I started to trust my own judgment more and the book less my results suddenly improved. I'm now at over $800.  Plus I've also given the casino $313 by way of the rake, based on my comp points. Betting such low stakes is unusual for me but (1) I'm learning and (2) I'm actually playing for the enjoyment of it. With traditional casino games like blackjack there is a mathematically correct strategy for how to play your hands, which reduces the house edge to a minimum but which can be boring and monotonous to play. By contrast poker is dynamic and your strategy has to rely much more on what you observe about how the other players are playing their hands. I therefore feel that poker is much more challenging than traditional table games. In any event, assuming my success continues I plan to gradually move up in stakes. Hopefully you'll see me on the Travel Channel playing poker someday soon.

I'd like to suggest some online poker etiquette based on some annoyances of mine this last month:

  1. Don't complain in the chat room when you lose on the river. In my opinion one can easily separate good players from the bad by who usually is praying for a miracle on the river and who is who is hoping the river helps nobody. However in a loose game it should be expected that "river rats" make their hand a certain percentage of the time. Get over it and think long-term. Also, the river saves even the best of players sometimes, so don't be a hypocrite.
  2. Don't brag when you win. I remember once I lost to a loose player when he made a flush on the river and he said in the chat box, "Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee." No need to rub salt in the wound of the loser.
  3. Don't talk about other players in a negative way in third person. Everyone can see what you write so if you want to take a shot at someone, address them directly. Don't assume anybody isn't listening just because they aren't saying anything.
  4. If you have nothing nice to say then just say nothing at all. If you are not enjoying yourself then quit playing.

My trip to Curacao

On another topic I went to Curacao in early September to consult with Pinnacle Sports on their new Internet casino. There are about a dozen land casinos in Curacao, most of them in the capital of Willemstad. All of them are fairly small and the rules are mostly consistent from place to place. Appropriately Caribbean Stud Poker is very popular, having about an equal number of tables as blackjack. There was some roulette and craps too. I finally saw a Caribbean Stud game with the rule about switching a card, I've been asked about that hundreds of times. All the games followed an unusual side bet pay table in which a four of a kind pays 1% of the meter. The blackjack rules were the same as those in Atlantic City and many Vegas casinos, except some casinos followed the European no-peek rule. Penetration was generally lousy and bet limits low. Video poker was quite stingy and the slots were rather dated. I did see some Microgaming slots at the land casino at the Hilton, that was quite weird.

While there I stayed at the Marriott, which was very nice. The hotel was right on a sandy beach with Caribbean blue water and great snorkeling. There were a few topless women too. [Bluejay notes that the more polite term is "topfree" but the bad, bad Wizard wouldn't allow that edit.] The capitol of Willemstad I was a bit disappointed with. Except shopping and some small casinos there wasn't much to do there. The island itself is very dry. Their source of water is a desalinization plant. The vegetation was more desert like than here in Vegas. Considering the humidity it was also very hot. Vegas summers are a piece of cake in comparison. The people there were nice and most had a thick Caribbean accent. I've heard that Curacao is one of the least Americanized parts of the smaller Caribbean islands. So while you get the feeling of being in a foreign country the down side of that is there isn't a whole lot to do besides snorkeling and diving. However if you want to relax and get away from the crowds of tourists Curacao may be a good choice, although I don't have a whole to compare it to in the Caribbean. Overall an enjoyable and relaxing trip.  

From Michael Bluejay....

What's new on WizardOfOdds.com

No more blinking! We started phasing it out months ago, and the very last animated banner expired in late September, being replaced by our newest advertiser, pinnaclesports.com. So now when reading WizardOfOdds.com you don't have to scroll the top banner off the screen to avoid having an epileptic seizure, yea! When the Wizard turned over advertising sales to me a few months ago he didn't think I'd be able to find advertisers who would buy static ads, but we showed him, didn't we? And our advertisers haven't suffered either, since they still get plenty of clicks, so advertising with us is still a good value for them. My suspicion was that once we stopped blinking at our visitors they'd be more comfortable and so they'd stay on the site longer and be more likely to click the ads, making up for the clicks we lost from people no longer being drawn to the blinking ads like moths to the flame. I think that turned out to be true.

I'm a bit smug about our blink-free policy because so far as I know we're the *only* top gambling site on the net with no popups and no blinking. Go, us! My hope is that other sites follow our lead, resulting in a net that's friendlier and less annoying to use. If you don't like the popups and the blinking on the other sites then write to them and tell them so, and feel free to explain that WizardOfOdds.com doesn't use popups or blinking so what's their excuse?

I should note for the record that while the Wizard likes WizardOfOdds.com being a high quality, user-friendly site, he might not support my radical populist ideas for getting other websites to follow suit, but he's at the annual Global Gaming Expo right now so I (conveniently) can't run this by him first. And hopefully he'll be so busy catching up on email when he gets back that he doesn't read this newsletter too closely when he does see it.

Bluejay's handy Internet tip of the month

In our last episode I explained that the "www." optional in most website addresses, so you can save time by omitting that when you type in a web address. For example, just type in Wizardofodds.com, not the more cumbersome www.Wizardofodds.com (and certainly not the super-cumbersome ). Well, after I published that tip several of you fell all over yourselves to tell me that you don't have to type in the ".com" either, as long as you hit CTRL-Enter after you type the domain name. I guess that doesn't impress me so much because on my trusty Macintosh I don't have to fiddle with the Control key, I can just hit Enter and it does the same thing. But for the record, in Internet Explorer for Windows you can omit the ".com" in an address by hitting CTRL-Enter.

This month's tip is to open links in tabs. Here's what you're probably doing before you learned this tip: You're on a page and there are several links you want to follow. Maybe there are three different news stories that look interesting to you, or maybe you're not sure which of the many links on a page will take you to what you're looking for. So you probably follow the first link, then when you're done with that you have to hit the BACK button to go back to the previous page, find the other link you wanted to follow, click it, read that page, then hit the BACK button again and repeat the process.

That's cumbersome and annoying. A better way is to open links in tabs. Let's look at the Mac example first because it's easier. Macs come with a browser called Safari. This time when you want to open one of those three links, you simply CTRL-click the link and then you get a menu where you can choose "Open Link in New Tab". When you do that a new tab appears at the top of the window. You can open as many tabs as you want, and switch among them just by clicking the tab. Look at the picture below to see what I mean. I started on Wizard of Odds and then CTRL-clicked links for our first three advertisers and opened them in new tabs.

How cool is that?! Now you can have a dozen different pages open in the same window. Previously you'd have to have twelve different windows cluttering your screen. Yuck.

Okay, so now you're asking, "Ooh, ooh, how do I do this with Windows?" Well, you have to download a new browser. Internet Explorer is just old and lame and doesn't support tabbed browsing like the Mac has for years. But there's a new windows browser called Firefox that you can download for free with gives you browser tabs. It's better than IE in many other ways, too. In fact, it's the Next Big Thing in Windows browsers, and FireFox is already taking market share away from IE. With features like tabbed browsing it's easy to see why.

Previous tips:
Advertiser Spotlight: Pinnacle Sports Book & Casino

The Wizard says...

It is not a coincidence that Pinnacle is the latest banner advertiser on the site. I'm personally involved with developing the casino end, which overall has the most generous rules on the Internet, including 0.3% cash back on all games. [Editor's note: Holy crap!] More on the Pinnacle casino in the future.

Meanwhile the sports book is very mature and one of the largest online. There can be little debate that Pinnacle offers the best lines on the Internet. For example they offer 10-cent NFL lines and totals all the time, while other books have 20-cents lines. The money lines are also very competitive, starting at 10-cents apart and maintaining a spread in the lines about half of their competitors. In MLB they offer 8-cent lines while most other books have 20-cent lines, although some are at 10-cents. I am in the middle of a comparison of both Internet and Vegas sports books and thus far nobody on the Internet even comes close to Pinnacle's lines. The variety of bets is also outstanding, with lots of props and exotic bets. I personally have been making the vast majority of my sports bets at Pinnacle for about two years.

It is hard to find mention of it on their site but Pinnacle offers a 10% bonus to new customers. The minimum bonus is $25 and the maximum is $500. The play requirement is three times the deposit in the sports book and the funds must remain in the account at least 30 days.

Pinnacle is my first choice for online sports betting.

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