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Last Updated: March 2, 2005

March 2, 2005

The Wizard's News

March 2, 2005

From the Wizard....

Ties Win Blackjack

The big news for this newsletter is the debut of my new casino game Ties Win Blackjack. It is currently on field trial at the Edgewater Casino in Laughlin, Nevada, and should be available for Internet play at Harrods Casino sometime this month.

Most gamblers already know the rules for blackjack and poker, so most successful new table games have been based on one of those games. In my opinion blackjack variants present the most potential of the two, because the market is saturated with poker based games. Most blackjack games I have seen tease the player with favorable, yet seldom invoked rules, or bonuses that rarely occur, at a cost somewhere else, such as losing on ties, removal of cards from the deck, or aces scored as one point only. My object was to do the opposite: give the player a simple, fair, and honest game with a low house advantage.

The title of my game, Ties Win Blackjack, is meant to capture the interest of those already familiar with ties win parlay cards. Hopefully it will also bring people to the table at least to investigate what the catch is, which you are probably also wondering. The rules of the game are the same as regular blackjack except:

1. Ties pay 1 to 2 (or half the bet)

2. No decisions to make besides hit or stand (no double-down or splitting)

3. Winning blackjack pays even money

That is it. The game can use any number of decks. At the Edgewater six decks are used. The dealer can hit or stand on soft 17 depending on the casino's preference. At the Edgewater the dealer hits. The house edge under the Edgewater rules is 0.49%, lower that most blackjack games. The basic strategy is almost identical to the strategy for regular blackjack, with just two changes to make. (Hit 12 vs. 4 and 13 vs.3.)

The field trial started on February 11 and as of this writing (March 2) the game is fairly well played but is only roughly breaking even for the casino financially. I attribute this to the low house edge and to the fact that the players have simply been lucky.

After 60 to 90 days I can apply for a full license. Then I have to go out and sell the game. My sales skills are so bad I couldn't sell a bag of peanuts to a starving elephant. So chances are I'll never recoup the time and money I put into this game, but if I'm ever going to hit a home run I have to at least get up the plate and swing.

For more details visit my new section on Ties Win Blackjack. You can also play my free Ties Win Java game.

No more new consulting clients

While I'm talking about game development I might as well mention a big change in my consulting business. Ever since I started my website in June 1997 people have written to me wanting me to analyze their games so they could try to get them introduced into the casinos. These requests come on almost on a daily basis these days. I have tried to discourage most would-be game designers by explaining that it is extremely difficult and expensive to even get a game into a field trial, let alone get it installed at several casinos.

Many were undeterred and hired me anyway. However the vast majority of these games went nowhere and only a few had modest play in land casinos. I think the biggest flaw in most games is that they are too complicated. If you can't explain the rules of a game within 15 seconds or so players won't have the patience for it.

Recently I decided to not take any more new game design business, except from existing customers and established gaming companies. So finally I don't have to spend so much time explaining to would-be game designers why they shouldn't pursue their game, and I won't have to feel bad about taking someone's money if they didn't believe me and hired me anyway. These days I am concentrating on working for existing clients (some land and Internet casinos, and a well-known professional game design company), and updating the website.

My Super Bowl bets

I spent a lot of time analyzing and a lot of money betting on Super Bowl props. Not counting piggybackers I bet a total of $48,118.48. The bad news is I lost 7.31%. This is well within the realm of possibility, even assuming my average advantage was 10% or so. I had a lot of bets that favored New England, like NE to score first, NE to score last, and NE to score first in the second quarter. Despite the fact that New England won the game their scores were at all the wrong times for my bets. I also had a lot of action on a low number of interceptions and passing touchdowns, both of which exceeded my predictions.

The good news is that through the regular season I realized about a 20% profit on props, and still made a profit overall. So I will definitely keep betting next season.

Michael Bluejay visits

My ad man, Michael Bluejay, was here in Vegas most of February. There is seldom a dull moment when he is around. It is also nice to have a "man around the house" as I am terrible at home repairs and Bluejay is a jack of all trades when it comes to things domestic. For example we have had a slow draining clog in the bathtub for some time. I like to avoid using strong chemicals whenever I can and products like Drano are supposed to be only used on total clogs anyway. So Bluejay put a travel stove in the bathroom and then heated a 5-gallon vat of soapy water to boiling. Then he poured it in the bathtub, and voila, the clog was gone. The tub now drains like in a brand new house. Bluejay also showed me how to get the electric gate in my neighborhood to recognize my bicycle. He explained that the opening mechanism is magnetic but an upright bicycle is too far away vertically to activate it. By leaning the bike down over the magnet (you can tell where it is by seams in the asphalt) the gate opens every time. [I also set all the clocks on his electronic appliances and set the timer on his lawn watering system. You'd think a "Wizard" could figure out such things for himself. :) ] What other gambling newsletter gives you practical tips like this? I abstain from calling him the "Wizard of Ads" because we just got a letter from an advertising agency claiming we are infringing on their trademark. My lawyer and I are still discussing the matter but we probably won't be able to call him Wizard of Ads on the website any more.

From Michael Bluejay....

Can we survey you?

I like to survey our readers on occasion to get feedback about how to make the website better. For example, a while back I asked if you'd like the idea of getting rid of all the blinking banner ads in exchange for having a greater number of total ads on the site. (Eighty percent of you said yes.)

But recently the Wizard said I should stop doing the polls because polling makes us look indecisive, and we should be able to make up our own minds about how to do the site. I argued that I wasn't polling because I couldn't figure out what to do, it was more like we value our readers' opinions and we'd like to show that we're listening to what they want so we can serve them better.

So the Wizard and I reached this compromise: I ask you whether it's okay to poll you in the future, and if at least half of those voting say yes, then I can continue to poll. And in that case, if you don't want to participate in a poll you certainly don't have to....

Update: After polling was closed we removed the poll itself.

We're a little behind in cranking out these newsletters so we're actually gonna spotlight an advertiser who's no longer on the site. We promise our banner advertisers that we'll mention them in the newsletter, so better late than never.

Our spotlight today is King Solomons Casino. They use Real Time Gaming software which offers a feature that's really important to me: You can play for free or real money on the same account. Some casinos make you keep track of four different accounts depending on whether you want to play for free vs. real money, and the flash games vs. the download games. That's crazy! But King Solomons isn't crazy — one account gets you access to everything. Simple.

The Wizard says: "King Solomons is one of the oldest and well known Internet Casinos. As far as I can tell their reputation, under three different software brands, has always been solid. I personally have never had a problem."

King Solomons offers a 100% signup bonus. Deposit $100 and they'll match that with another $100 on bonus chips. If you make your deposit via NETeller then they'll bump that up to $120. Just wager 20x the deposit plus the bonus before cashing out. Here's more about King Solomons' bonus offers (link removed).

Bluejay's handy tip o' the month: Unclogging drains

Usually in this space I give you a tip about the Internet. Who could forget such classics such as Firefox offers.

tabbed web browsing, The www is optional, and How to turn off annoying animated ads? But today you're gonna get a household tip instead: How to unclog drains. Pay attention, this will save you a $50 plumbing bill some day.

The first thing is that an milligram of prevention is worth a kilogram of cure: If you don't have a little strainer cup for your sink and bathtub drains, go buy them right now. They're only about $2 each and most large supermarkets have them if the big home improvement stores frighten you. If you don't use strainers, you will get a clog, it's only a matter of time.

Okay, let's say you have a clog anyway because your sink clogged before you could get to the grocery store to buy strainers. It's easy to fix. Look under the sink and you'll notice a U-shaped pipe at the very bottom. This is called the "trap", and it's probably where your clog is. Just put a bucket under the trap and then remove the trap by using a big wrench to unscrew the nuts that hold it in place, counterclockwise. Empty the crud out of the trap and then reinstall it. Voila, problem solved.

Bathtub drains are a little tricker because you usually can't get to the trap. You can get a special, cheap tool at the hardware store called a dumbbell wrench to remove the drain, and then see if you can fish out any debris from above. Failing that, pour at least four gallons of boiling soapy water into the drain, which fixes many clogs without dangerous chemicals.

Gossip about the Wizard

One of the reasons I go visit the Wizard is so I can get juicy secrets about him to share with our readers. You may recall a recent story about how I made a wish on a penny I threw into Niagara Falls, and the Wizard, cheapskate that he is, put his wish on my penny rather than throwing his own penny in. (In the Wizard's defense, he says it was a misunderstanding and that he thought I'd invited him to wish on my penny.)

Okay, so fast-forward to the present. The Wizard's wife works as a nurse at a Las Vegas hospital, and mentioned that they recently treated a stripper who was strung out on drugs. The Wizard asked his wife to tell the stripper that he wished her a speedy recovery. His wife said, "Of all my patients, how come you only send get-well wishes to the stripper? Why don't you wish all my patients a quick recovery?" And the Wizard replied, "Well, based on what happened in Niagara Falls, I learned that you can only wish for one thing at a time."

What's new on the website

The Wizard and I have been busy as usual adding new stuff to the website and improving what's already there. Here are some highlights:

  • I reorganized the Games section on the front page so Play is clearly differentiated from Strategy.
  • A new Java game: Ties Win Blackjack.
  • More shortcuts: You can now go straight to any Java game we have by typing in For example,
  • New strategies: New info pages for 90-Number Bingo, Extreme 21, and Anything's Wild video poker.
  • Video Poker revamped. I added a handy menu to each of our video poker pages, so you can get to our other VP info easily from any VP page.
  • Ask the Wizard. The wiz answered whole bunch of new Ask the Wizard questions.
That's all. Until next time, set your expectations high.