September 29, 2005

The Wizard's News

September 29, 2005

From the Wizard....

I'm handicapping the NFL

Now that football season is in full swing I have barely been playing video poker at all. Instead I am focusing almost all my gambling energy on the NFL. Unlike the last three seasons where I bet props almost exclusively, this year I am making my maiden voyage into the waters of handicapping.

During the summer I wrote to Don Schlesinger saying that my angle to sports betting was to assume the point spread and total were correct and use that information to predict the outcome of props according to how those props have done in historically similar games. Don's reply was that was the lazy man's way of sports betting. At first I was put off by his remark. However I have a great deal of respect for Don's opinion and after his comment knocked around my head for a few months I decided to give handicapping a try myself.

To be honest with you I would have a hard time naming ten current players in the NFL. Women often shame me in their knowledge of game compared to mine. So in my endeavor to handicap the NFL I had to treat it like a card game and look at it purely mathematically. I don't want to give away too much so all I will say is the only thing going into my picks are historical scores and home field advantage. From there I use a mathematical formula, which shall remain secret, to determine the probability of each team winning any given game, and then a corresponding fair point spread for that probability.

At first I thought this project would be a total failure and my predicted lines would be nowhere near actual lines. However I was surprised to find using my simple model that my predicted line were within two points of the actual lines about 60% of the time. In the cases where I feel the going line is too far off from my own I make it an official pick.

I created a new page to document and share my NFL picks. After the first three weeks my record is 13 wins and 7 losses against the spread, for a 65% average. Although my official picks are against the spread I'll give you newsletter readers a free tip: Instead of betting an underdog with the points (and most of my picks are underdogs) you generally get a better value betting underdogs on the money line.

I'm running the Las Vegas Marathon

In other news, both my webmaster, Michael Bluejay, and I are planning to run the Las Vegas marathon on December 4. Unlike past years, the course this year takes a scenic trip down the Strip and through downtown. So if you're in town that Sunday I welcome you to root us on, or better yet run the marathon yourself! The race starts and ends at the Mandalay Bay. Given a starting time of 6:00AM I figure to finish between 11AM and noon, just in time to catch the ending of the 10:00 games.

Ask the Wizard!

After a four-month break I've brought back the popular Ask the Wizard column. Here's an excerpt from a recent column:

Why do table games have a maximum limit, (i.e. Roulette)? A friend told me that this is to prevent a player from continuing to double his losing bet when betting red or black. I disagree as the odds obviously stay the same and the strategy does not pay well risk to reward. Why are there max limits at tables? - Mark from New York

Every casino has some kind of limits to protect itself from losing more than they are comfortable with. However on most tables the maximum is much less than it is in the high-limit area. The reason for this has nothing to do with protecting the casino against Martingale system players. Any casino manager worth his weight in salt knows betting systems always lose in the long run. I asked an executive with a major Las Vegas casino, who wishes to remain anonymous, why a casino would refuse a $10,000 in the main casino when they would accept it in the high-limit room. He said a casino manager has only so many employees he truly trusts. He prefers the big action to be under the watch of those people.

(Read more Ask the Wizard.)

What's new on the site

I have been adding a lot of new information to the website. Besides my NFL picks you can also see:

  • Ask the Wizard — I've brought back this popular column to answer your questions.
  • Wan Doy — an analysis of this new card game found at WagerWorks online casinos
  • Two Up — an Australian coin-flipping game
  • Casino Holdem — I've updated my analysis based on a special one-month computer simulation
  • Draw 6 Poker — a video poker variation in which the player sometimes gets six cards on the draw
  • Tequila Poker — an innovative new game found at the Hard Rock Casino
  • What's new — The "What's new" menu in the sidebar is now being updated regularly.
Until next time, set your expectations high. From Michael Bluejay....

You're getting the whole newsletter again, not just an announcement

Lots of mail servers block our newsletters because they think it's spam. So for the last issue we tried sending out a plain-text message announcing that the newsletter was available for reading on the website, and providing a direct link to the newsletter. More of you received that message successfully, but most didn't click over to the website to read the newsletter. So we're going back to sending out the newsletter to you directly, because more of you ultimately read it that way, even if many of you don't receive it at all.

Free book by the Wizard

In each newsletter for a while one lucky subscriber will win a free copy of the Wizard's new book Gambling 102. The winner last time was Tom Mags. This issue's winner is subscriber #3684 (of 8426), JJLBT. Wish I had a name to go along with that.

So as usual, this month 1 person won and 8,425 lost. That means that most of you are a bunch of losers. But fear not, you have another chance to win next month. And not only is your entry free, but you're also entered automatically.

Your expected value for winning the $14.95 book + $3 shipping is $17.95 / 8426 = $0.00213. But you get a free entry every month, so your odds of winning over a year are 1-(8425 ÷ 8246)12 = 0.0042, or 1 in 703. So your expected value for the whole year is $17.95 / 703 = two and a half cents. Now, I ask you, who else besides the Wizard would just offer you 2.5 cents of value out of the blue? And someone else did offer it, would you take it? Of course you would! It's free value, and you're no fool. At least that's what your neighbors say.

Bluejay's Internet tip o' the month: The Internet Archive

Ever wonder what a website looked like back in the day? Well, wonder no more, thanks to the Internet Archive. The nice folks at the archive take periodic snapshots of millions of sites on the web and store them for public access. What a remarkable service, and it's completely free.

Here you can see old versions of In the oldest versions the graphics are missing, since the archive didn't always store graphics, especially in the older years.

You'll notice that the archive for Wizard of Odds only goes back to early 2003. That's because before that we were at You can see the archive for too, and notice that it goes back to 1999. The Wizard has actually been online since 1997, at yet another earlier address, although the archive only picked that site up in early 1999. Here's the very earliest incarnation of Wizard of Odds that's archived, from January 1999.

The archive runs 6 to 12 months behind on new entries, which is why you don't see 2005 listed for most websites.

Previous Internet tips: