October 15, 2005

From the Wizard....

Ultimate Blackjack Tournament

I played in the Ultimate Blackjack Tour recently. This will be a televised tournament, hoping to rival the many poker tournaments, because there are still more blackjack players than poker players. Lots of big names were there, which I won't bother to list. At my table there were many big names in poker, namely Johnny Chan, Annie Duke, Rick Casper, Steve Flax, Ken Einiger, Nicki Lyons, and myself. The rules called for a mandatory elimination at hands 8, 16, and 25. After 30 hands the top two players would advance. There was also one secret bet per person, to make things even more interesting.

I wrote up my summary in detail for this newsletter. Then I remembered that I signed a huge contract of about 12 pages, which I didn't bother to read. However it probably said somewhere I'm not supposed to reveal the outcome before the show airs, so I won't. I will say I chatted with Johnny Chan during and after the competition and found him to a very nice and approachable person. He even offered to give me some poker lessons, but I'm not serious enough about that game to warrant wasting his valuable time.

I stuck around for hours afterward waiting for my exit interview but other players were getting impatient over the long wait and left, which I eventually did as well. The show will probably take months to edit but when I hear it is ready I'll be sure to alert you to watch the show.

My NFL picks

In the last Ask the Wizard column I said that I would give my newsletter readers my thoughts on all the NFL games. This goes beyond the best picks I give on the site. However, I want to be clear that I only wish to be officially judged by the picks on the site. I'm not one of those touts who puts out various different levels of picks, hoping that at least one set does well enough to brag about. So the following is "off the record."

As I write this it is Tuesday evening, so lines may have changed by the time you read this.

Atlanta Falcons vs. New Orleans Saints: This one is an official pick on New Orleans at +5.5. My spreadsheet shows this game should be almost even, so to get 5.5 points is great value. However I personally have reservations after Green Bay beat New Orleans 52 to 3 last week (ouch!) but my model tends to value long-term performance over the short-term.

New York Giants vs. Dallas Cowboys: The line on this game is Dallas -3.5. That is exactly where I would put the line so I don't like either side.

Miami Dolphins vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The line on this game is Tampa Bay -4.5. Personally I would make it -4, but that isn't enough to bet Miami.

Cleveland Browns vs. Baltimore Ravens: The line on this one ranges from -5 to -6. Personally I think it should be -7.5. I'm using Caesars/Hilton as my official line source, and they have this one at -5.5. This is not quite enough to make Baltimore -5.5 an official pick, but it is close.

Carolina Panthers vs. Detroit Lions: The line on this one is zero to Detroit a one-point favorite. Personally I think Carolina should be the one point favorite. So Carolina is a small play, but not enough to be an official pick.

Washington Redskins vs. Kansas City Chiefs: The line on the Chiefs ranges from -5.5 to -6. My opinion is it should be -7. So I think Kansas City is the better side of that game, but again not enough to make it an official pick.

Minnesota Vikings vs. Chicago Bears: The line on this game is Minnesota +3. At most places you have to lay -120 on Minnesota, and get even money on Chicago. I find the game to be about even so to get three points on either side, even if you have to lay -120, a good bet. So Minnesota +3 is an official pick.

Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: Caesars/Hilton have not yet posted a line on this one yet but other casinos have the Steelers a 3-point favorite. Before considering Ben Roethlisberger's injury last week I would have made the Steelers a 9-point favorite. Based on other sources on the effect of the injury I think the line is too depressed on the Steelers. So I plan to make Steelers -3 an official pick as soon as Caesars posts it.

Cincinnati Bengals vs. Tennessee Titans: The line on this game is Titans +3. Most casinos, including Caesars have it at -110 both ways. I think it should be a pick 'em, so Titans +3 is a strong bet and is an official pick.

New York Jets vs. Buffalo Bills: The line on this one is generally Buffalo as a 3-point favorite. That is exactly where I would put it so no opinion on this game.

San Diego Chargers vs. Oakland Raiders: Most books have San Diego as a 2.5 point favorite. Again, this is exactly where I would put it so I don't like either side of this one.

New England Patriots vs. Denver Broncos: I love New England +3 in this game. As I've said before I respect long-term strength over short-term hot spurts, which is how I see this game. I would make the fair line as New England being the 3-point favorite, not Denver. If you bet just one game I would make it New England +3, or better yet New England money line.

Houston Texans vs. Seattle Seahawks: Everyone seems to have Seattle as a 9.5 point favorite. I would make them only an 8-point favorite. So I marginally like Houston +9.5, but not enough to make it an official pick.

St. Louis Rams vs. Indianapolis Colts: Indy is a 13.5 favorite in this game. My model makes them only a 10-point favorite. However I concede I don't trust my methodology as much with extremely lopsided games like this one. There was a similar situation last week in the San Francisco/Indy game, and I made San Francisco +14.5 an official pick, and lost. It is a marginal decision but I'm not making St. Louis an official pick in this one. However I personally made a small money line bet on the Rams.

My record after five weeks is 17 wins and 13 losses for a win rate of 56.7%. This is about as good as it gets for good long-term handicappers. So I would be happy to maintain that percentage.

Since the last newsletter I've published two new Ask the Wizard columns, #141 and #142. Here are some excerpts:

Why do people insist on believing in betting systems and beating house odds when they know better? There are plenty of folks who are unaware of either rules or probabilities, but some of us know both well and still insist that through a betting system, timing, or some other fallacious method that the house can be beat. I know that your degree is in math, not psychology, but by your experience you also must have some insight into the gambler's mind that gives you an idea about what motivates this line of thinking... right? - Brendan from Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Good question. I have run across numerous system believers and the one thing they all seem to have is a lot of conceit. Despite the fact that they never seem to have gone much past algebra, if they made it that far, they all think they know better than greatest names in mathematics. This inability to consider contradicting evidence or other points of view is certainly not confined to betting system chasers. The more ridiculous a belief is the more tenaciously it tends to be held, and there is no shortage of ridiculous things for weak-minded people to believe in.

Very simple question on the online gaming side. Casino states that their RNG gives back for example 96.7. We're all aware that payment companies charge them as a merchant, let's say an industry avg. 3.5% transaction fee on the drop (not on the take). So where is the operator making all their money or are the RNG's all playing with us? - Josh from Stamford

The 96.7% applies to total money bet and transaction fees generally only apply to deposits and/or withdrawals. Players generally circulate through the same money and thus bet much more than they deposit. As I discussed in the September 18, 2005, column a player could bet through about 1.5 million dollars with a $10,000 bankroll and betting $5 at a time in blackjack. In this case the casino would make their profit based on 1.5 million in bets but pay expenses based only on $10,000.

(Read more Ask the Wizard.)

What's New on the Site

I have been adding a lot of new information to the website, including:
  • Ask the Wizard -- Columns, #141 and #142.
  • Bad Beat Jackpots — You've been asking for it for years. At last I present my analysis of the Station Casinos bad beat jackpots.
  • Double Draw Aces — This is a video poker variation found at the Frontier in which the player can draw twice to two or more aces on the deal.
  • Ties Win Blackjack — The Nevada Gaming Commission just approved my game Ties Win Blackjack for general use. If any Nevada casino is interested in offering the game please contact me. The first casino to accept can lease it for free.
  • NFL Picks — My free picks for NFL games.
Until next time, set your expectations high.

The Wizard says... King Solomons has been around almost from the beginning of Internet gambling and seem to have developed a solid reputation. I played them back when they used Microgaming but they have since switched to Aqua Cytech and then again to Real Time Gaming, where they are today. King Solomons offers a 100% bonus on deposits up to $100, plus 50% on second deposits up to $500, for a total of $350 ($100+$250). The 100% bonus can be repeated every month. The bonus looks to be fully-cashable, not phantom or sticky.

You have two choices for how to play the bonus:

  • Regular Games, with a 20x deposit + bonus playthrough requirement. You can't play any of the blackjack games or Tri-Card poker, nor can you play craps, baccarat, or war for that matter.
  • Blackjack, with a 45x deposit + bonus playthrough requirement. You can play ONLY the blackjack games and Tri-Card poker.

Since the best games are excluded for the regular bonus, I recommend the blackjack bonus, which is a better bet even with the higher playthrough requirement.

To claim the 100% bonus for blackjack visit the Cashier page in the casino software, click "Redeem Coupon" and input the code BJ101. The code for the 50% bonus on the second deposit is BJ102. You're supposed to do this before you make a deposit but it looks like it also works if you deposit first, as long as you haven't started betting yet.

Bluejay says...

I'm glad that King Solomons switched from Microgaming because now I can pick my own username and I can play with fake money or real money on the same account. (Microgaming gives you a ridiculously long, cryptic username, and makes you have separate accounts for freeplay vs. real play.) So that's a good change. When KS started advertising they offered a simple 50% bonus so that's what I did, depositing $250 and getting a $125 bonus. First I bet 1/4 of my bankroll each hand until I'd doubled it to $750, so I'd have a better chance of riding out the playthrough requirement without busting. I won most of my first few hands so I got up to $750 pretty easily. I then started betting $25/hand but went on a big losing streak. When I got down to $300 I started betting 1/4 of my bankroll again, but it was too late, and I tapped out shortly thereafter. Well, you don't win every time, but if you play bonus offers right you still win more often than you lose.

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