December 12, 2005

The Wizard's News

From the Wizard....

The Las Vegas Marathon

I'm proud to say that I completed the Las Vegas Marathon on Sunday, Dec. 4th, well within the top half of entrants even though it was my first marathon and I did only minimal training. The race started in darkness at 6:00 AM on the Strip in front of the Mandalay Bay. The "elite runners" got to start first and then at 6:10 the 11,000 ordinary runners like me started off to a fireworks display. The city had closed off traffic on all the southbound lanes on the Strip and at least one direction of traffic, and often both, the entire course.

The beginning of the race along the Strip was the best part. Although I've lived in Vegas for five years and have been coming here for 20 before that, it was nice to enjoy the Strip unobstructed by traffic, baby strollers, and escort pamphleteers. Normally the Strip is dead at six in the morning but the Bellagio fountains were squirting, the Mirage volcano was erupting, Caesar made an appearance, and the "Buck Wild" girls of the Sahara were dancing.

In the area north of the Stratosphere which I call Wedding Chapel Row, 25 couples made arrangements to have a run-through wedding (or renew their vows) at one particular chapel. You could see them lined up at the express lane on the lawn, in wedding outfits suitable for running in, with lots of Elvi (is that a word?) singing. Then it was through the Fremont Street Experience downtown and up Martin Luther King Boulevard where several church choirs sang to us along the way.

Most of the rest of the route was residential. Lots of volunteers passed out water and Gatorade at every mile marker. Many locals held signs for friends and family running, and others just cheered for everybody. Bands played at various spots along the route. My favorite entertainment was the outdoor stage and girls dancing as we passed the Striptease club on Valley View.

The last part of the race was behind the Strip casinos along Frank Sinatra Drive. Finally we made our way back to the Mandalay Bay, where the race ended in the parking lot. Overall the race was well organized and the weather was clear and sunny, although the temperature ranged in the forties. The only things I would suggest be addressed for next time would be the lack of porta-potties along the way, the clocks at mile markers not being synchronized, and some mile markers being missing or apparently in the wrong place. Any runner without a watch would have been confused if he were trying to pace himself.

I started training late, in September, and it isn't like I was a regular runner before that either. I normally get my exercise on a rowing machine while I watch the news. So I had to start at two-mile runs and build my way up. Training was going okay until I had some kind of muscle injury during a trip to California while jogging along the San Gabriel River that borders L.A. and Orange County. That took me out for almost three weeks. I believe I went a solid month without doing more than 7 miles on any one run. However after I got better I ran the 15-mile Red Rock loop every week and put in one or two short run of about 7 miles each week. Overall my training regimen was pretty weak, mostly packed into the last six weeks before the marathon. In total I estimate I only ran 200 to 250 miles to train, which from what I hear is much less than any expert would recommend. Except for the Red Rock loop I never knew how far I was running and seldom bothered to time myself. My training philosophy was "just run."

Meanwhile my webmaster, Michael Bluejay, had his training down to a science. He wore a GPS and carefully tracked his speed and distance at all times. In the office here I often saw him doing calculations on the optimal frequency and duration of walking breaks. He carefully selected music at a specific tempo for his MP3 player to be able to run to the beat of his desired pace. We were truly the Odd Couple training for the marathon.

My goal was just to finish, although I had a loftier goal of breaking five hours. I kept a pace to make that goal easily the first 20 miles or so. It was my strategy to conserve my energy for the end. However at about mile 22 my legs were getting stiff and my knees were in a lot of pain. At this point I had to take frequent walking breaks and my running speed dropped considerably. I had to face the reality that I wouldn't break five hours and then just concentrated on finishing, hoping to not be too much over five. In the end the clock at the finish line said 5:09.  However every paying runner (and many did not pay) had a timing chip, which I later learned registered 5:06.  The difference is because the clock started when the starting gun fired, but the timing chip didn't start until I actually crossed the start line. With 11,000 runners this took about 3 minutes for me to get to the start because I was about halfway to the back.

Here are some more facts about my time from the race website (link removed).

  • Chip Time: 5:06:40
  • Overall placement: 5344
  • Gender placement: 3491

Total chip time in 5-kilometer increments

  • 5K      36 minutes, 8 seconds
  • 10K     33 minutes, 36 seconds
  • 15K     34 minutes, 0 seconds
  • 20K     32 minutes, 47 seconds
  • 25K     36 minutes, 39 seconds
  • 30K     41 minutes, 11 seconds (this is where I had to make a pit stop)
  • 35K     35 minutes, 19 seconds
  • 40K     39 minutes, 20 seconds

  • First half: 144 minutes, 55 seconds
  • Second half: 161 minutes, 45 seconds

In conclusion I would like to thank the volunteers, entertainers, the city, the police, and race organizers for putting on a fun and safe run.

Bodog is our only advertiser

b>As most of you know, I've been very picky about who can advertise on Wizard of Odds, because I want to include only the most reputable operations. I've worked very hard to build a reputation as a fair and honest figure in the gaming community and I definitely did not want to ruin that by running ads for a casino that didn't pay its players properly or was guilty of spamming.

My focus on quality advertisers took a very large step forward recently when my webmaster Michael Bluejay closed a deal to sell all of the banner space on the whole site to Bodog Online Casino. This is important to me because of the thousands of places you can play online, Bodog is among the best for integrity and great customer service. Since the world of Internet gambling is almost completely unregulated and you usually have little recourse against a shady casino, the most important part of protecting yourself is to be careful about which casinos you patronize in the first place. This is why I'm happy that Bodog is the only casino advertiser on my site. I believe strongly that they are every bit as professional and safe as a major Las Vegas casino, and I'm so confident about this that I offer to talk to Bodog myself in the event a player who found Bodog through my site has a dispute that s/he can't resolve with them directly. So far no readers have had to request my assistance, and I doubt they ever will.

Starting in January, Bodog will also take over all the text ads. It may be the case that I never have another advertiser on the site. I'm happy to have Bodog as my advertiser, and Bodog will stay as long as they feel they're getting a good value, and Bluejay has been charged with making sure they feel that way.

I'm auditing two new Odds On casinos

I stopped taking new clients for my service of certifying and auditing the return percentages of online casinos a long time ago, but the Odds On software maker has been a client of mine for a long time and sometimes when they add a new casino I agree to examine their logs. Two new Odds On casinos that I'm doing this for are Fire and Ice casino and the Hot Pepper Casino. I'd like to welcome both casinos as my clients and wish them success with Odds On.

Ask the Wizard!

Here's an excerpt from the newest Ask the Wizard, column #148.

Great website! Would you please tell me how often the player and the dealer will both bust, on the same hand, when the player is using the basic strategy? - Paul from Portland, OR

In a single-player, six-deck game where the dealer hits Soft 17 the probability of the player busting is 15.68% and the dealer busting is 24.40%. Remember, the dealer will not play out his hand if the player busts first. If you add players the dealer's probability of busting will go up because there will be a greater probability of at least one player not busting.

(Read more Ask the Wizard.)

What's new on the site

I've been a busy Wizard. Here's what's new on the site:

Free book drawing winner

About every month I pick a random newsletter subscriber to receive a free copy of my book, Gambling 102. This month's winner is "aixelsyd". Stay tuned, you could be next month's winner.

Until next time, set your expectations high.


From Michael Bluejay....

My marathon experience

What the Wizard didn't tell you about the marathon was that he lost $200 to me based on my awesome finish time. He bet that I wouldn't finish in under four hours, but I squeaked by in 3:59:56. Like the Wizard, this was my first marathon, I wasn't a runner before the marathon, and I did minimal training (2.38 runs per week for 3.5 months, with an average run of 10.67 miles per run). Anyway, the moral of the story here is, in an athletic competition never bet against a vegetarian! I had the words "Vegan Power" on the front of my racing bib as I ran the race but unfortunately the spectators beyond the strip, most of whom were locals, thought that meant LAS Vegan. I also had the words "Vegetarian Power" inked onto my back with henna but only the other runners could see that.

My only complaint about the marathon was that the route had us running on a street right next to the highway for the last 2-3 miles, having to breathe all that exhaust when we were gasping for air. What the heck?! You know? Because I mean, what the heck!? I hope they fix the route for next year. Other than that it was a great experience.

My Vegas visit, and gossip about the Wizard

I come to Vegas 2-3 times a year to hang out with the Wizard (you know, do some business, run a marathon, etc.), and to take care of some other things. For example, the Wizard and I recently had breakfast with his friend Larry from and I wound up buying a 50% interest in that site. (It's like that commercial, "I liked it so much I bought the company!") Oddly enough, this isn't the first time that I carried thousands of dollars in cash on the Las Vegas bus system on my way to complete a transaction.

But that's another story. So anyway, recently the Wizard and I and some friends were having dinner at Little Buddha in the Palms, and I was disappointed to see that there was not a single vegetarian entree on the menu, which is crazy since Buddha himself was vegetarian. I filled out a customer comment card and mentioned that that omission dishonors Buddha. Okay, so anyway, one of the Wizard's friends is there with us, and his wife is expecting a baby, and so everyone is sitting there making prop bets on the birth! Like how much the baby weighs, whether there's gonna be a C-section, or an epidural, etc. Those guys will bet on anything. Once on the plane the Wizard put a peanut in the aisle and bet on whether a flight attendant would step on it. Every day here in the office he makes me bet on Final Jeopardy.

My other bit of Wizard gossip is that this Christmas he's trying to give everyone a painting of dogs playing poker.

Advertising on Wizard of Odds

Most of you know that my main job for the Wizard has been handling advertising sales. Well, now that we have but one advertiser my job has changed to Account Manager. Rather than finding advertisers and making them pay until it bleeds, now I'm responsible for keeping our one advertiser happy, forever. One thing I did was to program this awesome all-in-one ad delivery, tracking, and reporting system from scratch. It's a thing of beauty, and one of its many nice features is that it's almost impervious to bot clicks.

Anyway, the point here is that many of you ask me how you can advertise on Wizard of Odds, and the answer is you can't. The followup question is usually then, "Okay, so when can I advertise?", and the answer to that is, "Probably never." I'm not kidding. The Wizard loves Bodog so much he might as well marry them (and okay, I like them too), and Bodog seems to like us, so I don't expect that to change any time soon.

So for all the displaced advertisers I'm rounding up other quality websites for them to advertise on, which I'm listing over at I sell all space at auction, and for many of the auctions the opening bid is only a dollar. Come on, you can afford a dollar.