February 3, 2006

From the Wizard....

You may remember from the last newsletter that I ran the Las Vegas Marathon last month.  Since then I've been trying to stay in half the shape I was that day.  I run my same 6-mile training course once or twice a week and ran the 15-mile Red Rock loop two weeks ago. My plan is to get back into mountaineering now that I don't have to keep up my 40 miles of running per week. 

On the gambling front I have been busy analyzing Superbowl props. Unfortunately I was out of town the three days following the conferance championships, when most of the sports books put out their lines. The lines at Harrah's and the Palms were very soft, with huge advantages on some bets to be had. Unfortunately I was not the one to get them. By the time I made it to the window a few days later all the good stuff was long gone. It was very depressing to be told bet after bet the lines had moved against to the point at which they were no good any longer. I would like to say kudos to the Las Vegas Hilton, they had some very well set lines this year. I have been saving money all year for this and I doubt I will even bet half of it.

Bluejay and I visited the offices of our advertiser, Bodog, earlier this month, and he'll have more to say about that below.

Trip to San Jose, Mexico

Recently my wife, two kids, and I went on vacation for six days to San Jose, Mexico, which is on the southern end of the Baja California peninsula, 30 kilometers east of Cabo San Lucas.  I had won a week in the Gambling Federation condo there in a charity auction at the Global Interactive Gaming Congress and Expo in Montreal in July.  I was the only bidder at the $1000 minimum. The condo we were provided with was right on the beach in a nice complex just outside of San Jose.  In the condo next to ours was Canadian artist Brent Heighton, who I found very friendly and enjoyable.  Rather than bore you with my entire trip I'll highlight what I learned.

  1. San Jose is a small, older, and quiet town.  It was very friendly but there wasn't much to do besides shopping and eating. 
  2. Cabo San Lucas is very Gringofied.  In my opinion it is a tourist trap catering to the cruise ships and the sport-fishing crowd.  It was fast, noisy, with people at every turn trying to get you to attend timeshare presentations.  In town there are lots of bars, restaurants, and high end shopping, as well as chain stores like Home Depot and Costco.
  3. The must-do activity in Cabo San Lucas is a boat tour of the arch and surrounding beaches.  There are lots of people along the boardwalk selling rides for around $10 per person.
  4. Personally I enjoyed snorkeling at Santa Maria bay, between San Jose and Cabo San Lucas.  The fish on the right side were plentiful and big.  Brent Heighton whom I mentioned earlier suggested filling a water bottle with bread to feed the fish.  I used uneaten French fries instead from lunch in Cabo.  When I went out into the water and opened the bottle I was swarmed by hundreds of large fish about a foot long.  They were so thick I could see nothing but fish.  Long after the fries were gone they continued following me around.
  5. Do NOT bring a lot of U.S. currency or traveler's checks.  Although the official exchange rate at the time was $1 = 11.6 pesos I was screwed at about 90% of places with only a 10 to 1 exchange rate.  In retrospect I should have loaded up on pesos at the ATM in the airport.  Yes, I would have incurred a foreign ATM fee, but the exchange rates on ATM's are quite fair.  I probably lost about $100 due to the lousy exchange rate in stores, while a foreign ATM fee might have been only a few dollars.  Plus you look more experienced and informed when using the local currency.
  6. My guidebooks were overly cautions about what to eat and drink.  For example they said to not drink any beverage with ice or any food with lettuce.  We all ate and drank anything that came our way and had no problems, although I'm sure it helps to buy at the nicer places. 
  7. The airport road saves a lot of time driving to and from the airport and cuts through some very scenic areas.  It is well worth the modest fee.
  8. A good thing to say to get rid of the pesky time-share people is to say you already have one. 

Overall I had a very nice and relaxing time.  The beaches there were spectacular and the water, even in December, was great for swimming.  Cabo is just a two-hour direct flight from Vegas so I hope to return soon.

Ask the Wizard!

Here's an excerpt from the newest Ask the Wizard, column #152.

Harrods is having a promotion with your Ties Win Blackjack game where if I win five hands/bets in a row I win back the lowest bet in that sequence. As I flat-bet I will effectively win back one of my bets. Should I have chosen another game to play for this promo? Roulette is excluded but all other games at Harrods are permitted. Thanks, Mick from Port Kembla

Thanks for playing it. Yes, Ties Win Blackjack was a good choice for this promotion. The probability of a full win is 43.314%, a half win is 8.75%, and a loss is 47.936%. So the probability of any win is 52.064%. The probability of five consecutive wins is 0.520645 = 3.825%. Flat betting this results in an extra 3.825% of return for the player. The house edge normally is 0.247%, so the player advantage under this promotion would be 3.5785%. However I find no mention of this promotion on the casino web site and given my usual 2-3 week delay to answer e-mail it is probably over.

(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:
  • Ask the Wizard — Columns #149, #150, #151, and #152.
  • Royal Aces Bonus Poker — This is a video poker variation I noticed in Mesquite that pays 800 for four aces.
  • Ultimate Texas Holdem — This is a new poker based game by shufflemaster. This game took me months to analyze so please humor me and have a look.
  • My license plate collection (link removed) — This is on my personal site rather than Wizard of Odds, and has nothing to do with gambling, but I thought I would share it anyway.

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 Bob Hann. (Bob Dancer was so close.) Stay tuned, you could be next month's winner.


Until next time, set your expectations high.

From Michael Bluejay....

The Wizard and I visit Bodog

Last week the Wizard and I visited Bodog's offices to check out their operation and meet with more of their staff. We'd already met with many of their key people in Las Vegas but this was a chance to meet even more, and to see their offices in action. It was all very impressive, especially their customer service operation where we were able to hear how well Bodog reps handled incoming customer calls. All in all our experience cemented our feeling that we picked one of the best online gaming operators around to be our sole advertiser on the site. You go to many gaming websites and it seems like they'll advertise anyone, but we feel good about the fact that we're a little different by being picky.

You can thank the Wizard for talking Bodog into offering better odds on their games. The field bet in their craps game now pays triple on the 12, and the Tri-Card Poker game now pays 30 to 1 for a three of a kind. And Bodog still offers the amazing 99.95% return on Pick 'em Poker.

Bodog is also offering a bunch of new games in their download version, including:

  • Six new 20-line slots: Rain Dance, Red Sands, Mister Money, Sunken Treasure, Tiger Treasure, and Vikings Voyage.
  • Caribbean Hold'em Poker, a sister game to the already successful Caribbean Stud Poker. Players play a variation of Texas Hold'em against the casino. The player can win the progressive jackpot with a Royal Flush on the first five cards (two player cards and three community cards). They can also win an optional bonus for a progressive jackpot with at least a Flush on the first five cards and a better hand than the dealer's hand. Caribbean Hold'em Poker shares a progressive jackpot with Caribbean Stud Poker allowing the jackpot to accumulate quickly.
  • Bonus Bingo, based on the traditional bingo games. The graphics and animation are rich and intense.The player plays up to four, 25-spot bingo cards and tries to create specific patterns on each card by matching the 44 bingo balls drawn. But Bonus Bingo goes beyond traditional bingo with special features such as multipliers, scatter wins, and a bonus round. The Bonus Bingo bonus round is based on is triggered when the player captures five Joker balls. To capture five Joker balls, a player must play approximately 250 games using all 4 cards.

Web-based players get three new video poker games, too: Bonus Deuces Wild, Bonus Poker Deluxe, and Joker Poker. Finally, Bodog has updated its poker software with a bunch of improvements, including a feature not found in any other poker software that we know of: after you select your seat, all the player positions will rotate so that your position is right in front of you, just like it would be in real life.

Bluejay's Internet Tip of the Month: Special secure passwords

Here's one my very best tips, never before published anywhere.

Many people use the same password for all their online accounts. That's convenient, but it's insecure. If you always use the same password then a rogue employee at any website you have an account with could have access to all your accounts. It's safer to have a unique password at every site you have an account with, but then you'd have to keep a big list of passwords somewhere and look up your password every time you need to log on somewhere. That's pretty inconvenient.

So here's my solution: Use passwords based on the initials of the website you're logging in to, plus some other characters. Now you've got a unique password for every site you log into, and you'll know it without having to look it up.

For example, let's make our password the initials of the website you're logging into plus the characters "637uuu". For your Yahoo Mail account, your password would be ym637uuu, and for your PayPal account it would be pp637uuu.

That's already very secure, but you can go one step further. You can split up the initials, putting them on opposite ends of the password: Initial #1 + 637uuu + Initial #2. So with that method we'd have y637uuum or p637uuup.

For extreme security you can go even further, by using "637uuu" in certain circumstances and "429elf" in others. Or you could shift the initials of the website in question forward by one letter, so that "ym" would become "zn", and "pp" would become "qq".

The possibilities for methods and variations are endless. But whatever you choose, you've got a unique password for every website you log onto, and it's a password you know without having to look it up. Neat!