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Last Updated: February 24, 2006

February 24, 2006

The Wizard's News

February 24, 2006

From the Wizard....

Super Bowl success

I'm happy to say I did well on my Super Bowl props. It pains me to not elaborate on which bets I made but they were generally the same kinds of bets that are good year after year, and if I make it public what they are then you may beat me to the good lines and leave nothing for me. If only the casinos didn't move their lines on props I could probably retire.

Show review: ZUMANITY

As usual when I am lacking for a topic to write about I'll do a show review. About three months ago I saw Zumanity at the New York New York, one of four Cirque du Soliel productions playing in Vegas. Zumanity sets itself apart as the R-rated version. As with Mystere, the only other Cirque show I have seen, Zumanity is hard to describe. You could safely say it is a cross between a circus and a cabaret. Roughly alternating there are risqué sketches and acrobatic displays. The emcees are a pair of roving adult toy salesmen. Some of the most entertaining parts are their interaction with the audience. If you sit too close to the front you risk being embarrassed by them. The acrobatic portions are mostly clean. However one memorable exception is two topless Asian acrobats doing a diving/water ballet routine in a big champagne glass.

It has been a few months since I saw it and am having trouble remembering what was from Mystere and what was from Zumanity. However it doesn't really matter. The acrobatics are good in both shows. It is the cabaret routines that set them apart. My main complaint is that the adult elements of Zumanity seemed disjointed from the circus elements. The show was like two shows, flipping back and forth between two channels. With three other Cirque shows in Vegas I think Zumanity would have made more of a mark for itself if it were more of a cabaret and less of a circus.

Ask the Wizard!

Here's an excerpt from the newest Ask the Wizard, column #155.

At my local card room, they offer Aces Cracked, Win A Rack during certain hours. That is, if you have pocket Aces in one of their 3-6 or 4-8 Texas Hold 'Em games and you lose the pot, the casino will give you a rack of chips ($100). I'm trying to figure out how often a)I get pocket Aces b)how often they would lose if I played them aggressively as I'm supposed to and c)whether it's not better to just check all the way down and hope to lose, as $100 is usually better than what the pot would have been anyway. Any stats you may have at the ready would be wonderful and forever appreciated! Thanks again and keep up enlightening the masses! - Shane from Santa Rosa

Thanks for the kind words. The probability you will get pocket aces in any one hand is 6/1326, or once every 221 hands. According to my 10-player Texas Hold 'em section (/games/texas-hold-em/10players.html) the probability of winning with pocket aces is 31.36%, assuming all players stay in until the end. However that is a big if. If forced to make a guess I'd estimate the probability of winning with aces in a real 10-player game is about 70%. So the probability of getting pocket aces and then losing is 0.3*(1/221) = 0.1357%. So, at $100 per incident that is worth 13.57 cents per hand. Over ten people that costs the poker room $1.36 per hand on average, which cuts into the rake quite a bit. I tend to agree with your strategy of calling, which will keep more players in the hand, and increase your chance of losing.

(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 #153, #154, and #155.
  • No Bust 21 — This is a blackjack variant I've seen at the Sahara for years but always put off the analysis because it involves jokers. However when it appeared at the Hard Rock I finally analyzed it.
  • Ace Invaders — This is three-hand video poker game in which aces can drop down from hands above to help those below. It is an interesting game and a difficult analysis so please have a look.
  • Black Jack Bonus Poker — This is a video poker variation I noticed at the Gold Coast that pays a premium for a four of a kind with a black jack
  • Ace & Deuce Bonus Poker — This is a video poker variation I noticed at the Gold Coast that pays a premium for aces and deuces.


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 subscriber #5113 (out of 9219) LongNex. Stay tuned, you could be next month's winner.

Until next time, set your expectations high.

 

From Michael Bluejay....

Random bits of news

The big news for me is that I got mugged a few nights ago, though the mugger did not, I repeat, did NOT get my wallet. (If you were thinking of trying to steal my wallet, be advised that you're gonna have to work for it.) Yes, I got hurt, being as the guy pounced on me from behind and as I went down I smashed my head on the guy wire holding up the telephone pole. But a little concussion never hurt anyone. I was going to include a picture of my head but figured the Wizard would decide it was too gross.

In online gaming news, every year a Republican member of the U.S. Congress tries to outlaw Internet gambling, and this year is no different. So far all their efforts have failed but this year could be the year they make it happen. Here's more about the new bill from iGamingNews (link removed) and ArsTechnica (link removed).

In Vegas news, my favorite casino, The Stratosphere, has dismantled one of the four thrill rides at the top of the tower to make way for a new attraction. The ride they axed was the High Roller, the roller coaster that circled the tower. Though the High Roller was the least-scary ride, I still thought it was neat to have a ride that went all the way around the tower, and gave you a 360-degree view of Vegas — not to mention looking impressive from the ground. No word on what the new attraction replacing the High Roller will be. Stay tuned.

Bluejay's Internet Tip of the Month - Secure banking logins

You would think that your bank would make sure their website is secure so that no one can steal your login info, right? Well, if your bank or credit card company is American Express, Bank of America, Chase, Discover, First Equity, MBNA, Providian, Wachovia, or Washington Mutual, then think again. (Banks that are not so careless with your account security include Advanta, CapitalOne, Citibank, and Peoples.)

It's easy to tell whether your connection to your bank is secure: the address bar will start with https:// instead of http://. (Note the "s".) When you're on a page with https://, all information is scrambled in both directions, so if someone is eavesdropping on your connection, all they get is scrambled data. If your page is plain http://, your login data is vulnerable.

What's worse, the banks with the insecure logins incorrectly tell you that their logins are in fact secure! They invariably show padlock icons with reassuring words like "Secure Area", and often those icons are linked to pages that give you some B.S. about how the page is actually secure even though it's not an https:// page because your login data is encrypted as soon as you hit the Submit button to send it to the bank. But they're dead wrong about your login info being secure. They're not only giving you an insecure login, they're lying about it.

In a minute I'll give you the technical details as to why they're wrong (if you're interested), but more importantly you're probably wondering, "Okay, so what do I do about this?" First, consider changing banks. Any bank which plays fast and loose with your account security — and then lies to you about it -- doesn't deserve your business. If you don't want to go that route, than a less drastic course of action is to find the secure login page on your bank's website. For most bank websites it's easy: Just type in the wrong username and password, and then you'll be taken to an error page which is properly secure, which you can verify from the https://. If that doesn't work then click around the bank's website and try to find another login page. Often you can click the padlock next to the login button which will take you to the bank's B.S. explanation about how the login is supposedly secure, but right under that they may provide a link to a real, secure login page. Finally, you can try just typing in the "s" when you're first loading the website, like https://www.bankname.com. That doesn't work with most of them, and I didn't try them all, but I found it does work with Discover Card and Wachovia.

Here's the technical explanation for those who want it: Your bank wants to put the login form right on their home page so that customers don't have to bother clicking over to a separate login page. That means the home page should be secure. But secure pages have a downside: they're slow. Your bank's computer has to scramble the web page before it sends it to you, and your computer has to unscramble the page when it receives it. Banks don't want their home page to be slow!

So the banks had two choices: they could either keep the home page fast by making it insecure and having customers click over to a separate, secure login page in order to log in, or they could put the login form on the home page and make it secure, in which case the home page was slow. Banks didn't like either of these options, so they dreamed up what they thought was a good workaround, except they're wrong.

When you click a Submit button on a web page, your login data is sent to some web address, and it can be either an http:// or an https:// address. The banks thought, "Aha! We'll put the login form on a plain, insecure page, but the Submit button will send the login data to our https:// address, so the user's login data will be scrambled and no one will be able to intercept it. That way we'll be able to have a fast-loading home page and the login will still be secure."

Here's why that doesn't work: A hacker listening in on the conversation can intercept the bank's home page as it's sent to your computer. The hacker changes the code of the page so that the Submit button will send the login form to https://www.HackerWebsite.com instead of to https://www.BankName.com. When the page loads in your computer it doesn't look any different than normal. You type in your username and password and click Submit, and your login info is sent straight into the hands of the hacker. The hacker then sends the same login info to your bank so that you successfully log into your bank's website, and you're none the wiser. But later the hacker can go log into your bank account himself.

Yeah, it's unlikely this will happen, but definitely not impossible. I never thought I would get mugged walking home from the store a block from my house, but I sure think about that possibility differently now.

The banks' method of security is like having a house with two doors and locking only one of them. That's stupid from a security standpoint. Your security is only as good as your weakest link. Banks have been warned not to use this insecure method by Netcraft and Microsoft for almost a year now, but most banks aren't listening. As is often the case, it's up to consumers to look after their own interests.