Pala Casino Review -- 4/24/2006

The Wizard's News

April 24, 2006

Trip to the Pala casino in San Diego

The topic of this newsletter will be my trip to the Pala casino outside of San Diego. On April 10 I checked in for a one-night stay. The cost of my room was $109, booked through the casino web site. I felt like a sucker when I overheard the guy checking in ahead of me only paid $30. The rooms are big and modern, with especially nice bathrooms.

According to the casino web site, there are 85 table games. To make a comparison there are 80 at the New York New York in Las Vegas, according to The Ultimate Casino Guide. Following are the game rules I observed. The craps and the roulette game employ cards due to the laws in California which allow card games but not dice and other mechanical games.

Blackjack: Most games were 6 decks, dealer hits soft 17, double after split, and surrender allowed. The house edge under these rules is 0.54%. There were two $50 minimum games with the same rules except two decks but no surrender, with a house edge of 0.39%. Finally there were some 6 to 5 games and a Super Fun 21 game.

Craps: 3-4-5x odds were offered. The field paid 3 to 1 on a 12. The following equipment is used: (A) A red die numbered with three 1's, and three 4's, (B) a blue die numbered with three 2's, and three 3's, and (C) A 36-card deck featuring all possible permutations of two dice. Two cards are drawn at random and placed face down over red and blue regions of the table. The dice are thrown. If the red die is higher then the red card is turned over and used as the roll, if the blue die is higher then the blue card is used. Note that there can be no ties. Also the blue die is irrelevant. A 1 on the red die will always lose to the blue die, and a 4 will always win.

Roulette: Double zero. Strangely the table game required cards but a mechanical game with betting terminals did not. In the table game the wheel had 38 slots colored as follows: 12 red, 12 white, 12 blue, and 2 green. Before the spin the dealer dealt four cards face down from a 38-card card deck and placed the cards over colored regions of the table. The color the ball landed in determined which card was flipped over. In addition there was a "Super Green Bet", which pays 275 to 1 if the ball landed in green and a zero or double zero card were revealed. The probability of winning is (2/38)*(2/38) = 0.00277, for a house edge of 23.55% (ouch!).

Three Card Poker: Full pay! In other words the Pairplus pay table is 1/4/6/30/40 (house edge of 2.32%), and the Ante Bonus pay table is 1/4/6.

Video Poker: The player card application made no mention of cash or comp back. However it did boast of good mailers. Following are the pay tables I observed on the top four games from best to worst.

  • Deuces Wild: NSUD on $5 and $25 single line games (return of 99.73%). 20/12/10 on lower coinages.
  • Jacks or Better: 9/6 on $1, $5, and $25 single line games (return of 99.54%). 8/5 on lower coinages.
  • Double Bonus: 9/7 on $5, and $25 single line games (return of 99.11%). 8/5 on lower coinages.
  • Bonus Poker: 8/5 on $1, $5, and $25 single line games (return of 99.07%). 7/5 on lower coinages.

As in Iowa alcoholic beverages were not free. The two I ordered were $4.50 each. There was a glass-enclosed separate non- smoking room, roughly 10% of the total casino size. The tables in the non- smoking room were more crowded than the rest of the casino, and were closed in the morning. The only double deck blackjack games were in the main smoking section of the casino. Everything about the casino and hotel was very new and clean. I could easily say it was the cleanest casino I have ever seen, and I have seen lots. It reminded me of the fancy Baltimore hospital where my daughter was born. There was a live band playing in the casino but nobody seemed to be paying them much attention. Other than the usual swimming pool and restaurants there was nothing else to do but gamble. There was signage for some upcoming musical appearances by artists I never heard of.

Personally I played the double deck blackjack game for about 2 hours, betting $50 to $100 a hand, averaging about $60, plus about an hour of $1 video poker. The following morning I asked for a comp to the café. The lady I asked only gave me one for $20, which I thought was stingy given my play.

I would like to visit some of the other San Diego area casinos if I ever have the opportunity. With the family in tow this trip it wasn't practical this trip. The next newsletter I plan to discuss my non-gaming adventures in San Diego, including Legoland, Sea World, and Tijuana.



Ask the Wizard!

Here's an excerpt from the newest Ask the Wizard, column #161.

"Lots" are mentioned several times in the bible, most famously for using lots to decide who went home with Jesus' robe. What exactly are lots and were they used for gambling?

I asked my friend and bible expert, Tom R. the "Watchman on the Wall", this question. He quoted various bible dictionaries. The bottom line is that lots were not used for gambling but to choose a name randomly. This was accomplished by writing one name each on pieces of wood or stone, putting them in a bottle, and shaking just one out.


(Read more Ask the Wizard.)


What's new on the site

Here are the new pages I wrote for you:

  • Ask the Wizard — Columns #160 and #161.
  • Kismet software review — This is the software behind Harrod's casino, among others. Most of the games offer very liberal rules.
  • Riverboat Hold'em — This is a new poker-based table game found in Mississippi and Indiana.
  • 4-5 Bonus Poker — This is a video poker game at the MGM Grand that gives the player four cards on the deal and 5 on the draw
  • Las Vegas Crap Survey — I'm proud to add a comprehensive and current listing of the odds allowed in craps throughout the Las Vegas area. Stay tuned for similar surveys of blackjack and roulette coming soon. (Update: This was moved to my Wizard Of Vegas site after this newsletter was published.)
  • Play Double Double Bonus — Sharpen your Double Double Bonus game on my "9/6" practice game.


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 #6525 (out of 9394) Paul G. Stay tuned, you could be next month's winner.

Until next time, set your expectations high.



From Michael Bluejay....

Thanks to the 616 of you who voted on which new logo we should use on Wizard of Odds. The Wizard was happy that you readers selected his favorite. I'm bummed that mine barely lost. What the hell is wrong with you people?!

We picked a random name from all voters to win either two copies of the Wizard's book or $25 (winner's choice), and the winner is Philipp D.. (He picked the cash.) The Wizard would probably want me to mention that the expected value of voting in our survey was ($14.95 retail price x 2 copies x 1.07 for sales tax) / 616 = $0.05, which coincidentally is the same as the expected value of the free draw on the big novelty video poker machine at the entrance of the Four Queens casino in downtown Las Vegas. This means that the Wizard is just as powerful as a big downtown casino. Don't doubt it.

Anyway, now that the readers have spoken, I'll be installing the new logo soon.

Quick: Name as many Internet casino owners or executives as you can. If you could name any at all, you probably named Calvin Ayre of Bodog, and that's it. And that's one reason we partnered with Bodog: there's the human element. Most online casinos are completely faceless, you have no idea who's running them. They take your money and that's it. But at Bodog you know who you're dealing with.

In fact, Ayre has turned his ownership of Bodog into celebrity, making himself highly visible. And success doesn't hurt — he recently made the cover of Forbes magazine, in an article about the world's billionaires. (He disagrees with their characterization of Internet gambling as illegal, and so do I. I think it's much more of a gray area.) Of course being rich and famous has its ups and downs. Right after making the cover of Forbes, Costa Rican authorities raided his home where he was filming a television program, saying he was running an illegal poker game. (Ayre says he wasn't.) Well, at least he can afford a good lawyer. Whatever the outcome, we know this isn't the last we've heard about Calvin.


Bluejay's Internet Tip of the Month: Getting your site listed in search engines

Seems like everyone has a website these days. And once someone gets a site the first thing they want to do is to get it listed in search engines like Google and Yahoo. There are lots of misconceptions about how this works, which I'm about to clear up for you.

First, there's a difference between getting listed in a search engine and having your site rank well. Getting your site into a search engine is super-easy, but having it show up on the first page for phrases that people actually search for, that's harder. Today we'll cover just the first part, getting your site into the engines.

You might have heard that you need to "submit" your site to the search engines. But you don't. The engines automatically find new sites by following all the links around the Internet. As long as any other site links to yours, the engines will find it on their own. Submission is completely unnecessary. We never submitted Wizard of Odds to the search engines. There was no need.

So the engines will find your site if another site links to yours, but what if there aren't any sites that link to yours? Then you've got bigger problems. The search engines rightfully figure that any site that doesn't even have one freaking link pointing to it isn't very important, and it won't rank well. So even though you could manually submit your linkless site to a search engine, and they might eventually add it to their index, it won't rank well, so there's not much point. Solution: Make your site worthy of being linked to, and then get some other site to link to it. (Not us; we get so many requests for links every day that we just trash them all on sight.)

There are hundreds of companies that offer to take your money to perform the unnecessary submission service for you. In fact, they advertise that they'll submit your site to thousands of search engines, every month. This is just a huge scam. First of all, submission is unnecessary. Second of all, there are only a handful of search engines that matter, like Google, Yahoo, and MSN, not thousands. Finally, if submission is unnecessary, re-submission is even more unnecessary. Once a search engine knows about your site, it will keep revisiting it on its own forever, with no action on your part.

So that's how to get your site into the search engines -- just get another site to link to it, and wait a few weeks. Next time we'll cover how to get your site to actually rank well. (If you're impatient, you can read my article on the subject now.)