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Last Updated: May 23, 2006

May 23, 2006

The Wizard's News

May 23, 2006

From the Wizard ....

I'm giving away $100

Before I tell you about my success in betting on the Academy Awards, Bluejay insists that I first tell you about the $100 drawing we're having, to make sure you didn't miss it since it's at the bottom of the newsletter.

My bets on the Academy Awards

In my March 13, 2004 newsletter I lamented betting against the favorites in the academy awards.  In the two Academy Awards since then I have done the opposite and bet only on the favorites.  In 2005 I did well, winning everything except a small bet on The Aviator.  Million Dollar Baby and Best Director were too close to call for both Best Director and Best Picture. 

My bets were profitable this year as well.  After my victories betting the favorites in both 2005 and the 2006 Golden Globes I was confident going into the 2006 Academy Awards.  Although I saw few of the movies I went up and down the list at the Bodog, Pinnacle, and Olympic sport books, betting the favorites. 

The big night started badly with Paul Giamatti, the favorite for best supporting actor, losing.  However that was a close category and I only bet $163.  Still I was 0 for 1 and my confidence was shaky.  Then I hit win after win on the awards for director, actors, actress, supporting actress, documentary, original screenplay, visual effects, and art direction.  Towards the end of the evening I was up $2202 and feeling good. 

However, I was a bit nervous about the very last award on best picture.  The newspaper that morning and the pre-award show commentator mentioned that Crash was getting a lot of last minute hype, and Brokeback Mountain was far from a sure thing.  Then Jack Nicholson came to the stage.  Just two words away from sealing a very nice evening.  I've been a Jack Nicholson fan from Five Easy Pieces to About Schmidt and was hoping one of my favorite actors wouldn't let me down, after decades of support.  Then he did that thing with his eyebrows and a surprised look came over his face that only Jack could do.  I knew I lost before he spoke a word.  Then he said it.  My winnings for night crashed. 

I still had a win for the night of $827, or a profit of 5.04%.  However, had Brokeback Mountain won it would have been a win of $2502 and a 15.27% profit.  The following table shows how I did overall on each bet.

2006 Academy Awards







Best picture

Brokeback Mountain





Best director

Ang Lee





Best actor

Philip S Hoffman





Best actress

Reese Witherspoon





Best supporting actor

Paul Giamatti





Best supporting actress

Rachel Weisz





Best documentary

March of the Penguins





Best Original Screenplay






Best visual effects

King Kong





Art direction

Memoirs of a Geisha








When I told this story after the fact most everybody commented, "I could have told you Crash would win."  However, none of these experts took advantage of the roughly 4 to 1 odds they could have had.  Next year I plan to stay the course and keep betting the favorites.


Ask the Wizard!

Here's an excerpt from the newest Ask the Wizard, column #164.

In your April 5, 2006 column you state that if there are only two cases left in Deal or no Deal and the million dollars is still in play then the probability my case has the million is 50-50. I disagree. Isn't this just a variation of the Monty Hall problem? That is, the million is more likely to be on the stage than in his case? — Jason from Pasadena, CA No. I'm getting lots of people arguing with me about this one. Many writers claim that probabilities can not change if additional information is introduced. So if the probability starts at 1 in 26 then it must stay there. Contrary to what betting system salesmen say, probabilities indeed can change as additional information is introduced. I don't want to try to teach basic probability here but any college level math book on conditional probability or Bayes' Theorem should cover this topic nicely.

The Monty Hall problem does not apply to Deal or No Deal. On "Let's Make a Deal" Monty Hall knew where the top prize was. On Deal or no Deal, Howie Mandell does not. The fact that Monty was predestined to open a curtain with a goat does not add any information about your curtain, thus the probability that the chosen curtain has the car remains at 1/3. In Deal or No Deal nothing is predestined, thus every suitcase that is opened changes the odds of every remaining case equally. For more on the Monty Hall problem visit my other web site, problem 186.

(Read more Ask the Wizard.)

What's new on the site

Here are the new pages on the site for you:

  • Ask the Wizard — Columns #162, #163, and #164.
  • Blackjack House Edge Calculator — A new and improved to include many more rule variations.
  • World Series of Poker (Final Table Bonus) — This is a new video poker game featuring a Texas Hold'em based bonus round. The analysis took me weeks to do and is one of my prouder achievements so please have a look.
  • English Harbour issue — From April 13 to May 2, 2006 there was a software bug affecting double-up bets in video poker on casinos using Odds On software. Here is my analysis and report about the issue.
  • Joker Poker — My joker poker game is new and improved. Added are an advice button and eligibility for the Royal Flush Club. The graphics were also improved.
  • Crap side bets — Sam's Town has added four new side bets to their game.
  • Emperor's Challenge — A new pai gow poker side bet seen at Hooter's.

Until next time, set your expectations high.

From Michael Bluejay....

Website makeover, and $100 drawing

The Wizard wanted a simpler design for the website, and wanted me to get rid of that red beveled background we've had on top of the page and in the sidebar for several years. So I did it, and you can see how the site looks now.

I knew that some readers wouldn't like the brilliant white that the Wizard wanted for the background, but I also knew that no one color would please everyone, so I came up with a nifty solution: Pick your own background color! On the top of every page there's a color palette where you can choose your favorite. But uh-oh, the Wizard's not keen on that feature and thinks we should remove it, though he said he'll reserve judgement pending the responses we get from our readers.

Speaking of that, here's the deal: Share your opinion about the new design with us, and we'll enter you in a drawing to win $100. Critical comments are fine, but if there's something you don't like, then let us know what you'd prefer instead. If you don't like the new pull-down menus, then what do you want instead? If you don't like the colors, then what colors do you want? Be specific. Also be sure to compare the new design to our old design (link removed). For a couple of days we had a feedback form on the front page asking what people thought of the new design, and they invariably said "I like the new three-column layout" or "I hate the new three-column layout", which is crazy because the number of columns didn't change. Three columns before, three columns now. Someone also complained about the new smaller type size, even though the type is the exact same size as it was before. It's pretty baffling because we had a link to the old design, and made specific mention that to enter the drawing your comments had to be specific enough that we could tell you were familiar with the old design.

Note that fewer than 700 people entered the last contest, so your chances of winning this contest are about 375 times better than winning the top jackpot on a slot machine on one spin. But don't register a bunch of different email addresses to enter multiple times. This contest is limited to people who are already subscribed as of right now (and the few people who filled out the form while it was on the home page).

Okay, let 'er rip:

Update: Contest details removed.

Bluejay's Internet Tip of the Month: Getting your site ranked well search engines

In my last article I told you how to get your website listed in the search engines. I mentioned that there's a big difference between getting listed and ranking well. We saw last time that to get listed all you have to do is get another site to link to yours. This time we'll cover how to get your site to rank well.

If the phrase(s) you're trying to rank well for aren't competitive (that is, few other sites are using the same phrase) then it's pretty easy: Just put the phrase(s) you want to rank well for in the <title></title> tag and in at least one other area on the page. Yeah, this may be obvious, but it's not obvious to everyone: I can't remember how many times someone has sought my advice about how to rank well for some phrase, and I check out their page and that phrase is nowhere to be found! A friend asked me a while back how to get her homepage to rank well for her name, which was unusual enough that it should have been easy to rank for. After I checked out her page I felt like asking her, "And it didn't occur to you to put your name somewhere on that page?!" Actually, her name was on her page, but in a graphic. Google can't read that, they have no idea what words are contained in an image. And her <title> tag just said "Home". How is Google supposed to know that her page was about Sally Thunderpizza? (Not her real name.)

So anyway, for non-competitive phrases, just put the phrases you want to rank for in the <title> and in the body copy of your page. For example, you should be able to get to #1 in Google within a month for the phrase martian pudding headache. Go ahead, try it.

Okay, but what if your phrase is competitive? Let's say you want to rank well on terms such as these, for which there are lots ands lots of other pages that use those same terms:

Competitive Phrases

baccarat odds

caribbean stud

joker poker

sic bo

betting systems

casino war

pai gow poker

spanish 21

blackjack odds chart

four card poker

roulette odds

three card poker

blackjack switch

jacks or better

It just so happens that is #1 in Google for all those searches. Not just on the front page, but on the front page and in the #1 position. And how did we get to #1 for all those terms? Listen carefully, I'll tell you exactly how we did it:

We built a good website.

I'm not kidding, that's how you get to the top of the search engines: You build quality. The engines are pretty good at figuring out what's quality and what's crap, and the cream rises to the top. And it makes sense: If you want to be at the top of the search engines, then you need to deserve to be at the top of the search engines. And if you deserve to be, you probably will be.

Right away I know that some of you are thinking that the key is to figure out how Google evaluates the quality of a website, so you can try to make Google "think" you have a good site. But if you're thinking that then you're missing the point. It's like when scientists discovered that people who ate more fruits and vegetables and less meat and dairy were healthier and lived longer, partly because they were eating less fat. The proper response is obviously to eat more fruits and vegetables and less meat and dairy. But instead people responded by eating all those new processed "low-fat" snacks, which didn't do them any good. It's the same way on the web. You shouldn't be trying to figure how to outsmart the search engines, you should just eat your vegetables — in web terms, you should build a quality site.

So while I'm not going to tell you how the engines determine quality, I will tell you what constitutes quality to people, which is what matters. Take We feature:

  • Really, really, really good content
  • Exclusive content, not available anywhere else
  • Lots of content
  • A high content-to-advertising ratio
  • A layout that doesn't waste space, so you can see a lot of content at once without scrolling
  • Interactive content (i.e. "Ask the Wizard")
  • Fast-loading pages
  • No annoying animated ads
  • Free-play games, which play right away without popups or registration
  • No popup windows

Do the search engines consider those items? No, not specifically, at least not for most of them. But the Wizard didn't create his site for the search engines, he created it for people. He didn't think, "I'll write articles about lots of casino games in order to impress Google." Instead, he wrote his articles to share information, and Google wound up being impressed that he created something that others consider useful. There's a saying, show me your friends and I'll tell you what kind of person you are. If you make friends on the web by offering quality, then Google will know what kind of site you are.

Let's say you want our #1 spot for spanish 21 for your own page. Instead of asking yourself, What tricks can I employ on my page to get it to rank higher? the proper question you should be asking is, How can I make my Spanish 21 page better than the Wizard's? Build a better mousetrap, and you'll be rewarded.

The Wizard's site isn't a fluke, either. I personally have #1 rankings for my own sites for highly competitive searches like cheapest airfare, buy a house, saving electricity, and, of course, martian pudding headache. (Okay, that last one isn't competitive, but I couldn't resist.)

Sure, there are some more details about getting to the top of the search engines, but that's most of it in a nutshell. For more details you can read my article on the subject now. Good luck!