January 31, 2007

The Wizard's News

From the Wizard....

Bingo: A chance to beat the house

The one thing in common about situations in which the player has an advantage over the casino is that such cases are rare. There are some positive-expectation versions of video poker, however few casinos have them, and they usually have a small number of machines at a denomination too low to bother playing. One can win at blackjack by counting cards, however it is hard to have an advantage and be welcomed for long. There are other angles too in sports betting, poker, and other games, however they either require a high degree of skill or else the rewards aren't very large.

My newest research has uncovered a heretofore unknown opportunity to beat the casino: the game of bingo. However as with all the other examples the situations in which you can realize this advantage are rare. On the other hand what makes this find different is the degree of advantage the player can get. According to my research it may be as high as 40%!

One of the biggest voids on my site is the topic of bingo. I do have tables of bingo probabilities but nothing about the actual value to the player. Earlier I reasoned that I could not provide that information because the expected return is dependent on the number of players — or more specifically, the number of cards purchased — which was a variable I could not know. However I recently thought of a way to estimate the number of cards purchased which enables me to estimate the house edge. I'll save my estimating method for a later discussion.

The reason that the return in bingo is dependent on the number of cards purchased is that in Las Vegas the prize pool is fixed regardless of the number of cards purchased. As an extreme example, if there were no other players and you purchased a single card you would be guaranteed to win. Of course it is unlikely that you will ever have that opportunity. However when the number of cards purchased is small enough you can have a positive expected value. In fact when the number of cards purchased is small enough then every player enjoys an advantage. That situation might exist on days with very bad weather, major holidays, something huge in the news, or a brand new bingo room.

Of course all this brings up the obvious question of why the casino would offer a game with a positive player advantage. The simple answer is that most of the time there is no player advantage. The bingo room may suffer some losing situations as long as the overall business plan achieves a profit. For example any game with a progressive jackpot has the possibility of turning positive to the player, but the vast majority of the time such games are negative. Even if bingo loses money after expenses I think casinos still suffer it to get more slot play between sesssions.

In other cases the number of cards played isn't low enough so that everyone enjoys an advantage, but it is low enough that a player can create an advantage by purchasing the optimum number of cards at the optimum levels.

My sample size at this point is too small to publish any numbers. However based on six sessions each played at the Suncoast and Red Rock, I feel that playing the right times, and buying the right cards, can result in a player advantage at one of these properties. I'm going to hold off on the details until I get a larger sample size. For now I'm going to pass along some general advice on playing bingo.

  1. The most important strategy is to play games in which there is a low number of purchased cards. This could be on a day with bad weather, or the earliest session of the day, or at a brand-new casino, or, preferably, some combination of those.

  2. All things being equal, play the times with a larger prize pool. While a larger prize pool may induce some play, I think it is not significant, creating more value at the times there is more to win.

  3. Take advantage of quantity discounts on card purchases.

  4. At both Coast and Stations casinos the player can buy different levels of cards. The higher the level the more you can win, usually. The exception is the last game, where most of the prize money is. In that 13th game the level of card doesn't make any difference. So my advice is only by the lowest level one cards at Stations and blue cards at the Coasts.

  5. I would avoid Jumbo, Bonanza, and Big 3 cards. In addition I would not validate when given the choice. My advice is to think of these optional purchases as sucker bets and avoid them. There are exceptions if the progressive jackpots get big enough, which will be seldom.

  6. Promotions are good. For example this month at the Suncoast and Gold Coast they have no split jackpots on Tuesdays and Thursdays at specific sessions.

This is getting off topic, but I would also like to say that I find it very annoying when somebody wins and she calls out "winner." This is usually done in a monotone, non-emotional voice. I say "she" because it always seems to be women who do this. The name of the game is not "winner", it is "bingo." Bingo should be shouted loud and proud. The other players are your competitors. You should at least show them you are happy to take their money when they are just one number away.

It will probably take another two months for me to gather more data and write it all up. When I do I believe my analysis on bingo will be the first independent look at the game in the level of detail I intend to provide. So for now enjoy this sneak preview, and if you see me in the bingo room say hello. Should anyone living in Vegas wish to help me gather data, please let me know.

Ask the Wizard!

Here's an excerpt from the newest Ask the Wizard, column #181.

First off, my apologies if you consider this a basic math question. I'm a dealer at a Northern Ontario casino, and last night (for the dealer) drew a 12-card 17 (A-A-A-A-A-A-6-A-A-A-A-A). We use six decks. Neither my player or I had ever seen this before. What are the odds of this? - Timothy Rowland from Orillia

Wow! The probability of this is (combin(24,6)/combin(312,6)) * (24/306) * (combin(18,5)/combin(305,5)) = 1 in 287,209,346,813,617.

What's new on the site

Oasis Poker. You've been asking for years about a rule variation in Caribbean Stud Poker where the player an switch a card. This variant is sometimes called Oasis Poker and is addressed in my new section on that game.

Blackjack basic strategy exceptions for three to six cards.

Opponent Poker. This is a cross between video poker and Texas Hold'em I noticed at the Red Rock Station.

Texas Hold'em Power Ratings. You've been asking for years for me to add power rating charts for less than ten players. Here they are for 3, 4, 6, and 8 players.

KGO Interview (link removed). I was interviewed by Marcy Smothers on KGO 810 in San Francisco, the #1 news/talk station in the country (I'm told). Here's an MP3.

Die Rich. This is a clever title to a new one-die craps game found at the Luxor.

Ask the Wizard columns #179, #180, and #181.

Until next time, set your expectations high.


From Michael Bluejay....

Neteller exits the U.S. market

If you've gambled online, you've probably used Neteller, which is kind of like PayPal for online casinos. Well, the Neteller founders were recently arrested by U.S. authorities for allegedly money laundering. (Significantly, the U.S. doesn't allege that they money they moved was for an illegal purpose, just that the way they moved the money wasn't proper, because not all companies in the chain were properly identified.) Anyway, following this, Neteller not surprisingly decided to abandon the U.S. market. They follow on the heels of many online casinos and poker rooms which have already done the same thing.

The Wizard is personally nervous about his own Neteller funds. He has $30,000 in EFT withdrawals made between Jan 16 and Jan 26 that have been languishing in "pending" status.

This of course means that it's now harder to get money in and out of online betting sites. For playing at Bodog here are your current options:

  • Credit cards. Your U.S. credit card probably won't work, but it might. This week as a test I was able to successfully deposit with six of my 15 different cards. Curiously, after the first deposit none of them would work again, though. Here's a list of the cards that worked for me.
  • eWalletXpress (link removed). This is a site similar to Neteller. I was able to easily register and get validated in a couple of days.
  • Western Union. This one's not as convenient, but it works. First you call Bodog at 888-263-0000 and get the "Beneficiary Name". Then you call Western Union at 800-225-5227 or go to their website to send money with your credit card or bank account. If you send $500 or more, Bodog will credit back Western Union's transaction fee.

Of course, if you want to play with fake money then you can still play all day for free. Here are the free-play versions of:

Links removed.

Bodog discontinues the reload bonus

With Neteller gone, in now costs Bodog more to process deposits & payouts. They had to decide between passing the transaction fees on to the players, or continuing to offer free deposits and withdrawals but doing away with their reload bonus. They chose the latter, keeping deposits & payouts completely free, and both the Wizard and I feel this was the right choice. So starting right away, you'll still get a 10% bonus on your first deposit with Bodog, but you won't get bonuses for future deposits.

Results of the survey: Links should open in a new window

The results of the survey from the last newsletter floored me. We asked whether you want links on Wizard of Odds to other sites to open in a new window or the same window? I figured you'd prefer the same window, so that your screen doesn't get cluttered with windows, and that if you wanted a new window you'd just right-click and choose that. But a whopping 78% of you said you preferred links open in a new window! Wow, I had no idea that new windows were so popular. So we're going to start setting external links to open in a new window from now on. We're not gonna go back and change the hundreds of external links already on the site (except the ads, which I'll get to eventually), but we'll set external links to open in a new window from here on out.

Here are some selected readers' comments from those who like links in new windows:

I have slow dial up. It saves enormous time when I can just click and close — the back button takes forever.

I like having it open in a new window, that way I can go back to it if I want, at anytime

I see your logical points for both ways, but I think most uses would prefer the extra tab at the bottom of the screen, so they can get back to it easily. The "extra clutter" is worth the ease of return to the original window, in my opinion. Thanks for asking!

I personally think this is a no-brainer.

I often use the 'tile vertically' option to view both pages at once. This is quite frequently very handy. Thanks for asking. Jim Blake

I have dial-up, so I'm used to slow either way. I don't mind having more than one window open, so I do prefer the new window option. Thanks for asking...keep up the great work!

Often times you want to check out a site, are there for a few seconds and then want to come back. By default I almost always hold down control when clicking on a link so it'll open in a new window. With the launch of Internet Explorer 7, new windows open in a tab, so its cleaner.

I believe that having them open in a new window is important so that we can keep track of what we're looking at on your site. :)

The wiz is the "hub of the wheel". I'll always want to come immediately back! So I'd much prefer to close the new window whose content pales against the wonderful prose and magic of the Wizard and Michael Bluejay.

Thanks for asking! Elle

Really doesn't matter to me. My netscape browser will close the newly open window anyways when I hit the back button new feature).

Thanks for listening to your audience! Dan M., El Paso

i like this option but my browser is set to do this any way, even if a site does not set itself to do it, i do like it when it does it by itself

Navigation of two sites to see what you comment on and such forth is improtant. You site can be used like a referance book to another site. So it needs to be in a new window.

I prefer to have external links open in a new window. I'm often "just curious" about something, which prompted me to click on the link. But I still want to continue whatever brought me to the original (Wizard of Odds) page in the first place.

People who don't know why their back button does not work are morons and should never be catered to.... They should bring themselves up to speed with the rest of us who have half a brain. Better yet, they can work a little and develop a full brain of their own.

I always like external links to open in a new window — helps me go back and forth between the current site I'm on and the new site I'm checking out.

you might also try opening in a new tab for the tabbed browser users that's what i do with links anyway.

For those curious about the vote, it was 241 to 67.

Free book drawing winner

This month's winner of the Wizard's book, Gambling 102, is Gregory M. of Auburn, Washington. He is subscriber #3622 (alphabetically) and signed up for the list on Nov. 4, 2006. Congratulations, Gregory! Your book is now hurtling towards you through time and space.

See ya next time!


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