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Last Updated: May 3, 2007

May 3, 2007

The Wizard's News

From the Wizard....

Still no money from Neteller

It is now day 106 that I have been waiting on my $30,000 in Neteller withdrawals to arrive. As mentioned in the last newsletter, following an agreement with the FBI which had seized player accounts, Neteller announced it would return funds to U.S. players over a 75-day period. We are only about halfway through that period but I have been troubled by other bad news regarding Neteller. They recently stopped honoring transactions between Internet casinos and Canadian residents, which was another major market for them. Transfers to Neteller ATM cards were also stopped, and the cards will cease to work May 2. Neteller stock continues to be suspended from trading. My confidence that I will ever see my money is slipping.

South Point Points

Normally I don't put an emphasis on local Las Vegas casino news since there are other good sources for that. In particular I like the Las Vegas Advisor. However, one major piece of news that seems to have been overlooked is a 2 for 1 point split when the South Coast changed ownership, and its name, to the South Point on October 24, 2006. It is my understanding that on this date the total points earned, less points redeemed at the South Coast, did a 2 for 1 split. The points copied over to the new South Point card, but the original points also remain on the Club Coast account, which will be honored at the Suncoast, Gold Coast, and Orleans. Players who only played double point days at the South Coast, and didn't redeem their points at that property, effectively got quadruple points, or a 1.06% (99.73% + 4 * 0.0033%) advantage if playing 16/10 deuces wild. Unfortunately I redeemed my points at the South Coast before the split so I did not enjoy the quadrupling of my points.

Mexican Riviera Cruise

During spring break I took an eight-day cruise of the west coast of Mexico on the Norwegian Star with my wife, two older children, both my parents, and two friends. A good time was had by all, especially the kids. Here is a brief description of where we went and what we did.

Acapulco: This was our first port and I was excited to do something. I hired one of the many cab drivers that congregate near the cruise ships to give us a tour of the city. He drove us around the touristy parts of Acapulco, showing us fancy hotels and a highly visible church on the top of a mountain. Living in Vegas, I'm not easily impressed by hotels, and not being a religious man I always feel the Damien in me when I have to set foot in a church. From this tour I got the impression that Acapulco was a big, crowded, and noisy city. After the tour we were dropped off at the cliff diving spot of Acapulco, which is close to the old town square and where the cruise ships dock. The cliff diving show is the quintessential thing you must do in Acapulco. A group of about six divers come out at specified times during the day and dive from various points into the ocean, then climb out and up to do it again. The location is convenient and very atmospheric. It is free but we paid to view the diving from a restaurant patio, which was worth the money. We then wandered around the old town-square of Acapulco, which I enjoyed, and then back to the ship.

Ixtapa: Actually, the cruise ship dropped anchor outside of Zihuatanejo, which is a small quaint town right on the beach. I believe this was where Andy of the Shawshank Redemption wound up. (I hope that doesn't spoil the movie for anyone who hasn't seen it yet.) After the hectic day in Acapulco we were content to just sit on the beach. However this entire trip I bothered every local I came into contact with to ask about license plates. I'm an avid license plate collector and my collection of Mexican plates is sorely lacking. After completely striking out in Acapulco on the license plate front, I was more desperate for plates. Somebody told me that the Se?or Frogs restaurant in Ixtapa had some. So I took my whole family on an expedition to Ixtapa, which was about 15 miles north. Arriving at Se?or Frogs I found the license plate tip to be completely unfounded. However, what little I saw of Ixtapa was impressive &emdash; many high-rise hotels and condos along the beach, luxurious golf courses, and nice wide quiet streets. It looked like a pricey place to vacation, but it left me with a good impression.

Puerto Vallarta: It didn't seem as big as Acapulco, but still a very large city. The cruise ship anchored in an inconvenient location, not close to anything except a Wal-Mart, which, I might add, was a good place to stockpile t-shirts and things we ran out of or lost. The quality is much better than what you'll find in the endless souvenir stalls. We hired a taxi driver to take us to the main beach in town but our driver recommended a quieter beach a little outside of the main part of town, in a section of very upscale homes. He came to pick us up two hours later. From there we could see lots of high-rise buildings and a very long and crowded sandy beach. Unfortunately we didn't have much time in PV so I can't say much about it.

Cabo San Lucas: This was the first port of call that I had been to before. Two years ago I spent a very nice week outside of Cabo, close to San Jose del Cabo. The condo I won in a charity auction, donated by the Gambling Federation. The town of Cabo San Lucas is nothing special, in my opinion. However, the scenery is fantastic, namely the rock formations, including the famed arch, endless stretches of wide sandy beaches, and stunning deserts. During my short stay there we did the glass bottom boat tour again, let the kids play on a local beach, and had an outstanding lunch at a restaurant titled Mi Casa. As I expressed in an earlier newsletter, I much prefer San Jose del Cabo to Cabo San Lucas. I hope to return there for another vacation, when the opportunity arises.

The cruise ship itself was fun and enjoyable. Unlike the previous Carnival cruise I took, there are lots of restaurants to choose from, and you don't have to eat at the same time every day with people you don't know. While some of the restaurants require reservations, the main ones are open seating, just show up whenever you want. The entertainment was good and there were always several things to choose from to do.

The casino was quite large and professional. If I remember correctly there were about six blackjack tables in use, one craps, one roulette, one Three Card Poker, one live poker, and one Texas Hold 'em Bonus. The blackjack rules were six decks, dealer stands on soft 17, no surrender, and no re-splitting aces, for a house edge of 0.42%. Penetration was 70% to 75%. The craps odds were 3/4/5x. The roulette was double zero. The video poker was horrendous. I played blackjack, poker, and a blackjack tournament. The casino manager recognized my name and we had a very pleasant chat.

In other traveling news, the family and I will spend a week at the Santa Barbara Family Vacation Center in July, on the campus of my alma-matter, U.C. Santa Barbara. It will be nice to see the old school again. The dorm used for housing is about a two-minute walk from my old apartment, at the end of El Nido road in Isla Vista. Then in August I'm going to spend eight days in Hong Kong and Macau. I'm planning to use the trip to lay a foundation for a new web site,

Ask the Wizard!

Here's an excerpt from the newest Ask the Wizard, column #188.

I seem to remember reading that the dealer's average non-blackjack winning hand is 18.56. Today, as an instructor, I sought that fact to show my students and was unable to locate it. What is the correct answer and how is it calculated? Thank you. -- Fred P. from New Orleans

The table below shows the average dealer score, assuming the dealer does not bust, and the dealer already checked for blackjack, according to various rules. Note how the average score increases with the number of decks. More importantly, note that the average score is 0.0405 higher when the dealer hits soft 17. The probability that the dealer will bust is only 0.00403 higher when the dealer hits a soft 17. That is 10.05 extra dealer points per dealer bust. This, hopfully, goes to show why it is bad for the player if the dealer hits a soft 17.

Average Dealer Total in Blackjack

Decks Stand Soft 17 Hit Soft 17
1 18.840371 18.880098
2 18.842648 18.882868
3 18.843415 18.883798
4 18.843826 18.884288
5 18.844053 18.884564
6 18.844205 18.884720
7 18.844292 18.884880
8 18.844370 18.884981

What's new on the site

Until next time, set your expectations high.

From Michael Bluejay....

Small hope for online gambling in the U.S.

Last month U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass) filed a bill that would regulate online gambling within the U.S. It would require operators to ensure that players are over 18, reject players from individual states which prohibit online gambling, and subject operators to some other requirements. Once regulated, the U.S. market could open back up, with some restrictions, explained below. Of course, some operators (like Bodog) never left the U.S. market.

So what's the downside? The main one is that most observers don't think the bill has any chance of success. And there are a number of troubling restrictions, such as allowing sports leagues to disallow betting on their games, which means no NFL and NBA betting. Still, most in the industry are supporting the bill strongly, because it's better than nothing, and it's important for us to stop moving in the wrong direction and start moving in the right direction. It's kind of inconsistent for the government to tell grown men and women that they can't gamble, considering that 41 states run lotteries, with far worse odds than the typical Vegas or online slot machine. (more on the bill from GPWA.

In other legal news, the World Trade Organization ruled yet again against the U.S., calling the U.S. restrictions on online gambling "illegal". So what else is new? (Beta News, Poker News)

Bet on Politics

In the last newsletter I shared how Bodog lets you bet on celebrities, like the gender of the next baby of your favorite celebrity couple. Well, you can also bet on politics, too, which is more up my alley. For example, you can bet on whether Congress will override any of President Bush's vetos in 2007. The "Yes" line is +350, which means if you bet on Yes and the override happens, you win 3.5x your bet. The "No" line is -650, which means if you bet on No and win (i.e., Congress does not override the President), you win your bet divided by 6.5. I took the No side, betting $50. I actually hope that Congress overrides the President, but if they don't then I'll have a $7.69 consolation prize. (see Bodog's political bets (link removed))

Rock & Roll Fantasy Camp

Did you know that the average cost of car ownership is over $7,000 a year? And many of you know that I bicycle instead of drive. (And before you ask what I do when I have to move a large piece of furniture — I move it by bike. You can't fit a couch in a car, so I'm more mobile than if I had a car.)

So anyway, what have I been doing with that $7,000+ that I'm saving every year by not driving? Well, most years I've just worked part-time so I had more time to pursue my interests, like sleeping. At $10/hr., eliminating a $7000 expense means eliminating four months of full-time work. Most people don't realize that they're not just driving to work, they're working to drive.

But a few years ago I started working for the Wizard and he pays me pretty good, but I still never got a car, so the money's been piling up. So I was looking around for something to waste a lot of money on and I found it: Rock & Roll Fantasy Camp in London, where you and a few dozen other "campers" play and record with the likes of Jack Bruce of Cream, Jon Lord of Deep Purple, Bill Wyman from the Rolling Stones, and Paul Carrack of everybody. Oh, and we'll be recording at the legendary Abbey Road studios and performing at the Cavern Club, which was where the Beatles played in Liverpool before they made it big. Price tag: $16,000. It's weird for me because I've probably lived on less than that each year for most years of my life. But you know, this money's not gonna spend itself.

The downside of the camp is that they put up to eight people in a band — 7 campers and one rock star counselor. I guess cramming people into bands means there are fewer aging rock stars to pay. But come on, eight people isn't a band, it's an orchestra! How many popular bands ever had more than 5 members? But it's still gonna be a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience, so I guess I shouldn't complain.

Next time I'll let you in on how I spent my Super Bowl winnings.

Free book drawing winner

This month's winner of the Wizard's book, Gambling 102, is "Bruce Dragon Lee" — subscriber #1199 (alphabetically) of 10,934, and who signed up for the list way back in February 2006. Congratulations, B.D.L! Your book is now hurtling towards you through time and space.

See ya next time!


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