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Last Updated: September 12, 2007

September 12, 2007

The Wizard's News

From the Wizard....

The full scoop on Macau, China

I recently returned from eight days in Macau. While I could talk about it all day, and I do so on my new web site, this article will just cover the basics about what you should know about Macau, and the gambling scene there.

Very briefly, Macau is a small "Special Administrative Region" or SAR, in China, a one-hour ferry ride from Hong Kong. The city contains about 25 casinos, many of which are very small and not worth visiting. Games easily found in Macau are baccarat, blackjack, roulette, sic bo, and Caribbean Stud Poker. A smaller number of fan-fan, pai gow, maj jong pai gow, craps, poker, and Casino War games are also available. Slots and video poker also exist, but not nearly as abundantly as in the United States.

Here are the pros and cons of Macau, in my humble opinion.

Pros of Macau

1. Very good eating. In Macau you will find plenty of delicious and authentic Chinese food, not to mention a lesser amount of Portuguese and other types of cuisine. All things considered, I would take Macau over Las Vegas in terms of food, if I had to make the choice.

2. Cheap prices. Compared to the U.S., everything seemed to be significantly cheaper in Macau, especially food, rooms, cab fare, and tips.

3. Good blackjack rules at the Lisboa. They have some very unusual blackjack rules at the Lisboa, but the bottom line is a house edge of 0.01% with proper strategy.

4. Low table minimums. The usual table minimum is 100 Hong Kong dollars, which is about $13 U.S.. These are not just token tables that are usually packed, but are the standard and are readily available. Forget what you may have seen in the movies. When Stanley Ho's casino monopoly ended in 2002, lots of new casinos opened, creating better conditions for the player.

5. Dead Chip offers. If you are a high-limit baccarat player, the high-limit rooms in Macau offer "dead chip" programs, which are similar to point-based slot programs. Using promotional chips, the casinos effectively give back 0.4% to 0.7% of all bets lost. At a rate of 0.5%, for example, the house edge on the banker bet in baccarat is lowered from 1.06% to 0.84%.

5. Proximity to Hong Kong. Macau is a short and very convenient ferry ride from Hong Kong. The Hong Kong terminus is right in the center of the city, and the Macau terminal is also well located, with free shuttle buses to all the major casinos. Hong Kong is an exciting city with lots of things to do. Combining Hong Kong and Macau makes for a great trip to east Asia. If you have more time, Guilin, in mainland China, is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever been to.

Cons of Macau

1. Macau people are very rude. The drivers never stop for pedestrians, even in a crosswalk. The dealers seldom speak, not even to say hello or good-bye. Except in the nicest of tourist-oriented businesses, it seems like nobody wants to be bothered.

2. English is not widely spoken. The only places I could reliably find anybody to speak English with was at the Wynn, and there it usually far from fluent, and at the poker tables at the StarWorld, mainly with Australian expatriates. I was there before the Venetian opening, but I would imagine the English there is on par with the Wynn. You will have much more success communicating in English with the locals in Hong Kong.

3. There are almost no advantage plays I could detect. Some properties will give you 30 to 50 Hong Kong dollars to sign up for a player card, about $4 to $5 U.S. dollars. Progressive games are popular in Macau, so progressive hunters can find a positive meter once in a while. However 100% of the blackjack is on continuous shufflers, so card counting is out of the question. The video poker there is abysmal, very little to be found, and what little there are on lousy paytables. The best I ever saw was 7/5 bonus poker at the Wynn (98.01%).

4. The big gambling is usually done in private V.I.P. casinos, through an organization called a "junket" between the player and the casino. These junkets cater to the Chinese and usually don't deal with the general public. The high limit rooms offer baccarat only. If you prefer the luxury of the high limit rooms in Vegas, in Macau you'll be stuck playing just baccarat, if you can get through the door at all.

5. There isn't much to do in Macau besides gambling and prostitution. Yes, the tourist guides will list some museums and historical sites, but the offerings are much better in Hong Kong.

All things considered, I would not go all the way to Asia just for Macau. However, if you are going to be in the area anyway, especially Hong Kong, it may be worth the side trip. All things considered, Vegas is still the best gambling city in the world, and not even Macau can compare.

Finally received my Neteller payout

Seven months and eight days after my first withdrawal, I finally received my $29,285 payout from Neteller. It would have arrived earlier in August, but I tried to make a withdrawal from Hong Kong, and that caused Neteller to lock my account. I had to wait until I got back in the U.S. to attempt to unlock it. Neteller was hard to contact and it took time to jump through all their hoops to reopen my account. However, finally, my check arrived by regular mail on August 22.

Ask the Wizard!

Here's an excerpt from the newest Ask the Wizard, column #194.

If I make 1,000,000 spins on the event that has 1 in 1,000,000 chance of winning, what are my chances of winning at least once? -- Ares75 from Petrovce

If the probability of winning is 1/n, and you play n times, as n approaches infinity, the probability of winning at least once approaches 1-(1/e), where e = 2.7182818..., or about 63.21%. The exact answer can be expressed as 1-(999,999/1,000,000)1,000,000 = 0.63212074. My estimate is 1-(1/e) = 0.63212056, which agrees to six decimal places.

What's new on the site

From Michael Bluejay.... is gone!

I'm working from Japan at the moment, and the other day I couldn't load So I called the Wizard on my VoIP phone (free call, even though I'm in Japan, hah!), to see if he could load it. He could load it just fine, so I figured the problem was on my end. Then the site went down for the Wizard too. And for the whole rest of the world.

Seems that Bodog lost a lawsuit brought by a company that says Bodog has been using their technology to deliver the games to users over the Internet faster. Actually, Bodog didn't so much lose as they got a default judgement against them, since they didn't show up to the trial for some reason.

So the suing company got control of all of Bodog's domains. But they can't do anything with them, because the name "Bodog" is trademarked. So while losing the domains is a loss for Bodog, it's not exactly a victory for the company that got them.

While Bodog is trying to get their domains back, they moved all their stuff over to NewBodog. (link removed) Works just like the old one. Same site, new address, no problems. I logged in to check on that bet I made that Congress won't override a presidential veto this year, which I detailed back in the May newsletter. My $50 bet is still there, waiting on the outcome of the bet.

But that's not the only Bodog news...

Bodog spins off its North American gaming operation!

Bodog recently licensed the rights to operate its North American gaming operation to another company, Morris Mohawk Gaming. What this means is that players in North America get served by one company (Morris Mohawk) and players in other places get served by the original Bodog. But this will be seamless for the player, since there's just one website. It won't look any different to the players. But behind the scenes, one or the other companies is going to be running the servers and taking care of the money, depending on the player's country.

Is this related to Bodog's recent loss of their domains? Absolutely. They now have another partner to try to get the domains back, since Morris Mohawk has a huge stake in them. Bodog founder Calvin Ayre says as much (link removed) in his blog.

Another plus for Bodog in licensing off their N. American ops is that it should lessen their legal liability, in light of the U.S. crackdown on online gambling. If the U.S. wants to go after Bodog's operation, now they won't be able to go after Bodog itself, in theory.

Anyway, a good question that North American players have might be, can I still expect the same high quality customer service from this new company? The answer is Yes. Bodog didn't license their brand as an afterthought, the contract with Morris Mohawk stipulates specifically that M.M. must maintain Bodog's high standards for service and support, and if they don't, then Bodog can cancel the agreement.

Readers know that the main reason we chose Bodog as our advertiser is because Bodog is consistently reputable, and it's rare for players to have any problems getting paid. Rest assured that if that ever changes, we'll be looking for a more reputable advertiser. At present, though, both the Wizard and I feel strongly that there's nothing to worry about.

Internet Tip: Cheap phone calls with Skype!

Longtime readers know that I used to give an "Internet Tip o' the Month" in the newsletter. I haven't done that in a while, partly because I ran out of really good tips. But here's a doozy. I forgot about this one until recently.

There's a service called Skype which lets you make super-cheap telephone calls directly from your computer. You just need a microphone for your computer. If you have a Mac, the mic is built-in. You just open the program, punch in the phone number, anywhere in the world, and then you'll hear the phone ringing through your computer's speakers, and then you'll hear the person on the other end when they pick up the phone and start talking.

A set of earphones is a good idea, because otherwise the person you're calling is gonna get some feedback, because their voice comes out of your computer speakers, and then back into the microphone on your computer.

For most people the advantage is cost: calls are super-cheap. It's pennies per minute to call most places in the world. But the real advantage is for travelers without cell phones, like me. I've been traveling around the world, and with my laptop and an Internet connection, I can call anywhere I need to. Sweet!

With the basic service you can receive calls only from other Skype users, not from real phones. But for a whopping $5.50/mo. you can get an incoming number that anyone can call.

A few years ago when I ran across Skype I ruled it out because it couldn't replace my phone — At the time, Skype didn't offer the ability to receive calls, just make them. Plus, I already had very cheap VoIP service with Vonage, and I could use Vonage just by picking up my regular phone without screwing around with software (not to mention waking my computer up from sleep).

But I came around because even though Skype isn't as convenient as a regular phone, sometimes you don't even have a regular phone! If you're traveling without a mobile, you can still make calls with Skype as long as you have an Internet-connected laptop. For that application, Skype is a godsend. I wish I'd remembered about it sooner.

Free book drawing winner

This month's winner of the Wizard's book, Gambling 102, is Chris R. — subscriber #1729 (alphabetically) of 11,459, and who signed up for the list way back in November 2004. Congratulations to Chris!


Until next time, set your expectations high.


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