Wizard of Odds Video Interview, Questions from the public

Angela: Hey there. I'm Angela Marie. And I'm here with Michael Shackleford, our very own Wizard of Odds. And today we're going to do something a little bit different than our usual gambling instructional videos.

So today, we're actually going to ask Mr. Shackelford some questions that have been sent in from the forum, so things that you all have asked and would like to know. So we're going to divide this into two sections. First, we're going to tackle general gambling and gaming. And then we're going to pull back the curtain on the wizard and ask him personal question.

So thank you so much for giving us the chance to do this, Mike.

Mike: Well, thanks Angela. And I look forward to it.

Angela: I'm looking forward to this too. So if you're okay with it, I'm going to jump right in with some questions off the website.

Mike: Okay.

Angela: All right, here we go.

Mike: Hit me.

Angela: Well, I have lots of questions from Mr. Golden Sun. So I'm going to start off with some of his.

Mike: Okay.

Question 1 - [00:54]

Angela: One of the first is, is traditional blackjack dying? Dead? Survivable?

Mike: I think that every game has a certain lifespan. And I think blackjack is definitely on decline. That's definitely your father's, if not grandfather's game. And plus it's not that profitable for the casinos so they're trying to push it out as fast as they can. So, nevertheless, it's still loved by so many people and you can't just get rid of it because everyone will complain. But yes, you can see that through the years, there's a smaller and smaller percentage of blackjack tables.

Angela: Oh, it's kind of sad to hear, I love blackjack.

Mike: So do I.

Question 2 - [01:35]

Angela: But I bet you're right, you're usually right about these. Well, how about this, which strip casino South of the SLS are the most likely to have cheap table gaming?

Mike: Now that's a good question. And one casino that I love to promote is Hooters. And you could argue it's not a strip casino. But it's just one casino, East on Tropicana, of the Tropicana, on Tropicana. And they have low limits on all their table games. They have pretty good rules, for example, they have single deck paying three to two on a blackjack. The restaurants, the rooms, everything is very moderately priced for the economy gambler. And they have the cute Hooters girls dealing on some of the tables. So I think it's a fun casino that's reasonably priced. That would be my advice.

If you don't mind walking five minutes from the strip over there.

Angela: Wow. So you go for the wings.

Mike: To be perfectly honest with you, I try to eat wings in moderation but yes, if I'm there, and with a friend who really has their heart set on it, sure, of course, you can't say no.

Angela: All right, I will try Hooters then.

Question 3 - [02:48]

Angela: All right, another one from Mr. Golden Sun. So what game or technique is the best place for an aspiring advantaged player to start?

Mike: That's a very good question that one could talk about and argue about all day long. But we're definitely in a period right now where there is no one huge advantage play. Like card counting. This is I think the way that a good advantage player has to look at it, is that every game in every casino might have opportunity in it. So you have to have all kinds of things in your bag of tricks and ready to use if you find the right conditions. And everyone's going to know me, give me some examples. And everyone always hates me whenever I give them an advantage play that's not well known on a silver platter. Everyone just gets furious with me so; the information is out there. Especially, on my forum Wizard of Vegas. But yes, there's no one huge advantage play right now, that's a lot of different ones.

Question 4 - [03:56]

Angela: Well, that actually leads into a question that several people wondered about, which is, do you find it difficult to go into a casino being as well-known as you are? Do you find that that changes, how they treat you or how they expect you to play?

Mike: Well, when I first got to Vegas, I loved it because I was unknown all over town. But my name has been passed around from to casino to casino that this guy is an advantage player, an unprofitable player, a card counter. So I am welcome in most casinos but they're not going to send me an email or give me any of the niceties. So it takes away a lot of my incentive to play. Now do they actually come out and approach me saying, 'Oh Mr. Wizard, it's an honor to have you.' Generally, not. Sometimes a kind of rude about it, like one time at the old Hilton, some guy in a suit just came out and very brusquely said, 'I'm going to keep my eyes on you.' But another time somebody will come out and shake my hand and say, 'You are Michael Shackleford, right? Oh yeah, I love your site.' They just wanted to say hello and say I love the site. And I really appreciate that. And I don't mind being watched but it also is an example of being noticed, I heard the card counting conditions were really ripe on cruise ships because they I heard that they weren't on to that very well yet.

So I booked a cruise and there was card counting pretty aggressively. And after the first session, I got a call to my room and Mr Shackleford, this is the casino manager so and so, would you please come to the casino, please? And so I go there, and he starts out with a bunch of compliments like, I was kind of suspicious of your play, so I Googled your name.

Angela: Oh, no. Yes.

Mike: Yes, that ended that pretty quickly.

Question 5 - [05:54]

Angela: Right. Well, you're a very ethical player. So another question that have come up several times is, do you feel that hole carding is ethical?

Mike: Some people might not think I'm ethical after this answer.

But for those who aren't-- who don't understand the question, sometimes a dealer that has a card that's supposed to remain upside down, sometimes they deal a kind of a sloppy game and they expose it. Especially, if you're in a certain position at the table. And is it ethical if you see that card to keep your mouth shut about it but adjust your place, so as to make advantage of the information. And a great way to use it, is in three card poker, if you can just see one of the dealer cards, suddenly you've turned to a three and a half percent house advantage to a player advantage. So, is it ethical to do that? I will do it. I'm not saying that makes it ethical. Everyone has to walk their own life and answer these questions themselves. But the way I look at it, is the casino is trying all kinds of tricks to get my money. So if I have a little opportunity to take some of theirs, without cheating? Sure, I'm going to take it.

Angela: You heard it here first, he says, it's okay.

Mike: I just said, it's okay for me. I just said, I've been known to do it.

Angela: I'm just teasing.

Mike: So it's certainly something to get argued about.

Question 6 - [07:21]

Angela: Well, since we're going to play the way that you're teaching us to, the scene does change a lot though. And how would you say that the gambling scene in Vegas has changed in the past ten years or so?

Mike: Yes. Unfortunately, it's changed for the worse, the video poker certainly has become a lot more stingy. 6 to 5 blackjack tables are unfortunately becoming, what's the word? Ubiquitous.

So the rules have been getting worse for the players. Nevertheless, there is still good bets to be found out there. If you follow my gambling advice and play the lows and have such games, it's still almost like getting free entertainment.


Angela: And we like free entertainment in Vegas.

Mike: Yes, we do.

Question 7 - [08:03]

Angela: Well, so with the changes, what do you think the future of a live casino poker is?

Mike: Well, I think poker has reached its peak and it's just starting to decline a little bit. I know that the casinos kind of see of it. See it as a necessary cost of doing business as opposed to something they're enthusiastic about. Because it doesn't make a great deal of money for the casinos. And further more for the player, poker rooms have just become infested with sharks. And it's not as enjoyable for the recreational player as much. So yes, I think that poker is on a slow decline.

Angela: Sorry to hear that.

Question 8 - [08:45]

Angela: Well, here's a fun question from Johnny Q. How do you evaluate or enjoy the diamond perks at Caesar?

Mike: Well, not as much as I used to. They have been a little bit stingy on some of the things like the diamond lounge but I think the two best perks are short lines for everything. And you get two free show tickets every month. Not necessarily to all the premiere shows but there's a pretty good list of them.

You can become a diamond member by earning just 5000 points in one day. So I think it's worth it.

Question 9 - [09:26]

Angela: Yes, sounds good. So another interesting question from D-Rich. He's wondering what game did you find most difficult or challenging to analyze.

Mike: That's a good question. I mean blackjack is a difficult analysis, if you're going to do a combinatorial analysis, meaning, look at every single combination of the way the cards can land. And it's the splitting and the dealer peaking for a blackjack that makes it rather complicated. So. I am proud to be in a small club of people that have had done a perfect combinatorial analysis.

Video poker, well it sounds like a pretty straightforward game. If you were to just like brute force, run a program on it, it might take a week to analyze just one pay table. And I'm looking at video poker all the time with all these different games and pay tables and variance. So I'm proud to say, I got my video poker program through just lots and lots of short cuts down to analyzing a pay table in just one second. So but that was not easy but something I was very proud of. But in terms of the game, I've really spent a lot of time analyzing is Pai Gow Tiles. And this started with it being hard to find even the rules of the game because at the time it was only Asian players playing it. There was nothing in writing about it, nothing on the internet. So I had to go from to casino to casino asking, 'Do you have any rules of for this game in English?' And finally, I did and then I struggled with what is the house way to this game? I can't analyze it-- analyze it without knowing how the dealer will set his hands. And fortunately a reader, sent in the house way from Foxwoods. So with that I was off.

With all the complicated rules of that game, it was difficult to program and then once you did it, it was difficult to like put in writing what is a player strategy that balances strength and simplicity. So I spent a good part of a solid year analyzing that game. But I'm proud to have opened it up to non-Asian audience.

Angela: You definitely opened it up to me and you might take to the casinos. So thank you for that.

Mike: Yes, and by the way I hope to be doing a video on Pai Gow soon.

Angela: Oh, excellent. I'll look for it.

Mike: And you will learn much more about it as my student, as usual.

Angela: I'm looking forward to it.

Mike: All right.

Question 10 - [11:48]

Angela: Another wizard sent in a question for you. So, the Wizard of Nothing, wants to know, what's the single greatest advantage you came across in your travels through the casinos, if you're willing to share it?

Mike: Well, since it's kind of over now, I can easily talk about this. But the early days of internet casinos were really lucrative. Because here's a lot of people looking to make quick money that didn't know anything about gambling. And they offer really, really lucrative promotions. For example, make a deposit and we'll add 20%. But they would only have like a very minimal play requirement, like you only had to play through the bonus and then you got the whole full amount back. So just bonuses, bonuses, bonuses, you just go from casino to casino playing whatever their bonus was and they had no idea what they were doing. So as long as you got paid which wasn't always the case. It was just a way to make easy money. I know people who made millions doing it.

Angela: Wow. Are you kidding?

Mike: And it can still be done. But the players have become-- I should say the industry has become much more knowledgeable about the problem. So the rules are a lot stingier about play through requirements and bonuses are less. Nevertheless, it still can be done.

Question 11 - [13:07]

Angela: So, do you still keep an eye out on what's going on with the internet casinos then and try to grab the best advantage as you can?

Mike: Well unfortunately, with the change of the law, US banks aren't supposed to facilitate financial transactions with the internet casinos. And the vast majority of industry won't take American players. So you're either forced to play it only that the handful of casinos that will take US players or you can play through a false identity, say someone in Australia. But that runs into other trust problems. And collecting-- And sometimes the casinos can tell if you're playing under a proxy server or so.

Angela: Best to just avoid that.

Mike: Well, I'm not going to, I still know people from the US who do it. So I'm not going to say no. It really depends on what the particular person likes doing and what they perceive to be is the best opportunity for them. But it's not something that I pursue any longer.

Question 12 - [14:06]

Angela: Very fair answer. Now here's a loaded question for you, Mike. So this was sent in by Paradigm. And they'd like to know that based on your experience both inside and outside casino management, such as your time with Venetian, if you had total control over the casino, what would the casino floor look like?

Mike: Well, I think it would look much like the casino floor of any casino that Steve Wynn founded, I think that he has a really good eye for casino design and having a good mixture of table games and slots and placement. I think it's really important to have the exciting games in the middle. And the low profitable games, tucked often a corner somewhere like live poker and video poker. So and I would not do things like for example, at the Venetian, they have the poker room right there at the front entrance. I think that's a terrible idea. Because poker is not a very profitable game for the casino. So they're giving us a low profit game, the best space. And poker players will find the poker room no matter where it is, they don't care where it is.

So I really think the Wynn itself is a great example of casino design.

Angela: All right.

Wow. Well, this is really been interesting for me. So thank you so much, Mike. For our next video though, we're going to get a little tougher on you and a little bit more personal. So, I hope that's all right.

Mike: Okay, I'm nervous but will give it a try.

Angela: All right, I'll go easy on you.

Mike: Okay, thanks.

Angela: Thank you.

Part 2

Wizard of Odds Interview - 2016 - Part 2