Posted by FinsRule
May 30, 2011

Pai Gow Tiles!

Well, I did it.

I went to Horseshoe Hammond yesterday, and played Pai Gow tiles for the first time. The $25 minimum was probably about $10 more per hand than I would have liked, but I don't go to casinos much anymore, so it was fine.

I definitely was nervous sitting down. I'm used to having at least the basic strategy of a game down pat before I play it, but Pai Gow tiles is tough for me. Add that to the fact that everyone was staring at me when I sat down, and the dealer said "Do you know how to play?" and it was a little intimidating.

So I answered "I hope so" and I played two hands before lunch. I got the tiles and I asked for help and pushed. The game went a lot faster than I thought it would. The other players set their hands very quickly. And the dealer set his hand in literally one second. For some reason, I thought it would be more like Pai Gow Poker where at least some of the Asian players study their hands, look slowly at each card, curse, then put their cards/tiles down. But no, everyone went quick and I was stuck trying to decide whether to play like gong, 6 or 9,7.

Next hand, I got the tiles, asked for help and won.

I went to lunch, excited about my new experience, and ready to play some more and improve my speed and not asking for help.

Came back and sat at an empty table. This was good and bad. The game went quicker, but I also had time to think without people waiting on me. I probably would get about 3 out of 4 hands set myself, and then ask what the house way was on the other 1 before making my decision. Some times I would go with the house way, sometimes not.

I lost $100 at that fairly quickly.

Walked around a bit, had some terrible luck at Texas Hold 'Em Bonus and came back for one more try at tiles.

This time the table was full. My first hand, a guy three seats over gave me like $250 to cap on my bet. Well at that point, I'm asking him how to play the hand, and it pushes. He does it again, and I push, then he gives up. I end up playing for about 1-2 hours and get very confident. I ended up making like $5 in that session. So my total was being down about $70 at tiles for the 2 hours. The only things I was still unsure about were unmatched pairs, and the ranking of tiles. Now I have a vague understanding of each, but once I get both down, I think tiles will become one of my new favorites.

Unmatched pairs - I just need to remember that the umatched pair that adds up to 7 is the 5 and 2 dot one with the 4 and 3 dot one not the 6 and 1 dot one. Then I should have that down.

Ranking - This is the tougher one. I have a tough time knowing if my 9,6 is going to beat the dealers 9,5. That might just come with time.

Strategy - For some reason it seemed to click better in real life than it did practicing on here. Getting the low up to 6 or 7 is real important unless I have a high gong or a wong. Then I might be okay having a 4 or 5 on the low.

Obviously, I'd like to thank the Wizard for having such an extensive tutorial and calculators and excellent practice game. There's obviously no way I would have been able to learn without it.

I'm going to practice some more and maybe try to get back there once more before my baby is born in July. I guess the only problem I see eventually is that I don't have anyone to play with, and I can't really talk with any of the other players too much because of the language issue. My wife and I love playing Pai Gow Poker together. She seems open to the idea of learning tiles, but I'm not sure if she has the patience to learn.

Overall, it was a great experience.

Thanks for reading!


odiousgambit May 30, 2011

Good story. I keep thinking "one of these days" but as of now no game close to me as far as I know, plus not sure when I would get motivated to learn it.

FinsRule May 30, 2011

Odious, I was unemployed for 6 months. I wanted to say that I at least accomplished something during my unemployment. Got in a little better physical shape, and learned Pai Gow tiles!

Wizard May 31, 2011

You're quite welcome for the help. I'm happy to have motivated another person to learn the game.

DJTeddyBear May 31, 2011

Unmatched pairs is one of the things I have trouble remembering too. I keep a little cheat sheet with me for that.

teddys May 31, 2011

One thing I would advise is never, ever take advice from fellow players. At Harrah's, I was playing for $15, and let the players goad me into making two plays where I lost when I should have pushed. Always follow your strategy.

Posted by FinsRule
Mar 29, 2011

Illinois House Lifts Casino Smoking Ban

I'm so angry about this, I decided to make it a blog post.

The Illinois House of Representatives have passed legislation removing the ban of smoking in Illinois casinos.

They feel that Illinois is losing too much tax money to Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Missouri, and Iowa casinos that don't have the smoking ban.

Illinois casinos are all terrible. They have a law limiting gaming positions to 1200 per casino. There are currently nine casinos in the state. They are all very heavy on slot machines, and light on any variety in table games. This makes the table minimums very high ($15 craps/bj on weekends is the only place to get a spot). Some of them have tiny poker rooms.

So do I think people are going to Potawotomi, Horseshoe, Four Winds, Lumiere Place and River City casino because they can smoke? NO! They are going because they get a better gaming experience. Every single one of those casinos is new, and every Illinois casino (besides Casino Queen) is old and rundown.

If Illinois is serious about increasing revenue, they could increase the gaming positions allowed at each casino, and allow slot machines at racetracks. The lifting of the smoking ban will provide a minor increase, and just give momentum for bars/restaurants to push for the repeal of the smoking ban.

The only reason I would actually go to an Illinois casino is because there is a smoking ban.

It's unbelievable to me that we allow smokers to be able to send cancer to other people in public places. My grandchildren will not believe it in 50 years when I tell them that this went on.

And I know the argument. "It's the free market. If you don't like smoking, then stay away from places that allow smoking. These places obviously make more money allowing the smokers" And the problem is that people like me put up with smokers, when we shouldn't.

I know, I shouldn't be this upset. But I am.


gambler Mar 30, 2011

I agree with you. It does not seem like lifting the smoking ban will increase revenue. Then again, maybe I am wrong and all of the hardcore smokers are also heavy gamblers.

FleaStiff Mar 30, 2011

It seems there are really two issues here:

The emotionally loaded and well financed Smoking Ban Issue and the Absurd Limitations on Casino Employees issue.

Irrespective of the legislators various opinions on the smoking issue its clear the primary factor is the nature of the experience itself, irrespective of the air that is going to be inhaled. Why are the legislators not focusing on the root cause of the problem? Where are the lobbyists?

DJTeddyBear Mar 30, 2011

Let me see if I have this right...

Your choice used to be:

A - Casinos in your home state where the gaming experience is crappy, but the air is clean, or

B - Casinos in neighboring states where the gaming is better, but the air is smokey.

Hmmm.... That IS a tough decision.

But now that the legislature has removed one of the variables, maybe you should thank them for helping you decide to take your business out of state.

AZDuffman Mar 30, 2011

Good for the state legislature, let the market decide. But if they were smart they would also issue more licenses so a smart operator could advertise a smoke-free casino. Sorry, even as a nonsmoker I am against restrictive laws.

FinsRule Mar 30, 2011

AZ - My issue is the fact that Illinois has a complete smoking ban in place. So they do think that the health of the citizens of Illinois are important, except in the case when they think it's hurting revenue. They are sellouts. And they're not facing the real problem - that the market bears either more licenses, or at least larger casinos where more people can gamble.

teddys Mar 31, 2011

Total joke. Illinois casinos were already packed, even with the ban. Typical clueless legislators.

Wizard Mar 31, 2011

I agree with you 100%. I'd be furious too if I lived in IL. It may take a while, but we'll win eventually.

rdw4potus Apr 01, 2011

I agree - the ban was the ONLY good thing about IL casinos.

Posted by FinsRule
Dec 15, 2010

New Year's Gambling Resolution

I'm not going to resolve to gamble less even though my wife wants me to. (She's not concerned about the amount, just the frequency)

But I do want to resolve to know how much I lose annually. So this year, my resolution is to keep track of my losses (and wins!). I want to know how much of my annual income is lost to all forms of gambling.

It better be less than 5%, and I'm hoping it's closer to 2%.

I'm going to resolve to keep track of everything on the blog. (Which my wife will probably keep tabs on)

What percentage of your annual income do you plan on losing to gambling in 2011? If you plan on winning, what % of your income is dependent on gambling winnings?


AZDuffman Dec 15, 2010

I bet you cannot gamble less in 2001 than 2010.

OK, with the bad joke out of the way my plan is to put one hour or so of overtime pay per week into my gambling fund, win or lose. I will only post when there is something worth posting, in 2010 that included the post on players who asked what the DP was and the loudmouth who said how you need to bet lots of hands at poker to win as he dropped $1,500 in just over an hour at a 1/2 table.

DJTeddyBear Dec 16, 2010

Good luck with your resolution to cut back and/or track it better.

>> What percentage of your annual income do you plan on ...... gambling in 2011?

If you've been paying attention at all, you know that I'm getting geared up for a huge gamble. Going forward with Poker For Roulette is gonna cost me a good chunk of change. The payoff, if it comes at all, won't appear for a couple years.

Traditional gambling? I'll probably risk about 10%, but I hope to keep losses well below 5%.

odiousgambit Dec 16, 2010

I havent thought of it as percentage of income. I came up arbitrarily with a "stop gambling" point of $500, when I hit that in losses in one year. That's the amount I feel I can blow and not feel guilty about it. As far as being a gambler, that clearly establishes me as a piker, I know! But that's me, although starting next year I am going to go to $600. Unfortunately the amount is small enough that I might have to quit gambling for the year after one session in losses! So far that hasn't happened, but it doesnt look like that will be a problem: I have abandoned the idea of gambling locally, and will only gamble when on vacation.

You are right, one's blog here is a convenient way to keep track.

Posted by FinsRule
Dec 06, 2010

I hate college football

I don't understand who likes the current college football bowl system. I understand the tradition of having bowl games, and the fact that bowls make money.

But how do the crappy bowls make money? My alma mater, the University of Illinois, is playing Baylor in the Texas Bowl in Houston. How is this game going to make money for anyone? Why would anyone go, why would anyone watch more than if it were a regular season game?

Why would anyone even gamble on it? I'm not sure if the players even care.

To me, if there is no playoff system, then I only care about one game, the Championship. I guess Wisconsin versus TCU might be interesting too.

Will anyone else be watching/gambling on other games? Why?


fremont4ever Dec 07, 2010

I like the bowl system, though (a) I think there are currently too many, and (b) I wouldn't be sad to see some of them moved aside for a true playoff. I figure to watch at least part of most of these games, for several reasons:

* The matchups are often interesting

* The matchups are often competitive

* I like some of the cornier elements (the sponsor commercials, the "Visit [city/state]" commercials, the sideline interviews with the sponsor's VP, the interviews with the bowl president or her designate, the innovative ways people work "ESPN" into their signs, the "Sportscenter is next" signs, the fancy camerawork to hide the half-full stadium)

* I like college football in general

The bowls have several revenue streams - including ticket sales, parking, souvenirs, the sponsor, and TV/radio rights (maybe). They pay out $750k to each team (most of them) and pay for the stadium variable costs. I don't think the breakeven is very high, which is why we see so many of them. The teams don't do great on the bowls; you find some of them complaining every year that they pay out more to get to the game than they receive. If they have to eat unsold tickets, then it's even worse.

As for attendance, the vast majority of bowl games are in the south and west, where the weather is usually nice around bowl season. Many of the teams playing are in the north, where the weather is usuallly a lot worse. A short vacation to root on the home team and soak in some rays is appealing to some people.

Gambling is a completely different issue. The vast majority of players care (their coaches will make them care), so that's not a problem. It's the same as any other week in football - you look for perceived mispricings in the market and exploit them. Since most of these matchups occur between teams that aren't well-known and don't play each other often, the lines makers sometimes make lines that can be exploited.

AZDuffman Dec 10, 2010

It probably costs say $75-100K to rent the stadium. Add in $1.5MM for both teams as stated in the previous post. Throw in a few hundred thousand for extras and we can say the game cost $2MM to put on.

If we assume an attendence of 50,000 you need just $40 per ticket to break even. Add in parking and concessions and you can easily make some cash. Oh, and that is before TV Revenue is factored in.

Having lived in the warm southwest (Phoenix) I can state that even "exhibition" sports draws people. The Fiesta Bowl is big but they even had a second one of which I forget at Chase Field (the baseball park.) Same thing happened on a smaller scale with spring training baseball. Look at it this way-people in the cold vacation where it is warm. Why not see a game? Some are real diehard booster-type fans who would watch the team ANYWHERE. Some are locals with plenty of time on their hands. Filling up a stadium even most of the way is fairly easy. Given parking and concessions you can even "paper" lots of seats and people will still pay to park and for some beers.

Then add in TV. 4 Networks, 3 ESPN's and other cable needs to fill time. Someone will watch because "it's on TV" and they are fans. So some ads will sell. The sponsors will get some exposure and a nice place to take clients to enjoy.

Myself I actually think a playoff system would be a bad idea. College Football at the Division I level is interesting because it is imperfect. And all those bowl games are a nice "exhibition" and playing to play and enjoy. I won't be watching because I get "footballed-out" by then, but I know plenty of people do not. If someone wasn't making cash there would not be all the games.

Posted by FinsRule
Nov 30, 2010

Horse Racing Futures - A good bet?

The Wizard will tell you that sports futures bets have some of the highest house edges of any casino bet.

I'm not sure if horse racing is any different, but I've made a couple of great bets.

In August, I bet Blame at 10-1 to win the Breeders Cup Classic when he was the 2nd best horse in the country (behind Zenyatta). He went off at 5-1 in November, and that was considered a steal.

So, now I'm trying my hand at Kentucky Derby future bets. I bet on To Honor and Serve at 22-1 to win. He is considered the 2nd or 3rd best candidate to win the derby.

Horse racing is different than sports because injuries are so common. They can work both ways. They can knock out my pick, or they can knock out the other favorites, making my bet even better.

But from looking at other sites, that have To Honor and Serve at 11-1 or 13-1, I think I have another great value bet.


FinsRule Dec 06, 2010

Odds were changed to 16-1. Hopefully you bet it already.