Posted by Wizard
Jun 05, 2020

Vegas re-opening

Las Vegas casinos were allowed to re-open at 12:01 AM yesterday, June 4, 2020. Later that afternoon, I paid a visit to every open casino between the Bellagio and Wynn. Those still closed in that range were Harrah's, Linq, Cromwell, Ballys, and the Mirage. Let me start with some pictures from the trip. Click on any image for a larger version.

Rules seen by the Treasure Island elevator. The down-escalator from the parking garage was broken.

Las Vegas Blvd looking south from the Wynn/Fashion Show bridge

Most high-end stores in the Wynn were still closed. What few were open seemed to not have much merchandise to see. I think this because recent looting of high end stores elsewhere after the death of George Floyd.

Who can resist taking a picture of the Wynn floral merry-go-round?

Every other slot machine in a bank was strictly closed, everywhere. The type of slot machines in an island seemed to be allowed to be all open.

Every other sink and urinal were closed off in the Wynn bathroom.

The Bellagio rules

This is one of several hand washing stations in the Belllagio, which can found in the middle of the casino floor. I applaud this idea!

To ensure social distancing, the table game rules seem to be as follows, everywhere:
Blackjack and similar size tables: 3 players
Roulette, poker: 4 players
Craps: 6 players (three per side)
Some casinos have Plexiglass barriers, some don't, and some have them on some tables. The Bellagio seems to have them on every table. Here is how they do it in craps.

Hello Kitty is ready to welcome visitors back to Las Vegas at the Bellagio conservatory.

My main observation was that the staff everywhere was very friendly and eager to welcome guests back. That Thursday afternoon, crowds were very thin. Despite only about half of restaurants being open and those limited to half capacity, it seemed most had plenty of empty tables. A friend and I walked right into Vanderpump at Caesars Palace, which I was told usually had a long line in pre-Corona times. I've been coming to Las Vegas since I turned 21 in 1986 and have lived here since 2001 and never have I had such good and friendly service.

Putting aside the risk of Corona Virus infection, I think right now is a great time to visit Las Vegas. Prices are low, crowds are thin, and your business will be very appreciated. I am not a doctor, so make no claims whether it is worth the risk. As for me, I accept the risk, in the name of good mental health.


odiousgambit Jun 06, 2020

For my newest idea of how to become a billionaire, corner the market for a dice thrower, which would clamp on to the dice to pick them up without a player's hands touching them, and have a release button. All players would be required to use it.

Damn it! I already gave away my idea for free.

snapolit Jun 11, 2020

I think it was a colossal fk up for these casinos to open up without a mask wearing requirement. While hard core Vegas people would show up at casinos if the bubonic plague was in full swing, a large cross section of the US and world saw the videos and photos from opening weekend and their collective jaws hit the ground. First you need to get over the hurdle of getting people on planes. And then these shoulder to shoulder crowds with no masks? Sure, people packed in the first weekend. But I think the media attention Vegas got will do more harm than good. Even my gambling friends who are DYING to get back to Vegas send me all sorts of photos going . . .can you believe this???" Atlantic City will require masks apparently. Vegas will get slammed unless they reboot this quickly.

Posted by Wizard
May 27, 2020

Soul Reading

For my 55th birthday, four days ago, a good friend gave me a soul reading. I'm told the only input the reader had was my name. Here is what he came back with.

Divine Soul Purpose Reading
Michael Whitney Shackleford

Your soul is a cosmic engineer of the universe; it’s got information and experience that is invaluable to the creation of a new Earth. You can work with the very fabric of life, DNA. It wouldn’t surprise me if you had an urge to become a scientist in this life.

Your divine soul purpose is to assist in bringing grass roots change to the Earth and assist in raising the vibration of humanity. Though, this cannot be achieved by using the normal mind.

Your intuitive soul mind contains the answers to the puzzles your logical mind is trying to find solutions for.

You have a wonderful blue communication energy that strongly connects you to the divine control centre of the universe, but there is more that adds to your brilliance.

You have brought with you tons of spiritual gifts and divine aspects, however at this moment they are fighting to be heard and have space in your life.

It is important to create an inner spiritual manager that can be the conductor of this orchestra of greatness.

You know we can think we trust divinity and its plans, but thinking isn’t enough. You need to feel your divinity, that way it transforms any doubts and fills many spaces that are waiting to be filled by the divine touch.

Another aspect of your divine soul purpose is to focus all your gifted aspects and make a working team out of them, this will then illuminate your soul’s path on Earth.

So, what can be done to assist your divine soul purpose coming to Earth?

It appears you have a critical mind and this critical mind is creating doubts and blockage to your connection with your soul.

Please treat yourself more gently and become aware when you are being self-critical. Observe those critical thoughts but don’t react on them.

This way they will dissolve and create space for a better inner world and a stronger connection to your soul and the universe.

Once this critical aspect is more peaceful, you will gain a stronger connection to your soul. This will greatly enhance your soul purpose. It will also clear the way for stronger communication with the universe.

When the critical mind is at rest the soul mind can come more into your life. Ultimately, it is teamwork between your logical and intuitive mind. They both need each other, and none should be more dominant than the other.

Invite your soul into your life, simply by saying the words; when your soul is more concretely in your life, it brings with it the magic and energies that are needed to open your spiritual path and soul purpose for you.

You will know when your soul is more present because you will get powerful knowings that are beyond your mind and sometimes tingles on your body that are indications that divine love is working with you.

May 2020

Catacombs of Paris (larger version)

My response is that I don't believe in souls, but neither do I disbelieve in them. With all such unproven theories, I believe the intelligent position is to assume the negative until the positive is proven.

While parts of this reading ring somewhat true, I think anybody could receive a vague reading such as this and cherry pick the parts that seem true and come away feeling better. Who doesn't want to seem important -- that the Universe has some divine purpose in mind for him/her? Isn't that the message of every alter call?

To this specific reading, here are parts that do ring true to me:

  • The part about having an urge to be a scientist is basically true. I think I would have made a pretty good one.
  • I do love puzzles and I grappling with them -- from the easy to unsolved by anybody. Somehow I do think the answers to some of the best unsolved problems in math, in particular involving prime numbers, are staring us in the face. For the good part of a year, I was obsessed with solving the Eternity II Puzzle. I tend to agree the answers are intuitive in nature.
  • I absolutely have a critical mind that is very skeptical and doubtful (those mean the same thing, Wiz).
  • I am very self-critical and make no apologies for that. I don't need to be made aware of it. I think the world would be a better place if we judged ourselves more harshly and others more leniently.

Here are things I disagree with (or maybe am just not aware of the truth of).

  • I reject the idea that I have any spiritual or divine gifts. I am just a math geek trying to promote math and how it can be applied when gambling.
  • I strongly reject the idea that I have an "orchestra of greatness." I'm just an average person. I am one ant in the anthill we call earth. Hopefully I contribute more to the colony than I take from it, but I make no claims that I do.
  • How can I invite my soul into my life when I don't believe it exists. I identify most with those whose feet are planted firmly on the ground and live in reality. I'm perfectly content with how I am now. Yes, I could be a better person, and challenge myself to do that.

All things considered, I think this soul reading was a glorified fortune cookie. Then again, maybe I'm wrong. As to the big questions about the Universe and the meaning of life -- I'm okay with letting the mystery be.


odiousgambit Jun 06, 2020

Thanks, now I know never to get a soul reading.

I won't write off the possibility of a soul, but do dismiss the idea somebody could 'read' mine almost without reservation.

Posted by Wizard
Oct 18, 2019

Global Gaming Expo 2019

If I'm not mistaken, this is my 21st consecutive World/Global Gaming Expo (G2E). Every year, I look forward to it. Every year, I'm exhausted by the end of it and happy it's over. When I lived in Baltimore and traveled to the show, it was more of a fun-filled event. Living here, commuting to the show every day, it seems more like a chore.

This blog entry is not meant to be a report about the overall show, but just several pictures and comments to capture memories of it. Click on any picture for a larger version.

A visit to the Global Gaming Expo is never complete without seeing Angela's smiling face. For those who don't know, she is in many of my gambling videos, either as my student or explaining how to play a new game at the Cutting Edge show. This year she was promoting Triple Flop Roulette.

Later, my first day, I visited the IGT section, where I happened up Jeopardy champion James Holzhauer playing short games against anybody who dared. Of course, I could not resist. The games were three questions only. In my case, two of my worst subjects, two on sports and one on rap & hip-hop. I attempted one, which I got wrong, and the other two I had no clue on.

However, after the game James noticed that I wrote "Wizard of Odds" as my name and asked if I was behind the site. I told him I was. He then complimented my Las Vegas Sports Book Groups page. It was one of the easiest pages I've ever made, but I was happy to accept the compliment from one of my heroes. I mentioned I wrote extensively about his strategy and he said that he would have a look.

A long-time fixture of the show is our own MrCasinoGames. This year he was primarily promoting Roulette 18, a roulette wheel numbered 0 to 18. However, I think I paid more attention to his model, trying to impress her with what little Chinese I know.

Later, I just happened to run into Mike Pertgen, inventor of High Card Flush. He is also a pai gow tiles dealer at the Rio. Just about anybody who invents games is at the show and you never know you you'll run into for a "stop and chat."

One of the best things about G2E are the lovely models dealing the latest casino games. There can be little debate the best can be found at ShuffleMaster. I took several pictures, but will post just this one as an example. She mentioned she was curious how the odds of the side bet were calculated. I gave her my card and said I do free math tutoring in combinatorial mathematics, but so far she hasn't called.

That evening Heather Ferris of Vegas Aces and I went to an industry party for game inventors, hosted by Raving. Rather than networking, we mostly spent time playing games against each other. As you may guess, I am very competitive and take winning very seriously to an annoying degree.

The last day of the show I had a little fun with Heather. She is a huge Star Trek fan and insisted I adopt a Tribble when we were near Aristrocrat. There we also were invited to the Bridge for this picture. It was actually a short movie. Guess who was handing out the Tribbles after leaving the Bridge???

This is Lisa, my model you see all over the Wizard of Odds and here. For, example, many hotel reviews, like that of the M. I haven't seen Lisa in years, but do follow her many posts on Facebook, so it was great to see her again. It was sad though. She suffered significant injuries from the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, which she continues to suffer from, both medically and financially. Very sad. She was very fun to work with. If anyone needs a trade show model, I highly recommend her.

After near extinction after 2006, online gambling vendors are returning in bigger numbers to the show. For example, Asia Live Tech was there, including two lovely models. I gently took the representative there to task for the 47% house edge on the 5 and 16 bets in sic bo. He accepted the criticism and indicated they would think about it how they set the odds as they did.

Heather and I felt we didn't meet our quota of pictures with lovely models, so couldn't resist this opportunity, thanks to Novomatic.

I'll never get too old for these things. I noticed we were the only fools doing it.

By 3:00 on Thursday I was exhausted and ready to get back to normal. I also have a few extra pounds to work off, thanks to many heavy meals consumed over the show. It is only a month until the Cutting Edge Tables Games Conference, where I'm giving a session on table games. Hopefully I think of something to say by then.


smoothgrh Oct 22, 2019

I'm saddened to hear that Lisa has suffered so much—along with so many others—because of a senseless tragedy. I'm glad you were able to see her and that she's still out and about.

Sounds like a good show this year, and you got to mingle with Angela and a famous Jeopardy champion!

The Star Trek set reminds me of the Star Trek Experience that was at the Las Vegas Hilton in the late '90s and early 2000s. Heather makes a good counselor to your Wizarding captaincy!

IndyJeffrey Nov 03, 2019

Curious...why do you refer to the game as 'Triple Flop Roulette' when the signage states "Royal Flop Roulette'? And the rule cards have it as 'three way roulette'. And the house edges! Yipes!

Voj777han Nov 28, 2019

dear Ladies and Gentlemans, players on machines or in live gambling to all of you reading this, I wish you luck or the sigh of faith in a big win. By chance I came across this page today and the operator's statements that seem to understand the gambling machines and his answers sound sober. Before and I emphasize this, I ask for help in the matter of "clear in your head" to inform every reader that I do not speak English. I live in Central Europe in the Slovak Republic, which belonged to the countries of the so-called Eastern Bloc and at school, children in addition to Slovak learned Russian. Although I speak German Czech Polish Russian Serbian and although I understand English and I would speak in a simple text English I knew what I learned thanks to Microsoft and the need to work with the English version of Windows, I would for example, these lines that you read already mastered. I come to the ground of my plea for understanding, which is the use of translation via google translator, because this supposedly quite well done its work, but in most cases changes the meaning of the text as a whole. Therefore, I apologize for a certainly difficult understanding. Please the specific person where I posted this text, because I did not find the appropriate box to help me and because of the imperfect knowledge of the language, put this text in my name on the right forum in order to give me an answer to the following question. Is it normal if a gambling machine of 70 to 100 spins in a row does not give the player a single minimum win? The more money I throw in there and I play the max bet, the less wins come. I've been losing money for 25 years. I have definitely lost more than $ 3 million, much of which I have gained through various frauds and by any machinations, ie never outstanding loans. If I write that out of a good 500 attempts when I put 1000 euros (~ $ 1050) into the machines, if I won 5 or 6 times I don't lie. I came to the game room to get 10 15,000 usd in a bet of 50 usd on a spin where the max winnings were 50 or 100,000 usd for the biggest win and I usually left all my money there. Getting into the gambling room of $ 5,000 and leaving with the fact that you don't even have $ 10 for a taxi was my daily bread. It was useless to send control to machines or operators. If a controller came in the back room, he took the envelope with a few large bills and left with a smile. The fact that your name then the name of the person who reported the gambler knew from the police before you left the police after the matter was the rule. And you could run. All the boxers, street combaters and the like worked for these bosses. I don't have to write about it anymore. So much for the background of my question. Would it be possible in Vegas not to give any winnings in 100 turns? Thanks to all of you.

Posted by Wizard
Apr 03, 2019

My First Vegas Vacation

The year was 1986, I had just turned 21, and was eager for my first Las Vegas vacation. My friend Deron had recently turned 18 and fallen into $50,000 from a car accident that he was a victim from many years before. The money was frozen until the day he turned 18, when he got it all in a lump sum. He wasn't as enthusiastic for a Vegas trip as I was, but he had plenty of money and was eager to spend it. Being underage was not much of a deterrent back then as Las Vegas was especially liberal about letting minors drink and gamble and every kid in southern California knew it.

Western Airlines (the only way to fly) must have been running a special because I was both cheap and poor back in those days. In case you've never heard of them, Western merged with Delta in 1987 and their brand was dissolved. My choice of a hotel was the cheapest one on the Strip at the time, which was, of course, Circus Circus.

Shortly after arriving, it became clear that Deron and I had different ideas about what to do. My gambling budget was about $20 and I was eager to survey the Circus for something in my price range to play. Deron went straight to a liquor store and quickly went about getting drunk in our room, which was also his normal routine back home.

As I recall from 33 years ago (geez, I'm old) the minimums at the blackjack tables at the Circus were $2 or $3 at the time, which was outside of my budget. However, I did find a video blackjack machine that accepted bets as low as $0.25, which I was comfortable with. I was not the gambling wizard back then that you know today. Instead, I was just playing for fun with no knowledge of the fine points of the rules or correct strategy.

That first time legally gambling went great! The blackjack went very well. Meanwhile free drinks were served right and left. As I recall, I ended up about $6 after about an hour. My bankroll was already up 30%! However, I felt guilty about abandoning Deron so quit while I was ahead to check on him.

When I got back to the room, Deron was quite drunk and a bit annoyed that I just left him there. In my defense, I gave him a chance to hit the casino with me, which he declined. Then I regaled him the story of my $6 in gambling winnings and all the free drinks from lovely cocktail waitresses, but he seemed unimpressed. He was already much drunker than me and my $6 was insignificant to the insurance windfall he recently came into.

The following morning I was eager to return to the same blackjack machine, which I did. This sitting did not go as well as I quickly gave back about half of my winnings the previous night. So I decided to cool down on the gambling and go for a walk down the Strip. I recall meandering around the Frontier (yes, I crossed picket line) and the Stardust before I found myself at the Fashion Show Mall. There I found myself in a book store where I wondered if maybe there was a book about blackjack. If so, perhaps it could shed some light on how to play properly and improve my odds.

The book I encountered, and I remember this clearly, was Playing Blackjack as a Business by Lawrence Revere. I had no idea a whole book could be written about the game. All the many chapters on card counting went right over my head, but there were conveniently some full color basic strategy charts near the beginning in chapter 3. To this day I use the same coloring scheme in my basic strategy charts as a tribute to Revere. The charts were absolutely perfect for my level at the time and what I was looking to accomplish. Did I mention I was a poor cheap bastard at the time? Instead of actually buying the book, I asked the cashier for a piece of paper and something to write with, which she kindly provided. I then sat there in the aisle copying one of the basic strategy charts on the back of some flyer the cashier fished out of the trash.

Although I had little idea how much this strategy would help, I was eager for round 3 with the Circus blackjack machine, armed with my hand-written basic strategy. After the long walk back to the Circus I went right to the machine and had at it. Round 3 went my way. As I recall, I won back the $3 I lost that morning and a few dollars beyond. I don't recall all the details, but I think there were a couple more rounds. By that evening I was up about $10, feeling great, but was getting bored playing against a machine for quarters. I was hungry for where the real fun seemed to be, at the tables.

Despite growing my bankroll from $20 to about $30, I was still too poor for the Circus tables. At the time, there was a small casino across the street called the Silver City. Their marquee mentioned in big letters $1 minimum blackjack. That was a price point I was comfortable with so crossed Las Vegas Blvd and looked for a seat at $1 minimum table. As I vaguely recall, only two or three tables were at this minimum and were completely full. I had to stand around for a while waiting for someone to leave.

After finally getting a seat, what followed was about four hours of non-stop play, strictly flat betting $1. The free drinks were flowing and my $20 buy-in was fluctuating between $20 and $30 almost the entire time. Meanwhile, I'm sure I was slowing down the full table checking my hand-written basic strategy frequently. I'm sure nobody was happy with a non-tipping slow-playing noob camping out at the table for hours. However, I didn't care about that at the time. For me, my maiden foray at a Las Vegas blackjack table was a complete success.

Around midnight I figured it was time to check on Deron, who I spent almost no time with this trip. Crossing the street I encountered a creepy guy who was "looking for some action." I won't get into that bit of the story, but suffice it to say I made a stealthy escape from the situation. When I returned to the room, Deron was a bit angry about being abandoned, but was so drunk that the alcohol took the edge of it.

At some point during this trip I purchased 10 post cards for $1. Before calling it a night I wrote out the whole story of my experience on these ten post cards for my girlfriend at the time, Christin. As I recall, I decided against sending her the cards as she was a good girl and wouldn't have approved of so much debauchery. The following morning, I think we had breakfast at the infamous Circus Circus buffet, which I loved at the time, before heading off to the airport and back to Orange County.

Looking back, I think I was kind of a jerk for not spending enough time with Deron, not buying the blackjack book, and enjoying countless drinks and time at the table without ever tipping a dime. In my defense, I had no idea what tipping etiquette was. Nevertheless, it was a fun and memorable trip, for me at least.

As a postscript, Deron blew his entire $50,000 insurance settlement in less than a year and had only a car worth about $3,000 to show for it. Some 15 years later he died of alcohol cardiomyopathy, which is an enlarged heart due to many years of excessive drinking. I'm sure being a heavy smoker didn't help any. I tried in vain to stop him many times, but I'm sure to him it was just more nagging in addition to what he was getting from his mother and other friends. That is a sad story I could elaborate on, but won't, at least not today.

On another topic, I'd like to remind all my readers that the registration for the Burning Man ticket open sale is from noon Wednesday to noon Friday, Pacific time.

Deron, with his memorable haircut, outbound at LAX.

Me, posing in front of an airport limousine, that was strangely the same price as a cab. My first limo ride!


smoothgrh Apr 04, 2019

Thank you sharing memories from your first Vegas vacation. Like any great story, it's filled with excitement, reflection, suspense, comedic situations, good times and bad—and I'm sorry to hear, tragedy.

Your friend's story sounds similar to that of some lottery winners—a windfall turned tragic. I'm sure you tried your best to help, but usually this situation requires extreme intervention, which most young people don't have the wherewithal to do.

Video blackjack was also my gateway drug into table games. I remember getting frustrated with its slowness and trying to Martingale it, which I quickly learned doesn't work. And I also remember being a noob at the table: trying to hand the dealer my money instead of laying it on the table. Nice homage to the blackjack book author!

TigerWu Apr 06, 2019

Awesome! Love these old Vegas stories. My first gambling bankroll was $40 back in 1998. I got it up to $57 at an empty blackjack table with a noob-friendly dealer before calling it quits for the trip. This was at the Monte Carlo.

FleaStiff Apr 18, 2019

>noob-friendly and Monte Carlo.... two great bits of luck.

My first dealers were not friendly and I was at the Imperial Place with acqaintances who had dragooned me solely because they would need a relatively sober driver. Even after I graduated from Gambler'sSchool, I did not know anything and overheard the Base Dealer saying 'he could have really hurt us, if he knew what he was doing'.

My first trip coincided with a heat wave and also with headlines about several dealers being found in shallow graves.

I knew however that I was hooked.

odiousgambit Apr 20, 2019

yeah, these first time stories are interesting

my first and only vegas trip is recounted somewhere in my blog I think

for sure, Michael, I would kill any guilty feelings about abandoning someone who just wanted to stay in the room and get drunk.

It is funny how people think money will last. $50,000 is a lot of money to save, even now, but was never enough to think it would last, not 33 years ago and not now.

Zuga Jun 25, 2019

great story Mike. geeez I was 5 back then. :D

Posted by Wizard
Dec 20, 2018

Homicide: Life as an Extra

Back in 1997 I worked as an extra for one episode of the outstanding police drama Homicide -- Life on the Streets. My episode, 'Shaggy Dog, City Coat,' aired on January 16, 1998 the 11th episode of season 6. A whole day of work came down to just a few seconds of air time. I'm the pathologist in the white coat walking in the background. The best shot of me is at the 1:04-1:05 point in the following scene.

Direct link: https://youtu.be/4QIl4qyjV-E

If you would like to enjoy the entire episode, please use this YouTube link, where I can be seen at the 10:20 point, which, coincidentally, is the police code for "location." That video is better quality than the capture I did from it.

I wrote about my experience in my article Homicide: Life as an Extra


100xOdds Dec 20, 2018

last century, I played an online game and director Aaron Spelling was one of the players.

he invited a select few of us to come to Hollywood and be extras on his show Beverly Hills, 90210.

I declined, mainly because it was sooooooooo far away from where i lived (East coast).

(I've had dinners with others that played the game and was local to where i lived.)

20/20 hindsight, i should have went...

Wizard Dec 20, 2018

Who knows, maybe you would have ended up with Shannen Doherty.

FleaStiff Dec 22, 2018

In Kiss Kiss Bang Bang the stars impulsively approached an extra and asked him 'can I get large jars of K-1 Jelly at the gift shop?. This turned the extra into a Standout designation and he received additional pay.

odiousgambit Dec 22, 2018

>K-1 Jelly

were you getting started on your taxes? K-1 is a tax form used for "trust, partnership or S corporation". It turns into jelly when you get so mad at it you tear it up and start chewing it. Which you will do if you ever have to do one.

KY, now, that's a different animal

FleaStiff Dec 28, 2018

yeah. ky jelly. it was running gag thru the whole movie of two utterly unbankable stars.