Posted by Wizard
Mar 26, 2013

Down and Out at the Laiki Bank

I haven't said this in public before, but I have a foreign bank account at the Laiki Bank in Cyprus. Of course, the weakest there. After much searching, they were the only ones I could fine who would take an account from a U.S. citizen. I have reported this account with the IRS and can account for every penny that has moved through it, should I ever be asked. It is no big secret that that my sites advertise Internet casinos, who find it very difficult to make payments to U.S. banks.

The bank is scheduled to reopen on Thursday. Perhaps then I'll see how much money was stolen from me. I expect about $35,000. I'm sure there will also be limits on how quickly I can take out the rest. Maybe I should be glad to get at least part of my money. Without help from the European Central Bank, I probably would have seen nothing.

Another way to look at it is account holders in other countries in need of bailout money, namely Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Portugal, Romania, and Spain the bank account holders didn't lose a dime. When my money is at stake suddenly the rules change. I welcome correction on any of this, by the way.

Well, now that it has become acceptable to steal from account holders' money when the bank gambles and loses the money they were entrusted with, who is stop it from happening when there is a run on the banks the next time. I predict Spain will be next.

I can tell you one thing. If had any money in banks in an EU country on the receiving end of charity I would take it the hell out ASAP. If I lived in northern Europe I would be sick and tired of bailing out southern Europe too. Then again, if banks can't be trusted to invest money properly, and the ECB won't stand behind them, what good are these banks?

I certainly made a mistake, but I hope that my story may save at least one of my readers with money in a troubled European bank. My advice, take it out now before the real run starts. Don't let what happened to me happen to you.


FleaStiff Mar 27, 2013

Leaving a substantial sum in any such jurisdiction is risky.

Iceland banks? It was largely the Jewish Mafia...ooops, we are supposed to say Russian Mafia aren't we. Must be politically correct on this site. And of course the fact that England declared the entire population of Iceland to be terrorists and seized the IceBank accounts, that helped too, didn't it. Though largely Iceland was a "club" a land of business-oriented tribes, none of whom were great watchdogs against criminal encroachment by Russians.

Cyprus? A vest pocket entity largely known as a sunny tourist mecca for the UK, including sex tourism. Ooops lets not let reality get in the way of our expression. We must be politically correct and not refer to to UK women seeking uncomplicated and unentangeling relationships in Cyprus as Sex Tourists, so too we must be politically correct and not refer to weak economies and weak banking systems. Its never polite to recall that Turkey was the weak link in Europe and then Greece and then ... and then ... and so on until one finally realizes that any multi-political currency is only as strong as its weakest link. That old lady of Threadneedle street will stand forever ofcourse.

FleaStiff Mar 27, 2013

The problem is with the definition of a bank.

A means by which entrenched management defend themselves economically.

Just as in Iceland, the Icelandic "banks" were never making any money from their banking operations. Never!

odiousgambit Mar 27, 2013


DeMango Mar 28, 2013

Was there not a minimum amount, the first !00,000 Euro, that wouldn't be taxed?

Doc Mar 28, 2013

My only-slightly-related experience happened thirty years ago when I spent a month in Cyprus consulting for the U.N. This was long before creation of the EU or the euro.

When Turkey invaded and occupied the territory now known as Northern Cyprus, the banks there were looted, and large amounts of stolen cash was floating around. In an attempt to avoid collapse of their financial system, the Cypriot government declared that the currency was not of value (and could not be exchanged) outside of the territory they still controlled. The thinking was that there was very little Cypriot currency outside of the country that would be trashed, other than what had been stolen, and the stolen funds could not then circulate back with a demand from some bank that it be redeemed.

There was also some concern that some of the stolen funds would be smuggled into Cyprus, converted to exchangeable currencies, and taken back out. Banking rules were set up to restrict funds which could be exchanged to other currencies and removed from the country. This created some impediments for foreign business transactions as well as activities of people associated with the UN presence in the country then.

I was given an advance of per diem funds (living expenses) from the local U.N. office, and at their suggestion I opened a bank account rather than keep the cash in a hotel room. I was allowed to open what was called an "External Funds Account", which meant that the funds had arrived in the country by a known process (the U.N.), and if any was left over at the end of my stay it could be taken out of the country again in another currency. There was a very low limit on the amount of any exchangeable currency that could be carried out of the country -- just a couple hundred dollars worth if I remember correctly -- and I came home with a Barclays cashier's check for my balance.

This whole aspect of non-exchangeable currencies and not being allowed to take your money with you was quite "foreign" to my simple American thinking.

TIMSPEED Mar 28, 2013

LOL, I can't even find Cyprus on a map!

Doc Mar 28, 2013

One of the largest islands in the Mediterranean. South of Turkey and west of Lebanon and Syria. They have close historical, cultural, and ethnic ties with Greece with (formerly) a significant Turkish Cypriot minority.

Most of the Turkish Cypriots eventually moved to the northern portion of the island after the Turkish invasion in 1974, which was spurred by what was viewed as (probably correctly) severe discrimination against the minority. After effects of the invasion led to creation of a self-proclaimed country as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, not recognized by anyone but Turkey with everyone else officially considering it "occupied territory." The Greek Cypriots in the north mostly escaped to the south as refugees of the invasion, with the remaining few eventually migrating south.

EvenBob Mar 28, 2013

Because you're viewed as a rich foreigner, they in all

liklihood will get most of it. If they're only letting people on

the island get 300 a day and none is to leave, what

does that tell us about foreign bank accounts there.

Wizard Mar 28, 2013

Here are the restrictions on withdrawals. It mentions a 300 a day limit, as well as other rules for international transfers. The way I read it, I can get 5,000 Euros every 17 days. Even before this mess I could get only $200 a day from ATM, not to mention two sets of ATM fees.

EvenBob Mar 28, 2013

They just said on CNN there are armed guards at every

ATM who make sure all the rules are followed. They want

to know where every dime is going. CNN said if they ever

take away the restrictions, there will be a run that will

close the banks, maybe for a very long time.

EvenBob Mar 29, 2013

"WHEREAS there is

lack of substantial


Translation: We ain't got enough cash to cover most

of the depositor accounts because our output far

surpassed our input.

What a bunch of assholes..

Wizard Mar 30, 2013

I'm in a real mess. I will just come out and say that I had 182,129 Euros in my account. When I logged in to my account it said 100,00 was "available" and 82,129 was blocked. However, even with the so-called available funds, I have no way of getting them. A message on my account said that transfers outside the country are not allowed. Even before this mess I could only get $200 a day with my ATM card. Checks are also banned, not that I had a checking account to begin with.

This Reuters article looks like I'm not going to see much of the "blocked" money.

Thanks again Europe for bailing everybody else out until it was my turn. In the unlikely event any members know of a foreign bank friendly to Americans, let me know.

Doc Mar 31, 2013

I guess maybe I don't understand the full scope of the problem. I didn't think there was any difficulty for a U.S. citizen to open an account with a foreign bank. I do understand that the internet casinos may have difficulty making payments to U.S. banks, with there being the presumption that the funds are proceeds from internet gambling that is frowned upon by our government (as opposed to proceeds from advertising). Foreign banks may be hesitant to assist directly in your dealings with internet casinos because of their concern for their relationship with the U.S., but I didn't think they would refuse you an account.

I think your near-term concern may be recovery of the funds you already have on deposit, with future payments from Bovada/Bodog being longer-term issues.

Are the foreign banks that operate in Cyprus, as opposed to the Cypriot banks, undergoing the same kind of restrictions? I'm thinking of someone like Barclay's or another of the British banks with offices there. Is it possible to open an account at Barclay's, withdraw the "available" funds from the Laiki Bank, deposit them at Barclay's still in Cyprus, but perhaps protect them from future Cypriot problems? Then perhaps Barclay's could assist you in converting the funds to dollars and getting them home, particularly if you didn't have an internet casino depositing funds in that account. Yes, it's a bit like money laundering, but you say you have records of how you earned the funds, showing they weren't proceeds from your gambling. If such an approach has promise, then maybe it's time for a Mediterranean vacation.

Wizard Mar 31, 2013

Contrary to popular belief, it is difficult for an American to obtain a foreign bank account. Most banks don't want to fuss with Americans because the U.S. government often asks to see the details on such accounts, looking for tax cheats. However, it isn't impossible. Most banks will want a minimum balance of 300K to 1M for an American-owned account. I might have been able to scrape together 300K had Cyprus not raided my account there. Now I've got only enough to live off of for a few months and no way for new income to come in.

My only hope is to find a new bank that isn't so picky about the required balance, or take my chances with sticking with the Laiki bank. They say that "new money" can be withdrawn without restriction, but somehow my faith in that promise is not very strong.

teddys Apr 01, 2013

I am sorry to hear this. What a bad beat! According to the government, Laiki Bank will cease to exist and will be merged into the Bank of Cyprus. I agree it will be tough to recover anything over E100,000, but you should be getting shares in the new banking entity (whatever that's worth). As for future banking, get the HECK out of Cyprus if at all possible. You probably didn't need to be told that. All off-shore havens are inherently risky, but even if Switzerland is too expensive, there must be others like Caymans, Bahamas, or Isle of Man/Gibraltar that at least have some measure of stability.

Wizard Apr 02, 2013

Banks everywhere are very reluctant to accept accounts from US citizens. This includes the Cayman Islands. Of course money talks, but I estimate it would take at least half a million dollars for a Cayman Islands bank to listen.

Since my last post I've been turned down by a few legitimate banks I've contacted. One place that seems to be willing to take my money is the Loyal Bank out of Hungary. However, just their cheesy web site sets off red flags.

ahiromu Apr 02, 2013

Nothing can really be said about a loss like this. I'm sorry it happened to you, prime example that it's not just Russian tax evaders getting screwed.

AZDuffman Apr 02, 2013

Is there a way you can set up a local shell corp in say the Bahamas and open the account in that name? Other suggestion is that isle of Mann used to be friendly.

I hate to tell everyone this but the same thing will happen in many more places the next few years. So much money has been lent to local and state governments that cannot pay if back long term.

teddys Apr 02, 2013

Loyal Bank is out of St. Vincent & The Grenandines, a sovereign island nation that used to be part of Great Britain. They are fairly stable. Their website seems pretty legit to me. There will always be some degree of sketchiness with offshore banks.

AcesAndEights Apr 02, 2013

Wow. I can't even imagine what you're going through. My heart is aching for you and your family, Wiz. I wish you the best in recovering what you can of your money, and finding a better way to get paid by your advertisers. I would hope that Bovada/Bodog would be able to work with you on this issue...

Wizard Apr 03, 2013

Quote: teddys

Loyal Bank is out of St. Vincent & The Grenandines, a sovereign island nation that used to be part of Great Britain.

They only have a branch out of St. Vincent. The HQ are in Hungary. If you do searching the bank itself, some say it isn't really a bank, seems sketchy.

Quote: AcesAndEights

I would hope that Bovada/Bodog would be able to work with you on this issue...

Unfortunately, not. Payment processing is always a huge challenge in this industry, and there are enough issues sending money.

Ayecarumba Apr 04, 2013

Would it help to contact the State Department, or travel to Cypress to show the bank manager that you are a real person and not just a number?

JohnnyQ Apr 04, 2013

I was wondering the same thing, ie travel to Cyprus. Airfare is

about $ 1400 right ? Maybe you could look into getting a lawyer

over there ? Are there any CPA's or Lawyers over here who

specialize in International Banking ?

If there is anything forum members could do help, please let

us know.

I am also sorry you are stuck in this crappy situation.

EvenBob Apr 05, 2013

I see the high rollers were warned two weeks before

the collapse and pulled out almost a billion from Cyprus

banks, including the president of Cyprus and his fam.

How nice for them..

Wizard Apr 06, 2013

Quote: I was wondering the same thing, ie travel to Cyprus. Airfare is

about $ 1400 right ? Maybe you could look into getting a lawyer

over there ? Are there any CPA's or Lawyers over here who

specialize in International Banking ?

If there is anything forum members could do help, please let

us know.

I am also sorry you are stuck in this crappy situation.

Going to Cyprus won't help. I have a lawyer who helped me get the account and is trying to help me get my "available" 100K out. No word yet on any response to his request. I don't see how a lawyer there would help either, as so many people are in my boat.

Thanks for offering to help. For now, I'm okay, but if money doesn't get moving with me in 2-3 months I will be in real trouble.

Wizard Sep 09, 2013

Quote: paco

What does this statement mean Mike? You know have 80K Euro share of a bank?

Yup. Account holders at the Bank of Cyprus lost 52.5% above 100,000 Euros. However, for Laiki Bank members we lost 100% about 100,000 Euros. They got converted into shares of a worthless "bad bank." The 100,000 was moved to the Bank of Cyprus, where I can withdraw about 7,000 Euros every two weeks.

Posted by Wizard
Feb 08, 2013

Just released from the hospital

SOOPOO and JB have kindly released information, with my permission, about my recent battle with food poisoning. I'm happy to say that I was just released from the hospital an hour ago. My doctor was not very comfortable with letting me go, but also takes his patient's wishes under advisement, and I was eager to get out of there. My wife is also a nurse, who is able to keep a good eye on me.

Here is what happened. It all started with I had to take my 15-year-old daughter to a debate meet at UNLV. This was the day before the Super Bowl and I wanted to make some prop bets. Rather than return home and drive all the way back to pick up my daughter in the evening, I decided to make a day of it.

My first, and infamous, decision was to eat at what I think was a Guatemalan food restaurant by the name of El Santaneco, right across Maryland Parkway, by that crosswalk of which drivers frequently ignore and kill pedestrians. So, the place seemed a little dirty, and the prices were very cheap. Two red flags. However, I was hungry, so bought some kind of scrambled eggs dish with some meat, that I had never heard of. The menu was entirely in Spanish. I must say that I enjoyed my meal and left happy.

The next four hours or so I did prop shopping from Tropicana to Paradise Blvd. Then I had a nap at a friend's condo in that area, which he lets me use whenever I want when he isn't in town, which he wasn't. When I got up from my nap I felt the something coming on. My stomach was just not right and I immediately suspected that whatever I ate for breakfast didn't agree me. However, I was a little hungry and thought the only thing I could get down was a milkshake. So I had one from the food court at the MGM. To kill more time I played some low-level pai gow and then went to the UNLV library to read until my daughter was ready. When the library closed I killed more time in the student union until she was finally done and I could but a bad day to an end.

Super Bowl Sunday begin with me having to take my daughter back to UNLV. After a good night's sleep I was feeling about 50% better, so dropped her off and did some more prop shopping. This time from Flamingo to the Wynn. It was during this time I found a bet on "no safety" at -900, at the Palazzo. I bet it -- big. Then I went back to my car at Bill's Gambling Hall (what will always be the Barbary Coast in my heart), parking garage, the best parking secret in Vegas and went home. Signage indicated Bill's was closing permanently at noon on Tuesday, so that would be the last time I would ever park there. My wife was to pick her up.

During the first half of the Super Bowl I was just in awful shape. First I was really hot and then it shifted to being really cold. I took a lot of Tylenol, which helped. The second half I was actually able to enjoy the game, except the very last play, which cost me a lot of money. The remainder of the night went okay.

The next Monday I'm getting shorter of breath, higher fevers, and alternating between being hot and cold. Still I tried to self-medicate by taking lots of Tylenol, Motrin, aspirin, and an anti-biotic we had left over from some past sickness in the family. This was my son's birthday, which I drove to but by the time we sat down at the table I was shivering, with no appetite, so excused myself and waited in the car. I might add I turned the heat up all the way. We got through that incident with yet more medication.

Tuesday was basically more of the same, but worse. I'm not one to admit defeat easily, but it was looking like whatever I had I would need some expert help. It had been so long since I last saw my family doctor that he put my files in storage. He wasn't "taking new patients" and since my files were in storage I had no proof I wasn't "new." So after few calls I found someone else. She took the usual samples , sent me somewhere for a chest x-ray, and gave me a antibiotic prescription. No diagnoses on what I had. She didn't seem be believe my food poisoning theory because I had only one incidence of vomiting, which was dry, and no diarrhea (thank god for spell checkers; I can never remember how to spell that word)

Early Tuesday evening is when my food poisoning nearly kills me. I must have been running a very high fever because I had a terrible case of the chills. No matter how many blankets I put on my bed I couldn't get warm. So, in the delirious state that was in, I turned on the steam room to warm up. Yes -- I know that is not the right thing to do. However, with a fever above 103 you don't exactly think straight. That is why it often happens that when they find dead climbers on Mount Everest they are naked. I'm sure these climbers were well trained in cold-weather survival, but if you're sick enough the brain won't get enough blood and your more basic instincts take over. So nobody needs to tell me that wasn't the best decision I ever made -- I know!

Turning on the steam room was the last thing I remember. For the next part I'm going off what my wife says. She was downstairs making dinner and head a loud thump, as if someone fell in the steam room. When she went up to investigate I was in bed with a blank stare on my pale face. She asked me some questions but I would not respond to anything. The last thing she said was, "If you don't say anything I'm calling 911." I didn't, so she did.

The next thing I knew I woke up in a hospital bed. Somehow this didn't seem to shock or surprise me. My mind was very dazed. A lot of people asked me question but I found it hard to talk and my hands were trembling like crazy. One woman asked me for my home phone number and I couldn't recall it, or any phone number. I was happy to just stare into blank space. At the time of my admittance, my temperature was 103.8.

About five hours later I was moved to a private room on the fourth floor of the Summerlin Hospital. The same hospital where my younger daughter was born. I was put on an IV drip and aggressive schedule of tests. I was hoping that first night would be my last.

The next day I was coherent again. While the doctor didn't have a diagnosis, he knew that I was extremely sick and near death when I came in. He whatever tests they took he could tell that my heart and body are normally in outstanding shape, and probably saved my life. The state of sepsis my body was in is 25% fatal. The main goal going forward would be to bring my temperature down.

I might have been let home on Wednesday, and my discharge was approved, but I had another incidence of a high fever and a serious shivering incident. So much for that, and I was charged another day, at least. Thursday I thought I was doing pretty well, holding my temperature around 97. However, out of nowhere, it shot up to 102.4, along with another bad shivering and shaking spell, which took three nurses to control. This was around 2:30 PM.

After that my temperature was done again and I was eating and drinking more. Thursday night my doctor came in and said he would prefer to keep me longer, but it was a borderline situation, and asked my opinion. I said I preferred to go home. He spoke to my wife many times and knew she would keep an eye on me. In the end he said he would make a decision in the morning.

That morning the nurse said I was released to go if I wanted, which I chose to do. I'm still very sick, and have weeks of fighting ahead of me. However, I felt like that hospital was a jail, and my IV was my ball and chain. You had no free will. At night nurses woke me up every few hours to draw blood or give me a pill. One male nurse scolded me for sitting in a chair and letting an unused dirty blanket hit the floor. Aside from him, I found the staff friendly and capable, and there was no way around doing some unpleasant parts of their job.

At this point I will try to take good care of myself and expect to have follow-up phone calls with my doctor. We still don't know exactly what caused this. When we do, it will help to prescribe a antibiotic specifically tailored to beat what I've got. Whatever it is -- it sure beat me up good.

I hear a lot of people have expressed their good wishes on the forum. That means a lot to me. I'm going to go through that thread when I get the time. For now, I think a good nap in my own bed is well-deserved.

Update: The El Santaneco restaurant, where I contracted the case of food poisoning is closed. The restaurant in that location is called Antigua Guatemala. I do not know how associated it is with the El Santaneco.


Mosca Feb 08, 2013

Wow, Mike. That was awful. I hope you never have to go through it again. I hope you feel better soon.

Juyemura Feb 08, 2013

Glad you are out of the hospital. Don't over do it these next few weeks. And if your wife tells you to go back to the hospital, listen.

Paradigm Feb 08, 2013

Wiz, so glad you are home and on the road to recovery. Until the latest on the thread, it sounded like a bad case of the flu....it was apparently much worse than that. Your story this week is pretty scary. Life is precious, make sure to hug the wife and kids a lot.....once you are better. All the best!

Mission146 Feb 08, 2013

I'm glad you're doing better, Mike.

tringlomane Feb 08, 2013

Glad to hear you are doing well enough to write up this detailed update. Take it easy, and lots of fluids, obviously!

Nareed Feb 08, 2013

I'm relieved and happy to know you're better. But, seriously, if you learn nothing else, learn this: DON'T ever take antibiotics without a prescription. One dose or a few will do little, and you don't even know the proper dose. You may kill a few bugs, but likely not all. And those that remain can become resistant that fast. This may requrie different drugs entirely, or higher doses. Higher doses are tpically taken through an IV.

EvenBob Feb 08, 2013

It was obviously the restaurant that made you sick.

You eat at a strange, not very clean place for the

first time and end up in the hospital? How many

other people are they going to make sick. Sounds

like they have 3rd world country sanitation standards.

Don't be stubborn about going back to the hospital

if you need to, men can be very dumb about these

things. We think we can beat everything just with

will power. When my temp is 101 I think I'm losing

my mind. 103? I can't even imagine it.

Ayecarumba Feb 08, 2013

I am overjoyed to hear that you are getting better Mike! Best wishes on a smooth recovery. It is a really, really good thing Mrs. Wizard is a nurse.

MidwestAP Feb 08, 2013

Good to hear you are home and on the way back from this crap! Don't hesitate to head back to the hospital if things turn south. Being stubborn at a table can be costly, being stubborn with your health can be fatal.

thecesspit Feb 08, 2013

Good luck on the road to Wellville, sir.

aceofspades Feb 08, 2013

Sounds harrowing WIZ - get well soon and don't be a hero!!!

DJTeddyBear Feb 08, 2013

Wow. Very scary.

Glad to hear you're doing better. Or at least better enough to be home.

Take it easy, and be well.

FinsRule Feb 08, 2013

Super scary. Didn't think it was going to be that bad. Very glad you are on the road to recovery.

RaleighCraps Feb 08, 2013

speedy recovery Wiz. Good thing you were in good shape prior to this.

Boz Feb 08, 2013

Great to hear you are better and stay that way!

boymimbo Feb 08, 2013

Wow, Mike. I hope that you get better and take it very, very, very easy.

Buzzard Feb 08, 2013

Once again the Wiz trumps me. I married a CNA, he married a Nurse.

RogerKint Feb 08, 2013

I got angry as I read this because something similar happened to me, though not as bad. It seems like there should be some recourse but I can remember feeling helpless. So glad you made it through the worst of it.

odiousgambit Feb 09, 2013

It's scary to think you had few symptoms of food poisoning.

If anybody needs a refresher course on how hard diagnosing disease is, watch a few episodes of "Monsters Inside Me" when that comes on Animal Planet. The constant theme is puzzled doctors, one after the other, completely mystified as to diagnosis. Sometimes what they come up with is humorous, sometimes maddening [insisting it's the flu is common]. Finally one thinks to ask, "have you ever traveled outside the country?"

odiousgambit Feb 09, 2013

in fact you have traveled outside the country. Any chance it's Malaria? That stumps them here in the US.

odiousgambit Feb 09, 2013

Doctor Carl's diagnosis is now official: Malaria!


I thought I was doing pretty well, holding my temperature around 97. However, out of nowhere, it shot up to 102.4, along with another bad shivering and shaking spell, which took three nurses to control.

Warning: Carl is not a real doctor nor has he played one on TV

teddys Feb 09, 2013

Is the lesson here to avoid sketchy Guatemalan restaurants?

I'll wait for the diagnosis but my guess is Staphylococcus. (Where is Dr. House?)

AZDuffman Feb 09, 2013

Close call, wishing you a speedy recovery.

FinsRule Feb 09, 2013

You need a code on your sauna, like in Ask the Wizard, when you needed to complete a math problem to ask you a question.

SOOPOO Feb 09, 2013

Quite often we doctors never make a definitive diagnosis, because there is not a definitve test for every disease. Rather, we make what is called a 'differential diagnosis', listing the most probable causes, and then TRY to eliminate each one. Sometimes a diagnosis is made by exclusion. I would say that Mike 'likely' had food poisoning, and that other causes are still possible. If Mike had travelled out of the country to a malaria infested zone, and did not take malaria prophylaxis, then malaria would be high on his differential diagnosis list. Malaria can be diagnosed by a blood test.

Is there any truth to the rumor that 4 executives from the Venetian were at the next table but not eating?

100xOdds Feb 10, 2013

Glad you survived the Sands Corp assasination attempt!

AcesAndEights Feb 10, 2013

Sending you belated get-well vibes.

FrGamble Feb 11, 2013

Continuning my prayers for you and a speedy recovery!

discflicker Feb 12, 2013

So, which sauce was it...

Green or Red ?

(I hope by now you can laugh about it)

Get well soon!

pacomartin Mar 19, 2013

Sorry that I missed this whole thing Mike. I don't normally read the blogs. I am glad you are better and sorry you went through this ordeal.

Posted by Wizard
Dec 03, 2012

Vegas Half Marathon 2012

Yesterday I did the Las Vegas half marathon for the third year in a row. I was going into this one in reasonable shape, but not nearly as good as last year. Between the marathons of 2010 and 2011 I did an informal half marathon on a weekly basis. So, come the real thing in 2011 I was in great shape, and finished with a time of 1:49. However, after that I became completely lazy and my "long runs" dropped off to only three or four miles.

When the Vegas heat started to subside in late September I decided to get my act together, sign up for this year's half marathon, and train for it. Mile by mile I built up my endurance back to half marathon distance. However, the day of the race I only ran that far twice in training, so it was still a struggle to get that far. In 2011, doing 13 miles was a piece of cake. In 2012, I was exhausted afterward. So, the big day arrived too soon, but I still hoped to complete the thing in under two hours.

If you live out in the suburbs of Vegas this first major challenge is just getting to the starting line. When they close off the Strip to car traffic it has a domino effect, messing up traffic anywhere near the Strip. Last year I worked out the perfect spot, to park at the executive airport and bike a short distance to the starting line. However, this year they changed the course, to go right past it, so there was no way to drive to it. So, after much deliberation, I ended up parking further way, at a park-and-ride lot on Sunset and Gillespie, and biking to the start line.

When I got near my corral at the starting line I decided to use the men's room at a nearby Subway, lest I need to go during the race. However, there was a line of about 30 women waiting for both the men's and women's bathroom. The line was Wendy's style, where one line fed into two windows, or bathrooms in this case. This presented an ethical dilemma. Should I stand in a long line with all the women, or cut in line and go straight to the men's room. Keep in mind I had plenty of time and there was no urgent need. I asked a woman towards the end of the line if the line was for only the women's room or both. She said it was for both, but that it wouldn't bother her if I jumped to the front to use the men's room. So I did and waited for the men's room door to open and I jumped in. As I did they woman leaving yelled "Hey!" in a very angry tone, as if I was cutting the line. She evidently was friends with the gal behind her in line. I said "I'll be quick" as I closed the door. In retrospect, I make no apologies. Men should not be inconvenienced because women take so long in their own bathroom.

After that I made my way to corral #7, took out an old book I was planning to throw away, and killed time reading until it was time to start. When my group finally started about 4:40 I cast away my jacket and the book and off I went. Compared to the last two years, the course was wider, so there was much less congestion. Most of the time I had no trouble running as fast as I wanted. This was also partially because I indicated an estimated time of 1:50, so I was grouped with faster runners. By the way, I think there is a lot of inflation when it comes to such estimates. I think most runners are estimating a time of about 15 minutes faster than they actually finish. Keep this in mind when registering in future years. If you enter an honest time, expect to be frustrated trying to pass a lot of runners, and walkers, much slower than you. Many runners didn't respect the whole corral concept at all, as evidenced by the many high numbers in my own corral, who should have been around the 17th corral.

The temperature was just about perfect. It was very windy, which worked in my favor. This year the run started at the Mandalay Bay and ended at the Mirage. With a wind out of the south it meant the wind was in our favor more often than it was against us. A downside was getting dust in my eyes and I was missing a safety pin, so my number was flapping in the wind the whole time.

So, the run went fine for the first ten miles. Then I started to feel the pain of the limit of training. I could still run, but I wanted to do so more slowly. However, I was very ambitious about finishing the thing in under two hours. It was a contest of the body against the mind.

The only thing I had to go on to know if I was on schedule was some runners had tags on their back according to their pace group. The entire race I was among scattered runners with 2:00 tags, and some with 1:52, and even one with 1:45. Around the Stratosphere I reached a big group of 2:00 people, with one of them carrying a 2:00 sign, and giving encouragement to the other "twos." I didn't know what corral they started from, so finishing with them wouldn't necessarily imply that my time would be two hours. However, I decided to do my best to keep their pace, which was not easy at this point.

Around the Encore I could feel the light at the end of the tunnel, and used what little reserve energy I had to try to beat the 2:00 pack. So I picked up my speed marginally and left the twos behind. Around the Treasure Island I could see the finish line and gave it my best to finish strong. After crossing the finish line I was exhausted but proud of myself. I had not been that tired since the full marathon of 2006.

That evening there was a reception for a conference of table game inventors, which I was invited too. I wasn't able to escape the exit area until all the way to Flamingo Blvd. Then I had to walk all the way to some remote corner of the Mirage where this party was taking place. When I got there I rewarded myself with plenty of beer, wine, roast beef, and miscellaneous hors d'oeuvres (yes, I had to look up the spelling on that). Some attendees vented on us runners for messing up traffic, but I made no apologies. The cars get the streets for 364 days a year, and they complain about not getting all 365. After the party a friend kindly drove me back to the Subway where I locked my bike and made the long ride back to my car. It just seemed long, to be honest with you.

The next morning I checked the web site for my results. My time was 1:59:20 (yeah!). It was my goal to finish in under two hours, and I did so by 40 seconds. To put that in comparison, I finished number 2,840 out of 22,087 of everyone who finished the half marathon (13th percentile). Out of the middle-aged men (age 45 to 49) I was number 249 out of 1085 (23rd percentile). So I beat 3 out of 4 men my age, and we're talking about men fit enough to run 13 miles in the first place.

My compliments to the race organizers, who I thought did a great job. My biggest complaint is they make you show up in person one or two days before to pick up your number, which was at the events center at the Venetian. This whoop-de-doo is full of vendors selling running stuff to a captive audience. There is the option to pay $40 to pick up your number the day of the race, which is rather high considering the race itself is already expensive at about $130. All things considered, I'm not sure I'm going to do it again next year. I've been hearing a lot about cheaper half marathons, even free ones, which I'd like to give a try. The Vegas marathon is a lot of fun, but I've done it three times now, and the full marathon once, so maybe I won't put up with all the hassle and expense next year.


kewlj Dec 03, 2012

Congrats on your under 2 hours Mike. I too ran the half marathon. I used to be a big runner, 5 miles or so, several times a week, but have gotten away from running since moving to Vegas 3 years ago. I have been running some in the last month as I recover from ACL surgery 3 months ago and try to get stronger. ACL surgery recovery is really a year long process, so I knew I would not be able to complete the half marathon, as I had no intention of pushing beyond the first signs of pain. I thought maybe half way, which I did not make. First pain came around 4 miles in front of Caesars and I pushed on for another mile to the 5 mile mark, just shy of Riviera. I walked the rest of the way downtown with a friend. Although I didn't do as well as I had hoped, it was a lot of fun. Lots of sights to be seen. Met and talked with a number of people.

thecesspit Dec 03, 2012

I know the Vegas marathon is meant to be one of the more expensive ones. The local marathon is $130 for the full run, meant to be one of the faster ones for Boston qualification as it's mostly along the coast.

Good time... I will be very happy if I go sub 2h30m for my first half in 4 months.

amyjoel Dec 04, 2012

I was VERY amused to see your justification of cutting in front of a very long line to use the restroom. I don't know which makes you seem more rude: the fact that you emphasize you had plenty of time (and therefore no real need to jump in) or the fact that you think you shouldn't be inconvenienced by your clearly inarguable "fact" that women are slow. What about other factors, such as almost twice as many women as men ran the half-marathon? I am quite sure that I spend less time in restrooms than most men I know, as I have never even considered bringing reading material to a toilet. That was not your most gentlemanly moment, Wiz! Instead of inconveniencing yourself by waiting, you should have just whizzed in the bushes like the rest of the men probably did.

P.S. Do cheap half-marathons with me! I only do the cheap ones! And, in all seriousness, great job on your time. If my work allows, my goal for March is sub-2:00 also. It's a pretty lofty goal for me and I know how much work it takes! :)

TIMSPEED Dec 05, 2012

Congrats on finishing under your projected time of 2:00!

I remember when I was competing (inline speedskating) I made it my goal to finish a 50k in 1:30....well, the closest I ever made it was 1:32...which isn't bad, considering it's 32 miles!

So, hats off to you for doing what you intended!

tringlomane Dec 06, 2012

Congrats on breaking 2 hours, Wiz! I don't want to imagine how long it would have taken me. :) Seeing the marathon run was an unexpected surprise while I was in town. Fortunately I didn't have a rental car.

Posted by Wizard
Sep 25, 2012

Last Man Standing NFL Contest

I'm one of 210 people who put in $100 in a "last man standing" NFL contest run through RunYourPool.com. Thanks to some big upsets, which I managed to avoid picking, I'm one of 26 left standing. Here is how it went down so far.

Week 1: In = 210, eliminated=16 (7.7%). Most eliminations were those who picked the Saints. I picked Houston.
Week 2: In = 195, eliminated = 110 (56.4%). Almost all the eliminations were those to picked the Patriots. There is a rule that you can't pick the same team twice, so I saved them and went with the Bengals.
Week 3: In = 85, eliminated 59 (69.4%). Most eliminations were the Saints, but some 49ers. I picked Chicago.
Week 4: In=26

So, I figure I now have $808 in equity! That is the area code of Hawaii, by the way.

For week 4 I'm picking the Ravens, who are a 13-point favorite. I should have about an 85% chance of surviving this week. Hopefully there will be big upsets elsewhere to narrow down the field.


Ayecarumba Sep 25, 2012

Well done Wizard! Almost half the folks remaining in my LMS pool (including me) got knocked out by the Pats loss in week 2.

With only 26 remaining, I like your chances. I always wonder if it is better to go with a second tier team who happens to have a favorable matchup against a third tier team, (instead of a first tier lock against a patsy), just so that you don't run into a situation where all your remaining choices are pegged as losers. Have you already scoped out the remainder of the season?

Mission146 Sep 25, 2012

Nice work.

As you already know, SF knocked me out of my pool.

EvenBob Sep 25, 2012

Just bet against the Lions, its a sure thing.

Wizard Sep 26, 2012

It is pretty much my strategy to pick average teams playing lousy teams, to conserve the good teams. However, sometimes there isn't going to be that situation, when I have to use up a good team. This week is like that. The best teams should be used at some point.

buzzpaff Sep 26, 2012

Not that my opinion matters, but Ravens are 9-1 in Division, Browns are 0-10. Ravens are at home and Art Modell factor should

make them take Browns as serious opponent. Looks like a solid pick. Good luck.

Ayecarumba Sep 26, 2012

Good Luck to you Wiz!

If all 26 remaining players are eliminated this week, what is(are) the tie-breaker(s)?

Boz Sep 27, 2012

Looks like the Ravens are a big pick in many pools this week according to ESPN radio host Colin Cowherd. Good luck!

Wizard Sep 28, 2012

Well, I survived week 4, but I bet that most of the other 25 also picked the Ravens. Hopefully at least a few people already wasted the Ravens and will lose elsewhere. I feel like I'm in the Hunger Games; hoping my fellow contestants meet a sudden and unexpected demise.

Wizard Oct 04, 2012

The good news is I picked the Ravens last week, who won. The bad news is the number of my 25 opponents who were eliminated in week 4 was 0, thanks to no big upsets. For week 5 I'm going with the 49ers. Hopefully either Houston or the NYG will lose, as they are the other two big favorites this week.

JohnnyQ Oct 07, 2012

Interesting contest, sounds fun. I don't think I have

ever heard of this format before.

Is the herd mentality to pick the highest favorite for

the week, provided that you haven't already selected

that team previously ?

Wizard Oct 07, 2012

Here are the picks made for week 5:

SF: 13 (win)

NYG: 9 (win)

GBP: 2 (loss)

Ravens: 1 (win)

Bengals: 1 (loss)

So, we're now down to 23.

To answer the question above, I do think that the heard does tend to pick the biggest available favorite, and doesn't put enough attention on preserving the good teams. However, I think the 23 left are pretty smart, considering not just surviving the week, but winning the whole enchilada.

Wizard Oct 09, 2012

Maybe I'm just talking to myself at this point, but for week 6 the biggest favorite, by far, is Atlanta at -9.5. There are four 5-point favorites. I have not picked Atlanta yet, but am not going to. I figure most other players will be on them and if they lose the heard will really get thinned out. It is going against the heard that has got me as far as I have so far. So, I'm going to go with Arizona. I figure they have a 67% chance to win. Meanwhile, Atlanta has 77% chance. If Arizona wins and Atlanta loses (15.4% chance) I think the field will be down to 10 to 12.

Wizard Oct 14, 2012

I'm out.

JohnnyQ Dec 05, 2012

That does sound like a fun contest.

SO, on the week you went out, how many managed

to survive ?

Is it normal for a contest with that many

people to take the entire season to determine a

winner ?

Posted by Wizard
Sep 14, 2012

Down and Out at the Venetian

Let it be known I am no longer working for the Venetian. It would be an understatement to say that my feelings about the termination are acrimonious.
I would like to tell the whole story, but I signed a confidentiality agreement when I started, so I will stick to simple statements of fact regarding my employment.
Here is the executive summary.

  • I started with the Sands corporation on April 30, 2012. My job title was Director of Gaming Mathematics. Physically, I worked in the Venetian, but my job was at the corporate level, pertaining to all things table games in all the Sands casinos worldwide.
  • To make room in my schedule for the Sands, I had to close and sacrifice my consulting business.
  • Four months later after starting, on September 10, 2012, I was suddenly told my position no longer existed and was asked to immediately clear out my desk, turn in my keys and badge, and given an explanation of the exit process.
  • My termination form said was I let go because my position was eliminated. My rehire recommendation was checked "yes."
  • Some severance pay was offered, which I rejected based on the amount and conditions attached to it.

Due to the confidentiality agreement, I will not get into further details. However, I wish to state publicly that I am no longer with the company and am open for business again as a game designer and consultant.


odiousgambit Sep 15, 2012

I think "suddenly" is the only fraught word you allowed yourself here.

Well, I was never comfortable thinking of you as a "Suit", Michael.

1BB Sep 15, 2012

Shelley's only the 16th richest man in the world. How is he going to be number one if he doesn't watch his pennies? Could it be that they hired you just to pick your brain only to give you the heave ho?

Nah, the ethical casino would never do that.

buzzpaff Sep 15, 2012

Hoping I have to wait to get a seat to play Three Card Mulligan at G2E.

7craps Sep 15, 2012

Typical casino management decision process in action.

4 months ago someone somewhere had an idea. They acted on it.

4 months later, someone somewhere had an idea.

It was not the same idea as it was 4 months before.

Game plan changes and so did the game.

Too bad you did not have at least a year contract to account for this event possibility, since you gave up way more IMO, your business,

than they did, a few months pay and they can easily cook their books to compensate way better than you can to yours.

Casino +1

No harm no foul

Employee -1

Wizard Sep 15, 2012


Too bad you did not have at least a year contract to account for this event possibility.

In retrospect, I should have insisted on that.

One good thing to come out of this is my weight has not been this low in several years. Just the stress of the last week has caused me to lose 5 to 7 pounds.

bigfoot66 Sep 15, 2012

Sad News. I hope the best comes out of this situation for you.

duffytootx Sep 15, 2012

Everyone wants to lose a little weight, but not in this manner. I hope you are feeling better soon and good luck in the future. I am a fan and enjoy your site immensely.

Paradigm Sep 15, 2012

This really does stink Wiz and I am sorry to hear how it went down. What possibly changes in a 4-5 month timeframe where they create a position (I assume this was a new position for them as it didn't sound like you took over an existing position) and then decide they don't need it anymore? Thank goodness you didn't move across the country to take on the position....if they cared about their employees or their reputation they would have given you the remainder of a 12 months first years pay as severance (i.e. 7-8 mos of pay as if you had a 1 year contract).

The only hope is that you learned a few things from the inside and how large scale casino management thinks about certain issues. Maybe that makes you a wiser Wizard going forward. I doubt there was anything worth learning based on the cost of taking the position and then being let go so quickly, but hopefullly there is at least some value there.

EvenBob Sep 15, 2012


What possibly changes in a 4-5 month timeframe where they create a position (I assume this was a new position for them as it didn't sound like you took over an existing position) and then decide they don't need it anymore?

LVS had lost half its stock value since Mike got hired.

I'm sure he's not the only one that got axed. Last

hired, first fired. LVS is having lots of other problems,

if you've been watching the news.

pacomartin Sep 16, 2012

I am sorry this had to happen to you. They must be very short sighted because there is no way you couldn't teach whales how to play a better game. Eventually, knowing that you are trying to help them would pay off in the long run, by casino loyalty.

The mindset that rewards 6/5 blackjack, which brings short term benefits and long term destruction of the game, is what gets rewarded.

aluisio Sep 16, 2012

I am sure that you will succeed no matter where, Mike! Hope you have learned what you could from the corp and that this change be good for you. Best wishes!

JohnnyQ Sep 16, 2012

Sorry to hear that, there is no question in my mind

that you would have been a very valuable asset for


The person who needs to be let go is the person

there who made that decision.

EB is a little off on his stock comment though, which

would have almost been an understandable explanation.

April 30 = $ 55.49

Sept 10 = $ 43.41

Yahoo Finance

Wizard Sep 16, 2012

Thanks for all the kind words. There is so much I'd like to say, but will refrain.

JohnnyQ Sep 16, 2012

I'm not surprised to see that you are taking the high

road regarding the confidentiality agreement.

But isn't that intended to protect the

details of their casino operations / strategies /

marketing programs / comp programs / etc

that would be valuable to their competitors ?

Maybe the "whole story" gets into some of

that, so then you are right not to say anything.

But again, sorry to see this corporate crap

storm rain down on you.

I don't usually gamble at the Venetian, so

my "boycott" won't amount to anything.

Paradigm Sep 16, 2012

Quote: EvenBob

LVS had lost half its stock value since Mike got hired.

I'm sure he's not the only one that got axed. Last

hired, first fired. LVS is having lots of other problems,

if you've been watching the news.

Actually, LVS has been an excellent investment this year if you realized that the run from the low 40's at the end of 2011 to $60 in early April was overdone. It ended 2011 at $42.73 and is currently at $46.75....Wiz did not get let go because of LVS' stock performance. It will finish the year around $50 and end up showing a nice 19% return (incl. dividends) for 2012.

tringlomane Sep 16, 2012

Really sucks to hear. Wish for bigger and better things for you in the future.

EvenBob Sep 16, 2012


EB is a little off on his stock comment though, which

would have almost been an understandable explanation.

I said HAD lost, not HAS lost. LVS was at $61

this spring and went down to $31. Thats almost

half. Most of this happened when Mike was there.

EvenBob Sep 16, 2012


Actually, LVS has been an excellent investment this year

I was reading the LVS stockholder forum every day this

summer when the stock was going from $61 to $31.

They were flipping out, they were paranoid and very

upset. There is no way this didn't influence corporate

to start lopping off heads, just to be symbolic if nothing

else. This happening at about the same time as Mike

getting hired can't be just a coincidence.

fremont4ever Sep 16, 2012

I'm sorry to hear that you were let go, mostly because (a) it's obviously something you wanted, and (b) you gave up so much for it.

But when I first heard the news of your position, I did my best Kerrigan-esque "WHY? WHY?" I don't like the Strip, I don't like casinos that overdo artificial scents, I don't like the owner's views on online gaming, and I don't like his politics.

On a side note, I was surprised to note that you had a boss other than "the" boss, or at least the Sands' Casino VP or the equivalent.

Anyway, I am confident that good things will come of this, so hold your head up and get to work.

TheBigPaybak Sep 16, 2012

Sorry to hear this, Michael, that's just rotten. All the best going forward!

buzzpaff Sep 16, 2012

Hyman Roth : " And I said to myself, this is the business we've chosen; I didn't ask who gave the order, because it had nothing to do

with business "

Mission146 Sep 16, 2012


There is a certain allure to a guaranteed paycheck bi-weekly or bi-monthly that always reads the same amount, but it is that same allure that stifles creativity and leads to complacency. For some people, that allure overcomes what could have been by doing something independently because they are either not capable of doing anything independently (and making the same money or better) or because they might be capable of it, but are not sure.

In your case, you never would have had the job at The Venetian to begin with if you had not clearly established the creativity, drive, willpower and...quite frankly...genius to succeed on your own. It is for this reason that I suggest you have nothing to worry about.

Ahhh...complacency. I'm a Manager of an Economy Hotel now and will probably retire the Manager of an Economy Hotel, if I'm really lucky, I might upgrade to a Limited-Service or Resort Hotel Manager at some point, but it's hard to say, as I have no experience with dealing with the demands of that kind of clientele. It is possible that I could go independent with something and create a more enjoyable, not to mention, lucrative, future for myself, but I'm firmly entrenched in the camp of, "Might be able to do it." In any event, I'm one to play it the safest and most conservative way...which is the way of complacency.

Not you. Why? Because you're better than that job, in fact, you're better than any traditional job. You have built yourself into a one-man powerhouse in the world of gaming Math, not to mention the fact that you can annihilate any BJ table you come across, and you will erect the same powerhouse yet again.

In short, you're better off this way. It may not seem like it now, and you may miss those guaranteed checks for awhile, but you will look back at your body of work after retirement and be glad that you were not at The Venetian for your last twenty years of active employment.

For one, I am glad to hear that you are going to go back to doing things your way, because for someone of your geinus and ability, your way should be the only way.

DJTeddyBear Sep 18, 2012

As I've said already, sorry to hear this, and best wishes in the future.

For what it's worth, I question the logic of rejecting the severence. I have a feeling that will get looked at negatively, despite the rehire recommentation.

FarFromVegas Sep 18, 2012

Best of luck with whatever the future holds. Maybe a guide to hiking or other physical activity in the Las Vegas area by season? How to incorporate exercise into a gambling/bachelor party weekend?