168 Tips from The Wizard of Odds

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vice and Strategies

Gambling is all about playing the odds and one person who knows that better than anyone else is Michael Shackleford, the Wizard of Odds. Here’s what the Wizard had to say about betting strategies, what games you should play, and whether online casinos run a fair game.

WO: How difficult is it to calculate odds for casino games?

MS: It depends on the game. Some games like craps and roulette are quite easy but others like Blackjack and Pai Gow poker are very difficult.

So are you a better player because you’re an expert on the odds?

Knowing the odds definitely helps, and I have an advantage over the land casinos in Blackjack and video poker. The vast majority of gamblers can’t make that claim.

Do online casino games and land-based casino games offer the same odds on the same games?

Sometimes, but many online casinos don’t follow the correct rules. One of the services I provide as a gaming consultant is to review online casino software and report on errors in rules and odds.

Are gamblers better off at land-based casinos or playing online?

It varies both ways. For example, Blackjack is generally better on the Internet but video poker is better in land casinos. Blackjack is my favorite online casino game. It has a low house edge and I enjoy playing it.

If Blackjack and video poker give you the best odds, what gives the worst?

Usually, it’s keno.

A lot of people complain that online games are rigged. Any guess what percentage of Net casinos run a fair game?

I think the answer is somewhere between 90- and 99 percent. I’m quite confident that all of the major software companies (like Microgaming, Boss Media, CryptoLogic, Playtech, Real Time Gaming, World Gaming, IQ-Ludorum), are playing fairly.

Smaller companies are where I’m much more concerned. I have written in depth about my issues with MGM Gaming Systems. I also have had very strong suspicions about I-Global Media but they have evidently corrected themselves. I plan to start offering a service to personally verify that games are playing fairly. Look for my certification of fairness later this year.

How would a casino cheat players? By manipulating with the random number generator?

Casinos that are cheating are likely not manipulating the RNG. Rather, they are tampering with the game code to keep the player down. One way they might do that is to play fairly 95% of the time and predestine the player to lose the other 5%.

How can players tell the difference between an unfair game and a run of bad luck?

It takes a large sampling of data. The less the casino is cheating, the more sampling it will take to show it. When people make accusations of cheating to me, I request to see the 168 results of at least 1000 bets. By putting the results through statistical test I can determine the probability of the player’s losses.

If the probability [of getting those results] is 1 in 100, that is probably just bad luck. If the probability is 1 in a billion then it’s probably cheating. Granted, there are gray areas in between but where I have found cheating in the past it was quite obvious and corroborated by other sources. Usually, it’s just bad luck. Many players don’t seem to understand just how volatile a fair game can be.

Everyone wants to beat the house, and there are lots of betting strategies advertised on the Net. Do any of them really work?

No, betting strategies don’t work. They can provide a false sense of success in the short run but they cannot survive the test of time. I do not advocate progressive betting, either, or any other betting system. In the long run, all betting systems are equally worthless. However, following a solid playing strategy will save the player a lot of money over the long term.

How important is luck when you’re gambling online?

Luck plays a big factor in the short run, both online and at land casinos. However, the longer you play the more you will see your results approaching the theoretical house edge.

Finally, what are your best tips for online gamblers?

Play in moderation and try to cut down the house edge as much as you can by making smart bets. When playing online, look for a casino that has solid customer support and pays winners on time and without having to be nagged.

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