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Michael Shackleford interview part 1 - The Wizard of Odds

The Wizard of Odds website (http://wizardofodds.com/) is the premier source for gambling strategy advice on the Internet.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about the history of your website. How long has it been online? What was your inspiration to start it? Was it your intention from the beginning to become the web's premier gambling strategy website, or did it all happen by accident? How would you explain that after all these years the wizard of odds website still is unique in it's kind, without any real competition?

A: It is a long story. In May 1995 I passed the last of eleven actuary exams I had been taking since 1990. Studying these exams kept my mind busy. Other actuaries may hate me for saying this but I actually liked the exams and thought the committees making the exams did an outstanding job at creating good tests.

When that era of my life ended I needed a new challenge to keep my mind sharp and myself out of trouble. So I developed a site called Shack’s Math Problems, which can now be found at mathproblems.info, as an exercise in problem solving and web site design. Many of the early questions related to probabilities in gambling.

Then one day in June 1997 I think I had a Vegas trip planned and was surfing around trying to find a good web site to bring me up to speed on what games were out there and how to play them. The number of good sites out there at that time was zero. So I thought to myself with my previous work already done on Shack’s Math Problems I could move it over to a separate gambling page and in one day have the best gambling site on the Internet. So I did just that. I never thought anything would come of it and was doing it mostly for my own benefit. The web site was originally called "Mike’s Gambling Page" and was entirely non-profit the first two years.

Q: Are you associated in anyway with the site "http://www.THEwizardofodds.com/" which is run by a company called WebStorm Inc?

A: The short answer is no. That used to be the URL for my site and I was in a partnership with Webstorm. However I wasn’t happy with that arrangement and last year gave them the old URL in exchange for my freedom. I paid $5000 for the URL wizardofodds.com and moved all my content there. It took a solid year for most people and search engines to find the new location but finally I feel that chapter is mostly history. Yet still many web sites point to the old address. If I ever had the chance I’d love to buy back my old URL and use it as a mirror site.

Q: In your capacity as gaming consultant you work with casinos and gaming software companies. The Wizard of Odds website is targeted at players. How do you handle any potential conflicts of interest that could arise? For example, what happens if a gaming company forbids you to publish the odds / strategy on a game you helped analyze or design?

A: I get more complaints from players who feel I’m playing both sides of the net. However I take no sides. My site is intended to be educational for both players and those in the business. In fact my site is very well known within the gaming business. The owners of games I personally was the mathematician for usually are happy to have the game addressed on my site. It makes for good publicity. However sometimes I have to refuse to answer questions about such things as the vulnerability to card counters of games I have designed, out of a conflict of interest.

Q: You will help as an arbitrator in disputes between players and casinos advertised on your site. Do you receive many arbitration requests from players? Have you ever removed a casino from your site prematurely because they failed to comply with your standards?

A: Fortunately I don’t get many requests. I try to only take high quality casinos in the first place. However when I was with Webstorm, who were not as selective, I did get lots of complaints. Of the few complaints I have had since I separated with Webstorm, where I feel the player had a legitimate gripe, I believe I can say that 100% were resolved to the satisfaction of the player.

Q: Who is Michael Bluejay (Wizard's Apprentice)?

A: He is unofficially called the "Wizard of Ads." I’ve known Michael for about six years now. He has helped me with some of my slot machine research and used to proofread my magazine articles. When I gained independence from Webstorm I engaged his web site hosting services.

I may know math but I hate talking about money and bargaining. So I later delegated the adverting to Michael as well. He has been a big success so far with that, in particular his implementation of an auction system for qualified advertisers. Aside from spending a lot of time on my site Michael has a host of his own interests, including bicycling, music, politics, vegetarianism, and energy conservation. Some of his numerous sites include his home page michaelbluejay.com and his gambling site vegasreference.com.

Q: On http://wizardofodds.com/games/caribbean/caribbean21.html you state that "In late 2003 a player won $1.3 million playing Caribbean 21, mostly at Hampton Casino. Was he lucky, cheating, or playing a flawed game?". What is your personal opinion on this subject?

A: I believe he was just lucky.

Q: Your website would be a great basis for a book about (online) gambling. As far as I know you haven't published a printed version of the Wizard of Odds yet. Do you have plans to do so in the future?

A: Yes. I have had a book in the works with Huntington Press for three years now. Although I’ve heard this before they say it is almost finished.

This interview continues with Part 2- Teaching at the UNLV.

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