Before we meet the Wizard of Odds, let’s take a short look at the yellow brick road that is paved by mathematics and economics on one side and gambling and gaming theory on the other side. Mathematics and gambling are intertwined; however, mathematics is considered a much more socially acceptable field of study than gambling. It was the gamblers problem that inspired mathematicians Pascal and Fermat to create the foundation of what is taught in schools to kids as the theory of probability. The problem faced by Fermat was simple, ‘how many times one must throw a pair of dice before one expects a double six?‘ Pascal was also the first person to invent a mechanical calculator back in 1640 but that is another story.
Next in a long line of mathematicians was Christian Huygens, who besides being the first astronomer to see the rings around the planet Saturn, was also the writer of the first book on probability theory, On Reasoning in Games of Chance, in 1657. It took off where Pascal had left off the gamblers problem. Since then, it has been a hand-in-hand journey right till the doorsteps of modern computing theory and gaming theory as a science which was first defined by John von Neumann in 1945.
Meet the Kid Who Becomes the Wizard
Now let us turn our camera towards California in 1976 when an 11-year old boy was first introduced to algebra. He loved it so much that it made him a math geek for the rest of his life. As a kid, Michael Shackleford would entice the kids in his neighborhood to bet on basketball free throws.
Armed with his bachelor’s degree in math and economics and confidence in games of chance, he moved from fast food to Disneyland odd jobs. Between 1992 to 2000, he worked with the Social Security Administration. During this time, he first developed their now annually published list of the most popular baby names for each year since 1880. It was a harbinger of the time he would spend in the center of media attention in future.
Wizard of Odds, Vegas and Macau Launched
Shackleford had been a player since the age of 21 so when he created Mike’s Gambling Page in 1997, in three years he was earning enough from ads on the website to quit his job to fulfill his mission statement ‘to become the most known and trusted name in gambling advice for the whole gamut of casino games.’ From an online forum, the website grew to include detailed rules and strategy pages for more than 200 games. In just Blackjack, the website has advice, tips and techniques for 40 variations of this popular casino game. There are even game calculators that can help figure out odds, returns and moves, hotel and show reviews, articles, gaming and travel guides.
A fine player himself, Shackleford has won the 2011 Blackjack Cup but found the game ‘too slow to make money.’ Soon he was making more money from the website and consulting than he could possibly make as a player. The website was soon sold to the Latest Casino Bonuses network for $2.35 million. The Wizard of Odds site was soon followed by the Wizard of Vegas and the Wizard of Macau websites.
Shackleford is also considered the most prolific slot machine designer in the gaming industry but his most famous contribution was the 2002-03 Las Vegas slot machine survey. This widely reported, referenced, quoted and groundbreaking study of almost every casino in Las Vegas and which had the best paying machines.
Do the Math Justice
Shackleford has been in the center for media attention due to the number of times the website’s information comes up in court cases involving cheating in casinos. Besides the number of both legal and illegal gamblers who consult his websites, casinos don’t like winning players either. Come to think of it, neither do US banks. In 2014 he was facing dire straits when Cyprus banks refused to honor his transactions. The reason he was banking in Cyprus was due to the fact that US banks were reluctant to handle his accounts because they were connected to the business of ‘gambling.’
Despite of not conducting any online gambling on his website, merely hosting ads from legal gambling operators in America, he was left out in the cold. Tired of his trial by fire, Shackleford elected to sell to the Latest Casino Bonuses network. However, he still creates content and screens each and every ad on his websites personally, thus fulfilling a need for qualitative and authoritative information on the subject.