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Michael Shackleford

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Michael Shackleford

Michael Shackleford
Wizard of odds
Born (1965-05-23) May 23, 1965
Pasadena, California, United States
Other names Wizard of Odds, Wizard of Vegas
Residence Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.
Citizenship  United States
Nationality American
Fields Mathematics and Actuary
Institutions University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Known for Work in Actuarial science, game studies, and gambling studies

Michael Shackleford, (May 23, 1965 in Pasadena, California, United States), also known as "The Wizard of Odds" – a title taken from Donald Angelini,[1] is American mathematician and an actuary, best known for his professional analysis of the mathematics of the casino games. He is also an adjunct professor of actuarial science and mathematics at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.[2][3] He became interested in the mathematics of gambling at a young age, specifically after reading John Scarne's Guide to Casino Gambling.[1]

Today Shackleford is best known for his websites, The Wizard of Odds and The Wizard of Vegas, which contain analyses strategies for hundreds of casino games. He received a great deal of attention in 2002 shortly after moving to Las Vegas when he published a paper where he released rankings of slot machine payout percentages, widely considered secretive or unavailable, to show which Las Vegas casinos set their nickel machines with the best and worst payouts.[4] The Time Out Las Vegas referred to the survey as groundbreaking.[5] This paper was referenced by Palms Casino Resort to advertise their competitive payouts.[1]

The Wizard sites were sold on September 19, 2014 for $2.35 million. Purchased by the Affiliate Network.[6]

Shackleford also analyzes new games for game developers and casinos. His most notable clients include Hilton, Realtime Gaming, Playtech, and Shuffle Master. He is the author of Gambling 102: The Best Strategies for All Casino Games (Huntington Press, 2005). Previously, he was an Adjunct Professor of Casino Math at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and a contributing editor to Casino Player magazine.

Michael Shackleford has been known to bring media attention to unfair gambling practices, such as case #2008-7136L before the state Gaming Control Board, against the Stratosphere Casino for failing to pay a sportsbet.[7] Another example is his detailed investigation into allegations of cheating by Absolute Poker after they were brought to his attention by an anonymous source September 24, 2007.[8]

Shackleford is periodically consulted on gambling issues outside of Nevada. In 2010 Pittsburgh Live requested a consult on whether the gaming companies in Pennsylvania would tighten their blackjack rules.[9]

Every year, professional gambler, Max Rubin holds the famed Blackjack Ball, a secret and invitation-only event, where the winner is given the title of “The Best Gambler in the World.” Rubin’s love for the game led to the creation of the Blackjack tournament where participants are quizzed with gambling trivia and mathematical questions plus a second series of tests where their skills are put to the test (card counting, signaling, etc.). The 2011 winner was Michael Shackleford[10] where he beat Anthony Curtis to take the title.[1]

Before changing careers, Shackleford worked as a claims adjuster and later as an actuary for the United States Social Security Administration from 1992 until 2000.[11] His main responsibility there was estimating short-term costs and benefits of Social Security law changes. But, he was best known for researching the most popular baby names for each year since 1880.[12][13] The results of this research have been published in many books, newspapers, and magazines, and the Social Security Administration now officially publishes a new list every year of the previous year's most popular names, along with all the previous years' names.[14][15]

Shackleford's interest in a broader variety of mathematics topics is shown by his collection of recreational math puzzles and problems. [16]

Shackleford resides in Las Vegas, Nevada with his wife and three children.


  1. ^ a b c d ThePOGG (1 November 2012). "ThePOGG Interviews – Michael Shackleford – The Wizard of Odds". 
  2. ^ Clara Moskowitz (21 January 2011). Wizard of Odds' Uses Math To Beat the Casinos"'". 
  3. ^ "Interview with Michael Shackleford a.k.a. "The Wizard of Odds". 
  4. ^ Simpson, Jeff (May 19, 2002). "Actuary Releases Ranking of Las Vegas Slot Machine Payout Percentages". Las Vegas Review-Journal (Las Vegas, NV). Retrieved 2009-11-15. 
  5. ^ "Time Out Las Vegas (5th edition)". Time Out Guides. p. 54. Retrieved 2011-04-14. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ Jeff Haney (May 16, 2008). "Stratosphere’s refusal to honor expired ticket gives sports books another black eye". Las Vegas Sun. 
  8. ^ Michael Shackleford (Jan 15, 2008). "Absolute Poker Investigation". 
  9. ^ Mark Gruetze (November 19, 2010). Wizard' predicts state will tighten blackjack rules"'". 
  10. ^ Maverick (Jan 22, 2011). "Blackjack Ball 2011 Celebrates the Secret Blackjack society". 
  11. ^ Taro, Justin (2014-06-16). "Mike Shackleford Wizard of Odds interview". 
  12. ^ "Background information for popular names". Social Security Administration. 2009-04-03. Retrieved 2009-11-15. 
  13. ^ Nealy-Brown, J. (February 12, 2002). "Actually, it's one of the best jobs in the country. Actuaries are in growing demand as businesses seek help in assessing risk across a wider playing field.". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved 2009-11-15. 
  14. ^ "Popular Baby Names". Social Security Administration. Retrieved 2009-11-15. 
  15. ^ Orenstein, Peggy (July 6, 2003). "Where Have All the Lisas Gone?". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-11-15. 
  16. ^ Michael Shackleford (2 August 2014). " by Michael Shackleford, A.S.A". 

External links

  • Bio on the Wizard of odds
  • Gambling 102 at Huntington Press
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