Want to boost your Vegas winnings? Here’s where to go, and where to avoid

  • Martin Shackleford – The Wizard of Odds – has been testing Vegas casinos
  • Video poker and video keno tested in the Strips leading establishments

Life is full of uncertainty. Especially if you’re an actuary, in which case it’s literally your duty to manage risk and uncertainty. That’s the day job of Michael Shackleford, aka The Wizard of Odds.

It’s a clever name for a clever guy, one who’s made it his mission to geek out on casinos. The analyst, who is also Adjunct Professor of Casino Math at the University of Nevada, has just revealed the best and worst payouts at Vegas casinos.

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In true clickbait style, his results may surprise you. (Also, what’s the deal with number two?)

Video keno and video poker were the two games the Wizard analysed, using a randomised testing system that saw him work his way around Vegas casinos that also featured a hotel. (There was more to it than that, but we’ll skip the science and get straight to the money shot.)

Bottom of the list, for both video poker and keno, was the Venetian, with an average return of 95.05% and 87.15% respectively.

The Flamingo also scored unfavourably for both games. The art deco casino is the oldest resort on the Strip still in operation today. Shackleford’s exposé of its poor payouts won’t do the Flamingo any favours.

And the winners are…

If you’re wondering what casinos came top of the list, the winner was South Point in the case of video poker, with an impressive 99.38%. With a return like that, you almost can’t lose. For keno, the Encore’s 93.52% was the best in test.

While the figures for all 70-odd casinos make for fascinating reading, they shouldn’t be taken as gospel; the Wizard’s testing was rigorous but it wasn’t exhaustive and he didn’t play every machine at every casino.

The fact that the all-star actuary had the patience to work his way around every hotel casino in Vegas, painstakingly playing countless gaming terminals, is a heroic undertaking in its own right.

Michael Shackleford is something of a consumer hero when it comes to taking casinos to task for ambiguous payouts. In 2013, he actually took the Nevada gaming commission to court to get specific casinos to declare their actual payback percentages, a reasonable request given that casinos often boldly advertise these.

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