Michael Shackleford, (May 23, 1965 in Pasadena, California, United States), also known as "The Wizard of Odds" – a title taken from Donald Angelini, 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. He became interested in the mathematics of gambling at a young age, specifically after reading John Scarne's Guide to Casino Gambling.
Shackleford discovered his affinity for mathematics when he first began to study algebra in school at approximately 11-years-old. He described how math had become something new and interesting, which is where his path toward becoming the Wizard of Odds begins. He first entered the workforce as an employee of Knotts Berry Farm in Buena Park, California handling fast food services. His next job was at Disneyland in Anaheim where he was responsible for custodial duties around the amusement park. Following his stint in amusement parks, Shackleford held a job at a warehouse, the Santa Barbara Airport and various clerical positions. His career aspirations these days include continuing to educate people about the gaming industry as he has done since 1998. Prior to launching his websites, he was a government actuary in Baltimore making a comfortable living. It took him approximately one year to convince his wife that going into business for himself within the gambling industry as the Wizard of Odds was the right thing to do. He gave up his GS-14 government salary and he began work on the odds driven content he has become so well-known for today.
Today Shackleford is best known for his websites, The Wizard of Odds and The Wizard of Vegas, which contain analyses and 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. The Time Out Las Vegas referred to the survey as groundbreaking. This paper was referenced by Palms Casino Resort to advertise their competitive payouts.
Prior to the sale of his website, Michael Shackleford was amidst a financial struggle as WizardofOdds.com failed to generate a profit. LatestCasinoBonuses owner, Joshua Chan, approached him with an offer to purchase the site. A sale of this type would normally be based on an earnings multiplier for the previous 18-36 months.
After a period of negotiation, an offer from a higher bidder and a rejected $1.6 million proposal, Chan brought in two partners to present a new $2.35 million offer, which Shackelford accepted. WoO was then under new ownership with The Wizard himself remaining on board to create additional content across not only WoO but other sites within the LCB Network. Chan now holds the majority share at 65% while his partners have taken 25% and 10% stakes respectively. The Wizard sites were sold on September 19, 2014 for $2.35 million to LCB Network.
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. 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.
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.
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 where he beat Anthony Curtis to take the title.
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. 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. 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.
Shackleford's interest in a broader variety of mathematics topics is shown by his collection of recreational math puzzles and problems.
Shackleford resides in Las Vegas, Nevada with his wife and three children.