Reason #1 I like Bovada:
Play for free
with no hassles
Most online casinos
annoy the hell out of me. They insult
you with popup windows and spam, and do everything
they can to separate you from your money. Even if
you want to just play with fake money for free,
they make you register for an account so they can
pester you by email trying to get you to deposit
On the whole Internet, I found exactly one
online casino that's different: Bovada.
You can play their games for free, with absolutely
no hassles. And that's the main reason why I promote them
Here's what I mean by no hassles:
- Completely free. It's not one
of those "Buy 1 get 1 free" kind of deals, it's
absolutely free. You can click over and
start playing with fake money right away, with
no cash out of pocket. Here, go ahead and
- No registration required. Most
casinos let you play for free, but there's a
catch: They make you register an account first.
That's not just a hassle: after you do it you
can expect them to badger you by email trying to
get you to deposit real money. But Bovada lets
you play right away with no registration
required. One click and you're in. Honest. Here,
- Plays right in your browser. If you'd
rather not download the casino software to your
hard disk, you don't have to. The games play
right in your web browser. Nice.
- Works on Macs. The play-in-browser
games are MacOS compatible! Before Bovada, Mac
users were pretty much out of luck for gambling
online. Not any more.
- No popups. I'll never understand why
companies think it's a good idea to annoy their
visitors, but that's standard practice at most
online casinos. Bovada is one of the rare
exceptions -- no popups, no popouts, no browser
hijacking, just the website with no B.S.
All in all, I think Bovada is the best bet for U.S. players.
- Call the 800-522-4700 hotline or get online help
- See these horror stories.
- Know that Parkinson's drugs encourage gambling.
of Winning a Million Dollars or More
aka, The Lottery vs. Megabucks
All of us
dream about winning the big jackpot. But how likely is it? Let's
find out. The answers may surprise you.
There are exactly two games that offer
multimillion-dollar jackpots: progressive
and lotteries. Of the two, a state lottery gives you much better
chances of hitting the jackpot, and at a lower cost. The catch is
that with the lotto you'll almost always win nothing or just $3 or so,
while with a slot you'll sometimes get a decent-sized win.
A table makes this clearer. For
our slot machine I'll use the Megabucks
slot machine in Nevada since it's the largest and most famous
slot, and for the lottery I'll use the Texas
Lotto since it has a similar jackpot size. Here's how they
|Megabucks Slot vs. Texas Lottery
|Average winning jackpot
|Odds of hitting jackpot on
|Odds of hitting jackpot
for $3 played
|Cost of 1 play
|Percentage returned to
|Percentage returned to
returned to players assumes jackpot won at average size.
See the calculator below to figure the return at various jackpot levels.
Avg. jackpot for Megabucks from 2005-2010, and for Lotto from 2007-2010.
Avg. Lotto jackpot divided by all winning tickets, since 3 jackpots
by two winners. Megabucks odds from Las Vegas Sun.
The big take-away here is that your chances of winning the
Lotto on one play are twice
as good as for winning Megabucks. But it doesn't end
A Megabucks play costs $3, while a Lotto ticket costs only $1. So
for the cost of playing Megabucks once, you could play the Lotto three
times. And for $3 played, your chances of winning the Lotto are
about six times better than winning Megabucks. Wow!
So if your
goal is to actually win the jackpot (which is why most people play a
jackpot game), the Lotto will serve your purposes better.
Megabucks gets the edge on the last row, the percentage
returned to players, excluding the jackpot.
That means Megabucks gives out lots more small- and medium-sized pays
than the lotto. But if we equalize the jackpot odds between the
two games, we see that the lottery is still a much better bet.
Equalizing the jackpot odds means we figure how much we
have to play each game so that the odds of hitting the jackpot are
about the same. My
nifty calculator at right makes short work of that. As you can
see it takes two spins on Megabucks to get similar jackpot odds as a
single lottery ticket. But Megabucks costs $3 per
play, and if you play it twice, you're forking over $6. So $6 on
Megabucks gets you similar jackpot odds as a single $1 lotto ticket.
So even though Megabucks gives out lots more small pays, you have
to pump six times as much money into it to get odds as good as the
lotto, so you'll still wind up with losing more money by playing
instead of the lottery, for a given set of jackpot odds.
Of course, few people play the lottery like they
play a slot machine.
With a slot people generally play at
least several spins, or maybe an hour or more, at perhaps 700 spins an
hour. But people rarely buy 700 lottery tickets at a time.
So the potential for loss with Megabucks is pretty big. By
contrast, you've really got to go out of your way to lose big on the
Now, most of you don't live in Texas so you can't play the
and sorry, I'm not gonna sit here and analyze dozens
of individual state lotteries (or other countries' lotteries).
Most Americans do have access to Megamillions, though, so I'll mention
that the odds of winning Megamillions from one ticket are 1 in 176
million. State lotteries are easier to win than national ones.
If you want better chances of winning, skip Megamillions and play
your state lottery instead.
Math heads obsess over the "break-even point", which is when
the jackpot goes high enough that it's a "fair" bet. That is,
at some jackpot level, the average returned to players for each ticket
will equal the cost of the ticket. For Lotto Texas, that's just
over $23 million. But the math heads are ignoring three important
- Your odds of hitting the jackpot are the same no matter how
high or low the jackpot is.
- The break-even point makes financial sense to the player only
if you're playing millions of times. If you're just buying a
handful of tickets each week, it couldn't be less relevant.
- Most people would be just as happy winning $19 million as
they would $26 million. What can you do with $26 million that you
can't do with $19M?
|Tough odds -- what are your chances?
|Win Mega Millions
lottery with one ticket
|1 in 176
|Hit #7 in roulette, five
times in a
||1 in 79
Deal out 13 cards to each of four
players from a single deck and all four players get a straight
from two to Ace
|1 in 61
|Win the Megabucks slot
jackpot on one spin
|1 in 50
| You and I each pick the
word (same instance) from a stack of 64 Bibles.
|| 1 in 50
|Get dealt a sequential
(forwards or backwards)
||1 in 40
|Chance that radioactive
monkeys will kidnap
Britney Spears and convert her to Buddhism
||1 in 38
|Flipping a coin 25 times
and getting 25 heads
or 25 tails
||1 in 34
|Win the Texas Lotto with
|1 in 26
|Odds for card examples from Wizard of
Odds, here and here
Playing the lottery is like any other form of gambling, which
is like any other form of entertainment: Do you get $1 worth
of happiness from your purchase of the ticket? If so, then great,
it doesn't matter long the odds are or how low the jackpot is.
(And conversely, if you don't get $1 of joy from your purchase, then it
doesn't matter how good the odds are or how high the jackpot is.)
Incidentally, both Megabucks and the Texas Lotto can be paid out over 25 years (the advertised jackpot amount divided by 25), or as a single lump-sum of about 60% of the advertised jackpot amount.
Try my calculator at right to see your chances of winning
Megabucks or Lotto Texas over many years.
As you might suspect, the bigger the prize, the harder
it is to win. To improve your chances of winning, you can simply go
a smaller prize. Winning just a million dollars is a lot easier than
several million dollars.
The Texas Lottery has a scratch-off game called "Texas
Black" with a top prize of $1 million even. There are six
tickets out of the 6,178,100 printed, so the odds are 1 in 1,029,683 of
winning by buying
a single ticket. But the catch is that a single ticket costs $10.
instead we bought ten $1 Lotto tickets then our odds of winning the
Lotto would be 1 in 2,582,717. So that's quite a tradeoff: We doubled
our chances of winning by going with the scratch-off instead of the
Lotto, but now we'd only win a million dollars rather than several
But while going for a lesser jackpot with the lottery
might not improve your odds as much as you like, going for a lesser
amount on a slot machine probably does. We don't know the
exact odds of
hitting a jackpot on a machine whose average top prize is about half a
million dollars, but we can make an educated guess. Since the average
Megabucks jackpot is about $15M and the odds of winning are about 1
50M, that puts the odds at right about 1 in 3.3x the amount of the
jackpot. On a slot with an average jackpot around $500,000, that
put the odds of hitting it at 1 in 1.66M (3.3 x 0.5M). Again, we don't
know these odds for sure, but it's a very educated guess.
Turning all this into
The 1 in 1.66M chance for hitting the jackpot on a
moderately-sized progressive slot are the best odds for hitting a big
jackpot of anything we've examined so far. So how can you
turn this into a playing
strategy? First, let's assume that you can afford to lose a couple of
dollars each week on average while trying for the big prize. Let's also
say that you want to play fairly frequently, because you want frequent
opportunities to win, which keeps things interesting.
One way is to play one spin a day. That shoots
your odds of hitting the jackpot up to 1 in 4,795 over that year. And
how much will it cost you to play every day? If the machine you play
pays back about 78% excluding the jackpot, that'll come to an average
loss 365 x $3 x 22% = $241 for the year. Of course your
actual results could be anywhere on the map for only 365 spins, but
this gives us a frame of reference. And if $241 is more than you
care to lose in a year, you can always play once a week or a couple of
times a week rather than every day -- though naturally that makes you
less likely to hit the jackpot.
|Another way to
get a million
Could you live without your car? No?
someone offered you $1 million to give it up?
If you ditch your car and invest the money you'd been spending on it, you can turn your savings into $1 million in 35 years — even after the cost of frequent bus and taxi trips. Staggering, isn't it? (read full
Of course, it's a hassle to go to a casino every day just to
spin. We can accomplish the same thing by going to a casino once a week
and making seven spins at that time. We could take it even further and
play 365 spins once a year, but that wouldn't be in keeping with our
goal of playing frequently so we have frequent opportunities to win, so
that we're in a constant state of hoping to win.
But what if going to a casino even once a week is
inconvenient, or there's no casino where you live? Thank God for
the Internet! Bodog has a progressive slot called Shopping Spree, whose jackpot is $1.2 million as I write
this. And the odds of hitting it are almost certainly
much better than the typical prize-to-jackpot ratio of Megabucks.
And since you can play from your home or
office, you can easily play one spin once a day or seven spins once a
So I think Shopping Spree gives the best odds of winning a
big prize with the most convenience. If you know of a game
that offers better odds for winning ~$1 million for a $3 bet, I'd like
to hear about it!
References for this article:
Last update: November 2011
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