Interview With Michael Shackleford

Angela Marie: Hey there, I'm Angela Marie and we're here with Las Vegas' own Wizard of Odds, Michael Shackleford.

So this is our second video where we have questions that you all have sent in to us and we're going to put those to Mike. So we're going to go from the general gambling to personal questions. Are you ready for this Mike?

Michael Shackleford: I'm nervous, but go ahead.

Angela: All right, but we're going to start easy; I'll go easy on you.

Michael: All right.

Question 1 - [00:28]

Angela: So one of the first questions we had is when did you first realize that you had a love of numbers?

Michael: I have always liked numbers, but I would say that when I got to Algebra, that's when I really started to discover my affinity for it.

You know, suddenly math was no longer just boring multiplication problems, but it started to get interesting and then I think that with each additional class after that in trigonometry and calculus, it got more and more challenging and interesting to me.

So that's why I chose to major in math in college. So I would say I discovered it around the age 11 or 12.

Angela: Very interesting. So when most people are discovering video games and girls.

Michael: Well, I definitely discovered the video games too, but the girls took longer.

Angela: They came a little later.

Michael: Yes.

Question 2 - [01:16]

Angela: That kind of rows into the next question. As things went along, what other interesting jobs have you held besides being an actuary?

Michael: Okay. Well, my first like paycheck job was at Knott's Berry Farm, which is an amusement park near Disneyland and I worked in fast food there and two years later I worked at Disneyland.

There I worked in the custodial department sweeping trash and emptying trashcans and the kind of job that most people didn't want to do, but I actually kind of liked it because it gave you exercise walking around and you can talk with people.

Angela: That's really surprising. It's hard picturing you doing that.

Michael: Yes. That was kind of the low point of my life. I don't really want to talk about it.

Angela: Okay. Well, moving right past that -- something a little bit more fun then.

Michael: Yes, please.

Question 3 - [02:28]

Angela: We all know that fitness is very important to you and you also love data collection and numbers, clearly, so do you use any type of data collecting Fitbit or other brand name device like that that helps you track things?

Michael: Now you would think that I would be a geeky kind of person and just love gadgetry like this, but no. It's ' you know, to each his own. I have nothing against products like that, but to me it's just all about work, work, work.

There is no shortcut to fitness. You got to put in hours and you got to do tough workouts. So I think the challenge is finding workouts or exercises or sports that you like and you can get up and do every day.

As my website readers know, I'm into unicycling, bicycling, I do boot camp workouts, hiking, kayaking, generally outside stuff that doesn't involve a ball and isn't a team sport. But yes, fitness is important to me and I probably exercise at least two hours a day and probably average more like four.

Angela: Wow. I'm impressed.

Michael: Thanks. Now watch me die early.

Angela: Oh God, don't say that.

Michael: No, I was just kidding.

Question 4 - [03:51]

Angela: Hey, that leads right into the next question. We did have ' one of your viewers want to know what legacy you hoped to leave to gaming after you retire not pass away?

Michael: Okay. It's not like I'm trying to change gaming, it's more like I'm trying to change people and teach them. So, I'm really hoping to make players better and smarter players.

And if they learn something about math along the way, then great, but I'm all just about teaching, which was another job I forgot to mention. I used to be a substitute teacher. It's all about playing right no matter what the game is.

Question 5 - [04:34]

Angela: Since we're getting the chance to ask the really personal questions, this one's pretty personal, but we're going to give it a shot. So how does Mrs. Wizard feel about your career choices and has she always been supportive? Is she part of the industry at all?

Michael: Well, before this I was a government actuary in Baltimore with a comfortable GS-14 position and convincing Mrs. Wizard to leave this comfortable secure government job to go into the unknown world of self-employment, in the gambling business was not easy. In fact, it took like a solid year to convince her and then another solid year to get her to agree to move from Baltimore to Vegas. She definitely went kicking and screaming. But things have worked out well for me, so I think in the end it all worked out.

Angela: It seems like it's all worked out.

Michael: Yes, but she's not in the industry at all. She doesn't like gambling. In fact, we really can't gamble together because it's just going to probably lead to me telling her she's playing wrong and she'll get mad at me, like I don't know what I'm talking about no--

Angela: Nobody wants their husband to do that.

Michael: Yes. It's kind of like a separate compartmentalized part of my life.

Angela: Yes. Fair enough. All right. Well, thank you for being honest about that one with us.

Michael: I'm an honest person, I try at least.

Question 6 - [06:02]

Angela: You are. Well speaking of honest and difficult topics, hopefully, this is the nice, easy one. But do you have any second thoughts or regrets about having sold your site?

Michael: No.

Angela: No, that was easy.

Michael: Yes. That was a really hard decision to make. And I won't go through the whole story but yes, it was very tough. And everyone was advising me not to do it. But I was kind of put into a position where I didn't have much choice in the matter. But it worked out really well. My boss who bought the site has completely lived up to his end of the agreement we made on the sale and working for him. And he's been a great boss. So I'm really think this is one time where I made a good decision and it worked out very well for me.

Angela: Nice. I'm very glad to see that.

Michael: Thanks.

Question 7 - [06:53]

Angela: So I want to go back to something that you mentioned about how you used to be a government worker. That was actually for the social security administration, correct?

Michael: Yes.

Question 8 - [07:01]

Angela: Well, we did have someone want to know your opinion on whether or not you believe that still going to be a feasible system in the future?

Michael: Yes, that's definitely something that's right up my alley. So for nine years it was my job in the office of the actuary, in the social security administration to not just keep track of how much money they have but how fast they were spending money and how fast their money was coming in and looking at demographic information. And it was easy to see that we were in a long term, we had a long term problem on our hand. With a huge glut of baby boomers approaching retirement at the time followed by a generation where there weren't many kids. And it's still a problem.

We are facing a demographic crisis in this country where people are, it's a good thing people are living longer. But it's very expensive to have people living a long time and being on retirement for 30 years. So I think that tough choices have to be made now. Lest we have to really become an emergency later. So very simply, I am a proponent of increasing the retirement age and increasing social security taxes. There's just no short cut around it, like private savings accounts. That was just a shell game. Ultimately as a society, we need to be working harder and on retirement a little bit less, if we want to have a long term solvency. So that's my opinion.

Angela: Seems there are certain questions that came up again and again.

Michael: Yes.

Question 9 - [08:47]

Angela: And here's a topic that definitely comes up quite a bit. Well, now that there's been a little bit of time, can you talk about any of your experiences at the Venetian? Would you ever get into a situation like that again, any thoughts?

Michael: Well, yes. As my website readers know I was offered a job at the Venetian, which was on a part time basis which I took. And it lasted four months and it did not end very well. So, nevertheless, I learned some interesting things there and I enjoyed my time there and you definitely ate well and--

Michael: So other than how it ended, I don't have any complaints about it. Would I do it again? I never say never. It probably won't but you never know what opportunity may come my way.

Angela: That's true, you never know.

Michael: But I don't think I see working for the Venetian again.

Angela: Well, I hope we haven't grilled you too hard on any of these questions but it has been really fascinating to get to see a side of you that-- a lot of your viewers wouldn't necessarily see otherwise.

Michael: All right. Well, that was therapeutic for me. So, thank you very much, Angela.

Angela: Thank you, Mike. I appreciate it.

Part 1

Wizard of Odds Interview - 2016 - Part 1

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