ATLANTIC CITY BLACKJACK REPORT─ May 2010
by Frank and Alene Scoblete
Alene Scoblete is the CEO of Paone Press, which sells gaming books and tapes at discount prices. She also writes for www.scoblete.com. Her husband, Frank Scoblete, is the #1 best-selling gaming author in America. Frank’s books and tapes have sold over a million copies. For a free brochure call: 1-800-944-0406 or write: Frank Scoblete Enterprises, Box 446, Malverne, NY 11565. Frank’s websites arewww.goldentouchblackjack.com, www.goldentouchcraps.com and www.scoblete.com.
The Trials of Dice Control Advantage Play by Frank Scoblete
(I decided that Blackjack Insider subscribers might be interested in one of the biggest back-offs in the history of casino gaming. I’ll get back to AC reports next issue. A caution: Dominator uses "colorful language" when he is upset. So if such color offends you jump to the reports on the casinos.)
On April 9th, two weeks before the Tunica, Mississippi Golden Touch dice control class, my partner Dominator called me, "Frank, I have a bad feeling about Tunica. I don’t know why or what it is."
"It’s because you’ve been playing for three weeks in a row and you’ve been hot. We go down there and we can’t play," I counseled. "That’s all it is. You are depressed in advance. It’s depressing for you not to play."
"Yeah, maybe," he said. I could tell he wasn’t convinced.
On Wednesday evening April 21 at 6 o’clock, the phone rang. "Fuck, shit, fuck, piss, fuck!" It was Dom. Whenever he is upset that is how he shouts hello.
"What’s wrong Dom?"
"The Mississippi Gaming Commission just called me. They are going to stop us from having the class this weekend."
"What?" I said. "We won that case in 2004."
"Isn’t it enough those fucking casinos have banned us from playing? We won the free speech case against the Gaming Commission for God’s sake."
"Call our lawyer," I said. "He can straighten this out. The Gaming Commission has to have made a mistake."
"Yeah, okay, fine, fucking jerks!"
"And just in case we have to ‘get out of Dodge’ I will start looking up hotels in Memphis. Just in case," I said. "And get all the info from our lawyer so we know what’s going on." Our lawyer, Steve Lacy, had handled our last case against the state of Mississippi and had won it handily. The guy is a good lawyer.
I went to the computer and started making a list of Memphis hotels that had banquet and meeting rooms big enough to accommodate us. Our Tunica class was sold out. We had 33 students; normally Tunica runs about 25 to 28. In comparison, we usually get between 50 and 60 in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, which are far bigger venues. With our instructors, we only have room for 60 in the big venues.
I made a list and called Jerry "Stickman," who lives in Memphis, to have him go over the list. He was familiar with the locations of many of the Memphis hotels.
"Tomorrow morning when you get into Memphis," said Stickman, "we go to all the hotels and see which ones are good and which of those we can book. I’ll also check out the computer listings." Stickman was picking me up at the airport at 8:45 Thursday morning. Instead of going directly to Tunica, we would make the Memphis hotel tour.
Dom called again. "Fuck."
"What is it?"
"I left a message for Steve but then I spoke again to the jerk from the Gaming Commission. I told him again that we already won the free speech case. So he told me it is not a free speech case this time. It’s a table case."
"What the hell is that?" I asked.
"They have a law in Mississippi that you can’t have gaming tables outside of casinos," he said.
"Did they just invent that law?"
"No, no, those fucks say the law started around Wyatt Earp’s time. It was a law to stop the game of Faro."
"Faro? That hasn’t been played for decades in the casinos, maybe 60 years or so," I said.
"What the fuck is a gaming table?" said Dom. "I play cards on my kitchen table is that a gaming table now?"
"Well, our tables have never been gambled on, so how can they be gaming tables? What if I use our blackjack tables as bars and our craps table as a practice area for throwing dice but I never gamble on those throws? Is there a law against practicing dice throws on a non-gaming table?"
"Stupid fucks!" screamed Dom.
"Well, Stickman and I have a list of hotels and we’ll visit them tomorrow to see what we can get."
"Steve is going to talk to them and explain how stupid they are," said Dom. "Maybe by tomorrow morning it will all be straightened out."
"Maybe," I said
I went to sleep that night, tossing, turning, and awake almost the whole time before I had to leave my bed at 4:30 a.m. to be picked up by my car service to be taken to LaGuardia airport. Not only had Mississippi tried to stop Golden Touch in 2004, the casinos had banned Dom and me a couple of years later as well. [Full story of that banning can be found in my book "The Virgin Kiss."]
When I got to the airport, I was pumped with anticipation about the class and simultaneously exhausted from worrying about how we would solve our problem with the Mississippi Gaming Commission. Knowing Dom, he had probably not slept well either. Class weekends are intense and tiring; I didn’t want Dom and me to be exhausted the whole time.
On the plane, I closed my eyes to sleep and then two monstrous girls started talking into each others’ faces. This was not an argument; this was merely face-to-face screaming between two lowlifes seated in the seats behind me on the plane.
Next to me was a woman who incessantly drank coffee, burping loud coffee-scented burps, and yelling at her junior high school daughter for being stupid until she dropped her empty cup to shoot up and run to the bathroom because she had diarrhea – a fact she proclaimed to the whole plane on her way back. "Boy, I had some diarrhea there."
I closed my eyes to sleep. Then in the seats in front of me, two dirt-encrusted backwoods types started to explain to each other how itchy they were. "Man, I itchy," he said. "My hair is itchy," she said and started scratching like mad. She had weird black hair, really straight but with gray strands here and there, sticking straight up making her look like a grotesque bride of Frankenstein. I was just hoping their scratching didn’t catapult several legions of little bugs behind them onto me.
I closed my eyes and slept a little until the two monsters behind me started screaming at the flight attendant and some passengers behind her.
"I talk just as I wants!" screamed one girl.
"We be doin’ what we wants and you ain’t doin’ nothing!" screamed the second girl.
"You shut up you old…"
I hazily thought, "Are all of these people seated around me an omen of bad things coming?" I drifted off and slept for an hour until the plane landed.
Stickman picked me up; we had breakfast at Brother Juniper’s. Then we headed out to look for hotels. Nothing. The ones that had big enough meeting rooms were filled; the others had rooms that were too small. We needed two rooms, one a classroom, and one a practice room where we put all of our tables.
About 10:30 a.m., Dom called. "Steve is talking to the Commission. You are not going to believe this. They have lost the records of our case in 2004."
"You have to be kidding."
"Steve has everything from 2004 and he is faxing everything to those jerks at the Commission," said Dom. "I didn’t sleep at all last night."
"If we have to move the class to Memphis, we’ll need to get a bus to bring the students from Tunica."
"And a truck to move all the stuff too," said Dom.
"You know, I actually hope we get the hell out of Tunica for good," I said. "I hate it down there."
"I hate it too. How’s the hotel search going?" asked Dom.
"So far not so good. We’ve visited six so far. The best one was the Marriot but it is full. We’ll spend all day looking until we find one."
"I’ll keep you posted on Steve and the Commission," said Dom.
At the very next hotel, we hit pay dirt. It was the glorious Hilton in Memphis. They had two meeting rooms left for the weekend. This is an "A" level hotel similar to the ones we use at other venues. The hotel we had been using in Tunica was not an "A" or even a "B"; it was more towards the end of the alphabet.
We asked the woman in charge of catering at the Hilton if they would hold the rooms until 5 p.m. She was gracious and said she would. This hotel was quite large and had many giant banquet rooms and conventions that weekend. Getting two empty rooms was a miracle.
Now Stickman and I headed to Tunica. I was staying at Harrah’s (formerly The Grand). Although I was not allowed to play at the property, I was able to get a room thanks to Skinny who had gotten a major comp for that weekend. So I was going to pay nothing and stay at a property that certainly did not want me staying at it. Stickman was comped there too – thanks to Skinny.
So we split up and went to our rooms. Since Stickman was in Harrah’s "Casino Hotel" that evening and I was at the "Terrace," I was able to get a room right away but he had to wait. So he and Skinny went to a casino to shoot some dice.
At 2 p. m. Dom called. "Our lawyer said to get out of Mississippi. They intend to arrest us tomorrow and fine us $10,000 if we use our tables – which are actually called exhibits since they are not used as gaming tables, whatever gaming tables means."
"Okay, let’s get a bus company. The woman at Hilton gave us the name of a company," I said.
"Call them," said Dom. "Can you get Stickman to call and try to find a storage facility?"
"Yeah, okay." I called Stickman and he started calling storage facilities in Memphis as close to the Hilton as we could get. We were now figuring on making the Hilton our new home for our Southern classes. Tunica is only 25 minutes from Memphis so it would not be a big deal to hold our classes in a classy Memphis hotel near the casinos.
Then Stickman, Skinny and me sat in the beautiful lounge at The Terrace and made calls to 22 students to tell them of the change of plans and what time for them to catch the bus. Dom called the other 11. We were now set to move our business to a fine property.
On Friday morning Dom arrived in Memphis and went to breakfast with Daryl "No Field 5" and Billy "the kid," I swam a mile at Harrah’s pool, Skinny and Jerry played craps, then all the instructors and interns working the class showed up at our Tunica storage facility and we explained to them what was happening. They unanimously agreed that getting out of Tunica was the right move. None of them liked doing our classes there – and those who wished to play could do so at the few casinos that still had decent games. But they all favored teaching at the Hilton.
We packed up the rental truck and drove to Memphis. Dom and Stickman visited the storage facilities near the Hilton and found one about two miles away that would suit our needs. Dom negotiated with several bus companies to get us a fair deal. Both Stickman and I canceled our reservations at Harrah’s.
So we set up our class at the Hilton. Saturday morning from 1 o’clock to 4 o’clock there was a tremendous storm. My room was on the 10th floor of the Hilton and I had a panoramic view of the constant lightning and the roaring thunder. It was an impressive storm and the local stations were predicting tornadoes for Mississippi.
That Saturday morning the rain was pouring Noah-like from a blackened sky and the bus didn’t get the students to the Hilton until 9:30 or so. But the class went well and the students were in good spirits. They fully understood what had happened, as one of them put it, "The casinos are afraid of you guys and the Gaming Commission works for them!"
At lunchtime, the hotel alarm went off and a female voice announced that we were now in a tornado warning for our area of Memphis. She explained where we would go should there be a final announcement to protect ourselves. The restaurant we were eating in had floor to ceiling windows and the wind was bending the trees into horseshoe shapes and whipping the fountains into whitecaps.
We survived it all and had a great class.
And now the irony of ironies, Tunica was totally blacked out by the vicious storm that Saturday. We would not have been able to hold our class in Tunica had not the Mississippi Gaming Commission forced Golden Touch out of the state. For that, we thank them.
And now we are going to sue them and, as our lawyer says, we will have another advantage game to play against the casinos and the Mississippi Gaming Commission called the American Court System!
Our Readers Report
If you wish to contribute your reports or observations, we need to receive them by the 24th of the month for the next month. Write to: firstname.lastname@example.org
We have many readers who send us their reports on various aspects of Atlantic City and we do have some that give us reports just about every month – so we have decided to give them the fame and glory (as opposed to "fortune and glory") of their own columns. I also give them a free subscription to my private web site at www.goldentouchcraps.com.
You will note that our correspondents tend to have somewhat different views. Always it is up to you to decide which games you want to play by scouting them for yourselves.
The Jon Report
Well, lots of news in AC this month, both business news and gaming news. Last month you wrote your April fools article. In the article you joked about AC casinos offering 100x odds for craps. Well, Wild Wild West is doing just that! Here is my breakdown starting at the north of the boardwalk and working my way down.
Revel Casino: Morgan Stanley is selling the place and declaring a 1 billion dollar loss on their investment. Exterior work should finish within the next month and then it will sit until they get funding (another billion) to do the interior. I can’t see how they don’t finish this project. I know AC is bleeding but look at Borgata. The Borgata is doing fine because it offers something the Pennsylvania cannot. Revel should do fine when it opens.
Showboat: They took away those stupid signs showing a lower max bet for non-card holders. So everyone can bet the same now. H17, 75% penetration, all 8 decks on the main floor.
Trump Taj: Donald Trump beat Carl Icahn in round one of their court case but Icahn is appealing. Trump Resorts mentioned many upgrades for the property when they won the case but that will all be on hold for a while. H17 and S17 on the main floor and all 8 decks. Penetration has dropped here, 70% to 75% tops now.
Resorts: One news report said they might run out of money to run day to day operations. You might want to check in with the cashier before buying chips. H17 and S17 on the main floor. 8 decks accept for two 6 deck games. 80% penetration.
Claridge: H17, 75% to 80% penetration, all 8 decks.
Ballys: H17, 75% to 80% penetration, all 8 decks.
Wild Wild West: 100x odds on craps. Max $5000. Going to do some renovations over the next 2 months, including adding a mechanical bull. H17, 75% to 80% penetration, all 8 decks.
Caesars: H17, 75% penetration, all 8 decks.
Trump Plaza: If Trump team wins lawsuit they will look for an investment partner to fix up the place. It needs it! S17, 6 and 8 decks, 70% to 75% penetration.
Tropicana: Carl Icahn does own this one now. S17, 6 and 8 decks, 70% to 80% penetration.
Hilton: Hasn't paid their mortgage in almost a year. Still offering DD games. H17 and S17, 6 and 8 decks, 70% to 80% penetration.
Trump Marina: Will be sold if Trump wins lawsuit. H17, 8 decks, 75% penetration.
Hope this helps.
The Hubert Report
Tough times continue all across Atlantic City. A headline of a recent story in the Wall Street Journal (April 22, B3) "Atlantic City Casinos: Buyers Wanted" tells it all. Briefly the story details that no less than five properties (or parts of them) are up for sale ranging from Resorts to Borgata, the oldest and newest casinos in town. Revealing is the fact that the unfinished Revel is on the block having lost $923 million on an investment of $1.2 billion and needing another $1.4 billion for completion. At the Trump Marina things are just as bad if not worse.
The Journal claims that the property’s value has shrunk from $316 million in 2008 to $24 million according to what a financial advisor for the casino told a judge. Over-all, the sea-side city’s revenues from gambling in 2009 dropped to their lowest levels since 1997 and are almost 60% off from 2006. Capital expenditures have also plunged. And this at a time when competition from near-by states like Pennsylvania, Delaware, or New York is ramping up rapidly. The current economic downturn just tops things off.
Pop Quiz! At which hotel is the following true? Carpets are fraying, halls need painting, windows remain unwashed (what good is an ocean view if you can’t see out), rooms get made up only by late afternoon, sometimes floor games open late or not at all, both player and dealer/pit grousing stands at new levels, lights do not work, elevators doors stick, restaurants are often closed, items on menus are unavailable…??? Answer: take your pick of any one of a half dozen locations on the Boardwalk or in the Marina. At one prominent hotel I counted on a mid-morning Wednesday 16 card players (not including the mini-bacc) and no dice players. At another there were 23 slot players, 6 card players, and 4 dice players.
Not surprisingly, the atmosphere around the tables reflects the above. The players grumpier and angrier and stingier, and the quality of play offered by the casinos has deteriorated markedly. A few examples may suffice. At almost all casinos the dealers more and more tend to be part time rather than full timers. As a result they are often tired, inattentive, and irritable, particularly if they have just come off shift at another property. This also can explain why sometimes casinos are short personnel, dealers call in late or sick or just do not show up. This is what other dealers and pit people have confirmed.
My own experience on recent trips verifies the above. But there is more. I have found dealers often totally indifferent to the players: at one table I learned all about the stickman’s daughter’s marriage including the menu and cost per person. Who cares? Just give me the cubes and do your job! They make frequent mistakes such as not paying a bet, not knowing who has the dice, giving the dice to the wrong person, miscounting chips. And they are quick to anger if one makes a comment.
Dealers are more slovenly too. In what is a first for me in some 50 years of casino play, a dealer picked his nose at length and then distributed chips with the same hand ten seconds later. YUK! When challenged the only answer was a hostile stare. Some of the employees’ anger no doubt comes in response to the fact that the players too are quicker-fused, probably because as money gets tighter, losses hurt more. Another consequence is that players seem to tip less.
But some things never change. A young kid arrived at the table and plunked down $90 in 5s and 10s, no players’ card. A bit raggedly dressed but polite, he proceeded to make only one bet, negative 10 for the minimum. For the better part of the next hour the god of numbers guarding the ten clearly fell asleep and that number did not appear. Soon the bet had escalated to $300 and when miraculously a ten did appear, got doubled and redoubled. The young man had several thousand dollars in the rack and in his fist. But, as we all know, things even up and tens began to sprout like wild daisies. He lost and lost, then moved to the adjoining table where the same thing happened. The last couple of bets he split between the two tables while he madly dashed from one to the other. He cashed out less than $15 and quietly left the casino floor head down.
Nor are the casinos trying to make things easier for the adventurer onto their turf. One of the last places offering cash back for day trippers recently converted to vouchers good only at their casino. Well, many who travel by bus do not come to gamble but to sun, shop, gawk, etc. Limiting their options does not earn good will and I heard constant grumblings about this at more than one place. Players, however, are ingenious and a black market in vouchers (cash at 50% off) exists. But this kind of senseless reaching for pennies will only hurt the casinos in the long run.
Everything, however, has a bright side. At the several casinos where I played, the vigilance appeared laxer or at least less obvious. At one establishment where usually a great dice run brings one or two suits, it failed to do so. Sure, the pit boss strolled over when the shouting began, but that is normal.
Perhaps the layoffs mean fewer available bodies. At another place, I played several shoes spreading 1 to 8 and elicited only bored yawns from those in the pits, although in all fairness perhaps because I did not win or lose a lot. Finally, there are far fewer waitresses on duty and spaces between rounds are much longer (indeed at one Boardwalk place I clocked a whole hour between appearances), but they are super grateful when you give a decent tip. But, here too the downturn shows and many customers fail to tip at all.
Hubert over and out!
I’ve been reading your articles and books for years, and I think that you do an excellent job in explaining the finer points of gaming strategies, and mathematical probabilities, as well as capturing the alluring world of gaming, in general. (I especially enjoyed your recent article in Casino Player magazine about the great single-deck blackjack game that the old Maxim casino had in Las Vegas.)
I must admit, you really had me going, when I read the above-captioned intro on the Blackjack Insider website! It seemed very plausible to me, as AC is going to face fierce competition from the casinos in PA, once they get their table games up and running. (I live in SE PA.) As a skilled blackjack player (or so I would like to think), I almost jumped out of my chair when I read about that faux single-deck game that was coming to AC! I would almost go so far as to say that that was cruel!
In any event, keep up the good work.
Want to learn dice control from the masters? Get a copy of our new DVD Golden Touch: Beat Craps by Controlling the Dice! [$299 plus $6 shipping] Call 1-800-944-0406.
Order Frank’s ground-breaking new bookCasino Craps: Shoot to Win! by clicking here. Frank’s book, The Virgin Kiss! is also available by clicking here.
All the ratings of casinos are based on the blackjack games.
Here are our ratings for May 2010. We thank many of our readers for helping us to stay as updated as possible. There may be some disagreements in ratings among our correspondents but all these reports are based on individuals’ experience. A word to the wise: it’s always best to check out the casinos for yourselves.
***** = Excellent
**** = Very Good
*** = Good
** = Fair
* = Poor.
BALLY’S PARK PLACE: No change from last issue. Some improvement reported; not enough to get crazy about but it pumps up our ratings a half star Not a premier place any more. No mid-shoe entry in high roller room and on a few of the main $50 tables in casino. Mixed reviews about how deep the penetration is but we found it in the 75 percent area. All 8-deck games except for the high roller room action. The hitting on soft 17 is now a fact all over the place. Crews are friendly. Hotel has declined a lot. Two stars and one-half stars: * * ˝*
BORGATA: No change from last issue. The casino where Patricia DeMauro had her spectacular 154-number craps roll. Penetration is around 70 to 75 percent on all games, including the six deckers which still make up most of the casino. Craps has long tables, 14-footers, and very bouncy, and not worth playing unless you like to see dice flying off the tables or gaze upon beautiful cocktail servers ducking out of the way or if you see Patricia DeMauro at the table. Go elsewhere for craps, except for Taj which has mimicked Borgata’s craps tables. This is a happening place and caters to a swinging young crowd. Good casino for Golden Touch Blackjack. Three stars: * * *
CAESARS: You can now expect about 75 percent penetration with most of the dealers. The main floor of eight-deckers has some of the upper-limit tables ($25 and $50) with no mid-shoe entry. All the games in the high roller pit are also no mid-shoe entry with $100 and higher minimums. Six-deck games in high roller room have 75 percent penetration. The craps games here are good with 12-foot tables. The tables are high so smaller controlled shooters should wear their "special shoes." Two stars and one-half stars: * * ˝ *
CLARIDGE: If they are open when you go there you will find penetration is still about 70 percent. There are early mornings when no blackjack tables are open. One star: *
HARRAH’S: The evil empire rules. One star: *
HILTON: The BIG news is that this casino has implemented double deck games which are still there as of this writing. The bad news is that the penetration is a ludicrous 50 to 60 percent. There are some $10 tables with H17 but the $25 table was S17. Thanks for small favors. BJ pays 3 to 2. No mid-deck entry. Wild swings in penetration on other blackjack games and many more eight-deck games throughout the casino. Penetration getting worse even as you read this. Place is in trouble. The hitting of soft 17 brings this place down a peg as well. Resplitting allowed except aces. High roller room is 6-decks; rest of the casino is 8-decks with a few $25/$50 6-deckers on occasion. No mid-shoe entry on the six-deckers. High table minimums, especially on weekends, a lot of $25 tables, rare $10 tables. Penetration about 70 percent. For craps, we are dealing with 14-foot tables and a couple of 12 footers. Two stars and one-half stars: * * ˝ *
RESORTS: This place is "this" close to closing. The first to be opened in AC might be one of the first to sink in the sea. The blackjack game has added a new feature – you can play for $2 up to $5 but you have to pay a 25-cent fee per hand. Why not just write the casino a check and forget about playing? Otherwise the BJ games are about the same as they always have been. Two stars: * *
SHOWBOAT: The Showboat should change its name to Titanic. Great rooms; good restaurants and that about sums it up. Blackjack is way below any reasonable standard. Oh, yes, this place is owned by "the evil empire" otherwise known as Harrah’s. One star (for cleanliness and rooms): *
TROPICANA: S17 for this casino. Usually good penetration; sometimes excellent penetration. Good casino for Golden Touch blackjack. Three stars: * * *
TRUMP MARINA: Six-deck games in high roller room and eight-deck games on the main floor have penetration at 80 percent mark, but you won’t find any dealers going much deeper. Still if you can afford the $50 and $100 minimums, the high roller room’s games are good. They offer surrender which they now advertise and they stand on soft 17. Floor games are mostly $15/$25 and up, especially on weekends. No mid-shoe entry on the six-deckers but you can jump in and out on the eight-deckers. Hitting on soft 17. Craps tables are 12-footers with 5X odds and good crews.
Two and one half stars: * * ˝ *
TRUMP PLAZA: The pit is paranoid and so hit and run only. That paranoia seems to be a move-over from the craps tables where the casino manager has continuous strokes when good shooters descend on his casino. This place has fairly good games but something has to be done with the dark casino and the low-life scum slithering through it. Six-deck games are back outside the high roller room. The penetration is 75 percent. No mid-shoe entry on games outside high-roller pit but you can find $25 (a few) to $50 minimums on these. Allows resplits, except aces. All tables are $10 and higher. Craps tables are 12-footers. The dealers range from professional to friendly. Two and one-half stars: * * ˝ *
TRUMP TAJ MAHAL: No change from last issue. Six-deck games in front of high roller room. Now they are hitting soft 17 except in $25 or higher games. First they screwed up the craps tables so the dice go flying off the table every third roll and now they have decided to give the blackjack games a wicked colonoscopy with barbed wire. Great hotel and great restaurants and great entertainment. Also, generally great dealers and pit personnel. Too bad it isn’t the place to play any more.
Two and one-half stars: * * ˝*
WILD, WILD WEST: No change; no gold-rush either. The silver rush is over too. This place is over as well. Seems like more often than not on "off" hours there are no table games in this place. Another Harrah’s wipe out! All eight-deck games with H17 – insane. This is a part of Bally’s Park Place and Harrah’s is looking to sell this complex like a pan of fool’s gold. Penetration is about 75 percent on all games. For craps this is a fun place to play with one 100X odds table. I remember when this place had many more tables. Crews are very friendly. One star: *
THE BEST BLACKJACK IN ATLANTIC CITY:Borgata
The Best Craps in Atlantic City:Bally’s
The Best Hotel/Casino in Atlantic City:Borgata and Taj Mahal
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