ATLANTIC CITY BLACKJACK REPORT─APRIL 2014
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 website iswww.frankscoblete.com.
Where Have All the Blackjack Games Gone?
My fellow columnist Jerry "Stickman" and I took a complete tour a couple of weeks ago of every Atlantic City casino with one thought in mind: Are there fewer blackjack games than ever before? Have the "carnival games" eroded the hold blackjack has had on the tables in AC since the casinos opened in the late 1970s.
The answer was an unsurprising "yes." From the Golden Nugget to Tropicana; from Caesars to Revel; from Harrah’s to Resorts; with Showboat, Bally’s, Trump Plaza, Borgata, and Taj Mahal similarly checking in, blackjack tables are fewer and farther between than ever before.
We now have whole "Asian Pits" and "Asian Rooms" for midi-baccarat, Pai Gow Tiles, and Pai Gow Poker. On the main casino floors there are whole pits now without a single blackjack table, and in many blackjack pits, carnival games have squeezed their way in as well.
When I first came to Atlantic City in the 1980s, blackjack ruled. You’d find a different table game here or there but blackjack was the card game. Blackjack headed the "big three" with craps and roulette.
Here is something else I noticed. The carnival tables were full; the blackjack tables might have two or three players at them.
Now, yes, Atlantic City’s blackjack games are far from the best in the country; in fact they may be the worst in the country. But the carnival games players are not disaffected blackjack players. These are the games they like so these are the games they play.
If you want to know where the great blackjack players have gone just look across the borders at the casinos in Pennsylvania where reports have it that the blackjack games are as good as any in the country. Why would good blackjack players – meaning even non-advantage-players – want to play inferior games with inferior rules? These games might not be worth the price of gas to get to AC. I fancy this thought: Will blackjack become just one of the carnival games? Will we see eight-deck games with 6-5 blackjack payouts? Will splitting and doubling down be severely limited?
It could happen. Most of the casinos, in fact just about all of the casinos, have hitting on soft 17 as the norm for their blackjack games on the main floor. In the pre-2000’s that would have been heresy.
As an aside, going down the Boardwalk was like walking a growing ghost town. ACH is closed. The old Playboy casino is just a lump of concrete. Sands is merely an empty lot. Claridge is dusty and moldy. And there will be more closings to come.
Truly a sad state of affairs.
Our Readers Report
If you wish to contribute your reports or observations, I need to receive them by the 18th of the month for the next month. Write to:email@example.com
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
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.
I want to let you know that the games have gotten worse in Atlantic City. At Showboat they are cutting off 2.5 to 3 decks on their blackjack games. Midweek there are almost no players at their tables.
Frank, my man,
You are too nice to the AC casinos. Aside from the sh*t games, the comps have dried up for $10-$25 blackjack players. Even at $25, you are lucky to get a sandwich. The biggest joke of all is Revel. They now have signs that they want gamblers to come to their casino. Duh? They should have done that before they went bankrupt.
A General Letter to Atlantic City Casino Companies:
When you had the monopoly on gambling, you offered better games than you do now when you are sliding down the side of the mountain. Why not go after the gamblers again with loose slots (right now your slot paybacks suck); good blackjack games like those old four-deck games with standing on soft 17?
I think you’d do better doing that than doing what you are doing. Patrons are just not coming anymore. I think you’ll see Trump Plaza close in the near future.
Readers:If you write me a letter that I publish I will send you a free copy of one of my new books, either The Virgin Kiss or Confessions of a Wayward Catholic. Just let me know which one you want. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Make sure you send me your address so I can get the book out to you.
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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’ experiences.A word to the wise: it’s always best to check out the casinos for yourselves. As homage, I will now put in all the casinos from all the years of Atlantic City’s existence.
***** = Excellent
**** = Very Good
*** = Good
** = Fair
* = Poor
General rules:Atlantic City casinos basically have the same rules – on occasion this or that casino might change how many splits you can do or offer those horrible 6-to-5 blackjack games. Sometimes casinos will offer surrender (a rarity). Just about all casinos have gone to the H17, although most will have some games where dealers stand on soft 17 (high roller rooms). The best games in terms of penetration and number of decks are invariably found in the high roller rooms. Players can double on any first two cards; they can split two or three times (make sure you ask about this or read the signs on the table); aces can only be split once and each ace receives one card (the standard rule all across the country). You can usually play up to three hands but most of the casinos will let you play all the spots if you make arrangements beforehand – obviously the casino is looking for high roller action in such a case. Check out the new wording on many of the layouts – amazingly wordy and almost totally BS as opposed to BJ.
ATLANTIC CLUB:From dust thou art…
BALLY’S PARK PLACE:Good cuts not in evidence during my visit in blackjack; about 70 percent. All 8-deck games except for the high roller room action. The hitting on soft 17 is now a sad fact. Crews are friendly. Craps games are quite good. High roller minimums can go as high as $200. Three stars: * * ½ *
BORGATA: No change from last issue. The hottest place in AC bar none. The 6-deck games are now almost everywhere again and the penetration has gotten quite good. A mixture of S17 and H17 were found but the H17 is starting to dominate. Sometimes these tables are right next to each other so – obviously – read the layout to see which of the two games you prefer to play. This is a happening place and caters to a swinging 30-something crowd. You’ll enjoy the night clubs and the beautiful people. This is still a decent casino for blackjack. Not a good casino for craps. Three stars: * * *
CAESARS:We are seeing a big decline in the number of blackjack games open midweek. 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 just as most of the regular floor does. High roller room is S17; the main floor is H17. The craps games here are good with 12-foot tables. The tables are high so smaller controlled shooters should wear their "special shoes." Two and one-half stars: * * ½ *
CLARIDGE:…to dust thou shalt return.
HARRAH’S:No change from last issue. The blackjack games are so-so with eight decks and penetration of about 70 percent. Good place for craps. I must say this without equivocation, players like Harrah’s. On a recent walk-through mid-week there were plenty of players around the place. Two and one-half stars: * * ½ *
PLAYBOY CLUB / WORLD’S FAIR:A concrete monster next to old Convention Center.
RESORTS:Every time I’ve been there midweek the business seemed fairly brisk. Casino looks great. There are new restaurants and the entrance on the Boardwalk is pleasing to the eyes. Many H17 games on main floor; high roller room is S17. Penetration on all games is about 80+ percent which is darn good. Decent craps games too. Has opened the first Atlantic City gay nightclub and is courting the gay community, which is a smart move as gay vacation resorts and nightclubs seem to make a good go of it.
Three stars: * * *
REVEL:Some games are good and some are bad. Look for the six decks with S17; the eight deckers are hit on soft 17. The six deckers are in the minority and the best are right by those giant escalators. Penetration is about 80 percent on those. These few are damn good games. Whoever decided to originally go with the small comps, highly expensive rooms, and non-smoking did not understand the AC base. This place wanted to become a destination resort and its destination seems to be at the bottom of the ocean. I am rooting for Revel. Actually I am rooting for all of Atlantic City. Revel has now brought in a new group to manage the property and they are aggressively going after players. I wish them the best! But I am guessing (now write this down) that Revel closes before the summer of 2014, at least to be "renovated." Three stars: * * *
SANDS:Top of the heap; now just an empty wind-blown lot.
SHOWBOAT: No change from last issue. The blackjack has deteriorated considerably with little penetration – maybe you play 60-66 percent of the shoe. All games are hit on soft 17. High roller room is passable with better penetration, about 75 percent, and at some slow times the minimums are $25 – although you won’t see this much in the summer. Pass this place by unless you are walking Fido since they are now the animal friendly hotel – disgusting! One star: *
TROPICANA:This place is bringing the highest rollers into AC. Now the place is H17 on all games except those outside the high roller room. Now has excellent penetration, maybe 85 percent. Three stars: * * * ½* (for penetration)
THE GOLDEN NUGGET:The blackjack games in the high roller room are excellent with penetration of 80 percent and top rules such as splitting and resplitting; and standing on soft 17. The eight-deck games in the casino are ho-hum and basically the same as all the other casinos in AC. Crowd is heavily slanted towards carnival games. The craps games are excellent and – as always – this place has the nicest and most professional dealers you will find. Give it a try. Three stars: * * *
TRUMP PLAZA:My bet for the casino that closes its doors next. The "Dump Plaza" or "The Trump Dump" has fairly good games when those games are open. On this visit there were two players in the whole casino aside from Jerry "Stickman" and me. Craps games were closed. The penetration is 70 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. Two stars: * *
TRUMP TAJ MAHAL:Same as last issue. They are hitting soft 17 except in high roller room. 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, great dealers and pit personnel. Too bad it isn’t the premier place to play any more because it is a great place to stay. Two and one-half stars: * * ½*
WILD, WILD WEST:There are no table games here at all. This place could close soon.
THE BEST BLACKJACK IN ATLANTIC CITY:Any rating of three or more stars.
Best Craps in Atlantic City:All except: Borgata, Taj Mahal, Showboat.
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Bless me father for I have sinned.
Confessions of a Wayward Catholic
Confessions of a Wayward Catholicis a hilarious yet insightful account of Frank Scoblete’s years from kindergarten through grandparenthood as a confused, wayward, seemingly ever-sinning Catholic. Join Frank for an entertaining but possibly hell-bound ride as he attempts to understand what God and religion are all about. Will Frank reach the pearly gates or be banished to eternal damnation?
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"I don’t know why Jewish kids went to a Catholic school but I’m proud they did well in religion." – Chief Rabbi Sol Bernstein
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"Scoblete says I have no sense of humor. I will afflict him with boils and sores over his whole body, just like I did Job." – God
"Frank Scoblete has been wayward for over six decades. He’s my main man!" – Satan
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