ATLANTIC CITY REPORT: GOLDEN NUGGET AND TROPICANA CASINOS
by "Reload" Joe Freda
Joe Freda has been an avid gambler and writer for the past two decades, covering casino and sports wagering. His efforts include several years of articles at Sportsbook Review and Don Best Sports, while enjoying trips for blackjack and poker throughout North America and the Caribbean. Freda can be reached email@example.com or through Twitter (@ReloadSports).
It has been a year of ‘rounding' for me in the northeast, with trips north to Maine (Oxford and Hollywood Casinos) and west to upstate New York (Turning Stone Casino). I decided to finish 2015 with a Thanksgiving weekend southbound in Atlantic City, visiting Golden Nugget and Tropicana (both rated "3*" in Frank Scoblete's recent recommendations).
Background on Golden Nugget (1 Castle Road, Atlantic City, NJ)
Golden Nugget is one of three properties located in Atlantic City's marina district, and features one of the area's biggest variety of blackjack offerings. The main floor has eight-deck shoe-dealt games with the dealer hitting soft 17's and 75-80 percent penetration, while the high-limit room has six-deck games (S17) and the deepness being more dealer-dependent (ranging 65-75 percent).
Surrender can be requested at the high-limit tables, but my initial visit in 2013 resulted in a one-day delay (ID check) until it was added for me. The pit has had the same bosses for several years, which I have had ‘heat' from with phones ringing and interesting remarks. Even when down four or five figures on several trips, I had insults to injury with words like "Hard work, isn't it?" The only "good cop" for me has been Maryann Damiano, who is a sharp protector but always a pleasure to talk with there.
A "Rush Lounge" adjacent to the main floor offers one table each of single- and double-deck action (both with 55-60 percent penetration). Single-deck has 6/5 blackjacks ("say no more"), while double-deck pays 3/2 in exchange for no re-splitting or doubling down after splits. There is also a "No Peek" style used for these, ironically adding a further price to any ‘ogling' here.
The Thanksgiving "All-Nighter"
After settling into a comped Spa Tower Suite for the trip, I enjoyed a lengthy Thanksgiving dinner at Golden Nugget's Chart House restaurant. I was given a $150 dining credit for that night's meal and this worked out just right for the pricy $147 tab. My table was one of the venue's best, with a window view of the marina and the famous "Triumphant Lady" yacht.
I headed to the casino later that evening, with some added ammunition of $800 in match plays. These were able to be split up into four plays of $200 each and were all checked when I sat down to play.
Although my betting is strong enough for the high-limit room, I opted to sit on the main floor in order to mix in a few other players' discards. I was looking to milk lots of hours on this first night so that the rest of the trip could be enjoyed with shopping comps and other plans through the weekend. Fewer decisions per hour could be more easily obtained in this setup, while the virtually empty high-limit pit would have had much faster action.
I found one eight-deck table that had a "5x2" layout, with room for five players that could each have up to two spots. The maximum was a sparse $500, prompting me to play a $100-500 spread on each of my two hands. Most of the night, there were not more than three other players and they generally just played one hand each.
My first several hours of shoes were all a losing effort, but the match plays did help cut some of those losses. The dealer did call out a "checks play" when I went from $200 bet on both spots to that same base with the match plays added to each on the next hand. No heat from the pit managers, and they were just chatting friendly the whole time.
After dropping six ‘pumpkins' of cash, some bigger bets came along to help get me out of the hole...
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