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ATLANTIC CITY REPORT: Resorts and Trump Taj Mahal Casinos

by Joe "Reload" 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, craps, and poker throughout North America and the Caribbean. Freda can be reached at joe_freda@yahoo.com or through Twitter (@ReloadSports).

Introduction

After a setback of a trip in November to Atlantic City’s Golden Nugget and Tropicana, I returned to the Jersey Shore in March with a shift in gears to Resorts and Trump Taj Mahal. These properties had blackjack ratings of "3*" and "2.5*" in Frank Scoblete’s most recent recommendations and I was looking forward to seeing how their conditions stacked up. Additionally, I added my share of action at the dice tables while in town at this year’s first "Golden Touch Craps" dice-control class.

Background on Resorts Casino (1133 Boardwalk, Atlantic City, NJ)

Resorts is one of five casino properties left on the Atlantic City boardwalk, with its hotel size the smallest at 942 rooms. Mohegan Sun now owns a percentage of this venue, with management and marketing teams being shared with its flagship property in Connecticut. My casino action up north resulted in a mailed offer to stay at Resorts that included two complimentary nights, a $300 match play, and 100 comp dollars given off the bat.

The blackjack tables at Resorts on the main floor feature mixed rules, with the dealer hitting or staying on soft 17’s. A row just outside of the high-limit room featured "S17" and had minimums ranging anywhere from $10-25, with the $25 minimum tables having no mid-shoe entry. The casino also had a "Margaritaville" area next to the "Five O’Clock Somewhere" bar with "H17" rules and more of a party theme. Blackjacks were paid at 3/2 throughout all pits, while surrender was not offered (as is usual in Atlantic City casinos).

Eight-deck shoe games, with 75 percent penetration, were present in the main casino, while the high-limit room had six-deck games and a more dealer-dependent cut card (70-80 percent). Minimums in the high-limit room were $50-100 and I opted to settle there for my blackjack action on this trip. The high-limit tables uniquely had a five-spot layout, while the main floor’s had six or seven.

I found myself playing heads up against the dealer throughout nearly all of my blackjack session, with unfortunate losses occurring during most of the shoes. There were rarely any opportunities to increase my bets due to 10’s often hitting the felt early, leaving the ‘count’ unfavorable for the remainder of the shoe. The best opportunity came once with 2.5 decks remaining and an extra eight "monkey’s" floating through them. My depleted bankroll allowed me to only raise my base $100 bet to two black chips; unfortunately, I pushed on the hand. Trying the same approach on the next hand saw a double down connect for a $400 win to keep me alive for a while before ending up a four-figure loser.

As a change of pace, I played craps, leveraging some of the "Golden Touch" dice-control techniques I learned in class. The dice action at Resorts had minimums ranging from $10-25, and the tables were generally not too bouncy. I had my moments with the "bones" in hand, but with 5x odds I encountered some heavy swings in my bankroll. The most promising chance for a surge upward was when I rolled a point of six and had a come bet moved to the eight. With $100 base bets and $500 in odds on each, rolling either before a seven would have gotten me $700 back. It felt like having "Boardwalk" and "Park Place" with a hotel on each! Unfortunately, I lost the entire $1200 when "the devil" appeared; landing on an expensive "Luxury Tax" thanks to a seven.

One highlight to take away from the craps session was scouting other rollers and trying to pick up any that looked to have potential of controlling their shot. A gent to the right of the stickman had me sold enough to use all three of my $100 matchplay’s during one of his turns, with a Hollywood-like result of the entire trio collecting! He threw a seven on each of those three come-out rolls, while adding a fourth following that for good measure.

Interestingly enough, I ran into this shooter at "Golden Touch Craps" the next day and it turned out he was taking the advanced dice-control class. I will have more on the GTC experience in next month’s "Blackjack Insider" newsletter, with a full story on my two-day "Primer" course and its preceding open house.

Aside from my struggles to end up a winner, I do feel the casino crew at Resorts was friendly and our craps table’s manager (April) was the nicest you will find anywhere. I was eventually asked for identification after reloading through the dreaded $10,000 mark of deficit, but it was all smiles the whole time.

While my overall stay at Resorts was a losing effort, I felt the property was finding the right niches with both its "old school" and "new school" clientele. It is the type of place where a lively gambling environment still comes first and foremost, with a lighter touch of entertainment and shopping. Restaurants ranged from a food court with convenient basics all the way to Gallagher’s Steakhouse where I enjoyed a delicious $110 "surf and turf" (filet mignon and a huge Australian lobster tail).

My hotel room was in the upgraded "Rendezvous Tower" and felt spacious. The décor was a bit outdated, but a nice view from the 48th floor made up for that. Staff at the VIP Check-In "Parlor" took care of needs quickly on arrival and my new host Charlie Fleifel personally came down to greet me. An added third night was originally supposed to be charged for, but was picked up by the hotel along with the first two comped nights and all taxes across the board.

Despite "comps" seeming to diminish from Atlantic City’s casinos these days, I was welcomed right away in Resorts’ second highest tier (of "Paramount"). Also included in that level is free valet parking, with the valet’s gratuity even covered on two of your stays each month. I was even surprised with an additional $300 dining credit as a "Celebration Dinner" (How else could I afford "surf and turf?"). Be sure to ask the restaurant’s manager for any sizable freebies they can spot on your account.

The Paramount and Epic players’ lounges are also well worth checking out if you qualify and want to relax for a while. Comp dollars earned can be used at Mohegan Sun’s other properties, and this is a nice touch to keep business in the family. I am looking forward to using mine at the gas station in Uncasville next month, while getting in some golf lessons as Spring begins.

Plans are also in place at Resorts to add a live poker room in conjunction with its online PokerStars venture. Look for more news developing on this through the rest of the year.

Trump Taj Mahal Casino (1000 Boardwalk, Atlantic City, NJ)

The "Taj" is a quick walk from Resorts and I headed over one morning with $300 in fun money. I opted to play minimal stakes in blackjack, craps, and Pai Gow Poker – losing about $100 in each game.

Blackjack had all tables featuring the dealer staying on soft 17’s with penetration ranging 70-75 percent. The only difference in the venue’s high-limit room compared to the main floor was a six-deck shoe being used instead of eight. No high-limit players were active so I was unable to compare penetration there.

Craps (5x odds) saw a bouncier experience with the dice at their tables compared to Resorts’ felt. I heard from other players that would be the case with the "Taj" and a likely reason for emptier tables with less excitement.

Pai Gow Poker had a $25 minimum and I was able to be the banker every other hand. The only catch was that the banker wager could not be any higher than your bet on the hand just before.

New ownership has everyone wondering what this property’s future will behold, and whether its sand will ever turn to gold again. In speaking with some dealers, the short-term outlook will rest on the possible expansion of casino gambling in northern New Jersey. If that ends up occurring, as expected, we could be looking at the next "Trump Dump" here with no further money spent to improve this property.

While I cannot picture anyone starting a "Make Atlantic City Great Again" campaign anytime soon, the "S17" blackjack tables throughout all of the "Taj" are enough to make it worth checking out.

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