ATLANTIC CITY BLACKJACK REPORT
BY ALENE PAONE & FRANK SCOBLETE
The Sands is dead. This property is bleeding red ink and the various management shifts, shuffles of personnel, and change of direction have caused the property to lose whatever identity it once had. The table games are still shoved in the back in an area the size of some casinos’ high-roller pits. What’s worse, management seems to be doing stupid things to alienate what few mid-sized players remain. Here’s a recent example that happened to an acquaintance of ours:
"I took out a marker for $4,000, which is normal for me. I had played at the Sands about two months before and there had been no problem with me taking out a $5,000 marker, which I promptly paid back before I left. I want to make it clear I have never walked with chips or failed to pay back a marker. But this time, the pit boss comes over and he wants to see my license and a major credit card. It takes about a half hour to get the okay for the marker. Then when I’m finished playing, I was up about $500 and I go to the cage to cash in. The teller asks if I have any markers and I say no. This is common. If you intend to play again, you keep the money for the next session. In all my years of gambling in Vegas and AC I never had what happened next happen to me."
"This woman comes out of nowhere and screams at me: ‘Yes, you do have a marker!’ ‘Okay, but I’m not paying it now,’ I said to her, figuring that would be that. She then says, ‘I’m calling Michelle,’ as if this is some kind of a threat. I wait about five minutes at the cage, which is now just two windows for table-game players. Then Michelle appears and introduces herself as the head of credit and tells me, ‘It’s our policy to have you pay back your marker right away if you have the chips.’ I explain to her I never heard of such a thing. That I was going to take a short break and play some more and I didn’t feel like requesting another marker at the table and waste my time waiting for it. She said she was the credit manager for eight years and this has always been the policy. Well, I’ve been a credit player for a dozen years and it has never been the policy.
"So I told Michelle that Sands just lost me as a customer, she shrugged and walked away, and I paid the marker and went across the street to Bally’s and that’s where I played for the next two days of my stay. I will never play at the Sands again. It’s a dump."
Bally’s is where the action is, or, rather, the Park Place properties are where it’s at. With the recent acquisition of the Claridge, the Park Place Entertainment group dominates Atlantic City. You can play at four locations and, in the dead of winter, you don’t even have to go outdoors, as the Claridge, Bally’s, Wild Wild West and Caesars are all connected. Their fifth location is at the Hilton. Perhaps Park Place will take over Sands, level the "dump" and build either a new parking lot or a new casino on the site.
And hovering in the distance is the Borgata. How will that affect the AC gaming landscape? We might have an exclusive in our next report!
Here are our ratings for March, 2003.
***** = Excellent
**** = Very Good
*** = Good
** = Fair
* = Poor.
BALLY’S PARK PLACE: No change from last report. Penetration remains at 1.5 decks cut off on the six-deck games in the high-roller pit. The rest of the casino is the standard AC eight-deck games with penetration that varies but is consistently more than 75 percent. Some tables have been changed to Let It Ride (seems to be getting a big, big following) and Three Card Poker. You can resplit for a total of three hands, but aces can only be split once. You will be hard pressed to find many $10 games on the weekend, much less $5 games. Multiple Action and Spanish 21 are also available for minimums of $10. Always crowded. ***
CAESARS: The six-deck games have penetration of 80 percent in high-roller room. Big action seen there recently. Rest of tables are eight-deck also with 80 percent penetration, sometimes more if you get certain dealers. Resplitting allowed but you can only split aces once. Bright, clean casino. Multiple Action and Spanish 21 available at $10 and up! *** ½*
CLARIDGE: No change from last report. The blackjack is good by AC standards. The high-roller action was six-deck games with $50 minimums most days, higher on weekends (you might even find some $25 tables at really slow times). Penetration varies but averages above 80 percent. You can resplit pairs up to four hands, including aces, in high-roller room but the rest of the casino, all eight-deckers, doesn’t allow resplitting. Multiple Action and Spanish 21 available for $10 and up. *** 1/2*
HARRAH’S: Improvement seen on all games. Penetration now ranges close to 75 percent, the best we’ve seen in a long time. Resplitting allowed except aces. No midshoe entry. Harrah’s Table Game Guarantee: if the minimums are raised during play, you still get to play your original minimum. **1/2*
HILTON: Generally has decent penetration -- in the neighborhood of 75 percent, sometimes more -- from the six-deckers in the high roller room to the eight deckers on the regular floor. Resplitting allowed except aces. The Multiple Action and Spanish 21 also have okay penetration for $10. ***
RESORTS: No change from last report. Resorts is still doing everything right and you’ll find good penetration on eight-deck games, consistently in and above the 80 percent zone, dealer dependent, however. Most of the $5 games have become $10 games, even midweek, but this is still a bargain by AC standards. The six-deck games in the high-roller pits are good, coming in at 80-85 percent penetration. Resplitting is allowed at all tables. Casino also offers multiple-action blackjack and Spanish 21 at $10 minimums. Pits are friendly. ****
SANDS: "It’s a dump," to quote the above player. Blackjack games are all eight deckers, shallow penetration 60-66 percent. Tables are squished in the back. NO STARS.
SHOWBOAT: No change from last report. Showboat is improving – a lot. It is also a bright and cheerful place to play. Six-deck games in the high roller room have standard penetration of 80 percent. Resplitting now allowed up to three hands. Eight-deck games have 80 percent penetration. Can now occasionally find $25 games in high roller room. *** ½*
TROPICANA: Six-deck games in high-roller room are $100 minimums with 66 percent penetration. Rest of the casino is no better, except these are all eight-deckers. Another slot heaven or hell, depending on how you view the one-armed bandits. Going through renovations of its façade, but could use serious renovations of its blackjack games. *
TRUMP MARINA: Six-deck games in high roller room and eight-deck games on the main floor have penetration of 75 percent mark, but you won’t find any dealers going much deeper. Games are mostly $15/$25 and up, especially on weekends. **1/2*
TRUMP PLAZA: No change from last report. Six-deck blackjack games in high limit area have 70-75 percent penetration, sometimes slightly higher, with $100 minimums. Sometimes when it’s slow, they will honor a request for $50 minimum. The eight-deck games have penetration ranging from 70 percent to 75 percent on all, depending on the dealer. No midshoe entry on eight-deck games outside high-roller pit but you can find $25 (a few) to $50 minimums on these. Allows resplits, except aces. Most eight-deck tables are $10 and higher. **
TRUMP TAJ MAHAL: No change from last report. Decent game with 70-80 percent penetration, dealer dependent. New "Blackjack Switch" game is being tested here. Several $5 minimum games in the morning on weekdays. Multiple Action, Double Exposure and Spanish 21 are still available at $10/$15 minimums and up. ** ½*
WILD, WILD WEST: Penetration not as good as it was a few months back, now hovers around 80 percent but you won’t see much more than this. Still a good place to play, atmosphere wise. ***
THE BEST BLACKJACK IN ATLANTIC CITY: Resorts.
Alene Paone 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 and the author of Best Blackjack. Frank’s books and tapes have sold over a million copies. For a free brochure call: 1-800-944-0406 or write: Paone Press, Box 610, Lynbrook, NY 11563.
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