ATLANTIC CITY BLACKJACK REPORT
by ALENE PAONE & FRANK SCOBLETE
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. His websites are www.goldentouchcraps.com and www.scoblete.com.
Only three Atlantic City casinos reported cash-flow declines for the last quarter, everyone else made some good money. Resorts, which is undergoing major expansion and thus has fewer hotel rooms and slot machines than it did a year ago, is hurting but is hopeful that the future looks bright. And the Trump Marina and Trump Taj Mahal seem to have their problems as well. The Sands has "made" more money by laying off staff. The actual income was lower but they did make a profit. Of course, no one works there any more!
Borgata looks as if it isn’t setting the world on fire (yet) but since it didn’t have to report its earnings for the quarter, no one really knows if the new luxury resort is a big go, a little go, or a no go. For blackjack players, it really doesn’t matter since Borgata’s games are about the same as everyone else’s in Atlantic City. Shame because some people had such high hopes for the new casino or were simply high when they hoped.
As many of you know by now, the state of Illinois has crushed their casinos with a $5 per head fee for everyone entering a casino and also 75% tax on gross gaming revenue. These moves are causing the casinos in Illinois to lay off hundreds, if not thousands of workers, cut their hours of operation, eliminate comps (you actually have to pay for bottled water when you play!). Cynics think this is an effort by the state to take over the casinos. The state doesn’t do too well with the business of the state – it really stinks when it comes to running a casino.
Speaking of "stink"; the latest figures from Vegas show a decline in blackjack winning of between 2-4 percent. How can that be with all those new continuous shuffle machines that increase by 20 percent the number of hands dealt? And all those new super popular 6/5 single-deck games all along the Strip that have edges over 1.5 percent? Maybe, blackjack players have started to feel like suckers playing these games and are turning away from them? Maybe the casinos attempted to fix the old blackjack machine when it wasn’t broken and they’ve screwed up! (Hey, maybe you guys in Vegas should go back to the good old days?)
Speaking of good old days, bad new days are ahead for New Jersey. Now, Governor McGreedy is said to be contemplating a way to get his hands on more casino lucre. The rumor is that he is following his Democratic colleagues’ cue in Illinois and will attempt to tax the gaming revenue as high or higher than Illinois has done. We’ll see what happens. Can you imagine the State of New Jersey trying to run casinos?
One good thing with the opening of the Borgata is the fact that the other casinos are really in overdrive to keep their old customers. We’ve been getting mailings from all the casinos we’ve played at in AC (even if we haven’t played in years there), which is just about every one, offering free nights, free meals, free gifts if we just come on down. The comp conscious will love this.
Speaking of comps, the place to go for the best comps in the country is undeniably Tunica, Mississippi. We East coasters have been overlooking this venue for years. Well, compared to AC, Tunica is a blackjack heaven. Consider flying or driving down to meet Henry Tamburin, Jean Scott, Bill Burton, John Robison, John Grochowski, Walter Thomason, Frank Legato and many of the other stars of gambling who will be partaking in Frank Scoblete’s Gamblers’ Jamboree on November 14, 15, 16 at the fabulous Gold Strike Casino in Tunica. For blackjack buffs Henry Tamburin will have seminars in card counting, basic strategy, and tournament blackjack. John Grochowski will give seminars in blackjack variations and the new table games.
For more information call 1-866-SET-DICE or 1-800-944-0406. When you sign up ask for the Blackjack Insider Discount and you’ll get 20% off the entrance price of $199 for one person and $299 for two people. You’ll also get a free copy of Frank’s new hardcover book when you attend.
If you want more information, email Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are our ratings for August 2003.
***** = Excellent
**** = Very Good
*** = Good
** = Fair
* = Poor.
BALLY’S PARK PLACE: A reader wrote to tell us not to forget the $5 games on the 6th floor of this casino. Yes, we have been overlooking these games because the only time we go to the 6th floor is to eat at the gourmet restaurants. Okay, they have $5 games most times in this gaming parlor near the poker room. These are 8-deck games, with about 75 percent penetration. Penetration has diminished somewhat to 1.7 decks cut off on the six-deck games in the high-roller pit and these games are always $100 to $200 minimums. The rest of the casino is the standard AC eight-deck games with penetration that varies but is consistently around the 75 percent mark. Some tables have been changed to Let It Ride and Three Card Poker. You can resplit for a total of three hands, but aces can only be split once. Multiple Action and Spanish 21 are also available for minimums of $10. ***
BORGATA: Average stuff in a property that should have been extraordinary. The casino is all 6-deckers with about 1.8 decks cut out of play. We haven’t actually played here, yet, just walked through and watched. If readers have played here send us your sense of the dealers, the surroundings, and whether you feel the place rates even three stars. * * *
CAESARS: No change from last report. Six-deck games in high roller room have 80 percent penetration, as do the eight-deckers on the main casino floor. Very few $10 games; mostly $15 and up, especially on weekends. This place is really alive with action and excitement! Multiple Action and Spanish 21 available at $10 and up! *** ½*
CLARIDGE: No change from last report. Now a full-fledged Bally’s casino adjunct, and it shows. 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) but penetration about 70 percent when we visited. 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. To stay here, you have to make the trek to Bally’s Park Place to register. **1/2*
HARRAH’S: No change from last report. Penetration now ranges close to 75 percent. 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. Play here and at Showboat and your play counts all across the nation. For those of you who like to go to Vegas you can get some good comps for AC action in the desert! **1/2*
HILTON: Great penetration -- in the neighborhood of 85 percent, sometimes more -- from the six-deckers in the high roller room to the eight deckers on the regular floor. Resplitting allowed except aces. Pits have been quick to jump on suspected counters, so be wary. Saw no $5 tables the afternoon we visited; only a couple of $10; the rest are $15 and up. The Multiple Action and Spanish 21 also have okay penetration for $10. ****
RESORTS: Now in its 25th year of operation, Resorts looks better today than it did when it opened and it’s undergoing major renovations. Resorts has cut back on the penetration on both six and eight-deck games, to about 75 percent. Most of the $5 games have become $10 games, even midweek, but this is still a bargain by AC standards. Resplitting is allowed at all tables. Casino also offers multiple-action blackjack and Spanish 21 at $10 minimums. Pits are friendly. ***
SANDS: They’ve added $5 games on the second floor, where all the slots are. Come to think of it, this whole place is where the slots are. They’ve also added a new high roller room in the back. Penetration has improved to about 75 percent on all eight-deck games, which are the only games offered as Sands. The table games are now taking up a little more of the premium, mid-casino space. There’s improvement here! ***
SHOWBOAT: No change from last report. Starting to get a little looser with the comps for $15 and $25 players. 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. They announce them with a big sign during slow times. You can get great deals in other venues by using your card outside this property, as it’s a part of the Harrah’s Total Rewards program. *** 1/2*
TROPICANA: Slot city. Slot heaven. Slot madness. Ignore this place. *
TRUMP MARINA: This place has a big youth clientele because of all the rock bands that play here and they aren’t discriminating about the game they play. So if you like the high energy of often dimwitted young folks loudly having a good time, this is the place for you. 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 improved to about 80 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: Has been eclipsed by Borgata as the big kahuna casino in AC. Decent game with 75-80 percent penetration, dealer dependent. Multiple Action, Double Exposure and Spanish 21 are still available at $10/$15 minimums and up. ***
WILD, WILD WEST: No change from last report. Penetration has deteriorated in the last couple of months to about 75 percent on all games. Only one $5 table in the afternoon we scouted. Still a good place to play, atmosphere wise. **1/2*
THE BEST BLACKJACK IN ATLANTIC CITY: Hilton.
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