ATLANTIC CITY BLACKJACK REPORT – January-2008
by Alene and Frank 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. His newest book is The Golden Touch Blackjack Revolution. His newest DVD is Golden Touch: Beat Craps Using a Controlled Throw!
For a free brochure call: 1-800-944-0406 or write: Paone Press, Box 446, Malverne, NY 11565. His websites arewww.goldentouchblackjack.com, www.goldentouchcraps.com and www.scoblete.com.
It’s a new year and we are both hoping that the casinos do the following:
Happy New Year to everyone!
Our Readers Write
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.
THE HOWARD HERBERT REPORT
(Howard is a regular Atlantic City visitor who frequents Borgata although he does move around a lot. He plays both blackjack and craps, occasionally adding other games such as Pai Gow Poker.)
Borgata versus Bellagio!
A few weeks ago my wife and I spent five days at Bellagio in Las Vegas. What follows is a brief recounting of our experiences both at play and in daily living. My wife is a slottie and Pai Gow player; I play blackjack and craps, and sometimes Pai Gow. In AC we hang out at Borgata almost exclusively and this is our reference point for the remarks that follow.
We stayed in a suite which easily compared to Borgata’s. It was a bit roomier, spectacular view of the mountains (that sun on the sierra in the AM is incredible), maid service twice a day, Jacuzzi/bath tub, etc. The only draw back was the 10-15 minutes commute down the corridor, down the elevator, along more winding corridors to the casino. Casino rate $500 plus, normal rate 1G plus.
We dined at the buffet or regular restaurants by day, and hit the gourmet trail by night. The buffet easily compared with Borgata’s (already the best in AC) with more choices and more stations. A bit pricier, however, like almost everything in Vegas.
Three things of note: the whipped butternut squash had just enough syrup to bring out the flavor, the pesto mashed potatoes were to die for!, and the all you can drink champagne brunch on Sunday included a good California bubbly. One for Borgata: no Bermuda onion with the lox!
We went to Michael Mina’s which compared favorably to the Borgata branch, although we would give a small edge to the latter (remember this is based on one meal only). The piece de resistance was Picasso’s, Bellagio’s top of the line Mediterranean style dining spot. We had a really first class meal (it compared to 5 star meals in NYC), everything was excellent from the ambience to the service to the meal itself. At $300, not cheap but worth every comp dollar.
My wife says the shopping was better at Bellagio if quite a bit more expensive.
But we came to play, not dine and shop.
Pai Gow. We had a good time, everything about the same as Borgata with the one exception that most players were Caucasian not Asian. Nice pit people, players generally knowledgeable, which makes the game flow better. $25 minimums always available, and Dragon Hand plus regular bonus at select tables. We had one good experience here. We were on a bad streak and both lost the hand, got up from the table, and walked away.
In actuality we had pushed one of the hands for $200. The dealer apparently tried to find us but we had disappeared. The next day he hailed us when we appeared and ceremoniously returned the $200! No intervention of any kind from the higher ups. That is class! Apparently some of the other players at the table had sent out a search party too! Since we could not give him money we gave him a gift certificate from one of the stores.
Slots. It seemed to us that the payoffs at Bellagio were considerably less frequent than at Borgata. Again this is not scientific but based on five days play only. We saw few people getting paid for jackpots, although we did hit a small one. Machines represented a good selection of familiar names, few really new surprises. Lots of space dedicated to machines so you can always find one. Reasonable cash back policy. Smoking is everywhere which can represent a problem for non smokers, particularly those of us who are now used to the new New Jersey laws.
Blackjack. Here the problems began. They essentially have three classes of table: high stakes, low stakes with constant shuffle, and medium stakes with hand shuffle. All tables had basically the same rules as Borgata. We do not need to discuss the constant shuffle games; they are bad news as all Golden Touch readers know (same for the one deck 6/5 pay out). The medium stakes games proved playable but they only were open some of the time! That means late beginning (noon or later) and early closing. When I tried to get information about the games soon after arrival, I was met with suspicion from pit bosses to dealers alike – although far worse from the former. Some even evaded my questions, and I never did get a card with the rules printed on it. Reasons ranged from: we do not have them, to we are out of them, why do you want one?
Ambience. A major factor in our enjoyment of any casino is the ambience. Bellagio has serious traffic problems. I understand that management wants people to go through the casino to entice them, but it is a major downer for players during weekend or other peak hours. We were there just when a whole bunch of tourists from a heavy drinking European country arrived. What a mess both at the tables, the bars, and passage ways. 90% were well behaved even when well boozed, but still it is distracting both from a noise and viewing perspective. Also, given that casinos are places for pick up (at least in Vegas apparently), not so openly please! The casino itself it nicely appointed; the floor people and employees helpful when things are not crowded.
Craps. I looked forward to short tables, low bounces, friendly dealers, and great fellow players. I got half of the above. The tables are shorter than Borgata’s and less bouncy. The dealers are mostly competent (as Borg’s are) but very different in their approach to the game and players.
The stickman says very little, sometimes not even announcing the number. I like the patter (five, no field five) but we got only a terse call of the number at best. There is little interaction between dealer and player. Perhaps most shocking is this. When I shoot, I leave a couple of bucks on top of my bet for the dealers (the left over from $24 6&8 each). During my five days play only two or three times did any dealer say: thanks for the try if I lost, thanks if I (they) won, or even say anything about my placing the bet despite the fact that I specify my control.
I sort of wondered why more people did not tip the dealers, but I figured it out. Some people played hard ways for the dealers, etc. again little recognition. When I asked a friendly dealer (ex AC) he said that some casinos actually prohibited the dealers from talking to customers or rapping the numbers. There were a lot of $500 and $100 chip players (and some bigger). They got no better treatment than I did as far as I could tell. Also, a lot of first timers playing at the table (typical tourists which slows the game down and crowds things since often only one of a group of 5-6 tourists actually plays), but one can usually find a spot with patience.
Using the Captain’s 5-Count helped a lot. Imagine a medium late Saturday night at Borgata but with several more languages and that is the approximate scenario. The waitress scene is the same. I like a soda or vino when I play. I always tip a dollar. At Borgata I usually get a thank you, particularly after the second round, but at Bellagio? Nothing. The waitresses were not hostile or nasty – just impersonal (with one or two exceptions to be fair). Big plus to Borgata (not including looks which makes the Babes real winners).
Establish credit before you go. Sometimes it is hard to cash out chips as they want the player to pay any markers on the spot. But give Bellagio credit: they picked up most of the tab for both room and restaurants. And for that thanks!
Would we go back there? Yes, but with the caveats above. Is this our home away from home? No. We remain loyal to Borgata, especially if they get less bouncy dice tables…..
THE JON REPORT
(Jon gives us great reports almost every month when he visits AC. You can use his reports, mix with ours, put a dash of the other letters and you will get a good idea of what is going on in Atlantic City.)
Thank you very much for the Jon Report and the Fame and Glory that goes along with that. I will try to live up to the new glorified role. As a whole Atlantic City blackjack has shown a noticeable decline and that’s saying a lot because it really didn’t have a lot of room to go down. Penetration and rule changes have made play even tougher in AC. Here are the conditions as I saw them. You might want to get a drink first, as I visited a lot of places this month.
The Borgata: I have done nothing but sing the praises of The Borgata as the only reasonable place to just sit and play in AC. So for me to say otherwise means a lot. Take away a star here! The penetration has been greatly altered. During my first visit to The Borgata this month ALL dealers were cutting off 2 to 2 ¼ decks. That’s 62 to 67% penetration. Someone told me in November that the cuts at The Borgata were awful and I read conformation of this on another forum. During a later visit this month the cuts seemed to be closer to slightly under 2 decks but this was still no better than 70%. Only one $5 table was offered and mid shoe entry was still allowed on most games (all six decks still).
Trump Taj: Standard AC games on main floor. Eight decks with about 75% penetration. Lucky Ladies and Bust It side bets are offered on some tables. 6/5 single deck games offered. No mid shoe entry on $25 eight decks games. They are still offering their Thursday Blackjack tournaments.
Resorts: Standard AC games on main floor again (8 decks with about 75% penetration). There are still a couple $25 six-deck games offered outside the high roller room. Match the dealer side bet and 6/5 single deck games offered.
Bally’s / Wild, Wild West / Claridge – I’m lumping these together because they really are one property with common dealers, common chips, AND they are ALL hitting soft 17. All tables on the main floor at Wild, Wild West and Claridge are hitting soft 17. About two thirds of the 8 decks tables on the main floor at Bally’s are hitting soft 17. Aside from hitting soft 17 all three places are pretty typical for AC (8 decks – 75%). High roller room six deck games stand on soft 17.
Caesars – Everything looked pretty much up the middle here. 8 decks on the main floor with about 75% penetration. They are offering 6/5 single decks games here as well.
Trump Plaza – Mostly 6 decks now on the main floor with only a few 8 deck games left. Don’t get excited though. The penetration is never better than 2 decks being cut off or 67%. Many dealers cut up to 2 ½ decks off. The few 8 deck games being offered had about 75% penetration again. They also had one minor rule variation here. You can only split hands twice for up to 3 hands. The AC standard is 3 times for up to 4 hands. This is a pretty trivial change though.
Tropicana – 8 decks on main floor. Still the worst penetration in AC but it seemed a little better. I saw a few dealers cutting off 2 decks but many were still cutting off more. Most but not all of the $25 eight deck games were no mid shoe entry.
Hilton: They still have the best penetration in AC. Some dealers were cutting off 2 of 8 decks for 75% but I still found many dealers going much deeper (80 to 85% range).
In conclusion: If we just compare number of decks used, rules (s17 / h17) and penetration then according to the Snyder Profit Index The Hilton is offering the best blackjack games in AC with 80% penetration, The casinos offering 8 decks with 75% penetration come in second, The Borgata and Trump Plaza come in third with 6 decks at 67%, and finally our h17 friends finish in 4th. The Snyder Profit Index takes other items into account but these are the main differences between the casinos in AC.
Well, I hope this helps. I’ll try to condense my next letter.
[Great report, Jon, and don’t worry about condensing. Write as you see it and don’t worry about word count.]
Dear Frank and AP:
You seem to favor the hideous habit of smoking in the casinos. You haven’t written against it and you seem to sympathize with those chimneys who pollute our air and give everyone second hand lung cancer.
I think you should be ashamed of yourselves for not standing firmly against that awful habit that is rotting the western world.
Smoking is evil.
Dear Frank and A.P.:
The Tropicana is losing its license or something because of the filth and disgusting conditions in their hotel and casino. You would think such a big place would be able to make money and create a great atmosphere. Just the opposite happened during the last year. This place is a hazard to your health if you play there. You should wear masks.
Why do you insist on giving the Hilton such a good rating? I played there recently and found the penetration to be about 66 percent and the pit boss looked like he was paranoid about card counters as could be.
Reconsider your rating please.
Dear Frank and AP:
I like blackjack and craps. I used to love playing at the Taj but their blackjack games have gotten much worse and their craps tables, along with Showboats, really suck. This place is going downhill really fast.
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You can read about the Golden Touch Craps World records, including the Captain’s 147-roll hand atwww.goldentouchcraps.com/worldrecords.shtml. Want to learn dice control from the masters? Get a copy of The Golden Touch Dice Control Revolution! [$16.95 plus $5 shipping] by Frank Scoblete and Dominator or get a copy of our new DVD Golden Touch: Beat Craps by Controlling the Dice! [$299 plus $6 shipping] Call FRED at 1-800-944-0406.
The greatest, and easiest, advantage-play method ever developed for beating blackjack – SPEED COUNT – can be found in Frank Scoblete’s new book, Golden Touch Blackjack Revolution! Book comes with a CD so you can practice. $24.95 plus $5 for shipping.
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We’ve decided since many of our Golden Touch Craps dice controllers are now Speed Counters subscribing to this site; we are going to give a quick rundown of the craps games as well. We haven’t played in all the casinos in AC so we would appreciate it if you could email Frank with the table minimums, the odds bets, and anything else you think we might want to use (table lengths very helpful – if you just say "big" we will assume 14-feet as they are at Borgata). If you send us info we will give you a free month on our members-only board that has over 5,000 paid members. Email address firstname.lastname@example.org.
All the ratings of casinos are based on the blackjack games.
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Or buy our new book The Golden Touch Blackjack Revolution! and learn the easiest advantage-play method ever developed for blackjack.
Here are our ratings for January 2008. We thank many of our readers for helping us to stay as updated as possible.
***** = Excellent
**** = Very Good
*** = Good
** = Fair
* = Poor.
BALLY’S PARK PLACE: More slots. More hitting on soft 17. This used to be a premium property but it now seems to be a Harrah’s after thought. No mid-shoe entry in high roller room and on a few of the main $50 tables in casino. Mixed reviews about how deep the penetration is but we found it in the 75 percent area. All 8-deck games except for the high roller room action. For craps players, this is a good casino for the game. All tables are now 5X odds, with a range of minimums. Crews are friendly. Tables are somewhat high so short shooters get your platform shoes. Some correspondents disagree with this statement but we are guessing they are all over 6-feet tall! There are many more carnival games than ever before. Looks like Three-Card Poker rivals blackjack! Hotel has declined a lot. One star: *
BORGATA: Getting mixed reports now – see Jon’s column above. Still our visit showed that it is a superior venue in Atlantic City, despite some negative reports about declining service. There is always a $5 table available. Penetration is now somewhat spotty too. Casino is all six-deck games, which is great – for AC, that is. Penetration on games varies between 70 and 75 percent which is worse than ever before. Craps has long tables, 14-footers, and very bouncy, and not worth playing unless you like to see dice flying off the tables. There are two 12-foot tables but these are bouncy too. Only if you like to watch those cubes flying off the table should you play craps here. Go elsewhere for craps, except for Taj which has mimicked Borgata in craps. This is a happening place and caters to a swinging young crowd. Good casino for Golden Touch Blackjack. Three and one-half stars: * * * ½ *
CAESARS: No change from last issue. Directly across from Caesars is The Pier, which is a pleasure to walk through – a must see attraction in AC with some of the finest restaurants and views. Caesars itself also has excellent restaurants but you have long walks to find them. Cheerful place and worthy of the name it bears. Hotel/casino rating is A. They are going deeper at blackjack too. You can expect about 80 percent penetration with most of the dealers. 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. Table game action has improved and that is very noticeable in the blackjack pits – which are all 8-deck games. Six-deck games in high roller room have 80 percent penetration, as do the eight-deckers on the main casino floor. Good casino for Golden Touch Blackjack. The craps games here are good with 12-foot tables and friendly crews. The tables are a little high so smaller controlled shooters should wear their "special shoes." Three stars: * * *
CLARIDGE: The idiot pit boss is gone; one fewer jerk but fewer table games and more machines. The place still stinks although there is some chatter that the craps games have gotten better but we have been reluctant to play here in the past year – sour taste in our mouths from the maniac pit boss. This is now a "new dealer" break-in casino so games tend to be slow. Hitting on soft 17 is standard. One star: *
HARRAH’S: Same as last issue. In the casino you will find very friendly dealers and pit personnel. Penetration now ranges somewhat below the 75 percent area. Resplitting allowed except aces. No midshoe entry in the high roller room of 6-deck action, with the rest of the casino being 8-decks. 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 Vegas comps from your AC action! A room that would be discounted for $80 in AC would be free in Vegas based on the same play – this is not official but based on our calculations of the offers we’ve received. But we must warn you; this is a big slot place. Sadly, Harrah’s properties in Las Vegas and in Tunica are getting awfully bad reports about how some of the boxmen treat customers who practice a careful shot at craps and there is overwhelming paranoia at the blackjack games as well. So beware when outside AC. Harrah’s prefers their slot customers and all their casinos tend month after month to be adding more machines. Two and one-half stars: * * ½*
HILTON: Oh, boy, some readers are starting to hate this place and many are going elsewhere. Yet, some readers still think this is the premier place to play if you ignore the deterioration. Take your pick. The profits are down somewhere around 25 percent too! The hotel-casino is laying off people and severely limiting comps which seems damn stupid, doesn’t it? The blackjack games here are getting okay reports concerning their penetration from some of our correspondents but you must pick the game based on the dealer because the penetration is still highly dealer dependent. Resplitting allowed except aces. High roller room is 6-decks; rest of the casino is 8-decks with a few $25/$50 6-deckers on occasion. No mid-shoe entry on the six-deckers. High table minimums, especially on weekends, a lot of $25 tables, rare $10 tables. Penetration about 70 to 75 percent. Good casino for Golden Touch Blackjack. For craps, we are dealing with 14-foot tables and a couple of 12 footers. Three stars and one-half stars: * * * ½*
RESORTS: No change from last issue. Up and down. This casino went up in our estimation when the new company took over and now it is heading downhill. If Resorts wants to start to compete with the big boys of AC, it has to loosen up its pockets to draw good numbers of them in. Resplitting is allowed at all tables but penetration barely makes it to 75 percent now. Casino also offers multiple-action blackjack and Spanish 21 at $10 minimums. Avoid the single-deckers that pay 6 to 5 for blackjacks. Excellent place for craps; mostly small tables, with some games 5X odds. The new hotel addition is clean and serviceable, but not luxurious. Two and one-half stars: * * ½*
SHOWBOAT: No change from last issue. Where are the table games? This used to be a great table-game casino and Harrah’s has made it a slot paradise. The table games are squeezed into a little area of the casino now with awfully bouncy craps tables and awful blackjack games, a really sad fate. Had been one of the best and now is the worst blackjack casino in AC. One-half star: ½*
TROPICANA: If you want to watch the Titanic hurry to Tropicana because it is sinking fast. Blackjack games are okay and so is the new "Quarter" shopping area. But bad reports have come in about the level of service, cleanliness and security throughout this hotel-casino. It also seems that it is having trouble being relicensed. Can you imagine if such a big resort closes? High roller room is 6-decks with no mid-shoe entry. Penetration is about 75 percent on all games. Craps tables are 12-footers. Two and one-half stars: * * ½ *
TRUMP MARINA: Another casino that is economically bleeding to death. This place is giving good comps from some reports and the game is okay. Six-deck games in high roller room and 8-deck games on the main floor have penetration of 75 to 80 percent mark, but you won’t find any dealers going much deeper. Games are mostly $15/$25 and up, especially on weekends. No mid-shoe entry on the 6-deckers but you can jump in and out on the eight-deckers. Craps tables are 12-footers with 2X odds. Two and one-half stars: * * ½ *
TRUMP PLAZA: Just about all 6-deck games with somewhat low penetration of penetration of 70-75 percent, depending on the dealer. No midshoe 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. Very friendly crews but a dark casino with a real smattering of low-lifes. Good casino for Golden Touch Blackjack. Three stars: * * *
TRUMP TAJ MAHAL: No change from last issue. Say it ain’t so, Donald! The best national casino-hotel at one time is no longer even in the top 10. Ouch! We were there recently and the 6-deck games outside the high roller room are gone. Lucky Ladies bet now available, no thanks. Good game with 75-80 percent penetration, dealer dependent, throughout the casino. In the high roller room all the 6-deck games have $100 minimums. Now the worst casino to play craps in all of Atlantic City with incredibly bouncy and high tables. The crews spend half their time scooting around looking for the dice that have jettisoned off the tables. Good casino for Golden Touch Blackjack. Three stars: * * *
WILD, WILD WEST: No change from last issue. Lacking the spark it used to have. All 8-deck games with most offering H17 games – insane. This is a part of Bally’s Park Place and Harrah’s is looking to sell this complex like a pan of gold. Penetration is about 75 percent on all games. For craps this is a fun place to play with one 5X odds table and one 2X odds table. I remember when this place had many more tables. Crews are very friendly. One star: *
THE BEST BLACKJACK IN ATLANTIC CITY: Borgata, Hilton
The Best Craps in Atlantic City: Resorts
The Best Hotel/Casino in Atlantic City: Borgata, Taj Mahal
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