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Best of Frank Scoblete
Atlantic City and Me19 July 2007
I am not a travel writer, so when Borgata opened in Atlantic City and my eager friends went to check it out, the fact that they said its craps tables were incredibly long and too bouncy kept me out of the place for many months. "The place is beautiful, Scobe!" they echoed. They extolled its Vegas-like feel. But I heard the following one line much more clearly, "The craps tables are way too long."
The craps tables won. My wife, the beautiful A.P. and I stayed and played elsewhere.
When I go to a casino town, I go to play the best games. That's the first priority. I want a chance to come home with some money - preferably more than what I arrived with. If the casino doesn't have good games, and if it's somewhat out of my way, I won't make extraordinary efforts to visit that casino, beautiful though it may be - especially if my time in that town is limited to a few days.
The best games in Atlantic City, right now as I write this, are along the Boardwalk, so A.P. and I stay at Boardwalk hotels when we come to town. "Play the best games," is our mantra.
Oh, we love to take long morning walks, too, but Borgata along with Harrah's and Trump's Marina, are too far away to snake one's way through the neighborhoods of Atlantic City for such walks. It's not all that wise to do such snaking, either. All the other casinos are sitting on that beautiful Boardwalk. And truly nothing beats walking the Boardwalk, especially as you head away from Atlantic City and south where the tourists don't usually go. Then it's miles of Boardwalk, sand and ocean. In winter there aren't that many people on the Boardwalk in these areas either.
But Borgata, oh yes, Borgata…
Borgata has, of course, justifiably taken Atlantic City by storm. The place is electric, beautiful, new, and hot. It also has the best blackjack games in town - all 6-deck games, with good penetration when I last looked. So blackjack players are flocking to the place to play the game. Though it sits alone in its own little world in the marina district, it has brought in crowds of other players as well, big players wanting to spend big money at the new jewel of the coast and doing just that.
Unfortunately, these crowds of players have mostly come from other Atlantic City casinos, which means while the new baby on the block is going really strong, the other Atlantic City casinos are not all doing as well as they'd like. In fact, Atlantic City is still battling its past - stated by my friend Ned as "Second to Las Vegas." Which irritates the heck out of Atlantic City officials who hear all the Neds of the world stating such a thing.
Yet, the Neds are also wrong, because the actual "town" of Atlantic City is looking better and better with a new shopping mall opened, great stores, and an upbeat design of the main drag. The Boardwalk is also a telltale harbinger - there aren't as many bums as there used to be. To me that is a great sign that something good is happening in Atlantic City. The new Pier Shops at Caesars are spectacular - a must see.
As a gambler, the fact that some Atlantic City casinos are having difficulty is just fine with me. As casinos in Atlantic City struggle they tend to offer better games to entice the players to their properties.
MY ATLANTIC CITY
When I review the over 25-year history of Atlantic City, I see in my mind's eye great gambling days, mediocre gambling days, and awful gambling days - and great adventures.
When Resorts opened in 1978, players had to wait in long lines on the Boardwalk to get into the place. You had to stand in lines waiting to play blackjack and craps even when you did get in. East Coast gamblers were hungry to play and there was only one game in town. Resorts had been a hospital and a hotel prior to coming alive again as a gaming entity, and it is still going strong.
Oh, yes, Atlantic City is still crowded, but now it has 13 casinos for you to choose from. Ten are on the Boardwalk (the Hilton, Tropicana, Trump Plaza, Caesars, Wild Wild West, Bally's Park Place, Claridge, Resorts, Trump Taj Mahal, and Showboat) and three are in the Marina district (Harrah's, Trump Marina, and Borgata).
Approximately 18 of the 25 years of Atlantic City's history, I have been a steady customer, since my gambling career began around 1986. Sometimes these good, bad and mediocre days have nothing to do with the actual quality of the games I was personally playing. Some of my worst luck came at some of the best games Atlantic City ever offered, games that are, for the present, no longer available.
I see my times with the Captain's great dice playing crew - wonderful days of the late 1980s and early 1990s, days of playing at the venerable Resorts, and the lively Showboat, the elegant Trump Castle (now Trump Marina), and the timeless Claridge - as the source and substance of my gambling education. I cut my teeth on gambling in Atlantic City for years before I ever traveled to Las Vegas.
I'm not the only one. In 2003, over 32 million visitors came to Atlantic City. Over 24 million came by car, 6 million came by bus, and the rest came by air or train, all hoping to overcome the house edge and bring home the money.
BAD NIGHT IN AC
When I cut my teeth, there was some pain, unfortunately.
My worst loss on a single hand in Atlantic City, $2,500, came at the 4-Deck games in the Claridge's high roller lounge in 1990 (dates are approximate). I had two hands of $250 each on the table; each was a split. I split them. I now had $1,000 ($250 + $250 and $250 + $250) on the table. Then I got to split one of the two hands on each side and double down on each of those last splits! ($250 + $250 + $250 +$250 +$250 and $250 + $250 + $250 +$250 +$250) The hands I made on the splits were all pretty good, ranging from 17 to 20. I figured I'd win some of them.
The dealer was showing a 6. He flipped his hole card - a 10. A juicy 16 - bust time! I could count the money I was about to win. I could also count the beads of sweat forming on my forehead as I was betting much more in this single hand than I should have. I had to win. The beautiful A.P. and I were also in the 16th day of the worst losing streak we have ever had. If I could win this hand, it would at least bring me back a little.
It dawned on me as the dealer was lifting the hit card from the shoe that I hadn't seen many fives. No, please, God would not be so unkind as to leave me hanging with such a huge bet out there - hanging in the wind of a dealer's drawn-to 21 - hanging after 16 days of the worst losses A.P. and I had ever sustained. Please, no!
The dealer was in slow motion; the card came out.
Boooommmmm!!!! A five! The dealer had hit to a horrid 21! Every one of my hands was beaten.
A giant bead of sweat came rolling down my nose and hit the table. Plunk!
That $2500 effectively wiped out our blackjack playing bankroll. I was, in gambling terms, flat broke.
My first blackjack playing bankroll was created with $5,000 that I took from the sale of a business. I had studied card counting for six months and A.P. and I headed for the casinos in 1989. In a nine-day trip we won so much money that as we walked the Boardwalk, I delighted my beautiful A.P. with visions of which casino hotels we would buy with the money we were surely going to win at the tables. The casino we had hit hardest during that trip was Tropworld [now Tropicana], which had a great 4-deck blackjack game. It was billing itself then as "Las Vegas by the Sea." And we were getting a lot of its treasure.
We increased our bankroll tremendously in those nine days of play and I was sure that the future was going to be rosy. But luck is a fickle mistress.
We came back for a 16-day trip and took our savage beating, losing all that we had won and our initial $5,000 gambling stake as well.
On the way home, A.P. and I stopped at the Captain's house. The Captain is my gambling mentor (now 84 years old) and I have written quite a few books about him and his ideas and methods. He is the father of the modern dice control movement and a great friend. When he opened the door and saw A.P. and me standing there, he said, "There they are with empty pockets."
The Captain, who visited the casinos four or five times a week in those days, then talked about the intangibles of gambling and taught us a lot about gambling within one's rhythm during casino trips because I had, without knowing it, been on a massive tilt. I was looking to get the big score so I could make a comeback of epic proportions. That was foolish. A series of small wins, over time, is a much more likely event. I should have rested more, played somewhat less, and relaxed more and also bet less.
The only comeback I made was to plan my gambling better for the future, which I did. Atlantic City was my training ground.
A.P. and I have played in every casino in Atlantic City. Some casinos I like, some I love, and a couple I now ignore. As spectacular as Las Vegas is, it is merely man-made spectacular. Atlantic City is nature's spectacle.
When you look at that endless ocean, and the beautiful sand, and you hear the birds, you know that Atlantic City sits in nature's dreamland. It's at the edge of the land and the edge of the ocean. The casinos' edge doesn't seem so powerful when thought of in those terms. Atlantic City is still America's playground and I'm still playing there!
This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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