In the last chapter of the Atlantic City Diaries, I was feeling a sense of burn-out with the city. While I was financially successful, I suffered from multiple dramatic episodes, including an avian-related food disaster, a near fight with a complete asshole, and the potential of having to fill out a missing persons report for this website’s editor. However, this trip was booked in advance and completely comped thanks to my friend OB, star of Chapter 2. Earlier this month (between the events recounted in Chapters 2 and 3), OB went down to stay at the Revel, for the sole purpose of building up his comp points. And he ended up building a small empire. While I don’t want to go into specifics, he ended up with enough winnings that he was assigned his own “experience manager.” So this upcoming weekend was not only comped in one of the Revel’s nicest suites, but all room service and dinner would also be taken care of. Additionally, we also had tickets to see Summerland – a concert featuring a who’s who of pop-rock 90’s bands. With a bill featuring Marcy Playground, Sugar Ray, Everclear, Gin Blossoms, and Lit, I’m sure Fastball was feeling extremely left out. To top things off, OB used his winnings to escort our group (including my girlfriend and Finn from Chapter 2) down from New York in a stretch limo.
3:30PM – My main experience with limos has been funeral-related, so this jovial, booze-filled ride was completely new and exciting for me. It will be tough to go back to the Greyhound bus after this. However, the only downside of drinking in a limo for three hours – you really have to go to the bathroom. Each limo stop costs extra money, so you’ll be testing your bladder’s fortitude as you try not to break the seal. I, unfortunately, broke the seal at our one rest stop – which was still about an hour and a half away from Atlantic City. By the time we reached the Atlantic City Expressway, I was trying to remember anything at all from Phil Jackson’s Sacred Hoops - I needed to use the Zen Master’s advice to dissociate from my need to pee. By the time we pulled up to the Revel, I pushed over my girlfriend and friends in a mad dash to the bathroom, much like George Costanza knocking over the children and old lady to get out of a fire at a children’s party.
7:00 – We checked into our room, and had some solid room service. I ordered a burger, which, while nothing spectacular, sated me. We then headed to the concert. The concert opened at 7PM, and we arrived at 7:45, thinking that would be closer to the start time. However, by the time we arrived, the lead singer for Everclear (who was hosting the event) was saying “Give it up for Marcy Playground!” Well, one band down, four to go. It made me wonder how long the sets would be – did Marcy Playground just go out, play “Sex & Candy,” and leave? Next up was Lit. Now, aside from “My Own Worst Enemy,” I was extremely unfamiliar with their music. The set was…fine, I assume. It gave me a feeling for how the rest of the night would go – they played for about 45 minutes, had a couple of the other bands’ members guest with them for a song or two, I would recognize a song that I forgot they played (in this case, “Miserable”), they would end with their biggest hit (the aforementioned “My Own Worst Enemy”), and the crowd mildly rocked around.
8:30 – After Lit’s set, I took time to look around the room. It was a pretty light crowd, especially when compared to the Orion Music Festival. The pit area (where we were) was maybe only two-thirds full, and it looked like many people there were past their best rocking days. The interlude was very quick – in about 10 minutes after Lit finished, the Gin Blossoms started playing. I have to give kudos to the stage crew – they kept it moving very quickly. I’m a bigger fan of the Gin Blossoms, and they didn’t disappoint – they played every hit they had (of course ending with “Hey Jealousy”). Two interesting notes about their set. First, the lead singer really isn’t that charismatic – his only move was to ask the audience to put their hands up, which he repeated seven or eight times. And secondly, during this set, two sets of what looked like 21-year-olds were locked in a vicious make-out session – they were, without exaggeration, rolling on the floor and making out for roughly 20 minutes. It was distracting, but I was so impressed with their stamina in a crowd full of mostly older folks.
9:15 – Sugar Ray followed next, using the Saved By the Bell theme as their intro music. Their set started with “Someday”, which had just awful harmonies. Again, this wasn’t a band I was a huge fan of, and, much to my surprise, I found out here that “Someday,” “When It’s Over,” and “Every Morning” are, in fact, three different songs – my memory had blurred them all into one. I always had a begrudging respect for Mark McGrath, he seems self-aware enough to know that his bread-and-butter is staying committed to the 90’s douche personality he’s developed. (I remember one joke he had on the Adam Carolla podcast – “Wherever you smell funnel cake, Sugar Ray will be playing there.”) McGrath spent more time talking to the audience than the last two bands and played a few covers, two signs that it was clearly tough for them to fill a 45 minute set. The silliest gimmick was a “sing-along” part, where two random audience members were pulled on stage to sing random songs. One audience member had to sing “Fight For Your Right To Party,” but ended up singing the lyrics after the lyrics had just be said, and got booed mercilessly by the hostile South Jersey crowd. And, if you don’t know what song they ended with, I don’t know what to tell you.
10:00 – We left after Sugar Ray, choosing to skip Everclear. This was due to Gamblor having his neon claws in all of us. Whereas in Chapter 2, we gambled first, then went to a concert the next day, here we had the concert up first. Needless to say, I was jonesing to get to the floor and donate to the children of casino owners. Overall, Summerland was a decent time, but I feel I could have seen even shorter sets. The audience didn’t seem too engaged, and it was mildly depressing to hear songs from high school being played by bands that had gained some weight and lost some hair. There was one point where McGrath asked the audience, “How is everyone feeling tonight?” My response: “Kinda old!”
After the show, some of our party stayed up in the room, while OB and I went down to indulge our gambling need. Just to note – I am a terrible gambling addict, so much so that I refuse to bring my ATM card down with me, as I can’t trust myself not to max out my withdrawal limit when I’m down there. I had just returned from a trip to San Diego, and will be switching apartments in a few months, so I only budgeted myself $80. I was playing with a very small budget and would be there Saturday night, so, for the beginning, I was content with watching OB try to make another killing at the Revel. He donned his lucky gambler’s hat, and headed to the blackjack tables. What I witnessed next could only be described as a crime against humanity. Bad luck is quite an understatement. It was Murphy’s law in action – every card that could have fucked OB ended up fucking OB. The blood loss was so bad that I had to take a walk myself to clear my own head.
I used this time to see the Revel in a sober (well, more sober) light than I did in Chapter 3. It is a beautiful, if not oddly laid out, facility. From what I can tell, there is only one bathroom on the main casino floor, but that one bathroom is through a gorgeous ocean-esque hallway. The whole place has a club feel, as the music is blasting and beautiful women are dancing on stages within inches of the blackjack tables. It was designed to disorient you enough so that you lose your money in the most delightful way.
I decided to head back to the $5 digital blackjack tables, as described fearfully in Chapter 3. After a few hands, I realized that the game wasn’t that much faster than normal blackjack (which was my concern). The digital advantage was described to me by one cheerful dealer – “I don’t have to add up the cards!” So with less training required, the Revel decided to hire only beautiful women to be the dealers at the digital blackjack tables. Well played, Revel, well played.
12:00AM – I left the digital blackjack table up $15, checked in with OB to see how he was doing (answered by a harsh, bestial growl), and went back to the room to drink. As I went to get ice, OB returned to the room and unleashed a profanity-laced tirade that would’ve made Andrew Dice Clay very proud. So, OB was out for the night. Finn had some friends in the city, so we met up with them, played some slots in Revel, and, eventually, putzed to the Showboat. The thought was that it would be easier to get free drinks at Showboat.
Going from the Revel to Showboat is a huge let down. The place is disturbingly well-lit, sparsely populated, playing soft 80’s pop music. And, to make matters worse, the bartenders were stingy with the free drinks. After losing about $20 in a video poker machine with only one drink to show for it, we putzed around a bit more. Finn, bolstered by his phenomenal luck at the Showboat last month, went to test out his skill in Caribbean Stud. Eventually, my girlfriend and a few others met up with us in Showboat, and I decided to try a $10 blackjack table. At the tables, I will say, the drinks flowed a little more loosely. I was slowly losing, and attempted to try to count cards. Having seen a lot of low cards dealt, I decided to up my ante to $20. I ended up with an 8/2 against a 7. This was basically my night – I’d either win this double down and live, or lose it and not be able to gamble the rest of the weekend. I pull an 8 on the double, and, fortunately, the dealer has the 17. Having replenished my bankroll (and then some), I decide to bolt.
2:00 – My girlfriend and I decide to reel in my risk, and stick to silly slot machines. We try out a Van Gogh-based slot machine, which eats $5 with little mercy. We head to the Wheel of Fortune slots, and talk to a nice couple also playing, and a wonderful waitress named Daisy gets us drinks very quickly. The Wheel of Fortune slots, I must say, are a blast. They are brightly animated, and you are only usually a couple spins away from spinning the big wheel. After a couple spins, I’ve turned $20 into $50, so I’ve got the luxury of playing with their money, hoping for another chance to spin the wheel. After cashing out up some money, we putzed around, collecting the cheap Mardi Gras beads handed out by tired workers who had clearly seen too many drunk people by this time.
3:00 – The crew heads back to Revel to cap the night off. Finn takes his winnings from Showboat, and promptly gives them back to the Revel at three card poker. I make the choice to go back to the digital blackjack. By now, the Revel looks like it is going to sleep. The tables are closing down, the dancers are gone, and only the hardcore gamblers are still out. With more money than I started, I decide to head back and call it a night. By the time I find the rest of the crew, we are back in the room by 5AM, and asleep by 6.
9:00AM – And I’m up. Surprisingly, I’m not hungover – the three-hour nap has done me well. I decide that, rather than annoyingly wake up everyone else in the suite, I’ll take a walk over to Bally’s. I have (another) $30 direct bet to use, which I believe is my last one for the foreseeable future (they’ve stopped sending them to me). It is a hot, long walk from Revel to Bally’s, and the weather is truly awful. The air felt so thick that you could cut it with a knife. More disturbingly, there are well-rested people jogging and riding bikes on the boardwalk. It is always sobering when you realize that there are healthy, responsible people who vacation in Atlantic City as well.
After last night, I now have $110 in cash in my wallet. Not too shabby for a low-roller like me. I print out the free bet and head to a $10 blackjack table. On the first hand, I got an 8/2, with the dealer showing an 8. I double, get a 6, and lose to the dealer’s 18. Next hand I get a Q/2, and don’t even get the change to bust as the dealer gets blackjack. On the third hand, I decide to use my free bet. I get a 9/7, I’m going against a face card, and, of course, end up with a 26.
And, I swear to you, it happened five times faster than you just read it. The $30 profit I fought so hard to eke out over 5 hours last night was gone in seconds. It was like that bird attack all over again – it happened so quickly that I was befuddled and refused to believe what was going on. I was “on tilt”, as I leered at other tables, hoping to change my luck around with my remaining money. Fortunately, after witnessing the bludgeoning OB took the other night, I decided to make the long trek back to Revel, mentally preparing myself for the beating I would take later than night.
11:00 – I head back to the Revel with my tail between my legs. As I enter the suite, my friends are watching a marathon of Saved By the Bell on MTV2. It seems very fitting for this 90’s based weekend. Later, my girlfriend and I head to Resorts to use our free buffet coupons that were our reward for that horrible time-share experience in Chapter 2. I’m famished at this point, and finish off roughly three plates of food before my girlfriend has finished her first. We head back to the hotel room, where Mincus-era Boy Meets World episodes have replaced Saved By the Bell, and in doing so, have created numerous Mr. Feeny/Cory Matthews love affair jokes. I’m running on fumes and crab legs, and decide to take a nap.
6:00PM – After regaining my energy, I walk my girlfriend back to Resorts so she can take a bus back to New York. She is in the process of moving as well, and needed to get back early. Thankfully, she allows me to be a terrible boyfriend and stay in Atlantic City tonight, where my goal is to lose my remaining $80.
7:00 – I’ve returned to the suite, and casino security is there. Why? OB’s pants are missing, of course. You see, OB’s pants had gotten stained yesterday, so he put them in a laundry bag to be cleaned by the hotel staff. He spent the entire day in a robe, drinking and enjoying 90’s television. He would repeatedly call to see the status of his pants, and he was constantly informed they were “in transit.” Apparently, when I left, the powder keg exploded. His pants were deemed missing by the staff. To make matters worse, he only had that pair of pants. So he is screaming at the staff, saying they are costing the casino money since he can’t go down without pants (or could he?).
So, I have just walked into a manic scene. Within minutes of arriving, I look on the ground and find a laundry bag. I open it up, finding a pair of pants. I gingerly walked into the other room, where OB was with security, and ask, “Are these your pants?” Boy, did the mood change immediately. The staff had never even picked up his pants – they were in the room the whole time. Now, why they had told him they were “in transit” is anyone’s guess. But, I must admit, I screwed this up – I should have waited until security left before showing OB the pants, as it just quintupled his embarrassment.
9:00 – Despite the pants being unclean, they were still wearable, as OB treated the whole gang to dinner at Azure, a restaurant run by the “master of Mediterranean cuisine” Alain Allegretti. We had to wait for a bit (it was packed on a Saturday night), but we just helped ourselves to more free drinks. The food here did not disappoint. Finn and I had a rib-eye steak for two, which was amazing. I wish I could go into more detail, but to be honest, I’m not a foodie whatsoever. I’m pretty utilitarian about food – if we didn’t have this fancy dinner, I’d be fine with McDonald’s. However, I still know the difference between good and bad food, and this definitely fell into the “good” category. Finn did not finish his entire meal, but we took it back, and ended up feasting upon it at around 5 in the morning. Between the leftovers from the restaurant and the leftovers from room service, we never had to revert to stealing discarded food off room service trays. I am truly becoming an adult.
11:30 – OB splits off to rebuild his empire, while we go meet up with another group of friends that had arrived from out-of-town and were staying at Showboat. Having resigned myself to losing my remaining cash, I hit a $10 blackjack table with Finn and a friend of his named Jack, who I had just met. I have to say – it has been a while since I played at a blackjack table with two other friends (usually one other or I’m flying solo), and I forgot how much fun it could be, especially if you are winning. The other 3 seats at the table were filled by other people who really knew how to play blackjack – nobody was making of the mistakes you normally see at a $10 table. Our dealer was a great man named George. There are three types of dealers in Atlantic City – the scary, silent kinds that just wipe you out (which I had this morning), the jovial, joking around with you dealers (mostly good, but some can lead you into a false sense of security), and the silent but begrudgingly accepting your jokes types, which is the category George fell into. I left the table with $120, hung around the slot machines for a bit, found Daisy again for another lovely drink, and headed back to Revel.
1:00AM – I’m back, again, on those $5 digital blackjack tables. After a small amount of time, I’m up now about $150 overall, and decide to sit back and watch my friends play. I’m very drunk and testing my self-control – I should walk away now, but I’m itching to continue to play. I settle for drunkenly trying to advise Finn on basic blackjack strategy (“You want to double down on an 11.” “I know, shut up!”) and starting pointless conversations with the dealer (“I saw some dealer pay some guy when he had 18, but he shouldn’t have.” “Uh, sure, I won’t do that, shut up!”).
2:00 – I head back to the room, where Finn, OB, and I decide to just drink, watch weird Olympics sports, and listen to the new Killers song “Runaways” about 15 times. While Finn and OB have basically tapped out of gambling, I’m still itching to lose all of my money. I take two trips down, at roughly 3:30AM and 4:30AM, to peruse the gambling floor. If I’m going to lose, I want to lose at a table that looks like they are having fun. However, by now, the Revel is dead. Like the other night, the dancers have retired, and the $5 blackjack tables have been reduced to just a mere few, all of which are packed with tired looking people. I find one $10 blackjack table, ask them how their luck was going, and only received grim shakes of the head in return. I’ll just have to be happy by not losing my money. By the time I return to the room, OB has passed out on the couch, so I take over the bed.
11:00AM – We leave the Revel, taking a limo back. I’m drinking much less on this return trip, as I don’t want to test the limits of my bladder like I did last time. Meanwhile, OB seems in much better spirits, as we sing “Vodka Vodka Man” to the tune of “Macho Macho Man”.
So to sum up – the Revel is awesome, the 90’s were forever ago, I’m old, Atlantic City is fun, Atlantic City is exhausting, digital blackjack may or may not be a scam, check your room for your pants before complaining about them, and friends who treat friends to limo rides are fantastic. Until next time…