As you can tell by the title, this AC Diary will be a bit different from the rest. Today, rather than recounting a raucous tale of alcohol-fused rabble-rousing, I’m going to compare Atlantic City to its older, more ruthless brother: Las Vegas. Now, a bit of personal history: Las Vegas is where I popped my gambling cherry. I was last there back in 2007, before finding a steady gambling partner in Atlantic City. It was closer and more familiar, and I ended up developing strong feelings for the city. However, Atlantic City and I have never had a monogamous relationship. When I’m out of town, it is clearly fucking tons of other people. And I’ve yearned for six long years for another lost weekend with my first love. This past weekend, we were reunited and it felt so good.
Everyone already knows a plethora of things that Las Vegas can offer that Atlantic City can’t: sports gambling, incredibly cheap gambling options, dozens of performers and shows going on every night, incredibly expensive gambling options, etc. What you can do in Vegas is only limited by your imagination, while Atlantic City is much more regulated and strict. It doesn’t have the same Wild West feel that Vegas has (save for the Wild Wild West casino). These are just the surface differences, though. There are some differences between these two meccas of sin that can only be spotted by keen gambling veterans by myself. So, let’s start with the beginning of each day:
Mornings: For some reason, after a long night of partying, I only end up sleeping for a couple hours, waking up usually around 8 AM or so. As most of my friends are dreaming of hard 8′s, I usually go for a walk around the casinos to work off my hangover. In Atlantic City, this walk is usually like a bucket of ice water to the face. You are bombarded by happy faces of people just starting their day. There are people checking into the hotel, getting breakfast, jogging on the boardwalk, etc. It just makes me want to yell at them “DON’T JUDGE ME! I WAS ONCE LIKE YOU!”
In Vegas, I had one of these 8 AM walks again. However, this time, I was greeted by….no one. It was a ghost town. I walked up and down the strip for about an hour, and it was sparsely populated the whole way through. Seeing a deserted casino is an unsettling experience, like catching my friend OB in the bathtub with a bottle of vodka floating around like a rubber ducky. Why is there a stark difference in the morning routines of these towns? The answer was fairly obvious: old people.
In Atlantic City, you have senior citizens pouring their life savings into slot machines one nickel at a time. They rise at the crack of dawn, hop on a bus, sit at a slot machine for hours, then hit the early bird buffet special. At night, you have some young folks, but they are mostly locals – they’ve done Atlantic City before, and they’ll do it again, so there’s no need to chase the night. In Vegas, it is all young tourists who are mainly rookies to this type of party scene. They will stay out to all hours of the night and early morning, leaving the breakfast buffets mostly vacant. It’s a small difference that many might not catch, and, overall, I appreciate the bustling mornings of Atlantic City. Seeing Vegas empty is just downright creepy.
Respect: Atlantic City is insanely disrespected, and that disrespect has been duly earned throughout the years. However, people are still enamored with Vegas, as its bright lights and drunken revelry are still seen as glamorous. When you come back from Vegas, people ask you where you’ve eaten, what shows you’ve seen, etc. When you come back from Atlantic City, people ask you how much you lost. Heck, just check out Bruce Springsteen singing about Vegas and Atlantic City. Now, Vegas is definitely a less seedy and much more reputable place to vacation, but not as much as you’d come to believe. I believe the respectability gap should be closer.
Blackjack: Now, I haven’t done any scientific testing, but based on my blackjack playing experience in both cities, there is definitely something sinister going on. In Atlantic City, everybody knows how to play blackjack fairly competently. If you make a mistake, be assured that there will be a crotchety old man yelling at you or an Asian business man sighing and throwing his hands up in disgust. And even when everyone plays correctly, you, the old man, and the Asian dude will all lose. It’s undeniable. I’ve been going to Atlantic City for nearly six years, and I can barely remember any good blackjack runs. Meanwhile, in Vegas, everyone plays blackjack terribly. People stay with 14′s and 15′s against 8s! People have to ask how to double down! It’s insane! But the thing is: everyone wins! I was nearly falling-down drunk last Saturday, and ended up winning over $100. My girlfriend lost $40 immediately, so I lent her $10, and she got two blackjacks in a row and worked that $10 into $75. There is only one logical conclusion: Atlantic City is rigged. Period. And that’s why, despite the dead mornings and too much respect that Vegas gets, all gamblers should go there. You will win. Sure, you’ll spend the money on crazy Cirque du Soleil shows and $12 margaritas, but it is worth it to feel like a winner. But I still love you, Atlantic City – and just to prove it, I’ll be there next month to test my “rigged blackjack” hypothesis. Stay tuned…