Atlantic City Diaries, Chapter 15: Every Casino in Atlantic City. In One Night.

Posted: February 18, 2014 by rorypatrick in Atlantic City Diaries
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Last month, tragedy struck the Atlantic City Boardwalk as the Atlantic Club, formerly known as the Atlantic City Hilton (among other names), closed its doors.  While in recent trips I haven’t been visiting the Atlantic Club, it still held a special place in my heart.  In my first trips down to Atlantic City, I frequented it regularly due to its plethora of cheap rooms, cheap tables, and cheap drinks (although it wasn’t the same once the Dizzy Dolphin removed their signature Dizzy Dolphin cocktail, which was basically cirrhosis in a cup).  It is sad to see such a place go, and I can’t help feel bad for the poor alcoholics in their early 20’s who are now down one less place to go in Atlantic City.  I truly regret neglecting the Atlantic Club in these past few years, and am remiss that I couldn’t even say goodbye.

With a heavy heart, I vowed never to let this happen again.  For too long, I’ve leaned too heavily on old faithful casinos like Harrah’s and Showboat, while neglecting to give my love to the Golden Nugget or Resorts.  So, on a random Sunday in February, Keith and I attempted something done by few bloggers/drinkers/gambling addicts/poor decision makers have done before: visit all 11 Atlantic City casinos in one night.

9:00AM – That’s right, we took a bus to Atlantic City at 9AM on a Sunday.  For those curious, the bus was about 40% full (Keith and I each had two seats to ourselves), and we made record time heading down (arriving in just under 2:25).  To set the mood: I was packing light (just a toothbrush in one pocket and a half-dozen casino players cards in the other), and downing orange juice and vodka on the ride down (it was before noon, so I had to keep it classy).  We arrived at Bally’s, where we would be staying that night, but the check-in line was too long, and as per Rule 3, we had to gamble immediately.  The first stop: Trump Plaza.

Keith Stone: I, of course, packed a full backpack and forgot my toothbrush, which was really the only thing I needed. I was drinking a copious amount of vodka poured into a liter bottle of Pepsi I got from a bodega the night before. Towards the end of the ride, I dropped the bottle cap and it rolled a few seats behind us. I decided to leave it since I’m lazier than Eddy Curry after signing a contract extension. Little did I know, I would keep refilling this Pepsi bottle with vodka and spilling it the entire night. I was like a wild animal marking my territory — gamblerus alchoholous — and my territory was the funnest place on Earth (in southern New Jersey).

As for this “class” thing that Rory talks about, I’m like school in the summertime.

12:00PM – In the past, I have expressed displeasure with the atmosphere of Trump Plaza.  While it was not that bad this time around, it still wasn’t enough to sell me on the casino.  We stop by the bar for some free drinks, where we found a kindly bartender with a kingly name such as George or Charles or whatever who was all too eager to serve us.  I play some video blackjack to make it look like my free drink was worth it, while Keith fakes it, pressing random buttons on the machine.  Keith is in no mood for playing for nickels and dimes, and heads over to the real blackjack table.  His goal is admirable: he wants to gamble in every casino.  Me?  I’m merely there for the sightseeing aspect.  He plays for about 20 minutes before it is time to head on down to Tropicana.

MKS: Those acting classes have been really paying off, although King George/Charles may have noticed I wasn’t really playing when I was hitting buttons while I was looking at the TV. With the challenge of gambling at every casino, the guidelines I set for myself were that I had to play at least $15 a hand for at least 15 minutes at each place. I had my big boy pants on (Old Navy slim fit) and wasn’t just going to hit the nickel slots at every joint. My endurance wasn’t a concern since I’m a champ but busting out early on was definitely worrisome. Like Apollo 13, failure was not an option.

1:00 – Tropicana is another casino I’ve never really frequented.  I soon remember why: they are stingy on the free drinks.  Keith is sitting at the $10 blackjack table, but he might as well be in the Sahara.  Fortunately, the Tropicana offers an array of cheap drinking options, and we choose to go to A Dam Good Sports Bar, a place notable for selling cheap 40’s of beer.  Here, we got our lunch, drank a 40, and watched the Knicks game.  While I was never a huge chugger, I was shocked by how long it took me to finish the 40 of beer – nearly two hours!  Our waitress came by frequently asking us if we needed another, and each time looking at us in shame as we declined.   I tried telling myself that I was playing the “long game,” as this was only our second casino of the day, but deep down inside I knew I had passed my prime.  But then the Knicks lost, and I felt much much better.

MKS: Not that I was expecting the Knicks to win, but fuck it if it doesn’t look like somebody on the team is banging another guy’s girl. And by somebody, I mean JR Smith. How many open drives to the basket can one team give up? I stuck to a single 40 because I still had a lot of work to do and presumably a lot of free drinks to accept.

4:00 – We check into Bally’s and we’re eager to check out the newly redesigned “Ruby Rooms”.  The Ruby Rooms are in the Claridge Tower at Bally’s, so they are a bit of a hike, but overall I was pleased.  They don’t seem to have the stale scent of whiskey and cigarettes that a lot of Atlantic City hotel rooms do.  While the rooms are a bit small, the facilities and decor are among the best you can expect with a limited budget.  But, we can’t waste too much time here, as nine other casinos are calling.

5:00 – We knock off Resorts and Trump Taj Mahal quickly.  These are two casinos that are fairly generic to me, but I really think the Resorts blew it with Margaritaville.  There was potential to create something fun and exciting, but the Margartiaville “casino” area is nothing but a few boring slot machines.  The 5 O’Clock Anywhere bar is a fantastic name and has some good drink specials, but due to the simple fact that they didn’t put video poker machines in the bar counter, it is a ghost town.

I hadn’t gambled in a while now, as I prefer to save my money for the Total Rewards casinos: Harrah’s, Caesars, Bally’s, and Showboat.  However, I cave here, and play a few hands at both Resorts and Trump Taj, basically breaking even.  Keith and I discussed our mission to hit every casino with a friendly pit boss at the Trump Taj, who said that Bally’s would probably be the next casino to close down.  I wanted to correct him and say it would definitely be Trump Plaza, but remembering I was in a Trump casino, I held back.  Clearly, I hadn’t had enough to drink yet.

MKS: At this point, I had lost a few bucks at every casino I played at but nothing catastrophic. I was treading water but my legs were starting to feel heavy.

6:00 – It’s dinner time, so we head on over to the Showboat for a good old-fashioned 2-for-1 buffet.  If there is anything more Atlantic City than lukewarm shrimp and cheap meat, I haven’t found it.  This time, however, Showboat has thrown in an interesting new wrinkle: the regular buffet is $22, but the buffet WITH CRAB LEGS ACCESS is $38.  Yes, a man is now guarding the crab legs, serving them only to the privileged class wearing the crab legs wristband.  It definitely created a classist tone in the Showboat buffet, with the crab legs people staying far away and looking down their noses on the crab legs-less.  The buffet had its share of interesting characters, such as my main meat man Antonio serving up the freshest cuts of “prime rib” and our server Wing, who insisted his nickname was Chicken Wing and his son was called Chicken Nugget (a joke so good, I overheard him retelling it to other patrons throughout our dinner).

After dinner, we head down to Showboat for some more blackjack action.  And, as I’ve said before, the Showboat is a horrible bitch.  At this point, though, it is on me for being stupid enough to think I can win there.  The casino gives me a thorough lashing, highlighted by a hand where I had 20, the dealer was showing a 2, and I called that the dealer would have a 9 underneath.  You know what happened next.  By the time we left Showboat, it was snowing outside and I was fuming.  We made it to Revel, but didn’t spend much time there (you can skim through previous Atlantic City Diaries for more tales from Revel), and made our way to the Marina district.

8:00 – Keith and I pop our Golden Nugget cherry.  That’s right, this unassuming casino has never been a huge draw for us, as it doesn’t get the big name performers like Borgata nor does it has the fantastic party atmosphere of Harrah’s.  My initial impressions of it were that it was fine.  Out of the 11 casinos in Atlantic City, I’d probably rank it somewhere in the middle.  However, due to its location, I don’t foresee the Golden Nugget making many future appearances in the Atlantic City Diaries.

I’m still reeling from my losses in Showboat; I’ve only got $60 and my bus voucher left to play with.  Therefore, I decide to take it easy in the Marina district and save my remaining assets for Caesars and Bally’s.  Leaving Keith to play blackjack, I decide to watch the end of the Nets game at a bar.  Unfortunately, none of the five televisions were playing the game.  I asked the bartender to change the channel, pointing to one of the televisions that was playing Toy Story 3.  He obliged, but instead changed the television that was showing tennis.  The lesson, as always: you don’t turn off Toy Story 3.

MKS: I’d rather watch Toy Story 3 than the Nets.

9:00 – Maneuvering around the Marina district has always been challenging, and tonight was no different.  I had heard there was a walkway connecting the Golden Nugget to Harrah’s, but after consulting with various staff members at the Golden Nugget and getting conflicting answers, Keith and I decided to make our own way and just walk straight towards Harrah’s.  This strategy quickly led us to a highway that needed to be crossed.  Unsure of how to cross this obstacle, we consulted with a local police officer, who suggest we just “frogger it” (his words) across the highway.  It was a pretty empty highway, so, after a quick prayer to George Costanza, we ran across.  The obstructions didn’t end there, as we had to navigate through some bushes and hop a chain link fence to make it into the Harrah’s parking lot.  There are probably easier ways to get across, but we definitely found the most fun way.

Harrah’s, like Revel, is a casino I am intimately familiar with, so I didn’t want to spend much time there.  However, this is where Keith made his run.  After tepid blackjack play at the previous casinos, Keith gets in the zone at Harrah’s, and declares the Marina district to be his bitch.

MKS: Great advice by the policeman to tell two drunk guys to run across a highway. I have no idea how I made it over the fence, but I kept the mojo going at the tables. Instead of treading water, I had finally found a lifeboat. It was at this point that the Daniel Bryan chants started and I quickly frightened away any ladies within a 15-foot radius.

10:00 – We find a path out of Harrah’s that seems like it is taking us to the Borgata.  While it may not have been a direct route, the path was very scenic; I can’t wait to take a stroll along it when the weather is nice out.  However, after about 10 minutes of walking straight towards Borgata, we start to notice the path was veering off and away from our destination.  We were walking around the loading entrances of Borgata and seemingly getting further from the main entrance.  Keith, however, yanks on a random door, and we find ourselves making our way through the service tunnels of Borgata.  Like that scene from Goodfellas, we are walking through random corridors like we own the place, smiling and saying “What’s up?” to all the janitors, busboys, and maids we pass.   We eventually find an entrance into the main floor of the casino, and like that, we hit up the ninth casino of the night in style.

However, while the turn was my undoing in the Atlantic City half-marathon, the Borgata is Keith’s undoing of this particular Atlantic City marathon.  He had come so far, and drank so much, that his downfall was inevitable.  After a few brutal beats, I pick up the shattered pieces of his life and drag him back to Bally’s.

MKS: I’m Henry Hill and Rory is Lorraine Bracco.

My strategy of ordering a drink every time I see a waitress is not paying off, as I have a vodka soda on the table, one between my knees, and of course the aforementioned liter of vodka Pepsi I was still lugging around. As my chips were dwindling and I debated getting up, I thought back to our friend that had accompanied us on so many AC trips before, and the power of OB compelled me… to wildly raise my bets on random hands. After I lost every single “OB hand,” I was about to turn tail and leave, but I couldn’t resist one more.

I was dealt a 10 against a 5, and in my possessed state I decided to double down. I got a 10. Perfect, right? Not when the dealer gets a king and then a 6. I finally got up from the table with a hankering for some red wine.

11:30 – We go up to the Ruby Room in Bally’s, and Keith almost taps out.  He sees his bed, and collapses face first into it.  However, I successfully get him back out on the floor to finish off the last two casinos: Caesars and Bally’s.  He’s come so far, I can’t see him fail now.

At Caesars, we find a cheap blackjack table, where I lose the rest of my money.  Keith is drinking his 14th vodka soda, and is getting more of the drink on the table than in his mouth.  With the glares of the dealer and the pit boss intensifying, I hustled Keith out to the final stop on this trip: Bally’s (sidenote: Keith actually increased his money while at Caesars).  At Bally’s, I’m down to just my bus voucher, which I decide to use in the Sex and the City slot machine.  Much to my surprise, I win back nearly all the money I lost earlier in the day.  If this sounds familiar, it should be because it is: a similar thing happened to me in a previous Atlantic City Diary.  If only I would just stick to slot machines like the true degenerate gambler I am, all would be right with the world.  Keith’s bus voucher is shot to shit, nearly torn in half from a day of rough drinking.  We are able to secure a new voucher for him, which he promptly loses into another Sex and the City slot machine.  He’s off to bed.

MKS: I’m such a Samantha. Also, the baddest man to hit AC since Mike Tyson took down Larry Holmes. Or maybe closer to Derek Redmond.

12:30AM – With Keith down for the count, I decide to take in the atmosphere.  I contemplate having a drink at the Mountain Bar at the unofficial “12th” casino, the Wild Wild West, but the place actually looks too lively for me; if I’m going to drink alone, I want to drink with other miserable people.  I foolishly decide to play more blackjack, just because I couldn’t have my last bet of the night be on the Sex and the City slots.  I win a couple hands, but realize my heart isn’t in it.  I was at a table with a few old people who were drinking, laughing, and having a good time, while I was the weirdo quiet guy at the table.  So, around 1:30AM, I call it a night.

9:00 – I wake up early, and go to explore Bally’s and get some fresh air on the Boardwalk.  It was interesting to see the casino at 9AM on a Monday morning in February; you could see all the workers out making repairs to various machines and generally fixing up the casino.  Keith was up and out of bed around 10, and we decided to have a celebratory morning beer at the Mountain Bar and peruse the shopping center across from Caesars.  It felt good not to have to rush around anymore, and just took our time observing the city on a quiet Monday morning.

What stuck with me most that morning was walking through the shopping center, which is formally called “The Pier Shops at Caesars.”  When I was growing up, the place was called “The Shops on Ocean One,” and had your standard mall fare – Kay Bee, the Gap, Spencer’s Gifts, etc.  I was in shock when I went back in 2007 and saw how much everything had changed, as the place had all high-end retailers and a hip new style.  Now, walking through it seven years later, there are dozens of empty shop fronts, and the standard stores are making a comeback (such as Sketchers and Wall of Magnets).  It got me thinking about how Atlantic City has been constantly shifting over the last few years.  I usually think of the place as a slow-moving dinosaur – certain “theme” casinos such as Trump Taj Mahal and the Wild Wild West seem like they haven’t been touched in decades, but every time I go down, something is different.  It can be as subtle as losing out on your favorite slot machine (RIP KISS slots) or as enormous as the closing of the Atlantic Club.  This trip gave me the opportunity to sit back and take in the entirety of the city on this one particular night in February.  However, despite all the changes, the one thing that has always and will always stay the same is the Atlantic City hangover.  It is a hangover like no other: a beautiful mix of depression and self-loathing, and the inescapable feeling that your blood may still be 0.8% alcohol.

MKS: Of course, I left my glasses in the hotel room but they were promptly mailed to me by Bally’s courteous housekeeping staff. Thanks, Consuela!

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