Posts Tagged ‘blackjack’

atlantic-city-casino

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.

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Cheap Trick

How does seeing Cheap Trick at Harrah’s in mid-November sound to you?  Mildly entertaining, with a slight chance of being horribly depressing?  Me too!  Let’s dive right into this bad boy:

11:30AM – You know, every one of these diaries start out with a bus journey, and I figure it is all old hat by now.  Nothing new would happen.  In fact, this is exactly how I started Chapter 13 before being proven wrong.  You would think that this would easily be the most routine and ho-hum part of the journey: riding a bus on the Garden State Parkway for 2.5 hours.  But, there’s always something to report.

In this case, however, it was pre-bus.  This trip was just the dynamic duo: OB and myself.  As loyal readers know, OB has begun the last few trips (starting with Chapter 11) by ordering a sausage, egg, and cheese sandwich in Port Authority, and stuffing it down before it has had a chance to cool, ceremonially burning his mouth in the process.  I’m not sure what the point of this tradition is, but it seems to give OB so much pleasure (and pain) that I can’t help getting excited when it comes time for it.  If there are two things that will be mentioned in the first line of OB’s obituary, it will be his love of extremely hot eggs, and his highly controversial Springsteen-based political rants.

Anyway, we come into a situation where the man behind the counter had just finished dealing with an unruly customer.  This situations can always be a bit dicey, but OB’s charm had the man laughing in no time (I would describe it as “charm”, OB would describe it as “general happiness in anticipation of a sausage, egg, and cheese sandwich”).  The man even feels comfortable to boast that his soda prices are the lowest in town, and has no problem laughing at OB’s last name, calling him a mick.  It is this demeanor that has made him the greatest man at reheating sandwiches in the basement of Port Authority.  One scalding hot sandwich later, and we are on the bus down to Atlantic City.

3:00PM – The bus flies down to AC without a hitch.  The crowd on the bus is sparse and quiet, and combined with the weak traffic, I was anticipating that the city would be fairly dead.  Which wouldn’t be too surprising, given that it is a random weekend in November.  However, upon arriving at Caesar’s, we find the place is bustling with activity.  This is a good sign, but would the same hold true at Harrah’s, in the distant Marina-land of Atlantic City?  At Caesar’s, we quickly blow through our bus vouchers (after an unsuccessful search for the legendary KISS slot machines, we settle on Star Wars slots and last about as long as Jek Porkins) and head to Harrah’s.

5:30 – It has been a great couple hours in Harrah’s.  Check-in is a breeze, the room is clean, the beds are comfortable, and the room service, which we are now devouring, is delicious.  OB and I have been listening to happy music for the last hour (beginning with Leslie Gore’s “Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows,” naturally), and couldn’t be in a better mood.  I must say, we don’t head to Harrah’s that frequently (the only Harrah’s appearance was in Chapter 9), but it is slowly growing on me.  With our bellies full and our livers boozed, we head down to get some pre-Cheap Trick gambling done.

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The BEST AUTUMN EVER begins in Atlantic City with something completely unexpected.  This entry contains a shocking lack of both gambling and alcohol abuse, replaced with a startling amount of healthy activity.  As you may have guessed by reading the headline, Keith and I participated in the 55th annual Atlantic City Marathon!

Well, to clarify, we ran the half-marathon, but together, we ran the full one.  Whenever I had to clarify that, it always reminded me of the “very proud, minus” line from Arrested Development.  Conversations went akin to this: “Oh wow, you are running a marathon, what an accomplishment.”  “Well, actually, I’m running a half-marathon.”  “Oh… what a half-accomplishment.”

Now, Keith is a regular runner.  He is the only man I know who has woken up from a night of drinking and gambling and immediately went on a jog on the boardwalk.  He is even participating in the New York City Marathon in two weeks.  Yours truly, on the other hand, am not a runner by any stretch of the imagination.  I mainly disliked running because I’m both slow and easily distracted.  Doing one thing over and over for two hours would, on paper, drive me crazy.  In fact, as I write this, I am taking breaks every 15 minutes to either check football scores, play games on my tablet, practice the guitar, or stare at the wall.

Furthermore, I also hate “running culture.”  If you look at any running website, you’ll find corny positive-attitude slogans posted everywhere.  “You are lapping everyone on the couch!”  “You have a strong spirit!”  “You’re the best…AROUND!  Nothing’s gonna ever bring you down!”  While these cliches may inspire others, they just make me roll my eyes.  They seem desperate, insecure, and delusional.  Here’s my motivational phrase: running is putting one foot in front of the other at a quick pace, and it will make you healthier.  That should be all the information you need to make the choice of whether to run or not.

I signed up for the half-marathon because a family member signed up for the full one, and stupid old me thought: “How hard can 13.1 miles be?”  I started training this June, and immediately regretted this decision.  I intentionally made no references to it in the previous AC Diaries because I was not sure this post would ever be written.  But, without a running partner or a specific training plan, I eventually built up my distance (but not my speed: my first mile run took me 10 minutes, and my 10 mile run took me 100 minutes).  Training gave me these two breakthroughs about humanity:

1. People walk strangely.  In my training, I was running from my apartment, over the Brooklyn Bridge, and back.  I can’t count the number of times people will just randomly stop walking in front of me, or just drift to the left when I try to pass them.  Seriously, pay attention to your walking some time, and you’ll realize how hard it is to keep yourself going in a straight line.  Also, I ran over the Brooklyn Bridge about eight times during my training, and I’m sure I appear in roughly 2,376 tourist photos.  Sorry, couple from Australia, but I can’t break my flow!

2. Fat people are amazing.  First, imagine your dream life.  Are you sweating, with your knees and feet aching like hell?  Or are you relaxing on a beach, eating ice cream, and surrounded by beautiful women?  Fat people may not be at the beach or surrounded by beautiful women, but they have the “eating ice cream” part down.  They are closer to living the dream than you are!  And imagine the guts it takes to be fat.  Everywhere you look, people are demeaning you, saying you are not only ugly, but you’ll die soon.  And these brave lardos ignore all medical advice and go for the ice cream!  It’s damn impressive.

Anyway, this is the longest amount of time I’ve spent in Atlantic City consecutively (from Friday to Monday), so let’s begin this journey:

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mail.google.com

Well, the BEST SUMMER EVER is hitting the home stretch, so I figured it was time to check back in with the greatest city you can go to if you take exit 38 off the Garden State Parkway.  This time, we were off to see one of my favorite bands, the Killers, playing at one of the casinos I’m least familiar with, the Borgata.  Sure, they played the night before at Prudential Center, which is much easier to get to and the tickets were much cheaper.  But what fun is it going to Newark?  All my memories of the Prudential Center involve watching Devin Harris lead the Nets to 20-ish win seasons.  Whatever – this isn’t the god damn Newark Diaries!  Anyway, yadda yadda, and OB and I are at Port Authority…

1:00PM – I’m telling you, the time is right for someone to come in and usurp Greyhound’s stranglehold on buses from New York City to Atlantic City.  The price for Fridays has been raised up to $44, which is really taking a bite out of the value of the ride.  Also, Greyhound has now instituted a policy where you can only go to the gate area if you have a ticket.  While this does crack down on the number of bums meandering the facility, it makes it really inconvenient if you buy tickets for a friend, knowing that said friend will be showing up later (a situation that happens to me all too frequently, as you may recall from Chapter 9).  So we are paying more money for worse service, but there’s really no better alternative at the moment.  Basically, Greyhound is the Netflix of bus lines.

2:00 – Aboard the bus, I am drinking like a fish.  Unlike last time, when I was nursing a hangover, I am ready to party, fully prepared for all the negative consequences – terrible gambling decisions, lack of memory inhibiting my ability to write this diary entry, vomiting and pooping at the same time, etc.  OB is not intimidated, however, making my drinking efforts look amateurish by downing a water bottle full of Jim Beam.

(Just a side note with my man OB: he is returning to Atlantic City for the first time since July 4th.  In 2012, he went down to Revel on July 4th, and won a staggering amount of money, which led to the circumstances of Chapter 4.  This year, he went to Showboat, but kept the winning alive.  He now has a handler at the Boat of Show, and the room and our meal would be complimentary.  It should also be noted that I was not with him during any of his large wins, but I have been present at all of his large losses.  Yeesh.)

Anyway, on the ride down, we had one notable conversation about statistics.  OB mentioned learning about the “gambler’s fallacy” in college.   In layman’s terms, it basically means that past random events do not predict future events.  For example, if I roll a 7, it isn’t less likely that I roll a 7 next time – the odds remain the same.  Surprisingly, OB tells me that he thought his professor was wrong, that it WAS less likely.  Unsurprisingly, he told me that he had to take statistics three times in college.  I do my best to explain the fallacy again, and he reluctantly accepts my argument, but I hear lingering doubt in his voice.  How this man has won more money in Atlantic City than anyone else I know is, literally, one of the biggest statistical anomalies.  It’s a case that would probably make Nate Silver throw up his hands and go “Fuck it, I quit!”

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KISSslot

In last month’s Atlantic City Diary, I made the bold mission statement that I wanted to make this the BEST.  SUMMER.  EVER.  And, to accomplish such a grand task, there will have to be a lot of trips to the Lost City of Atlantic.  However, taking a three-hour bus ride to go get drunk and lose money does need some justification.  As explained in my guide to Atlantic City, I usually go down to see a concert or comedy show.  However, a good 90’s band or horribly offensive comedian does not come to Atlantic City every weekend.  You’ll have to invent excuses to go down.

This time, we celebrated my buddy Finn’s “birthday,” which was actually over a week ago, and involved the usual crew of drunken vandals.  The cast of characters this time involved Keith, OB, Finn, my girlfriend, Polar (making his debut for the AC Diaries) and yours truly.  The setting – the Boat of Show, also known as Showboat.  Let the adventure begin!

12:00PM – The previous night, my girlfriend and I both proclaimed that we would not get drunk and stay out too late.  We split up to hang out with our respective friends, and, of course, found ourselves coming home at 3:00AM and nursing killer hangovers the next day.  At noon, we headed for the subway to Port Authority, and she was asking me how I got home.  Struggling to recollect the experience, I say, “Well, I think I said goodbye to my friends, left early, and walked back by myself.”  As soon as I finish this story, I hear my name being called.  It is the friends I hung out with last night.  So, my girlfriend asks them how I got home last night.  The answer:

“We walked you home!  And you kept drunkenly shouting, ‘Are we there yet?’ every block!”

So that was my Friday night.

2:00 – We reach Port Authority, where we meet up with Keith and OB.  Unlike previous experiences, I’ve learned to eat heartily before the trip.  OB grabs a sausage-and-egg sandwich, which the master chefs at Port Authority stick in a microwave and nuke to high heaven.  OB tries to stuff the scalding hot sandwich in his mouth, his hand shaking the whole time, nearly breaking into a sweat.  Some may call it an impressive feat, but those people must have a very low threshold for being impressed.

On the bus, we are immediately treated to an argument between passengers.  One guy is playing a video game very loudly.  A man shouts from the back, “Could you turn it down?”  The offender retorts, “Mind your own business!”  The complainer explains, “I’m on the damn bus!  This is my business!”  Nice.  The man continues to play his video game, albeit at a quieter yet still audible level, then turns it off, and eventually borrows Keith’s newspaper.  What a guy.

During all this, my girlfriend and I are sitting out on the typical “drinking on the bus down” festivities, due to the previous nights activity.  OB, however, is engaging what I like to call “pregnancy drunkenness” – he’s drinking for two.

5:00 – We arrive at Showboat, with OB two flasks lighter.  I haven’t been to Showboat in a while, but the bus center has taken on a distinctive cheese smell.  Like all the world’s problems, this problem too can most likely be traced to the Earl of Sandwich.

Keith and OB have rooms next to each other, so they go up together to the Orleans Tower.  As my girlfriend and I check-in, I inquire to see if there is a room available on their floor.  The person checking us in is very polite, and taps away vigorously on the keyboard, searching for rooms that fit our criteria.  Unfortunately, she can only get us a room in the NEW Orleans Tower.  That’s fine, we say.  However, little known fact: the NEW Orleans Tower and the Orleans Tower are, you know, the same tower.  We’re a five-minute jaunt from Finn’s room.  Gotta love that customer service you get in Atlantic City.

While my girlfriend takes a nap, I go and pregame with the gentlemen.  However, before we can gamble or drink more, it is decided that we are all starving and need something to eat.  We don’t want to do the buffet, and Scarduzio’s is too expensive.  So what do we decide on?  A little mom-and-pop joint called Jonathan Rockets.

Keith Stone: While OB and I were walking to the room, we happened upon a rambunctious family that was having trouble deciding where everybody should stand for a group photo. OB settled the argument by walking right into the middle of the shot and becoming part of the family. Now they can tell everybody about their crazy Irish cousin.

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When we arrived at the room, the real drinking began and we were joined by Finn and Polar. For some beautiful reason, Polar had with him three Million Dollar Man tuxedo T-shirts, so OB, Polar, and I threw them on, and began laughing like only Ted DiBiase could. Because I am an idiot, I decided to wear my shirt for the night of gambling, and that, ladies and gentlemen, was the beginning of the end.

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My-Photos-Third-Eye-Blind

As a young lad growing up in New Jersey, summer was my favorite season.  Not so much because of the weather, but really because of the all the free time I had.  I loved the freedom from the regimented school day, and used this new-found autonomy in the most efficient way possible: playing video games and reading comic books.  However, as I’ve become older and more grizzled, summer is dropping down in my season power rankings.  I’m sweating in the subway to work, all vacation spots are increasing their prices, and I spend 20 minutes putting on sunscreen to go out and check the mail.  And yet, even as the glory days of summer become a thing of the past, I still love Memorial Day weekend, as it signifies the start of what will assuredly be the greatest summer ever.  This year, things kicked off the way my younger self would have whole-heartedly approved of: a Third Eye Blind concert.

The crew for this adventure consisted of the Atlantic City veteran and man of leisure, OB, and good-friend-but-Atlantic-City-novice Steve.  Like many of our trips, this tale begins in the subterranean basement of Port Authority, waiting at gate 80….

3:30PM – OB and I are waiting on an ever-growing line for a bus to Caesar’s.  As it is Memorial Day weekend, the crowd is more numerous and more hostile.  Behind us, a crazy women dressed like Stevie Nicks is monitoring the line, yelling at people she suspects may be cutting in (when in reality, they are just asking if this was the right gate, or they had been in line already).  We are slightly nervous, as Steve has been unresponsive so far, and sneaking him into our spot in line may prove difficult.  However, another bus to Atlantic City shows up at the adjacent gate, and the crazy lady hops on it.  The first crisis of the weekend has been averted.

4:00 – Due to the excess of people, there are two buses waiting to take people to Caesar’s at the scheduled time.  We begin to board, with Steve still incommunicado.  We have to pass up the first bus, and things are starting to look dicey.  The next bus is the “last of the Mohicans,” a strange Greyhound worker tells us.  As OB and I try to unwrap this baffling piece of information, Steve makes a dramatic last minute appearance, and we are able to get the second bus.  Second crisis averted, and we are off to Atlantic City!

6:25 – At our estimated arrival time, we arrive….at exit 102 on the Garden State Parkway.  The traffic is bad but not unexpected – it is Memorial Day Weekend after all.  However, the concert starts at 9:00PM, and I still do not have a ticket to the concert.  Just to explain the situation – OB was given two complimentary tickets, but the seat location was not set.  I would like to get a third complimentary ticket, but failing that, I would like to buy a ticket near where they are sitting.

Anyway, this bus ride was not as booze-filled as our usual trips.  Since it is just the Friday of a three day weekend, we are all playing the long game – you don’t want to get too drunk too early.  We pass the extended bus ride by playing a “top 3” game, where we name our top 3 songs by particular artists, or top 3 movies by particular actors.  We are cool.

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las-vegas-skyline

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…