A short visit to Rivers

February 10, 2017

This morning, I decided to try my luck in getting into the new Rivers casino in Schenectady.  I was able to drive right in, find a good parking spot in the garage, and get on a long line to get my player’s club card loaded with $20 free play for pre-registering on line.  The line moved relatively quickly, and after getting my card I  took a quick walking tour of the casino floor.

As the photos I had seen suggested, the clean modern design was well-executed, and reminded me a lot of the M Resort in southern Las Vegas, a nice property.  The gaming floor was very small, and there were very few video poker machines.  Even at that off hour, all the lower denomination machines were occupied, so it was difficult to ascertain the pay tables.  It was a pleasure not having to deal with smokers, and the ambient noise level – often a sore point with me – was reasonable.

I did see several dollar machines that were not occupied; the jacks or better games on those were of the short pay, 8/5 variety, which is not competitive with the offerings of the Connecticut casinos (9/6) or Turning Stone (8/6 or 9/5).  If you think shorting you one dollar on a flush and a full house doesn’t make much of a difference, you are wrong:

Properly played (using optimum strategy and playing at full coin), traditional “full pay” 9/6 video poker pays back an average of 99.5% of all moneys wagered.  This overall return takes a long time to achieve, since part of it is based on hitting a royal flush, which on average occurs only once in some 40,000 hands, but it’s a useful measure nonetheless, and the best one we have. The overall return  of the “short pay” 8/5 machine (again, based on optimum play at full coin, over a long period of time) is 97.3%, or some 2.2% less than full pay.

While 2.2% doesn’t sound like much, it can add up fast.  Let’s assume play on a dollar machine.  At max coin, that’s $5.00 a spin.  While experienced video poker players can achieve speeds of up to 1,000 hands per hour, and average 600-800 hands per hour, let’s assume a leisurely pace (which I recommend) of 400 hands per hour. That means the player is pushing $2,000 an hour through the machine, which amount is exposed to a house edge of 2.7%.  On average, the house therefore will retain $54 of that amount.  On a full pay machine, with a 0.5% house edge, the house will retain, on average only $10 — more than four times less.  The average hourly cost of playing a $1.00 short pay jacks or better video poker machine is $44 more than a full pay machine.  As we used to say in Brooklyn, “that ain’t nuttin'”.

The blackjack tables I saw on the main floor had $25 minimums, and appeared to use either 8-deck shoes or, on one table, a continuous shuffling machine.  Blackjack payouts were 3 to 2 at those tables.  None was occupied, so further information on playing conditions and rules was not available.  I did not see any of the 6 to 5 double and single deck tables mentioned on the web site, which is just as well.  Unfortunately, I did not have time to look at the other table games to see what the minimums were.  In any event, minimum usually change based on how busy the casino is.  A weekday morning is likely to see lower minimums than a weekend or evening.

In sum, Rivers turned out to offer the mid-level video poker player about what I expected. If it offers the same 8/5 games to quarter players, it is more competitive at that level.  Its main advantage is convenience; unless it extends really good offers and comps to its players, its games are not as good as one can find elsewhere.  And that convenience may be somewhat mitigated by the fact that one arriving at a busier time may not be able to find an available video poker machine or other desired game.  I also have read that, although the casino has a capacity of some 7,000, there are indoor and outdoor spaces for less than 2,000 cars, so parking also may be problem.  When I left a little before noon, the valet already was full, and people were circling the garage looking for spaces.


Girding for the competition

March 3, 2016

The two casinos in southeastern Connecticut, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, will soon be facing competition from new casinos to be built in the Boston and Springfield areas of Massachusetts, closer to where many of their existing customers live.  How to maintain the loyalty of those customers who will soon have options involving far less travel is a challenge, to say the least, especially since the new competition will be run by experienced, quality operators (Wynn and MGM, respectively).

I recently visited both existing casinos, and noticed a lot going on.  Mohegan Sun is changing its mix of shops and restaurants (what the new ones will be is not readily apparent); I was surprised to see its Tiffany’s store shuttered.  It also is building a new hotel.  Foxwoods has added an entire Tanger outlet mall to its property and is changing the mix of games on its floors.  Both continue to run promotions, including drawings, tournaments and the like; Foxwoods is running a series of events tied to its 24th anniversary.

The outlets at Foxwoods impressed me, though I am not much of a shopper.  The mall provides a strong attraction for non-gamblers, in addition to the restaurants and entertainment found at both resorts.  More importantly for me, most of the shops in the mall accept Foxwoods player’s club points at face value for purchases, opening up a whole world of shopping opportunities.  A serious gambler is always looking for ways to spend those points on the necessities of life; typical casino shops focus on high-priced luxury goods.  One can buy gas and gift cards at Foxwoods, but at a 50% premium (i.e., a $100 gas card costs $150 worth of points), and free play requires payment of a 100% premium (i.e. $100 free pay costs $200 worth of points).  The outlets appear to be selling things I need, such as everyday clothing and shoes, at “street” prices, in addition to life’s nice extras.

Although the new hotel at Mohegan Sun is still under construction, and judgment on it therefore must be reserved, it’s hard for me to see how it’s a better investment than the outlets at Foxwoods.  Certainly there are times (holiday periods, headliner shows and other events) when the existing hotel is sold out, but it’s not clear to me that the excess demand is enough to fill another hotel on enough nights to make it profitable.  Of course, that demand can be increased with more events to draw more people, but the number of people a given event can draw is limited by the size of the facility in which it takes place.

In my experience, casinos have responded to competition or economic downturn in two contradictory ways, sometimes simultaneously.  One way has been to tighten the games by changing the pay tables on video poker, changing the rules on blackjack (the most notorious being reducing payouts on blackjacks to 6:5, which no player should accept), and the like.  Another way has been to offer more, especially to regular, substantial players, in terms of free rooms, free play, dining credits and the like.  Serious gamblers probably should expect both at Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun.  As always, buyer beware.




Up the Rivers we go

December 20, 2015

I already have expressed concern on this blog that the high taxes New York will impose on its casinos might inhibit their ability to offer competitive games and comps.  With the issuance of a license for the Rivers casino in Schenectady imminent, I decided to see what kinds of video poker — the casino game I play most often — its parent company, Rush Street gaming, offers in the three casinos it presently operates.  I quickly checked on vPfree2, a free, fairly reliable guide to video poker offerings, to see what games worth playing may be offered at the Rush St. owned casinos in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Illinois.

The listing for the Rivers in Pittsburgh states that casino offers “nothing good,” which is pretty bad, since games with paybacks as low as 97.9% can earn a listing.  In Illinois, the best game offered returns 99%, which is not horrible, but not great.  And in Philadelphia, a competitive market, the best game listed is double-double bonus for $1, which returns 98.98% with expert play.

I try to limit my play to machines paying 99.54% or more, meaning full pay (9/6) jacks or better or, in the northeast, pick ’em poker (even better games are available elsewhere, primarily Las Vegas and Reno).  9/6 jacks is available for as little as a quarter in Connecticut, and is offered at the $5 level at Turning Stone.  Pick ’em poker, which pays back 99.95% with expert play, is available for $1 and up at Mohegan Sun (the full pay jacks and pick ’em machines at MS do not award players’ club points, though other offers are extended to players of those machines).

If a casino feels it can offer substandard video poker, which Rush Street clearly does, imagine what the paybacks are on its non-video poker slot machines, where the average pay back cannot readily be ascertained by the player.

Although the above information does not guarantee there will be no playable games at the new Rivers casino in Schenectady, I am not overly optimistic that I will find anything there that is more attractive than what’s offered at the venues I now frequent, especially on a long-term basis.  I will check it out, but I’m not going to let a relatively convenient location suck me into playing substandard games that don’t give me a fair chance.  You shouldn’t either.  More to come on this after opening day . . .



Buyer beware – part two – video poker mistakes to avoid

January 9, 2014

Video poker can be one of the best games for players offered by real casinos (the faux video poker in racinos should be avoided). However, not all video poker is the same, and the bad games can be among the worst, as can the better games if not properly played.

This post lists (and explains) some of the common mistakes I’ve seen video poker players make – mistakes that can cost a lot of money.  What I can’t do in this post is explain the proper strategy for each game.  That you have to learn on your own.  If you choose to, you will be rewarded both monetarily and, I believe, with greater satisfaction and enjoyment when you play.  I recommend starting with jacks or better, which is one of the more popular games, and on which many other games are based. Wizardofodds.com has everything you need to teach yourself the right way to play jacks or better and most other video poker games.

1. As stated in part one of this post, many players assume all machines offering the same game at a given denomination are the same. In a grocery store, all one quart cartons of the same brand milk sell for the same price. In most casinos, this is not the case. A 7/5 jacks or better machine often sits next to a 9/6 machine. The pay table is the price tag. Don’t be the person playing the 7/5 machine. Vpfree2.com can help you find the games with the best pay tables. Don’t ever play on a machine with less than the best pay table for that game and denomination in that casino.

2. Most video poker machines allow you to play one to five coins. Given the same game and pay table, many players wrongly assume the odds are the same whether they play one coin on a $5.00 machine or max coin on a dollar machine. However, a close look at the pay table below (the vertical columns show the payoffs -which include return of your bet – for each hand with one, two, three, four or five coins played, respectively)  shows that the royal flush at max coin pays a large bonus – 4000 units, as opposed to 1250 without the bonus. A one coin royal on a five dollar machine would pay only 1250 (250 shown at the top of the first column times the five dollar base unit). I know of no video poker machine that does not offer at least one payout bonus for max coin. You never should play video poker for less than max coin. If you can’t afford to play a game at max coin, find a machine at a lower denomination that you can afford to play at max coin.


3. Don’t assume that the strategy for one game is the best way to play any other game. The optimum strategy for any video poker game is calculated based on the pay table. Any difference in the pay table requires a different strategy for optimum play. For some games, using the optimum strategy for a different game is not a huge mistake, but for others, it is. Don’t play games you don’t know how to play. They are not all the same.

4. Don’t assume that the pay table on the game you played on your last visit to the casino hasn’t changed. Casinos often change pay tables and move machines without giving notice. Even if a machine you played on a prior visit looks the same, take a minute before you start playing to make sure the pay table hasn’t been downgraded. And be sure to check the payouts for all hands, not just the ones that usually are changed, such as full houses and flushes in jacks or better.

Buyer beware – part one

January 8, 2014

With the expansion of gambling imminent in our area, it’s time for some advice. Unless you are very serious about gambling, your trip to the casino should be for entertainment, and you should bring with you only as much money as you want to spend on entertainment (gambling, dining, shows, etc.) for that visit. And leave the ATM card at home. Of course, one of the nice things about gambling is that you have some chance of winning, although it is more likely that you will lose. The casino, of course, will do everything it can to separate you from your money, but this series of posts will give some tips that even the casual player can use to do better at the casino.

Game selection

The best games for the player are the ones that require skill, such as blackjack and video poker, but they only are good for you if you know the good ones from the bad ones (not all blackjack games or video poker machines are alike) and know how to play them.  If you like to play blackjack, avoid any games in which blackjack pays six to five (it should pay three to two, and the payout is indicated either on the felt covering the table or on a sign on the table; if you can’t find the payout, ask, and don’t be shy about expressing your displeasure and walking away if the answer is six to five).  It does not matter if the 6:5 game is double or even single deck, and the 3:2 game is multi-deck – the difference in the blackjack payout more than makes up for the slight advantage you otherwise would get in a game that uses fewer decks.  Don’t play video poker in a racino – it’s not the game of skill it appears to be, and the house advantage is far, far greater than a real video poker game.  In a “real” casino, be aware that different machines with the same games (such as Jacks or Better or Deuces Wild) may have different “pay tables,” meaning the payouts may be different for the same hand.  Always look for “full pay” machines – the ones that pay the most for each hand.  For example, in Jacks or Better, a full pay machine will pay nine coins for a full house and six for a flush if you are betting one coin at a time (something you never should do, as I’ll explain in a later post).   Inferior versions paying 9/5, 8/5, 7/5 and even 6/5 often can be seen right next to full pay machines at the same denomination.  I swear I have on more than one occasion seen a person playing a short pay machine while sitting right next to an available full pay machine.  Don’t make that mistake.

Unless you are a fairly high roller, you probably won’t see a roulette table with only a single zero and no double zero.  If you do, and roulette is your game, know that a single zero game will cost you only half what a more typical double zero game will in terms of the house edge, giving you more playing time and a better chance to get lucky.

Slot machines are difficult to assess.  Unlike video poker machines, you can’t tell from the pay table whether one offers more generous odds than another.  It’s probably safe to assume that the odds on most are not good, though generally the higher  denomination machines offer better odds for the player. Penny slots on which you can play multiple lines are still penny slots, with the concomitant low payouts, even though they may cost you a dollar or more a spin.

If you play slots because the skill games intimidate you, why not try baccarat, which requires no decision by the player after the initial bet, and has a very low house edge?  Most casinos have mini baccarat tables at which the dealer does everything.  All the player has to do is put down a bet in the appropriate spot before play begins.  I recommend always betting banker (and ignoring the trends, which many players chart assiduously), which on average returns more to the player than a bet on player or tie.

I don’t know much about craps.  I do know that some players have strong preferences regarding the height and size of the tables. Games that allow players to make larger “free odds” bets – bets that pay off at natural odds and have no house advantage – generally are preferred by players with sufficient funds to make those bets. Pay tables for some exotic bets (which generally should be avoided) may differ from game to game or casino to casino.  If you like making such bets, become familiar with the “full pay” tables and play there.

How to play

Since the house has the advantage in every game, your aim should be to play “low and slow.”  Low means the lowest denomination possible (all other things being equal) and slow means you should relax, enjoy yourself, and expose as little of your bankroll to the house advantage as you can.  Play at a full blackjack table will be lot slower than at one where you are the only player; unless there is a rude player at the table, the full table probably will be more fun.  On machines, take a break once in a while and relax.  No need to hurry.

If you like games of skill, the best thing you can do after learning which games to play is to learn the optimum strategy for each game.  Basic strategy charts and cards for blackjack and video poker are readily available (some are even sold in casino gift shops), and there are reputable sites on the Internet that contain charts and game simulators that help you learn by pointing out your mistakes.  A few minutes’ practice  on each of the two or three days before your casino visit can really help you play better, stay in action longer, and improve your chances of leaving a winner.  For blackjack, blackjackinfo.com contains strategy card generators and a customizable trainer.  Wizardofodds.com has similar information and great video poker trainers, as well as comprehensive information about all aspects of gambling.

Get all you’ve got coming to you

The casino business is competitive, and is becoming more so.  Every casino I know has a player’s club that provides real benefits to players, even low rollers, to cultivate their loyalty.  In addition, most casinos offer free drinks to those actually playing at tables and machines (at some places, the only free drinks are non-alcoholic; in any case, don’t forget to tip your server a buck or two, as you would if you had to pay for the drink at a bar).

To join the club, simply present your driver’s license at the player’s club booth, and you will receive a card that looks like a credit card. Be sure to ask about special offers for new sign-ups.  Whenever you play at a machine, be sure to insert your card in the slot, and make sure the display indicates your account is active.  With your card in the machine, all your play will be tracked, and you will be awarded points that you can use for meals, show tickets and other amenities, and you may qualify for other offers that will be mailed or e-mailed to you.  When you sit down to play a table game, hand your card to the supervisor, who will track your play.

The freebies casinos give to players are called comps, and are designed to reward you for playing at that establishment and to keep you coming back.  Don’t be shy about taking advantage of what you’ve earned, and about asking what you’re entitled to. Just don’t make the mistake of playing only for comps, as the “free” drinks and meals could wind up costing a lot.  Instead, play as you otherwise would, and regard the comps you earn as a nice little extra.

I don’t know of any reason not to use a player’s club card when you play. Slot and video poker machines do not “know” whether you are using a card and cannot change your gambling results to recoup the cost of the comps the casino is giving you.  If you don’t hit a taxable jackpot, the casino is not going to report the results of your play to the IRS, and if you do hit one you will have to supply identification whether you are using a player’s card or not.  So don’t cheat yourself by ever not handing your card to the table game supervisor before you play or by not having your card in the machine when you play slots or video poker.

Money management

In the long run, the house edge will grind you down, but in the course of an afternoon or evening at a casino, you are likely at some point to be ahead.  If your jackpot comes near the end of your visit, you have no problem – you leave a winner.  But if it comes early, you have a dilemma. If you keep playing, you may lose it back (though you could win more), but if you stop, you will forgo the entertainment activity that was the reason for your casino visit.  The answer to the dilemma is different for every person.  If you only brought with you an amount you were prepared to lose (as I advised at the outset of this post), and want to go double or nothing, that’s fine, though you may regret it when you go home empty.  What seems to work best for most people is to put away either what you came with, or a little more, and play with the rest, guaranteeing you will go home a winner or at least not a loser. Another option is to find something else to do until it’s time to leave, and save your winnings for the next trip, which then will be a “free ride.” The important thing to understand and remember is that no system of money management will overcome the house advantage in the long run.  In other words, while you may get lucky during one casino visit, over the course of a lifetime of casino visits the house advantage will assert itself.  More than one novice gambler has learned you can’t make a living at the casino by quitting when you’re ahead on the days the casino gets even by never letting you get ahead, not even for a minute.

You will learn from experience to play at denominations appropriate for your bankroll.  If you bring $100 with you, you do not want to play at a $25 minimum blackjack table.  The likelihood of being wiped out by four losing hands in a row right after you sit down simply is too great.  A bankroll of that size may be adequate for $5 blackjack.  Especially for beginners, whatever your bankroll, play for the lowest denomination you can find on an acceptable game.

Casino etiquette

While it probably would occur to most people to tip a cocktail server, it may not be so obvious that dealers, like servers, work primarily for tips. If your dealer has been helpful, courteous and has made your experience enjoyable, consider leaving a small tip when you leave the table or making a small bet for the dealer once in a while during your play.  However, be careful not to over-tip, especially when you are winning, as you will regret it when the worm turns and you are out of money.  Meal comps never include a tip for the server; in casino restaurants, you should tip the same percentage of the check you would anywhere else regardless whether your or the casino pays for the meal.  At a buffet you can tip a little less than you would at a full-service restaurant.

Blackjack players often think they know how to play even when they don’t, and they often freely criticize those whose play they disagree with, even when they are wrong (I’ve wrongly been criticized by dealers, too — remember, they are required to know only how to deal the game, not how to play it, though some are excellent players and give excellent advice).  If I find myself at a table with someone who makes me uncomfortable, I’ll usually get up and find another table.  When people ask me how to play a hand, I usually beg off or reply “I believe the book says to [hit, stand, split, double], but it’s your money and you should play how you want.”  What many poor players don’t understand is that bad players help the others at the table as often as they hurt.  Don’t worry about how others play; concentrate on your game.

If you find a vacant machine with money in it, don’t sit down and play the credits – they belong to another player or, if the player has left, to the casino, not to you.  Remember, you are constantly under surveillance in a casino (except when you are in the toilet).  Advise a slot attendant of the situation.  

If you hit a taxable video poker or slot jackpot that requires a hand pay, it is customary to tip the attendant who brings you your money.  If you win a very large jackpot, you can ask for a check (it will take you a little longer to get paid), which you should endorse “FOR DEPOSIT ONLY” as soon as you receive it.  If you take a large jackpot in cash, feel free to ask security for an escort to your car, and remember to tip the officer for the service.

Next:  Don’t make these video poker mistakes

Advantage players

October 21, 2013

One of the issues New York will have to address as it moves into a new age of comprehensive regulation of gambling is what respective rights it will recognize on the parts of casinos and so-called advantage players.  Casinos are businesses designed to make money for their owners and, through taxation, for various government entities in which they are located.  The fact that government both regulates casinos and derives income from them arguably creates a conflict of interest, but that’s a topic for another post.  While most casino patrons are casual visitors there to take a chance against odds they know favor the house, there are casino patrons who take gambling  seriously and who strive to extract long-term profits from casinos.  They are known as “advantage players,” or “APs,” and casinos do not like them even if, as is the case with the vast majority of APs, they do not cheat or employ any illegal methods.

That casinos go to great expense to detect and neutralize advantage players gives lie to the cliche that “you can’t beat the house.”  I know several people who are lifetime winners at gambling, and a few who make a pretty good living at it (it’s not as glamorous as you might think, and they work a lot harder than you do).

How can one make money gambling?

First, one can get lucky.  All gambling is based on the principle of variance — or luck — that allows some players to win in the short run, while usually preserving a long-term house advantage.  For example, a typical slot machine may be designed to retain an average of 10% of all monies deposited in it, but it will occasionally spit out a jackpot to keep the player interested.  Some of those jackpots are large, and casinos love to publicize them, because in the long run the aggregate of all play by all players will yield a profit to the casino equal to the house edge.  People who get lucky by bucking long-term odds against them are not advantage players, and will, in time, give their winnings back to the house.

Second, one can beat other players in certain games of skill, such as betting on horses or playing live poker.  In those games, the house takes a cut off the top of all monies bet, and the remainder of the pool or pot is distributed to the winners.  Since the winner is taking money from the other players, not from the house, casinos do not fear this type of player, even if he or she is able to establish a long-term advantage over other players and therefore consistently generate a profit.

The third type of player is one who can achieve a long-term advantage against the house.  There are many ways to do this, none of them easy.  Typical is a card counter in blackjack who may establish a small long-term edge over the house if he or she is skillful, nervy and well-financed.  Most card counters cannot achieve a long term profit, because they lack one or more of these attributes.  However, some well-financed card counting teams have taken millions from casinos over the years, and casinos often ban players they detect counting cards from playing blackjack.  Even if the player is working alone, playing the game honestly and by the rules established by the house, it can back him off almost anywhere in the US except Atlantic City.  While I can understand that a casino needs protection against something like the MIT team depicted in the movie “21,” I fail to see how someone  skillfully playing $25 a hand can put that big a dent in a casino’s bottom line.  It also seems unsportsmanlike and hypocritical for a casino to be able to offer a “beatable” game (which is very profitable because it attracts legions of customers who think they can beat it but can’t) and then tell anyone who essentially takes up that offer that he or she can’t play.  But it happens all the time.  Should it be allowed to happen in New York?

I imagine the casinos will argue that they need protection from advantage players so that they can remain profitable and continue to provide employment, stimulus to the local economy through the purchasing of goods and services and, of course, tax revenues to government.  Players could respond that the attraction of gambling — what, in essence, the casinos are selling — is a chance to win money, and that a casino that chooses (probably for competitive reasons) to offer a beatable game should have to live with that choice, at least within reasonable limits.  Were the choice this simple, I would vote that casinos should have to live with their choice.  Implicit in the term “gambling” is a recognition that sometimes the house does have to lose.

However, as Atlantic City has shown, if casinos can’t back off advantage players, they are likely to make their games worse for everyone. How much they can get away with in this regard depends on the competition (Atlantic City was getting away with a lot more before neighboring Pennsylvania licensed casinos and mandated them to offer games with more player-favoring rules, while also allowing them to back off advantage players).  Making the games worse for everyone is bad for business (even suckers eventually find out they can do better — or less badly — elsewhere), as Atlantic City casinos have found out.

In sum, how to allow casinos to deal with advantage players is an important decision New York’s casino regulators will have make, and some outside-the-box thinking on this issue would be welcome.  Given the availability of gambling in most of the states that border New York (not to mention Canada), an outright bar on backoffs could result in games that leave New York casinos at a competitive disadvantage, detrimentally affecting profits and tax revenues.  Allowing backoffs might not prevent short-sighted management from offering poor games anyway, in the hope of maximizing profits, but such a decision might prove costly and therefore short-lived.  Maybe the best course would be to remove some of the discretion casinos have in dealing with suspected advantage players.  For example, maybe the discretion to permanently back off suspected card counters or other APs should be vested in the regulatory agency rather than the casinos.  Involvement of the agency would bring a more neutral perspective to the evaluation of the suspect play, and would certainly reduce the amount of abuse to which suspected APs sometimes have been subject.  Provisional back offs by casino management probably should be allowed, but the suspect should be guaranteed prompt review of that decision by the agency.

Others, I’m sure, could come up with better solutions.  The point is, though, that creative thinking, and a recognition that winning players are not automatically the threat casinos seem to think they are, could help New York survive and prosper in a very competitive gambling environment.  Good luck to those charged with writing the rules.

Atlantic City

March 25, 2013

Much has been written of late about the declining state of gambling in Atlantic City.  I had not been there for several years until last weekend, when a family wedding in somewhat nearby Philadelphia and a nice offer from the Resorts casino combined to lure me me for a visit.

It appeared that hurricane Sandy had largely spared the city from visible disaster or, if it hadn’t, that a through cleanup had been completed.  I saw a lot of ongoing construction, especially at Resorts, as well as activity relating to maintenance of the beach, which would have been attractive had the weather been warmer.   People were out on the boardwalk during the day, though cool temperatures and strong breezes kept the big crowds away.

Resorts, now being managed  by Mohegan Sun, had a good assortment of video poker machines.  Aided by vpfree2, I found 9/6 jacks or better machines at $.25, $1.00, $2.00 and $5.00, though they were well hidden among 8/5 machines, which predominated.  I also found $.25 pick ’em poker, but not with the full-pay table.  Unlike Mohegan Sun, players at Resorts earn players club points on full pay machines.

Part of the offer I received from Resorts was a player’s club card at the highest (paramount) level.  While checking my points at a kiosk, I discovered that I had been awarded a $100 dining credit (in addition to the room nights, $85 food credit and generous free play promised on my mailer).  My companion and I used the credits on a very nice dinner and a bottle of wine at Capriccio, the gourmet Italian restaurant, at which both the food and service were first-rate.  At the conclusion of our meal, I was as surprised as when I discovered the $100 dining credit to hear from our waiter that, as a paramount card holder, I could have received a free bottle of wine (though not the one we ordered) with our dinner.

I was very well treated by Resorts, and I don’t want this to sound like a complaint, but why would a resort offer a player substantial benefits like a $100 dining credit and a free bottle of wine and not make sure that the player is aware of these benefits?  I find many player’s club programs similarly opaque.  If players knew about all the benefits they were entitled to, they would feel more appreciated.

In addition to checking on the Borgata (still nice, still crowded) and the new Golden Nugget (nice, but not as nice as the Borgata, and not as crowded), I made sure to take the short walk from Resorts to check out the Revel, which impressed me a great deal.  The property is beautiful, with windows admitting light and affording ocean views from the casino.  The smoke free policy (for as long as it will last, which I suspect is not long) is a real blessing for those who, like me, are sensitive to smoke.  I found full pay jacks for a dollar and saw what appeared to be six-deck, stand on 17 blackjack games on the main floor, though the minimum per hand could not be determined because the tables were not open and the signs therefore were not lit.  The only negative I experienced was the lack of any kind of offer for new sign-ups for the Revel player’s card.  It would have been nice to have received a little free play or a coupon for use at a restaurant.  Nonetheless, unless this property is way below average in comps and  mail offers, which some scuttlebutt on the internet suggests is the case,  I can’t understand why it is on the verge of filing for bankruptcy.  It is one of the nicest properties I have seen anywhere, and I hope it can survive and maintain its no smoking policy.

In sum, Atlantic City had attractive properties with better games than I had expected to find.  There are some small annoyances one does not find at other gambling venues — charges of $5.00 to park (waived at most properties for highest level players card holders) and a $5.00 tax per night on comped rooms.  The key is whether, now that it no longer has a monopoly on gambling in the northeast, Atlantic City can differentiate itself to again become a destination.  The Revel as it now is apparently has not done the trick; sports betting might.  For me, it’s worth a stop if I’m nearby, or if I get an exceptional offer, but there usually are equally attractive gambling opportunities for me much closer to home.