It’s A Jersey Thing

And Somewhere in the darkness, the gambler he broke even

Kenny Rogers

What’s indicative of this  hobby truly coming out of nowhere is not that it took me 41 year to make it to Vegas, but that it took me 45 to get to Atlantic City. I lived less than three hours from Atlantic City for most of my life and never visited and can’t even recall even planning a trip there.

But, November 2012, I was headed there for the first time. My company has an office in Northern Delaware and I would generally make a trip in the fall. It was a three hour drive from where I lived in CT, so this time I decided to make little detour down the Jersey shore and visit the ‘World’s Famous Playground’ Atlantic City.

I had heard outside of the casino areas and the Boardwalk itself, there wasn’t much to visit in AC. That one block west from the beach was rundown buildings, empty lots and ungentrified neighborhoods. Well, from where I traveled those descriptions were accurate.

Throw in the fact that it was offseason and that Superstorm Sandy had just punished the area, the Boardwalk and Casino area didn’t appear much nicer, at least from the outside.   

At the time of my visit, there were twelve functioning casinos in Atlantic City, three inland off the entryway roads into AC and 9 along the boardwalk on the Atlantic Ocean. My plan was to hit them all in that day, then drive the 90 + miles to Newark Delaware for work the next day. I had small bankroll of $250 so my limit at the first casino was only twenty bucks. So I needed some luck if I wanted it to last or play bigger in ensuing Casinos.

What’s indicative of this  hobby truly coming out of nowhere is not that it took me 41 year to make it to Vegas, but that it took me 45 to get to Atlantic City. I lived less than three hours from Atlantic City for most of my life and never visited and can’t even recall even planning a trip there [...]

The first casino I visited and played at was Harrah’s, which is the first casino you pass as you enter the city from the north. This was also my first casino visited in New Jersey and the fifth state as part of this peculiar hobby.

The Harrah chain of casino to be the most common chain of Casino’s I’ve come across, this being my third (after the one in Vegas and Chester, PA). Unfortunately for me three was definitely not the charm. Nor four or five, which was the Borgata and Golden Nugget. I had been in Atlantic City for less than 2 hours and I had burned through 30% of my bankroll and nothing but Casino chips to show for it. Add to the fact that I was introduced to parking garage fees for the first time at Casinos, I needed my luck to change.

Down to the beach for the next group of casinos, no luck with parking fees. I guess they want to de-incentive those not visiting the resorts not to park there, probably for the beach goers in season, as well. For November the weather wasn’t bad, so I was able to park at Revel, the northernmost Casino on the boardwalk, and hit Showboat, Trump Taj Mahal and Resorts before heading back to my car.  The boardwalk itself was eerie. With it being so late in the year I would have expected it to be quite and deserted but the carnage of Sandy was still very apparent. Boarded up windows, trucks and construction equipment all over where none should be on a resort strip like AC, winter or summer.

I didn’t fare as bad at these four as I did at the first three, but that’s not saying much. I was still bleeding money and with five casino’s left I had to really change my gambling approach to a very conservative one.

I hopped in the car and drove down to what is probably the heart of the boardwalk area. This is where Bally’s, Caesar’s and Trump Plaza where. This is the only part of Atlantic City that I could see the ‘Vegas’ feel. It seemed like it might have that city never sleeps aura had it been a different time of year or not on the heels of a major hurricane. I utilized the Park at one play at many although I had to walk a bit further here as they were a little more sprawling then the uptown resorts.

I would have liked to come to AC another time, with some friends to enjoy it. But it was just as well I was alone and hadn’t more time than that afternoon and evening, because I couldn’t win at anything. I continued my ‘treading water but slowly sinking’ casino play at these three middle boardwalk casinos. I suppose I was lucky to get as far as I did with as little casino luck as I had. I did start with a $250 bankroll, but between losing or barely breaking even, three parking fees and pocketing chips along the way I really didn’t have as much as I thought I did.

With a lot of my casino runs, I start (or stop) something new (or old). This time I was dabbling in blackjack. It’s not a complicated game to play and with five dollar tables I was able to gambling with little money for the reason of grabbing a few chips. I dint play blackjack at every casino down here, but did play at a few and what I discovered was $2.50 chips. Having not played much blackjack until now, I didn’t realize or discover if they were used elsewhere. At many casinos getting blackjack, an ace plus a ten or face card on your first two dealt cards, pays three to two. With a five dollar bet the payout is 7.50, that’s a fiver and one of the 2.50 chips (In AC anyway). With my casino count growing, my chip collection was, too. I was generally grabbing a dollar chip, sometimes two, one or more roulette chips and had recently started grabbing five dollar chips. (I never said this hobby was smart)

Two more casinos to visit. The penultimate one was The Tropicana, the fifth casino in AC that shared (or took) its name from a Las Vegas Casino. It wasn’t close enough to walk from the last group I visited so I had to drive there. I was fortunate enough to find street parking, as I was winding down my night and running thin on funds. I played minimally at the Tropicana, sort of breaking even, if you count the souvenir chips as winnings (which I do)   

Milestones, such as first casino in a particular state or visiting another casino in a larger chain (Harrah’s, Bally’s) are easier to recall and note as they occur. But what number casino I am in the overall scheme of Casino hopping doesn’t generally dawn on me until after I go home and collect my notes and thoughts and add my chips to my collection. What I didn’t know at the time, as I snuck into the Atlantic Club Casino, was it was my 75th casino. No party or banner, just a milestone, after all that is the nature of an accumulating type hobby.

I was down to fifteen dollars when I got there. I decide on blackjack. Why should my luck change then? I barely made it out with my chips as souvenirs and few bucks left over. Whew, that was close.

If I had gone to Atlantic City two years later, I would have only been able to play at eight casinos, if it had been four, it would have dropped to seven. With all the new casinos in Eastern Pennsylvania (See Me, Myself & I-95) it was appearing the draw of casinos on the Jersey shore was waning. I had caught AC at the end of its run. I’d like to think my experience would have been different had I been there another time, but who knows.

As I have mentioned in previous blogs, my internal rules for this hobby are ever changing. Some get created subconsciously and don’t get ‘listed’ until later. One of those occurred on my trip to Atlantic City. Leave home with a set amount your willing to part with (bankroll) and never replenish during the trip. This doesn’t directly affect the hobby itself, but I find it’s one of the most important rules that I have, and I still adhere to it. You cannot be successful with this sort of compiling hobby and have addictive personality without the discipline of following this type of rule (Ok, ok, I did break it once, but that’s for another blog)

Up Next… Côte d’Azur

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