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Four nights in Atlantic City: Borgata, Golden Nugget + Tropicana

Discussion in 'Non-Vegas Trip Reports' started by mcmann14, Aug 31, 2020.

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  1. mcmann14

    mcmann14 Tourist

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    My Trip Report

    Been a long-time trip report reader, but never actually contributed myself. Made probably a dozen trips to Las Vegas and handful of trips to Atlantic City before deciding on a four-night journey from Michigan to New Jersey. It’s been a long summer that saw planned trips overseas and to Las Vegas canceled because of COVID-19.

    So, I figured I’d jump in the car and make the 12-hour trek to the East Coast. Had 2 nights booked on a discounted rate at Borgata, and another 2 nights nearby at Golden Nugget. Figured I’d play some blackjack, sit by the pool and wander around some. This was a solo trip, midweek, Aug. 24-28.

    The drive was fairly uneventful. Left 5:30 a.m. Monday and made a quick stop at Hollywood Toledo on the way down, only to lose a quick $400 at a blackjack table there. Not a good start, but I figured it was the only beginning and I wouldn’t let it get me down.

    Made it to AC about 6:15 Monday night and made a bee-line for the sportsbook at Borgata to get in a few NBA bets for the evening. The book was open and accepting wagers at the windows, something I learned later on was not the case everywhere in town. Then I checked in without much trouble, was assigned a room on the 28th floor facing the marina and settled in.

    Borgata’s eatery options are limited and only available for takeout. Many of the places in the food court downstairs are operating and didn’t have long lines when I was there, so it made getting something to eat fairly painless. But again, your options are limited. Got something to eat, took it back to the room and returned for a bit to start gambling.

    One thing I noticed right off the bat was the abundance of $15 and $25 blackjack tables with six-deck shoes that paid 3:2, S17. Again, a rarity from what I saw elsewhere. Favorable odds at the tables, and I quickly won the money back I had lost earlier. Called it an early night Monday after the long drive.

    Woke up early Tuesday, around 7, and wondered back down to the casino. It was pretty dead yet several of the blackjack tables had $25 and $50 minimums. Sat down at a $25 table and put in about 3 1/2 hours worth of play, breaking even most of the way. There’s nothing worse than sitting down at a table and losing $800-900 within 45 minutes, so that was a nice change of pace. Got hungry, so I went to find a late breakfast at Borgata Baking Co. and head to the pool. Whoa, it was busy. Went over there about 12:30 p.m. on a Tuesday and had to be put on the waiting list. Gave them my phone number and they offered to text me when my spot opened up … at 4:30 p.m. While the casino was never entirely crowded, the hotel seemed to be busy with families and folks looking to take a late-summer vacation.

    After the pool, I cleaned up and put in some more NBA bets. Just like Monday, I lost those. Had a four-item parlay and lost every single one. Ugh. Anyway, had dinner at the beer garden outside next to the pool. Had a coney dog and chicken tenders (both very good) and a couple of beers. It was dead. Easy to get a seat and not have to worry about hordes of people around you.

    Turned in that evening and got up early Wednesday, moving day to the Golden Nugget. Put in another 2-3 hours at the tables at Borgata, treading water before losing $500 shortly before checkout. Went and got breakfast, packed up and headed over to the Golden Nugget.

    What a stark difference between Borgata and GN. Had never stayed at either property before, but the Nugget definitely shows its age. The area around the parking garage is not well maintained, and the deck itself had trash all over the place. Not a good first impression.

    I was able to check in early, about 11 a.m., and they put me on the 24th floor near the elevator. Right away, I noticed an issue with the toilet in the room — it flushed fine, but it wouldn’t stop running. I figured I’d go down to the casino and play a little bit, then worry about it. Well, I went down to the casino, sat down at a $25 blackjack table (3:2, 8 decks, H17) and promptly had my butt handed to me. Lost $1,000 in about 45 minutes. Not a good experience. The pit boss was cold to me, the dealers were not friendly and the casino was absolutely dead. Then I watched a pit boss get into a shouting match with a customer over something (not sure what, but the player seemed really irked about something). The casino had a dark, dingy vibe to it that I was not a fan of. Told myself I was done gambling at GN after that.

    I did place a couple of sports bets for later that day (the day the the NBA players opted to sit; voiding my bets) and sort of hung around the room. Got an early dinner at The Deck: A burger and beer. The burger was actually really good. But I was down almost $2,000 and debating whether to cut my trip short.

    I’m glad I didn’t. Fell asleep reaaaally early and woke up at like 2:30 a.m. Thursday. Laid in bed for another hour or so and decided to get up and head for the boardwalk. Drove over to Ocean around 4 a.m. since I knew they were offering free parking and I was curious to see the new property (I was last there when it was Revel). It’s beautiful. Bright, spaced out, clean — reminded me a bit of Aria in Las Vegas. But the tables on the main floor were packed and it was clear they were playing with eight decks.

    So, I hoofed it out of there and down to Resorts, then the new Hard Rock … and turned it into a tour of the boardwalk all the way down to Tropicana. Now, I’ve had success playing blackjack at the Trop before. Got on some good runs and generally enjoy the vibe in the pit in front of high limit. When I finally made it there, it was almost 6 a.m. and the $25 tables were empty. Like Borgata, they were 6 decks, S17 and paid 3:2. About an hour in and down to my final $100, I went on a heater for about $1,100. Walked away with $1,200, or +$700 for the session. Got a chunk of my bankroll back and felt better about things. Proceeded to cash out and take a stroll back north.

    By this time it’s 8 a.m. and I’m starving. Got breakfast at the Dunkin’ Donuts inside Bally’s. Man is Bally’s in rough shape. I remember it being so years ago when I was last in AC, and it’s clear Ceasars has done very little to keep it up. Hopefully the new owners pour some money into that property like they said they will.

    Stopped into Hard Rock and signed up for a players card, turned $15 in free play into about $3.50 and wondered up to the outside bar area overlooking the boardwalk. It was beautiful morning, albeit hot and humid, so I sat there for about 30 minutes and took in the scenery. Retreated back to Ocean, signed up for a players card to get free parking (they gave me a T-shirt and wristband, too) and headed back to Golden Nugget to get my money back on the voided sports bets.

    Then I retreated back to Borgata. The tables there were good to me before, why not return? Same story as earlier in the week: Casino wasn’t busy, but the hotel was. Plenty of folks on a mid-week vacation, heading for the pool. Sat down at a $25 blackjack table, lost $500 and pulled out another $500. That whittled down to about $250, I switched to the empty $50 table next door, pulled the final $700 out of my pocket and said I’d ride with this. I proceeded to turn that $950 into $1,700 in about half a shoe. The cards turned cold and I promptly colored up to stay afloat. At that point, I was only down about $1,100 and feeling better about things so I returned to the room at Golden Nugget to take a break.

    That break turned into an afternoon at the pool and end of gambling for the day. I didn’t want to press my luck and figured I’d try to recoup some more Friday morning before I left town.

    It was another early morning on Friday, waking up at about 4 a.m. Headed back for the boardwalk, only to park at Hard Rock this time (again, free parking for card members). Wandered down to Tropicana again and sat down at the same $25 blackjack table near high limit. It took a little bit, and plenty ups and downs, but I was able to turn $300 into $650 in about an hour and a half. Down $750 for the trip, I decide to get out while I’m up and take a walk.

    Wondered back down the board, stopping through Bally’s again only to find the line for Dunkin’ Donuts to be ridiculous at 8:30 a.m. and back to the car. Went back to the Golden Nugget to pack up and check out, and headed one more time to, you guessed it, the Borgata. Turned $250 into $500 at another $25 table and decided to leave town down only $500, in a much better position than I was on Wednesday morning.

    The drive home was rather uneventful, other than the long, winding drive through the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. Google Maps sent me north in New Jersey instead of the usual route through Philly; I’m assuming because of traffic.

    Some observations:

    — Gambling is certainly a different experience post-Covid. All of the tables in Atlantic City had plexiglass barriers separating the players and dealer, which I grew accustomed to.

    — Masks were required in all of the casinos, and were enforced. I saw a pit boss at Borgata threaten to have a player removed if he didn’t lift the mask over his nose.

    — No smoking, eating or drinking at all inside. Not even water. That was different — and certainly made for limited options in the casinos.

    — I only play blackjack, so I can’t speak expertly for many of the other table games. But I did see plenty of $15 and $25 tables for just about everything; although I admittedly mostly played in the morning and early afternoon. As I noted, there were a few $50 tables during the day at Borgata, which I suspect is the norm.

    But I was caught off guard at the number of tables using eight decks. Has this always been the case? As I said, the only six-deck shoes on the main floor I saw that paid 3:2 and S17 were at Borgata and Trop. I suppose I could have gotten similar odds in other high-limit rooms, but that seemed to be the best I could find at $25/hand.

    — Either way, it was enjoyable trip. AC wasn’t too crowded, though I tried to avoid folks as much as possible, and I was able to scratch the itch without having to get on a plane to go to Las Vegas. Plus, I got a scenic road trip out of it all.

    — Lastly, for any of you Borgata regulars, think my play (7-8 hours of blackjack, $25-$50/hand) will generate any comp room offers? I can’t say the next time I will be in AC, but I’d certainly be more willing to return if Borgata gave me 2-3 comp nights. The rooms were clean and nice; reminded me a lot of the MGM Grand in Detroit and Mandalay Bay and Bellagio in Las Vegas.

    Hope this helps. If you have any questions about current conditions in Atlantic City, fire away and I’ll do my best to answer.
     
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  2. nancyf

    nancyf High-Roller

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    Nice trip and glad you recouped alot of the losses... Borgata and Oceans have the nicest rooms - in my opinion. The food situation sounds crazy and something you need to plan and make reservations to avoid long lines - however, Friday they are going to be allowed to do indoor dining for 25% so that situation may change depending on if they still keep the outside dining for the other 75%...
    Thanks for sharing so many details.
     
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  3. hammie

    hammie VIP Whale

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    Thanks for the TR, very detailed and comprehensive. As for 8 decks vs 6, I don't play too much BJ, but I thought most of the tables were 8 decks in AC.

    Your assessment of the parking garage at Golden Nugget is spot on, it's a total shithouse with broken concrete, very tight parking spaces, and filthy. It's as if the sweeper/scrubber broke years ago, hadn't been replaced and the dust, sand,and dirt has piled up since. The Deck is actually a good place for a reasonable meal and a nice view of the marina. When they had bands in the evening, the place rocked, its one of my faves. Behind the VP bar in the back is a slot room with a low ceiling, there is no need to light up, just inhale. I have played there for an hour or less and would come home reeking of smoke.

    You are also spot on regarding Bally's, there is a reason that place went to Twin River for a song, it has been neglected for many years. If the plans to renovate are fulfilled, this place could be a gold mine having one of the best locations: Park Place and Boardwalk. If you don't believe me, look at the Monopoly board.:goofy: It's a shame that you didn't check out Bally's Beach Bar, you can order lunch or dinner from Guy Fieri's BBQ. Plus there are several places at Tropicana for Breakfast.

    For what it's worth, the boardwalk pool at Ocean opens at 10 am and during the week there is no line to get in; it's a really nice pool. As for Borgata comp offers, I will defer to others, but I'm a slot and VP player with a small bankroll and I get offers for midweek comp nights.

    For your ride through Pennsylvania, did you drive through the middle part of the state, bypassing State College (I-80, I-99, Rt. 144, Rt. 322) into Harrisburg and pick up the PA turnpike at the Harrisburg East interchange? That's a great route, very scenic, and by only taking the turnpike from Harrisburg East to Valley Forge you save about $45 in tolls compared to taking the PA Turnpike from the Ohio Turnpike.
     
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2020
  4. ansky08

    ansky08 Tourist

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    Thanks for such a detailed write-up.

    Indeed Borgata and Ocean have the best rooms. However beneath the surface the two are quite different.

    The Borgata is the #1 revenue earner by a long shot. Room comps are hard to come by, and BJ table rules, while good, aren't as good as at the Ocean for the low roller tables. The "25/50 pit" has the better rules, 6 deck 3:2 H17. The lower tables have 8 deck 3:2 S17. None offer any kind of surrender.

    The Ocean is newer and trying to eat Borgata's lunch, so room comps are definitely easier to get. I don't think the place is run nearly as well as Borgata but not for a lack of trying. I believe they're all 8 deck 3:2 H17, but recently added late surrender.
     
  5. GilGunderson

    GilGunderson Low-Roller

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    Good report. You nailed it in describing the GN parking garage (it is really bad as reiterated by hammie). When they renovated the place about 7 or 8 years ago the casino felt like it was supposed to have dim lighting in a "classy?" sort of way but I was there last summer and felt not the need to return. Rooms are decent enough, but the Vic and Anthony's which once had what I considered the best steak I'd ever eaten (back in 2013) had also gone downhill in terms of quality in service (and again this was July 2019, well before the current pandemic). Despite making almost $400 on roulette I do not plan on being back any time soon.

    As an aside, I loathe driving through PA. Glad it's a pleasant ride for someone. A 4 hour drive feels like 10 going through Pennsyltucky.
     
  6. smerrian

    smerrian View from Bally's

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    Great trip report. Thanks for posting.
    I agree, Borgata, Ocean and HR are definitely the nicer properties in AC. I hope you got to the 11th floor in Ocean (check-in level) as it's expansive and has some interesting respites to break up the gambling. I never liked GN and CET has really let their two boardwalk properties (Caesars and Bally's) go. Shame. The nice thing is that AC has so many casinos so you can always find a fit for yourself.
     
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  7. pass line man

    pass line man High-Roller

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    The Ocean has S17 tables by the steakhouse usually $25
     
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