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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

What Are Atlantic City's Top Values?

This may not be an original idea, but that doesn't mean that folks aren't interested in value when they visit any casino destination. However, in Atlantic City value isn't always easy to find. Thus, my preliminary list of best values is limited to a few items of varying degrees of usefulness and the ability to save you money while still getting a desired service in return.

Here's what I have thought of thus far:
  • Trump Marina Free Slot Days - $50 in slot/video poker losses returned to anyone on their next visit is an excellent incentive to seek out one of the few playable machines in this otherwise mediocre casino (NOTE TO READERS: I don't see the next scheduled day on the calendar at this time
  • Bally's New Player Slot Rebate - If you're the last person on earth that Harrah's doesn't have in their database, then sign up for a Total Rewards card at Bally's at Harrah's will refund $100 in losses, but play big because the current deal pays you back for your first 30 minutes of losses. Anything after that is on you.
  • Diamond Lounges - While this is of no value to the casual visitor, but for Atlantic City regulars Harrah's proves that there is such a thing as a free lunch and it comes with free booze and doesn't cost you any comp dollars
  • The Irish Pub - Unless you're getting comped at your machines it's hard to find reasonably priced beer on the Boardwalk. OK, this is a few steps down from the Wooden Way, but for cheap eats and drinks it's the best deal in town. No celebrity chefs or fancy menus here, but if you want a burger and a beer it's a best bet.
  • Free Parking - Harrah's offers this for all members now (except for Showboat, where you "pay" on your way into the garage), though "Gold" card holders have to earn 25 points in a gaming day; Trump Marina has followed suit, while other properties reserve this perk for premium cardholders (I guess Borgata think it adds to the "snob appeal" of being Black Label)
  • Atlantic City Historical Museum - This tiny collection of pictures and memorabilia on Garden Pier, just North of the Showboat, reminds visitors that Atlantic City has a long history as a tourist destination and entertainment mecca and the price is whatever you choose to donate. Who could ask for a better value?

There are things missing here. I hope that some folks will share their ideas about the items I posted and those that I may have overlooked.

Spirit Airlines Canceled Atlantic City to Las Vegas Service

Yeah, this is old news to many folks, but I just found out, so I guess a few others didn't realize that local low-cost airline, Spirit Airlines dropped the axe on their service from Atlantic City to Las Vegas shortly after the ball dropped on 2008.



This service was puzzling to me from the outset, as I never understood why either tourist destination would want to make it easier for folks to travel back and forth. However, part of the Atlantic City Press article that describes this referenced casino executives traveling back and forth between the two towns. That alone could probably keep the route alive, but it seems Spirit is focusing their business on shorter routes. I guess that's ok, but let's hope some other carrier steps in to fill this void.



Sources: Barlas, Thomas. "Spirit Airlines to End Atlantic City-Las Vegas Service Monday." The Press of Atlantic City 3 Jan. 2008. 23 Jan. 2008 .

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Video Poker Can be a Team Sport

Next time you're in a casino look down a bank of video poker machines and take a close look at the expressions on each woman or man's face. They range from forlorn to no expression at all. One could excuse those who were grinding out small profits playing positive expectation games in Las Vegas, but it's hard to explain the folks I see in Atlantic City. It just doesn't seem like anyone is actually enjoying their time at the machines and even when they score a big hit it seems that most folks say that they just got back some of what they already lost that weekend.

So, what's the solution to the video poker doldrums? Well, you could play slots. For many, there's a rush to hitting those infrequent jackpots or at least watching the amusing bonus rounds while your bankroll is slowly transferred to the casino accounts. However, for those who can't cope with the absurd house edge of the now no-armed bandits I suggest video poker group play. How does that work, you might ask? Well, this can take a two distinctly different forms.

For starters, find a bank of playable machines in your favorite casino and make it your mission to take that over and claim it for your "team". This can be a challenge somewhere like Harrah's Atlantic City, where the only low-denomination 9/6 Jacks or Better in the whole casino is in one bank in the back of the casino, but I've seen our group occupy every one of those Game Makers. The idea isn't just to hog the best machines, but to cheer on your friends when they hit and console them when they're down. If you see a group of goofballs yelling about their pair of 8's, bowing in awe at trip 6's for the Mark of Harrah's, or dancing the robot when they hit a full house then they are probably ECLVA folks. Why bother with such frivolity? Well, aren't we supposed to be having fun? At least, that's why I go to the casino.
Once you have that down you're ready for the ultimate in group play. Pool some money from each member of the group, you can take $10, $20, $40, or whatever is a comfortable amount for everyone in the group, and find some high denomination machine that you wouldn't have the bankroll to play on your own and take a potshot. Winning is fun, but the ride will be great either way, at least if your "team" understands their role in the session. Pick your player, though who is sitting in the chair won't matter since the group will agree how to play any questionable hands, and remember you can always make the call to the bullpen if your starting player isn't getting the job done. Everyone else will cheer the machine on when you hit and jeer, moan, and groan each hand that fails to fill in your draw. Do this right and with enough people and it will sound like a sporting event has broken out amongst an aisle of video poker machines. You will see a lot of puzzled observers walk over to see what the commotion is, but you won't care since even the angriest Atlantic City curmudgeon won't be able to wipe the smile off your face while you are laughing at the absurd scene you have helped create.
So, you see you can have fun playing video poker. Solitary game, eh? Rubish.

Harrah's Raising Diamond Requirements?

There's some buzz around Internet message boards suggesting that Harrah's will or already has raised it's requirements for "Diamond" status from 10,000 "Tier Credits" to 11,000 to attain this status during 2008. For those of you new to the world of Tier Credits, that equates to $110,000 "coin-in" for video poker or $55,000 run through the machines playing slots (and some mysterious amout of table game play). This would be up from $100,000 and $50,000 during the 2007 calendar year (and every other year in recent memory).

A small cost of living increase makes some sense, but this seems oddly non-drastic. Perhaps living in a state where we don't just increase tolls by a small margin, but introduce a plan for their exponential growth taking affect immediately after the next gubernatorial election has jaded me, but why isn't Harrah's using this as an excuse to legitimately thin the Diamond herd? There are already long lines at their lounges and I know that no casino company really likes giving out free food and booze in a location where folks can't gamble at all. Heck, the lounges don't even have obnoxious keno boards like I see in the Las Vegas coffee shops.

So, why the tiny increase? Everyone I know who just barely exceeding that 10,000 point threshhold last year could easily give Harrah's another $10,000 in play, but these folks would probably do so on games averaging around 99% return, so is Harrahs' just charging them an extra $100 for their Diamond privileges in 2008? That might cover increased costs they are incurring in recent years as more people earn this status, but won't that mean they will need to increase the requirements again in a short time? Maybe that's the plan, to introduce annual tier credit requirement increases to qualify for Diamond until they find the choke point where they start driving people away instead of "developing" them into slightly bigger players each year.

It's always hard to figure what Harrah's is up to, but they are very good at what they do, and it's up to the rest of us to guess what their words and actions really mean.

Why should I read this blog?

Well, you got this far, so you must have some interest in Atlantic City or the exploits of a few folks who gather there regularly. We'll share gambling advice, bitch about Harrah's, make observations about Atlantic City, and probably even have a few Las Vegas trips to talk about.

The contributors to the ECLVA are regular visitors to Atlantic City, who aren't quite degenerate gamblers, but might be if we had the time and money to do so. Generally speaking, we are budget conscious folks who are willing to gamble, but look for ways to make the most out of our gambling bankrolls. Most of us play video poker as our primary casino game, though I have to admit playing some silly "Flop Poker" table game last weekend and we all will throw $10-$20 (or more) in slots from time to time.