The Tale of Two Trips Part 2
by dtools22 | Published Nov 04, 2013
It’s very tough trying to live up to the hype.
I’ve referenced this before, poker players are never happy about their casino experience. Go into any poker room in the country. Sit down at whatever table you feel comfortable at and just listen to the table talk. If you play for any longer than thirty minutes then conversation will shift from whatever people were talking about to all of the “much better” poker rooms that are in the area compared to the “dump” you all happen to be sitting in. Foxwoods is notorious for this type of conversation. I’ve heard time and time again from the player pool that Foxwoods is the “hardest room in the country to make money in.” The regulars then share their fantastic list of poker rooms that put it to shame. For six years, two playing seriously and another four playing while in college, I’ve heard about big poker rooms in Las Vegas, Southern California, the bay area in California, and Atlantic City just to name a few. Over this past year I’ve started seriously looking around at some of these other locations to see for myself if they are as superb as the grinders in Connecticut suggest. One such local was the Borgata Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City.
Let me state up front that the poker room at the Borgata is very nice. It’s very spacious and the tables are laid out in such a way that you can clearly see most if not all of the active games. If you are of the sexual orientation that finds the female figure attractive then you will absolutely LOVE the wait staff. The drinks are complimentary and full sized. For example when you order a bottled beer, you are actually presented with the actual bottle rather than a small cup. When the room was being built, it’s clear that the comfort level of the players in the casino was a very high priority. Unfortunately I believe it’s the phenomenal esthetics that helped create some massive overstatements about the quality of the room. As a place to stop in while you’re seeing the sights in Atlantic City, I would absolutely say go check out the Borgata poker room. However when the conversation shifts to spending forty or more hours a week playing at the tables it takes more than attractive waitresses and full sized drinks to build a career around.
There are a few things I’m looking for when trying to find a poker room to spend significant time at. How many tables are running? How many different people play there? How easy is it to get to? How expensive is it to eat there? What do they give away for comps? I need to plan around certain things when I’m going to a poker room as often as I do. The room has to be friendly to my bottom line or else I can’t be spending my time there. The Borgata does pretty well across the board. It’s just not the second coming of the golden age of poker that people made it out to be.
Table Selection: While there I saw 8-12 1/2NL tables running, each with the $60 minimum buy in and $300 cap I was familiar with. On Friday night the room was definitely more packed with players than the earlier weeknights, but it wasn’t packed to the gills by any stretch. Coupled with the 2/5NL games it seemed like the Borgata and Foxwoods were very comparable in terms of game selection, which is impressive considering the Borgata has three other casinos within a ten minute walk from their door while Foxwoods is surrounded by nothing but foliage. The bigger games seemed more numerous at the Borgata. There were three or more 5/10NL tables running most of the time while I was there, plus a 2/5NL deep stack table got going a few times ($500 minimum, $2500 cap), and there was more PLO going of all stakes than I was used to seeing. All in all, the Borgata’s got plenty of games running regularly to frequent.
Player Pool: Both the quality of the players in the games as well as how many fresh face you see factor into whether or not a poker room is a good room or not. There were a handful of regular players that I bumped into during the six days I was playing in the Borgata poker room, which you’re going to see anywhere you play. For the most part each table I played at was mainly new faces, and I didn’t see too many regulars at the other tables when I got up to look for other games to play in. As far as skill level, I will go to my grave preaching the notion that no one is any good if they are playing in the small stakes games, and yes I do lump my own humble ass into that pile. I don’t think the players were drastically more active than other smaller stakes games I’ve played in, but I couldn’t really say for sure given that I was only there for about a week. I am confident however that you aren’t going to be running into too many “superstars” in these games.
Traveling: I drove with a buddy from Rhode Island to Atlantic City. It’s a simple drive with one major sticking point. There are a ton of tolls. Round trip the two of us paid upwards of $45 in toll fees. Add that in with needing to pay for a couple of tanks of gas and the four to five hours it will take depending on traffic and it’s not the cheapest road trip. If you’re planning on heading to Atlantic City, I would consider either flying in or bringing a group of three or more friends to help split the cost up better. Also, parking at the Borgata costs $5, and there was no way I discovered while there to avoid paying that fee. As a daily grinder, you’re talking about another $25-$35 you need to spend getting to and from.
Food: I spent about $12 on every meal while at the Borgata. You could do it cheaper if you wanted, but you’ll be eating nothing but pizza the entire time you’re there. I did get comp points from the Borgata to pay for food, just as I do at Foxwoods. The catch is that at all the casual dining options required two points for every dollar you spent, and you only get around one and a half points per hour. It takes about two days of grinding to get enough points for one meal. The nicer restaurants I believe are one point for every dollar spent, but the meals are also more expensive. Compare that to Foxwoods where you’ll get 1.5 points per hour, there are more casual dining options, and all the points are one for every dollar spent. That is a huge detractor from the luster of the Borgata for me.
Free Stuff: The Borgata lived up to every bit of its hype in one capacity. They give away hotel stays very liberally. My friend and I stayed in a different hotel and commuted to the poker room for the first four days of our stay in Atlantic City. We played 30-35 hours over those four days and before we packed up and left my buddy wanted to try and get a room for Thursday and Friday night. All we did was play poker. Neither of us played table games of any kind. My buddy called the hotel and got not only Thursday, but Friday night for free. I never even factored into the equation. Free rooms are getting harder to come by at Foxwoods, and free weekends for poker players are unheard of, so this was a very welcome surprise to get a Friday night room at the Borgata.
Odds and Ends: The chips are difficult to handle. If you’ve ever played poker in California then you’ll be familiar with the chip texture. They are very smooth and a little heavier than they look so grabbing bet amounts out of your stack is a bit more of a challenge than I would like it to be. The cashiers at the poker room cage can’t sell you chips unless they fit in the rack. So for example, say you wanted to buy white chips. You would have to buy $20 worth of white chips so the people in the cage can just put the chips in a rack and hand them to you. They can’t sell you $15 worth of whites because that isn’t an amount that fits exactly into a row in a rack. The poker room was very easy to find and has a pretty cool location. It’s right next to the cafeteria and is right down the hall from a few of the night clubs and nicer restaurants so foot traffic can easily find its way into a poker game.
All in all, the Borgata is a cool place to play poker. If you get a chance to spend a few days there I would highly recommend it. If you are thinking about moving to the area based on the hype you’ve heard about how awesome the room is for regular players, I would suggest getting a firsthand look at the place before you make that kind of commitment. It’s a nice place to play, but I’m not chomping at the bit to head back.