For gamblers, the East Coast is having a rebirth, but it's going to be a long hard delivery.
Some may remember when casino action was available from Saratoga to Miami, with havens along the way at places like Tuxedo Park and Glen Island. Resorts International here will not make anyone forget the pleasures of casino gambling elsewhere, not even the basement room in a private house at Cranston, at least not right away.
The casino gambler wants action, and he wants it NOW. At Resorts International, the only game in town so far is . . . waiting. You wait to get into the building, wait to get into the casino area, and then wait for the action at the table.
Then, The Worst Wait of All. Many of the dealers, especially at the dice tables, appear inexperienced and slow. In the middle of a roll, a shooter has to chew on his hands while the side action is settled and the mistakes corrected.
Serious gamblers would like, of course, to see sports betting in Atlantic City. The opportunity to back good opinions at 11-10 is the most attractive of all contemporary wagers. The best news from New Jersey this weekend is the unofficial talk among some high-placed casino personnel that within four or five months the legislation will be passed and sports books will open for the football season, perhaps even for the World Series.
At Resorts International during these opening days our experience was a big struggle for small success. At its lightest the lineup at the Boardwalk entrance kept us outside for nearly 30 minutes.
Inside slot machines takes up the most space. It is probably an indication of the high proportion of tourists types that the crowd was thickest at the one-armed bandits. Given the mechanically perfected efficiency of these devices to guarantee the house odds, their popularity can be attributed only to the immediacy of results and the visual, aural tactile satisfaction of the occasional jackpot. But hundreds of people waiting four deep to crank up defies belief, never mind odds.
A couple of wheels of fortune were operating, strictly a small-time attraction, with close to 20 percent house odds, about as bad a bet as picking horses blindly at the race track. The crowd was so thick you had to wait and push, edge and elbow, to play.
One look at the roulette tables was enough. The wheels have two ominous green numbers - a zero and a double zero - which make this game a no-no for the serious.
The baccarat section looked promising, relatively quiet and uncrowded. With odds in favor of the house at slightly under 2 percent, with a $20 minimum wager and $2,000 maximum, the play was moving quickly. But the players weren't. In 20 minutes not one seat became available. These gamblers knew a good thing.
The two most popular games in American casinos are blackjack and craps. We observed the variety of blackjack being dealt, and players concerned with cheating will be relieved that the cards are not held in dealers' hands but are passed out of a shoe.
Blackjack is a four-deck game at Resorts. Thus, ordinary card-counters, who can cut the 5 percent house odds to a point where they get at least an even shake, will not be happy. But the more sophisticated multideck counters with computer-type minds will be glad to see all dealt cards exposed. Players of proven systems can win here, at least until they are invited to leave by pit bosses.
Staking out a position at the craps tables behind a player with a dwindling stack of chips, we slipped in sideways when she gave up and were entitled to bet as soon as a hand could reach the surface of the table. The rules called for a minimum bet of $5, maximum $500, on the line, though long-shot bets of single numbers and hard-way numbers are available for $1 to those who are betting the minimum elsewhere.
Our first disappointment came when we were limited in backing a number to the size of our original bet. If we were betting $10 on the come line and the shooter rolled six, we could get an additional six-five odds on the six only up to $10. A serious craps players wants to have the option of betting up to $20 on a point for an original $10 come bet. The maximum at Resorts International is $20 on a five or nine for every $15 on the line.
All other odds are standard for American tables. Players are not offered true odds, but they are close enough to make winning possible when gamblers follow proven principles and are sensitive to currents running at a table. Hard-way sixes and eights, for example, are 10-1 chances; you are given 9-1. Those numbers pay 7-6 instead of the true 6-5 (except for bets behind the line).
The basic rule is this: Bet against the shooter, when the dice are cold, with him when they get hot, and don't be afraid to shift. The trouble with playing in Atlantic City today is that the dice move so slowly; the patience of a saint and the concentration of a mystic are necessary to mark those currents.
We reached the table when the dice were moving toward our side. It took two solid hours for them to reach our hands, though someplayers passed the chance to be shooters. There were just too many people making too many bets for the two dealers to keep the action moving.
Inevitably, during those hours, a couple of those shooters had hot hands. And with judicious use of such words as "across" (covering all the numbers when a point came out), "press" (doubling the bet when a point was made) and "parlay" (letting a hard-way bet ride when one was made), we managed to show a profit when we surrendered our hard-earned place.
Someday, maybe soon in Atlantic City, the action will move as it should, while the gawkers move onto fresher novelties. For now, the proximity does not make up for the problems. For the serious gamblers Nevada still holds the best cards and the islands in the sun still beckon; the Boardwalk is just the dark blue property one step short of Go.