If Las Vegas is life, Atlantic City is death!
A bit harsh? Okay. Please allow me to rephrase that. If Las Vegas is full of life and energy, then Atlantic City is dying and depressing. That, my friend, is the truth.
However, there is one glimmer of hope in Atlantic City. It goes by the name Borgata. You can read more about the Borgata Poker Room in the last article I wrote. You will also find some poker strategy there. This article is going to focus more on the overall poker scene in Atlantic City. This includes overall casino revenue, poker revenue, and Atlantic City poker tournaments.
Before moving forward with some simple numbers you might find interesting, I will say this right off the bat: If you’re seeking Atlantic City poker tournaments, then I highly recommend going to the Borgata. That’s where you’re going to find the most action, the biggest prize pools, and the lowest rake.
In addition to their Daily and Nightly Texas Hold’em poker tournaments, the Borgata also runs their own series (excellent structures) and hosts the WPT (World Poker Tour) twice per year. If you plan on playing in either of these tournament series, be sure to read other articles on this site related to poker strategy.
We’ll get to the Atlantic City poker scene soon. First, let’s take at overall casino revenue.
Atlantic City Casino Revenue
To really get a sense of what’s going on with Atlantic City gambling, as well as Atlantic City poker, you need to know that the overall revenue for Atlantic City gambling has been cut in half since 2006. The first hit was The Great Recession.
The second hit was more casinos opening up in the region, especially in Pennsylvania and Maryland. You also have to consider that people living in New York might opt for Mohegan Sun or Foxwoods. I used to live in New York and usually chose to go north to Foxwoods. I only chose that option because it was a less hectic drive (not that it was easy).
Looking back on it, I did better in Atlantic City. At that time, Foxwoods collected time instead of taking rake, which drove me crazy. It’s a disadvantage to a patient player. I’ll add this to my list of poker tips: Never play in a cash game that collects time.
Atlantic City Poker | Heading North For A Quick Detour
If I still lived in New York, I would either choose Borgata, Pennsylvania, or Mohegan Sun. I know this article is about Atlantic City poker, but I’m going to help you out any way I can. And I will help you with this: Foxwoods is overrated. It’s designed like a big mall, a lot of people are rude, and the vibe is off for a casino. It’s too big for any kind of intimacy. I’m not saying that I’m going to hump the wall at Harrah’s Cherokee or anything.
I’m referring to that second-home feeling when you’re in certain places. You don’t get that at Foxwooods because it’s so commercialized. I guess you can look at Foxwoods as a prostitute of poker rooms opposed to a genuine woman.
Is this getting weird? Let me get back to Atlantic City casino revenue and then some more information on Atlantic City poker.
Atlantic City Gaming Revenue
According to the Division of Gaming Enforcement, total gaming revenue in June of 2019 increased 21.5% year over year to $283.8 million. But it wasn’t good news for all casinos in Atlantic City. Borgata’s year-over-year revenue increased 7.7%, and Golden Nugget’s revenue increased 2.2%, but Bally’s, Tropicana, and Harrah’s revenue declined 7.9%, 13.9%, and 17.3%, respectively.
Atlantic City Poker Revenue
Now let’s take a look at some numbers for Atlantic City poker. Do those overall casino revenue numbers match the poker numbers? Remember, a casino can perform better with their table games than their poker room, and vice versa. Poker is a very small percentage of a casino’s revenue (most of the time).
Let’s go back to 2017 since those are the only concrete poker numbers available. According to njonlinegambling.com, the percentage of poker revenue for Atlantic City casinos from 2014-2017 was as follows:
That is the wrong direction, but it’s not all bad news. As mentioned earlier, Borgata is carrying most of the weight. For example, Borgata was the only poker room to rake in more than $4 million in 2017, and they did it by a wide margin. The Borgata Poker Room raked in $19.32 million in 2017. Think about that for a minute. No other Atlantic City poker room raked in more than $4 million in the same year. This is pure domination.
For July of 2019, here is the poker revenue generated for each poker room in Atlantic City…
• Borgata $1.8 million
• Harrah’s $237k
• Bally’s $198k
• Tropicana $190k
• Oceans $146k
• Golden Nugget $101k
Here are the market share numbers for Atlantic City poker…
• Borgata 64.2%
• Harrah’s 13.2%
• Bally’s 10.7%
• Tropicana 8.7%
• Golden Nugget 3.2%
Atlantic City Poker | Prepare For Rant!
For some reason, market share wasn’t given for Ocean. I have played there, and I can tell you that the market share is minuscule. The poker room isn’t really a room. It’s a bunch of poker tables in the middle of the casino floor. Considering the massive property with incredible views, they might gain from moving the poker room at least near the windows.
They might be thinking they don’t want poker players to know what time it is in order to keep them around longer, but if there are no poker players, then you need to try something else. Give yourself some differentiation!
Ocean, how are you going to be different if you’re just some poker tables on the casino floor? You need to be the place where you can play poker while enjoying incredible views. That’s going to go a lot further than worrying about losing poker players because the sun went down.
For me personally, if Ocean moved their poker room so you could look out at the ocean through those massive windows while playing, I would absolutely play there. I might even play there over Borgata. I’d likely split my time. Looking out at the ocean while playing poker is an experience you can’t get most other places, including Las Vegas.
All Atlantic City poker rooms are afraid of losing their players due to being able to see outside, which leads to people knowing the time, but its archaic thinking. I remember when Foxwoods had their poker room upstairs and they once had their blinds open so you could see the forest for miles and miles. Every single person at my table commented about how much they loved it. A few hours later, part of the ceiling fell on the table and nobody was happy. True story.
Forget the ceiling. My point is that poker players are human beings. They want different and memorable. If you stick them in a closed room with poker tables, sure, they might enjoy it, but they’re not going to rave to their friends about what a unique experience they had.
Dear poker rooms everywhere: Open the blinds! Move the poker room so we can see the ocean! Take a chance! Look at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas. The Pleasure Pit is right there, practically facing the poker room. What could be more of a distraction than half-naked women dancing in cages?
Yet it’s part of the reason people keep coming back. They want to hear that music and see those girls dancing. It’s unique. Give your poker room character. Hopefully, I speak on behalf of all poker players (at least most of them).
I can go on and on with Atlantic City poker. What the heck is the theme at Tropicana? Four Walls and Nits? Is that you’re theme? I don’t get it. There is nothing there. At least paint an orange on the wall or something.
Something! I have never been to a poker room that felt like such slow death in my life. The Tropicana is quiet unless locals are bickering, there is no theme, and some of the staff doesn’t have the time or energy to deal with you. It’s miserable.
Bally’s is a friendlier location, but what’s the theme there? I know there’s a picture of a train on the wall before you get to the poker room, and the theme for the casino is the Wild Wild West, but all I see in the poker room is tables, dealers, and degenerate locals.
One dude at my table kept telling me how he was up $6,000 the night before and then gave it all back plus another $3,000. He went on to tell me that he had to borrow money to play in that cash game, but that he would get it back because people around there know him. I don’t even know what that means. All I know is that the Atlantic City poker scene is a whole different world.
Let’s not forget about Golden Nugget. When I went there last summer to see what poker games they were spreading so I could write about it in Felt Hopper: Atlantic City, the security guard told me they were renovating. Understandable. Pictures look nice.
When I called the Golden Nugget poker room after the trip to explain that I didn’t have an opportunity to write about their poker room, they said, “What are you asking me?”
I went on to ask if they could comp or get a discount on a room for a night so I could write about the experience and add it to the book. They politely declined and hung up. I’m not going to elaborate on this, and I’m not seeking revenge in any way. I’ll just say that I can help more than 99% of people in the poker community and they treated me like dirt. That’s not good business, in my opinion.
Atlantic City Poker | Avoid The Nitty Regs
I need to take a breath, and I need to write something positive. I like the Borgata Poker Room as well as Harrah’s Poker Room. Both spread some good poker games and poker tournaments. If you’re going to follow our poker rules for winning, then stick to these two locations, which will mean less regs and more opportunity.
However, if we’re truly sticking to our poker rules for winning, then you should only play at Borgata. I like the vibe at Harrah’s, but it’s at least 50% regs. You will get a lot more tourists at Borgata. Tourists tend to play a lot more poker hands. When people play more poker hands, it means they gamble more. This is an advantage for a patient player.
I would also recommend the Texas Hold’em poker tournaments at the Borgata Poker Room. There are other Atlantic City poker tournaments, but some Atlantic City poker tournaments come with a high rake, a lot of regs, and a small prize pool. Borgata will never steer you wrong.
Atlantic City Poker | Borgata Location
Notice that Borgata is far away from the riffraff at the boardwalk. Don’t get me wrong. The boardwalk can be nice, but it’s also where you’re going to find prostitutes, drug addicts, gangsters, homeless people, dirty needles, loud drunks, and much more. You can find the same things in Las Vegas, but its hidden better in Las Vegas because of all the people and lights. Actually, the underbelly of Las Vegas is even worse than Atlantic City, but it’s more ignored.
Another reason people prefer Las Vegas is the weather. You know … who wouldn’t want to walk around in the dessert when it’s 110 degrees? Las Vegas pretty much proves that when push comes to shove, people would rather be hot than freezing.
In Atlantic City, that wind comes off the water with a nasty bite when it’s cold. Nobody wants to be there. In Las Vegas, the casinos are lined up so close that you can walk The Strip while being inside at least half the time. I call it The Inside Route. And if you’re outside, there are mist machines to help keep you cool.
Additionally, you have the option to go out at night when it’s “cooler.” And perhaps the most important factor of all is that there are a lot more police officers around in Las Vegas. In Atlantic City, you might see a police officer ride by on a bicycle and wave as if he just got off the set of Leave It to Beaver.
I’m trying to give you an overall picture between Las Vegas and Atlantic City in case you have never been to either one and have a desire to play poker. If you’re looking for poker tips on where to play poker in Atlantic City, then as mentioned above, if you’re going to play in Atlantic City poker tournaments, stick with Borgata.
In fact, if you’re going to play any kind of poker games, I would recommend going to Borgata. Harrah’s is a distant second, Bally’s is a little behind Harrah’s, and Tropicana and Oceans are way lower on the list. I can’t comment on Golden Nugget because I haven’t played there since their renovation.
In case you want to get an idea on the overall size of Atlantic City poker rooms, below is a list of how many tables are in each poker room…
• Borgata 85
• Harrah’s 40
• Bally’s 20
• Tropicana 18
• Golden Nugget 9
• Oceans 8
The Atlantic City poker scene is dying, but if it wasn’t for the Borgata, it would already be dead. I don’t expect the poker room at Oceans to last unless they make a strategic move. The next to go after that will be Tropicana, but that might take a while. The bottom line is simple: Whether you’re seeking cash games or poker tournaments, go to the Borgata Poker Room.
Atlantic City Poker – FAQ
Does Atlantic City still have poker?
Yes. Atlantic City still has poker. It's not as much poker as in the past due to increased competition from every direction, but it's still there?
What kind of poker do they play in Atlantic City?
Mostly 1/2 NL and 2/5 NL unless you're at the Borgata. Unless you're here during a tournament series, the games are on the tight side.
How much money do I need to play poker in Atlantic City?
You can buy-in to a 2/4 FL game for as little as $30. If you're playing 1/2 NL, I would recommend bringing at least $200, but that's only if it's a short drive. For anything else, you should have at least $500.
What is the best place to play poker in Atlantic City?
Borgata followed by Harrah's. Everything else is way behind these two properties in Atlantic City.