from the lounge
Posted: Aug 26, 2013 11:00am ET
Atlantic City's gaming industry has weathered a steep downslide, but, even so, summer months traditionally provide salvation for the casinos there. After all, A.C. is blessed with an oceanfront location. So if you can spend your days on the beach and your nights at the tables, what's wrong with that? Considering its natural attractors, Atlantic City usually goes easy on the comps each summer. Apparently that has changed. With increased competition from casinos in Philadelphia and the racino at Aqueduct racetrack in Queens, N.Y., things may be getting a little desperate.
If desperate times lead to desperate measures, then the Atlantic City casinos are definitely right where they should be. This summer has been a bonanza for gamblers who venture down to Vegas by the Sea. The Borgata is signifying its 10th anniversary by giving away more than $100,000 over the course of 10 weeks. Caesars Entertainment—the parent company behind Caesars A.C., Bally's, Harrah's and Showboat—has a Millionaire Maker promotion, which is exactly what it sounds like: a series of gaming opportunities for players to stumble upon $1 million.
Down-and-dirty Atlantic Club, the casino that PokerStars hoped to take over in order to get a toehold in A.C.'s burgeoning online poker realm, allows customers to use casino comps like cash in local businesses. Revel, which went through a brutal Chapter 11 and didn't help itself by not allowing smoking on the premises (a silly rule that has since been flip-flopped), spent the month of July crediting slot players for losses between $100 and $100,000. The casino is now giving away free gas cards, 48 free cars between August 29 and September 1, and matching slot promotions offered by rival Atlantic City operators.
Most audacious of all, Trump Taj Mahal will be burying $200,000 worth of cash vouchers in the sand behind the hotel. Gamblers will go out with shovels and dig them up. Maybe somebody at the Taj overheard Revel marketing man Randall Fine who commented to the Press of Atlantic City on his casino's new slogan "Gambler's Wanted." "I think it's not a bad idea to show gamblers that we want their business," he told the Press. "‘Gamblers Wanted' should be the slogan for Atlantic City as a whole."
Posted: May 22, 2013 2:00pm ET
Back when I reported a 2010 cover story on Phil Ivey for Cigar Aficionado, his penchant for high-stakes gambling away from the poker room was no secret. I watched him at a craps table, casually putting hundreds of thousands of dollars into action. Then I witnessed casino hosts wooing him with cases of expensive Spanish wine and the kinds of sublime, small-production cigars that most of us will never see.
Hosts didn't kowtow to Ivey because he's a great guy or a world famous poker player. They did it because he's willing to bet huge sums of money at games in which the odds are tilted against him.
Whether or not he's an overall winner, I have no idea. But I know for sure that he gives casino executives the levels of action that they crave. It's easy to believe that he takes out the high-denomination markers that hosts love extending to their best customers, as reported in my story "Collecting the Debt" in the current issue of Cigar Aficionado.
So it's hardly surprising that Crockfords, the most venerable casino in London, welcomed him with open arms last August. As is the custom for those who gamble at the highest stakes, Ivey was given his own table on which to play. His game of choice that night was punto banco, similar to baccarat, based purely on chance, and unbeatable in the long run. Ivey promptly dropped $500,000 and took the loss like a man, as is his norm. Then he asked the casino to raise his betting limit from $50,000 to $150,000 per hand.
The folks at Crockfords complied, surely expecting a windfall from the famous poker pro. But it did not turn out that way. Ivey went on to score approximately $12 million over three days. Management did not take the beating very well and refused to let Ivey collect his winnings. He left London with a receipt for his profits and a payout of his $1 million buy-in.