A Masshole Visits America: Atlantic City

A little while after departing Seaside Heights, I pulled into Atlantic City’s Super 8 Motel, which beckoned with the lowest rates without being available by the hour. At $225 a night online, this was more than double my target budget of $100 or less, but since it was a summer Saturday rooms elsewhere were going for $300 plus. All I wanted was a bed and a shower near the boardwalk.

AC is, like Las Vegas, something of a weird place—but even weirder. In Vegas, the Strip is enormous, so it’s easy to spend your entire 3-day weekend carousing from one vast hotel complex to another without even going outdoors, let alone seeing where the armies of pit bosses, cocktail waitresses, and congenital losers live. But AC is much smaller, and so you almost can’t help but see its backside. The boardwalk is a thin strip of dollar stores, knick-knack emporiums, and myocardial infarction-inducing eateries, and the overall effect felt like the offspring of a deeply-regretted drunken union of Vegas and Revere Beach.


After a disco nap and a shower, I head over to the descriptively-named Irish Pub across the vacant lot from my motel for a pregame beverage and some intel. Since my room lacked a safe and I was less than certain my car would survive the night in the parking lot, I drew the shades and left the TV on, hoping that would keep my brand-new digital camera and Macbook safe. I asked the bartender where I could find a good buffet, and he said that if I didn’t mind spending $40, to head to Caesar’s. I did, figuring that I’d better buy dinner while I still had money.

If what I saw at Caesar’s La Piazza Buffet was any indication of what the gaming giant might build in Suffolk Downs, all of Menino’s efforts to slim Boston down will have been for naught. Here, portion control meant making sure all the food on the plate made it back to your table on your ray. I’m a little reluctant to talk about it because frankly, after the 4th plate of fried chicken, steak, prime rib, garlic mussels, crab legs, and kielbasa, I began feeling disgusted with myself. I will say, however, that I managed to avoid the New England Clam Chowder, which probably explains why the rest of the country thinks we can’t cook for a damn.

After, I wandered down to the tables in search of a low-limit craps game. Personally, I’m all for gambling, but I’d love to ban slots and video-poker machines, which turn people into glazed-over robotic blobs of fat and carbohydrate feeding their paychecks into machines that don’t even have the decency to dispense narcotic pellets. Table games require one to learn a few simple rules and interact with others, and I just don’t think that’s setting too high a bar.

Craps is, in my mind, the ideal casino game: the house edge is low, it’s simple enough to play properly while thoroughly shellacked, and it’s a raucously social game. Just don’t hold the dice outside the table’s perimeter, or the croupier will take his stick and beat you like a recalcitrant mule. I easily found a spot at a $10 table and changed in $200, and in about twenty minutes found myself with $396 in colorful chips and a free scotch. I’ve generally observed a rule that when I double my money, I head for the bar. By not pushing your luck, you walk away more often with a satisfying win, but you also avoid those legendary tears where you turn a few twenties into a stack of hundreds and then decide to bet it all on the next roll. Win or lose, that’s a story you’ll tell your grandchildren every time you crack open a can of Fancy Feast. But I was only one full day into a month-long trip, and decided that with my overpriced motel room paid for, this was not the night to push my luck.