Atlantic City has a storied poker past.
There’s little doubt there were underground games in America’s Playground when political boss Nucky Johnson ran the city in the 1920s.
Legalized casino gambling came to Atlantic City in 1976, but that didn’t bring the poker games out of the back rooms.
In fact, the state didn’t allow poker games at Atlantic City casinos until the summer of 1993.
The debate rages on to this day as to which casino dealt the first poker hand in AC. It was either the Atlantic City Sands or the Showboat Casino, both of which have since ceased operations.
The backstory of poker rooms in AC
Regardless, poker in Atlantic City immediately became all about Trump Taj Mahal, which opened 50-table room around that time and lead the market by a long shot.
No one could touch the Taj. In fact, it was the biggest and best room in town until 1998, when another contender for the AC poker room crown emerged.
A 40-table poker room opened at the Tropicana and the two properties spent the next few years embroiled in a rivalry for the top spot in the city. Like Coke and Pepsi, you were either Trop or Taj.
That is, until 2003, when the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa opened up with a 34-table poker room and became the center of the entire East Coast’s poker universe. Borgata soon underwent an expansion of up to 85 tables and cornered the market.
The Taj shut down and has since re-emerged as Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City but without a poker room. The Trop shut down its room and built a new one. At 18 tables, its nowhere near the size of what it once was and isn’t even really trying to compete with Borgata.
When it comes to the best poker rooms in Atlantic City these days, all discussions begin and end with Borgata Casino. However, there’s still plenty of poker elsewhere, and at least two rooms are trying to give Borgata a run for its money.
Here’s a look at the top three poker rooms in Atlantic City, starting with the king of the hill:
The 85-table poker room at the Borgata in Atlantic City’s Marina District is the premier poker destination on the East Coast.
It is more than double the size of any AC competitor and offers the largest variety of cash games, tournaments, and poker promotions around.
It was once the home of the World Poker Tour season-ending championship event. To this day, it hosts massive seasonal tournament series and an annual WPT stop that continues to break entry records.
The Borgata offers the full Las Vegas casino and poker room experience in Atlantic City. It’s always packed and the action is legendary.
It spreads all kinds of games at stakes as high as a player wants. Borgata also runs its own online poker room (Borgata Poker) using GVC Holdings software.
Bally’s Atlantic City
Bally’s Atlantic City is hone to a 42-table World Series of Poker-branded poker room that delivers on its promise to bring the WSOP experience east.
It spreads Hold’em and Omaha cash games, daily tournaments, and has played host to the WSOP Circuit National Championship and other WSOP Circuit events in the past.
The WSOP poker room also hosts its own annual Bally’s Poker Classic tournament series.
While it doesn’t come close to the size of Borgata, Bally’s does have the second biggest room in the city. The use of WSOP branding certainly helps keep the room busy. Its Boardwalk location doesn’t hurt either.
In the end, however, Bally’s is really more about low-limit games and tourists than poker purists who really have very little reason to ever leave Borgata.
Parent company Caesars Entertainment also runs a WSOP-branded online poker room in New Jersey (WSOP NJ).
Golden Nugget Atlantic City
The Golden Nugget Atlantic City runs the poker room for the little guy, and it does a great job of it.
It appears to be going after a completely different customer than Marina District neighbor Borgata and finds success doing so.
There are just 10 tables, so right away it has a more intimate feel. Plus, it runs a variety of great promotions designed to make the players feel special.
It’s all relatively low limit Omaha and Hold’em cash games and tournaments. However, with one of the best comping and rake back systems in the business, there’s a lot of added value in playing there.
Players can earn double and triple comps most weekdays, and a free buffet for just a few hours of play. Plus, the poker room recently moved into its new home on the fourth floor. (In its old place will reportedly be a sportsbook.)
You won’t become the next WPT or WSOP champ playing at Golden Nugget, but you’ll sure enjoy the experience.