Scamlantis.

I’ve had no success playing poker down here, so maybe that is going to color the scathing travel review i’m about to write.  But first I’ll describe the $1500 tourney I just played.

In marked contrast to the $8000 event, the $1500 event was filled with idiots, at least at my specific table.  One of these idiots drew the seat to my immediate right.  He spoke very little english, but the language barrier was of little consequence.  The way he played poker screamed “I suck” loud and clear.  From what I could gather, his starting hand requirement included all hands with an ace, all hands with two broadway cards and all pairs, regardless of his position. 

His most obvious characteristic was that he was a calling station, so I will call him CS.  I learned this by watching the following hand unfold at the 100-200 level:  CS raises in late position to 650, small blind calls, all others fold.  Flop comes 2 3 5 rainbow.  Small blind checks, CS bets 1200.  Small blind shoves for 4000, and CS immediately calls (duh).  Small blind shows Q9 for a complete bluff, and CS tables… A9.  Adios, small blind.

So this guy became my target.  The plan was to isolate him with a hand and get paid.  Simple enough.  My opportunity arose at the 100-200/25 ante level.  I had two black 9’s on the button and CS raised to 800.  Sitting on around 8000 (starting stacks were 4000), I reraised to 2600 to chase everyone else off, knowing CS would call.  He did, and the flop came 10-8-7, leaving me open ended.  Now CS led out for 2000, and of course I shoved him.  He instacalled with A-Q (nice call!), and I did my best to suppress a smile.  But the smile was gone when the dealer turned a queen.  No help on the river.  Good game, Sug!

Next topic:  Atlantis.  Or more accurately, expensive Carribean resort compounds in general.  This place is nice, and Janeen and I have had a pretty good time, but what a scam this is.

When you’re sitting poolside at one of these monstrosities, it’s easy to forget that the whole premise of a “Caribbean resort paradise” is a facade.  But you were reminded of it a few days earlier, when you looked out the window when your plane landed:  shoddy ramshackle houses without doors, emaciated stray animals wandering around.  You were reminded of it again on the cab trip from the airport to the resort:  dirt-poor people walking the streets eyeing you with contempt at every stop sign.  The truth is that you’re in a third-world country whose chief export was enslaved humans not too long ago.  But now the cab has pulled up to your fantasy home for the next week, so you forget about that (Atlantis sells the fantasyland aspect hard with it’s insistent underwater wonderland theme– I keep expecting the Little Mermaid to pop out around every corner).  All is well.  But is it really?   

The good news is that the Atlantis is huge and can provide you with a wide array of nice services.  But there’s bad news, a lot of it.  For the most part, you’re stuck on the compound, and the Atlantis does not cater to all tastes.  Far from it.

The best part about this place, in my humble opinion, is all the wonderful pools, lagoons, beachfront areas and water activities.  There is a really amazing array of outdoor stuff to do.  Yesterday, Janeen and I spent a full hour shooting ourselves through different waterslides.  These were big league rides reminiscent of Action Park, with virtually no line to wait on.  The guests at Atlantis have access to these along with a million other fun beachside/poolside amenities, and the place is not overcrowded.  There’s outdoor stuff to do for everyone except the biggest schlubs:  scuba diving, snorkeling, jet skiing, etc.  That’s nice.  Also, the every room comes with a TV equipped with the NFL Sunday Ticket.  Also very nice, if you’re me.  Now for the rest.

First of all, this place is astoundingly, mind-numbingly, “are you fucking kidding me?!” expensive.  Upon arrival, you are handed a room-charge card and discouraged from using cash to pay for anything.  It’s an old gambling adage that the guy who invented chips was a genius, because he made it possible for millions of people to forget the value of what they were losing.  The same can be said of whoever decided that a little blue card would be the currency of choice at Atlantis. 

If I were here on my own dime, I’d be very upset.  Slice of pizza:  $8.  Two sandwiches:  $45.  Large bottled water:  $9.  WTF? 

The food at Atlantis was hailed as one of the place’s main selling points.  Before we ever left American soil, people I respect told me I simply had to try at least three different restaurants on the compound.  Well, we’ve now spent in the vicinity of $200 on dinner at each of these places, and all three were…. off.  I’m no gourmand, but in my humble opinion, the food at these allegedly wonderful restaurants is only decent.  In each case you can see what they’re going for (“oh, a fancy steakhouse”, “oh, another Nobu”) but something is just… off.  Maybe it’s the fact that you’re on a freakin’ island and all the ingredients have several stop-overs before they get here.  Maybe it’s the very poor quality of the water down here.  But everything i’ve had tastes slightly… off.

I’ve mentioned how much there is to do during the daytime here.  What about after dark?  Not so much.  Basically, you’re expected to do two things:  blow a ton of money in one of the overpriced, overhyped restaurants, then blow whatever you have left in the one place on the compound where cash plays:  the casino.

The casino here sucks.  It’s small, and the table limits are set in such a way so that smallish players are in over their head.  Blackjack minimums are $25, craps minimums are $15.  So then they’re catering to the whales, right?  Nope.  Table maximums on blackjack and craps are $3000.  They want the casual player to lose his shirt, and at the same time, they’re afraid of getting hurt by the big players.  There’s a sportsbook, but that might be the most hilarious ripoff in this entire place (and that’s saying something).  Even the most casual sports bettor has to know that the futures bets they have posted are unplayable (FOUR NFL teams listed at even money to win the Super Bowl?).  Why even bother?  Because we’re captive consumers, I guess.  

The only reason I’m bothering to mention the casino is because it’s the only remotely interesting place to go on the compound after dark.  There are a lot of outdoor bars, but they’re closed after sundown.  There’s a smattering of empty indoor bars; typical hotel lobby type of stuff.  And off to the side of the casino there is something they’re calling a dance club, but it’s actually just a bar with loud music and a 10 x 10 space for dancing.  Guests at the Atlantis are best off staying in their rooms (which aren’t particularly nice) watching pay-per-view movies ($14) at night, resting up so they can hit the beach or pool early the next morning.  That’s nice if you’re here for a relaxing weekend, but I was booked for an entire week.  I could have easily spent my nights in the makeshift poker room (here this week only), but I’m here with Janeen.  Instead we spent a lot of hours at the craps table, doing the one available activity that we both enjoy.  Do you think I won or lost after 12 hours of craps?  Take a wild guess. 

I suppose this place is for families or older folks who have basically given up on having fun.  Janeen and I are neither of the above.  It’s our own fault to some degree–we probably should have ventured off the compound.  We still have a day left to do that.  But for the most part, in this writer’s opinion, this place is a straight-up scam.

In the end, I don’t think I really get the concept of the Carribean resort vacation.  Miami Beach kicks this place’s ass.  Suffice to say, this is my last Carribbean vacation for awhile.  That is, until I win an entry in the 2008 event, have a family, or become boring.  Even then, I’m not staying for a full week. 

4 thoughts on “Scamlantis.

  1. Went to Atlantis last year and agree with much of what you said. Having said that, I went with the family and to a 4 year old and 2 year old, this place is solid gold. The entire grounds are like one giant aquarium and kept the boys captivated, as did the pools and smaller waterslides. At night, we hired babysitters and hit the restaurants and casino. We had a great time at all the places and found the food to be very good. However, my view could be skewed by the fact that just getting away from the kids for five adult nights out was euphoric in and of itself. Anyway, definitely a great (but expensive) place to go with the family, but not a place I would go with just my significant other. We ventured off the grounds one night and went to the Ocean Club. That place was great and, from what I hear, is the adult equivalent of Atlantis.

  2. Postscript: I just left the compound for the first time in six days, and it made a big difference. Prices in the little strip mall down the road were (gasp!) normal, and J and I had little sandwiches, and I bought a few t-shirts and a cuban cigar.

    It also was refreshing to see and interact with people who live here. I think I’m more of a cultural vacationer than a fantasyland vacationer.

    DZ

  3. I am proud to say that the first time I was ever called a Honky was on vacation with my parents on st maarten. We got sick of the resort and decided to walk to a restaurant for dinner. A car went by and they yelled at us as we were wandering the streets. I was much more amused than my mom.

    And wasn’t “Scamlantis” the name of a blaxploitation flick from the mid seventies?

  4. Pingback: Yawn. – David Zeitlin

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