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Dan Ippolito

As Casino City's associate editor, Dan produces and edits all of our weekly newsletters, and he writes about the gaming industry for our websites and the GPWA Times Magazine. Dan graduated from Marist College in 2017 with a degree in Communications and a concentration in Sports.

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Top 10 memories from a gambling trip to New York

29 Aug 2022

By Dan Ippolito
A little over a week ago, I spent a few days in the Saratoga and Schenectady areas in New York and did some gambling at both. This past Saturday, Saratoga held its Travers Day, arguably the biggest racing day of the year at the iconic race track. With a full day at Saratoga Race Course and a half day at Rivers Casino & Resort Schenectady, there was plenty instances and memories that stuck with me as I headed home to the Boston area.

10. The location
For our stay, we grabbed a hotel in the Clifton Park area right off of the highway, which ended up working out great for several reasons. This hotel put us just a 20-minute drive to Saratoga Race Course for our day at the track on Friday. It also was only 25 minutes from the casino at Rivers Schenectady.

The hotel also was near plenty of restaurants, including just a five-minute drive to Delmonico’s Italian Steakhouse, which was excellent.

We were surrounded by a lot, but also a little further of a drive, roughly 45 minutes, was Lake George which offers a lot for the family.

9. Lake George
No matter who you go to Lake George with, there seems to be something for everyone. However, it does almost feel like a battle with the rest of the cars driving around to find a parking spot on the main street.

Once you find your spot, there are more stores than you can count to find souvenirs, places to stop in and eat, or bring the kids in to play a couple of arcade games.

For me, it was about 90 degrees out and I am a whiskey drinker so walking by the Lake George Distillery, I felt almost a gravitational pull inside to check it out. The distillery served flights where you could taste any three of their products and keep the glass for only $8 was a steal to me and had to give it a…dare I say…shot.

There are also boat rides you can take around the lake and we saw plenty of people parasailing. Just up the road is also Prospect Mountain where you can take your car and stop at various points on the way up to take in the views which we ended up doing.

8. The sportsbook
During our final day in the area, we hopped in the car and drove over to Rivers Casino Schenectady to check out what it had to offer and I was more than impressed.

I headed over to the sportsbook, which was not very big, but extremely clean and still served the purpose.

With six betting windows and 14 kiosks, there were plenty of ways to place your wager and then sit down in a leather lounge seat and watch your game on one of the 22 televisions.

7. Picnic areas
Similar to Lake George, Saratoga Race Course had many families enjoying what it had to offer and especially in the picnic areas.

It seemed families with children were bringing in coolers of their own food and drinks to set up their own spot for the day. Kids had room to run around rather than being stuck in a seat inside the track.

For the adults, there were betting windows around the area so they still can place some wagers and hopefully watch their horse come in.

6. Morton’s The Steakhouse
On Saturday night, we made our way over to Morton’s The Steakhouse at Saratoga Casino Hotel where the trotters also run. In previous years, we have stopped to check out the casino and the trotters but unfortunately, they were quite underwhelming so those are not on my list anymore, but going to the hotel’s steakhouse will always be.

There is a Morton’s here in Boston that I have been to and one of my favorite places to go when I want to splurge. The staff and food at the Saratoga location were both perfect.

Starting off my meal with a half dozen oysters was the beginning of a great dinner. I then followed the oysters with a Caesar salad which led up to the main event.

A 12 oz. filet cooked medium rare with sides of creamed spinach and asparagus was my main course order and I have to admit, after all of that food I could not move. But of course, the family ended up ordering a piece of their famous chocolate lava cake to split around the table.

5. The casino
I mentioned before how clean the sportsbook was and that goes for the casino, as well, at Rivers Casino Schenectady. During my initial walk through the casino, that was the first thing that stuck in my head was how well-kept the entire place was and especially the bathrooms.

There were more than 60 table games throughout the gaming space and I mostly saw blackjack, Three Card Poker, roulette and craps.

For the most part, I stuck at a blackjack table for about two hours with a little time at roulette. During my time at the blackjack table, a server came relatively quick and took my drink order. I couldn’t believe how fast she returned with our table’s orders because it felt like only a single hand went by before she was handing them to us.

4. The Porch
I have been to Saratoga Race Course three times and stayed at The Porch all three times and I don’t see myself sitting anywhere else in the future.

The area is under cover which helps for hot days, which ours wasn’t too bad as it topped out at about 86 F degrees. You reserve your table and over the course of the day you have to hit a minimum of $25 per person, which isn’t too difficult when they are 10 races over about five and a half hours.

Just a short 30-second walk from the betting windows, the location of The Porch is great because you can take 10 steps down to the railing of the track right by the finish line to watch them come around the final turn and down the stretch.

There is also a solid selection of food, apps and drinks. You can get buckets of beer, wine, cocktails, etc. For food, there are sliders, tenders, chips and dip, a cheese board, etc.

I would recommend this spot to anyone going and the attire is casual as well.

3. The dealers
Going back to Rivers Casino Schenectady, the first thing I do when I get to a casino is walk around the entire gaming space to see what games have open seating and what the table minimums are so I don’t just sit at the first table I see an open spot at.

After walking around a bit, I saw a dealer who looked to be having fun and I couldn’t have been more correct. I sat down with my father and another gentleman who was already at the table.

I wish I could remember the dealer’s name but I am terrible at remembering names, but he was one of the best I have had.

He was very conversational but he didn’t let it change the speed of his dealing. He also let the entire casino know when the dealer would best by screaming “PAY THE MEN!”

Having both a fun dealer and players at the table with you make for a great experience at the table. And leaving with more money than you sat down with also helps.

2. Lucky ladies side bet
Continuing with blackjack, the side bets I am more familiar with and used to playing are Match the Dealer and Dealer Bust, but these tables offered Lucky Ladies.

To quickly explain, any 20 you are dealt is a winning side bet and if it is a suited 20 it pays more and it goes up to the highest payout which is two queen of hearts which pays 200-to-1 and if the dealer has a blackjack when you get dealt two queens of hearts, it pays 1,000-to-1.

I either always play the side bet or never play it, I do not take some hands off. So, I started playing it from the first hand and I kid you not, the first card I was shown was a queen of hearts. In my head, I know it is not coming but wow what an amazing first hand would that be. It didn’t end up in my hand, it was actually the dealer’s under card, which we found out at the end of the hand.

I did have some success in that side bet during my session but I will admit, getting a queen of hearts as your first card really does have everyone at the table holding their breath.

1. The last ditch bet
When cashing your bets at the track in Saratoga, you obviously will end up with some change each time and we made sort of a community pool of our change at our table with the family.

Our plan was to just fire that change on the longshot in the last race we’d watch to win. That happened to be the ninth race that day and there was the No. 7 horse which was 14-to-1 to win. Having several other bets in that race we kind of forgot we had that one in play when the race started. In fact, it wasn’t until after we walked back to our table from the rail that we realized 7 took the victory and cashed our “why not” bet of the day. Pretty solid way to end a fun day.
 
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