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NEW YORK TRIP REPORT: Rivers Casino & Resort

by Joe "Reload" Freda

Joe Freda has been an avid gambler and writer for the past two decades, covering casino and sports wagering. His efforts include several years of articles at Sportsbook Review and Don Best Sports, while enjoying trips for blackjack, craps, and poker throughout North and Central America. Freda can be reached at joe_freda@yahoo.com or through Twitter (@ReloadSports).

Introduction

A yearly tradition of mine is visiting upstate New York on Labor Day weekend to take in Saratoga Race Course's final few cards of action for its summer meet. This time around I was faced with a new twist thanks to Rivers Casino & Resort now being open in nearby Schenectady. With the middle of my three-day jaunt being a rainy washout, I opted to leave the races early and galloped a few furlongs south for some blackjack. Rivers had its share of nice surprises, including a generous welcome offer making anyone's trip down I-90 a worthwhile time.

Rivers Casino & Resort (1 Rush Street, Schenectady, NY)

Rivers is located in downtown Schenectady on the confines of the Mohawk River. The property has "The Landing Hotel" for overnight stays and several restaurants, while very limited in its retail shopping. Valet parking is available for a five-dollar charge, with a large self-parking garage also present.

The main gaming floor is a bustling mix of slots and table games, while smaller high limit and party pits are tucked off on each side. A variety of "carnival games" are offered, while an Asian section has baccarat, Pai Gow and Asia poker. There is also a full poker room where poker pros Phil Hellmuth and Doug Polk recently paid a visit. Several eight-foot craps tables are present with 5x odds and a mild bounce to help with controlled tosses. Video poker is plentiful with $5 "full pay" machines featuring 9/6 Jacks Or Better, while 8/5 is paid on the $1 and $0.25 games.

Blackjack is available in all three pits, with some slight rule and condition variations in each. The main floor features mostly eight-deck games with the dealer hitting soft 17's, surrender offered, 75-80 percent penetration, and auto-shuffled shoes. There are also quite a few continuous shuffler (CSM) games dispersed within the area, which should be avoided. Many tables had the "Lucky Ladies" side bet which was popular among players. One time a gentleman was dealt two queens of hearts and the dealer had a possible blackjack. After a long dramatic pause, the 1000-1 payoff did not happen; nevertheless, he still received a 200-1 payoff.

The high-limit room ($100 minimums) has...

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