People always complain about New Jersey. They don't like the smog, the cold weather and the high taxes. But despite the setbacks, New Jersey is truly one of the best places to live in America, especially for the 20 to 30-year-old crowd. The Garden State is directly in the middle of two of the liveliest cities in the country, New York and Philadelphia. No New Jersey resident has to worry about the earthquakes on the west coast or the hurricanes in the south. Instead, they are free to go to Six Flags Great Adventure, a theme park rated as one of the top ten in the nation, or they can head over to one of the many beaches along the Jersey Shore. And on the Jersey Shore sits one of jewels of the nation: Atlantic City.

Atlantic City is the largest gaming city in America outside of Nevada, but it has much more to offer than just Craps, Roulette and Slots. Acclaimed nightclubs, five-star restaurants and world-famous boardwalk make the city one of the top destinations for anyone seeking a fantastic night out on the town. High rollers and penny pinchers will both find plenty to do in this town. But if you're planning a trip to AC, it's imperative that you plan ahead. Here are a few tips for the first-time visitor:

Leave the plastic at home:

The first and most important rule potential gamers need to remember before they hit the AC Expressway is to leave the plastic at home. Bringing along check cards and credit cards can only lead to disaster, anger and being very, very broke. Set a limit for yourself before you hit the casinos and look at it as money already lost. If you come away a winner, it's a pleasant surprise. If you lose, it was money you had already allotted to be spent. Just hope you have enough for gas on the way home.

Look at your options:

Once you're in the casino, try to avoid the crazy tourist-trap games lining the playing area. Spanish 21, Pai-Gow Poker and Multiple Action Blackjack may look interesting, but most of these games have elaborate twists incorporated in the rules designed to take your money quickly.

In that vein, one classic staple of Las Vegas has made its way to the east coast: single- deck Blackjack. The game sounds favorable, and indeed, playing with a single deck would be beneficial to the player. However, most versions of single-deck Blackjack have a 6 to 5 payout on blackjacks rather than the classic 3 to 2 payout given in the normal eight-deck game. This means that if a player gets blackjack on a $10 bet, they would be paid $12 in single-deck as opposed to $15 in eight-deck. Therefore, for every blackjack, the player theoretically loses $3. In the long run, this adds up to a distinct advantage for the house and an unnecessary risk for the player.

In total, 12 hotel-casinos line the Atlantic City boardwalk and the surrounding area. With so many options, where should tourists go to indulge themselves? While everyone has their own particular tastes and should shop around for the venue that best suits them, there are a few places that consistently provide a great time to tourists.

The Wild Wild West casino at Bally's features friendly dealers and a great playing environment. Table minimums are moderate compared to Atlantic City standards. You can usually find at least one $10 blackjack table on weekends, which can't be said for places like Caesar's. You can also frequently find Craps as low as $5 on weekdays and during the early afternoon on the weekends. The new Wild Wild West poker room, the "Poker Coral," is also easily accessible to patrons from the casino floor and continues the fun, old west theme.

One of the only downsides of the Wild Wild West casino is that it does not feature any hotel rooms. Guests looking to gamble there will have to make alternate reservations to stay at one of the many other hotels along the boardwalk.

The newest casino in Atlantic City, The Borgata, was built in 2003 and has all the allure of a Las Vegas casino resort. However, its location well off the strip can be a big detractor. Guests planning to visit The Borgata in addition to the boardwalk casinos should know that many hotels accept parking receipts from other garages. They want your business, so if you've already paid for parking somewhere else, there's a good chance you may not have to pay again if you show your receipt.

Like several of its boardwalk counterparts, The Borgata also considers itself somewhat of a high-roller destination. On weekends, table minimums can get as high as $100 on the main floor and the tables with low minimums are usually filled to capacity with a long wait.

Gambling big? Eat cheap:

If you've been at the casinos for a couple of hours, chances are you don't have much money left for a fancy dinner. Not to worry, because there are plenty of low-cost alternatives offering a great meal.

Planet Hollywood, located just outside the Wild Wild West casino, was everything you would expect from a Planet Hollywood restaurant: Loud music, memorabilia and televisions all around, and moderately cheap, quality food. Unfortunately, it closed down this past September after organizing a buyout with Harrah's/Caesar's. The restaurant's owners wanted to create a Planet Hollywood hotel and casino complex in Atlantic City, but their agreement with Harrah's specifically blocked those ambitions. Now, with the buyout, Planet Hollywood is free to pursue the project.

If you want something unique, take a walk down to the Tropicana Hotel and Casino to try Corky's Ribs and BBQ. Corky's was once voted the number one barbeque in the nation by Southern Living Magazine and features exceptional cooking at very reasonable prices. The restaurant-chain, which is based out of Memphis, Tenn., has been profiled in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The New York Times, Bon Appetit, NBC's The Today Show, Home and Garden Television and The Food Channel.

Find an alternative to gaming:

The Tropicana is also home to some of the best shopping in Atlantic City. "The Quarter" at The Tropicana features upscale shops like Swarovski Crystal in a unique and spectacular setting. An IMAX movie theater is also located on the second floor of "The Quarter," one of only 250 in the world.

If you're looking for an alternative to the boardwalk shops, try the world-famous Atlantic City outlets. Located along Michigan Avenue, the outlet village features stores like Coach, Calvin Klein, Reebok, Harley Davidson and Ralph Lauren. Shoppers can also find some cheap eats at places like Applebee's, Subway, IHOP and Stewart's Root Beer.

The one glaring problem with the Atlantic City outlets-as is the case with many attractions in the city-is parking. Most of the parking is along the street and can be a mess on weekends. The best bet for drivers is to use the newly renovated Caesar's parking garage just down the street on Atlantic Avenue. It will cost you a few bucks, but it's worth it to avoid the hassle.

Stay over on weekdays, not weekends:

One of the best ways to experience the wealth of nightlife and entertainment Atlantic City has to offer is to stay overnight at one of the hotel/casinos. If you're planning to stay over, the best deals are always on weekdays. On the weekends, prices for Atlantic City hotels can jump up as much as $300 per night.

In December, a Wednesday night room in The Borgata will usually go for around $180, while the Saturday prices for a normal room shoot towards $300.

The Tropicana and Caesar's both have great deals on weekdays, usually charging about $70 or $80 for a Wednesday night. On Saturday, however, you'll be hard pressed to find a room at these hotels for under $200. In fact, weekend rooms at Caesar's have been known to get as high as $375 when a big convention or fight is in town.

Without the proper planning, a trip to Atlantic City can be disaster. You can lose the house, the car and your girlfriend all in one night. If you heed these tips and do a little research, you'll have a great time and be back for more action in no time!

Ben Samara is Editor-in-Chief of unbound. He is a senior journalism major at The College of New Jersey, with a minor in interactive multimedia. He is a freelance web designer and is also currently employed by the official website of The Ivy League,, where he designed their 2004 Ivy League football media guide.