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by Joe Pane

 Joe Pane is a skilled advantage blackjack player, and an experienced tournament player who has won over a million dollars in blackjack tournaments. Joe is the #1 ranked tournament player in the country and was named 2007 Player of the Year by Las Vegas Advisor publisher Anthony Curtis. In Joe's last 11 tournaments in 2007-2008, he made the final tables eight times and won two of them for an impressive 73% final table appearance rate with just over $225,000 won in the past 12 months. Joe is also the Assistant Director of Tour Operations for the Ultimate Blackjack Tour (UBT), as well as the Team UBT Coordinator. He is co-host of the radio show, "Queens vs. Kings Ė Itís All About Position" on His peers consider him to be one of the strongest and most feared blackjack tournament players on the circuit.

Anthony Marnell III, the man in charge of the M Resort Spa Casino, the newest casino resort to open in the Las Vegas area, has hit a home run. But that should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the Marnell family of Las Vegas. Back in 1990, his dad, Anthony Marnell, opened the Rio Hotel, and back then it was the hippest joint in town. It not only attracted the Las Vegas visitors, but the Rio was considered "THE" local place even though it was a half a mile away from the Strip. The Rio is now owned and operated by Harrahís Corporation, and they have taken the hippest joint in town and turned hip into a "DRIP" of a place that includes over priced buffets, and a sweat-joint mentality when it comes to customers and their gaming habits. If it werenít for the World Series of Poker (WSOP), the Rio would be another Harrahís failure. My 2009 prediction is if the WSOP is ever moved out of the Rio, that Casino/Hotel will be on the chopping block and up for sale. But let me get back to M (Iíll refer to the new casino as M, although it is technically the M Resort Spa Casino).

The M is as far away from the Strip as you could get, yet still have an almost Las Vegas address attached to it (M is actually located in the city of Henderson, which is just south of Las Vegas). The M sits right off Interstate 15 and St Rose Parkway (see end of article for driving directions), and itís the first casino you would see if you drove to Las Vegas on I-15 from the west (the hordes of residents from California take this highway to get to Vegas).

At the M, the views of the Strip at night are absolutely amazing. When youíre there, you have the feel and buzz of Las Vegas without the traffic and wall-to-wall tourists that you usually have to traverse around on the Strip.

The Marnell familyís expertise is the construction business, and itís refreshing to see someone whose business plan and outlook is very different than the typical casino mentality (meaning how much can I not offer my customers, yet still keep them coming back for more of our very sparse perks and rewards). Harrahís are you listening?

Steve Wynn, who insisted on using the best of everything in building his world-class casinos, has used the Marnell Construction Company to build every one of his casinos here in town, starting with the Mirage, then Treasure Island, then Bellagio, and finally Wynn and Encore. If youíve been to any of these casinos, you know that not a stone is left unturned and every detail in the design of construction of these properties is world-class. So when Anthony Marnell III employed his dad and the family business to build the M, it was clear when the first shovel went into the ground that this place was going to be everything anyone could ask for in a casino/hotel.

When you go inside M, you will immediately see the attention to detail that was used in the décor, and, as I mentioned earlier, the view of the Las Vegas Strip from just about anywhere on the property is breathtaking (and thatís from someone who has stepped foot into many casinos and is usually not impressed with all the bells and whistles that are common place for a new casino).

Mr. Marnellís dream was to take what the family achieved in the early days of the Rio and bring it back for all to enjoy, especially the locals.

On my visit today, I decided to sit down and play a little, and absorb the ambiance of the resort to see first-hand if the rumors...

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