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By Stu D. Hoss

Stu D. Hoss is a recently retired Air Force aviator. He has visited and served in over 40 countries, including flying combat missions in the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Horn of Africa. Most of it under the guise of keeping the world safe for democracy, better blackjack, and for a few other personal reasons. He has been playing blackjack for almost 20 years, and cut his teeth on the tables of South Lake Tahoe during flight training in Northern CA. Mr. Hoss uses basic strategy and the Hi Lo card counting system to give himself a chance against the house edge. He currently resides in NV and is weighing his options for a second career.

The observations of casino conditions were made in June 2011. The casinos visited in Downtown Las Vegas, include:

Four Queens

Binionís Gambling Hall

Golden Nugget


Vegas Club


It was a warm Friday night in June as I tossed my suitcase into my vehicle and climbed in to begin my descent upon downtown Las Vegas. Iíd be spending the weekend on a three-night comp at one of the hotels overlooking Fremont Street. This particular venue became my downtown headquarters a few years ago when I used to visit Vegas several times a year. Thatís when I needed free, or inexpensive, hotel rooms for the weekend, after the Strip casino operators decided my money wasnít green enough for them.

The heart of the downtown casino row is Fremont Street, named after John C. Fremont, a 19th century military officer, explorer, and politician. The area is steeped in history, dating back to the early 20th century and was the epicenter for gambling in Las Vegas before Bugsy Siegel and others developed what is now known as the Las Vegas Strip.

The face of downtown Las Vegas changed forever when the Fremont Street Experience opened in December 1995. The attraction is a barrel vault canopy, covering four blocks (approximately 1,500 feet), and 90 feet high at its apex. More than 12.5 million LEDs and 550,000 watts of sound are part of this entertainment extravaganza situated amid a five-block, pedestrian-friendly mall of casinos, shops, and entertainment venues. According to the City of Las Vegas, the Fremont Street Experience attracts millions of visitors each year.

This year Fremont Street is hosting the "Summer of the 80ís" celebration with free concerts and 80ís cover bands all summer long. The British band, ABC, fronted by Martin Fry, was the headliner Saturday night and 80ís music played all weekend long. Nina Blackwood, one of the original five MTV VJs made an appearance and introduced ABC (who put on a fantastic concert and were better than I remember them when I was in high school). It was against this backdrop that I began my blackjack quest in hopes of finding out (How to Be a) Millionaire. I hoped the cards on the green felt of Fremont Street would show me the Look of Love.

Four Queens Hotel and Casino, 202 Fremont Street

I began the night at the blackjack tables at the Four Queens (4Q). It was approximately 10 pm and the casino was very crowded with a mix of older and younger patrons. I wandered around for about 10 minutes, searching for a seat on a playable game and finally settled in at third base on a double-deck game. This casino offers single deck, double deck, and eight-deck blackjack shoe games in its two pits.

I bought in and gave my playerís card to the floor supervisor. I verified the rules for the double-deck game. Natural blackjacks paid 3-2; doubling down on any first two cards was allowed; doubling after splits (DAS) was not allowed; and Aces could be split only once. I almost immediately wished I had...

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