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by KC Brooks

I have been addicted to blackjack ever since reading Revereís "Playing Blackjack as a Business" when I was 15. The art of blackjack is a lifetime endeavor. I went through the learning process backwards, learning Revereís Advanced Point Count first. I found out early that the actual count system is only a small piece of the puzzle. Presently, I travel "my" Devils Triangle (Reno, Wendover, Vegas}, playing mainly single- and double-deck games. Hi Lo is my choice of strategies and "Professional Blackjack" by Wong is my bible. I worship a large spread, and have been known to wong everywhere I go. Thank God I havenít had to register as a wonger yet, but I am sure it is not too far off. I also teach blackjack courses for players that want to learn how to get the edge. For details on my courses visit

From Vegas to Northern California, and back ... a three-part series reviewing the various casinos of Northern Nevada, specifically, in Reno and Sparks, plus a few Indian casinos discovered on the journey.

Casinos covered in this report include:

Grand Sierra (Reno)

Rail City (Sparks)

Western Village (Sparks)

John Ascuagaís Nugget (Sparks)

The casino observations were made July 2011.

A buddy of mine, Billy, has been practicing Wongís Hilo count. We are planning on combining bankrolls and executing some type of team play. Back in the late seventies, we lived together in my Grandmotherís cabin in South Lake Tahoe. Along with a few other friends, we practiced Revereís Advanced Point Count for over a year. We only knew what we read in Revereís book, Playing Blackjack as a Business. Underfunded, we did not last long. I remember after a $600 dollar loss, everyone involved went into shock, unaware of that whore we call standard deviation. A short time later, I was in a bad car accident. My Tahoe dream vanished, and my blackjack career was put on hold.

I have been playing blackjack regularly since August of Ď09, using the Hi Lo count. Traveling to Reno four days a week, I report my progress to Billy, telling him about my daily ups and downs. He lives in Southern California, and I live in Northern California. Our grand plan is to meet in Vegas and team up. We actually got together in February; unfortunately, he didnít have basic strategy down, so it was a wasted trip for me. He left with the promise of memorizing the basic strategy down pat, and be able to count without errors. I continued on slowly building my bankroll in Reno.

Fast-forward to the present. Iíve been living in Vegas for over a half year. My focus is double-deck games. I have to return to Northern California for a couple of days for lawyer business and the usual crap. When returning home, I always detour through Reno.

Itís mid-morning on July 13, and I hook up with my friend Billy. We pile into the Volvo and head north towards Reno, the biggest little city in the world.

Before leaving town, a stop at the Sweaty Spaniard gets the road trip off in positive fashion, plus two hundred bucks. I am looking forward to Reno because the last time through, I left a sizeable deposit. This time, Iím hoping to make a withdrawal, with interest. A day earlier, I booked a room using Hotwire, and now after eight hours, 458 miles, and seven rest stops later, we arrive at the Grand Sierra.

I have stayed here frequently over the last couple of years. My wife enjoys the spa. I could live in a shoebox, as long as they offered a decent game. It is not my favorite place in Reno, but rates near the top. My biggest complaint is parking. Unless you use valet, expect to do some walking. The Grand Sierra offers a variety of entertainment that includes a movie theatre, bowling alleys, pool, driving range (hit balls to islands in a lake), bungee jumping, go-carts, and even an RV park. The Grand Sierra is a great place for a counter with kids. The food is top notch. Executive chef Charlie Palmer runs Briscola, a modern Italian joint, and the steakhouse. Rim offers Pan Asian cuisine, and Johnny Rockets takes care of the burgers. If mounting a mechanical bull or line dancing is your choice of fun, then Mustangs should fit the bill. This Country Western Bar seems to be the happening place Fridays and Saturday nights.

There is over 80,000 square feet of slot machines and table games. In the late seventies, I was present when this facility first opened under the Hilton name. A little over a year ago I stayed here, but did not play. The blackjack game was like the economy, the shits. 6:5 payouts for blackjack in Reno should be illegal. In fact, 6:5 games should be banned everywhere. (Please send $1 to the stop 6:5 blackjack fund and help do your part in restoring single-deck blackjack to its proper 3-2 payout.) Single deck is a different animal. It takes cunning and balls, and can be beat with basic strategy and a simple count, but itís not for the faint of heart. The casinos know it is vulnerable and keep a close eye on it.

Renoís casinos offer up a variety of blackjack games including double deck and shoe games, but when in Reno play the...

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