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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 HiLo count method 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 November 2011. The casinos visited in Las Vegas include:

Ellis Island Casino and Brewery

Hard Rock Hotel and Casino

Terrible’s Hotel and Casino

With football season in full force this month, I found myself spending many hours in local sports books shopping lines, doing research, watching games, and thinking. If you attended a small liberal arts college deep in the "Heart o’ Dixie," like yours truly back in the day, chances are you were subjected to "blue books" or something very similar. These were booklets filled with blank pages that you used to answer the essay questions on your exams. At our college, you were expected to fill at least one and ask for another before the exam period ended. Many of the questions began with the phrase "compare and contrast." Last month in the BJI, I reviewed the Las Vegas Hilton on Paradise Road and two other properties close to it on the northern end of Las Vegas Boulevard. This month we moved further south down Paradise to three very different properties: Ellis Island, the Hard Rock, and Terrible’s. When these three casinos are mentioned together, any discussion must begin with that phrase "compare and contrast."

Ellis Island Casino and Brewery, 4178 Koval Lane

Located behind Bally’s, Ellis Isle (EI) is primarily a local’s joint, probably best known for its famous steak special served round the clock in the cafe. For $7.95, diners get a 12-ounce sirloin steak, choice of a side salad or soup, baked potato, mashed potatoes or French fries, and a beer. Dinner rolls are available, but I have had to ask specifically for them the last few times I’ve eaten there spanning a few years. The meal also includes a beer from EI’s award winning brewpub. Home-brewed root beer can be substituted (it is very good); however, ice tea cannot, another change from year’s past. Ellis Isle’s steak special is one of the best food bargains in Las Vegas. Despite being one of the worst kept secrets in town, it’s not on the menu. You have to ask your server for it. The steak special does draw a fair amount of tourists through the doors and the wait to be seated can get very long – an hour or more is not uncommon on weekends during dinner hours, so plan accordingly.

Ellis Isle’s casino is small and features one table games pit. The pit is home to...

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