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Arizona Charlie’s, Boulder Station, and Gold Spike Casinos

by Stu D. Hoss

Stu D. Hoss is a recently retired Air Force officer and 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 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 March 2012. The casinos visited in Las Vegas were:

Arizona Charlie’s Hotel and Casino, 4575 Boulder Highway

Boulder Station Hotel and Gambling Hall, 4111 Boulder Highway

Siegel’s Gold Spike Hotel and Casino, 217 Las Vegas Boulevard North

This month’s adventures led me out on the Boulder Strip for the first of a two-part look at the casinos and playing conditions at the properties that call Boulder Highway home. College basketball and March Madness filled the air, but with the second weekend of the “Big Dance” underway, and St Patrick’s Day a distant memory, my quest for green found me visiting the two northernmost casino properties on Boulder Highway; namely, Arizona Charlie’s, Boulder Station, and one downtown joint, the Gold Spike, within easy reach of the other two casinos.

With a distance of approximately 17 miles, Boulder Highway, also known as Nevada State Route 582 (SR 582) is a stretch of asphalt on the eastern side of the Las Vegas Valley that connects downtown Las Vegas with Henderson to the southeast. The highway is primarily known as Boulder Highway, but is named Fremont Street within the Las Vegas city limits. SR 582 reaches its northern terminus at Eighth Street, just east of downtown in the Fremont East Entertainment District. The Fremont Street roadway itself extends a few blocks further to terminate at its intersection with Las Vegas Boulevard. The highway is the former route of U.S. Route 95 and U.S. Route 93 before they were moved to a freeway alignment.

Arizona Charlie’s Hotel and Casino, 4575 Boulder Highway

Arizona Charlie’s is primarily a locals’ casino, but it has 301 rooms and suites, and an RV park. I had not ventured into Arizona Charlie’s in many years, but was looking forward to seeing the place again. The casino is relatively small and spread over two floors. Downstairs is home to the table games pit, the Race and Sports Book, slots, and video poker. Upstairs consists of several restaurants, plus more slots and video poker machines. The restaurant selection includes a steak house, the Yukon Grill, a buffet, and the Sourdough Café, home of the $3.99 ham or steak, eggs, and hash browns special (my primary reason for visiting in days long past when I found myself in the neighborhood). Charlie’s Cheese Steak Deli is downstairs near the parking garage entrance.

The table games area consists of 12 tables that include craps, roulette, one Pai Gow Poker table, and only 3 open blackjack tables the evening I was there. There were no open spots available on either of the two double-deck games or the six-deck shoe. I asked the pit boss about the house rules and if any more blackjack tables would be opening soon. He said that one more would open in about an hour. I wondered aloud if Boulder Station was also “full” but drew no response from him.

The house rules at Arizona Charlie’s aren’t bad and are the same for double-deck and shoe games. Blackjacks pay 3:2; players can double down on any first two cards (DOA), and double down after splits (DAS). Aces may be split up to four times. On the negative side, as is the current norm, dealers hit soft 17 (H17) and Surrender is not available. I watched multiple shuffles on the two double-deck games while surveying the rest of the casino and keeping an eye on two college basketball games in the sports book. The penetration was not good – barely a deck. With full tables, only four hands were dealt between shuffles. Table minimums and maximums were $5-$500 and $10-$1,000 on the double deck games, and $3-$300 on the six-deck shoe. Lucky Ladies and Royal Match side bets were also available.

Arizona Charlie’s hosts two weekly blackjack tournaments on Thursdays and Saturdays. Surprisingly, there were no printed handouts available at the players club or in the pit area with the tournament rules. I was pointed to a large sign near the registration area, with this information in small print. The buy-in is $25 and consists of three rounds, with a maximum of 18 players per round. Re-buys are available for $10. Play consists of 20 hands, and each player receives $500 of non-negotiable chips. The top six players receive various percentages of the total purse (comprised of registration fees). Information was vague and my initial calculations were that these tournaments didn’t present much in the way of value to the entrants. I can only surmise that action was light or perhaps there weren’t enough entrants this particular evening because none of the tables was in use and I noticed only a few signatures in what appeared to be the registration log well after the tournament was scheduled to commence. For the record, registration opens at 5PM and play begins at 6PM for Thursday tournaments. On Saturdays, the times are 1PM and 2 PM, respectively.

Also of note, the only remotely playable...

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