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by Stu D. Hoss

Stu D. Hoss is a 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 over 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.

Note: The observations of casino conditions were made in May 2013. The casinos visited in the Summerlin community, located in northwest Las Vegas, include:

Rampart Casino at the Resort at Summerlin, 221 N Rampart Blvd

Suncoast Hotel and Casino, 9090 Alta Drive

Red Rock Casino Resort Spa, 11011 West Charleston

By the middle of May, baseball season is in full swing and the Major League Season is already at its quarter point. In the Las Vegas Valley, casino swimming pools are open; flowers and plants are in bloom; and temperatures begin to climb. However, the weather is still pleasant and enjoyable. On a recent spring afternoon and evening, I headed out west to the mountain shadows of Summerlin to explore an activity that’s always in-season, namely blackjack.

For those that aren’t familiar, the community known as Summerlin was developed by The Howard Hughes Corporation on the west side of the Las Vegas metropolitan area. It sits in the shadows of the Spring Mountains and Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Named for Howard Hughes’ grandmother, Jean Amelia Summerlin, this 22,500+ acre community once ranked as the country’s best-selling master-planned community for nearly a decade. In the midst of Summerlin’s golf courses, gated communities, mountain shadows, and open spaces lay three casinos - Rampart, Suncoast, and Red Rock. Behind their collective doors is some pretty good blackjack.

Rampart Casino at the Resort at Summerlin, 221 N Rampart Blvd

About a twenty-minute drive from the Las Vegas Strip (when traffic is moving), the Rampart Casino is physically attached to a J.W. Marriot hotel property. The luxury hotel offers scenic views, a Mediterranean style spa, and access to championship quality Las Vegas golf courses. A variety of dining options are available and located off the casino floor between the casino and hotel. The casino itself is quiet, if not serene. The clientele tends to be a mix of older local patrons and people in town on business or convention attendees.

Rampart’s table games area includes 24 tables arranged in four six-table pits. There are two craps tables, a roulette wheel, three Pai Gow Progressive tables, Three Card Poker, Ultimate Texas Hold ‘Em, and Crazy 4 Poker. The remaining tables are primarily double-deck blackjack games, with a few six-deck shoe games also available.

There were seven blackjack tables open when I visited – five double-deck and two six-deck shoes. Table limits were $5 to $1,000 and $25 to $2,000. I sat down at the third-base position of a double-deck game with one other player and waited for the shuffle. No mid-deck entry is allowed on Rampart’s double-deck games. Over almost an hour session, the table had between two and four players and the level of play was good. Cards are hand shuffled and deck penetration was...

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