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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 February 2014. The casinos visited in North Las Vegas include:

Texas Station Gambling Hall and Hotel, 2101 Texas Star Lane, N. Las Vegas

Fiesta Rancho Casino Hotel, 2400 N. Rancho Drive, N. Las Vegas

Most visitors and locals alike are familiar with the Las Vegas Strip; however, thereís another "Strip" in the Las Vegas Valley. Itís the Rancho Strip. For this monthís issue of Blackjack Insider, I visited two casinos on the Rancho Strip owned and operated by Station Casinos Inc. In doing so, we also continued our exploration of casinos in Nevadaís fourth largest city, namely North Las Vegas.

The Rancho Strip is actually a state highway, Nevada State Route 599 (SR 599). Much of SR 599 was previously designated as U.S. Route 95 (US 95) prior to completion of the Las Vegas Expressway. The route follows Rancho Drive, a major arterial connecting downtown Las Vegas to the northwest corner of the Las Vegas Valley. It passes the North Las Vegas Air Terminal and covers approximately nine miles. The immediate area is primarily, if not exclusively, commercial and is even dubbed U.S. Route 95 Business (US 95 Bus) on many maps. Read on to learn more about two of its major casino residents, Texas Station and Fiesta Rancho.

Texas Station Gambling Hall and Hotel, 2101 Texas Star Lane, N. Las Vegas

Texas Station is located about five miles northwest of downtown Las Vegas and approximately ten minutes from the Las Vegas Strip on 47 acres in North Las Vegas, at Rancho Drive and Lake Mead Boulevard. Texas Station opened in 1995, and is Station Casinosí third property. The property features 270,000 square feet of gaming, entertainment, and hotel space. There are more than 4,400 parking spaces in two garages, accessible via north and south entrances. To their credit, the folks at Texas Station play the Texas theme well. Right down to a cowboy riding a bucking bronco on the door handles at the casino entrance, barbecue on the buffet spread, and oil derricks in the parking lot.

The casino floor at Texas Station is 91,000 square-feet, but seems smaller at first glance. Itís a localsí casino with a diverse, working class clientele. The casino itself seems to be somewhat dark or shadowy from a lighting perspective. The couple of times Iíve visited in recent years, there has not been much energy, and the gamblers tend to act rather seriously. However, like most Station properties, it does offer playable options for the savvy gambler.

Texas Stationís table games area is centrally located. When I visited on a recent Saturday night, one six-table pit and an adjacent four-table pit were both closed. Table game offerings include three craps tables, two roulette wheels, Emperorís Challenge Pai Gow Poker, Fortune Pai Gow Progressive, Ultimate Texas Hold ĎEm, and a mix of blackjack offerings. The blackjack tables consisted of a single-deck game that paid 6:5 on player blackjacks, a six-deck shoe, three hand-dealt double-deck games, and a double-deck game dealt from a mini-shoe. Minimum and maximum bet limits on the blackjack games ranged from $5-$500; $10-$500; $10-$1,000; and $25-$1,000.

The blackjack house rules at Texas Station are...

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