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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 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 pursuing options for a second career. He's a regular attendee at the Global Gaming Expo each year in Las Vegas.

Note: The observations of casino conditions were made in Feb 2016. The casinos visited in Summerlin this month were:

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

Suncoast Hotel and Casino, 9090 Alta Drive

The convergence of Valentine's Day and President's Day made for a convenient three-day weekend for many in the Big Valley and across the nation. The opportunity to blend fantasy and history - think cherries, powdered wigs, chocolate, big hats, and guns - should never be missed if your personal situation allows. However, when you're a single, degenerate gambler in Las Vegas what are you going to do when it's just you and your bankroll on this long weekend? Go to a strip, err, gentleman's club and hunker down you say? Not a bad idea actually, but your odds in those joints are almost as bad as in a Caesars Entertainment-owned casino property. In my case I sought solace with the Queen of Hearts and her 51 co-conspirators by heading west to a couple of casinos far from the Las Vegas Strip. One, I had played at a couple months prior; the other, I had not set foot in since I last wrote about it. With mad respect to 80's pop-alt group ABC, "Shoot that poison arrow" and let's begin.

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

The Rampart Casino is located amidst Summerlin's gated communities, golf courses, and mountain shadows on the west side of the Las Vegas metropolitan area. It's one of the casinos that make up what I've affectionately dubbed as the "Western Triple" along with Suncoast (featured below), and Red Rock (which I plan to cover in the future in the BJI). Rampart is approximately a twenty-minute drive from the Las Vegas Strip (when traffic is moving). The 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 in a long, somewhat elegant concourse that connects 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. On Valentine's Day weekend, casino patrons consisted of the former.

I've always liked this casino, dating back many years, but it's not a place I frequent with regularity due to my personal geography. With gas prices falling (as well as playing conditions at other casinos I play semi-regularly), I should probably spend more time at Rampart. I did play a session here in December 2015, and again this month, while researching this article.

Rampart's table-games area includes 26 tables arranged in four pits, all in the center of the 50,000 square-foot casino. There are two craps tables, a roulette wheel, three Pai Gow Progressive tables, and a smattering of baccarat, Crazy 4 Poker, and Ultimate Texas Hold Em mixed in. The remaining tables are primarily double-deck blackjack games, with a couple of six-deck blackjack shoe games also available. The night I visited, about half of the table games were open which is kind of slow for a Saturday night, I thought. There were six blackjack tables open when I visited: five double-deck and one six-deck shoe. Blackjack betting limits ranged from $5-1,000; $10-1,000; and $25-2,000.

All player blackjacks at Rampart pay 3:2. On the double-deck games, players are allowed to double down after any first two cards (DOA) and after splits (DAS). Pairs can be re-split up to four times, except for Aces. Surrender is not available and dealers hit soft 17. The six-deck games offer the same rules as the double-deck games, with two exceptions: Aces can be re-split to make up to four hands, and Surrender is available.

Penetration on Rampart's double-deck games is good and consistent thanks to the use of...

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