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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 May 2016. The casinos visited in Summerlin and North Las Vegas this month were:

Red Rock Casino Resort Spa, 11011 West Charleston

Santa Fe Station Hotel and Casino, 4949 North Rancho Drive, N. Las Vegas

This month I rolled the dice and followed them west to a couple of primarily locals' casinos that I've visited many times in the past. For a number of reasons, this is the first time I'd visited either in several months. They say spring is a time for change and rebirth. If you've followed the casino news lately there's a lot of that going on in the Las Vegas market. Station Casinos LLC and its assets now are a publicly traded company called Red Rock Resorts (RRR: NASDAQ). This month's featured casinos are current/former Station properties. (For the purpose of this article and to avoid confusion with RRR, I'll refer to them as such.)

Red Rocks Resorts held its initial public offering (IPO) in late April and raised $531.4 million, the largest US IPO this calendar year. Earlier this month, the company announced it would purchase the Palms Casino, no doubt an attempt to grow revenues and counter the recent acquisitions of Boyd Gaming (BYD: NYSE) that I mentioned in last month's Blackjack Insider. Red Rocks and Santa Fe Station have traditionally been good gambling houses and I hoped that hadn't changed as I pulled into the parking lot of Red Rock Casino Resort Spa early one Saturday evening.

Red Rock Casino Resort Spa (11011 West Charleston)

Red Rock Casino Resort Spa is located about 12 miles west of the Las Vegas Strip, in in the shadows of the Spring Mountains and Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area on 70 acres in the master-planned community of Summerlin. Depending on the time of day, traffic can be rather heavy and I recommend budgeting about 25 minutes to make the drive from any Strip properties.

Red Rock is the flagship property of Station Casinos and the company's corporate headquarters is located on-site. The company's Las Vegas casino holdings consist of 18 properties including the Fiesta and Wildfire Gaming brands. Red Rock, along with Green Valley Ranch, could be considered one of the "crown jewels" of the Station gaming collection. The resort includes the second highest tower in Summerlin at 198 feet. The property has 815 hotel rooms and suites; a spa; 94,000 square feet of trade show, convention, and meeting space. The property caters to locals, as well as vacationers, and some business and convention traffic. Cinema fans among you may remember that the casino's interior and exterior are clearly recognizable in the movie "21" (2008). Some of the scenes for that film were shot at Red Rock.

As I made my way past the impressive fire and water entrance, I was reminded that I don't visit Red Rock as much as I probably should. This is a function of geography as there are closer Station casinos for me to challenge Lady Luck. However, I'm always up for an excuse to visit this property and have brought several out-of-town friends here for the buffet and to check out the property. With its beautiful architecture, luxury rooms and suites, not to mention a host of dining, nightlife, and entertainment choices, Red Rock rivals anything on the Las Vegas Strip and at a more reasonable price.

The Red Rock casino is large with over 87,000 square feet of gaming space. It features over 50 table games in the main casino as well as an additional 10 in the high-limit room. The table games wrap around the Lucky Bar and its attractive waitresses decked out in their provocative "uniforms" located in the center of the casino. One pit section includes a buffet of "carnival games" that includes the usual choices like Crazy 4 Poker, Let It Ride, Mississippi Stud, Three Card Poker, and Ultimate Texas Hold ‘Em. Others include Fortune Pai Gow Progressive, more Three Card Poker, a few baccarat tables, four craps tables, and four roulette tables. There's also a small keno lounge and a 610-seat bingo hall with eight daily sessions.

When it comes to blackjack, Red Rock's offerings...

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