Category: The Strip

On This Date: April 24, 1950 Desert Inn Hotel and Casino Opened

April 24, 2015
Desert Inn aka DI

The Desert Inn Hotel & Casino in 1999

Desert Inn Hotel by the pool

Early photo of the Desert Inn Hotel by the pool

The Desert Inn was a hotel/casino that operated from April 24, 1950, to August 28, 2000. It was the fifth resort to open on the Las Vegas Strip. The property included an 18-hole golf course. Locals nicknamed the resort “The D.I.” or just “D.I.”.

The Desert Inn’s most famous guest, businessman Howard Hughes, arrived on Thanksgiving Day in 1966, renting the hotel’s entire top two floors and then later bought the resort when asked to vacate.

The Desert Inn has appeared in many movies including: The 1960 film version of Ocean’s 11 and last use in the film Rush Hour 2.

Photo by: LasVegas360.com and UNLVspecial collections

The D.I. Was imploded on  November 16, 2004. to make way for the Wynn and Encore resorts.

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On This Date: March 31, 2014 the Largest Ferris Wheel opened in Las Vegas – The High Roller

March 31, 2015
The-High-Roller-observation-wheel

The High Roller Observation Wheel Largest in the World with a 520 Foot Diameter

High Roller is a 550-foot tall  520-foot  diameter giant Ferris wheel on the Las Vegas Strip. It is the world’s tallest observation wheel, 9 ft  taller than the 541-foot Singapore Flyer, which held the record for the world’s tallest observation wheel from 2008 until 2014. After nearly three years of planning and construction it opened to the public on March 31, 2014.

High Roller Facts:

  • The High Roller tops out at 550 feet making it the largest observation wheel in the world.
  • In addition to its great height, the High Roller offers an immersive pre-ride experience for its passengers on their journey from ticketing through the wheel house complete with a lounge, to the wheel ride which features unparalleled views of the Las Vegas Strip.
  • The wheel structure boasts 7.2 million pounds of steel and 112 cables. Each cable measures approximately 225 feet, for a combined total of 25,256 feet.
  • The High Roller features 28 spherical cabins that hold 40 guests.
  • Each cabin weighs approximately 44,000 pounds and includes 300 square feet of glass.
  • The cabin windows are doubly curved and fabricated from four sheets of laminated glass.
  • Fabrication of the wheel began in late 2011 and took place in several locations across the globe including China, Japan, France, Sweden, Italy, Netherlands, Germany, Colorado, California and Las Vegas.
  • The High Roller travels at one foot per second and take roughly 30 minutes to make one full revolution.
  • The wheel is lit with more than 2,000 LED lights.

Photo By: Wikipedia Creative Commons

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Las Vegas Card Counters

March 27, 2015

Las Vegas Card Counters

Last year you may have heard of Hollywood megastar Ben Affleck getting in trouble for his card counting antics. Although the card counting in itself isn’t illegal, casinos do reserve the right to refuse card counters entry to the gaming floor, and can eject players whom they suspect them of card counting. As the professional player Anthony Curtis says: “the science [of card counting] is knowing how to do it; the art is being able to get away with it.”
Ben Affleck of course isn’t the first, nor will he be the last person to be ejected from a Las Vegas casino. This being the case we thought we would provide you with a list other gamblers that have found themselves in trouble for their card counting ways, or got away with remarkable winnings.

Keith Taft

Keith Taft isn’t one of the best known members of the card counting club, but he is one of the more interesting ones. Taft is one of the members of the Blackjack Hall of Fame, because of his innovative strategies for card counting that involved a whole series a different wearable computer devices over the years.

Taft unusually came from a very religious background, he first got hooked on the game of blackjack when on a family holiday to Reno. He received a token to gamble at Harrah’s Casino, he warily went into the casino, but as luck would have it the 3 hands he played were all winning ones! Taft was hooked, and from there on in he would study card counting, and even practise the game with his family. The breakthrough for him happened when he came to the realisation of why he should be doing all the card counting in his head when a computer could do the calculations for him.

Keith Taft

Keith Taft

This lead to the invention of George, a manually wired clunky 15 pound machine strapped to his chest, which attached for 4 switches hidden in his shoes which he controlled with his toes. The information of the dealt cards was then conveyed from the computer to his glasses where LED lights had been concealed. Who needs Google Glass when you have George right? Technically, this is one of the earliest pioneering forms of wearable tech, amazing when you consider that at this time in the early 70’s people like Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were just dropping out of college, and hadn’t even begun to work on the first prototype of the Apple 1.

Eventually Taft and his crew got busted when their invention called Belly Telly. This involved hiding a camera in a belt buckle and filming the action, whilst a van with a huge satellite picked up the video feed, was discovered by a security guard. Although the law surrounding using computer devices was unclear at the time, the judge ruled that they be sentenced to 6 months in prison. Keith didn’t do time though. This incident also lead to the passing of legislation that prohibited the use of technology to aid gameplay.

Phil Ivey

Phil Ivey’s game was a little bit different from the standard form of card counting. Phil Ivey who is one of the world’s greatest poker players won £7.7 million ($11,490,000) playing a form of Baccarat at Crockfords Casino in Mayfair in London called Punto Banco. This is amazing when you consider that the game of Punto Banco is purely luck and requires no skill whatsoever. However, what the unsuspecting casino staff didn’t know that night is that Phil Ivey’s partner Cheung Yin Sun knew a skill called edge-sorting. Edge-sorting is a skill whereby the player notices imperfections on the back of cards, and memorises them to know what value the card has before it is turned over. This comes in very handy in the game of Punto Banco where a player has to guess which hand, the dealers or the players has a value that adds up closest to 9.

Unfortunately for Phil he would never see his winnings. Crockfords decided that what he was cheating, and therefore went on to withhold his winnings, and only returned to Phil his original £1 million stake. This decision was upheld by a Judge at the High Court and as such Phil won’t ever see his winnings.

Don Johnson

Although this man is technically not a card counter he is worth mentioning as his ‘lucky’ streak meant he walked away with $4 million from Caesars, $5 million from the Borgata, and $6 million from the Tropicana in Atlantic City. In one hand he won a staggering $800,000. The latter casino ended up having the 2nd lowest profits in April 2011 of any of the Atlantic City casinos. As a result the president and CEO of the Tropicana Mark Giannantonio got the boot a few weeks later. So how did he do it?

Well although he may not have been counting cards, in Tony Rodio’s words (the man who succeeded Giannantonio as CEO) “He plays perfect cards.” Don Johnson is very good at maths, and his method is based on calculating the odds against the house. What Johnson knows is that the best way to do well, is by running a smaller number of hands and paying attention to variation. As Johnson puts it the way averages work, the larger the sample, the narrower the range of variation. A session of, say, 600 hands will display wider swings, with steeper winning and losing streaks, than the standard casino charts. That insight becomes important when the betting terms and special ground rules for the game are set—and Don Johnson’s skill at establishing these terms is what sets him apart from your average casino visitor.

He knew how to play the casinos and get what he wanted from them to give just enough of an advantage over the house.

Although these people all managed to do something exceptional in their own way, they are the exception rather than the rule, card counting or trying to get an advantage over a casino in any form can get you into a lot of trouble, so before you start trying to mimic any of these methods, it’s best to weigh up the risks against the rewards. However, nothing can beat the thrill of beating the house, whatever the risk.

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On this Date: March 17, 1989, Famous Las Vegas Artist Montyne passed away

March 17, 2015
Montyne

Montyne Sculpture in Front of Circus in 1999

Born Sherman LaMont Sudbury, known as Montyne (November 23, 1916 – March 17, 1989) was an American artist and stage performer. He was best known for his sculptures that once stood in front of Circus Circus Las Vegas and for his View-Master scenes of Tarzan of the Apes.

Montyne moved to Las Vegas in 1968 to sculpt the statues in front of Circus Circus. The first, The Balancer, was a self-portrait, depicting him as an acrobat. This heroic-size statue in 1978 was featured on the front cover of 35mm Photography. The work at one time was one of the most-photographed sculptures in the world. Over the next three years, he created four more statues: the Lion, the Clown, Gargantua the gorilla, and his wife China who was featured balancing on a rolo-board. In the photo above you can see the clown and the lion on the sidewalk in from of Circus Circus on Las Vegas Blvd. (The Strip).

While working on the statues at Circus Circus, Montyne also was commissioned to create the wall murals in the convention hall at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino on Flamingo Road (1973). The casino was longer than a football field, and on the 15 ceiling arches were Montyne’s murals. The murals were destroyed in the 1980 MGM Grand fire.

Montyne passed away at the age of 72 and is buried in Las Vegas.

Clown Circus Circus

The last standing Montyne sculpture in front on Circus Circus – 2015

Photo by: LasVegas360.com

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On This Date: February 28, 1906 Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel was Born

February 28, 2015
Bugsy Siegel Mug Shot

Bugsy Siegel an American Mobster

On this date: Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel was born February 28, 1906. In 1945. Bugsy Siegal, was instrumental in establishing the first resort on the now famous Las Vegas Strip with the opening of the Flamingo Hotel & Casino.

Siegel opened The Flamingo Hotel & Casino at a total cost of $6 million on December 26, 1946. Billed as the world’s most luxurious hotel, the 105-room property and first luxury hotel on the Strip, it was built seven miles from Downtown Las Vegas.

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On This Date: February 21, 2014 The Cromwell Opened on the Las Vegas Strip

February 21, 2015
The Cromwell

The Cromwell – artist Rendering

On February 21, 2014 the Cromwell opened on the Las Vegas Strip. The property started as the Barbary Coast which opened on March 2, 1979, then sold and renamed Bill’s Gambling Saloon. Bill’s closed on February 4, 2013 and was sold. It remained closed for renovations for over a year and after a $185 million remodel, it opened as a boutique hotel called the Cromwell. The Cromwell currentyl owned and operated by Caesars Entertainment.

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