Las Vegas Sun

November 24, 2014

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PATRICE KUNKEL: 1951-2012:

Lifelong Las Vegan turned card counting into security job

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Patrice Kunkel

With her long, flowing brown hair, ice blue eyes and curvy figure clad in hip huggers and a halter top, Patti Kunkel pulled the wool over every casino pit boss’s eyes and became a premier blackjack card counter around town.

“My mother made thousands of dollars counting cards at blackjack tables in the early 1980s, but she spent it as fast as she made it,” said Anthony Maccanello. “She quit when she had teenagers to raise and used what she had learned card counting to work many years in casino surveillance.”

Patrice “Patti” Kay Kunkel, who also was an accomplished skeet shooter, died July 26 after a yearlong battle with cancer. She was 60.

Services were private for the lifelong Las Vegan, who was a daughter of late longtime Las Vegas Sun columnist Paul Price.

“Aunt Patti taught me to love life and never take anything too seriously,” said Christine Price. “She told everyone to always reach for what you want because that’s how she lived her life to the end.”

Maccanello, who is sports director for Don Best Sports in Las Vegas, said his mother never got caught counting cards, probably because her good looks and provocative attire distracted dealers, pit bosses and security.

Kunkel parlayed her ability to spot other card counters into a long career working surveillance at the Flamingo. At the time of her death, she was director of surveillance at Club Fortune in Henderson.

In 1988, Kunkel took up skeet shooting, competing for the Flamingo team in the Corporate Challenge. It launched her into a pastime that took her across the United States, where she won numerous events competing with her Beretta shotgun that she had nicknamed Thumper.

A member of the Nellis Gun Club, Kunkel won the Nevada state women’s skeet shooting championship in 1992, 1993 and 1994 and had aspirations of one day going to the Olympic Games.

Born Aug. 8, 1951, Kunkel, as a child, was baby-sat by aging gangster hitman “Icepick Willie” Alderman. Kunkel’s father and Alderman had worked for mobster Bugsy Siegel at the Flamingo in the mid-1940s.

Kunkel, a 1968 graduate of Bishop Gorman High School, was an animal rights advocate and a vegetarian.

In addition to her son, Kunkel is survived by her husband, Steve Kunkel; three other sons, Danny Maccanello, Adam Kunkel and Kyle Kunkel; two daughters-in-law, Natalie Maccanello and Gabe Kunkel; a sister, Pamela Price; and three grandchildren.

The family said donations can be made in Kunkel’s name to PETA.

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