From Poker to Slots – The Infatuation with Jackpots

By Chad Holloway
August 30, 2017

Last week, 53-year-old Mavis Wanczyk of Chicopee, Massachusetts won $758.7 million for matching five out of five numbers, plus the Powerball, in what was the second-biggest lottery prize ever awarded. Well, actually she took a lump payment of $480 million, meaning after taxes she’ll deposit $336 million in her bank account.

powerball winner

I’ll admit that I bought into the hype and purchased $10 worth of tickets. That day, I allowed myself to ponder what I’d do with hundreds of millions of dollars, which primarily involved traveling the world playing in every major poker tournament I could. $1,000,000 Big One for One Drop here I come.

It would’ve been nice, but alas I couldn’t even match the Powerball to get $4 back. Still, ever since then I can’t get jackpots off my mind, or rather how nice it’d be to have a sudden influx of cash all due to luck.

In poker, that usually entails winning a Bad Beat Jackpot (BBJ). Both of my local casinos offer one, and wouldn’t you know it, both have hit within the last week. One of them was for over $300,000 and the other was for $80,000. In the latter, the BBJ hit at Ho-Chunk Gaming Wisconsin Dells when a friend of mine, Miro Semanisin, had his aces full of tens beaten by the quad tens of Judd Butterman.

Semanisin received $34,649.30, Butterman $17,324.65, and 40 other players got a $866.23 room share. Despite playing there regularly, I wasn’t in action that day. Again, it would’ve been nice.

To be honest, I’ve given up on the BBJ dream. I’ve been playing in casinos and cardrooms for 16 years, and I’ve never been a part of a BBJ, not even a room share. The closest I’ve ever come was playing a pot-limit Omaha game when a BBJ hit. Unfortunately, that wasn’t an eligible game.

Another time, I beat quad kings with my straight flush using both my hole cards. It would’ve triggered a BBJ had it been a cash game, but instead it occurred in a tournament. Just my luck.

READ: When the High Hand Jackpot turns into a Bad Beat

Speaking of luck, another buddy of mine, poker player Kyle Cartwright, has recently hit three video poker royal flushes in just over two months, each for $100,000. For those who don’t know, the odds of hitting such a hand are 40,390 to 1. Interestingly, all three of his royal flushes have been in hearts.

I already know such jackpots are not in my future due to one simple fact: I’d never wager enough to hit it so big. According to Cartwright, he invested $7,000, $9,000, and $3,000 before each of his $100K wins (all of which were on $25 video poker machines).

Rarely do I put more than $20 into a slot machine, though on occasion, usually after one too many drinks, I’ve stuck in a few Benjamins. While I sit at a video poker machine every now and then, I’m more prone to play a machine such as Betty White’s Story Time… yeah, you read that right.

Betty White slots

I’m also a sucker for Village People Party, as well as licensed slots like Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, and House of Cards. I’ve also been known to go the virtual route and seek out the best paying online slots.

Someday I’d love to hit a jackpot, but chances are it’s not in the cards given I don’t ever spend more than $10 on lottery tickets (they say the odds are better that you’ll be struck by lightning), and moving up limits playing slots simply doesn’t interest me. And you know what? I’m fine with that, as chasing jackpots can be dangerous. If you don’t believe me, just remember what Sarah Jessica Parker once said…

“People go to casinos for the same reason they go on blind dates – hoping to hit the jackpot. But mostly, you just wind up broke or alone in a bar.”

Holloway’s Lucky Numbers: 11-13-26-34-42

What’s the biggest amount of money you’ve ever won? Let me know on Twitter @ChadAHolloway



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Chad Holloway poker author
Written By.

Chad Holloway

Chad Holloway began working in the poker industry as an intern for BLUFF at the 2009 World Series of Poker. The following year, he worked the WSOP for PokerNews, and in October 2010 joined them full-time as a senior writer. In addition to writing daily articles, participating in the PokerNews Podcast and being a part […]


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