Winning the Jackpot
I Won $8.5 Million at a Slot Machine in Atlantic City and I Owe It All to My Cigar
From the Print Edition:
George Burns, Winter 94/95
Published Winter 1994
Winning the Jackpot
by Frank Oliveto, M.D.
Every minute of the weekend counted down to that one magic pull of the lever, that one great moment when the $8.5 million megabucks jackpot would be won. The biggest slot-machine jackpot ever in Atlantic City. Everything we did up to that moment was a factor in putting me in the right place at the right time--not the least of which was savoring my "lucky cigar."
It all started when my wife Margaret called Bally's Casino Resort in Atlantic City to reserve a room for Saturday and Sunday, August 13 and 14. They were booked solid. She called another resort, and they had a room, but we had to check in on Friday, August 12. Instead of heading to Atlantic City on Saturday as originally planned, we left our Belle Terra, New York, home on Friday and drove to New Jersey.
We woke up in our hotel room on Saturday at 7 a.m. and started our day--as we have for about five years--with a six-mile walk. We hit the ocean boardwalk with an ultimate destination in mind: Bally's Grand. We walked for about an hour and 45 minutes and eventually got to the Grand, where we waited on line for breakfast for about 30 minutes. It was worth the wait; the few times each year that we visit Atlantic City, the Grand is our favorite place for breakfast and our favorite casino.
I finished my bagel and lox about 11 a.m. and we went down to the casino, the one we had initially planned to get to much later that day.
I always play blackjack and craps, rarely the slots. When I got to the blackjack table, I did what I always do: I lit up a Bering Imperial. I started smoking Bering Imperial about seven years ago. It's a mild, reasonably priced cigar and it has one feature that is very important to me: all Bering Imperials come in individual metal tubes. I'm an orthopedic surgeon and spend a lot of time on the run from home to the office or hospital. With the Imperials, I can smoke on my way, then stash the cigar away in the tube when I arrive.
So there I was at the blackjack table ready to smoke my cigar. That's when the dealer pointed out that it was a nonsmoking table. Who could tell with all the signs they have on the tables now? No Mid-Shoes Entry. We play surrender. We play double exposure. I didn't notice the No Smoking sign. I moved to another table. Same thing. No smoking. I started to go to a third table, but that's when I changed my mind. "I'm going to enjoy my cigar in peace at the slot machines," I said to Margaret.
With $100 in one-dollar coins, I found a slot machine and started feeding it, three coins at a time. Twenty minutes later, I had spent about $80 and smoked my cigar uninterrupted. It was about 11:45 a.m. when I heard the bells ringing, lifted my head and saw the megabucks golden eagles--four of them on the third payout line. At first I thought it was just a display panel; I didn't realize this was it. I looked at the guy next to me. I asked, "What do you think I won?" He looked at the slots and said, "you won the whole thing." I offered him $1,000 to go find my wife.
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