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Midwest Native Son Wins $1 Million Video Poker Tournament27 April 2005
Last year executives with Harrah's Entertainment were seeking to expand on the popularity of the highly successful Millionaire Maker Slot Tournament, a nationwide competition that has worked marketing magic for the gaming industry giant for over a decade.
Realizing that video poker players are as passionate about their game as slot players, they created Harrah's Video Poker Millionaire Maker. Qualifying events were held at 23 Harrah's properties around the country in preparation for the March 7 championship in Atlantic City, New Jersey to vie for a chance to win $1 million.
The folks at Harrah's Joliet Casino & Hotel in Illinois are justifiably proud that the winner of the inaugural tournament was one of their regulars, Dennis Zucker, who outscored 197 opponents in the four-hour championship to take home the cool million.
Zucker, a 65-year-old retired business owner who hails from Buffalo Grove, Illinois, a northwest suburb of Chicago, is a regular video poker player.
"My wife, Gloria, and I go to the casinos and play video poker all the time," he said. "My favorite game is dollar Triple-Double Bonus. I've won some big money and I've lost some, too. Harrah's Joliet is probably the nicest casino we attend. The hotel service is good and the staff is terrific. Everybody there has been wonderful."
Zucker has good reason to be happy with the people at Harrah's Joliet. If it wasn't for them, he probably wouldn't even have entered the tournament.
According to Zucker: "Jeff Kashuda, our casino host, called me up one day and said: 'Dennis, there's a video poker tournament coming up. Why don't you and your wife come in?' Gloria and I talked about it together and agreed it sounded good. So we signed up and entered."
Zucker had a poor first round of qualifying but did very well in the second round to finish in the Top Ten and earn the right to be one of the players to represent Harrah's Joliet in the championship.
"Another one of Harrah's Joliet's hosts, Amy Sharp, accompanied us on the trip to Atlantic City," Zucker said. "Amy was wonderful. I have a bit of a handicap and she made certain there was a wheelchair for me along with everything else I needed. It was just fantastic."
Championship play was conducted on Double-Double Bonus machines. Each player's machine was loaded up 1,000 credits. They had a time limit of 15 minutes to play off the credits five at a time for a total of 200 hands. Zucker's first round was a video poker player's dream.
"In the first minute or so I had four aces and a kicker (2,000 credits)," he revealed. "A few minutes later I got four aces and a kicker again. After another few minutes I got four aces and no kicker (800 credits). I wound up with 5,710 points which was tops among all players in the first half."
It's a good thing for Dennis his first round was a monster. He collected only 695 credits the second time around which made him wonder if his two-round total of 6,405 was enough to get him close. So he and his wife retreated to their hotel room to wait for the 7 pm presentation and awards banquet.
"We went downstairs hoping I would be in the top five," Zucker recalled. "Five of us were called on stage. The fellow before me thought he had won with his total of 6,380. When he asked me what I had and I told him, I knew then I was the winner."
Even though the $1 million first prize was obviously Dennis's biggest score, he has had some memorable video poker sessions at Chicago-area casinos:
"There was a time at Argosy's Empress Joliet when I hit a royal flush on the bottom line of a Triple Play machine," He said. "A week later on the same machine I hit it again. A month later just about to the day, same machine, again! What are the odds on that happening?"
Zucker admits he is not a textbook student of the game. He plays according to sound strategy, but refrains from memorizing every nuance of the game. After being crowned the inaugural Harrah's Video Poker Millionaire Maker Champion he has one more goal as a video poker player:
"I wish I could win a jackpot that pays 50,000 coins for a royal flush in sequence," he told me. "I've never done that."
This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at email@example.com.
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John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp