So this past weekend I experienced the greatest moment I have ever felt in a casino. And it didn’t happen in Vegas. It happened in Tunica. First, the background …. I was supposed to be in Vegas this past week for a quickie 48 hours trip. Had a comped suite set up at Palazzo and was really looking forward to it. Thanks to my gambling comeback in October, I was looking to end the year in the black with my gambling an wanted one final, relaxing trip before the holidays arrive. But life intervened. More specifically, airplane troubles intervened. I got on my Southwest flight Wednesday morning. After a while of sitting there, I checked the time on my phone and realized we should have already been in the air. We hadn’t moved an inch. Finally, an attendant announces that there is a problem with the plane, that it will likely take six hours to fix, and everybody needs to get off while they figure out what to do. So after disembarking, Southwest announces that they have another plane to put us on and it will be ready in three hours. But it’s a smaller plane, so they need nine volunteers to take a later flight and get a voucher for additional flight credits. I decide to volunteer. Why not? It was only a 48 hour trip. So I volunteer, get the voucher, and cancel my flight (giving me some more air credit). I am disappointed, but its not the end of the world. Between my flight refund and the credit, I actually have almost enough to pay for two flights to vegas! Sweet. So I head home, talk my gf into comgin out there with me for an additional January trip, and rebook a flight. But wait, there’s more…. The gf reminds me that my new Tunica host had been trying to convince me to come to Tunica GoldStrike this weekend. They are having a big, cash money BJ tournament, which should bring in a lot of BJ action. The gf wants to get away for the weekend, so I call my host and she sets us up for the weekend. So Friday morning, off we go to Tunica. This trip had a lot of the usual. I gambled. Won about $11k, but didn’t really gamble that much because I wanted to make sure I locked in a win for the year. We ate some decent food, drank some drinks, and had a generally good time. But you’ve read about all those exploits before. The reason I am writing this TR is because of what happened with regard to the promos and events in Tunica this weekend and the most incredible run of good luck a gambler can imagine. I will recap it chronologically. When planning the trip Wednesday, I also checked what promos I had received from Horseshoe. I registered for a couple high limit slot pulls and had a couple free bets. So Friday evening at 7, the gf and I walked over to Horseshoe to redeem the first slot pull. I had never done one of these promos. It was interesting how it worked. Basically, I got twenty pulls on a $25 slot machine. I got to win whatever I kept and if what I won was less than $500, Horseshoe would make up the difference with more free play that could be used on any machine. The line was ridiculously long. We waited almost an hour to get registered and then get our turn at one of the machines. But it was still a lot of fun. I won $375 from my twenty pulls and they gave me free play couchers for another $125. Since I had also registered for another pull on Saturday, I pocketed the vouchers and headed back toward GoldStike. But on the way back, I played a $425 table play coupon and won! Great way to start the evening. Back at GoldStrike, we made it upstairs to the last hour of the reception for the BJ tournament. I got my comped registration into the tournament and grabbed some snacks and a drink. My first round table would start at 10 Saturday morning. There was another tournament Friday night, where each player went one on one against the dealer and first place won a pound of gold. But my entry to that tourney wasn’t comped, so no way I was interested. Besides, what am I going to do with a pound of gold?? I would likely either eat it so I could tell my friends that I crap gold or I would get ripped off at a cash for gold store, trading my gold for a multi-layer burrito. https://youtu.be/XS5iSZ6A4es. So Saturday morning, before the BJ tourney, I play some high limit BJ, including using my $2k in GoldStrike free chips. The table is ice cold. I didn’t win a single bet with my free chips, but hey, at least I didn’t lose real money on those wagers. After an hour, I get back to even and head over to my tourney table. Here’s how the tourney worked: six players at a table. Shoe game. Only the top player at each table advances. Each player gets $25k in tourney chips and there are 25 hands. The minimum bet is $500 and the max is $5k. After the 20th hand, they pause and count out everyone’s chips, so all the players know where they stand. The tourney was limited to only 108 players and unlike the usual Tunica tourneys, the prizes in this tournament were cash, not the usual free play. Everyone at the final table would be playing for a share of $150k! Later, I found out that I only got a seat in the tournament because my host counted on my degeneracy shining through and she had already been holding my seat for a month before I asked her to get me in it, lol. So yes, my host rocks! My experiences at BJ tourneys are poor. In fact, I have never advanced. Twice I have lead my table going into the final hand, only to lose. And once I got a wildcard advance to the semi-finals of a tourney, only to absolutely blow it on the final hand (I should have advanced, but I screwed up terribly and have never forgotten it). It seems like every time I play in one of these, some idiot who barely plays BJ advances. And this table was no different. The one guy at the table who has no idea how to play BJ wins and advances to the semi finals. Typical. But there is a bit of good news. Apparently, the first round of the tourney is double elimination. Makes sense. The casino doesn’t want players like me losing early and then leaving the casino. So I am told to come back at 1pm and play again for a chance to reach the semis. I come back at 1 and this table goes much better. I employ my tournament strategy and kick ass! I truly dominated the table. Every wild split or double down worked out. By the time we did the count after the 20th hand, it was only me and one other guy and he was way behind (although he was a good player too; he actually employed a betting strategy and he was the only other player I had seen at either of my first round tables that clearly had a strategy; it just didn’t work out for him). He was busted after the 22nd hand and I advance to the semis at 5pm! Yes!!!! It felt great just to finally advance in one of these things. After that, my gf and I go back to Horseshoe for our second slot pull. Same rules as last night, only this time I win $875 on my twenty pulls! Outstanding. After that, we sit down at a VP machine and play my free play vouchers from last evening. When its all said and done, I walked away with $1500 from those two slot pulls. We go back to GS, but before the tourney continues, the gf and I both register for the Saturday free play giveaway they are doing this weekend. For those unfamiliar with GS, they do these giveaways pretty frequently, usually with a grand prize car or such during the last drawing of the month. Basically, you swipe your mlife card at a designated kiosk and you automatically gain entries into the multiple drawings that evening. The number of entries is based on the amount of your slot play, which is not much for me. So we have never won one of these promotions, but its always fun. We swipe our cards. I have 314 entries into the five different drawings Saturday night. 5pm arrives and I head to my semis table. I am at tale 6, seat 3. They do two wildcard drawings to fill the final two spots in the semis. One of the spots is at my table. And it’s the guy I just beat at 1pm! I am already thinking this does not bode well. I think my table is filled with better players than I saw that morning, but it turns out I am wrong. Anyone who plays in these tourneys knows there is a strategy to the betting. And like poker, who goes first each hand rotates around the table. I always wait for my turn to bet so I can see what others do first. But at every table so far this day, most of the players just immediately shove their bets out there. Thanks for the free info! Same thing happens at this table, except for me, the guy form the first round table in seat 5, and an Asian lady in seat 1 who seems to know what she is doing. I employ my usual strategy and its going pretty average. I am hanging in there in the middle of the pack. The lady in seat 1 plays kind of wild and twice she almost busts out, but she keeps hitting ridiculous splits and doubles when she has max bets out there. Still I outlast some of the others. Seat 5 who had me worried ended up busting on hand 19. After the 20th hand we get the count. Asian lady in seat 1 is in first and 12k ahead of me. Seat 6 is 6k ahead of me. Other two seats are too far back and I am not worried about them. Seat 1 focusses in on seat 6. I don’t think she is even thinking about me. I start betting big and on hand 23, I bet the max, split tens, and win twice. But seat 1 and 6 are still betting large also and hanging in there. I lost hand 24. Final hand. Seat two goes first. He only has 1k left so he is out of it. I look at the chips in front of seats 1 and 6. I think I am screwed. I am $7500 behind seat 1 and $3k behind seat 6. I know my only chance is to go all in, double, and hope the other two lose. So I max bet at $5k. And then the god of good fortune (I call him Gamblor!) looks down and helps me out. Seat four doesn’t have enough chips and is out of it. Seat 6 bets a $3k. What??? I guess he is counting on winning and hoping seat 1 loses, but the bet makes no sense to me. He never even looked at what I bet. Seat 1 acts last and never even glances at my bet. She stares down seat 6 and only bets $500. Here comes the deal. I get a sixteen. Doesn’t even matter what the dealer has, because I know I have to double to have any chance. I throw my head back and roll my eyes. Well, it was fun while it lasted. Seat two stands. Dealer looks at me. I reluctantly double down on my 16 and get …… a five!!!! HOLY SHIT. I can’t believe it. I throw my hands in the air and keep quiet, not wanting to offend. Seat 6 hits and busts. Guess it didn’t matter what he did at that point. There was no way he could win, even with a double down. But seat 1 finally realizes what has happened. She has a 14 and doubles down on her $500 bet. She gets a seven! Wow! I think its over, but then remember the dealer could still draw to 21 and I lose on a push. Oh hell no!!!. Dealer draw to a four card 18. Whew. I let out a YES!, tell the woman in seat 1 she played great and that I just got lucky, and the supervisor hands me my card to the final table at 7. I walk back to the lobby for the free play giveaway right when my gf is walking across the lobby from the elevators. I hold up my ticket to the final table as I walk toward her and her jaw almost hits the floor. We run upstairs to grab my mailer that listed the payouts for the final table. At worst, I will win $7500. And I also quickly realize that the smart play would be to chop at the final table. But that’s not until 7. For now, we go back down to the lobby for the 6pm freeplay giveaway. The way it works is that they call out 10 names. If they call your name, you get to pick one of 18 spots on an electronic board with images of MGM properties and logos and whatever freeplay amount is behind the spot, you win. Seventh name called was mine! Cannot believe my luck this weekend. So the gf and I walk up to the board. This is the first time either of us have ever had our names called for this kind of giveaway, so the fun of it makes it pretty exciting. The freeplay available on the board is $200 at a minimum and one spot with $1500. I am liking the Aria spot because, well, I like Aria. Then I ask my gf which spot she likes and she says go with MGM Grand since that’s where our next trip is in January. We agree to go with MGM unless someone else picks it first and then we will go with Aria. MGM is available when it gets to my turn and I win …. $200! It’s the minimum, but hey, is still free and I am happy. The guy in the 10th spot picks Aria and wins ….. $1500. Noooooo! Should have gone with my first instinct, lol. About 10 minutes til seven I go to the final table. I am in seat 2. Seats 1 and 3 are already sitting there and discussing a chop. I tell them I agree. If we do an even chop, everybody wins $25k, which is better than all but first and third place. Plus, I would love I nice little $25k hit to end the year. Seats 5 and 6 show up and also agree to a chop, but seat 4 arrives and refuses to chop. Then someone tosses out the idea of each of us taking $20k and we play it out where first place gets the final $30k. At first I am agreeable to that as well, but then the casino manager reminds us that whoever comes in first would still have to pay taxes on the whole amount of the first place prize, even if first place gets less than the grand prize amount as a result of a chop. Suddenly, I am not liking the sound of a chop because I realize taxes would wipe out most of the additional $30k first place would get, so what exactly are we playing for. Doesn’t matter, though, because seat 4 still won’t agree to any chop m(I late find out he was a retired NFL player; I suspect his competitiveness got the best of him, which was dumb because he was by far the worst player at the table). But hey, I keep quiet and let seat 4 be the bad guy. Play begins …. I lose my first couple hands betting $2k a hand. About half the players are still making the mistake of betting out of order. But seat 1 always waits his turn, just like me. I quickly identify him as a pretty good player. He knows what he is doing. But seat 5 takes an early lead betting big and winning everything. I recognize seat 5. He’s not a BJ player. I have seen him every time I have gone to Tunica for years. He is a craps player. So even though he has a big lead, I am hoping he will make mistakes. The count on the shoe gets very bad, so I lower my bet to $500 or $1000. Still doesn’t go well. Twice I get dealt blackjacks against a dealer four. Both times I double down and lose. Still, most of the players kept their bets relatively high as I bet small and the dealer is beating everyone. So I stay in the middle of the pack. After 12 hands, the shoe ends. At this point, I notice that there are probably a dozen or so supporters and other BJ players gathered around watching. There are probably another 10 floor supervisors and casino marketing people huddling around the table as well. I notice my gf and host standing together off to the side. I look at them and say “halfway” as I shrug my shoulders. Too soon to know if its going well or not. Second shoe begins ….. The count on the second shoe goes high very quickly and stays there for five hands. So I start betting the $5k max. Most of the rest of the table starts betting small. They have more than me and, obviously, the smart players are hoping I lose and go out early. Doesn’t happen. I start winning and catching up. Hand 16 is interesting. Seat 1 is down to $20k and very much still in it. But seat 5 is still ahead and I have won max bets the past two hands, including one double down, so he is feeling the pressure. He bets the $5k max, gets sevens, splits them and doubles down on each split. In other words, he’s going all in. And it works. $40k! Arghhh! Starting to think its not my day. Seat 3 is fading and would be the first eliminated. Seat 4 is lurking, but clearly has no idea what he is doing. Seat 6 is a good player, but he pressed his bets as the shoe count started going down and he hits a cold streak. By the time we get to hand 20, the shoe count is plus 1. I am dealt two tens on a $3k wager and the dealer has an 8. I know I am behind seats 1 and 5 and I am in striking distance, but will have to make a move or get lucky at some point. So I agonize, but decide not to split my tens. Of course, the next two hits are tens. Arghh! Now comes the count. Seat 5 is $11k ahead of me and seat 1 is $2k ahead of me. I know I need to make my move. Big cards on hand 20 sent the shoe count slightly negative. But I am really only focused on two players, seats 5 and 1. Seat 5 bets small, so I try to bet large. Bet table max on the next two hands. Hands 21 and 22, bunch of little cards come out and the dealer beats or ties everyone. Crap. Lost $10k on those two hands. But seat 1 bet big also and is right there with me. Seat 5 lost both those hands too, but he only lost $3k. At that point, I stupidly assumed I had almost no chance at beating seat 5, so I focused on beating seat 1. The difference between second and third place is significant, so I want second! Still, the little cards send the count positive again. So hand 23 I bet the table max. I get tens again. This time, against a dealer 7. I split and win both! Yes!!! Just got back my losses. I am ahead of seat 1 at this point. I had given up on seat 5 and did not notice that he lost another $3k on that hand. New shoe for the final two hands ….. I bet $3k on the first hand and win. Seat 5 bet small. Seat 1 matched me. I won, they both lost. So final hand! I realize I am up $3k on seat 1. I don’t even look at seat 5. Seat 1 acts before me and only bets $500. What??? Seemed like a real dumb move, because you can’t count on double downs or splits. I guess he was hoping seat five would go in big and lose and he could somehow catch up. So I bet $2k, thinking even if I lost and seat 1 wins, I still beat him and get 2nd place. Don’t recall what seat 5 bet. We get the cards. Seat 1 wins. I win. Seat 5 pushes. I look up, lean back in my chair, and raise two fingers for my gf and host to see. Second place! I am pretty excited about that! The dealer and multiple floor people immediately lean in and start cutting out everyone’s chips for the final count. Now, tourney chips suck. They are thinner than the standard chips and faded. So its not easy (at least for me) to judge the size of a stack just by looking at it. I only knew precisely what seat 1 had because most of his chips were $5k chips. The floor cuts out my chips. I have four $5k chips, he counts out four stacks of five $1k chips and put them in a line. Then next to that line are two more stacks of $1k chips. So I am looking at my cut out stack: the four $5k chips and six stacks of orange $1k chips. Sweet. $50k. Know I beat seat 1. I look across the table at seat 5. They are still cutting out his chips, but I quickly realize he does not have $50k!! He is in the high forties! I turn my head, mouth agape, and look at the gf and host and say “first place”! The casino manager and other players are all congratulating me. But its not over. The dealer says we have a tie. I have $48k, not $50k. What?!?!?!? For reasons I will never understand, the floor who cut out my chips, cut my final $1k chips into two stacks of four, rather than stacks of five like the other orange stacks. I can’t believe it. There is a lot of mumbling about what happens next. Do we split first and second (hell no, not what I want at this point). But the casino manager immediately steps in and says there is a tiebreaker and here’s how it works. Me and seat 5 are each given a slip of paper. We each secretly write down our wagers. Manager says we will play one hand and when it is resolved, we reveal our bets. If we are still tied after that, we do the same process again until someone is ahead. I quickly try to analyze the situation. The count was slightly negative, but we were only two hands in (I wasn’t using a true count). So I am not sure that will matter. I try to watch seat 5 write and guess whether he wrote three or four digits on his wager. No idea. Ultimately, I decide to bet $500, the minimum. The count is negative and seat 5 never made a $500 wager at the table. His minimum bet was always $1000. So I think with a $500 bet, there are the most good outcomes (my win and his loss, both of us lose, both of us push). But that’s all based on the assumption that seat 5 bets bigger than me. The cards are dealt. I get 17. Seat 5 is dealt 14. Dealer shows a 10. Seat 5 hits and busts. I stand. Come on dealer bust!! Dealer busts and I win! Dealer turns …… a 10. Arghhhhh! We reveal our bets. I reveal that I lost $500. Seat 5 turns his paper over. He bet $1000. YESSSSSSSSSS! I win!!!!! I cannot believe it. My gf and host rush over to me. I shake hands with everyone in sight and pump my fists!! I am whisked away to the cage where they hand me $75k in cash!!! That’s it! That’s the moment! I will never have a better experience in a casino. I keep thinking back to the semis. I am only there because I doubled on a 16 and won!!! Then, strangely, I thought back to 2008. I had been going to vegas since 2003 and started gambling in earnest in early 2005. And I remembered one scalding hot Vegas day in 2008, as I stood on one of the monorail platforms by myself and was miserable. I had lost my bankroll …. Again. I still liked gambling, casinos, and especially everything Vegas had to offer, but I had been punched in the gut for a few trips in a row gambling. And that just wasn’t fun. And I remember standing on that hot platform in 2008 thinking “Vegas has beaten me” (I know, weird thing to think, but that’s how I felt at the time). Then and there I decided I would not let that happen. I decided I wanted to learn more about gambling, learn how to minimize the house edge, learn how to take advantage of all the comps and everything else Vegas and casinos had to offer (I found VMB about two years later). And it was standing there on that platform, miserable, that transformed my gambling and Vegas experiences. I learned. And got better. 2009, I lost less. 2010, I actually finished the year a few grand ahead. I was then comfortable trying to bet larger and starting in the summer of 2011, I began a hot streak of gambling that last a couple years and grew my bankroll to the point where I was fortunate enough to experience Vegas in very different ways than those early years. In the past four years, I have had the great thrill and pleasure of winning six figures (losing it too), sitting front row for comedic performances I loved, being able to take my friends and family on incredible vacations they never would have experienced otherwise, meeting athletes I admired my whole life, eating incredible food, seeing unbelievable natural and artistic wonders, partying all night, gambled at high levels, and having the time of my life. I have been fortunate enough to experience almost half a decade of that kind of fun. But none of that compared to how I felt last night. Winning that tournament was the apex for me, I think because it was so unexpected. I have won more before, had incredible luck on certain bets, but never the combination of both that I felt over the course of an entire day. Word spread through the casino. For the rest of Saturday night, everyone was coming up to me and congratulating me. At least half a dozen people at the steakhouse where we had dinner wanted to come over and hear the story of what happened at the final table. Whenever I walked in the VIP lounge that evening, the supervisor would shout “the champ is here!” in his best Ali impression. Yesterday was the pinnacle for me. And I hope you enjoyed reading about it. Coda: I won $400 more dollars in freeplay at the 10pm drawing!! The marketing rep laughed with me and said I should never come back. There’s no way I will ever top the luck of this weekend. And he’s certainly right.