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CLEVELAND - As card games go, you could say blackjack is as social as poker is not. Players compete against the house not against each other.
For Dave Lewis, of Olmsted Falls, that changed on a cold Saturday morning in January as he joined a crowd of more than 300 invited guests at the Horseshoe Casino Cleveland to take part in a $100,000 winner-take-all tournament.
"When you're in the casino playing normally you kind of like the other players winning, it's nice and everything, but here you're playing against them," Lewis said.
Luck was on Lewis's side that day. He won his table to advance in the first round by $50. He needed a blackjack to get out of the third round and into the finals. He got it.
But he knew he might not get even a dime to show for all his efforts.
"I was telling my wife after I made it to the finals and I'm like holy cow. I could get to the finals here and still end up with nothing just like if I would have got knocked out in the first round," Lewis said.
That would not be a concern for the retired school administrator who knew with two hands to go, nearly eight hours into the tournament, he had it nearly locked up.
"I was thinking how I was going to screw it up," Lewis said.
He tried to let his wife, who was watching deep in the crowd know that the pay day was about to be theirs, but she was too far back.
"She realized I won once everybody started shaking my hand and it was crazy at the end."
So what's it like to win $100,000? He doesn't know. Though it was a winner-take-all tournament, the five finalists realized that wasn't fair and made a pact.
"The guys and I, we stepped aside and we chopped it up a little bit. We took the first 50 (thousand) and said the winner gets the 50 and the other 50 we each take 10 out of it. So I ended up getting about 60 grand out of it," he said.
Again, blackjack is a social game and Lewis said it lightened the load going into the finals.
"Everyone kind of relaxed so then once someone won it, luckily it was me, it wasn't like ‘Oh, you know, you took all the money.' It was like congratulations, but they knew they had $10,000 waiting for them so that was kind of nice," Lewis said.
As for the money?
"My wife's done a nice job spending a little bit of it," he joked. They were able to do a little more on a pre-planned tripped to Aruba and they sent their son at college a few extra bucks.
Of course, all of this was after setting aside a large chunk for Uncle Sam. Primarily, the money provides a cushion.
"It's just nice to know that… maybe some of the things you put on the back burner you can afford to do now."
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