Belterra winner

Belterra Casino player Riffe hits it big

Trimble County resident Riffe
says she can use the money

By Ruth Wright
Staff Writer

BEDFORD, Ky. (June 2003) – Linda Riffe of Bedford, Ky., wasn’t feeling very lucky. She lost money on an early spring trip to Tunica, Miss., and was losing at Blackjack when she went to Belterra Casino on the evening of April 11. Riffe was ready to call it quits for the night, but since her husband was still playing, she decided to kill some time at a Pai Gow Poker table.
Although conscious of the $200,000-plus jackpot displayed electronically at the table, Riffe had no hope of taking any of it home. “I’d just said to the dealer ‘You see that jackpot. I have no aspirations of winning that,’” she recalled.
Riffe, 44, had no idea that in a matter of minutes her luck would change. It was after 11 p.m., and Riffe had been playing for less than half of an hour when she drew first a pair of sevens and then a royal flush. Because she was tired, it took a few seconds for reality to set in, but soon she was telling the dealer “I’ve got it!” In Riffe’s hands was a combination of cards that represented $201,900 worth of winnings.

Linda Riffe

Linda Riffe

According to Belterra management, the progressive jackpot at the table had been building for nearly a year when Riffe hit her winning hands. Pai Gow Poker, played with 52 cards and one joker, combines the elements of the ancient Chinese game of Pai Gow with American poker. The joker can be used only as an ace, or to complete a straight, a flush, or a straight flush. Each player is dealt seven cards, which he arranges into two hands, a two-card hand and a five-card hand. Hand rankings are based on basic poker rankings. The highest two-card hand would be two aces and the highest five-card hand would be a royal flush.
After Riffe’s win was verified, she graciously gave the three other players at the table $1,000 each. Riffe said that casino management was courteous about everything.
Riffe enjoys riverboat gambling from time to time but said the most she had ever won before was $2,000 playing craps at Belterra. “But that was just dumb luck,” she said. Call it luck or call it chance, Riffe definitely beat the odds that evening. Casino officials said that the odds against Riffe drawing the winning combination of cards were estimated at 700,000 to 1.
“I think bad luck and good luck kind of goes in spurts,” said Riffe, who works as a senior business analyst for AdminaStar in Louisville. She and her husband, Mike, lost their home to a flood in 1982. Riffe used a portion of her winnings to replace money taken from her husband’s retirement account when the couple had to replace their home that year. She also used some of the money to put a down payment on a house for her daughter and son-in-law, who along with their four children had been living with the Riffe’s for nearly two years since losing their home to a violent storm.
As for herself, Riffe only bought one item: a topaz ring to match the necklace she received from her husband for her birthday. The rest of her winnings, after more than 40 percent was taken for local gaming, state and federal taxes, went to pay off a few bills and into CDs, she said.
Riffe bought cards at Belterra’s gift shop (she wasn’t allowed to keep her actual winning hand) and had a reproduction of her winning hand mounted and framed as a memento. She said she plans to continue to play at Belterra, which may be her lucky place. Just one week after winning the grand prize, Riffe drew nearly the same hand at the same Pai Gow poker table, winning $1,000.

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