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By Sam Vaughn


Sammy Vaughn is a long-time successful tournament player who finished first and won a million dollars in the Las Vegas Hilton Million Dollar Blackjack Tournament. In his column, Sammy reminisces about some of the interesting characters that he had the pleasure to meet during the early days of tournaments.


It has been said, "Young men reminisce about things that will probably never happen and old men reminisce about things that probably never did happen."

With this in mind please forgive an old man. I promise that 99% of the things I put forth will at least be 50% true. I hope readers will take it well and not call me a liar. (Silly old man OK, but not a prevaricator.)

This story happened 12 years ago at a blackjack tournament in the Riviera. As I approached my table, I saw a familiar face to the left of my assigned seat. We had nodded at each other over the years but we never spoke. He was (and is) in a different strata of the gambling world than I. Without looking directly at him, I sat down and stared at the felt.

After a while, I innocently and softly asked him, "any luck lately?" Finally, I got to hear the great man talk, and talk, and talk – at least five minutes of ebullience. I guess I should mention that he was our new benefactor, Russ Hamilton (UBT). He had just won the World Series of Poker at Binion’s and got a cool million bucks plus his weight in silver.

I’ve heard many tales about the silver weighing. I wish Russ would tell us the whole story. He wasn’t the suave debonair Russ Hamilton of today. Back then he had to lose over 150 pounds to let me take a run at being the fattest player. By the way, if you hear Mr.H. offering a really outrageous proposition bet, take a big piece of it. Trust me; he is very naive and easily parted from his money.

Years before I met Russ, there was a young man that began showing up at tournaments. He had long scraggly haired and unkempt, and he seemed more suited at running the crap game behind the old Leroy’s bookie joint than playing in tournaments. The only reason he stood out at all was because he waited until all the players took their seats and the tournament host called for him on the loudspeaker several times before he made his grand entrance and took a seat.

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