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Special People and Exotic Places

By Sammy Vaughn


Sammy Vaughn is a long-time successful tournament player, who finished first and won a million dollars in a Las Vegas Hilton Million Dollar Blackjack Tournament. In his column, Sammy writes about anything he damn well wants to write about.


Note: This month, Sammy writes about some of the friends he made while playing in numerous tournaments during his blackjack tournament career.

I wish I could brag about my birthplace, but East Chicago, Indiana happens to be just to the left of Kevin McCarthyís hometown. Kevin was birthed in the Garden of Eden. You might know where that is Ė Gary, Indiana (no kidding). Kev is so proud of the friendly and extremely sophisticated neighborhoods of his childhood that he loves to go back to the "hood."

DM Tupaz, who is an inductee into the International Gaming Promotions Hall of Fame in 1992, returns to the Philippines to visit relatives, but Iím not sure that includes the mountains and jungles he was forced to hide in when the Japanese raped his village. He assures me the streets of Manila are safe enough, but perhaps not for a white man. I have known this fine gentleman for many, many years but I still have great difficulty understanding anything he says (and he speaks very slowly). In fact, DM does everything in slow motion.

We have a real Indian in our group, not a Casino Indian, but a real Indian. Surrender Yepuri just goes on and on about the wondrous back streets and by ways of his beloved Calcutta. I just canít believe he gave all that up for a mansion in Virginia and winning tournaments.

Now let me turn my attention to three really old timers and the exotic locales where they hang out when there are not in Sin City.

Milton Rolle played in the very first blackjack tournament that was played at the Sahara Casino in 1978. He never mentioned how he finished so he must not have fared very well. All these years everyone thought he was a millionaire from Minot, North Dakota, which is such an inspiring and debonair city. Milt, and his lovely bride Bonnie, feel that they must "suffer" through two months on Maui (thatís in Hawaii if you didnít know), and many trips to Arizona every winter, just to atone for taking advantage of the beautiful environment in North Dakota.

Ten years ago Ms.Vicky and I stopped in Minot to look up the richest man in ND. While registering at an RV park on the west side of this megalopolis, I asked a lady where I could find my friend Milt. She gave me a blank look and called a friend, who didnít know him either (some rich and powerful man). I asked again, "You donít know Milt or Bonnie?" This time she lit up and proudly informed me that Bonnie was winning the state golf tournament at the country club, as she does every year. Milt developed and owned the tallest most modern office building in town, although not as tall as a grain elevator, it is still very impressive. He recently sold this property and modestly proclaimed, "dis bidnes ben berrygootome".

Yes, it turns out that Bonnie is the famous one in Minot. When you see Bonnie you wonít believe she is in the over-50 age group in golf. Not 50 yrs old, I mean over 50 years being married to Milt. They met at Minot State College and married after graduation. They stayed in Minot and helped build it into what it is today. Because of their prodigious efforts, it is the envy of most of South Dakota and parts of Montana. It is hard to put in words the desirability of this town. Although the winters are fairly cold, the two weeks of summer are very nice.

Minot has a river that flows down from Canada; it then looks around, and goes right back to Monty land. Milt is a very modest guy and tells me he wears the baseball cap he got from playing in the Hilton million, and when local folks ask about it, he brags that the winner of the million visited right here in Minot. Big doins!

Milt also played in the first tournament that I competed in. It was a dice tournament at the long gone "Landmark" casino in Vegas, circa 1983.

Another old-timer, who played in that craps tournament, was Gilbert Bigby. He may have also been a pioneer in 1978. Bert lives in the center of the known universe, Talhaquah, Oklahoma. Surrounded by Indians, he did what any advantage player would do and declared himself part Cherokee. He is a big ole country looking boy, but looks are deceiving.

Gil owns many businesses in and around that part of Oklahoma. He once

ran the weekly newspaper (those folks like to be well informed, you know) but I believe he closed it down, probably before of some investigation (or other). Bert doesnít tell jokes, but he cracks me up many times.

Several years ago he called me and said I had to meet him at the Frontier next weekend. It seems his high school sweetheart had contacted him and was coming to Vegas to see him. They had already discovered that they had at least two things in common. It seems they both love shooting craps and also making love (and not always in that order). I didnít run into them that trip, so he called me after he returned to Oklahoma. He was very happy over the way things went and he found that there were still some deep feelings left for her. Now comes the kicker (keep in mind he hasnít seen her in over 50, thatís fifty years), Gil says to me, "Sam, the only trouble was she isnít nearly as cute as she used to be."

Iím thinking about Bert now because he called me last month after an absence of about two years. I was worried about him and had lost his phone number so I was glad when he called me. When I immediately asked, "Where the hell you been?" he quietly said, "I was in a deep depression, but Iím doing better now."

As I was trying to contemplate how serious this was, he interrupted my thoughts with this gem. "Sam, donít ever do it Ďcause itís not that much fun." Probably good advice for the rest of you, especially when you lose on a bad beat.

Three years ago I picked Bigby up at the Frontier (he always went 1st class) for a trip to the Pioneer in Laughlin, NV. I asked him what he got for being part Indian and he said "only free prescriptions." He's not cheap, but is known to squeeze a nickel.

I started to ask if both he and the Doctors, and also the drug stores, were taking advantage of the "free" part, when I noticed he was sound asleep. Suddenly, he could not stay awake. I mean one or two minutes at most and he dozed off again. Standing, sitting, talking, even trying to play the tournament was impossible. Luck was with us because John and Darlene Merrick, both frequent winners, were heading to Vegas and drove him to the airport. I donít know how he got home from Tulsa. Sure enough I found out the cause for his narcolepsy. It was a combination of all those "free" drugs he was taking.

I got a clue about Bigbyís business plan when he explained his markup methods. He said he normally works on at least a 9 or 10 % margin. I said that seems pretty low for gas station stores, so he gave me an example. "If it costs me $1, I sell it for $3. Thatís 2%." So I guess 10% ainít too shabby.

As an aside, in a previous article I wrote for BJI, I stated that the word "focus" was the second most overused and misused "F" word in the English language. Joe Damato says that the word FREE is at least #3. Joe is the guy that won a mega bucks machine, after dropping out of a BJ tournament because he forgot his glasses. After he won millions, his brother-in-law proudly proclaimed, "We won!" Joe has been paranoid ever since. Possibly twisting a mustache brings good luck because while twirling his stash, Joe has won mucho extra $$ in blackjack tournament action. Hardly seems fair.

The third old timer would be yours truly Sam Vaughn. I have graciously taken much of the money so many of my great friends donated at the Hilton for the "Help Sam Fund," and bought my dream house in northeast Utah. The town of Duchesne may not be the equal of the other places I mentioned, but I believe it is considerably higher. Our cabin is at 6,010 ft elevation. Only rednecks may understand this, but Iím only a mile from the county road, two miles from the hard road, and another four miles to the general store and post office. Someday soon there will be 4,000 souls in Duchesne because it is the county seat and so it will soon swell. I mention this not to boast but as an opportunity to invite my generous friends to spend time with us. Hereís the deal.

For all who donated the $1,000 entry fee in the Hilton Tournament that I won, you are entitled to ONE free night at Samís cabin in the sky (Sunday to Thursday, please). For those who entered the tournament twice and made two donations to my fund, you are invited for 3 days and 2 nights (again only Sunday through Thursday). For you premium players who made three $1,000 donations or more, you can stay any two nights with RFB (possibly a 3rd night according to your rating).

Although Peter Nathan did not donate any cash to my fun, his contribution may have been much more important (see previous article in BJI). He is always welcome; besides, he has stayed at almost everyoneís home at one time or another anyway.

While Iím discussing exotic places, I would be remiss if I didnít mention the birthplace of our lovely and loveable Elsie MacGregor. Yes, Calgary (up there in Canada), with all its splendors may have lost Elsie to Las Vegas & Henderson (but they still have a rodeo).

Iíll be back to my estate in Overton, NV in time to save my brass monkey. Hope to see you soon.

Phx Sam

PS: PM me on the message boards on and if you are traveling next summer, Iíll give you my cell phone number up North.




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