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'Mr. Bad Beat' wins third poker jackpot

| Friday, March 29, 2013, 8:57 p.m.
Andrew Shymske, 80, of North Royalton, Ohio, has won three bad-beat poker jackpots in four years, receiving a total of $110,497. His most recent jackpot was March 1 at Wheeling Island for $78,138.
Wheeling Island casino
Andrew Shymske, 80, of North Royalton, Ohio, has won three bad-beat poker jackpots in four years, receiving a total of $110,497. His most recent jackpot was March 1 at Wheeling Island for $78,138.

Poker player Andy Shymske knows the thrill of losing with a big hand.

He won $78,138.82 on March 1, when he got the big end of the Wheeling Island bad-beat jackpot for his quad queens losing to a royal flush. He says it was the first time the jackpot had been hit in more than a year.

Even more amazing, this was Shymske's third bad-beat jackpot in less than four years. On May 9, 2009, he won $25,639 at Seneca Niagara in New York when his quad deuces lost to quad fours. On Nov. 11, 2010, he won $6,720 at Meadows Casino in Washington County when his quad queens beat a full house of Aces over Queens; in that case, the other player got the bigger payday, $13,540.

"They changed my name. They call me Mr. Bad Beat," Shymske, 80, of North Royalton, Ohio, says. "The last time we went to Mountaineer, three guys started rubbing my ears for luck."

Bad-beat jackpots attract many players with the dream of a big payout. Casinos usually take $1 out of each pot to build the jackpot. Typically, the player who loses with an exceptionally strong hand gets 50 percent of the jackpot. The winner of the hand gets 25 percent, and the remaining 25 percent is divided among the other players at the table.

Bad-beat rules vary by casino. A common requirement is that both players must use both of their hole cards to make their final hands; the minimum losing hand usually is quads or a strong full house, such as Aces full of Jacks.

Shymske is no high-roller. His favorite game is $2-$4 limit Hold 'Em, and he usually buys in for $40, with $20 in reserve if the cards don't go right.

He won't play no-limit, and he won't go above a $3-$6 limit game, even with his big score.

"I just enjoy playing, and I'm not going to go crazy," he says.

At Wheeling, he held pocket queens and hit trips on the flop in a $2-$4 game. What he didn't know was that his opponent had flopped a royal flush.

"This guy played it cool," Shymske says. "He bet ($2), and I just called him. I'm not stupid, either."

The fourth queen came on the river. The two raised each other twice before Shymske just called.

"He says ‘I got you,' " Shymske recalls. "And I say, ‘No, I got you.' "

Then, everyone at the table jumped up and screamed, "We got the bad beat! We got the bad beat!"

Meadows Poker Room manager Billy Takacs, who played poker professionally before becoming a casino supervisor, marvels at Shymske's luck.

"As a player, I have never even been in a room that had a bad beat hit, and I'm talking about playing in casinos steady since 1992," he says. "I hope his luck continues."

According to , which analyzes all types of casino games, a bad beat will happen once in about 50,000 hands at a 10-player table where no one folds and the qualifying hand is Aces full of Jacks. The probability of a specified player at that table winning the jackpot is one in about 500,000.

Shymske, a retired gas-station owner and mechanic, says he shared the wealth with the dealer - a $4,000 tip at Wheeling, based on 5 percent of his winnings.

He grew up in the Tremont area of Cleveland, playing cards and baseball in nearby Lincoln Park. He played poker in the Army, but his biggest jackpot was getting introduced to a special girl after giving a buddy a ride to a bowling alley. He and Alma were married a few months later and will celebrate their 59th anniversary in May.

She plays poker occasionally but likes slot machines. On their trip to Wheeling, they planned to leave at 5 p.m., but she decided to let him play a little longer because he had to wait for a seat. "Good thing," Andy Shymske says. He won the bad-beat at about 5:30.

Shymske has simple poker advice: Don't play stupid.

"I do not play garbage. There's too many people who do that and lose a ton of money."

He plays once a week or so, traveling to Mountaineer, Wheeling Island or Meadows for the low-limit games he enjoys. "I will not go crazy and lose $100, $200, $300 at the table," he says.

However, his luck with bad-beat jackpots doesn't carry over to everything. At Wheeling Island, his quad queens qualified him for a chance to spin a wheel for bonus payment. He won $10, the lowest prize offered.

Mark Gruetze is administrative editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7838 or

Revel plans to end ban on smoking

The $2.4 billion Revel casino in Atlantic City, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy less than a year after opening, plans to allow smoking on the casino floor as part of its restructuring.

Court documents filed this week say operators plan to open a designated smoking area before the summer season. That would end Revel's status as Atlantic City's only no-smoking casino, which attracted nationwide publicity before its April 2012 opening.

The documents cited a number of problems with Revel's operation, including a $100 million construction cost overrun, failing to attract casino visitors who stay overnight, failing to offer "more affordable" dining and the lack of a players club. Superstorm Sandy forced Revel to close for six days. The list of problems does not include the no-smoking policy. Casinos in Ohio and some other states are required to be nonsmoking.

Money trail

Slot players lost $47.97 million at Pennsylvania's 11 casinos during the week ending March 24, the Gaming Control Board reports. That's down from $48.68 million in the comparable week last year, which was before Valley Forge resort casino opened.

The state gets 55 percent of that gross slot revenue, or what's left of players' wagers after jackpots are paid.

Statewide, the slot payout rate is 89.93 percent since the fiscal year started July 1. For every $100 bet, the machines return an average of $89.93. Highest payout rate: 90.61 percent at Parx in Philadelphia; lowest: 89.37 percent at Harrah's Philadelphia and Hollywood Penn National near Harrisburg.

Figures for Western Pennsylvania casinos:

• 89.95% for Rivers; weekly slot revenue of $5.88 million, up from $5.45 million last year.

• 89.82% for Meadows; weekly slot revenue of $4.37 million, down from $4.82 million last year.

• 89.95% for Presque Isle in Erie; weekly slot revenue of $2.38 million, down from $3.19 million last year.

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