While working as a member of the United States Postal Service, Sam Vaughn became interested in gambling. Although he worked in Phoenix, Arizona, he would drive his 1982 Ford van down to Vegas every chance he got. The van was already four years old when Sam bought it, but he proceeded to put 300,000 miles on it over the next 17 years as he drove back and forth to Nevada to indulge in his passion for gambling.
During these expeditions to Las Vegas, Sam would usually stop for the night in Laughlin, Nevada, park his van down by the river and get a good night's sleep. Sam was quickly embraced by the locals, who would often let him use their showers or offer to help him find a room for the night. In the summer, he would park his van up in the mountains to escape the sweltering Nevada heat. During this time, Sam, who would sometimes be accompanied on his trips by John, Joe, Mike, and Gene Crancer, honed the skills that would eventually turn him into a certifiable millionaire.
Throughout the early 80's, Sam primarily competed at craps, playing in every tournament that he could. But the casinos eventually stopped hosting these tournaments, forcing Sam to look elsewhere for his gambling fix. His friends finally talked him into playing in a blackjack tournament at The Four Queens in 1989. It proved to be the right decision, as Sam won his first blackjack tournament and walked away with $50,000. He retired from the U.S. Postal Service in 1992 after 25 years of service, moving to Vegas in 1995 and further sharpening his skills.
He's played consistently since that first tourney win, competing in over 100 blackjack tournaments and winning money almost every year. In fact, from 1989 to 2000, Sam raked in just over 1.25 million dollars!
In 2004, Sam won the Reno-Atlantis 'Winner-Take-All' tournament to the tune of $45,000. That same week, he won the monthly qualifier for the Las Vegas Hilton Million Dollar III Blackjack Tournament, raking in another $20,000. The previous year, Sam had competed in the Million Dollar tournament and fought his way to the final table of seven players but ultimately missed out on the winner's purse of one-million dollars. This year, it was going to be a different story.
For those unfamiliar with the Hilton MDBJ III Tournament, the starting bankroll was $5,000 with a minimum bet of $100, and a maximum bet of $2,500.
On Hand #28, Sam was in good position, both in chips and in playing order. He matched the maximum bets of the other players and waited. BR2 doubled and was stiff. BR3 doubled into a 17, and Sam had 18. Sam realized that he was moments away from possibly winning it all, but it all came down to the dealer. The house was showing a seven and flipped over a ten. Sam ended with $18,250. That is 7.3 times the maximum bet after 28 hands. The last five hands of the tournament for Sam: loss, push, win, win, win. The tournament was over and Sam had won one-million dollars. In fact, in the span of two years in the Hilton Million Dollar Tournaments, Sam Vaughn played a total of 18 rounds of blackjack, advancing in all but two rounds of play.
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