Courtesy of Flamingo
Wednesday, May 23, 2012 | 2 a.m.
When Dennis and Margaret Hart returned home to Florida from their latest Las Vegas vacation, they met up with a longtime friend and his wife.
"I'm buying your dinner tonight," Dennis Hart, 72, told the other couple. He knew his friend would protest. He never let him pick up a tab. Then Dennis pulled out his check — the large one made out to him the night before from the Flamingo for $1 million.
"Our friend's wife just about fell over backwards," Margaret Hart said.
It was Mother's Day, the day after Dennis Hart hit a royal flush in diamonds to take home the bonus jackpot of $1 million at Three Card Poker.
"We had been to see Donny and Marie, and we love them, so that had been the highlight of our trip — until this," said Margaret Hart, 69.
The Harts, who have been married 48 years, had been coming to Las Vegas every year since 1967, when they first stayed downtown at the Mint Club.
"After 40-some years of coming to Vegas, I finally came home with some money," Dennis Hart said Tuesday during a telephone interview from the couple's home in Palm Coast, Fla.
He tipped the dealer $20,000 and gave $500 chips to each of the three players with him at the table. He said he didn't know their names but enjoyed their conversation during the game, and one of the players reminded him of his brother, Jim, who died several years ago.
"They said that maybe it was Jim's spirit watching over Dennis that helped him win that money," Margaret Hart said.
The couple's generosity extends beyond the casino tables. Both of the Harts are cancer survivors. Dennis Hart helps drive a neighbor about 30 miles to cancer treatments.
For 31 years, he worked at the Ford engine plant in Dearborn, Mich., where he retired in 1996. The couple broke ground on a Florida home in 2001.
"We've seen Vegas grow up," Dennis Hart said.
But he said the real gambler in the family is their daughter Heather, 46, who was with her parents during their eight-day stay at the Flamingo.
"She's played that game for about eight years," Dennis Hart said of Three Card Poker.
He hit the jackpot on their last night at the Flamingo. It was 11 p.m., and they had an early flight to catch. Margaret and Heather Hart were playing in other parts of the casino, and Dennis said he calculated that he was $100 ahead.
"This is going to be my last bet," he remembered saying.
He placed four bets of $5 each and received an ace, king and queen of diamonds on the last hand. The dealer then rolled over the jack, 10 and 9 of diamonds.
"You're a millionaire," one of the other players told him.
Dennis Hart called his wife.
"I asked Heather, is that even possible?" Margaret Hart said. "She looked up and saw the sign flashing ($1 million) and said, 'Yes, it is.' "
It was the second six-card bonus to pay out this year. Johnita Ejercito, a practicing attorney and nurse from Woodland Hills, Calif., won $1 million Feb. 19 at Paris Las Vegas. Caesars holds an exclusive license for the $1 million six-card bonus from Shuffle Master Inc., which developed the Three Card Poker game.
The Harts put their winnings in savings. They plan to come back to Vegas in October.
"The airfare to Las Vegas had gotten more expensive over the past year, so we had planned on driving to Atlantic City to save a little money," Margaret Hart said. "But after winning that jackpot, we think we'll be coming back to Vegas instead."