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Year’s wait is worth $1 million

May 25, 2004 12:41 AM

Eric Kiel, an oil field consultant from Laredo, Texas, took home the million dollar grand prize last week after beating six other contestants to become the Las Vegas Hilton’s Million Dollar Blackjack II champion.

"By the time you get down to four or five hands, that’s the time you have to be aggressive," said Kiel about his strategy.

As the last hand was dealt, Kiel was behind the other players, and the only way to win would be to bet the maximum and double down. He placed a $2,500 bet and was dealt a 13. He doubled down, for a bet of $5,000, and drew a four for a total of 17.

"When the dealer broke on the final hand, that’s the first time I knew I had it," said Kiel.

Kiel, an avid blackjack player who honed his playing skills on the computer and by reading gaming books, qualified for the tournament in May 2003, and has used the last year to sharpen his skills in preparation for this month’s tournament.

He said that winning the million won’t change his life drastically and plans to return to work in Texas. As for the million, Kiel said he plans to invest most of it, pay off some bills and spend the rest on his wife and two children.

From now through April 2005, the Hilton is offering $57,500 in prize money for each of the monthly preliminary rounds for its Blackjack III tournament. The top 16 monthly finishers will take home their share of the prize money and will be invited back to compete in the 2005 finals with the chance to win a million dollar cash prize. For tournament information, please call (800) 457-3307.