An old saying holds that success is written in the stars, so when Kenny Tallent watched the skies above Michigan set ablaze with an unfamiliar flash, he hoped the rare sight offered good fortune to come.
It was January 16 and the Battle Creek native found himself driving to nearby MotorCity Casino in Detroit to play poker. Suddenly, the night sky lit up with starlight as a meteor fell to Earth and burned up in spectacular fashion.
As he later told his hometown Battle Creek Enquirer, Tallent had a feeling that the meteor sighting was a good omen ahead of a night competing at the Texas Hold’em tables:
“I remember thinking, what are the odds of that. Maybe it would be good luck.”
A little while later – when Tallent’s pocket Queens connected for top full house on the Q-3-3 flop and improved to four of a kind on the turn – his premonition seemed to be prescient. His hand was unbeatable, so Tallent was guaranteed to win each and every chip his opponent happened to put in the pot.
But when the other player in the hand turned over his own four of a kind with 3-3 in the hole, Tallent took down his share of the largest poker jackpot in U.S. history.
The collision between two “quad” hands triggered the MotorCity Casino poker room’s bad beat jackpot, which requires four of a kind to be beaten by another four of a kind. As a result, Tallent pocketed $213,712 – or 20 percent of the massive bad beat jackpot that had been built up to $1,068,590.
The loser of the hand, who has been identified only as “Scott,” claimed 40 percent of the jackpot for a $427,452 score. And to cap the historic hand off, the other four players seated at the table were each awarded a 10 percent “table share” for $106,856.
MotorCity Casino’s senior vice president of operations Phil Trofibio issued a statement celebrating the largest bad beat jackpot ever paid by an American poker room:
“There are winners every day on the floor, but it’s not every day that a jackpot that big hits. Congratulations to all the players at the table.”
Most poker rooms offer a bad beat jackpot promotion, which removes a dollar or two from every pot of a certain size and adds the funds to a running jackpot kitty. These jackpots can be claimed by meeting certain hand requirements that qualify as a “bad beat,” meaning one extremely strong hand happens to lose against an even better holding.
In most cases, the requirement is Aces full of Kings beaten by four of a kind or better, or perhaps quads beaten by anything better. But with the strict “quads over quads” requirement used at MotorCity Casino, the jackpot became much harder to hit, allowing it to swell to over $1 million.
An aspiring poker pro, Tallent recognized the long odds against two players winding up with four of a kind during the same hand:
“That kind of bad beat, with the kind of jackpot they have at Motor City, is kind of rare.
I guess I hope it’s not a once-in-a-lifetime thing because I’d love to have it happen to me again, but it is rare.”
Asked about the moment that a bad beat could be brewing, Tallent clearly relished reliving the experience:
“It never even crossed my mind that he could have four of a kind.
But then I went all-in and when he called my all-in so quickly, I figured out he might also have four-of-a-kind. We then looked at each other and I said, ‘you got it?’ and he said, ‘you got it?’ and we both said yes.
We realized what had happened and we all just started jumping up and down. Everybody in the poker room figured out what had happened and gathered around, there was this buzz everywhere.
I guess the stars just aligned perfectly that night.”