Rivers Pittsburgh pays out U.S. record $1.2 million bad-beat jackpot

August 26, 2022 6:43 PM
  • Mark Gruetze, CDC Gaming Reports
August 26, 2022 6:43 PM
  • Mark Gruetze, CDC Gaming Reports

The mother of poker’s bad beats won the biggest bad-beat jackpot in U.S. history on Thursday at Rivers Casino Pittsburgh. A royal flush topped a hand of quad aces about 4 p.m., triggering the payment of a jackpot that had grown to more than $1.2 million over the past 17 months.

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Benjamin Flanagan of Huttonsville, W.Va., who had four aces, received 40 percent of the jackpot, or $490,708; Ray Broderson of suburban Pittsburgh, who had the royal, got 30 percent, or $368,029. The remainder of the jackpot was divided among the six other players at the table, with each getting $61,338.

Broderson also won the pot for the hand, which he estimated at $600 to $700.

The previous U.S. record for a bad-beat jackpot was just under $1.1 million, awarded in January 2018 at Motor City Casino in Detroit. The previous record for Rivers Pittsburgh was about $480,000 paid out in 2017. This was Broderson’s second bad-beat jackpot at Rivers. Several years ago, he had the winning hand in a bad-beat jackpot that paid a total of about $17,000.

Andre Barnabei, assistant general manager at Rivers Pittsburgh, credited poker room manager Leslie Brittan with suggesting a bad-beat jackpot that could generate massive payouts. The jackpot had not been hit since April 2021, when players received a total of $149,417. In addition to the large payouts, the bad-beat structure aims to reward regular players who live in the area, Barnabei said.

“It’s absolutely thrilling and potentially life-changing for a poker game to pay out at this level,”

he said. “It’s almost as exciting for us as it is for the winners.”

The poker room at Rivers Pittsburgh has 30 tables; 15 to 20 were in use Thursday afternoon, the midweek crowd partially due to the size of the bad-beat jackpot and partially to a weekly promotion awarding a $200 high-hand bonus every 30 minutes.

Flanagan, whose home is about a three-hour drive from Pittsburgh, said he has played poker once or twice a week at Rivers for about a year. He arrived Thursday before the poker room opened at 10 a.m.

On the fateful hand, Broderson was dealt king-10 of spades, while Flanagan was dealt a pair of aces in the big blind position at a $1-$3 No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em game. Flanagan, who had won a high-hand bonus earlier in the day, didn’t raise pre-flop, due to the possibility of hitting another high hand. The flop was the ace of spades, jack of spades, and 9 of diamonds, giving Flanagan trip aces and Broderson multiple possibilities to beat trips.

Flanagan recognized the dangers. “I thought, ‘I’m done,'” he said, figuring someone would draw to a straight or flush. He bet about $10 and everyone but Broderson folded. The turn was the queen of spades, giving Broderson the royal. The river was the remaining ace, giving Flanagan quads. He bet, Broderson raised, and both ended up all in.

Broderson doesn’t remember all the details of the hand, but said at one point he had a feeling – or “it may have just been wishful thinking” – that the $1.2 million jackpot was in play.

At the showdown, Flanagan said, Broderson jumped up, his eyes wide, and asked excitedly, “Do you have ’em? Do you have ’em?”

When both flipped over their hole cards, all the players erupted in cheers, with people from other tables rushing over to join the celebration.

The bad-beat jackpot is funded by $1 taken from the pot of virtually every hand dealt in the poker room. Rivers offers two bad-beat jackpots. The main one requires the losing hand to be quad 10s or better; the “mini,” which was $316,722 on Thursday afternoon, requires the losing hand to be a minimum of aces full of Kings, with the player holding pocket aces.

Rivers also offers a “rolling-royals” bonus for royal flushes, with the amount starting at $50 and varying by suit depending on when that suit was last hit. The royal flush in the bad-beat hand was the poker room’s third in less than 90 minutes. Because of the bad-beat payout, Broderson could not get the standard royal bonus. “I’m not complaining,” he said. “I’m in a pretty good mood today.”

Flanagan noted that the “mini” bad-beat jackpot at Rivers is more than $300,000. “I’ll be back next Thursday to work on it,” he said.