MORRIS — The prize amount keeps increasing in the Morris VFW Post 6049 Queen of Hearts game. The pot for Monday's drawing was $1,310,202, of which the winner would receive 70 percent, or $917,141.40 before taxes. Of the remaining 30 percent, half goes to the VFW and half goes to start the next drawing.
Next week's pot is worth $1,381,837.
The Queen of Hearts game starts with 54 cards, a standard 52-card deck and two jokers. Contestants buy tickets for $5 each and write their name and phone number as well as the number between 1 and 54 that they think the Queen of Hearts will be behind.
All of the tickets sold that week are placed in a drum, which is rotated mechanically. As an added bonus to the game, if the number pulled out of the drum has one of the other three queens or one of the two jokers in the deck behind it, then the person whose name is on the ticket wins five percent of the pot. This week, that amounted to $65,510.
Since the last pot of $1.59 million was won on Sept. 25, there have been 14 drawings. None of them have produced a winner, allowing the pot to grow to its current amount. That left six potential winning cards out of 40, or a 15 percent chance that the ticket drawn will be worth at least $65,000.
There was no winner Monday, so the chances for the next drawing have improved to 6 in 39, or 15.4 percent.
The numbers for the game have become mind-boggling, and they bring a lot of people to the Morris VFW seeking a shot at fortune. The last large pot garnered attention from the Chicago television outlets as well as the Illinois Gaming Board. The game was shut down for a time because it was brought to the board's attention that the VFW did not have a license to hold a raffle.
In fact, the city of Morris did not have an ordinance that necessitated a licence, so the city had to adopt such an ordinance and the VFW had to apply for the license. They have since obtained the license and capped the pot at $1.5 million.
At that point, the VFW will hold a drawdown, meaning that tickets will be drawn until the number corresponds with the Queen of Hearts and there is a winner.
With 15 percent going toward the next game, the chances that the pot will grow to another seven-figure number are very good. There is only a 1 in 54 chance that the Queen of Hearts will be drawn in the first week, 1 in 53 in the second, and so on. With the increased attention the game has received, the pots grow more quickly than they had in the past as more people are buying tickets.
"We have been running this game for about six years," VFW Commander Jerry Zeborowski said. "The biggest the pot ever got to before was about $60,000. It was a stroke of luck that it got as big as it did last time."
Zeborowski said that the pots will more than likely remain big until there are a few consecutive games in which the Queen is found quickly. That is because not only does 15 percent of the pot go toward starting the next game, but also the money collected that week. After the $1.59 million pot was won, the 15 percent was 238.500. But, with the amount of money spent on tickets that week, the first prize in the current game was $758,466.
The extra attention on the game has been a boon to the Morris VFW. The post has been able to renovate both inside and outside the building, as well as donate to schools, charities and needy veterans.
"It's definitely been a good thing," Zeborowski said. "But, it's very labor intensive and all the people working it are volunteers. They aren't getting paid. We're fortunate to have the people doing this that we do."
For now, there are no plans to take the pot back to zero and start over.
"We haven't even talked about that," Senior Vice Commander Ken Buck said. "We are just going to keep going as we have been."