Christy Barnett was still overjoyed even weeks after hitting a slot jackpot worth nearly $1.2 million. She spoke with Casinos.com to tell her story and what happens before and after such a big score. (Image: Zoom)
Christy Barnett said she didn’t even want to make this trip to Las Vegas. But her husband, Sherman Barnett, said they had to go to keep their Seven Stars status active with Caesars Rewards. And because they’re “a 24/7 couple” who do everything together, she went.
The Barnetts live in El Paso, Texas, and have storied careers racing stock cars, Super Trucks, Modifieds and other competition vehicles. They’re regular visitors to Las Vegas and avid slot players. She’d be staying this trip at Caesars Palace, where Christy was excited to see a Dragon Link machine in the high-roller salon, offering a chance to win a million bucks for bets as low as $25.
A video of what happened next would end up going viral, as Christy realized she had just won the biggest jackpot of her life, $1,185,600. But it wasn’t just a lucky pull – it was the pinnacle of a weekend of winning.
Barnett sat down with Casinos.com to discuss what happened both before and after that 15 seconds captured on video. She explains how this hit was actually a decades-long pursuit for her, and reveals what you can expect as a casino customer should you ever run into such good fortune.
(This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.)
Were you in town for a racing event or just to visit Vegas?
We just went to play. To tell you the truth, I didn't even want to go. My husband was like, well, we’ve got to keep up our Seven Star status … I already made the reservations. So I'm glad I went.
You're no stranger to winning. What's the difference between winning something that requires skill, like racing, and just winning because you get lucky?
Winning to me is winning. That's just the way I was built. Everything is a competition to me. This was just like taking it to the next level. To me it's not so much the money, it's the fact that I did it – that I actually hit a jackpot for $1 million. I've been trying to do that for 45 years.
How long were you playing before the jackpot hit?
I played that same game from like 1:00 in the afternoon until almost 11:00 at night when it hit.
When I went down in the morning, I hit nine jackpots in a row. I hit one on every machine I played. And I told myself, this is it, this is the day. I'm gonna hit that $1 million. That was my plan and it actually happened.
In the end, I hit like 19 jackpots that day. There were four machines together, all the same kind, and while I was waiting to get paid on one, I played one next to it – put in $100 and that hit for $16,500. So I had a lot of money to play with. [In total], I hit $97,000 of jackpots before the $1 million.
That makes it a little easier to go for the big one, I imagine, playing on house money?
If you don't play, you're not gonna win. If you can outlast it, that's the deal. That's always my intent. And it doesn't work out because usually you come out the loser. But this time it was in my favor. I don't know what I did to deserve it.
Is Dragon Link your go-to game?
Yeah, they’re everywhere, and I've hit jackpots on them before. But I haven't ever seen Dragon Link machines anywhere but Caesars that had a jackpot for $1 million. The high-limit machines usually you can play like a $50 bet that's the highest, so the jackpots are around $16,000 or so. But at Caesars it was a $2,500 max bet, so it's the only place I've ever seen where the top jackpot was $1 million on a minimum bet of $25.
What drew you to the game? Was it just that $1 million jackpot?
I liked the game and the fact that [you could win] $1 million. The two mixed together had me just playing those [Dragon Link machines] every time I go, thinking I'm going to do it, I'm going to get it one of these days. They haven't had those machines there all that long with that big jackpot – maybe a year, year-and-a-half – and I haven't seen them anywhere else, so I specifically went in that room to play those machines.
Did you realize what was happening the moment the jackpot hit or was there a delay?
It was probably 30 seconds before I realized. I saw that I got the bonus thing where these bubbles come up and you have to fill the [screen] up with 20 bubbles. It had happened probably 15 or 20 times during the day that I missed it by one. The lady next to me was talking and I was kind of going back and forth, looking at her and my machine. I see eighteen were filled up, and I'm looking at her but out of the corner of my, I see 19. Then this slow-motion yellow thing comes down and sort of pauses and then bounces back up. And I thought, did I just see what I think I did?
This game has four jackpots – a mini, a minor, a major and a grand. And at first I thought it was the major for like $31,000. Then I looked again – this is all in a span of like 30 seconds – and I remembered from other jackpots I hit that when it’s a minor or major or a mini, the bubble will say that. But there was nothing on this one, and then I realized, ohh the screen's full, that's the Grand! And then that's when I was like, ooh, that's $1 million! I just won a million dollars and couldn't say anything else, other than “oh my god!”
Who took that video?
I don't know. There were apparently two different people taking videos and I guess they just pulled their phones out and started videoing.
I didn’t even know about the videos until my crew chief called me and said the video was all over the place. I said, what are you talking about?
So then what happens, once the screaming stops?
I'm still in a state of shock. I still can't believe it.
Is winning $1 million handled by the casino just like any other slot handpay?
I’ve always wondered, too, what it would be like. There were two or three slot attendants, or maybe four. A couple were probably supervisors. They came up and did something to the machine. I don't know if they turned it off or what. But then they asked me, “Do you want cash or a check?” I told them I wanted it all in ones and they just laughed.
Then they asked if I wanted them to take the tax out and I said no. Because I wanted a check to show people for $1,185,600. I wasn't gonna leave there with anything but a check because I wanted to be able to show it. It's like a little Trophy to me.
They don't have to take the taxes out?
You can always pay the tax at the end of the year, or you can pay it right on the spot. I prefer to pay it at the end of the year, and I wanted the check for more than $1 million. The tax on it is ridiculous – $400,000 or something like that. So you don't really end up with a million, but still, I walked out of there with the whole $1 million.
Was there any additional paperwork that you had to fill out?
Just a 1099. I think I did sign something else. But I really can't remember what it was. I was so freaked out, I didn't even know there were people in there videoing.
It took only about 20 minutes to get paid. I really thought it was going to take longer, but they just came over and gave me the check and then they went away. It was like no big deal.
What about tipping?
I didn’t know what to tip so I gave the payout attendant $1,000 and the casino host $5,000.
That must’ve been an “is this real?” kind of moment …
Exactly. I didn't sleep for like 5 days. On Saturday night I laid there awake the whole night, so at like 9:00 in the morning, I said I gotta get up. And when I did, I thought, you know, this might just be a really vivid dream. I better go look in the safe and make sure. So I went to the safe and the check was there and I was like, no, it's real.
My husband was still asleep and I went down and played some more. When he came down later, that was when he finally wrapped his head around the idea that it was $1 million and then he was jumping around the rest of the trip. He was telling people in the bathroom, telling people in restaurants, telling cab drivers. He's telling everybody you know my wife just won a million dollars! So it took him a whole night to let it sink in.
Did Caesars treat you any differently after the win?
Caesars always comps our rooms and gives us free play – that's what that Seven Star status gives us. So they treat us really well to start with. But they didn't do anything different after that. I even asked. I said I had always heard that if you won $1 million that you would get to stay in a millionaire suite.
The rooms they put us in are fabulous, but there's supposedly one on the top floor that's like 10,000 square feet. I don't know if they didn't know, but the people I asked didn't answer me. I mean, a Motel 6 is OK for us. You know, we don't care. We don't need this elaborate space. I was just curious if it was true.
So what did you do to celebrate?
We just went back to playing. We're pretty simple people. We don't party, and do all that kind of stuff. We play and we race and we work and that's all we do. [The casinos] always offer us free tickets to shows, but we never use them. We just go to play. That's what we do.
We [played more] the next day. I hit 3 jackpots the next morning. My husband was out of money, so I gave him some. About 30 seconds later, he was playing a penny machine with a four-dollar bet and he hit a jackpot for $17,900. So he was all excited.
Then we went downtown, and just stopped by the Golden Nugget where I hit the grand jackpot on a different machine – similar to Dragon Link but different – and I hit it for $13,000. It was like my golden weekend. I couldn't do wrong.
Do you have specific plans for your winnings?
No, no. We're so blessed. We've worked really hard with our business and are very successful and don't need anything. Everybody asks me, are you gonna buy a Corvette or a Maserati or something. I don't need anything like that. There's a possibility I'll get a new race car. But anything else? No.
I don't know what I did to deserve it. I've tried to be a good person my entire life. I have more than most people have, and I'm so thankful.
So are you going to cash out and retire from slots?
When I hit that jackpot, it was almost like a burden off my shoulders. I told my husband, you know what? I don't ever have to play a slot machine again. I reached the goal and maybe I need to find something else to do. But he and I do everything together. We're 24/7. He likes to play. I like to play. So I'll keep playing. But maybe not with the same conviction that I played with before. You know what I mean? I can just have fun and piddle around. I don't have to play hard like I've always done.
Any last takeaways?
You have to have a positive mindset. That's the way I approach everything. I've been telling my husband for 40 years, I'm going to hit a jackpot for $1 million, even decades ago, before they had this game.
I just wanted to know the feeling of what it was like to win a million dollars, not to have the million dollars. To know what the feeling was like to hit it, that was more exciting to me.