Sycamore man wins big in $1.5M Morris Queen of Hearts pot

MORRIS – A 34-year-old Sycamore man became the latest addition to the Morris Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6049’s millionaire’s club Monday in the Queen of Hearts game.

Josh Billips of Sycamore, a project manager for an automotive company, was not in attendance at Monday’s drawdown, but he was near his phone.

“I didn’t recognize the number, and it went to voicemail,” Billips said. “Once I heard the message, I called back right away.”

When he called, he received word that his winning card had been drawn. The number he chose on his ticket was the No. 4, but that number already had been drawn earlier in the evening. He wrote the word “high” on his ticket, so the next available number larger than 4 was chosen. It was the number 15, and behind it was the queen of hearts. That meant he won 70 percent of the $1,595,107 pot, or $1,116,575, before taxes.

Billips’ ticket was the 12th drawn of the evening. The fifth number revealed a queen of clubs, which won Joe Eich $2,500. The other numbers drawn were awarded $50.

“Wow,” Billips said. “It wasn’t a call I expected, but it was a very welcome one. We haven’t made any plans for it yet, but it will certainly be a big help. We are still letting it sink in. It’s hard to believe.”

Billips, who originally is from DeKalb, said that his parents were coming to Morris on Saturday to buy tickets, so he gave them some money to buy some for him, as well.

The rules of the game are a bit different for a drawdown situation. The game’s normal rules state that if one of the other queens or one of the two jokers in the deck are drawn, that person would win 5 percent of the pot – in this case, $79,755. For the drawdown, the amount was changed to $2,500. This drawdown rule is posted on the Morris VFW’s website.

“Some people complained about the $2,500 amount, but it’s in the rules,” VFW Post Cmdr. Jerry Zeborowski said. “The money for those comes out of the money we have taken in for next week’s pot. If all three queens and both jokers hit, at 5 percent each, it would be around $400,000. What if we only took in $200,000? We kept it at $2,500 for a drawdown situation to make sure everyone will get paid.”

Drawing the tickets Monday night was Sergio Lopez of Minooka, who lost both legs below the knee in Iraq, and he also was representing the Associated Firefighters of Illinois. Lopez also had his daughters, Sasha and Sophia, with him to help.

After post chaplain Jim Chronister led everyone in attendance in a blessing, Lopez fished around the drum for each number, and the suspense grew with each pull. There was a chance of the drawing lasting for a while, as the last drawdown saw the queen of hearts pulled on the last possible number. There were 37 numbers covered at the start of Monday’s drawing.

Post quartermaster Jerry Peterson said that they sold $286,000 worth of tickets from Tuesday of last week to Monday. He calculated that they were open for 29 hours, so they brought in $9,862 an hour. That amount, plus 15 percent of the original 1,595,107 pot, will start the next game.

But it won’t be right away.

The VFW plans to take a few weeks off and will begin ticket sales again April 3. The next drawing will be at 6 p.m. April 9. Tickets will be sold from 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, from noon to 9 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays and from noon to 5 p.m. Mondays.

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