What would you do with 21 million miles? Continental OnePass turned 21 this year and the program celebrated in big-as-Vegas style by hosting a Texas Hold ’em Poker Tournament at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas from Aug. 6 to 10, 2008. OnePass invited all members to participate and the poker players and their guests attended parties with food, drinks and live entertainment.
The top 40 finalists received bonus miles and the winner of the tournament departed with enough miles for 280 first class tickets to Hawaii. InsideFlyer editor Randy Petersen blogged live from the event and was able to talk with the first place winner, Bill Shiver, to find out how he is planning on spending all those miles.
One of the most visible objects during the poker tournament was Bill’s lucky table piece featuring the logo for his alma mater, Texas A&M University. So it came as no surprise that he will be using his newly minted OnePass bonus miles for a few road football games with his friends. But Bill is hoping for one of the bowl games at the end of the season since during the regular season the Aggie road games include Albuquerque; Stillwater, Okla.; Ames, Iowa and Waco–almost all better drives than flights.
Shiver, who has been playing poker for four years as a hobby, was an Eastern Airlines customer but moved to Continental Airlines in 1989. He has been an elite member most of the years since, citing Continental as “giving you the most bang for the buck.” Regarding his poker playing, he said that “… luck didn’t hurt” his chances since he had been beaten a few times earlier by the hand that eventually earned him the grand prize. His most interesting comment was not about the poker game, but rather Continental Airlines. “The only thing Frank Lorenzo ever did right was his contribution to OnePass in saying that a plane should never leave the ground with an empty seat in first class.” Frank Lorenzo was the embattled Continental CEO who oversaw the creation of OnePass in 1987.
And if you are a FOB (friend of Bill), then you can keep your hopes high as he also has plans to use some of his winnings toward a Mediterranean cruise and a trip to Italy with friends.
Prizes totaling more than 25 million OnePass miles were awarded to the top finalists in the tournament that drew 243 players. Second place winner, David Michaels of San Francisco, received one million OnePass miles. Other top 10 finalists received prizes ranging from 500,000 to 100,000 OnePass miles, and the top 40 finalists received 50,000 OnePass miles each.
Here are some highlights from the live blog of the poker tournament:
“From a player who went out this morning and is now watching: ‘It’s much easier from here to make a brilliant decision!'”
“As noted earlier, the lowest chip stack to start the day was 62,000. The player to start with 63,000 said, ‘Ah, I was hoping to have the lowest chip total to start the day because I want to win and be the biggest rags to riches poker story ever!'”
“During the last break I ran into a long-time subscriber of InsideFlyer magazine from Houston who is starting the fifth hour with 65,000 miles in chips. He’s got a great story: Why is he playing? All for charity. In the past he’s given one million miles to each of three charities: Make-A-Wish, his church and his university. Now he wants to win the 21 million miles to go back and give even more to these three important organizations in his life. Nice story and just some of what drives these frequent flyers to go after the ultimate frequent flyer prize.”
“Here’s an interesting fact regarding the 21 Million miles: The Continental OnePass program database actually does not go higher than 9,999,999 miles for an individual account (Hey, whoever thought we’d get this far in collecting miles?). So, the winner will actually have THREE OnePass accounts set up for them to account for the 21 million mile prize (two with 9,999,999 miles and the third account having the 1,000,002 miles, plus whatever miles they might have won in other gifts during the tourney such as bounties, and of course their normal OnePass account). See, winning the miles is only the start of the challenge, managing those miles is the next part!”
For a full account of the poker tournament, go to boardingarea.com/blogs/liveflyer_onepass_poker/