21 Million Miles

21 Million Miles

Last summer, Continental OnePass sponsored a Texas Hold’ Em Poker Tournament in Las Vegas to celebrate its 21st anniversary and presented 21 million miles to the first place poker player. A year later, we caught up with the winner of the tournament, Bill Shiver, to ask him a few questions about his fame and fortune and find out what he’s been doing with all those miles.

InsideFlyer
Twenty-one million miles, that was some event Continental put on, and you played a great game.
Bill Shiver
That was the best I ever played and sometimes I wish it were cash.

IF
A lot of people think miles are equivalent to money.
Shiver
Yup, it’s a lot of miles, and sometimes it’s been a burden too when you’ve got as big a family as my wife does.

IF
Have you become the ‘go to guy’ with friends, family and charity?
Shiver
Yes, but most of the miles I’ve volunteered to give away. I haven’t had anybody really abuse my friendship for a ticket. (Except for one, and he has yet to get a ticket.) But I’ve been very generous with them–I told all my friends ‘you get one ticket and now leave me alone.’

IF
How many miles do you think you’ve burned so far?
Shiver
About four million, I took my whole family to Europe. I used my 600,000 American Express points for a suite on Holland America Cruise lines. We did a 10-day Mediterranean cruise, and spent four days in Italy. We flew into Florence and flew out of Rome. It was a grand time for all seven of us.

IF
Do you still play poker?
Shiver
Yes, I still do. I’ve had more of the agony of defeat than the thrill of victory lately. When I took the trip to Europe in June I spent a week at the World Series and I just wasn’t ready to play. I played so poorly and was mad at myself and got really depressed over the whole deal. But I’ll be back.

IF
So, you’d say there is a lot of a mental game when playing poker?
Shiver
It’s like Yogi Berra said, 90 percent of it is half mental. So it’s 50 percent skill, 50 percent luck and 90 percent mental.

IF
If Continental were to do this again would you be at the front of the line?
Shiver
I would! But that would put a target on my head.

IF
Do you stay in contact with any of the other players?
Shiver
I get emails from several players. I would send out emails of where I would be playing.
Last year I played about one event a month and I plan on playing more circuits this summer, then it’s football season, and I’ll wait to play again in January. I keep my poker money separate and have a pretty good stash, enough to keep playing that you wouldn’t call it gambling.

IF
With all your miles, do you think of them as part of your everyday life?
Shiver
Yes, they help a lot. I don’t have to worry about getting upgraded or buying a full Y fare to get first class.

IF
So we’ll never see you in coach again?
Shiver
No, you’ll never see me in coach. And I can avoid the little pencil jets. One of the greatest uses I put my miles to was during Hurricane Ike in Houston. Ike was about a day and a half away and I figured the airport would be open one more day so I looked at my wife and said, ‘Let’s get the hell out of here!’ So I asked her if she wanted to go to Memphis and have ribs at the Rendezvous or if she wanted to go to San Francisco and have Dungeness crab. She said, ‘Are there big jets to Memphis?’ I said no, she asked, ‘Is there first class to San Francisco?’ I said yes and she said ‘That’s a no brainer.’ So during Hurricane Ike I was watching the news and eating all the Dungeness crab I could eat. That was a good use of the miles. The miles have also come in handy to bring my wife’s family back and forth from Indiana.

IF
Sounds like you’ve enjoyed your miles.
Shiver
I’ve been a frequent flyer with Continental OnePass since 1989. Continental has always been my favorite airline.

IF
Sounds like life is good.
Shiver
Yes, life is good and I’m having fun. You can tell Continental they can have another tournament anytime. I really enjoyed the tournament and Continental went all out and everyone had a great time.

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