Flying the Friendly Skies & Winning

The flight to Las Vegas is always lively. With visions of grandeur, and thoughts of ‘what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,’ most people on the plane are revved up and ready to go. Anxious to start their vacation with a bang. Some are planning to take in a few shows, imbibe on free cocktails and enjoy the bright lights of sin city. Others, despite knowing the long odds against them, have their mind set on the gaming tables. Their imaginations running wild with dreams of beating the house and returning a winner. For a very lucky few, though, the gambling and winning starts before the aircraft even touches down.

With that in mind, try to picture the scenes on board that historic WestJet flight back in 2017. En route from Toronto to Las Vegas, when the airline started the party early by involving its passengers in an incredible, but safe, game of chance.

“In a few minutes, we’re going to make our final descent into Las Vegas,” the flight attendant said over the loud speaker, to the applause of a packed cabin. “But this is no ordinary WestJet flight.”

It certainly wasn’t. In card parlance, it was one of a kind. Unbeknownst to its customers, WestJet had been planning a massive light show in the Mojave Desert, Utah, about 260 kilometres from the Las Vegas strip, and it literally had everyone on the edge of their seats.

“We have a fun and exciting surprise for you all here today. So, let’s all take a minute and know our seat number. Now, look out those left-hand windows,” the attendant said, before providing a countdown. “Five, four, three…”

On the count of one, the sky illuminated spectacularly with a kilometre diameter of light, so bright the people on board the plane could see it from 12,000-feet above. The projected image was that of a giant roulette wheel, and it was in motion, spinning, and shining a total of 4,666,000 lumens. Which measure the amount of light produced by LED (light emitting diodes). It was a brilliant display. As the wheel spun, it was individually flashing the passengers respective seat numbers, as they exuberantly rooted along waiting for it to stop.

WestJet Roulette Wheel

It was all part of a promotional event to celebrate the airline’s 21st anniversary, and to etch its name in the Guinness World Records in the process. Not only was it a fun and exciting flight for all, but WestJet also set two world records:

  • Greatest light output in a projected image
  • Largest circular projection

“It’s unreal,” said Richard, who was sitting beside his wife Christine, the eventual winner in Seat 4A. “We won before we even hit the ground.” It was a pretty nice prize package as well, and included several gifts, ranging from a $2,500 shopping spree to tickets to see Cirque du Soleil.

Go Big or Go Home

For the past month, Team Maple has been bringing you a series of gambling and casino-related world records. We’ve told you about Bryan Berg, the world’s only professional card stacker, who built a complete replica of the Venetian Macau. Ralf Laue of Germany, who managed to fan 326 cards in one hand. And even a pair of colleagues at Marquette University, who survived the ultimate marathon by visiting 74 casinos in just 24-hours. As these people understand, to secure a spot in the Guinness World Records, you usually have to go big or go home.

In 2013, Turning Stone Casino in Verona, New York, took that message to heart as part of its 20th anniversary celebration. It went very big. Some 600 staff and guests, all wearing either red or white rain ponchos, joined together to create the world’s largest human playing card, and dealt their way into the history books depicting the ace of diamonds.

Human playing card

Why the ace of diamonds? It was the easiest to construct, with face cards taking more time and effort.

As for the largest pack of playing cards, they measure in at 158.4 centimetres tall and 104.4 centimetres wide. How would you deal them out? Not only was it large and cumbersome, it was heavy. Weighing more than 200 kilograms. It was made by Claes Blixt of Sweden.

Card Runners

On the topic of playing cards, how about Liu Fuchang of China. He holds the record for the largest collection of playing cards. Liu owns more than 11,000 different sets, and has held the distinction since 2007.

In 2002, magician Rick Smith Jr. set the mark for the ‘farthest throw’ of a playing card. He aerodynamically chucked one 65.96 metres at the Cleveland State Convocation Centre. He wasn’t done there, either. More than a decade later (2015), he got his name in Guinness again with the highest throw of a playing card, more than 21 metres. Like before, he accomplished the feat in Cleveland.

Chips Ahoy

Ever have a light bulb moment? When something suddenly becomes crystal clear? For attendees of Sedgwicksphere, a yearly gathering in Henderson, Nevada, involving business leaders, educators and innovators, that moment came in 2017. When they created the largest ever chip mosaic. Fitting, for a meeting of the minds, the mosaic was shaped as a light bulb. It measured in at 104.61 square metres.

The record for the largest chip collection belongs to an American, whose stack consists of some 802 casino chips and tokens, and counting. Paul Schaffer has been an avid collector since 2004, and finally made the record books last year in Las Vegas.

Largest Chip Collection

Great Memories

The legendary Stu Ungar, a three-time World Series of Poker main event champion, was known for having a great memory. Perhaps photographic, and once won a bet by counting down three decks of playing cards. He has nothing on North Korea’s Kim Surim. At the 2019 World Memory Championships in Wuhan City, China, Surim remarkably recounted 2,530 playing cards in one hour to set the record.

Do not let this person in your home game.

The PokerStars Aligned?

Ever heard the phrase ‘serial record breaker?’ That’s exactly what online giant PokerStars is: a serial record breaker. It holds multiple Guinness World Records for online poker. Including one title it can certainly be proud of — the most players simultaneously in an online poker room. On September 6th, 2009, at the height of the poker boom, a whopping 307,016 players were logged in. And battled it out across a total of 42,814 virtual tables.

Fatima Accepting Certificate for Poker Stars

The official certificate was presented to professional poker player Fatima Moreira de Melo, a PokerStars team pro. Confetti rained down in 2011 at the Hilton Hotel in Prague, Czech Republic.

Czech mate!

Derrick Oliver

Derrick Oliver

Derrick Oliver Dewan is the founder of High Roller Radio and has interviewed a number of the world's top poker players and gamblers. A former radio and television broadcaster, Derrick was brand manager for Poker Pro Canada magazine and has written for a variety of publications, including the Toronto Star & Windsor Life.

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