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The best loser wins big in Station’s Great Giveaway

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Basing her bets on animals, colors and the team loyalties of close friends and bitter enemies, local Mirage employee Janette Lee won $100,000 in Station Casinos’ Great Giveaway Football Contest. She’s pretty happy about it.

“I cried. I couldn’t believe it.”

That’s the first thing Janette Lee says about winning $100,000 in Station Casinos’ Great Giveaway Football Contest. And by winning, I mean picking the most losers over the 17-week NFL season. She and the contestant on the opposite end of the spectrum, who picked the most winners, both won their choice of a new Dunhill home valued at $225,000 or $100K in cash. Janette’s husband Paul figures that out of 224 picks, she hit 169 losers ... without even trying.

The Lees have been playing the game together for 13 years, investing $25 apiece each time—though Great Giveaway guarantees that if you don’t win any weekly or end-of-season prizes, you get your entry fee back in free slot play. In any case, the Lees’ $650 investment over more than a decade returned more than 150 times that amount, and the win is even sweeter for Janette’s quirky betting system. She made her picks based on favorite colors and animals, and because she's from Texas and in deference to her dear friend's devotion to the 49ers.

“I’m a Dallas Cowboys fan—diehard,” Janette says. “I don’t care whether they win or lose, they’re still my team.” And what of her love for Denver? She once drove a blue Bronco. The Panthers? What’s more badass than a panther? If you mention the color green, however, Janette will give you an earful about how much she detests the Packers. My favorite team, the Vikings, are also on her sh*tlist because she once lived with a man she couldn’t stand who wore an actual Viking hat and yelled too loud during games. It was annoying, so the team is shunned for life.

“I’d fill ’em out, and he’d look at ’em and nod his head like, ‘What the heck are you thinking?’” Janette says of Paul’s typical reaction to her completed game cards. Week after week he chuckled at the results. “I finally thought, ‘Well, I can’t win for losing.’ And, of course, that’s how I won it,” she says with a laugh. “In all actuality I never kept track of what I was doing. I would just fill ’em out.” But Paul counted every loss, and he knew going into the last week of the contest that she was in a three-way tie for biggest loser. She thought he was messing with her at first, but he was adamant that these final choices really, really mattered and that she should go against her gut and listen to him. She did, betting that the Saints and Falcons (two of her favorites) would come out on the bottom. And they did.

“As we were approaching, he could see it already—my player’s card number was at the top. He smiled, and he goes, ‘Well, you did it.’ I said, ‘No f-ing way. No way!’ And I go up close and I see my number and I just started balling,” Janette says of the moment the couple walked into the Red Rock sports book and saw the winners board. “We went to eat at the coffee shop, and I had the paper in my hand and I was just crying. I said, ‘This is for real; pinch me!’”

The Lees already have a home in Summerlin, and Janette knew that her money might do some good for friends and family, as well. So she opted for cash. Some is going to her brother-in-law and his family, who need to fix the heater in their car. Some is going to her sister to help with a home purchase. And some will probably go to her coworkers at the Mirage this Christmas, so their kids won't have to go without like Janette did growing up. “God blessed us with this. We’ve gotta bless others,” she says. “Family is important.”

For herself and Paul, Janette bought a 2013 Toyota Tacoma in gray (they didn’t have blue, and she wasn’t about to drive anything green), and they’re planning to remodel their house in Summerlin, starting with Janette’s “dream kitchen.” They’re also planning a trip to Paul’s ancestral home—China—and will pay for his mother and sister to come along. Given her track record, Janette isn’t planning to invest in the stock market. But she will play Great Giveaway again, mostly so she can keep teasing Paul. Has her victory shut him up about her unique game play? “You bet,” she says. “There’s a picture of me on Facebook with a basket of $5000 chips.”

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Erin Ryan

Erin got her first newspaper job in 2002 thanks to a campfire story about Bigfoot. In her award-winning work for ...

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