Resident centenarian wins big at bingo days after her 100th birthday

It took Bernice “Aunt B” Gursch 100 years to reach her biggest bingo win.

The weekly bingo buff won more than $10,000 June 4, two weeks after marking her centennial birthday in the bingo hall at Aliante Station, 7300 Aliante Parkway.

Gursch, known as “Aunt B” to bingo hall staff members and regulars, won a double bingo on B3, which was also the designated Bingo Cash Ball Jackpot.

Her win was the culmination of a two-week birthday celebration, her family said.

Cake, ice cream and choruses of the “Happy Birthday” song were had at Aliante Station May 21, at home on Gursch’s birthday May 24 and at a surprise soiree Memorial Day weekend. Family from her native Chicago and well-wishers from her adopted home of North Las Vegas gathered for the occasion, said her nephew and caretaker George Pfeiffer.

The $10,687 payout was “the icing on the cake,” he said.

“She won’t forget that,” Pfeiffer said.

Bingo is a favored pastime for Gursch, who was known to play up to 32 cards a game and stand hunched over her spread. She moved to the electronic version about a year ago, she said.

She sits at the same place each week and the hall staff reserves her seat. A blue star was placed on her “reserved” card a week after her win.

“Everyone knows Aunt B,” said Johanna Long, a regular at the Aliante Station bingo room.

Long was seated on the opposite side of the room during Gursch’s winning session.

“It was quite busy because the Cash Ball hadn’t been won for quite some time, so it went up,” she said. “They had over 100 people there, easily over 100, which is unusual. Then the game started, and in game nine, which is a double bingo, she won on the bingo ball.”

Gursch, who stays sharp by reading the daily newspaper cover-to-cover, said she was anticipating a possible win.

“I figured I had a chance,” she said. “I think God watched over me.”

Gursch bellowed, “Bingo!” when she won, her nephew said.

“My aunt can’t lift her arms very high, but when she won, both arms flew over her head,” he said.

Long heard the call clearly, she said.

“Everyone immediately knew it was her,” she said. “It was cute. The bingo supervisor that night, Dawn, did something she usually does not do. She took the microphone and announced Aunt B was the winner. Usually they win, and they say, ‘One lucky winner has won’ but never say the names.”

The players cheered and clapped, Gursch said.

A Bingo Cash Ball Jackpot win of that size plus $100 for the double bingo game, is rare, said Aliante Station slot operations and bingo manager Mario Giannini.

The prize amount is on the higher end of possibility, he said.

Players pay extra, akin to a slot machine progressive, to be eligible for a Bingo Cash Ball Jackpot, he said, and the last time a winner hit the number at Aliante Station was in mid-May.

A winner typically wins a Bingo Cash Ball Jackpot sum daily at a Station Casinos property, Giannini said.

Gursch’s win was extra special, though, he said.

“It was a huge buzz,” Giannini said. “My team called me right away. Everyone was excited.”

Pfeiffer and his wife, Dessie, were with Gursch during the session. Gursch posed for pictures with her winnings fanned out on the table and in her hands.

Security members escorted the family to their car, Pfeiffer said.

The excitement caused Gursch to lose sleep, she said.

“It’s too much excitement for an old lady,” Gursch said.

Gursch plans to pay off her high-end hearing aids and save the rest of her jackpot, she said. She also bet on the No. 3 horse, a nod to her B3 luck, in the Belmont Stakes horse race, she said.

“Now the tax man cometh,” she said.

The win was the largest she ever took home, she said. In 2005, she won about $1,000 at the Suncoast, 9090 Alta Drive, she said.

Jealousy among her players is low, Long said.

“Everyone said, ‘If it wasn’t me who won, she would be the next I’d want to win,’ ” she said. “It’s already an accomplishment to be 100 years old and be in that sharp of mind to play bingo every week.”

Contact Centennial and North Las Vegas View reporter Maggie Lillis at mlillis@viewnews.com or 477-3839.

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