On a good night, a member of the Saint Felipe Poker Club (which is hosted monthly at a home in Lodi) could take home $300 in winnings. Eleven of the guys in the card group, some of whom have known each other since high school, are taking home a lot more after matching five of six numbers in the January 9 Powerball draw!
“When Jim first called me, I was trembling. I couldn’t breathe. It was crazy!” recalled Michael Mark, a member of the lucky group of 11. (There are actually 12 members of the poker club, but one person unfortunately decided not to participate.)
Jim Labarber, another member of the group, remembers looking at the Powerball number on his tickets first, and then being disappointed they weren’t going to win the $947.9 million jackpot. “I was a little bummed at first we didn’t win the big one. Then I sat back and started to look at the rest of the numbers – and to my complete amazement I saw the ‘16-19-32-34 and 57!’ I was dumbfounded. I couldn’t believe it!”
This was the first time the guys have played the California Lottery as a group. Michael Mark sent out an email to everyone on January 8 (the day before the draw) inquiring who wanted to be part of the pool and to get their $20 to him so he could buy the Powerball tickets. “I even drew up a contract, which everyone gave me a lot of [bleeping bleep] about,” he admitted with a laugh.
Not surprisingly, there was a lot of jubilation once everyone realized they’d won $779,264, and it wasn’t just a prank. “I looked at [the winning numbers] and started shaking and jumping up and down and acting a fool,” explained Labarber. “So I sent out a text to the rest of the group stating this is no joke…check your ticket. Everybody else starts texting me back, ‘Stop playing around, it’s not even funny,’” he added with a laugh.
Once everyone realized it wasn’t a joke, everyone’s phones blew up for at least the next five hours. “If we’d had limits on text messaging, we all would have gone over!” Mark interjected with another laugh.
It’s for sure a feel-good story for this poker club named “Saint Felipe” after the late brother of member Adrian Chavez. On January 11, 2008, 31-year-old Felipe Chavez, a lineman for PG&E, was killed on the job – electrocuted as he attempted to restore power lines in the El Dorado County community of Cool, which were damaged during a January 4 wind and rainstorm. Felipe, a graduate of Bear Creek High School in Stockton, was a founding member of the poker club back in 2007.
“He felt like he was a hero because he would be bringing power back to people who needed it,” Adrian Chavez said. “After he passed away, we kept the [poker] group going and it’s our way of remembering him.”
The group feels the name “Saint Felipe” is now especially apropos. “You’re 14 times more likely to be named a saint than to win the lottery!” Mark said.
Split 11 ways, each member of the group (which includes a father and his two sons) will be receiving about $70,842 (before federal tax). The members agree it’s “not totally life-changing money, but some very solid footing – some down payments.”
The Saint Felipe Poker Club’s lucky ticket was purchased at Parkwood Gas and Food, which is located at 1612 West Hammer Lane in Stockton. Mark said he specifically bought his tickets at this retailer because he remembers it sold the lucky ticket that won the $11 million SuperLotto Plus® jackpot on September 24, 2014!