The story behind “Winner,Winner,Chicken Dinner”

Photo Credit : Bari Demers


In the past week I received messages in regards to the meaning of, ” Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!”  

For the younger generation, it just dawned on me, the term, “Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner! ” is not necessarily understood. Unless, of course, they did a Google search.

So, let me tell you a little story :  

When I was eight years old my father would come home from his vacation in Las Vegas and would either say,” Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!” Or he would come home, saying,” Dammit! Caesars Palace and the bank owns our home again!” 

At such an impressional age of only eight, my curiosity got the best of me, so I had to ask my father why he was so happy winning a chicken dinner? 

BUT – 

Noticing the mood change from very happy to outright mad, being the happiest when he said,” Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!” I thought it best to ask him questions when he was in his happiest mood.

SO – 

One day, my father came home, “happier than a pig in mud” bellowing out those happy words,” Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!” throwing a wad of hard cold cash onto his bed. I knew the time was right to ask him my burning question, knowing all too well,”curiosity killed the cat” could end me in serious trouble. My dad’s moods were fickle, to say the least. Say the wrong think at the wrong time, could lead you to a serious swat in the head. Basically us kids were walking on thin ice when my dad was in one of his bad moods. I believe I took most of his brute force, as I would always question his authority on a regular basis. 

But, today was a good day, he was happier than a pig in mud! 

ARIA Resort & Casino. Photo Credit : Bari Demers


Playing with my favourite GI Joe toy, pretending this military Super Star was scouting ahead in the midst of all this hard cold cash, was the only time I was allowed near any of my dad’s monies. My dad was busy emptying his suitcase.

I knew the time was now or never.  

My little heart was racing, as I mustered up the courage and said,” Dad…?”
Paying little attention to me, you could see his mind was else where. I’m sure he was thinking more about what he could do with all that cash! 

So, I asked him again,”Dad…?” 

He looked at me with his cold steely eyes,”Yes! Yes! What is it?!” As if I was just bugging him. 

I took a deep breath and said,” Dad…Why are you so happy when you win a chicken dinner? I mean…after all…we have chicken dinners here every Thursday night…”  I waited patiently, as my dad thought of me as more of a nuisance, than his son.   

Suddenly he stopped.

I tensed up ready for whatever came my way, even closing my eyes.  
My dad sat on the end of the bed and told me to sit beside him. He was a mean son-a-bitch, so it took all of my will power to sit beside someone who’s temper was extremely volatile.  

Quietly, I sat beside him, unknown of his next move. 

He grabbed his cigarettes from his front pocket, pulled out one and lite it. 
Took a deep breath and said,” Son…Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner simply means I won the Jackpot… My God! Where have you been all your life? Don’t they teach you anything in school?!”

I cast my eyes low to the ground, as if respecting the primal anarchy, waiting for whatever was going to happen next.  

My dad took another puff of his cigarette. He could see I was asking a perfectly reasonable question. Giving a deep sign, he said,” Ok, listen…because I won’t repeat myself!”

I nodded.

My dad proceeded to tell me the reason for,” Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!” He told me, in Las Vegas a chicken dinner would cost around $2 dollars. In Vegas, you could place a minimum bet of $2 dollar. So, when you won $2 you were sure to win a $2 Chicken Dinner!

The Shards of Color Photo Credit: Bari Demers


[Read more about the Shards of Color at CityCenter, Las Vegas ]

In my family, I’ve heard so many times of my uncle betting on the horse races, so I had an idea what betting was all about. It was also clear my dad won a lot more then two dollars, so I quickly understood it’s more of a saying then anything. 

My dad concluded, ” Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner simply means I won the jackpot. It also means there’s more food in the house this month. Do you get it?! ” 

I nodded. 

My little imagination took off like wildfire. I could see this wizzical magic place called,” Las Vegas” ! At such a young age, I could only refer it to the famous, ” Wizard of Oz” But, it was a real place for everyone including my dad and uncle. I knew when I was old enough, I had to see this Wizard of Oz place called LAS VEGAS! 

Wish YOU were here in Las Vegas ! Photo by Bari Demers

Join us Vegas Lovers 

Years later…

A few years after my third visit to Las Vegas, you can imagine how surprised I was to see the actual theme of the brand new resort, the MGM Grand, displaying the Wizard of Oz !   I grinned ear to ear, realizing this was some sort of “good” karma.  

MGM Grand Las Vegas – Theme “Wizard of Oz”


[Read more about the good old days...]

In all, Las Vegas not only has good memories, but I quickly understood from past experiences with my dad, how Vegas could be your friend or how it could end up being a problem. The very fact, Caesars Palace could own your house through betting up a lean against your home stuck in my head since I was eight years old. It was a clear reminder to play poker, blackjack or the slot machines within your financial budget. This is why I always hold fast to my budget.  

I believe Mr Steve Wynn had a similar experience with his dad. 

Just realize in the end, winnings in Las Vegas are left to the experts and when you do win in Vegas, just remember it, as nothing more than a form of FUN entertainment. Unless of course you so happen to win millions of dollars, only then can you call it a lucky lottery.  

So, I hope your vacation in Vegas is a FUN and LUCKY experience and may you one day yell out,”Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner! 

See YOU in Vegas !  

Come on by and join us Vegas Lovers in the “just for fun” Facebook Page geared for Vegas Lovers and newcomers heading for their very first vacation in the adult version of The Wizard of Oz land known as Las Vegas. 

By Bari Demers –freelance writer and scifi screenwriter 

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