OFFSTAGE: The Other Big (Casino) Winners in Vegas During ACM Week

(CMT Offstage keeps a 24/7 watch on everything that’s happening with country music artists behind the scenes and out of the spotlight.)

So much gambling, so little time. But I did get a whole lot of country stars to tell me about their gambling strategies when they came down the red carpet at Sunday night’s (April 3) ACM Awards in Las Vegas. As you can imagine, the artists who lost a lot of money didn’t really want to relive that. But the winners? They were a little less humble.

Josh Kelley won very big. But the biggest winner might be his wife, actress Katherine Heigl. “I won $1,500 at a blackjack table yesterday,” he told me. “After only playing for 15 minutes. It’s not my biggest win, but it’s nice. I’m not that big of a gambler, ’cause I’m pretty tight with my cash. But for some reason, I was on fire. I bought my wife a really nice necklace here.”

John Rich is all about blackjack.”I had a big win recently at the blackjack table,” he said. “And I have learned that if you win a bunch of money at the table, buy something with it. ‘Cause if you don’t, you’ll go put it back on the table and lose it. So I went and bought me a Ford F-150 King Ranch pickup truck. I love that truck.” he said. How’d he do it? “I wasn’t playing big. I just won huge. I was just chipping away, but I played a long time.”

Jake Owen did well, too. “I like blackjack tables,” he said. “I did pretty well last night. I won a few hundred bucks so far. I’ll buy my mom something nice and take it back home to her. I learned a lesson last night. When you win, you get up. And walk away. When you’re up more money than you came in with, leave.”

David Nail claims he’s a bad loser. “I used to always be a roulette guy, ’cause it was a slow death,” he acknowledged. “You could play roulette and lose slowly. So I could validate in my mind that you lost 500 bucks, but you played for, like, six hours. I tried to make it all work in my head. I hate to admit it, but my wife is good. She’s just lucky. I think it’s a payback because she shops too much. But when we come to casinos she actually makes money. Then I just give it right back to her so she can go to J.Crew and get whatever’s new.”

Justin Moore told me the story of his biggest win to date. “I generally gamble a lot, but I’ve been working so much that I haven’t placed one bet,” he said. “It’s lame. I brought my wife this year, and she pulls the reins a little tighter on me. I play blackjack, but I did just learn how to roll the dice this year. We were here with Brad Paisley last year and I won $2,000. Which is a lot of money. But usually you’re not gonna leave this state with a lot of money.” Moore’s only time in a high-roller room was with Darius Rucker. “I hung with him for two hands, but it was like $1,000 a hand,” he said.

Chris Young goes back and forth between craps and roulette. “If I’m gonna bet just a large bet and then walk off, I play roulette,” he told me. “If I wanna stand there and bet for a while, craps. I’ve never left more than seven casinos down money. It’s pure luck. Once I won $3,600 off of one bet. It was very late. I reached in my pocket I had one black $100 chip. I put it on 15. I hit 15 and was like ‘I’m going to bed.’”

Alison makes her living loving country music. She's based in Chicago, but she's always leaving her heart in Nashville.