How fried wontons cost Denise Lucas nearly $4,000


Denise Lucas can admittedly become a tad irritable when she gets hungry.

“If my friends know me, you know you have to feed me or else I’m miserable,” she said. 

Such was the case a few minutes before 8 p.m. Friday night. Ms. Lucas, a regular on Friday night’s at the Riverhead Moose Lodge, headed out to Jamesport to pick up fried wontons to satisfy her growing hunger. She got as far as Aquebogue when her phone started buzzing.

She had just won the Queen of Hearts, a weekly raffle game drawn at precisely 8 p.m. The jackpot stood at $19,438, a relatively modest figure compared to some jackpots that have climbed as high as six figures.

Ms. Lucas was ecstatic. The only problem?

To take home the full 60 percent portion, the winner must be present at the time of the drawing. Since Ms. Lucas left just a few minutes before the drawing, she wound up taking home 40 percent.

“My bag of wontons cost me $4,000,” she said.

Still, she found herself the lucky winner of just under $7,800. She walked into the Moose Lodge after picking up her Chinese food and shared the wontons with everyone, she said.

“Everybody who greeted me at the door got a wonton,” she said.

It was a thrilling way to end a week that began with Ms. Lucas announcing her decision to close her nonprofit, Riverhead Move the Animal Shelter. She expressed frustration in an interview earlier this week about how her efforts over several years had not yet yielded construction on a new animal shelter for the town.

While losing out on the full jackpot, Ms. Lucas said she was thrilled that the Moose would be getting additional money to put toward a construction project. On Sunday, she had planned to serve food at a barbecue at the Moose while her husband cooks, she said. She’s been a member at the club for more than three years.

“That’s priceless to be able to contribute to that,” she said.

Ms. Lucas said she’s typically known for getting fried scallops or fried cod at the Moose on a Friday night. This particular night, however, she couldn’t wait.

She threw down $5 toward the Queen of Hearts and headed for the door.

“I’m not a greedy person,” she said. “I was more than happy to get what I got. Everybody was like, ‘Why did you walk away?’ ”

Tickets for the Queen of Hearts game are $1 and members can buy as many as they wish. One ticket is drawn each week and the winner picks one of the 54 playing cards in a glass case, hoping it has the Queen of Hearts. If the person misses, the barrel is emptied and the game starts anew the next week with one fewer card until a winner eventually hits.

Ms. Lucas, not a gambler by nature, said she won’t be testing her luck with a trip to Foxwoods this weekend.

Instead, she plans to use her winnings toward paying her health insurance.

“I’m not a gambler,” she said. “I hold onto my money.”

Photo Caption: Denise Lucas poses by the Queen of Hearts board on Friday after winning $7,800. (Courtesy photo)