A MAN who was £50,000 in debt turned his luck around by winning more than £200,000 in a card game.

Paul Bahbout, 50, of Westcliff Parade, Westcliff, won the cash at Maxims Casino on Southend seafront as part of a blackjack tournament being played simultaneously in 12 casinos across the UK.

He is now planning a holiday of a lifetime with friends to Dubai, Thailand, and perhaps, Las Vegas.

He added: “The rest of the money will be used to help friends and family, who have had a rocky year as a result of the recession.

“It was a surreal moment and the shock of the win has been growing on me ever since.

“The first thing I did when I knew I’d won was to cuddle one of the waitresses, Ewa Brok, who is a former girlfriend.

“On the previous hand Ewa had said: ‘I’d better go away because I might bring you bad luck’.”

Unmarried Mr Bahbout has spent his working life managing sports clubs and restaurants. But he was unemployed before his extraordinary win at the casino in Western Esplanade.

To win the £205,706.14 jackpot he needed to get four aces in one hand. As part of the tournament, he had a side bet of £1 which got him into the competition which involves all 12 casinos in the Genting Group. The first player in any of the casinos with four aces got the cash.

Casino manager Jimmy Howard said; “We were delighted the winner was someone from our casino.

“We genuinely like it when our customers win big. It gives us all a reason to celebrate.”

Maxims Southend is owned by Genting UK, which is the largest casino operator in the country.

Eileen Kinghan, spokeswoman for the gambling charity GamCare said: “Gambling should be fun. Walking away with winnings is a pleasant bonus, especially for those who gamble responsibly. Always gamble within your means, set yourself a limit on the money you’ll spend and stick to it.”