Casino Magnates Benny Binion

Benny Binion at the 1979 World Series of PokerLester Ben "Benny" Binion (November 20, 1904 - December 25, 1989) was a well known casino owner and poker enthusiast.

Law problems

Binion was born and raised in Grayson County, Texas, north of Dallas, but moved to El Paso when he was 18. There, he began moonshining where he was twice convicted for it. In 1928, under fear of legal consequences, he gave up moonshining and opened a numbers game, or lottery, which was also illegal.

In 1931 he was convicted of murder after shooting Frank Bolding who moved as if to attack Binion in a back yard where they were arguing. Because the reputation of Bolding was so poor, Binion only got a two-year suspended sentence. He would later kill a fellow numbers operator who first drew a gun on him. Binion was found innocent on the grounds of self-defense.

Casino years

Because of his own notoriety, in 1946 he moved to Las Vegas, Nevada. He became a partner of the Las Vegas Club casino, but left after a year because of disagreements about limits on bets. In 1951 he opened Binion's Horseshoe casino, and it immediately became popular because of the high limits on bets. Because of the competition, Binion sometimes received death threats, although eventually casinos raised their limits to keep up with him. Additionally, the Horseshoe would honor a bet of any monetary value as long as it was the first bet made.

Binion was in the vanguard of Las Vegas Casinos being the first to install carpets, the first to have limousines pick up customers, and the first to give free drinks to players. Although comps were normal for high rollers, Binion opened the door for all players.

Despite physically getting away from Texas, he still had legal troubles. He served time in Leavenworth Penitentiary from 1953 to 1957 for tax evasion related to his operations in Texas. He had to sell his share of the casino to pay around $5 million for legal costs, but in 1964 his family regained control. Benny, however, was never allowed to hold a gambling license afterwards, although he was on the payroll as a consultant.

His sons Jack and Ted would become president and manager, respectively, and his wife Teddy Jane managed the casino cage. In 1998, Binion's daughter, Becky, took over the presidency after a legal battle and Jack moved on to other gambling interests.

Legends and legacy

Binion once arranged for Johnny Moss and Nick the Greek to play a five month long Poker tournament, which Nick the Greek ultimately ended up losing. After the final hand, and losing millions of dollars, Nick The Greek uttered one of the most famous poker quotes of all time, "Mr. Moss, I have to let you go."

Binion helped the game of poker spread and become popular, by helping to create the World Series of Poker. He died of heart failure at the age of 85 on December 25, 1989 in Las Vegas. He was posthumously inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 1990.

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