World Series of Poker founder Benny Binion was born Lester Ben Binion on November 20, 1904 in a small community just north of Dallas, Texas. Benny Binion spent his youth helping his dad in the horse trading business. Online Casino like Dominoqq was not yet present that time, but Benny Binion knew where exactly the future of casino was going.
At 17 Benny Binion moved to El Paso to start an underground moonshine business. After two arrests related to his moonshining, Benny Binion switched to another illegal operation – running a lottery game. Bad luck followed him, however, and Benny Binion was convicted on murder in 1931. He claimed self-defense and was given a two year suspended sentence.
In 1946, Benny Binion moved his experience to Las Vegas and became a not-so-silent partner in the Las Vegas Club. Despite having no formal education, Binion was a real force in the Las Vegas casino scene. Binion was adamant in promoting high stakes games – something the other partners were not interest in. Binion left the Las Vegas Club after only one year.
In 1951, Benny Binion bought the building that housed the Las Vegas Club and opened the Westerner Gambling House and Saloon. Binion’s Texas roots carried over to his nickname, “The Cowboy.”
Also in the 1950s, Benny Binion bought out the El Dorado Club and Apache Hotel creating Binion’s Horseshoe. The Horseshoe specialized in high-stakes games. Benny Binion also used the Horseshoe to change the atmosphere of casinos. He installed carpeting, brought in limos for high-rollers, and offered all players free beverages.
The luxury was interrupted when Benny Binion was sent to Leavenworth Penitentiary from 1953 to 1957 on tax evasion. Upon his release, Benny Binion was unable to hold a gambling license. His sons, Jack and Ted, took over the casinos as president and manager.
Throughout his career, Benny Binion setup high-stakes games amongst popular players, most notably Johnny Moss and Nick the Greek. In 1970, Benny Binion took his influence one higher with the first World Series of Poker with a $10,000 buy-in.
Benny Binion underestimated the popularly of the World Series of Poker. In 1973, Benny Binion speculated that one day the WSOP would see 50 players. In 2006, there were 8,773 entrants – up from 5,619 in 2005.
Benny Binion died on December 25, 1989. He was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 1990.
Binion’s casinos and personal life saw a dramatic change after his death. In 1998, his daughter Becky took over as president after a bitter legal dispute. Also in 1998, his son Ted was found murdered. In 2004, the IRS closed the Horseshoe for non-payment of taxes and the casino was sold to Harrah’s Entertainment and now operates as Binion’s Gambling Hall and Hotel.