The Binion’s and the WSOP
The historical Binion’s poker room is for many poker players considered the best of the best as it is directly connected with the legends. Benny Binion was more or less the leader of the world of Dallas in the 40s, who had rushed out of Texas to become one of the tough ones. In 1951 he opened the Horseshoe and from the beginning was oriented towards the game and nothing else. It was the only place that accepted every bet. As a promotion for the Binions Casino he had put a million dollars in banknotes in a glass case at the entrance and organized the famous poker marathon five months between Johnny Moss and Nick the Greek. Horseshoe’s popularity grew, and business was good. In 1970, Binion decided to renew the atmosphere of the marathon and had to play the 6 best players in the world against each other in a number of variants of poker under the name “World Series of Poker” (WSOP), to determine who was to be selected as the best poker player. After the final, Johnny Moss was elected by others as the best player.
The Horseshoe remained the number one in the following years when it came to high stakes poker. Finally in 1988, following the acquisition of Mint, the legendary casino next door became a hotel. In 1989, the year of death of Benny Binion, the Horseshoe was the most profitable casino in Las Vegas. Benny’s explanation was simple: We had a small joint and a large bottom and everyone else had a big joint and a small fund. “We got a little joint and a big bankroll, and all them others got a big joint and a little bankroll.” During the years following the death of Benny, Horseshoe began to decline. Years of mismanagement and family running did no good to the casino. Ted Binion was murdered in 1998 (as is well described in the book “Positively Fifth Street” ) and Benny’s daughter Becky Behne, led the casino management. The well-known million-dollar exhibition had to disappear and finally the casino suffered bankruptcy in January 2004.
The World Series of Poker, which is today the largest in popularity in the field of poker tournaments is directly linked and associated to the popular Binions Horseshoe as explained above. Since 1971, the first time the WSOP was ever held, the Binions Horseshoe has hosted each year the main event and side events of the WSOP. Year by year the events grew in numbers with more and more players being attracted to the worldwide recognized poker tournament and meeting therefore increasing the prize money substantially. The presence and only of the poker’s hall of fame, in the same location for about a month is in reality enough to attract the attention of more and more viewers, railbirds and of course players who later might decide to try their skills in the game. The excellent organization and ideal hospitality of the WSOP tournament could only create a growing of both players and ordinary viewers.
The host of the triumphs of Doyle Brunson, Stu of Angar and Johnny Chan and so many other legends of poker has been undoubtedly the “home” of the largest annual festival of poker. At the beginning of the decade, the company was plagued by many financial problems, which resulted in long delays in salary payments or social security contributions. As a result, in December 2003 issued a court order for seizure of funds of 1.9 million in U.S. dollars from the funds of the Horseshoe. Indeed, on January 9, 2004, federal agents and its tax U.S. went to the Horseshoe and seized approximately 1 million U.S. dollars.
As a result, the casino was forced to announce that it suspend its operation, until further notice. A few days later, it announced a sale to Harrah’s entertainment. Harrah’s retained the rights to the brands of the Horseshoe and World Series of Poker. Simultaneously, they sold the hotel and casino to MTR Gaming Group and announced that the World Series of Poker in 2005 will be held at Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, owned by Harrah’s themselves. The Binion had inadequate facilities to host the growing participation in side events and the WSOP Main Event. 2004 was the last year that the events of the World Series of Poker were held at the Binions. Greg Raymer, world champion of that year, endorsed by PokerStars can be proud that he was won the last main event winner in the history of the WSOP how wore the bracelet in the area where the WSOP was born.
Fortunately Harrah’s brought further gains, which guaranteed the existence of the World Series of Poker. The name of the casino had to be changed to Binion’s because Jack Binion Horseshoe had registered the name and had used it also for its casino in Tunica. After the takeover, there was no quick fix for the world championships, as 2,576 players participated in the 2004 WSOP making the tournament the biggest chaos in the history of poker tournaments. Fortunately for the WSOP players moved from 2005 onwards to the beautiful Rio Convention Center and only the last players of the Championship (Championship Event) finished the tournament at Binion’s, as prescribed by tradition.