The history of Benny Binion and The World Series of Poker
Lester Ben Binion later known worldwide as “Benny,” was born November 20, 1904, near Pilot Grove (1904 population: 150), Grayson County, Texas, the son of Lonnie Binion and the former Alma Willie Wilkerson.
Benny didn’t stay long in Pilot Grove. A restless boy, at age six he punched cows and traded horses. Literally, he grew up under the big Texas sky, sitting around campfires at night listening to the cowboys swap stories, watching them play cards.
From 1922 to 1946, Benny stood in the heart of Dallas, Texas, gambling, first as a “steer man;” guiding customers to his boss’ crap games, later as the man who ran them. Prominent customers included H.L. Hunt, Howard Hughes, and Sid Richardson.
Benny moved to Las Vegas in January 1947, with his beloved wife, Teddy Jane, and their five children: Barbara, Jack, Brenda, Ted, and Becky. He owned the Las Vegas Club and the Westerner before opening in 1951 what became the internationally famous Benny Binion’s Horseshoe. A true pioneer in Las Vegas, Benny helped transform a dusty, desert nowhere of 18,000 souls into a world entertainment capital with a one million plus population.
Benny supported numerous worthy charities, but also, on his own, came to the rescue of thousands of people – mostly the old and children – with his largesse.
A marketing genius (prestigious university business schools teach his methods), Benny drew more than a million people to the Horseshoe with a display, (which unfortunately is no longer there), of $1 million cash (It was 100 ten thousand dollar bills), next to which all the locals and tourists enjoy being photographed. Benny also brought the enormously popular, always sold out, National Finals Rodeo to Las Vegas, and the pulse stopping nationally televised World Series of Poker, offering millions in prize money, to his own ligaz11 casino.
Today Benny Binion’s Horseshoe stands as a bustling monument to its legendary founder. A mixture of the old (one can imagine Wyatt Earp and Wild Bill …