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Benny Binion - From Underworld Mob Boss to Vegas Casino Royalty

Today, we delve into the captivating life story of Benny Binion, a captivating and controversial figure deeply embedded in the annals of Las Vegas and the casino industry. With a complex past that traverses through intrigue and power struggles, Binion's journey offers a compelling narrative of ambition, resilience, and the indelible mark he left on the vibrant tapestry of Sin City.

Benny Binion was an American casino owner with a complex past. He started his career as a criminal but transitioned to one of the most famous gamblers and casino moguls ever, leaving an indelible mark on the world of gambling.

Born in the early 20th century, his journey began in the Dallas-Fort area, where he established a reputation for managing illegal gambling. His reputation as a mob boss in the 1940s was undeniable, as he controlled most of the gambling scene in the city.

After he started losing his grip on the city’s gambling, he decided to relocate to Nevada, a state where gambling was a legal and flourishing industry.

There, he founded the iconic Binion's Horseshoe casino in downtown Las Vegas. This venue became famous for its high betting limits, attracting high rollers and poker enthusiasts from all over the country and the world.

This is also where Binion found the World Series of Poker, the world's biggest, most famous, and most prestigious poker tournament series.

Full NameFull Name
Lester Ben Binion
Net WorthNet Worth
$75 million
Source of WealthSource of Wealth
Casino and hotel owner, illegal gambling
Famous forFamous for
Establishing the World Series of Poker
BornBorn
November 20, 1904 -December 25, 1989

Below, we dive into the world of a man who became a pivotal figure in the poker world and a major part of the Las Vegas Strip evolution, including Benny Binion net worth and his business and criminal endeavors.

Benny Binion Highlights

Highlights
Benny Binion Highlights
  • He was a mob boss in Dallas at the start of his career
  • Helped transform the gambling industry in Las Vegas
  • Founder of the Binion’s Horseshoe Casino in Las Vegas
  • Founded the World Series of Poker in 1970
  • Considered one of the most influential casino owners in the history of Las Vegas

The Upbringing and Childhood of Benny Binion

Lester Ben Binion was born on November 20, 1904, in the humble town of Pilot Grove, Texas. His childhood was shaped by the rugged lifestyle of horse trading, thanks to his father's business.

For most of his childhood, Binion’s parents kept him out of school, fearing the formal education system might be too much of his health challenges.

Because of this, his education took place in the great outdoors instead of classrooms and textbooks. According to his parents, the fresh country air gradually restored his health, allowing him to lead a normal life, thanks to his numerous trips with his father.

But these trips not only impacted his physical well-being but also introduced him to the world of gambling.

Horse traders and merchants enjoyed gambling as a favored pastime, and young Ben was there to watch and learn.

Without having to go to school, he had a lot of free time and spent it learning the art of gambling. This hands-on experience would later shape his decisions and allow him to succeed in life.

Becoming the Mob Boss of Dallas

Binion’s rap sheet dates back to 1924. His first major criminal operation happened during the Prohibition Era when he started producing moonshine in El Paso.

A year later, he moved to Dallas, where he continued with his moonshining operations and was eventually introduced to the gambling world. His first gig was as a dice dealer in Warren Diamond’s casino in Dallas.

His first violent offense happened in 1931 when he was convicted of shooting and killing Frank Bolding, a rum runner. For this, he received a two-year sentence.

In 1936, he once again showed his violent nature. This time, the victim was Ben Frieden, a competitor that Binion claimed he shot in self-defense.

Two years later, another of his rivals, Sam Murray, met a similar fate, but Binion was never convicted for this murder.

Thanks to his wits and reputation for being ruthless to those who opposed him, he seized control of most of the gambling operations in Dallas by 1936. It is also rumored that Binion achieved all this with backing from a powerful politician who was not named.

Binion controlled the renowned Top O' Hill Terrace casino and a horse track in Arlington, making him the undisputed mob boss of Dallas.

His reign in Dallas ended in 1946 when Steve Guthrie was elected sheriff.

Binion Moves to the City of Sin

After moving to Las Vegas, Binion continued with his criminal activities. His most famous is the feud with gambler Herber Noble, who was killed by a bomb in 1951 after previously surviving numerous attempts on his life.

In 1951, he lost his Nevada gaming license and faced a five-year sentence for tax evasion. This significantly impacted his life of crime, and he decided to become a legitimate businessman.

Benny Binion's Role in Shaping the Gambling Landscape of Las Vegas

Thanks to his knack for innovation and risk-taking, Binion quickly became a Las Vegas businessman, a prominent one at that.

In 1949, after a brief partnership with the Las Vegas Club casino, he ventured into his own with the opening of the Westerner Gambling House and Saloon.

His first big breakthrough came two years later when he purchased the Eldorado and the Apache Hotel and transformed them into what would later become the legendary Binion’s Horseshoe.

Thanks to its high betting limits, initially capped at $500 for the craps table, The Horseshoe quickly became a sensation in Sin City’s gambling industry.

This had such a big impact on the gambling landscape of Las Vegas that Binion started receiving death threats from competitors.

However, thanks to his criminal history, Binion was undeterred by such moves, and he continued allowing bets of any size as long as they did not exceed the player’s initial wager.

In addition to increasing the betting limits, The Horseshoe, now known as Binion’s Gambling Hall, was also the first casino in the city to replace sawdust-covered floors with carpets, offering free drinks to all players and providing a limo service for customers.

Benny Binion's quote

“People want good whiskey, cheap, good food, cheap, and a square gamble... Make the little man feel like a big man.”

Benny Binion

Legal Challenges and Conviction

In 1953, Binion faced several legal challenges, including a conviction that forced him to sell a major share in the Horseshoe.

Although he was never able to hold a gambling license again, his family regained control of the casino in 1957. This helped Binion attain prominent status in the casino industry.

His innovative approach and dedication to customer satisfaction cemented his legacy in the gambling world, making Binion’s Horseshoe a cornerstone of Sin City’s history.

Poker Legacy of Benny Binion and Creation of WSOP

In 1970, Benny Binion revolutionized the game of poker by founding the World Series of Poker.

Thanks to his experience organizing high-stakes games and heads-up matches, Binion organized a one of the biggest poker tournaments at the time at his casino that featured six prominent poker players.

The game of choice was no-limit Texas Hold’em, a poker format that allows for high-stakes dramatic gameplay.

The first tournament was held in a slightly different format from the one we know today. The players competed for cash at the table, and a vote among the participants determined the champion.

Johny Moss, a veteran poker player, was voted the first champion and took home a small trophy.

After the initial tournament, Binion recognized this event's potential. He introduced a freeze-out format the following year. The buy-in for this event was $10,000 buy-in.

Thanks to the WSOP, Binion helped poker become a mainstream game and changed how it is portrayed forever. It is hard to believe that poker would be what it is today without Binion’s interference.

Benny Binion Net Worth and Affluence

Benny Binion made his fortune both as a criminal and a successful businessman. In the early years, most of his fortune came from illegal activiteis such as moonshining and illegal gambling operations.

As a businessman, Binion’s most lucrative venture was establishing Binion’s Horseshoe in Las Vegas. This casino made Binion a legend in gambling circles and sealed his legacy as a visionary businessman who reshaped the Las Vegas gambling industry.

At the time of his death, Benny Binion net worth was estimated to be around $75 million.

Where Is Benny Binion Today?

The legendary gambling icon passed away on December 25, 1989, at the age of 85.

He spent his final days in Las Vegas, the city where he made his mark as a casino mogul. Binion died of heart failure, leaving behind a legacy that forever changed the face of gambling and the Las Vegas Strip.

He rests at the Palm Valley View Memorial Park in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The World Series of Poker continues to be the most prestigious event in poker, continuing his influence in the world of poker and gambling.

FAQ

Who Is Benny Binion?

Benny Binion was an American gambling icon and mob boss who significantly shaped the Las Vegas casino industry. He is best known for founding Binion’s Horseshoe, a casino that became famous for its high stakes and was the birthplace of the World Series of Poker.

How Did Benny Binion Make His Fortune?

Binion amassed his fortune through a combination of criminal activities and legitimate business ventures. His wealth primarily came from his gambling operations in Dallas and later from his successful casino, Binion’s Horseshoe, in Las Vegas.

Was Benny Binion Married?

Yes, Benny Binion was married to Teddy Jane Binion, together, they had five children.

Who Founded the WSOP?

The World Series of Poker (WSOP) was founded by Benny Binion in 1970. The inaugural even was held at his casino, Binion’s Horseshoe in Las Vegas.

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