Binion’s Gambling Hall is the place that made poker famous, hosting the first ever World Series of Poker. Jerry Benetatos (who goes by Bennett), 64, is the poker manager for Binion’s.
His 30-year gaming career includes table games dealer (Caesars Atlantic City), table games pit manager (Venetian Las Vegas and Wynn Las Vegas), live streaming internet games consultant (Lucky 8 Bet.com, Birmingham England) and poker dealer for the World Series of Poker Las Vegas. We hit him up about his poker life.
GT: How did you get into poker?
JB: “My love of poker and gambling started at a very early age. As a teenager I would cut school to work the underground games as a runner in the Philadelphia area. As soon as I was tall enough to sit at the table I started playing $1 and $2 Seven Card Stud. Soon after casino gaming opened in Atlantic City, I found my calling. I broke into the business as a craps dealer for Bally’s and have been involved with gaming ever since.
“When poker was finally legalized in Jersey I found myself playing 40 to 60 hours a week. I would finish my shift as a table games dealer at Bally’s Grand Casino then walk the boardwalk to the Taj Mahal to play 20/40 or 30/60 stud. To advance our careers my wife and I moved to Las Vegas in 1999 to open two brand new casinos in management positions – Venetian and Paris.
“When my European consulting job ended in 2008 I returned to the States just in time to deal poker at WSOP and thus started my re-connect with poker.”
Tell me about your room at Binion’s. How many tables, games you spread, tournaments, amenities, etc.
“Binion’s poker currently has six poker tables spreading $1/$2 blind No Limit Hold’em and various low limit games. We run two $60 daily tournaments at 1 and 8 p.m., with a 1 p.m. Saturday $150 Deep Stack. Rated players receive $2 per hour in comps and are eligible for high hand bonuses ranging from $100 to $5,000.”
What makes your room popular or unique for players? What are their favorite games?
“Binion’s poker being the original home of the World Series of Poker and Hall of Fame is a natural attraction for curiosity seekers and players with its rich history and old-school charm. No Limit is still the main game players request, but more and more mixed limit poker variations are being played.”
Any special events, tournaments or promotions coming up?
“We just completed our very popular Dog Days of Summer tournament series, which ran in the month of June. Our focus currently is on daily cash and tournament games. We do host many private specialty events throughout the year.”
What’s your view on the future popularity of poker?
“The next generation of poker players seems to be on the decline everywhere. With a diminished new player base, players and poker room management must keep poker interesting and fun – whatever it takes! The main attraction of poker has become a way to get rich quick instead of a game that is fun to play day in and day out. Really, how many players playing in local card rooms today will win the ‘big one’ or just simply give up trying!?
“The attraction to poker has always been the social gambling interaction. A group of diverse individuals sitting around a poker table gambling and joking with each other for hours, not sitting listening to headphones and shutting out the world! If we don’t make the game more attractive to new players we will certainly lose what we have.”
What are your interests, hobbies, family life like outside of the poker room?
“My wife and I are living the good life in Las Vegas.”