Bellying up to the table with Benny

Jun 25, 2007 2:26 AM

Carol, I am so proud of your achievement up in Reno, the Biggest Little City in the World, at the Peppermill Hotel and Casino, where Mike Gainey (director of poker operations) had arranged the summer poker tournament.

I know that you wanted to win, but a second place finish is not all that shabby when you consider that you were playing in The Seniors World Championship of Poker and that there were 81 of the very best seniors poker players in the world of poker.

I was really happy that the third place finisher, Dr. Peter Fisher, won the prize for being the oldest among us — 84 years young!

Dr. Peter made a personal donation to The Seniors Charities, in addition to his charity re-buy. All tolled, the seniors who played in this event donated over $3,000 to charity.

Now, Carol what did I promise the folks I would talk about today? Last week I was telling everybody about the founder of the World Series of Poker, Benny Binion, a member in good standing in The Seniors WCOP/Poker Players Hall of Fame.

I played with Benny before there was a World Series, and I promised the folks I would come back this week and tell you some more about my "salad days" playing with Benny and the boys

Benny was telling me some personal stories, like, "One time it became necessary and I toked myself into prison" he said.

It seems that he had bribed a governmental official.

"So when they sent me up," Benny continued, "I just took a supply of money with me, $1 million or so, in each of my boots, just so I could have all of the comforts of home while I was there and perhaps even toke my way out."

Then Benny talked about how he had shot a man in Texas and, most unfortunately, had been forced to leave the state rather hurriedly.

But now he said he was back at home in Las Vegas, where everything was legal.

You see, Benny was one of the old-time road gamblers who had run some illegal poker games and casinos in Texas and Louisiana. He was not always legitimate, or at least he did not have a license to do what he was doing here in Vegas.

So I decided that I would just take Benny up on his invitation and sit in for a few hands and play poker with Benny and the boys.

A couple of days later I found myself in Benny’s little club where a group of men was assembled around a poker table in the old part of the hotel where the baccarat room is today.

This was the room where they first held the World Series of Poker.

The boys invited me in; I dusted off a chair, took out $500 and settled in to play a few hands.

I noticed that the chips in Benny’s little club had his picture on them with the initials, BB.

I took my $500 and I played rather carefully like my daddy had taught me, with some degree of skill and some degree of luck, against some degree of foolishness on Benny’s part.

Benny was playing any two cards — 2-9, 3-K, etc. — any two cards he got a hold of he would play.

And I was able to quite smartly move my $500 up to $1,000, then the $1,000 to $2,000, then up to $3,000.

One of my rules is that when you make a satisfactory win, you quit.

But this was too good! Every time I would bust Benny, he would just reach back and get another rack of BBs.

Benny did not care what he was playing, and the other poker players sitting around the poker table were enjoying themselves, as well. Benny was having a party and everyone was enjoying it

When I was up to $3,000, I looked down and saw two magnificent black kings staring at me.

So, I teased the pot a little bit, and Benny teased it back. Then I sort-of hit the pot a bit, and Benny put some more money in the pot.

This was looking like an opportunity for me to really do well, so I dragged my money by the ear into the center of the table. Without any reluctance, Benny pushed all his chips in, too.

I turned over my two black kings, and Benny turned over his two red aces!

I knew immediately that I was in trouble, but I could not extricate myself from it because my chips were already in the pot.

Well, Amarillo Slim, Puggy Pearson, Johnny Moss and Bill Boyd started up a heated argument about insurance on the hand. They wanted to insure Benny’s hand.

This was the first time that I had ever heard about poker insurance, so I did not know what they were talking about.

"Well, he’s 20-to-1," one of them said. "Naw, I won’t give you 20-to-1, I will give you 10-to-1 or maybe 12-to-1," the other one answered.

A good insurance man always makes a profit, you know.

On the flop in no-limit hold’em, you get three cards, then you get one card, and then you get the final card.

If I could just catch a king on one of those five cards, I felt that I could beat Benny’s two aces.

Or if I could catch one of his aces it was possible that I could make a straight.

Despite the odds, my hand was not completely dead. And of course, I could make a black flush.

Slim, Puggy, Johnny and Bill began to argue about what the real odds were.

All I knew was that I was in trouble. They finally settled their insurance arguments and laid down some bets on which hand was going to win.

Of course, I went busted.

The two red aces stood up, so I stood up, dusted off my chair, checked to see if there were any stray BBs around me that I had not put into the pot, and excused myself saying, "I certainly have enjoyed playing with you fellas, and if I can go borrow some more money, I am coming back."

I was just teasing them a little bit.

Benny’s creation, the World Series of Poker, came out of these little poker games at the old Horseshoe.

That was my first experience with Benny and our friendship continued through the years. He developed the World Series of Poker in 1970 and it has continued ever since, but I was back there in the 1960s, playing with Benny and these boys in the friendly poker game in the back of the casino.

Later, Benny and the boys got together and made a $10,000 freeze-out from the nucleus of that group of "old age school teachers and preachers," whom Mrs. Binion did not want playing poker.

The group, the genesis of the first World Series, included Johnny Moss, Sailor Roberts, Curtis Skinner, Bobby Hoff, Joe Bernstein, Puggy Pearson, Charlie Hendrix, Amarillo Slim, Doyle Brunson, Jack Straus, Bob Hooks, Natey Blank, Bill Riddle, Titanic Thompson, Doc Greene and a few others

The Horseshoe didn’t have a card room at the time, but she kindly allowed them to have their little series of games, which evolved into the World Series of Poker.

Next week, I’ll relate some of my experiences over the years playing in the World Series.

the time, but she kindly allowed them to have their little series of games, which evolved into the World Series of Poker.

Next week, I’ll relate some of my experiences over the years playing in the World Series.