World-class poker tourney was Binion’s legacy

Apr 3, 2001 6:53 AM

Benny Binion took a chance when he moved his family from Texas to Las Vegas in 1951. That same year he opened and ran the Horseshoe on a simple philosophy: “Find out what the people want, give them an honest deal, and treat them right. The rest will take care of itself.”

   The current Binion’s Horseshoe was built in 1965, and since then Binion’s has taken over the old Mint Hotel and incorporated its casino into its own. The result is an enormous gaming area that is divided into several distinct sections downstairs.

   Most people come to Binion’s to gamble. There’s no pretense of entertainment or tourist attractions. With no theme or architecture to date it, Binion’s has fared well over the years and has continued to be the number-one choice for serious gamblers, especially poker players.

   In fact, Binion’s is the home and originator of the World Series of Poker (this year’s event starts April 16). Though the World Series of Poker made its official debut in 1970, the idea of the annual tournament was actually conceived more than two decades earlier.

   In the summer of 1949, as the story goes, inveterate gambler Nicholas “Nick the Greek” Dandolos approached Benny Binion with an unusual request — to challenge the best in a high-stakes poker marathon. Binion agreed to set up a match between Dandolos and the legendary Johnny Moss, with the stipulation that the game be played in public view.

   During the course of the marathon, which lasted five months with breaks only for sleep, the two men played every form of poker imaginable. Moss ultimately won “the biggest game in town” and an estimated $2 million. When the Greek lost his last pot, he arose from his chair, bowed slightly, and uttered the now-famous words, “Mr. Moss, I have to let you go.” Dandolos then went upstairs to bed.

   Though significant in its own way as a chapter in poker history, the five-month marathon took on added importance to Benny Binion. He noted that the public had gathered outside the casino each day to watch the game with the fervor of dedicated sports fans, and he was amazed at the attention the event had attracted.

   But it wasn’t until 1970 that Binion decided to re-create this excitement and stage a battle of poker giants — dubbed the “World Series Of Poker” — to determine who would be worthy of the title “World Champion.” Some of the best players in the country were assembled, and Johnny Moss came out on top. The decision was democratic in that the champion was decided by popular vote.

   Today, the legacy Benny Binion left the poker community ranks as the oldest, largest, most prestigious, and most media-hyped gaming competition in the world, and no doubt it holds the promise of an even brighter future.

Strip will stay bright; power costs to increase

   Nevada utility officials expect the Strip to stay fully lit through the summer — when air conditioners work day and night to make the desert heat tolerable — avoiding the power problems that have brought California to its knees.

   But that confidence is coming at a price: increased electricity rates, to the consternation of the Strip’s hotel-casinos. Between September and April, rates will have increased by about 46%, driven by forces that are pushing up energy costs nationwide.

   At several hotels, incandescent bulbs are being exchanged for more efficient fluorescent lights in many cases. Thermostats are being installed to reduce air conditioning in unused convention rooms, and motion sensors are being installed to keep the lights off in empty offices.

Station Casinos will donate to county schools

   Station Casinos, Inc. has announced the company will donate $1 in April for every new customer who signs up for a Boarding Pass, Amigo Club or Club Reserve frequent player membership to the eight Clark County School District elementary schools that are community partners in its Smart Start education program.

   “We encourage every consumer who is 21 or over to sign up for one of our frequent player memberships because they will be supporting an at-risk elementary school located in or near the area of the Valley where they live,” said Lesley Pittman, director of community relations for Station Casinos, Inc.

   With Smart Start, introduced in September, each Station Casinos hotel/casino and the corporation have established a community partnership with an at-risk Clark County School District elementary school. Station Casinos supports each school’s computer lab by donating computers and other equipment for their educational use. The partnerships also include a team-member volunteer program whereby employees volunteer time to help with school events and support teachers in the classrooms.

   Smart Start is a first-of-its-kind program in Las Vegas and the partnerships include: Palace Station-Rex Bell Elementary School; Boulder Station-Laura Dearing; Texas Station-C.P. Squires; Sunset Station-Lorna Kesterson; Santa Fe Station-Fitzgerald; The Fiesta-Ollie Detwiler; The Reserve-C.T. Sewell, and Station Casino, Inc.-Whitney Elementary.

Bally’s building 3-D sign at Strip’s Four Corners

   Bally’s Las Vegas has broken ground on its new 15-story outdoor marquee, a unique 3-dimensional image display that will dramatically change the look of the world-famous Four Corners (at Flamingo & the Strip), the most-heavily trafficked destination in Las Vegas.

   The $10 million Bally’s project will display entertainment events and special messages on a series of six monitors in the highest resolution available. The spectacular three-sided marquee combines state-of-the-art electronic technology with traditional neon and lighting elements, projecting high-definition images to the busiest intersection of the Las Vegas Strip.

   “Competition to capture the attention of Strip visitors is fierce,” says Anthony Santo, President of Bally’s Las Vegas, “So we created a unique display that goes well beyond the typical Las Vegas neon sign.”

   The design and chosen location of the new sign is critical, notes Santo, “because it will remind visitors that Bally’s is a classic Las Vegas resort casino and a fun, must-see property on the Strip’s busiest Four Corners.”

   The 150-foot-high custom-made sign will be 68-feet wide and comprise 150 tons of steel. Nearly 1-mile of neon and over 3.2 million multi-colored, light-emitting diodes will be incorporated in the display.

   Installation is expected to be completed by the 4th of July weekend and will take 25 designers, engineers and skilled craftsman 35,000 man-hours to finalize.

   The marquee was developed and is being installed by YESCO (Young Electric Sign Company), the famous custom sign manufacturer of Las Vegas marquees and signage for over 80 years.