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Poker stakes rising

Nov 5, 2002 7:17 AM

   Bellagio is upping the ante in its poker battle with Binion’s. The Strip resort has set a record-setting $25,000 buy-in for the final round of its Five Diamond Classic to be played just as the Horseshoe kicks off its annual World Series of Poker.

   The World Poker Tour Championship -- a no-limit hold em — is expected to draw the biggest names in the game April 14-17. By the time the entire two-week tourney runs its course, there may not be many players flush enough to enter Binion’s World Series.

   Bellagio launched its pre-Series tourney last year, and corralled most of poker’s heavy hitters. The pricier buy-in and jacked-up jackpots figure to keep the momentum going.

    “Doug Dalton and Bobby Baldwin have good rapport [with the top players],’’ said one poker expert. “Heck, they even get along well with Jack [Binion].’’

   The Horseshoe’s well-documented problems under Jack’s sister, Becky Behnen, have spurred widely circulating rumors that Bellagio tried to buy the World Series franchise from the downtown club. According to the unsubstantiated reports, Behnen rebuffed the offer even as gaming agents were shutting down slot machines for her casino’s failure to maintain sufficient cash reserves.

   But sources tell GamingToday that the buyout scenario carries as much weight as a pair of deuces.

    “Why would Bellagio want the World Series when they’re getting so much of the business anyway?’’ one insider asked.

   Indeed, Dalton & Co. seem content with the current piggy-back schedule, which brings seven straight weeks of the world’s highest-stakes poker action to town.

   Behnen, too, is pleased with the status-quo.

    “The dream my dad had -- bringing the world’s greatest poker players together for the planet's best poker tournament -- continues to thrive and flourish. Between April 15 and May 23, the richest, most prestigious card game on earth will once again take place at the House Benny Built. My father would be happy,’’ Behnen said.

   In contrast to Bellagio’s game, Binion’s is a bargain play. The buy-in for the final World Series’ go-round is a mere $10,000. Earlier rounds have buy-ins ranging from $200 to $5,000.

   But although the antes are lower, Binion’s jackpots are much higher. Last year’s World Series winner, Robert Varkonyi, garnered $2 million in the final game while Bellagio’s Five Diamond champ, Gus Hansen, walked off with $556,480. That’s far less than the earnings of Binion’s top 10 players — who raked in $1.7 million to $3.09 million apiece. In fact, Hansen’s take barely exceeded the $538,050 won by Binion’s top female player, Nani Dollison.

   For those who just can’t wait to shuffle up and deal, Bellagio has slated its Five Star Poker Classic for Dec. 2-12.  Schedules for the resort’s two big card conclaves appear below.

 

 

BELLAGIO FIVE STAR POKER CLASSIC, Dec. 2-12, 2002

 

Saturday

11/30

 

Satellites Begin

  Buy-in

Monday

12/2

Noon - #1

Limit Hold em

$1000 + 60

Tuesday

12/3

Noon - #2

7 Card Stud

  1000 + 60

Wednesday

12/4

Noon - #3

Pot Limit Hold em

  1000 + 60

Thursday

12/5

Noon - #4

7 Card Stud 8 or Better

  1000 + 60

Friday

12/6

Noon - #5

No Limit Hold em

  1000 + 60

Saturday

12/7

Noon - #6

Omaha 8 or Better

  1000 + 60

Sunday

12/8

Noon - #7

No Limit Hold em

  1500 + 70

Monday

12/9

Noon - #8

Pot Limit Omaha

  1500 + 70

Tuesday

12/10

Noon - #9

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