Benny Binion came to Las Vegas from Texas in the late '40s, when his illegal activities outstripped his ability to get local law enforcement to look the other way. Vegas, which allowed legal gambling, was a perfect fit for Benny, who came from a background of bootlegging and numbers running.
In 1951, after a couple of failed casino ventures, Benny bought the El Dorado club in 1951. He renovated and redesigned the club and gave it a Western theme, naming in the Binion's Horseshoe Casino. Benny made the casino famous by putting a million dollars on display in a glass case in the main room, by carpeting the floors, and by offering the highest limits in town.
The Famous Nick the Greek-Johnny Moss Match
In 1951, Binion's Horseshoe hosted a legendary heads-up poker match between poker legend Johnny Moss and wealthy gambler Nick "the Greek" Dandalos. The match went on for months and millions of dollars passed back and forth. Spectators came from all corners to watch, generating serious business for the casino.
The World Series of Poker Comes to Binion's
In 1970, the World Series of Poker began. Originally conceptualized as a get together for poker greats who would determine among themselves who was the best, the main event Texas hold'em freezeout, begun in 1971, became the standard way to determine poker's world champion.
The event, which started with just a handful of players, has grown and evolved incredibly over the years to become a massive televised event in the modern era.
The End of Binion's Horseshoe Casino
Benny passed away in 1989, and almost a decade later, his daughter Becky Behnen wrested control of the casino from her brother Jack. This move was unfortunate, as she ran the casino into the ground financially just as it should have been experiencing its highest peak. In 2003, when amateur Chris Moneymaker won millions in the WSOP main event after winning his seat for $40 online, poker and the World Series became huge.
However, the popularity came too late for the Binions to take advantage, as Becky Behnen had already sunk the casino into insoluble debt. Harrah's entertainment charged in and bought the Horseshoe and World Series of Poker brands, bailing out Behnen and making millions for Harrah's in the process. MTR Gaming Group took over the Binions brand and reopened the hotel as Binion's Gambling Hall and Hotel in 2005.