Binion's Horseshoe 1970-2005

After 35 years we bid a fond farewell to the home of poker

After 35 years we bid a fond farewell to the home of poker What the Horseshoe lacks in size it more than makes up for in its illustrious history, and the memories it invokes from the first 35 years of the World Series Of Poker.

The casino and hotel was originally bought and named the Horseshoe by inveterate gambler and businessman Benny Binion back in 1951. With the help of his family he turned it into one of the most popular casinos in Las Vegas, adding carpeting throughout – a novelty at the time – and raising the betting limits, which proved popular with the high stakes rounders.

Then, in 1970, Binion built on the idea of an invitational poker tournament held the year before by Tom Moore in Reno, and the WSOP shuffled up for the first time in the Horseshoe. In the early years, with just a handful of players familiar names like Johnny Moss, Doyle Brunson and Stu Ungar ruled the roost. But as the money and prestige grew it flourished and became the multi-million dollar, mega-event it is today.

The casino itself also went through several changes. In 1988 it expanded when it acquired the neighbouring Mint hotel, which enabled it to open its first dedicated poker room.

Then, after Benny’s death in 1989, a family legal battle took place, with daughter Becky Behnen eventually gaining control of the casino in 1998. However, many of the measures she took proved unpopular, like removing the exhibit of $1m in $10,000 bills. Through poor management, Binion’s was eventually closed due to escalating debts and non-payment of tax.

Harrah’s Entertainment bought it in 2004, but sold it a year later to MTR Gaming Group, which has since renamed it Binion’s Gambling Hall & Hotel. Harrah’s retained the rights to the WSOP and Horseshoe brand, though, and held all bar the final table at the Rio casino last year.

In a fitting farewell, the final table took place in Binion’s where Joe Hachem won $7.5m. If you’re playing in the WSOP this year, you’ve got no excuses for turning up at the wrong place.

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