Mike Sexton has arguably done more for poker than anyone else in the game.
The longtime high-stakes cash game player and tournament champion, tireless promoter, writer, industry consultant, and popular television personality who’s probably best known to millions as the beaming host and commentator for the World Poker Tour hasn’t merely witnessed poker’s long and colorful history during all the times of boom and bust. He’s also been one of the integral piston rods driving the poker engine. Unlike many others who have chronicled the game’s most memorable moments from afar, merely as post-game observers, Sexton has actually sat in the most memorable games, played with all the legends, and been privy to secrets and many of the most intimate conversations which took place at many of the game’s most crucial junctions.
About a year ago, when I first heard that a new book was in the works on Chris Moneymaker’s seismic victory at the 2003 World Series of Poker, admittedly my eyes rolled in a cynical direction.
Even with the talented veteran freelance writer Eric Raskin doing all the research and organizing the narrative, I skeptically wondered what new territory could possibly be uncovered on an all-too familiar subject known to just about anyone who’s played a hand of poker within the past decade. Virtually every poker narrative and film documentary created since then has already covered and rehashed the remarkable tale of the (then) 27-year-old accountant from Tennessee who’s unlikely triumph somehow managed to ignite what became known as the “poker boom,” thereby transforming the allegorical everyman into the most accidental of cultural icons.
Indeed, we’ve already been down this road many times, and once Moneymaker released his own autobiography (Moneymaker, published in 2006), that seemed to fill the final void of any curiosity remaining among peers and public which by that time had moved on and become interested in fresher stars living out new chapters.
If the late Benny Binion’s life was ever to be made into a movie, now with Sam Peckinpah long gone, the rightful heir to what amounts to a biographical gold mine should fall to Quentin Tarentino. If and when that movie does get made, let’s hope the masterful film director bases his first script on the new book written by Doug J. Swanson about the often comical and always curious life of the legendary casino patriarch who was loathed and feared by a few, but also widely respected and loved by far more.
Blood Aces: The Wild Ride of Benny Binion, the Texas Gangster who Created Vegas Poker doesn’t necessarily cover much new territory, especially to those who already know of Binion’s shady past. It simply tells the story far better and in much greater detail than any other available source. Moreover, it places Binion into proper context among his peers, consisting mostly of gangsters and Mafia dons. However, instead of a fedora, Binion always wore a cowboy hat.