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Posted by on May 16, 2013 in Blog, General Poker, Las Vegas, World Series of Poker | 8 comments

The 2003 World Series of Poker (Moneymaker Series Continues — Part 4)

 

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Benny’s Bullpen at Binion’s Horseshoe — site of the WSOP 1998-2004

 

Writer’s Note:  This is the fourth in an extended series of articles about Chris Moneymaker’s victory at the 2003 World Series of Poker and what went on behind the scenes at Binion’s Horseshoe — before, during, and after. 

CLICK HERE — Introduction

CLICK HERE — PART 1 (War of the Binions)

CLICK HERE— PARTS 2 AND 3 (Day One as Director of Public Relations for Binion’s Horseshoe / The Sit Down)

CLICK HERE — PARTS 4 AND 5 (Send in the Clowns / The Decline and Death f the World Series of Poker)

 

Part 6:  Friends of the Family

Hidden within the shadows were the shadiest of characters.

Personalities seemingly fit for a Martin Scorcese movie dotted the landscape, seemingly without purpose.  No one — not even full-time staff — knew who they were nor what they did.  Flocked in cheap suits, they often appeared half-shaven and wore dark glasses.  You’d see these creeps around the casino at any time, day or night.  Just standing.  Just watching.

Once the WSOP began, we began seeing these shadowy types around the tournament area and poker room with much greater frequency.

They hung out for hours at a time, then disappeared.  Then, they came back again, or were replaced by someone else.  They never spoke to anyone.  Once, I managed to get a name.  He curtly identified himself as “Slimer” providing no additional comment.  That’s right, his name was Slimer — as in “slime-er.”

You couldn’t make up that name.

At some point, Nick informed me that he liked to use “spotters” inside the casino.  They were supposedly hired to spot known cheaters.  It was made rather obvious that I wasn’t to ask any more questions.  We were given explicit instructions to simply leave them alone and let them conduct their business.

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Posted by on May 14, 2013 in Blog, General Poker, Las Vegas, World Series of Poker | 6 comments

2003 World Series of Poker Behind the Scenes (Moneymaker Series Continues — Part 3)

 

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Photo Credit — David Milton

Writer’s Note:  This is the third in an extended series of articles about Chris Moneymaker’s victory at the 2003 World Series of Poker and what went on behind the scenes at Binion’s Horseshoe — before, during, and after. 

CLICK HERE — INTRODUCTION

CLICK HERE — PART 1 (BEFORE THE STORM)

CLICK HERE — PARTS 2 AND 3 (DAY ONE AS DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC RELATIONS FOR BINION’S HORSESHOE

 

Part 4:  Send in the Clowns

Binion’s Horseshoe was freak show.

Not a day passed without a “you’re not going to fucking believe this” moment.

A typical work day:  Vagrants wondering in and out, crashing on the furniture inside the sportsbook.  Nests of hookers at the bar.  Cowboys shouldered up next to gangsters wolfing down hot pastrami sandwiches and guzzling Dr Brown’s cream sodas at the Horseshoe deli.  Fistfights.  Drunkeness.  Card cheats.  The mentally ill.  Drug dealers and junkies.  You name it — you saw it at “the Shoe.”

One of the most detestable of all the regulars was a crusty curmudgeon named Sam Angel, quite possibly the most repulsive person to have ever lived in Las Vegas, and that’s really saying something.  A part-time pawnbroker and full-time hustler, Angel was the devil in disguise.  By the time I had the misfortune to know him, Angel was pushing 80 years.  His pot belly hung over his britches.  Half the time his fly was open.  Once, a bystander whispered to him about it and Angel said he didn’t care.

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Posted by on May 11, 2013 in Blog, General Poker, Las Vegas, Personal, World Series of Poker | 9 comments

Before the Storm: Binion’s Horseshoe (2002)

 

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Writer’s Note:  This is the second in a series of articles about Chris Moneymaker’s stunning victory at the 2003 World Series of Poker and what went on behind the scenes at Binion’s Horseshoe — before, during, and after.

 

Part 1 — War of the Binion’s

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The 2002 Hall of Fame tournament was a disaster.  A colossal failure.  It would be the last Hall of Fame tournament ever held.

Now, you have to understand that the Hall of Fame tournament used to be a really big deal.  Jack Binion ran two major tournaments each year — the WSOP and the Hall of Fame.  The later was done in conjunction with the official announcement of the latest inductee(s) into the Poker Hall of Fame.  Usually a dozen tournaments were scheduled for what was basically a redux of the WSOP.  The winners received gold watches emblazoned with the Horseshoe emblem.

By September of 2002, the Hall of Fame — much like Binion’s Horseshoe — had become a shell of it’s former greatness.  That final fateful tournament was held downstairs at Binion’s Horseshoe — just as it had been during the previous 15 years.  But this time an odd thing happened.  Nobody showed up.  The biggest names in poker, namely Doyle Brunson and Chip Reese were still boycotting the Horseshoe out of their loyalty to Jack, and that undoubtedly hurt attendance.  Some of the tournaments drew a dozen players.  A few events were even canceled.  It was an embarrassment.

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Posted by on May 11, 2013 in Blog, General Poker, Las Vegas, Personal | 3 comments

What You Never Saw and Don’t Know About Chris Moneymaker’s 2003 WSOP Victory

 

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This week marks the ten-year anniversary of Chris Moneymaker’s stunning victory at the 2003 World Series of Poker.  It was the spark which lit the fuse of what became known as “the poker boom.”

So much has already been written and said about Moneymaker’s rags to riches triumph, that his story now seems to be old news.

Or is it?

There’s a lot of background stuff no one knows.  Things that went on behind the scenes that very few people saw.  Events related to the decline and eventual demise of what was a Las Vegas landmark called Binion’s Horseshoe.  Whispered conversations off in the shadows about what some people in authority really thought.  Chaos at a exact moment of poker’s most celebrated moment.  Backroom developments related to the television broadcast during that first year of extended coverage.  Personal incidents and management blow ups I was involved with that shaped own my career, and others, too.  Amazing stories that happened late nights inside the poker room, some of which involved members of the Binion Family.

I plan to tell you about some of it.  However, a few details will have to wait until some people are long gone.

In my upcoming series of articles (the number and length of which is yet to be determined — probably as long as I feel like writing), I’ll remember back on that stupendous year in poker, probably the most monumental era in the history of the game.  At the time, I served as Media Director for the World Series of Poker (seasonal) as well as head of Public Relations for Binion’s Horseshoe (year around).

This marks the first time I’ve ever written about these events.

 

COMING NEXT:  BEFORE THE STORM:  BINION’S HORSESHOE (2002)

 

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