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Posted by on May 18, 2013 in Blog, General Poker, World Series of Poker | 6 comments

But What’s His Real Name? (Moneymaker Series Continues — Part 5)

 

chris-moneymaker

 

Writer’s Note:  This is the fifth 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 of the World Series of Poker)

CLICK HERE — PART 6 (Friends of the Family)

 

Part 7:  “839”

On the eve of the 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event, the preliminary numbers weren’t just down.  They were abysmal.  We dropped about 25 percent overall in attendance from the previous year, which had also been a disaster.

But after four weeks, no one was bringing up the ugly numbers.  Instead, everyone was talking about big names.

The very biggest names in poker won gold bracelets — and lots of them.  Doyle Brunson, Phil Hellmuth, Johnny Chan, Huck Seed, Layne Flack, Mickey Appleman, John Juanda, Daniel Negreanu, Men “the Master” Nguyen, Chris Ferguson, Erik Seidel, and Carlos Mortensen were among the illustrious winners.  Imagine a single series with Brunson, Chan, and Hellmuth all winning titles.  In fact, Chan and Hellmuth both won two each!

Those were the headlines and became the talk of poker.  Not declining numbers.

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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)

 

binions-horseshoe

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 13, 2013 in Blog, Featured, General Poker, Las Vegas, World Series of Poker | 8 comments

Day One as Director of Public Relations for Binion’s Horseshoe (Moneymaker Series Continues — Part 2)

 

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Left to Right — Benny Behnen (Benny Binion’s grandson), Becky Binion-Behnen, and Nick Behnen (Photo Credit: AmericanMafia.com)

 

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 that historic event. 

CLICK HERE — INTRODUCTION

CLICK HERE — PART 1 (BEFORE THE STORM)

 

Part 2:  Day One as Director of Public Relations for Binion’s Horseshoe

 

On my first day, I nearly got fired.

In fact, I was fired.  Then, I got re-hired.

George Fisher was in a panic.  He called me urgently into his office.  There was big trouble brewing, and I hadn’t even started working yet.  “Shit is hitting the fan,” he said.  What was the problem?  No one knew.  I’d find out soon enough.

I’d been “summoned.”  That meant I was to have what’s known in other menacing circles as a “sit down.”

The dreaded “sit down.”

Unbeknownst to me, I was scheduled to meet none other than Nick Behnen himself —  the dark and mysterious shadow of a figure who was whispered to actually run Binion’s Horseshoe behind the scenes.

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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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