Binions, formerly The Horseshoe and/or Binion's Horseshoe, in downtown Las Vegas is the most recognized poker room in the United States, if not the entire world. For the first 30 years Binions was the home of the World Series of Poker but the Binions of old is not the Binions of today.
Sure lots of poker players make the trek to this revered poker mecca when they travel to Las Vegas. We all have "played at Binions" just to say we have. The room itself is still dark and often dank. The dealers still have an average age of at least seventy-four and bad behavior at the tables is treated with a decidedly less politically correct attitude than in the kinder, gentler corporate casinos. But Binions, too, is a changin'.
Today Binions is all about hold'em and even more all about tournament hold'em. On a normal day they hold four tournaments. The events are $60 buy-ins and go off at 10 AM, 2 PM, 8 PM and 2 AM. The 8 PM event gets boosted to $125 on the weekend. On the first Sunday of every month the winners of each daily event meet in a Tournament of Champions event for the previous month. But that's not all!
For the next year (Oct. 2006-Sept. 2007), the Ultimate Poker Challenge runs at Binions every Saturday, Sunday and Monday. This tournament is in addition to the regularly scheduled daily events. On Saturday and Sunday the UPC is a $340 NLHE event, the Monday tournament is a $660 buy-in. The events have been drawing crowds in the 125-150 range and the televised final table goes off the very next day. That's right! A TV final table is taped at Binions every Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. The Ultimate Poker Challenge is the quickest, fastest way to get your face on the tube squeezing out a pair of pocket rockets. The TV face time also draws name professionals to the Binions events on a regular basis, look for familiar faces in the Monday event every week and less often in the Saturday and Sunday tournaments. I did spend an hour sitting across from Kenna James this past Saturday. There is a less than two week delay between the taping and first air-time, so play today and be semi-famous tomorrow.
Sure there are still cash games spread at Binions but you had better want hold'em. Limit and no-limit hold'em are spread 24/7. The games range for the always available $2/$4 and $4/$8 to a $10/$20 game that goes off most nights and, of course, a wide range of games on the weekend. The No-Limit action tends to be at the $1/$2 tables but $5/$10 is also available and is sometimes a big, big game. Even though you can get the brush to start an interest list on any game you name; I have not seen an Omaha or Stud game at Binions in any of my recent visits. This is not Benny Binion's room anymore but the good news is that it's not Becky's either. Major upgrades are under way. The new mahogany floor is going in, new carpeting is on the way and to the dismay of olde timers the red flocked wall paper will be gone by the new year; rumors have it that an "establishment" in Pahrump has bought the wall paper for their "All-In" theme room. A brand new sports book will open November 16th, right in the poker room.
All of these changes and upgrades mean the Binions poke room is now 35 tables including the permanent Ultimate Poker Challenge TV final table set-up. The room, in fact the entire end of the building, is non-smoking.
One final note on playing at Binions. While I would not call the games fishy. I will say that it is still true that many players in town for poker, vacation or business still like to say they have visited and played at the historic Binion's on Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas. This is true of the low-limit cash games but it is also happens to some extent in the tournaments and not just the $60 buy-ins. Last weekend I played the UPC events on Saturday and Sunday, I can say without hesitation that these were not the types of fields one might expect to encounter on the way to a television appearance. That being said, you will notice I am not announcing any broadcasts dates for my final table.
Strawberry Julius (if you order fruit drinks at Binions, they will ask you to leave)