Thursday, December 25, 2014

Getting Creative with Card Games, and Remembering Benny Binion

Happy Xmas, all. Has been a busy day here running around seeing family, including my five-year-old nephew -- or “five-and-a-half!” as he points out -- who appeared to have the best day of all.

He and I continue to play cards whenever we get together, having now evolved from our default game of War into a new one of his invention. It’s kind of a version of concentration whereby he takes four cards (or sometimes five), shows them to me face up, then turns them over and slides them around rapidly as though he were a three-card monte hustler.

After a couple of minutes of that I was charged with guessing which was the highest card. If I’d been paying closing attention, I’d be able to pick out the ace or king (which was usually the highest one), although it wasn’t always easy to keep closely trained on the cards.

Before that we’d played some War, and even there my nephew was introducing variations. Same goes for the game of golf we played in the front yard with the plastic set I’d given him, where instead of trying to hit the ball into the little colored ring that represents the hole, he’d race around holding the golf balls instructing me to say “Yay!” at which point he’d drop them for me to strike them one by one.

Speaking of constantly wanting to tinker and innovate, you no doubt saw that announcement from the WSOP this week of the dates for next year’s Series, including a couple of interesting additions to the schedule. They’re also keeping some ideas from last year, too, about which I’ve seen a lot of debate over the last couple of days on my Twitter feed.

Today’s actually the 25th anniversary of the death of Lester Ben “Benny” Binion, who passed on December 25, 1989 at the age of 85. Among the many things Binion is remembered for, of course, is having been there along with his son, Jack, to start the WSOP at the Horseshoe back in 1970.

Was reading a little today from the oral history Binion provided to Mary Ellen Glass back in 1973, available in two parts over on the UNLV Center for Gaming Research website here and here.

“The poker game here gets us a lot of advertisement,” Binion explained then while making the oft-quoted claim that “seven thousand newspapers” had reported on the previous year’s Main Event which had drawn just seven players. “This year we had thirteen,” he goes on to say. “I look to have better than twenty next year. It’s even liable to get up to be fifty. Might get up to be more than that; it will eventually.”

“We improve it every year,” he adds. Such has, of course, become a mantra of sorts for those who now run the WSOP. Might write a little tomorrow about a couple of the ideas they’ve already shared regarding the 2015 WSOP. None are as radical as my nephew’s innovations, but they’re intriguing nonetheless.

Going for another mug of egg nog now, though. Hope that like my nephew you all got what you wanted this year.

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