Benny Binion

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Description:
Lester Ben "Benny" Binion (November 20, 1904 – December 25, 1989) was a well-known American casino owner, mobster, poker enthusiast, and convicted felon.

Early history

Binion was born and raised in Grayson County, Texas, north of Dallas. His parents initially kept him out of school due to precarious health. His father, a horse trader, let him accompany him on trips. While the outdoor life restored his health, Benny Binion never had any formal education.

Criminal history

Binion's FBI file reveals a criminal history dating back to 1924, listing offenses such as theft, carrying concealed weapons, and two murder convictions. Binion moved to El Paso when he was 17. There, he began moonshining, for which he was twice convicted. In 1928, in fear of legal consequences, he gave up moonshining and opened a numbers operation. While he was in El Paso, he learned to gamble, a favorite pastime of the traders waiting on the campgrounds.

In 1931, Binion was convicted of murdering an African American rum-runner, Frank Bolding, "cowboy style." This was the origin of Binion's "Cowboy" nickname. Binion received a two-year suspended sentence. Binion would later kill Ben Frieden, a numbers operator in competition with Binion. By 1936, Binion had gained control of gambling...
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