In my spare time (hah!), I like to read up on Las Vegas lore. So when Doug J. Swanson’s biography of the late, great and delightfully despicable casino magnate Benny Benion came out, I was one of the first to nab a preview copy. The book is an exciting, immersive yet thoroughly educational read, and I highly recommend it to anybody who wants to know more about the history of Las Vegas and/or the World Series of Poker. It also has a bonus interest for me because a portion of it takes place in my hometown of Arlington, Texas. Who knew this Dallas suburb used to host quite the gambling racket!
The Untamed Times of Benny Binion: An intense biography sheds new light on the Las Vegas legend
Right now, it seems like the biggest thing in new Vegas is Old Vegas. From the SLS’ many winks at its Saharan predecessor to the recent revamp of the long-running showgirl revue Jubilee! at Bally’s to the Cosmopolitan’s Liberace exhibit, it seems like glamorizing Vegas’ past has finally replaced imploding it.
Amid this new cultural climate arrives Doug J. Swanson’s compelling biography of a legendary Las Vegas forefather—Blood Aces: The Wild Ride of Benny Binion, the Texas Gangster who Created Vegas Poker (Viking, $28). In it, Swanson combines an investigative reporter’s zeal for research with an author’s love of words. The result is a sweeping history of a lost era and a compulsively readable character study, with some fun turns of phrases to boot: Swanson describes Binion as “an aspiring pasha of vice,” “a rube savant” and a “doughy rural-route cherub, at least until he decided he wanted somebody dead, which had happened with some frequency.” [READ MORE]