Binion (center) rules over an early World Series of Poker tourney
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!
Still not convinced? Or just want to know more before you dive in? Check out my review in Vegas Seven mag:
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]
Posted in Books, Gambling, Poker
Tagged Benny Binion, Binion's, Blood Aces, Book Review, Doug J. Swanson, Las Vegas, Poker, Vegas Seven, World Series of Poker
After a year of practice, I finally made it onto the B team, where I went on to have a short and unspectacular volleyball career.
I was such a joiner as a kid. Heck, I still am. That’s why journalism fits me so well. Often my desperate attempts at joining were blocked by the cold hand of ineptitude. The below instance is no exception, but at least I got a fun personal essay out of it for Vegas Seven’s 2014 Storytelling Issue.
I made it into the junior high yearbook holding a basketball! Too bad I wouldn’t make the team.
THE ETERNAL OFFSEASON
Street basketball reigned at elementary school recess. If fate sent the ball into my hands, I would freeze in the confusion and exhilaration of everybody suddenly calling out to me. Cindi, pass the ball! Pass the ball, Cindi! Cindi! Cindi! Cindi! It was heady stuff for an invisible 11-year-old with delusions of grandeur. Dribbling would get me nowhere. Shooting would result in shame. So I clutched that orb of attention as long as I could, savoring my moment of glory. And then I passed. It would always be a letdown, my name forgotten as my classmates played on without me. READ MORE
No women allowed … except me backstage at Chippendales with Jaymes.
With Jaymes, Rachel and our photographer at Fox 5.
Breaking for lunch at Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza with the Jameses.
In the recording studio with Jaymes and Tanzer.
Comparing the souvenir-cup version of Jaymes with the real thing backstage at Chippendales.
Feeling short in comparison to Jaymes and James.
With all the boys … and one lucky magazine intern.
Sometimes, dreams (and dream assignments) really do come true. Recently, I got to follow around Chippendales’ Jaymes Vaughan (and his Amazing Race partner James Davis) as research for a Vegas Seven profile. The best part was that the guys were super nice. Ever the Southern gentleman, Jaymes would tirelessly pose for pictures with fans and, even better, open the car door for me when we flitted from location to location.
Above are some behind-the-scenes photos (not pictured: me pinching myself to make sure it was really happening). Below is the finished product:
Jaymes Vaughan’s ‘Race’ to the Spotlight: Can the Chippendales host extend his 15 minutes of fame before the time runs out?
It’s Friday night at Chippendales, so the audience of mostly bachelorette parties is rowdy and sloppy-exuberant. The emcee, Jaymes Vaughan—tall, tan, blond, blue-eyed, square-jawed with Indiana Jones regrowth and muscle-y muscles—is basically a human Ken doll with a goofy sense of humor. And I have spent all day following him around in the name of … um, research. Watching Jaymes cavort onstage, I realize the effort I spent politely averting my eyes when he changed clothes throughout the day was wasted. Read more …