Now the tables that made history at the World Series of Poker are host to a new tradition called the Binion's Poker Classic.
Looking to put some pep into the casino, the management at Binion's decided to hold the first of what they hope will be many classics yet to come. The tournaments mirror the WSOP events, but with a tenth of the buy in. For example, instead of $1,500 Razz, there is $150 Razz. Instead of $10,000 pot-limit Omaha, there's a $1,000 buy in version.
The turnout has been as good as or better than expected. Most tournaments have seen fields of 200-400 players (even the razz.) The $150 no-limit Hold'em tournament on June 29 drew 488 players.
"Poker is the anchor here in the building," said Mary Frabbiele, director of table games, poker and keno for Binion's. "I think this has proved that."
The turnout could be related to the affordability of the buy ins. While the high rollers are hitting the Rio for the WSOP (and to a much lesser degree, the Bellagio for the Bellagio Cup), many of the lower rollers are giving the Binion's Poker Classic a shot. Winners in some of the events have received more than $10,000 for their small investments.
"We don't have a $5,000 or a $10,000 tournament player," Frabbiele said. "We tried to cater to our customers. People love to come in and see their pictures on the wall."
Binion's has made many renovations to the area that includes the poker room and the front desk, including building a display in the center of the room where it moved the Gallery of Champions, the collection of photos from the winners of the WSOP main event. On the opposite side of that wall, Binion's is putting up photos of the winners of each Binion's Poker Classic event. This center display also includes photos of the members of the Poker Hall of Fame and a table top signed by various poker pros during the finale of the 2005 WSOP, which was held at the Binion's Horseshoe for the final time.
Chris Gerst, a local, made the final table of the $150 limit Hold'em event Monday night and got a nice souvenir card cover that Binion's is giving away to final table players. He's only played a handful of tournaments, most of them limit, including the $2,000 LHE WSOP event this year. Gerst said he was a fan of the structure of the Binion's tournament. Players received 4,000 in starting chips in the LHE tournament with beginning blinds of 25-50 and 30 minute levels. In some of the other tournaments, players started as many as 10,000-20,000 chips.
"It's a decently long structure," he said. "The reason I'm playing is I think it's good practice for bigger buy in tournaments. It plays more like what you would expect a $1,000 buy in to play."
Frabbiele said the tournaments and their reasonable blind structures are the baby of tournament host Jennifer Campbell. She gives Campbell and director of poker Gary DeWitt credit for the success of the series.
"Players have fallen back in love with Binion's and we love it," she said. "Poker is the key to the success of this property so we're putting on our poker face."
The Binion's Poker Classic concludes Wednesday with a $500 NLHE tournament. Frabbiele insists players can expect a second series next summer.