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JACK BINION WORLD POKER OPEN



The Jack Binion World Poker Open
2005, Jason Kirk  

The Binion name has been pivotal in the history of poker for decades. In his book The Biggest Game In Town author Al Alvarez describes how Benny Binion turned the legendary 1949 heads-up match between Johnny Moss and Nick "The Greek" Dandalos into a public event by having the two combatants play at the entrance to his casino in downtown Las Vegas. The publicity generated by that event sparked in Benny's mind the idea of the World Series of Poker, which since its inception in 1970 has been the greatest poker tournament in the world. Early on in the WSOP's history Benny had involved his sons, Jack and Ted, in the management of the tournament. After Benny's death and the subsequent internal family struggles that landed the boys' sister Becky in control of the Horseshoe, Jack took off for the birthplace of poker - the mighty Mississippi River - and eventually created another tournament series in Tunica: the Jack Binion World Poker Open.

The World Poker Open may not rival the World Series of Poker in terms of outright prestige, but it is certainly a favorite among players. Tunica is known for its Southern hospitality, and the host casino (also named Horseshoe) has earned a reputation for giving players what they want. And much like his father's WSOP, Jack Binion's WPO has given players all they can handle in terms of game selection in its tournaments. Pot-limit Omaha, limit Omaha hi-lo, seven card stud, stud hi-lo, and all three popular variants of hold'em (limit, pot-limit, and no-limit) have had their own tournaments at the WPO since it was first held in 2000. The WPO also has also given out gold and diamond bracelets to its winners and WPO jackets to those who make the final table of any event. From top to bottom, the WPO has always concentrated on the players first. As a result the tournament series has had top-flight attendance every year, both from North American players and their international counterparts - something that few tournament series in America other than the WSOP can claim.

Since 2003 the WPO Main Event has been a stop on the World Poker Tour. This association has been great for business, increasing the popularity of Mississippi's biggest poker tournament and helping to cement the WPO's reputation as one of the premiere events on every year's tournament calendar. When January rolls around, there's nowhere most players would rather be. That is evidenced by the growing participation in the event: 160 players entered the Main Event during the first year of WPT affiliation, 367 played in 2004, and a whopping 512 descended on Tunica for the 2005 event. With the poker boom showing no signs of slowing down, the 2006 event is expected to be just as successful as those in recent memory.

Some of the top names in poker today have had great results at the WPO. John Juanda topped the field of 146 in 2001 to take home first prize. Costa Rica's native son Humberto Brenes defeated Erik Seidel heads-up to claim the Main Event title in 2002. Dave "Devilfish" Ulliott completely annihilated the tournament field in 2003, en route to a heads-up victory over Phil Ivey and a $590,000 prize. The 2004 WPO Main Event title - the first with a prize over $1 million - was claimed by elite player Barry Greenstein, who held off the legendary Chip Reese and dangerous Can Kim Hua on the way to donating every penny of his prize to the charity Children, Inc. The 2005 Main Event final table featured Scotty Nguyen, Chau Giang, Daniel Negreanu, and Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi - all of whom were upset by a 23-year-old University of Wisconsin student named John Stoltzmann. Many other well-known players have had success at the WPO as well: John Bonetti, Alan Goehring, David Pham, Toto Leonidas, Surinder Sunar, Phil Hellmuth, Tom McEvoy, John Spadavecchia, Barry Shulman, Jeff Shulman, Padraig Parkinson, Men "The Master" Nguyen, John Phan, David Levi, Michael Gracz, An Tran, Allen Cunningham, Dewey Tomko, Andy Bloch, Sam Grizzle, and Andy Glazer have all made the money at the WPO Main Event. These names demonstrate just how popular the biggest tournament in Tunica is with poker's top players.

The 7th installment of the World Poker Open is set to begin in early January 2006, and the big-money tournament tradition started by Benny Binion in 1970 will carry on when the Main Event kicks off on January 22.
 


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