The Big D

Long before Benny Binion, Johnny Moss, Amarillo Slim and Doyle Brunson discovered Las Vegas, there was Dallas.

Known as The Big D, Dallas was like several other wide open cities in the country where law enforcement and legislators were bought and paid for by people with the guts and cash to finance illegality.

Benny never had much of an education. He lived with a hard-drinking father who was a gambler and who had a reputation as a horse thief. He often slept under the stars, using a saddle for a pillow and an old horse blanket to cover himself.

At an early age he learned the numbers racket, how to shoot dice, how to play poker and the secrets of cheating.

When he was in his early 20s, he met a man named Diamond who made his living running dice and numbers games. Benny worked for Diamond and became his right-hand man.

As Benny grew into maturity, he learned who was on the take and who could be bought. Dallas was wide open with casinos and houses of prostitution. Cash was king and the justice system would look the other way as long as you paid the right price.

'Tough times make tough men,' Benny was fond of saying. He grew up as tough as any road gambler who came to Dallas hoping to score a big bankroll in one of the many gambling games that were available.

The Big D Cards

He dabbled in making moonshine and was arrested twice before his 20th birthday. A kindly judge gave him probation when Benny swore he would not make or sell any more moonshine. Benny kept his word on moonshine but he continue operating dice games and running numbers.

Operators of the illegal gambling games knew how the system worked. The police would regularly visit their places of operation, count the number of customers and on Monday morning, the operators would swing by the police station and pay a 'fine' of $10 for each of the customers who were counted. The money would be distributed to police supervisors who would pay a small percentage to the cops on the beat and keep the rest.

Dallas was roaring with illegal gambling and prostitution during World War 2. When the war ended and the GIs came home, things changed. A new district attorney was elected and other officials were replaced by men who adopted an anti-crime slogan.

Benny, Johnny Moss and the others knew their time was limited. They began closing their games. Benny filled two suitcases with his money and set off on a journey to a new place he had visited, a place that had a lot of promise. Its' name was Las Vegas.

While he had made a lot of friends in Dallas, he had also acquired enemies. One was a man named Herb Noble, a suave gambling operator who was the total opposite of Benny Binion.

ABig D Pic

To put it bluntly, Noble and Binion hated each other.  Using their underlings, they made several attempts on each other's life. Each time Lady Luck was on their side and they escaped death.

In one instance, someone placed a bomb beneath Noble's car. When his wife turned on the ignition, the bomb exploded, killing her instantly.

Law enforcement officers estimated at least 11 unsuccessful attempts were made to kill Noble. Although he was severely injured several times, the attempts didn't work.

Noble was a pilot who owned a fleet of small aircraft. After Benny re-located to Las Vegas, Noble decided to get even for his wife's death and made plans to fly over Binion's ranch and bomb him. He even had two large bombs for the job.

His plans were interrupted by a law enforcement officer who visited his home shortly before he took off. Noble broke down and cried, a shattered man who knew his days were numbered. Sure enough, a short time later as he walked near his mailbox, a bomb detonated and Noble became part of the ages.

As for Benny Binion, life was just beginning. He invested his money in a couple of downtown casinos, started Binion's Horseshoe and created the World Series of Poker, while The Big D remained just a childhood and distant memory.

“Dallas was wide open with casinos and houses of prostitution.”

  • My mother and the neighbors on our hilltop played the numbers. It was fun and made them feel like they were doing something illicit, which is always a good feeling. Smiles...
  • I suppose that reading this story is like a window into the past, which is "änother country where they do things differently." Growing up in the seventies, in a large city on the East Coast of the USA, I have dim memories of the numbers runner who made his daily rounds through my working class neighborhood. Nowadays the mob has been largely displaced by state government lottery divisions and corporate professionals. And at least insofar as a lot of gambling today is concerned; I for one am glad that the ferocious criminals and their corrupt politicians are no longer so involved.

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