Blood Aces

Blood Aces

The Wild Ride of Benny Binion, the Texas Gangster Who Created Vegas Poker

Format
Hardcover
Price
$27.95
 
Additional Formats
  • Hardcover
  • ISBN 9780670026036
  • 368  Pages
  • Viking Books
  • Adult

Overview

The astonishing story of Benny Binion—a rip-roaring saga of murder, money, and the making of Las Vegas
 
Benny Binion was many things: a cowboy, a pioneering casino owner, a gangster, a killer, and founder of the hugely successful World Series of Poker.
 
Blood Aces tells the story of Binion’s crucial role in shaping modern Las Vegas. From a Texas backwater, Binion rose to prominence on a combination of vision, determination, and brutal expediency. His formula was simple: run a good business, cultivate the big boys, kill your enemies, and own the cops.
 
Through a mix of cold-bloodedness, native intelligence, folksiness, and philanthropy, Binion became one of the most revered figures in the history of gambling, and his showmanship, shrewdness, and violence would come to dominate the Vegas scene.
 
Veteran journalist Doug J. Swanson uses once-secret government documents and dogged reporting to show how Binion destroyed his rivals and outsmarted his adversaries—including J. Edgar Hoover.
 
As fast paced as any thriller, Blood Aces tells a story that is unmatched in the annals of American criminal justice, a vital yet untold piece of this country’s history.

Praise

“Technically, a biography, but it reads like the best kind of crime drama—where you find yourself rooting for the bad guy.”The Daily Beast
 
“[A] slam-bang thrill ride of a biography…. Mr. Swanson, an ace investigative reporter who writes with a pulp-fiction swagger just right for his story’s cuttroat anti-hero, is above all a historian who fixes Benny Binion in the context of his times…. The World Series of Poker now takes place not at the Horseshoe but in the impersonal and cavernous convention halls of the Rio Hotel…. It is somehow reassuring to know ‘Blood Aces’ will keep alive the story of how the great spectacle came to be, and of the violent man who dreamed it up.”—Peter Alson, The Wall Street Journal
 
“If Binion had shuffled the deck himself, the beneficent, sometimes brutal gangster with the cocky grin and country twang couldn’t have been dealt a more winning hand than born storyteller Swanson as biographer…. Swanson, who got interested in Binion while covering the gambler’s World Series of Poker, presents an especially well-crafted, fastidiously vetted and fun-to-read account complete with Benny-isms…. For a book with a high body count, it’s full of history, humor and little-known facts.”Austin American-Statesman
 
“A hard-edged history lesson about a Las Vegas casino man and his family in the days before our corporate media marketing when into overdrive.”Las Vegas Review Journal
 
“A book that’s practically crying out to become a feature film. Binion would be quite memorable in it as a cowboy-hat-wearing version of Don Vito Corleone or Tony ‘Scarface’ Montana.”—Fort Worth Star Telegram

“Laugh-out-loud funny—odd, since it’s about a semi-illiterate gangster who left a trail of dead bodies from Dallas to Las Vegas. But Benny Binion was in many ways a true visionary, even if his methods and materials were far from ethical…. [Swanson] does a bang-up job with this book…. Names of famous people who knew and liked Benny Binion pop up like weeds on the pages of this highly readable biography.  He wasn’t a nice guy at all, but he remains a legend.”—Fort Worth Weekly
 
Fascinating, not only as a biography of a Las Vegas business icon but as a look at how the city operated in its golden era of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s… Blood Aces has a true-crime feel, but to describe it as such gives it short shrift. It’s deeper than that…. In a way, it’s like Binion himself. The small-town Texan spoke and acted like a hick, with rumpled shirts and too-short ties. But the persona hid a complex, intelligent and, yes, infamous man.”Las Vegas Sun Review

Binion’s name has floated around the edge of the history of Texas, Las Vegas and organized crime for decades, but Swanson is the first to put all the pieces together…. A cracking good biography, courtesy of a writer who writes the way Binion lived: fast and on the money.”—Allan Barra, The Dallas Morning News

“Swanson captures his subject in all his antiheroical glory, uncovering sordid tales of fast living, corruption, and even murder.”Charleston City Paper
 
“If the late Benny Binion’s life was ever to be made into a movie, now with Sam Peckinpah long gone, the rightful heir to what amounts to a biographical gold mine should fall to Quentin Tarentino.  If and when that movie does get made, let’s hope the masterful film director bases his first script on the new book written by Doug J. Swanson…. Where author Swanson excels is in the juicy narrative, which is not only a page-turner filled with anticipation, but an often wickedly funny guilt trip for the reader.  Explosions, shotgun blasts, and cold-blooded murders become moments of belletristic beauty.”—Nolan Dalla
 
“[A] rollicking biography… A great piece of narrative nonfiction that reads like, well, a great crime novel. When Las Vegas gets its faux Mt. Rushmore (and can that day be far off?), Benny’s mug will be there, right alongside Bugsy’s.”—Booklist, starred review
 
Armchair detectives and other aficionados of the history of thug culture in America will feel a warm glow of assurance at the first few paragraphs of Blood Aces: The Wild Ride of Benny Binion, the Texas Gangster Who Created Vegas Poker….[Swanson] brings new credibility to the subject without trying too hard to mythologize him and, wisely, without trying to make him seem likable. No one ever said you have to be likable to be interesting.”—The Austin Chronicle
 
“Fans of other gangster histories will likely be intrigued by Binion’s arc…. The later sections of the book will be of interest to poker fans, as Binion retreats to Sin City to buy casinos and accidentally creates a legacy when he founds the World Series of Poker as a promotional stunt…. An entertaining and provocative portrait of a man whose dichotomies were largely a product of the violent times in which he thrived.”Kirkus
 
“Prepare to meet one of the great unknown crime kingpins in American history: Benny Binion, a semi-literate, grammar-murderin’, Stetson-and-boots-wearin’ Texas hick who presided over an underworld of cowboy gangsters every bit as unique, lethal, and compelling as the Cosa Nostra. In Blood Aces, Doug J. Swanson has written a terrific, propulsive account of a man and a subculture I can virtually guarantee you know little or nothing about. This is dazzlingly original stuff, and it’s entertaining as hell.”—S.C. Gwynne, author of Empire of the Summer Moon

“What happens in Vegas… starts in Dallas? Welcome to the world of Benny Binion, the cowboy with a second-grade education who helped create Sin City and laid the groundwork for modern-day spectator poker. Steeped in lore and backed by meticulous research, Doug Swanson’s Blood Aces gives readers an intimate and in-depth look at a key era in the history of American capitalism. You may have heard of Bugsy, Lansky and Cohen, but welcome to the Wild West of gambling populated by folks like Ice Pick, Horse Face and The Human Clay Pigeon. Prepare to be Binionized.”—Denise Kiernan, author of The Girls of Atomic City

“Doug Swanson is one terrific reporter and writer. In Blood Aces, he delivers not just the facts, ma’am, but an appalling yet wickedly humorous portrait of the Godfather of Glitter Gulch, a warm-hearted family man and cold-blooded killer who pioneered Vegas odds-making and launched the World Series of Poker.”—James McManus, author of Positively Fifth Street and Cowboys Full

Blood Aces shines a rare spotlight into the American city that is singularly emblematic of unfettered political corruption. Swanson captures the hidden history of Las Vegas, whose outsize culture of greed draws unmistakable parallels with the nation at large. A compelling narrative full of outlandish characters, Blood Aces is a fast-paced read as enlightening as it is shocking.”—Sally Denton, author of The Money and the Power
 
Blood Aces delivers the best of everything—a tale of two cities (Dallas and Las Vegas), a primer on the history and nuances of gambling (poker and dice, especially) and, above all, the many adventures of the one and only Benny Binion, who could charm or kill with equal ease. It’s a fascinating slice of colorful Americana delivered with insight and sly humor by Doug J. Swanson, one of the best historian/storytellers around. Unlike Binion’s crooked cons, Blood Aces is a sure thing for every reader.”—Jeff Guinn, author of the New York Times bestseller Manson
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