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The Early Days of Las Vegas

Las Vegas was founded early in the 19th century when the rivers which flow through the Las Vegas Valley made it a good place for the wagon trains to rest when making their journey along the old Spanish Trail between Santa Fe and Los Angeles. It really seemed a very improbable place to develop into the gambling capital of the world and indeed even the Mormons pulled out of the city in 1857.

It was in 1905 with the arrival of the Union Pacific railway that Las Vegas's fortunes changed but it was yet to be around another 30 years that the boom in Las Vegas really began in the 1930s. The most likely cause of the rapid expansion in the population of Las Vegas is the building of the Hoover Dam not far away. This was to be The Showpiece Project of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal and 3500 workers were employed in the monthly payroll of $500,000. Most of this money would find its way back into Las Vegas town and very soon hundreds of thousands of tourists began to visit the Hoover Dam every year.

When the Hoover Dam was completed, Las Vegas found even more inventive ways of enticing visitors. It passed a divorce law which made it possible to respondents who resided in the town for six weeks to obtain a separation. In 1931 gaming was legalised in very soon Las Vegas was known by all as the home of 24-hour gambling. The towns first real gambling club the Meadows was opened by the Cornero Brothers who were actually former bootleggers from California. Eventually gangsters like Bugsy Siegel arrived in town at the end of the 1930s. The slump which followed the Second World War did hit Las Vegas fight hard between 1947 and 1948, casinos were forced into a ruinous price war which has only eventually resolved with the agreement to standardise odds and fixed limits. One adventurous Gambler did make a stand against this uniformity and he was Texan Benny Binion who arrived in Vegas in 1947 buying shares in several clubs and eventually opening his horseshoe club in 1951. This club offered more liberal odds and accepted higher bets than any of its rivals and naturally this drew high rollers and gamblers from across the country who came to play high-stakes poker!

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Poker Maxim

“Poker is a microcosm of all we admire and disdain about capitalism and democracy. It can be rough-hewn or polished, warm or cold, charitable and caring, or hard and impersonal, fickle and elusive, but ultimately it is fair, and right, and just.”

Lou Krieger