The Vegas gang threatened my life

Doyle Bronson was receiving a death threat from notorious Vegas gangster Tony “The Ant” Spilotro, and he lived to tell the tale.

The 88-year-old Bronson, who has enjoyed a legendary career as a professional poker player for more than five decades, was described by Joe Levin at Texas Monthly as the World Series of Poker heads toward the main event in July.

As the story goes, Brunson’s relationship with Benny Binion, who with his son Jack established the World Series of Poker Championships at their casino in downtown Las Vegas in 1970, helped him fend off the threat.

Benny Binion was a mob boss in Bronson’s native Texas before creating a new life as a casino owner in Vegas.

Spilotro, who was the inspiration for Joe Pesci’s Nicky Santoro in Martin Scorcese’s “Casino” and who is best known for being responsible for more than 20 murders, is said to have sought 25% of Brunson’s poker winnings.

Why, Bronson wanted to know, did Spilotro have a right to?

Doyle Brunson reportedly received a death threat from gangster Tony “The Ant” Spilotro in exchange for 25 percent of his poker winnings.
WireImage via Getty Images

“If you don’t like it, I’ll stick a dozen ice cubes in your big, fatty gut,” Spilotro allegedly told Bronson.

“You can’t kill everyone,” Bronson was said to eventually tell the gangster.

Spilotro replied, “I won’t have to kill everyone. Just the first one.”

Anthony Spilotro was the inspiration for Joe Pesci's Nikki Santoro character in
Anthony Spilotro was the inspiration for Joe Pesci’s character Nikki Santoro in “Casino”.
Bettmann Archive via Getty Images

Brunson’s profile describes a man who has cheated death but his success at the poker table has been attributed to a combination of a supernatural skill at reading people, as well as a mind that was able to tabulate card odds through intense repetition before it was fashionable to use computers to do so.

Brunson was the World Series of Poker champion in 1976 and 1977, famously winning the last hand of both tournaments from a 2-10 starting hand.

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