Tony ‘The Ant’ Spilotro Once Threatened to Kill Poker Legend Doyle Brunson with Ice Picks

Posted on: June 15, 2022, 08:52h. 

Last updated on: June 16, 2022, 03:39h.

Poker legend Doyle Brunson was once threatened with death by vicious Las Vegas Mob enforcer Tony “The Ant” Spilotro.

Doyle Brunson, Tony Spilotro
Doyle Brunson, left, boldly stood up to Tony “The Ant” Spilotro, right, and lived to tell the tale. (Image: CBS/Mob Museum/

The 88-year-old Texan recounted his disturbing encounter with “The Ant” in an interview this week with Texas Monthly.

Spilotro was a capo for the Chicago Outfit in Las Vegas in the 1970s and 1980s. It was at a time when Brunson was playing some of the biggest games of the world in the city.

The mobster oversaw the Outfit’s illegal profit-skimming from its four Nevada casinos, The Stardust, The Fremont, The Hacienda, and The Marina.

‘You Can’t Kill Everyone’

Hearing about Brunson’s money in the Big Game, Spilotro decided the Mob should probably take a slice of what he and his fellow pros were making, too.

The gangster approached Brunson and inquired about a 25% cut. When Brunson bravely asked why he felt he was entitled to that, Spilotro allegedly replied:

“If you don’t like it, I’ll stick twelve ice picks in that big fat gut of yours.”

“You can’t kill everyone,” Brunson responded.

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

Brunson believes his close friendship with Benny Binion, proprietor of Binion’s Horseshoe, saved him from the clutches of “The Ant,” who is believed to have killed at least 22 people.

Binion was a Dallas Mob boss before leaving Texas for Las Vegas to open the Horseshoe and was on good terms with the local Mafiosi.

Binion also invented the World Series of Poker in 1970. The event was held at the Horseshoe until 2004 and was developed by Binion’s sons, Jack and Ted.

Spilotro’s Grisly End

Spilotro’s extracurricular activities – he branched out into robbing residential and commercial properties with his “Hole in the Wall Gang” – ultimately hastened his demise.

He and his brother, Michael, disappeared on June 14, 1986. They were found buried together in an Indiana cornfield just over a month later. They had been stripped to their underwear and beaten to death.

In 2009, Outfit boss James “Little Jimmy” Marcello was sentenced to life imprisonment for the brothers’ murders.

Spilotro was the inspiration for Joe Pesci’s character in Casino. It was a role the actor was born to play.  

These days, Brunson is semi-retired and is eager to avoid a different kind of threat. Last week, he tweeted he would be sitting out most of the events at the World Series, which is currently in full swing at Bally’s and Paris, because of concerns about the coronavirus.

Spilotro may have been small, but at least you could see him coming.