Billie Brown – Class of 2010
Billie Brown started her career as an educator choosing to teach mentally handicapped children. Throughout her life, she would continue her commitment to community service and her emphasis on the importance of education.
After graduation from UCLA, Billie found work as a Ford model and quickly moved into the role as couturier, taking world famous fashion designers’ clothing lines around the world. Her clients included Debbie Reynolds and Elizabeth Taylor. She coordinated major fashion week shows around the world for famous designers including Mary McFadden, Albert Nipon, and Ralph Lauren. Billie even traveled with the infamous Rat Pack, dating Peter Lawford for a spell.
Her work took her to all corners of the world. In Las Vegas and her home base of Los Angeles, she perfected the game of poker that would change her life. In the mid-70s, she was one of the few women in the cardrooms of Las Vegas. Within the poker industry, Billie Brown achieved the title of visionary. She established a solid reputation as an innovator, creating exciting tournaments and promotions that changed the face of poker. In the early 80’s, Billie was the first person to create a guaranteed purse in a major poker tournament. She committed a major casino, the Riviera Hotel, as the tournament venue. The “Draw for the Gold Tournament” guaranteed $350,000 in its first year. The second and third year guaranteed $450,000 and the fourth year had the first $1,000,000 guarantee. That promotion built a player base of 2500 people, unheard of in those days.
She parlayed that success into creating an ongoing business of bringing players from New York and Los Angeles to Las Vegas. She worked with Commerce Casino creating promotions including “Play for the Gold,” and worked with several of the Indian casinos in San Diego, assisting them in building their poker rooms and Asian games.
The last decade of her life was committed to helping market and expand Ocean’s Eleven Casino in Oceanside, California. As the casino’s Marketing Director, she created and hosted the beloved California State Ladies Poker Championship, an event that still draws women from all over the country. Her tournament wasn’t just about poker; it was an opportunity for women in the industry to bond.
Billie Brown will be remembered as a savvy and accomplished poker player, a poker visionary, and a mother of three daughters and grandmother of three. Her influence lives on today, as poker continues to grow exponentially with opportunities for so many . . . just as she envisioned.