In a high-stakes game in which the government had no intention of losing, the Nevada Gaming Commission shut down Binion's Horseshoe over the weekend. If the name sounds familiar it's because you either have a fond recollection of when downtown Las Vegas ruled the legal gaming circuit or you recognize the establishment as the creator of World Series of Poker competition. No doubt the inspiration behind Lakes Entertainment's (NASDAQ:LACO) majority-owned World Poker Tour that thrills five million viewers on the Travel Channel every Wednesday night, you can't help but to shake your head at the poor timing. Binion's was holding a hot hand -- in terms of the publicity it stood to generate if the card game continued to grow in popularity -- but just ran out of chips to keep playing.

Poker's prime time exposure should have been a major boost to the 52-year-old hotel and casino, but it apparently wasn't enough to cover some of the millions in employee benefits that had gone unpaid since June.

How hot is poker? It's everywhere. Shares of Lakes Entertainment have nearly quadrupled since its springtime lows. That's not too shabby for a company that was dabbling in everything from fantasy football sites to making a buyout offer to what is now Landry's (NYSE:LNY) Rainforest Café restaurant chain three years ago.

Investors looking to find some coattails might like to know that while Travel Channel is owned by privately held Discover Communications, the parent company counts publicly traded media conglomerates Liberty Media (NYSE:L) and Cox Communications (NYSE:COX) as investors.

As for Binion's minions, while most of the diversified casino players like Mandalay (NYSE:MBG) and Harrah's (NYSE:HET) are leveraged players and looking to grow outside of Vegas, one can always hope for one of them to make a bid for Binion's Horseshoe. However, would another company really make a play for a distressed property far removed from the hot and happening Las Vegas Strip these days? Don't bet on it.

Are casino stocks a hold 'em at this point? What's behind all the prime-time buzz of poker? Want to share some card-playing tips? All this and more -- in the On Tilt discussion board. Only on