Amarillo Slim: Poker Player Extraordinaire
Born Thomas Austin Preston Jr. on December 31, 1928, in Johnson, Arkansas, Amarillo Slim is the world’s most famous and most colorful poker player. He started playing poker games when he was twenty-five years old and has been at it for fifty years. In the course of his interesting poker career, he has done more for poker than any other poker player in history has. In the past, poker games were seen as an enclave of cheaters, liars, hustlers, and good-for-nothing gamblers. With his 1972 World Series of Poker win, Amarillo Slim changed the public’s perception of the game into a legitimate and respectable game of skill. The fact that one can win big money in poker games given the right poker strategies was a big boost toward the 180° turn.
Amarillo Slim is also known to be a people person—a very entertaining and amusing storyteller, a very quotable celebrity, a good judge of character especially on the poker table, and an incorrigible gambler. He is a fast talker with a prodigious memory for amusing anecdotes of his life as a poker player and as a gambler. It is this glibness that has made Amarillo Slim a popular guest on television shows like The Tonight Show, 60 Minutes, Good Morning America, and numerous other game shows; he has even appeared in a movie!
Amarillo Slim is also a sought-after poker player because of his quotable quotes and his irreverent sense of humor. He once said that Amarillo, the town where he resides now, has had the same population because when a woman gets pregnant, a man leaves town. On the other hand, he can be famously misquoted as when he purportedly said that he will slit his throat when a woman poker player wins the WSOP. Actually, he said to the player in question that he will slash his throat with a dull knife when she wins the tournament.
Amarillo Slim is a winning poker player not only because of his sharp poker skills and brilliant poker strategies; he wins because he is an astute judge of character and an excellent body reader. Indeed, he once said that one should look around the table; if you do not see a sucker, get up because you are the sucker. And Amarillo Slim is definitely not a sucker because, again, he has been famously quoted as saying that he makes suckers out of champions.
In addition to his astounding achievements as a poker player, not to mention the money he has earned from playing poker games, Amarillo Slim is also widely known for his crazy gambling bets. He played one-pocket pool with Minnesota Fats using a broom handle, golf with American daredevil Evil Knievel using a carpenter’s hammer, Ping-Pong with tennis champion Bobby Riggs using iron skillets, hustling Hustler publisher Larry Flynt of $2 million, and beating American country music icon Willie Nelson $300,000 in domino. Amarillo Slim never goes on a bet and sits at a poker table without assessing his odds. Even the bet with Bobby Riggs was made on the condition that he selects the type of racket to be used; he chose iron skillets but only after practicing with them for months. He has played poker with drug lords Pedro Escobar and Jimmy Chagra as well as U.S. Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, which shows his wide appeal across all sectors. This also shows a great deal of diplomacy and confirms his quote about poker being a game of people, that it is not about the cards but the people he plays with.
And even if Amarillo Slim is not as famous as he is now, oneother controversies. could not help but notice him even in a crowded casino room. He wears custom-made ostrich boots with spades, diamonds, hearts, clubs, and his name etched on them, emerald buttons on his Western shirt, the obligatory Texas hat, and his handsome features and slim build even at the age of 79. Amarillo Slim is a flamboyant Texan with an eye for elegance, who just so happens to be a world-class poker player.
Amarillo Slim has won World Series of Poker gold bracelets four times. In 1972 and in 1974, he won the No Limit Hold'em, and in 1985 and 1990 for the Pot Limit Omaha. However, he avers that he has five bracelets, probably because WSOP gave him two bracelets in a single year. Amarillo Slim is not just a poker player. He is a true advocate of poker especially with his own tournaments in Sun City, South Africa, and in Adelaide, Australia. He also established the Super Bowl of Poker, which was the second biggest poker event after WSOP, until its cessation in 1990.
Because of his achievements for poker and as a poker player, Amarillo Slim is in four Halls of Fame. He is in the Poker Hall of fame, the Legends of Nevada, the Seniors Hall of Fame, and the Horseshoes’ Hall of Fame. For anybody on the poker circuit, these are very significant achievements. But for a country bloke like Amarillo Slim, these make him feel a little bit special.
In 2003, Amarillo Slim has come out with an autobiography entitled Amarillo Slim in a World Full of Fat People. He has innovative reverse psychology marketing for the book. During a book signing tour, he told people lining up for his autograph that his book is not worth nine-cent and eggs, which caused all the people to transfer to his table. Amarillo Slim knows how to apply psychology even outside of poker.
The personal life of Amarillo Slim is also as colorful as his gambling life. He has been convicted of misdemeanors involving child molestation, purportedly over his granddaughter. He has been mistakenly kidnapped by a drug lord, robbed at gunpoint in his own home, robbed and shot at in daylight, and involved in various other controversies.
Indeed, Amarillo Slim is a poker player extraordinaire with that extraordinary personal flair.