Amarillo Slim

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Jul 19, 2016 Amarillo Slim’s bets We said you could bet on anything “these days”, but legendary Texan gambler Amarillo Slim spent his whole life doing that way before Betfair and other online casinos existed. Slim could fill this list all by himself, but for the sake of brevity let’s just give some of his highlights. Thomas Austin Preston, Jr. (born December 31, 1928 in Johnson, Arkansas), known as Amarillo Slim, is a professional gambler, famous for his poker skills and proposition bets. He won the main event at the 1972 World Series of Poker. He has been a member of the Poker Hall of Fame since 1992.

A Texas poker legend should be larger than life, aswith all things Texan. He should also have a hustler’s keen wit, an unflappableurge to win, a good sense of humor, and a Southerner’s way with words. And whenthe chips are down, he relieves you of yours with a smile, leaving hisoutrageously funny words ringing in your ears: “Son, you had as good a chanceof beating me as getting a French kiss out of the Statue of Liberty.” And withthat, you’ve just been beaten by one of the best: poker legend Amarillo Slim.

What’s in a Name?

Born Thomas Austin Preston, Jr., Amarillo Slim gothis nickname from his early gambling days as a pool hustler, long before hebecame part of the original Texas Road Gamblers, along with “Texas Dolly”Brunson and “Sailor” Roberts. It also helped that he was raised in Amarillo,and at 6 foot four, 170 pounds, stood about as slim as your chances of beatinghim at poker. Thomas Preston was born in Johnson, Arkansas, but his parentsmoved to Turkey, Texas when he was baby. After they divorced, Slim’s fathermoved him to Amarillo. He was later quoted as being extremely thankful that hedidn’t end up in Turkey, Texas: “Amarillo Slim sounds a heck of a lot betterthan Turkey Tom.”


Natural Born Gambler

Amarillo Slim was a true gambling man. It didn’tmatter if the wager was on a game of poker or a presidential election, healways loved to lay the money down. Slim was said to have played cards withPresidents Johnson and Nixon, and claims to have won $400,000 in a domino gameagainst Willie Nelson. Poor Willie probably had to go on the road again afterthat loss. Amarillo Slim would bet on anything and everything, and he was evenmore thrilled when he left the other player penniless. He wrote in his memoir, AmarilloSlim in a World Full of Fat People, “If I’m gonna win, Isure as hell want to break somebody doing it.”

Amarillo Slim was always looking for an angle. Longbefore he became Amarillo Slim, young Thomas joined the Navy to get out of highschool early. He states that the real reason he joined the Navy was all thatidle float time, which gave him plenty of free time in which to fleece fellowsailors out of their earnings. And fleece them he did. He returned to theStates with hundreds of thousands of dollars. Being a young man, he spent allhis money on cars, booze, and women—and squandered the rest.

Soon after that, he returned to the military life,and joined the Army. This time, he went as an entertainer for the troops,treating them to exhibitions of pool games and billiard tricks. The real game,he explained, was in the black market. He happily sold American tobacco,coffee, and chocolate all over war-torn Europe—and once again, he made akilling, without even firing a shot.

Pool Hustler: Slim Meets Fats


After the war, Slim became a full time hustler. Beforehe perfected his poker chops, Amarillo Slim was a real life pool hustler, whoplied his trade proudly around the pool halls of 1950s America. And the word‘hustle’ does not offend him at all. Like the world depicted in the 1961 movieThe Hustler, winning big playing pool depends on more than just the rules ofthe game. To ‘hustle’ your opponent, a player needed to pretend to be a weakplayer, lose money regularly, then suddenly turn the tables to empty theopponent’s pockets.

Famous Poker Players

Amarillo Slim got his name after a chance meetingwith famous pool hustler Minnesota Fats. He learned the importance of beingbold, chatty, and quick with a good story. This, combined with a good nickname,made up the arsenal of the pool shark. Amarillo Slim was born, and he proudlysported his cowboy boots, signature Stetson hat, and a big grin. He played the‘slow’ country bumpkin to perfection, making it easier to hustle his opponents.“Everybody thought I was lighter than a June frost,” he laughed.

When Slim met Fats in the pool hall for the firsttime, he lost big to the bigger man. Minnesota had been waiting for the brashyoung Texan to arrive, so he could bilk him out of his fortunes. Slim was Fats’mark, and Slim started losing money to the master. But just when all hopeseemed to be lost, Slim bet Fats that he could sink 4 balls in a row using abroom. It seemed impossible that anyone could pull off a feat as crazy as that,so Fats took the bet, for a large sum of money. Unknown to Fats, Slim had beenpracticing pool with a broom for months, and he quickly hustled the Hustler.Fats was defeated.

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I Have a Proposition for You

After his fame caught on and word got around, Slimcouldn’t hustle as effectively, so he gave up pool. After a brief stint as abookmaker, he started betting on just about anything he could think of.Amarillo Slim loved proposition bets. And the more outrageous the bet, thebetter. He would bet famous tennis players that he could beat them at tabletennis—with his choice of racket. He would show up sporting skillets, and wouldquickly trounce his opponent. It also helped that Slim had been practicingplaying with skillets for a month beforehand. Amarillo Slim only made bets heknew he could win. He discovered the game of poker, with all of that game’sbluff and bravado, and he soon found his calling in cards.

Poker and the Texas Road Gamblers

Slim tried his hand at family life, but getting a‘real job’ just wasn’t in the cards. While back in Texas, he discovered thegame of poker. At that time, poker was not as popular as it is today, and youcertainly couldn’t play online. In the 50s, even Vegas wasn’t yet developedinto the thriving gambling mecca it is today. The only places a gambler couldhope to make a buck were in the places you could find an illegal card game: inthe back rooms of backwoods bars. And when you start beating the locals on aregular basis, they start beating you back—with their fists.

It was during these dangerous times that AmarilloSlim met up with Doyle “Texas Dolly” Brunson and Bryan “Sailor”Roberts. Each of them tired of being beaten, robbed, and threatened, theypartnered up to form the original Texas Road Gamblers. And a legacy was born.Together the three poker aces went from town to town throughout the South andthe Southwest, cleaning out the local card rooms and the pockets of the locals.But it wasn’t all smooth sailing for “Sailor” and the boys. While there wasstrength in numbers, nothing prepares a gambler for a shotgun pressed againsthis belly—as Amarillo Slim once experienced. He said he was also arrested,chased by mobs, and robbed by bandits waiting outside of the poker rooms forthe winners.

Once Slim was grabbed by attackers while leaving a card gamewith his winnings. His captors took him to a hotel room, tied him with wires,and held him under water in the bathtub. They demanded to know where hispartners were. He refused to tell them, so they left him in the tub, tied and bleeding,until a maid finally found him. When the police asked for his testimony, Slimrefused to snitch on his attackers. Instead, he preferred to find his friends,pool their strength, and get revenge on his attackers. Whether that revengetook the form of brute strength or gambling guile is uncertain. But one thingis clear: Amarillo Slim doesn’t like losing.

Winning Big in Las Vegas

Amarillo Slim Bets

After tiring of life spent dodging beatings and bullets, theTexas Road Gamblers heeded the clarion call of Las Vegas. The dusty days of afew casinos owned by mobsters were over. Now Las Vegas was establishing itselfas the premier gambling destination in America. And with that, three Texansstrolled into town, and took Sin City by storm.

Amarillo Slim

Once the Texas Road Gamblers discovered the WorldSeries of Poker in Las Vegas, the sky was the limit. They decided to split upthe team, and play ‘every man for himself.’ Individually, their winnings werelegendary. After he won the WSOP Main Event, he appeared on The Tonight Show,where he shared his love of a good gambling story with Johnny Carson.Eventually, Slim went on to win four WSOP gold bracelets, the covetedchampionship prize (along with his winnings).

Bill Lee Vs Amarillo Slim Poker Results

Amarillo Slim’s last WSOP win was in 1990. After that, he lost his enthusiasm for the big game, even though he never stopped gambling. “These new guys play like robots” he lamented. For Slim, all of the joy in the game was in the tall tales, the witticisms, and the jovial swagger. Slim loved the psychology behind playing poker, sizing up his opponents, and then cutting them down to size. After a rich life of hustling, gambling, and playing poker with the best, Amarillo Slim died at age 83 on April 29, 2012.