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Player Profile - Amarillo 'Slim' Preston

Born Thomas Austin Preston Jr. in Johnson, Arkansas in 1928, the gambler better known as Amarillo Slim Preston is probably the first name most people even slightly familiar with the game of poker will mention when asked to name a famous player. A legend on and off the tables, his propensity to both take on outrageous bets and then tell a seemingly unlimited series of astounding and amusing anecdotes about how he won them has made him a popular spokesman for the Professional Gambler. His World Series win in 1972 gave him the limelight, which he has held ever since, being inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 1992.

Way before poker enjoyed its current popularity, Amarillo Slim was an original rounder, touring the games with the likes of Doyle Brunson and Johnny Moss, and before that, a championship billiards player before he took on the full-time career of being, in his own words, “no ordinary hustler.” His memoir, ‘Amarillo Slim in a World Full of Fat People,’ catalogues exactly what he means by this unusual job description. He’s won bets by playing ping-pong with Bobby Riggs using an iron skillet, riding a camel through a casino, and driving a golf-ball a mile, among other improbable-yet-true stories. Short on poker advice, long on charismatic storytelling, this book is a fascinating peek at one of the most unconventional lives of this century.

As far as the poker goes, he has a total of four WSOP bracelets to his name, as well as big money finishes in the games of No-limit Hold’em, Pot Limit Omaha and Omaha Hi-lo. A consistent winner who, more recently, finished second in the World Heads Up Poker Championships in Vienna in 2001, he is credited with being one of the founders of the World Series as we know it today. Friends with Benny Binion, who apparently left him his horse, there’s not a big name in poker who hasn’t played with Amarillo Slim, or knows someone who has.

He’s taken $2 million from Larry Flynt, gambled with presidents, made a fortune from the black market in postwar Germany, appeared in a movie (‘California Split’ starring George Segal and Elliott Gould) and done more for the credibility and profile of poker than any other single person of his generation. The most often quoted (and misquoted) poker player around, Preston is married, has three children, and currently resides in his namesake Amarillo, Texas.
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