– General Information –
Thomas Austin Preston Jr., better known as Amarillo Slim, was an American poker player and gambler. He was born on December 31st, 1928 and passed away on April 29th, 2012. His nickname comes from the city of Amarillo, TX where he grew up with his father after his parents’ divorce.
He has another, more flattering nickname as well: people sometimes refer to him as “the World’s Greatest Gambler”. That is because outside of his poker accolades, he was also known for winning huge sums on clever and creative prop bets throughout his career.
Slim was among the group of traveling poker players from Texas – along with Doyle Brunson and Crandell Addington – who are credited with introducing Texas Hold’em, the most popular poker type today, to Las Vegas in the 1960’s.
He won the WSOP Main Event in 1972, the first time it was held as the classic $10,000 buy-in freezeout No Limit Hold’em tournament. He went on to obtain three other bracelets during his career.
Slim founded the tournament series called Amarillo Slim’s Super Bowl of Poker which ran annually between 1979 and 1991. It was considered the second most prestigious poker festival, only behind the World Series of Poker, in the 1980’s with poker’s greatest talents at the time competing in the events.
– Key Career Dates –
- c. 1967: He, along with his partners Doyle Brunson and Crandell Addington, brings Texas Hold’em from Texas to Las Vegas. As a result, the Golden Nugget Casino becomes the first to deal the new poker game in Vegas.
- 1972: He wins the WSOP Main Event for $80,000.
- 1979: He founds the tournament series Amarillo Slim’s Super Bowl of Poker.
- 1992: He gets inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame.
– Amarillo Slim’s Career –
→ Beginnings ←
While Slim was born in Arkansas, he grew up in Texas. He graduated early from Amarillo High School by joining the US Navy. By the time he got his high school diploma and his discharge, there was no question where the young Thomas was going to earn his money from. He was already hustling pool for good money.
He later picked up other games of chance, such as card games and sports betting to wager and win even more.
In the 1960’s, he started to travel around the country, looking for gambling action in a posse of poker players that included Doyle Brunson and Crandell Addington. They shared a bankroll and looked out for each other’s safety. As we wrote earlier, that is how Texas Hold’em got introduced in the Las Vegas casinos.
→ Live Tournaments ←
According to the Hendon Mob, Slim collected $587,567 in live tournament earnings during his career.
However, we need to keep two things in mind about that sum. One, it’s not adjusted for inflation. Two, it’s a lot harder to track poker results from decades ago. In all likeliness, Slim has won multiples of that money even in poker tournaments alone.
Chicly, the first recorded result on his page is his 1972 WSOP Main Event title.
The first tournament score of his from outside of the WSOP is from November 1984. He came in 9th in a $5,000 Pot Limit Omaha tournament for $4,400 at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas. PLO was in its infancy at the time, so the Nugget proved to be an early adopter of later popular games again.
Slim’s biggest poker tourney scores are from World Series events – more on that later.
Outside the WSOP, his biggest recorded cash is $29,027. He got that for coming in 6th in the $5,500 NLHE Championship event at the 1st Annual World Poker Challenge in Reno, NV.
However, Slim didn’t leave a lasting impression on tournament poker by winning major events – rather, by organizing them. In 1979, he brought to life Amarillo Slim’s Super Bowl of Poker, a tournament series that was second only to the WSOP in importance for over a decade.
Seeing the success of the WSOP, Slim realized that there is enough of a demand for a second, similar tournament series. The first installment was held in February 1979 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. The buy-ins ranged from just $200 up to two $10,000 Deuce-to-Seven Lowball Draw events.
Stu Ungar, who won the WSOP Main Event three times, is the only player to have won the $10,000 NLHE Main Event at Amarillo Slim’s Super Bowl of Poker three times as well.
The SBOP was held every year between 1979 and 1991. In February 1996, the series took place for one last time at the Bicycle Casino in California.
→ World Series Of Poker ←
Amarillo Slim is a 4-time WSOP gold bracelet winner.
He was among the 7 players who played at the inaugural 1970 World Series – when it was only a series of cash game sessions in different game types, then a vote for the champion at the end.
In 1972, he won the WSOP Main Event. It was the first time it had a $10,000 buy-in. 8 players entered, Slim took down the $80,000 winner-take-all first prize.
His next title came in 1974, when he took down the $1,000 No Limit Hold’em event for $11,100. In 1985, he won his third bracelet in the $5,000 Pot Limit Omaha event for $85,000. In 1990, he finished first in the $5,000 PLO event again, this time pocketing $142,000 for his victory. That is the biggest single live tournament cash of his career.
At the 2000 WSOP, he took 2nd place in the $2,500 PLO event for $97,500, losing the heads-up battle for the title to none other than 10-time WSOP champion Phil Ivey.
Overall, Slim cashed in 12 World Series events – amazingly, 4 of those are victories – for a total of $437,265 combined.
→ Live Cash Games ←
As we wrote above, Slim played at the 1970 WSOP which only had games in the cash game format. He also undoubtedly played a lot of cash games as a “road gambler” as well.
However, he never played cash in front of the cameras, even though TV shows like Poker After Dark and High Stakes Poker were popular in the late stage of his career.
→ Online Poker ←
For most of Slim’s career, online poker wasn’t available as an option. He did live to see the advent of online poker, but he never played on any of the sites as far as we know.
→ Prop Betting ←
Amarillo Slim was famous for his clever and creative prop bets. Perhaps the most famous bet of his is the one he made against American tennis champion Bobby Riggs.
According to the urban legend, Slim bet Riggs an unknown amount that he could beat him at table tennis. The only condition he gave was that he could choose the paddles both players had to use. On the day of the match, Slim turned up with two frying pans for rackets that he’d been practicing with for weeks. With that trick, Slim beat the Wimbledon champion.
This famous stunt of his is very much akin to the first big prop bet he ever won. In his young pool hustling days, he challenged famous pool player Rudolf “Minnesota Fats” Wanderone that he could sink 4 balls with a broom faster than Wanderone could sink 8 with a regular pool cue – little did Minnesota Fats know that Slim had been practicing with a broomstick for years.
By the way, the similarities between the two pool sharks’ nicknames is not a coincidence – Amarillo Slim chose his famous alias to be the polar opposite of his arch rival’s name.
→ Sponsorships ←
He released his autobiography titled Amarillo Slim in a World Full of Fat People in 2001, published by Harper Entertainment.
In it, he revealed that he won $2 million in a poker game against porno magazine king Larry Flynt; and he also played poker against US presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon.
He also appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson after his 1972 WSOP Main Event victory; as well as in the movie California Split by Columbia Pictures.
→ Scandals ←
This is the darkest chapter of Amarillo Slim’s life. Although the details of this incident are unknown, unfortunately, the facts of his legal case remain.
In August 2003, he was indicted in Texas on charges of multiple counts of indecency with a child. In a plea bargain, he pleaded “no contest” to a reduced charge of misdemeanor assault. He eventually was fined $4,000 and was sentenced to two years probation.