“If there’s anything I’ll argue about, I’ll either bet on it or shut up. And since it’s not very becoming for a cowboy to be arguing, I’ve made a few wagers in my day. But in my humble opinion, I’m no ordinary hustler. You see, neighbor, I never go looking for a sucker. I look for a champion and make a sucker out of him.”
So wrote Thomas Austin Preston Jr, known to the world of poker as ‘Amarillo Slim’, in his autobiography, Amarillo Slim in a World Full of Fat People. He passed away on Sunday from cancer and heart problems, aged 83.
A friend of Doyle Brunson and Sailor Roberts, Preston was born in 1928, dominated the game of poker before its present massive popularity and he was famous for his flamboyant play. In 1972, he won the World Series of Poker Main Event and the first of four bracelets, the last being in 1990, years before the advent of online and televised poker. He became a frequent guest on talk shows such as NBC’s The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and ABC’s Good Morning America, helping to bring the game into the mainstream.
Preston hosted the Annual Poker Classic in the 1980s, which became the Super Bowl of Poker, second only in popularity to the WSOP, and which ended in 1991. His contribution to the game was recognised in 1992, when he was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame.
Continuing to play poker in his later years, Preston’s last major performance was in 2000 when he finished second to Phil Ivey in the 31st Annual World Series of Poker $2,500 PLO.
He had been ill for a long time and spent the last week in a hospice. In a statement, his family said: “We hope everyone will remember our beloved Amarillo Slim for all the positive things he did for poker and to popularize his favourite game, Texas Hold’em.”