Still going strong as his eightieth birthday approaches Thomas Austin Preston, known to all and sundry in the Texas hold em poker circuit and all over the world as Amarillo Slim is a professional gambler of the old school.
Although widely regarded as being an integral part of the Texas crew, Slim was actually born in the small town of Johnson, Arkansas. He was brought as a small child by his parents to Amarillo, Texas, and Slim will argue that he has every right to consider himself a Texan in every meaning of the word. Rumor has it that the young Texan created his own nickname, namely because he loved the town of Amarillo so much, and that he was indeed remarkably slim, and remains to this day. He even entitled his autobiography Amarillo Slim in a World Full of Fat People.
Like so many Texas characters of his time, Slim wasn't one for following conventional behavior. Instead he preferred to live on his wits and use the skills that he had picked up the parlors and pool halls of Amarillo in the forties. He spent more time shooting pool than playing poker, and he was fortunate to be gifted at playing both. Legend has it that in his thirties, Slim won five Cadillac's taking part in casino sponsored pool tournaments in the space of one week, One thing for sure, Slim will tell you that playing pool is still his first love, and poker his principal money earner.
Gradually Slim, always in search of some action, moved to Dallas to be part of the poker scene there. When things became a little too hot there, and too many shootings began to draw the attention of the local police, Slim and other members of the Dallas crew took to the road. They wandered the mid- west for many years, earning their living playing the bars and saloons, looking for a game of poker to educate the locals. Always on the move they eventually made it to Las Vegas, where their old Dallas buddy, Benny Binion, had opened his highly popular Horseshoe Casino. Slim and his friends were all characters, earning their living as professional gamblers. They held certain notoriety and many people fantasized that they could be just like them. Binion, never one to forsake a public relations opportunity, glamorized Slim and his friends, and created a special atmosphere around them. An atmosphere that helped to keep his casino full of gamblers night after night. Springing from a famous poker match arranged by Binion between Johnny Moss and the famous Nick the Greek, the World Series of Poker in an early and primitive form began to be held as annual event at the Horseshoe. From the outset, the tournament was pretty small and participants were by invitation only. As its fame spread, more and more players wanted to take part, and Binion, ever the entrepreneur, began to charge entrance fees.
All the members of the Dallas team, who had made Las Vegas their base, became cult figures in the world of poker. Amarillo Slim, a character in his own right, capitalized on his glamorous image and notoriety to present an image that captivated America. This was never more emphasized than when Slim won the World poker title in 1972.
Blessed with an interesting and engaging personality, an imaginative mind and a quick sense of humor, Slim became the darling of the televised talk show circuit of the nineteen seventies and eighties. For a non conventional entertainer, Slim was widely appreciated by all the talk show hosts of that time and none more so than the legendary Johnny Carson. Slim appeared on Johnny's show no less than eleven times, regaling Johnny and all of America with a series of tales of his rich and interesting past. There was one famous evening that Slim and Ben Binion appeared together on the Johnny Carson show. They literary stole the show leaving Johnny and the studio audience helpless with laughter, as they outdid one another with their tall story telling.
Slim takes part in very few tournaments these days, preferring to take the role of elder statesman, a distinction he holds with honor.
Amarillo Slim Preston has earned has place as a member of the poker Hall of Fame, as well as several other lifetime awards in the game. Despite the fact that he earned his stripes the hard way, Slim has always represented the interests of the game in an honorable and respectable manner, and is one of the key reasons why the Texas holdem poker has become so popular in the World of today.