Four-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner and 1992 Poker Hall of Fame inductee Amarillo Slim has passed away at the age of 83 after a long illness.
Born Thomas Austin Preston, Jr. on December 31, 1928, in Johnson, Arkansas, the colorful player known for his proposition bets and Stetson cowboy hats, won the WSOP Main Event in 1972 in the third year of its staging against a field of only eight players. Following his victory, Preston made appearances on “The Tonight Show,” “60 Minutes” and had a cameo role in the film “California Split.” The story of his life was said to be an inspiration for the popular poker song, “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers.
Preston also won a Texas Hold’em WSOP event in 1974, as well as pot-limit Omaha tournaments in 1985 and 1990. His last cashout in a WSOP tourney was in 2008, bringing his career earnings in WSOP events to well over half a million dollars. However, Preston’s lifetime earnings are said to be much loftier than that total due to his prowess in cash game poker action.
Preston, Brian “Sailor” Roberts and Doyle Brunson were Texas road gamblers in their younger days, traveling around the state and playing in underground, barroom poker games prior to making their way to Las Vegas. Many accounts of Amarillo Slim’s experiences playing poker on the road have been chronicled in his 2003 book entitled “Amarillo Slim in a World of Fat People.”
In 2003, Preston faced felony charges of indecency with a child that were eventually reduced to misdemeanor assault charges to which he pled no contest in order to avoid further embarrassment to himself and his family. Although maintaining his innocence, the allegations caused him to be shunned from certain members of the poker community.
Preston’s family issued a statement via the WSOP website that said, “We hope everyone will remember our beloved Amarillo Slim for all the positive things he did for poker and to popularize his favorite game, Texas Hold’em.”