Amarillo Slim, was born Thomas Austin Preston Jr. in 1928. He was one of the most successful and notorious gamblers of all time. From his love of gambling at a young age to his international fame as a poker player and outrageous proposition bettor, Amarillo Slim was a larger-than-life personality in the world of gambling.

Early Years

amarillo slim

Amarillo Slim was born in Arkansas and grew up in Texas. He developed a love for gambling at an early age, playing cards with his father and grandfather. As a teenager, he would often skip school to play poker with his friends.

In his early twenties, Amarillo Slim began to make a name for himself as a horse race bettor. He quickly gained a reputation as a savvy bettor who could pick the winners with remarkable accuracy. He won several large bets over the course of his career, including a $300,000 bet on a single horse race.

Rise to Fame as a Poker Player

Despite his success as a horse race bettor, Amarillo Slim’s greatest claim to fame was his prowess at poker. He won his first World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelet in 1972. He won three more over the course of his career. His victories made him one of the most successful players in the history of the WSOP. He was even inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 1992.

Outrageous Proposition Bets

But Amarillo Slim was not just a skilled poker player; he was also a master of outrageous proposition bets. He was famous for his willingness to bet on anything and everything. For instance, he reportedly took $300,000 from Willie Nelson in a game of dominoes. On another instance, he won $1.7 million from Larry Flynt in a poker match. However Mr Flynt denies that and damns his old adversary as a liar.

According to the urban legend, he challenged Bobby Riggs, a Wimbledon champion, to a game of table tennis with the stipulation that Preston could choose the paddles. Riggs was defeated after Preston brought out two frying pans, having secretly practiced with them for months beforehand.

Another example of Preston’s unusual prop bets was when he challenged Evel Knievel to a game of golf but prohibited the use of standard golf clubs. Instead, both players had to use hammers. Naturally, Preston emerged as the victor.

Perhaps the most remarkable prop bet he made was when he wagered that he could outrun Seabiscuit, a famous racehorse, in a 100-yard dash. However, he had an advantage as he chose a 50-yard course, requiring Seabiscuit and his jockey to turn around at the halfway point, giving Preston a lead. By the time Seabiscuit was turned around, Preston was too far ahead to be caught.

The takeaway from these stories is that a successful prop bet requires some sort of advantage to be established beforehand.

“If there’s anything I’ll argue about, I’ll either bet on it or shut up. And since it’s not becoming for a cowboy to be arguing, I’ve made a few wagers in my day. But in my humble opinion, I’m no hustler. You see, neighbor, I never go looking for a sucker. I look for a champion and make a sucker out of him.”

Amarillo Slim

Quick Wit and Colorful Personality

Amarillo Slim’s quick wit and colorful personality made him a natural storyteller. He loved to regale anyone who would listen with tales of his gambling exploits and was a regular on talk shows. He even appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.

Amarillo was also known for his love of flashy clothes and jewelry. He often wore a cowboy hat and a big belt buckle, and he was rarely seen without a cigar in his mouth.

Amarillo Slim’s Controversies

However, Amarillo Slim’s gambling career was not without controversy. He was arrested several times over the years for various offenses, including illegal gambling and drug possession. He was also known for his association with notorious characters, such as Benny Binion, the founder of the WSOP. Another figure was Nick “The Greek” Dandolos, a legendary gambler from the early 20th century.

Amarillo Slim’s Brush with Pablo Escobar

One of the more sensational stories about Amarillo Slim, involves his brush with Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in the world at the time.

According to Amarillo Slim, he found himself in Columbia for the grand opening of the Casino de Caribe. He was then thrown into a helicopter and tied up with wires by men working for Pablo Escobar. Pablo suspected he was working for the government, but once it was confirmed that Amarillo was clean, he gave him a grand tour of the country. Getting a tour of Colombia from the man who pretty much ran the place had to be something to see.

During the helicopter ride, Pablo mentioned that he loved Amarillo’s gold-plated buttons. Slim was just so full of gratitude at not being murdered. To make sure they were still on good terms he sent a similar set of gold buttons. In return, a few weeks later Amarillo received a phone call from one of Pablo’s men informing him that Pablo had sent him something. The gift was a set of raw, uncut, unpolished emerald buttons about 4 carats apiece! Who else besides Amarillo Slim can say they’ve be-friended a violent drug lord?

While some have questioned the veracity of Amarillo Slim’s story, there is no denying that he was a larger-than-life figure who had a gift for spinning a good yarn.

Amarillo Slim’s Legacy

Amarillo Slim passed away in 2012 at the age of 83. He left behind a legacy as one of the greatest gamblers and proposition bettors of all time. His personality and outrageous antics made him a beloved figure in the gambling world and beyond.

Today, Amarillo Slim is remembered not just for his gambling exploits, but also for his contributions to the game of poker. He was instrumental in popularizing Texas Hold’em, which has since become one of the most popular variants of poker worldwide.


Amarillo Slim was a true legend in the world of gambling, known for his skill at poker and his willingness to bet on anything and everything. His quick wit, colorful personality, and outrageous proposition bets made him a beloved figure among gamblers and non-gamblers alike. Despite his controversies and brushes with the law, his legacy as one of the greatest gamblers of all time endures to this day.

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