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Amarillo 'Slim' Preston always ready for action

Jul 8, 2008 7:02 PM

Road to the WSOP by Joe Awada | You would think that only a fool would bet that he could outrun a horse, or that a cat could pick up a Coke bottle.

Not so when the person making the bet is Amarillo "Slim" Preston. The world renowned poker player is equally famous as an unabashed gambler – he’ll bet on virtually anything.

"I usually start arguing about something with somebody and I end up telling them to shut up about it or make a bet on it," Slim said.

I caught up with Slim shortly after the Seniors Event at the World Series of Poker, where Slim got a two-minute standing ovation after it was announced he had just busted out after working his way into the money round.

Of course, cashing at the World Series wasn’t unusual for Slim – he has four gold bracelets, including one for winning the championship event in 1972, when he parlayed his king-jack into a full house – eights full of kings – to beat Puggy Pearson.

Slim said a lot has changed since those early days of the World Series.

"You used to know everyone at the table and there was a lot of comraderie," Slim said. "Now, I can look around the room and not know a soul."

Slim said he planned to play in about 10 or 12 events at the World Series, but his health caused him to cut back on some of the events.

Nonetheless, he’s always ready for action, whether it’s negotiating a side bet or traveling to Macau to open a new pool hall.

"We used to bet on the total number of players in the championship event," he said. "One year, I found out how many players were going to be entered through online tournaments and took several bets that the field would be under a thousand players.

"That was the year (2004) that the field ballooned up to about 2,500," he continued. "Everyone wanted to bet the under, so it was a pretty easy win."

Not all of his side bets are so scientific.

"One year at the final table, there were three players with cowboy hats playing against bare-headed opponents," Slim recalled. "I laid $3,000 to $2,500 that one of the hats would win – the bare-heads didn’t look like they could track an elephant through four feet of snow."

Of course, one of the hats won and Slim cashed again.

Although those tournament prop bets are a thing of the past, Slim said he still enjoys betting. He has a standing bet of $1 million to anyone who can beat him in a free throw shooting contest. (It may not be wise to challenge him on this one – the lanky Texan was a stand-out basketball player in high school.)

But, perhaps his most unusual bet took place in his hometown of Amarillo, where he met up with one of the town’s top businessmen at a poker table.

"This fellow, L.R. Kent, looked at me across the table and said, ‘Slim, you look pretty good – have you been sick?’ I told him I was a little sick, but not sick enough not to outlive you.

"Well, we argued about it for awhile, then finally made a bet about who would live longer. We met at the bank the following day to post the money into an escrow account. But he wanted his doctor to examine me first. Well, I went for it. I didn’t care what the diagnosis was. So we came back to the bank the next day. It was quite a sight – four clerks were counting the money. Near the end of the deal, L.R. said to wait a minute, there’s one other stipulation – ‘You’re not allowed to kill me.’ I thought that was funny. But I agreed, and I’m still waiting around to collect."

Despite the pacemaker, occasional wheel chair and his 80th birthday on tap later this year, I wouldn’t want to bet against Slim on this one either.