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The Amarillo Slim gospel

Aug 24, 2004 2:36 AM

It’s been more than 30 years since "Amarillo Slim" Preston won Binion’s World Series of poker (1972). And now, for the generation that’s heard about him but never met him, there’s a great book about him, Amarillo Slim in a World of Fat People, and subtitled, "The Memoirs of the Greatest Gambler Who Ever Lived."

The book is a fascinating account of the fast-talking Texas gambler who won the World Series of Poker and since has served as a poker guru and ambassador for players around the world.

Never without his snakeskin-wrapped Stetson and custom-designed cowboy boots, Slim lives in Amarillo, Texas, where he penned the book along with writer, Greg Dinkin, who has written three books and is the co-founder of Venture Literary, a company that helps writers find publishers for their books and studios for their scripts.

The book is a fascinating and revealing account of Slim’s life far and above his poker playing exploits.

For instance, Slim dabbled in sports booking and betting before concentrating on poker. Actually, Slim boasts that he will bet on anything. "If there’s anything worth arguing about, I’ll either bet on it or shut up."

Slim once beat Willie Nelson for $300,000 playing dominoes, took thousands from Minnesota Fats playing pool with a broom and beat Evel Knievel in golf using a carpenter’s hammer. He has played poker with Presidents Richard Nixon and Lyndon Johnson, and hustled drug lords Pablo Escobar and Jimmy Chagra.

Among his other exploits, Slim rafted down Idaho’s deadly River of No Return to win $31,000 from Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder, beat a ping pong champion using a Coke bottle as a paddle, and out-shot a Hall of Fame basketball coach from the free-throw line using a football.

Of course, Amarillo Slim’s poker prowess is at the core of the book. And we don’t think we will give everything away by citing Slim’s Top Ten Keys to Poker Success:

1. Play the players more than you play the cards.

2. Choose the right opponents. If you don’t see a sucker at the table, you’re it.

3. Never play with money you can’t afford to lose.

4. Be tight and aggressive; don’t play many hands, but when you do, be prepared to move in.

5. Always be observing at a poker game. The minute you’re there, you’re working.

6. Watch the other players for "tells" before you look at your own cards.

7. Diversify your play so other players can’t pick up tells on you.

8. Choose your speed based on the direction of the game. Play slow in a fast game and fast in a slow game.

9. Be able to quit a loser, and for goodness’ sake, keep playing when you’re winning.

10. Conduct yourself honorably, so you’re always invited back.

Slim added, "If you could master the first item on that list, it’s the only thing you’ll every need: Play the players more than you play the cards.

"What they say is true: A man’s eyes mirror his soul ”¦ Besides what you can see from a person’s eyes, you also can pick up something about his hand from other physical giveaways, known among poker players as tells."

Slim (his real first name is Thomas, born in Arkansas in 1930, he says) is never at a loss for words. He’s proved he has the ability to steal a scene anytime. If you remember the classic film California Split (1974, directed by Robert Altman, filmed partially at the old Mapes Hotel in Reno), his famous line, "Bet Ole Blue out of chute number twooooo . . ." was admittedly ad libbed and is still memorable.

"Anything I can talk about I can bet on," is part of Slim’s approach to "investment," even today. He describes how he accidentally discovered how a soft drink bottle would provide him with an edge in a table tennis challenge and how he, Sailor Roberts and Doyle Brunson traveled together, hustling and out-hustling each other — from mountain climbing to guessing a train’s altitude.