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Bespoke Backgammon

The summer months will invariably bring a handful of heart-wrenching rainouts. On these days, you could convince yourself (and the bishop) that the heavy stuff isn’t coming down for quite a while, or you could bust out the table games. Like this $387,890 backgammon set from Geoffrey Parker, featuring an alligator/stingray playing field and diamond-encrusted, 18-karat-gold checkers. The numbers on the dice are also set with 1-carat diamonds, which opens the door for spontaneous wedding proposals (the ultimate doubling cube).

A closer look, after the jump...»

Icon: Amarillo Slim

  • Najib Benouar

Before all the bright lights and legitimate businessmen showed up, the gambling scene was dominated by a handful of flamboyant and mostly unsavory characters. The face of that scene: a cantankerous Texan by the name of Thomas “Amarillo Slim” Preston, who lost his battle with cancer just last week. He was a pool shark, a rounder, a proposition bettor, a bookie and a four-time WSOP champ.

The man would wager on anything and stack the odds in his favor whenever possible—he once talked a Wimbledon champ into a one-on-one tennis match, then insisted they use skillets instead of racquets (and won). He played poker with the likes of LBJ, Nixon and Pablo Escobar. He wore a ten-gallon Stetson with everything. He was a recurring Johnny Carson guest. And along the way, he took gambling from its smoky backroom roots to the mainstream. (It’s no coincidence that the most televised and popular form of poker today is his beloved Texas Hold’em.)

Here’s a look back at some iconic photos of the gambler in the ten-gallon hat.»

Alina Is Well Shaded

The Man Who Would Be Wing: A short Errol Morris doc about “El Wingador,” five-time champion of the Philadelphia Wing Bowl. [NYTimes]

Man-Sized Wads: A people’s history of Big League Chew, the bubble gum that pretended to be chaw. [Collecting Candy]

The Cult of the ’Gram: A long-form look inside Instagram, and how a 10-employee company pulled in $7.5 million. [Gizmodo]

Gambling: Poker icon Doyle Brunson reminisces about the time a West Virginian nearly shot him over a game of cards. It was a simpler time... [Deadspin]

Tobey Maguire and the Succès de Scandale

We’d like to congratulate Tobey Maguire on a scandal well played.

As we learned a few months ago, Maguire was said to be participating in high-stakes card games run by con man Bradley Ruderman and a made-for-Page-Six bombshell named Molly Bloom. Now, he’s agreed to pay back $80,000 (of the more than $300,000 that he won) to settle a lawsuit brought by a group of investors who had been bilked by Ponzi-schemer Ruderman.

In Maguire's case, it's what we call the good kind of controversy. Here's why»

Online Poker Goes Underground

Word came down today that Full Tilt Poker, one of the largest poker sites on the internet, has been playing fast and loose with its bookkeeping. There’s $440 million missing, and more than a few people are likely headed to jail.

If you were waiting on a payout from them, it’s very bad news. If you were hoping to play an honest online game of hold’em at some point in the next decade, it’s just moderately bad news. But if you’ve ever had a nostalgic pang for the days of genuinely sketchy black-market games…it might actually be a good thing.

Allow us to explain…»