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.)