AMARILLO, Texas — Thomas Austin "Amarillo Slim" Preston Jr., a poker champion whose brash style, fast talking and love of the spotlight helped broaden the professional game's appeal and made him one of its most recognizable characters, has died. He was 83.
Mr. Preston's son, Bunky Preston, said Monday that his father died Sunday (April 29, 2012) of colon cancer in Amarillo, where he lived.
While Mr. Preston craved the spotlight that his poker fame provided, his public image was sullied eight years ago when he was sentenced to probation on misdemeanor charges that he assaulted a young relative.
He got his "Amarillo Slim" nickname playing pool, according to his son, and with his cowboy hat and Southern drawl, he wouldn't have been out of place gambling in an Old West saloon.
Mr. Preston would bet on just about anything, and he mastered the art of stretching the truth. Among his many claims laid out on his website are that he played Minnesota Fats in one-pocket billiards using a broomstick; beat Bobby Riggs, of Billie Jean King fame, at ping pong using an iron skillet; and outran "a horse for a hundred yards (no one ever said nothing about the race being straight-away)."
His accomplishments at the poker table were very real, and his 1972 win in the fledgling World Series of Poker in Las Vegas helped make him an unofficial ambassador for the game. Often not the best player at the table, Mr. Preston nonetheless sought out the spotlight, regularly appearing on TV shows.
Mr. Preston was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 1992.