Five-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner Thomas “Amarillo Slim” Preston Jr. has died at the age of 83 at a hospice near his home in Amarillo, Texas.
His death was confirmed by his daughter via WSOP media rep Nolan Dalla and the family released the following statement on the WSOP website:
"We hope everyone will remember our beloved Amarillo Slim for all the positive things he did for poker and to popularize his favorite game - Texas Hold'em."
Renowned for his quick wit and larger-than-life personality, Preston is often credited for making Texas Hold’em what it is today.
One of the original Texas road gamblers with Doyle Brunson and Brian “Sailor” Roberts, Preston and his peers traveled around Texas playing underground poker games before eventually bringing the game to Vegas.
Slim proceeded to win the 1972 World Series of Poker Main Event and turned his victory into dozens of network television appearances including frequent spots on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.
From Road Gambler to Poker Exile
By the time the true Texas Hold'em boom came about in 2003 after Chris Moneymaker's win in the WSOP Main Event, however, Slim was no longer in a position to reap the rewards.
In August of that year a grand jury indicted Preston on multiple counts of indecency with a child after his grandaughter had accused him of molestation.
The felony charges were eventually dropped but Preston did plead "no contest" to misdemeanor assault charges.
In an exclusive interview with Nolan Dalla for PokerListings.com, Slim maintained he only plead out to protect his family and that he was decidedly not guilty of any charges brought against him:
"Contrary to all these charges and things," Slim said, "I've always been a family man. And now after 80 years I'm going to be accused of being a predator of children? No chance."
Preston was ultimately fined $4,000, given two years probation and ordered to undergo counseling but his reputation continued to suffer throughout the poker community - despite repeated expressions of support from Brunson.
The lack of support from the poker community at large always bothered him, he said, despite the fact no one would confront him about it:
"I have never had anyone say anything negative to me. Whether I was playing, or not playing. I think there are a bunch of hypocrites in the poker world and a lot of them are obligated to me.
"Not a one of them has showed up and stood beside me ... I don't hear from them anymore.
"Some of them could have said something and shown their support. But they didn't."
Much of Preston's life, including many of his old road stories, renowned hustles and legendary prop bets, is chronicled in his book, Amarillo Slim in a World of Fat People,released in 2003.
Preston was born on December 31, 1928 in Johnson, Arkansas.