During the 1999 World Series of Poker, the late “Amarillo Slim” Preston and I met in the sports book at the Horseshoe.
Preston is credited with bringing poker out of the back rooms and into the living rooms of millions of homes via his numerous TV appearances.
“Yeah, you hear that a lot,” Slim said. “I’ve done three specials for 60 Minutes on Sunday nights, and hell, I’ve been on the Johnny Carson show 11 times with different hosts: Flip Wilson, Joan Rivers, Don Rickles, Joey Bishop, Gabe Kaplan and Johnny. I’d never go unless I had something to say.”
And Slim still had plenty more to say. The fast-talking Texas toothpick rolled out a string of stories like a kitten playfully unraveling a ball of yarn – enough verbiage to choke a horse, as he might say. We started with his Benny Binion tales.
“Benny willed me his personal horse when he died,” the venerable storyteller reminisced in the soft drawl of the South. “I knew him better than anybody alive, met him when I was a kid in Texas, back when I thought I was just being mischievous, but the government decided I was being a little more than that. I was a bit rowdy and Benny liked that.”
Slim took Binion with him to Tom Snyder’s Tomorrow show, where Benny was asked, “Why do those casinos on the Strip in Vegas have a $500 limit and you’ve got no limit?”
“Well, they got great big hotels and little bitty bankrolls,” he said. “I’ve got a little bitty hotel and a great big bankroll.”
Slim has famously been quoted as saying, “I’ll slit my throat if a woman ever wins the World Series of Poker,” which he claims is a misquote. “A big woman named Vera, whose family owned some big ol’ cosmetics company, got a hold of this many checks,” he explained. “When we took a break, the Associated Press started yakking with me when Vera busts right in. ‘Mr. Slim, what do you think about a lady getting hold of that many chips?’ she asks. ‘I think it’s great,’ I answer. ‘Well, it’s a certainty that I’m gonna win this World Series,’ she blurts out.
“‘Vera, if you win the World Series of Poker, you can take a dull knife and cut my throat,’ I answered – and I meant it!”
Had the World Series changed much since the old days, I asked.
“The Horseshoe has changed a lot,” Slim answered, “but the Series is so big and so successful that you could hold it at Pahrump out there in the hole where Teddy Binion buried his silver – and people would show up!”
It was hard not to notice Amarillo Slim, no matter how large the crowd. Maybe it was his custom made ostrich boots with the spades, diamonds, hearts, clubs and his name engraved on them – “I’ve got these in 14 different colors, brought nine pairs here with me. No wonder they had to send a limousine for me.” Or perhaps the emerald buttons on his Western shirt – “I knew you’d ask, Honey, and it’s the best story you’ll ever hear.”
“I usually wear $1 gold pieces over the buttons on my shirts and matching cuff links with $5 pieces. Anyway, I got kidnapped a few years ago in Columbia. I was wired up and taken off in a helicopter. I thought they were gonna drop me out over the jungle. The guy who got me was Pablo Escobar, reputed to be the biggest drug dealer in the world. He thought I was a government man because I was right in the middle of things in Columbia, but I was just there for the opening of a casino.
“He loved my gold buttons, so just because he didn’t kill me, I had a set of them made for him. Six weeks later I’m in Las Vegas and the phone rings. A familiar voice says, ‘Slim, Pablo has sent you something.’ He had had this set of buttons made for me out of uncut and unpolished emeralds, about three or four carats apiece.”
Did Slim still enjoy the World Series, I wondered.
“I enjoy the camaraderie, the how are you and how’ve you been and do you remember the wa-wa-wa. Then I sit down to play and in 10 minutes I feel like I’m in the electric chair – I’d rather be anywhere else in the world. I’m pokered out. I must’ve done something right along the way, though, because I have a lot of friends.”
Indeed he did – the whole world recognized Amarillo Slim Preston not only as a famous ambassador of poker but also for his unique sense of humor.
“My hometown, Amarillo, is a good town,” he said. “And the population has been the same for the past 30 years, never varies – every time some woman gets pregnant, some man leaves town.”
Global Gaming Expo (G2E) Asia will bring the Venetian Macao alive from May 21 to May 23, 2013 as an estimated 6,500 attendees and 150 exhibitors and brands gather for the most vibrant networking, trade and educational showcase in Asian gaming.
The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe has unveiled a new design for a resort casino it hopes to build in Taunton, Massachusetts if the tribe wins state and federal approvals for the project.
William Hill has entered into a long term agreement with Fifth Street Gaming to operate the new sports book being developed at the Downtown Grand Casino & Hotel (formerly Lady Luck Casino) on 3rd Street between Stewart and Ogden.
Please tell me you’re watching these Stanley Cup playoffs. This season both top seeds, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks, advanced. The Blackhawks coasted, but the Penguins were thrown a scare by the New York Islanders.