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The Greatest Gambler who ever lived

7 July 2003

By Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark,
As one of your gambling quotes of the week, you used poker player Amarillo Slim. What ever happened to him? Is he still alive? Duke H.

Amarillo Slim Preston, the Guinness Book of Records holder for being in five Halls of Fame: poker, gambling, seniors, legends of Texas and legends of Nevada, is still with us, living it up in Amarillo, beatin' the tar-Texas style-out of anyone willing to wager on anything from pitching coins to playing poker.
There is a wonderful new memoir recently released by Amarillo Slim, with Greg Dinkin (who also wrote Poker MBA, another great read), entitled, Amarillo Slim in a World Full of Fat People.

In great detail, Slim and Dinkin chronicle Amarillo's winning ways and his larger-than-life-wagers like these classics. He won $300,000 from Willie Nelson in a televised match of dominoes, or remember when he beat Bobby Riggs out of $10,000 in a game of Ping-Pong played with frying pans as paddles? He also trounced a world champion ping-pong player with a Coca-Cola bottle, and even wooped Minnesota Fats in a game of pool using a broomstick as a cue.

Not one to pass up a poker playing opportunity, Slim has played poker with Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, and drug lords Pablo Escobar and Jimmy Charga-Slim states he has never seen men with more money and less brains than drug lords- always applying Slim's Top 10 Keys to poker success, which follow here at no extra charge.

1. Play the players more than you play the cards.
2. Choose the right opponents. If you don't see a sucker at the table, you're it.
3. Never play with money you can't afford to lose.
4. Be tight and aggressive; don't play many hands, but when you do, be prepared to move in.
5. Always be observing at a poker game. The minute you're there, you're working.
6. Watch the other players for "tells" before you look at your own cards.
7. Diversify your play so others can't pick up your tells.
8. Choose your speed based on the direction of the game. Play slow in a fast game, fast in a slow game.
9. Be able to quit a loser, and for goodness' sake, keep playing when you're winning.
10. Conduct yourself honorably so you're always invited back.

Sagacious advice from the Winner of the World Series of Poker in 1972 at Binion's Horseshoe (he still plays this tournament), and whom many call the greatest gambler who ever lived. I know you will enjoy, Duke, this fascinating new memoir. I surely did.

Dear Mark,
Is it to the house's advantage, or the player's, when the dealer stays on a soft 17? Tom

To be a consistent winner in blackjack, Tom, you must play basic strategy and play only on games ... (are you listening?) ... only on games with the most favorable playing rules.

A dealer's stay on a soft 17 is one such rule that is ALWAYS to the player's advantage. You have a built-in advantage of 0.20% when the dealer is forced to stay on a soft 17. And you, of course, then put on your suave and casual smile and go for the jugular.

Gambling quote of the week: "If there is anything worth arguing about, I'll either bet on it or shut up. And since it's no becoming for a cowboy to be arguing, I've made a few wagers in my day. But in my humble opinion, I'm no hustler. You see, neighbor, I never go looking for a sucker. I look for a champion and make a sucker out of him."-Amarillo Slim

Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.