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Amarillo Slim Preston has won $300,000 from Willie Neslon playing dominoes and $2 million from Larry Flynt playing poker. He has shuffled, dealt, and bluffed with some of twentieth-century's most famous figures. He beat Minnesota Fats at pool with a broom, Bobby Riggs at table tennis with a skillet, and Evel Knievel at golf with a carpenter's hammer. Amarillo Slim has gambled with 'em all, and left most of them wishing they hadn't.

The memoirs of a living American icon, Amarillo Slim in a World Full of Fat People is the story of life as a Texas road gambler and the discovery of the Wild West. It's also the story of how Slim won the World Series of Poker at Binion's Horseshoe, became a worldwide celebrity, and brought poker from smoky backrooms to mainstream America. Just let him tell it:

"If there's anything I'll argue about, I'll either bet on it or shut up. And since it's not very becoming for a cowboy to be arguing, I've made a few wagers in my day. But in my humble opinion, I'm no ordinary hustler. You see, neighbor, I never go looking for a sucker. I look for a champion and make a sucker out of him ..."

"I'm fixing to tell you a few things that I've been keeping to myself for a lot of years. If you're not careful, you just might learn how to get rich without ever having a job."

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Legendary gambler Amarillo Slim Preston, who captured the World Series of Poker in 1972 and has legitimately snookered more money out of more people than most of us make in a lifetime, steers clear of elaborating on the particulars of such games as Texas Hold 'Em in this off-the-cuff, even flighty tour through his often literally death-defying adventures. Since he's played with the likes of Evel Knievel, Willie Nelson and Minnesota Fats, it is a smooth narrative decision on Preston's part to devote his folksy charm to describing the various characters he has encountered, not the mechanics of how he always beat them (his first rule for poker success is "Play the players more than you play the cards"). He was eventually able to make a career out of gambling, sending his three children to college and leading a comfortable life on his winnings (perhaps the most revealing episode arrives late in the memoir when the nationally known gambler who charmed the now- deceased drug lord Pablo Escobar talks about his joy in coaching his children's Little League team). Like all natural-born sharps, though, Preston knows the virtue of keeping his cards close to his chest, which is a fine strategy at the poker table, but a poor narrative one. Passing phrases such as "I got into some tax trouble" are left curiously unexplained while the author's more self-aggrandizing adventures garner elaborate attention. But when an author has won $2 million from Larry Flynt, and tells the story of it so good-naturedly, readers will pardon the selective nature of his reminiscences. (May) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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