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occasion, “I never gamble in my home town.” In a way, that’s true. Slim grew up in Amarillo and his family is in Amarillo and Slim is a pretty good family man. As far as his friends know, Slim doesn’t drink at all. But he does play cards in Amarillo. But Slim playing cards is not exactly gambling. Slim playing cards is a sure thing. He can sell chunks of himself playing cards, the way you sell blue chips on the stock market. Slim says there are maybe a dozen other card players in the world as good as he is. None of them live in Amarillo. He says only 15 percent of cards is luck, the rest is skill. At least in poker. Some folk claim Slim is better at gin than at poker. Everybody claims he is brilliant at poker. He is also said to be an accomplished mathematician. Slim’s daddy was a gambler in Amarillo. Small-time. The real old-timers remember when “Junior” Preston started out hustlin’ pool in Amarillo. The folks in Amarillo’s upper crust will assure you, “Nobody around here ever heard of Slim before he won that poker championship.” But that’s not everybody in Amarillo. Amarillo is a funny town. It’s like El Paso in that it’s isolated. It is a capital unto itself. It has no inferiority complex that comes from being 90 miles from Dallas. It’s a zillion miles from anywhere. Amarillo ladies do not go to Houston to get their hair done: they get their hair done in Amarillo, they buy their diamonds in Amarillo, they go to shrinks in Amarillo. Now, Amarillo folk may have a complex about being ignored by The Texas Monthly and Suzanne Shelton, but in fact the city is the queen of the whole Panhandle, of the high plains, and knows it, and feels no inferiority. Only some resentment about not being given its proper duenot because of any deficiency in the city, but because the rest of the lolly-gaggin’, silly-butt state has failed to stand up and salute. Amarillo is no Waco or Abilene. It is not Christ-dominated. There is a vast amount of Christ on the radio. In fact, President Ford was a-wishful to visit the Amarillo Civic Center on April 10, but he had to sluff over to Canyon, a semi-suburb 20 miles down the pike, on account of \(DemoCounty Sheriffs Department had already booked the International Gospel Music Festival into the Civic Center and would not be moved. But generally speakin’, Amarillo is closer to your basic frontier, West Texas town, in which neither God nor respectability have yet got much in the way of either profit or hell-raisin’. In the old days, a group used to meet at the Amarillo Club every day around noonleadin’ citizens one and alland play poker. Win, lose, maybe $20, $30,000 in an afternoon at those games. Stanley Marsh 2, Stan Blackburn, some Bevinses and maybe Whittenburgs. That game has long since broken up. But the heirs still play; second, third generation now. David Bowser Judge Bryan Poff Mayhap they haven’t the yeast of their forebears; mayhap they try too hard to prove they have. Anyway, when Slim won his poker championship in ’72, they called him up and asked him over to play with them. He beat the livin’ go-whump out of all ’em. It was the vogue thing for a spell in Amarillo to brag, “I dropped a thou to Slim the other night.” It was even voguer, maintains one wealthy young man who admits Slim can beat him, to claim, “I took 15 hundred off Slim the other night.” “We just called him up,” said one of the young men. “I guess he checked us out. He called back in 15 minutes and said he’d play. He said if he lost, he’d pay cash, and if he won, he’d expect cash. It was $1,000 change-in, table stakes, at the Amarillo Club. With all the bullshit Slim puts out, he’s one helluva poker player. After the first two hours he was up $5-$6,000. His chips just grew like this [motions rising in the air]. Then he got beat on a straight flush, one point higher than his. He lost everything he had on that hand. He never changed his expression. He never changed his patter. He talks all the time. He went back in and ended the evening $3 or $4,000 up. He’ll talk about tells, other people’s tells, the involuntary signs that give away their hands. I don’t think he has any tells. He’s absolutely honest about cards. If he weren’t, word would get around so fast. But no one has ever said a whisper like that. He’s 100 percent honest on gamblin’. But for stories, about the time he played pool against Minnesota Fats…. Well, you know, he is very discreet about names in some ways. He wouldn’t brag about politicians or big money names he’s beat.” Slim does seem to have a fairly steady reputation for honesty in gambling circles. He has two previous convictions. In 1957, age 28, he pleaded guilty to transporting liquor without a permit and was , fined $200. There was a second similar liquor law conviction when he tried to transport a load of beer to a VFW convention in Plainview. These days, he appears on the Johnny Carson show and gets written about in Esquire magazine. As far as Amarillo is concerned, Slim’s best-known caper was the Humane Society Benefit. In August, 1973, the Amarillo Humane Society held a fundraiser, an evening of gambling called “Horse of a Different Color.” In most towns, the Humane Society would be supported as a matter of course by all rightthinking citizens. But Amarillo occasionally gets a tad behind the times as a result of being so isolated and suspicious of furrin influences. A lady named Francine O’-Brien came to town, from Connecticut, mind you, married a Solid Citizen, and took up for neglected puppies and kittens. Sumbitch. You’d a thought she was the advance guard of the Red Revolution. Folk thought she was out to shut down rodeos. Prevent people from brandin’ their cattle. God knew what. By dint of soft-voiced perseverance, Ms. O’Brien got folk involved with the puppy and kitty issue \(this is not to mention some truly deplorable cases of neglect/abuse of horses that are now beimg prosecuted by the county attorney’s office, largely as a result of pressure from the Humane Sociof the younger sparks in the Humane Society had this dynamite idea for a fundraiser. Gambling! And Amarillo Slim would be the drawing card. After the first meeting with Slim, some of the good ladies withdrew from the project. But the more venturesome carried on. Slim was certainly willing. He led the ladies to believe, or they inferred from what he said, that he did this sort of thing frequently, and that the sheriff and the D.A. and all such were.perfectly agreeable. The stories vary as to whether the good ladies of the Humane Society knew in advance that Slim intended to take a cut of the profits that night, or whether they knew just how much he intended to take. If one proposed to be uncharitable about it, it could be observed that the ladies were damn fools. Or, more kindly, that Slim out-maneuvered them to a faretheewell. But for fairness’ sake, it should be noted that the Humane Society made more money at that benefit than it ever had before at any of its previous benefits. On the other hand, Slim seems to have marched off with about 75 percent of the take. When one tries to dig into the figures, the good ladies moan, “Oh, please, we don’t want any more publicity on that,” Tom Curtis says according to his sources, who are, he intimates, “underworld” folk, Slim went. off with 80 percent of the take and not April 23, 1976 5