Poker Players

Amarillo Slim

amarillo_slim-300x198A Brief Introduction

Amarillo Slim, was born in 1928 and known as Thomas Austin Preston Jr. He played Poker professionally and was notorious for his larger than life character and witty remarks during gameplay. His visual trademark was the wearing of a giant Stetson hat.

Amarillo Slim’s career as a gambler.

Amarillo Slim became famous in 1970 with the advent of the World Series of Poker (WSOP) in Las Vegas, featuring his favourite game, Texas Hold’em. As a result of both his initial interest but also his dedication and ability, he won millions.  Not only did poker bring him riches, but also the opportunity of play it against President Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Pablo Escobar, the notorious Columbian drug lord. Quite a mix!

In addition to that,  the famous country singer Willie Nelson was defeated by him in dominoes where he won $300,000, proving that he could turn his hand to other games. It doesn’t end there – as the colourful character also won a table tennis match where he used frying pans and coke bottles for paddles. To call Slim a non-conventional gambler would be an understatement. Larry Flynt, the publisher of a well known adult magazine, played against Amarillo Slim too. Perhaps predictably Flynt went on to lose  $2,000,000 in a poker game against Slim.

It’s certainly fascinating by modern standards that someone in every day life made such an impression and worked their way into positions where they were playing poker  (and dominoes!) against celebrities, politicians and drug lords. There are aspects of course of it being a different era. In modern times the likes of often make playing casino games such as poker and blackjack something that is instantly available on any electronic device going, rather than a ‘place’ you have to go. I suppose that’s the modern age distilled really; the option to either have the experience of old, or fast track it in the here and now.

Amarillo Slim was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 1992 and has competed in tournaments worldwide. This five-time Poker World Series winner also appeared in a movie called “All In”, a Poker Movie which was released in 2012 – also the year he passed away at the age of 83.

Final thoughts

Amarillo Slim is regarded as the greatest gambler of all time. He won bets in pool halls and on rivers, jail cells, and golf courses during his rich (in all senses of the word) gambling career. The man insisted he was not a compulsive gambler but a professional Poker player. According to his words in a book he published, he said that he didn’t specifically look for suckers. “Whenever I see a champion, I make a sucker out of him.”  Slim consistently argued that knowing the odds is the key to winning. To him this applied both to casino games and also to sports betting, where of course there can be numerous variables at play at any given time.  “It helps to know something other people don’t know.” he once said in an interview with NPR’s Scott Simon.

Phil Ivey

phil-ivey-300x200Phillip ‘Phil’ Ivey Jr. started playing poker, illegally, in Atlantic City, New Jersey as a teenager. In fact, one of his nicknames, ‘No Home Jerome’, derives from the fake identification he used to play live poker in those early days. Nevertheless, Ivey, who turned 42 in 2019, has blossomed into, arguably, the best all-round poker player in the world. He currently lies twelfth in the all-time money list, with $26.4 million in live earnings.

In the World Series of Poker (WSOP), Ivey has won ten bracelets, the same number as Johnny Chan and Doyle Brunson and five fewer than all-time leader Phil Hellmuth, who has fifteen bracelets to his name. Ivey won his first WSOP bracelet in 2000, when he defeated the late Thomas Preston Jr., better known as ‘Amarillo Slim’, heads-up in a Pot Limit Omaha event at Binion’s, Las Vegas; it was, in fact, the first time his illustrious opponent had been beaten heads-up at a final table in the WSOP.

In 2017, Ivey admitted to ‘edge sorting’ – that is, exploiting subtle defects on the back of playing cards to identify them as beneficial or otherwise – at the Borgata Casino in Atlantic Jersey. Consequently, he and his playing partner, Cheung Yin ‘Kelly’ Sun, were found in breach of the casino contract and ordered to repay $10.1 million in winnings They did not and, in early 2019, a federal judge granted permission for the Borgata to pursue assets belonging to Ivey in Nevada, having discovered that he holds non such assets in New Jersey.

Phil Hellmouth

phil-hellmuth-300x269Phillip ‘Phil’ Hellmouth Jr., still known to many as ‘The Poker Brat’, despite turning 55 in 2019, was born in Madison, Wisconsin. He went to college locally, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, before dropping out to focus on his poker activities. In the World Series of Poker (WSOP), Hellmouth earned his first cash as long ago as 1988, when he finished fifth in a Seven-Card Stud Split event at Binion’s, Las Vegas. However, the following year, at the age of 24, he won the WSOP $10,000 No Limit Hold’em World Championship at the same venue, making him, at the time, the youngest player to do so.

That record was beaten by Peter ‘Icegate’ Eastgate, aged 22, in 2008 and again, by Joe ‘The Kid’ Cada, aged 21, the following year, but Hellmouth still holds several WSOP records, including the most WSOP bracelets (15) and the most cashes (137). His victory in the WSOP Europe Main Event in 2012 also made him the only player ever to win the WSOP Main Event and the WSOPE Main Event. Hellmuth was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2007 and currently lies nineteenth in the all-time money list, with just shy of $23 million in live earnings.

For all his success in Texas hold’em and other poker variants, Hellmuth is still prone to foul-mouthed temper tantrums, particularly after a bad beat, and fully deserves his derogatory nickname. He was widely criticised for launching a verbal assault on James Campbell at the 2018 WSOP Main Event, simply because Campbell re-raised, all-in, after – at the time, unbeknown to Hellmuth – flopping a flush draw. As it turned out, Hellmuth folded, but Campbell failed to make his flush and lost the hand to the third player in the hand, Alex Kuzmin.

John Juanda

john-juandaJohnson Juanda, usually known as ‘John’ or by his nicknames, ‘J.J.’ or ‘Luckbox’, was born in Indonesia, but has resided in the United States since 1990 and is currently based in Marina del Rey, California. He currently lies fourteenth in the all-time money list, with $25.2 million in total live earnings.

Since turning professional in 1997, Juanda has won five World Series of Poker (WSOP) gold bracelets in poker variants including Texas hold’em, Omaha hold’em, stud and draw lowball, a European Poker Tour (EPT) title and numerous other tournaments worldwide. Indeed, he won his last tournament, a Triton Poker Super High Roller Series event in Budva, Montenegro – for which he collected HK$4,720,000, or $601,358 – as recently as May, 2019. His biggest payout, though, came in another event in the same series in Macau in 2017, when he claimed the first prize of HK$22,410,400, or $2,870,092, by defeating Fedor Holz heads-up.

Juanda, who turned 48 in July, 2019, has a reputation as a conservative, low-profile player and a man of few words; in fact, he is known, in some quarters, as the ‘Silent Assassin’. Nevertheless, he is one of the most successful and consistent players, online and live, of the last twenty years or so and was, quite rightly, inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in Las Vegas in 2015. Fellow professional Daniel ‘Kid Poker’ Negreanu, who introduced Juanda at the Hall of Fame ceremony at Binion’s, once called him ‘the most underrated and neglected superstar’ in poker.