Amarillo Slim, a poker Hall of Famer who was instrumental in bringing the game into the national limelight, died Sunday at 83 of colon cancer, his son tells the Los Angeles Times. Slim, born Thomas Austin Preston, Jr., "brought poker out of the back alleys," says a historian of the game. "It was really Slim that became the face of poker for middle America." Born in Arkansas in 1928, Slim spent years as an illegal bookmaker and pool hustler—both in and out of the US Navy— before turning his attention to poker in the 60s.
Slim started to take home major titles as the game's profile rose and he won the World Series of Poker in 1972. Afterward, he garnered attention for poker with appearances on programs like the Tonight Show and a number of books. Legends sprung up around him: He reportedly won a game of pocket billiards using a broomstick, and a game of ping-pong using a skillet. But it wasn't all fun and games: Slim pleaded guilty in 2004 to misdemeanor assault following accusations he touched a 12-year-old girl. He later said he had accepted a plea deal to spare his family the embarrassment of a trial. (Read more Amarillo Slim stories.)