For most, the name of Amarillo Slim Preston is a glimpse into the history of the game of poker. Many would be amiss, however, to assume that the game has passed the 1972 World Champion by. He continues to bring a formidable game to the tables even in the 21st century and has also become an author, looking at the world of poker and how it is played. Following up "Amarillo Slim In A World Full Of Fat People", Slim now has his own poker how-to book out called "Play Poker To Win" (available in most bookstores now or through Amazon.com for $14.95 US, $19.95 Canadian).
The book truly shows the spirit of the down home, folksy wisdom of the former World Champion as he recounts some of his exploits throughout the years. He uses these stories to emphasize some of the early work in the book. When looking at the psychology of poker, Slim recounts how he used psychology to win a golf course wager that he knew he was probably beaten at. He then takes this demonstration of psychology and instructs the reader in how to apply that to the poker tables. It was an interesting look inside the thoughts of a world class gambler.
Amarillo Slim also touches on many of the key elements in the basics of making a poker player. He looks at the use of tells and is quick to point out Mike Caro's groundbreaking work in that area. He also makes useful points in the mathematics of the game, poker etiquette and observance of local rules when playing (recounting a story in which two of his hands were killed while he played in England for using his most valuable weapon, his table talk) and various other outside things in a poker player's life that can be applied to how they perform in the poker world, be it online (yes, Slim even steps into that arena!) or in the casinos.
What sets Slim's book apart from others that are on the market today is that he doesn't just focus on Texas Hold 'Em. Preston delves into virtually every game that is played today or has been played in the immediate past, including five card stud and the variations of five card draw. He even has a segment of the book that looks at home game "wild card" poker games and gives some basic ground rules to work off of. These different looks are an excellent base for a new player to familiarize themselves with everything that poker has to offer and are very well done and straightforward in their approach to each game.
Probably the most enjoyable part of the book was Amarillo Slim's nearly blow-by-blow recall of his victory in the 1972 World Series of Poker. Even though it was over thirty years ago, he relives it for the reader, even breaking the hand plays down street by street. It is one of the trademarks of an excellent player to have that sort of recall and, through reading the chapter, you can almost feel like you're in the old Binion's Horseshoe on that day in 1972.
Perhaps the one thing I wanted in the book was more actual strategy from Amarillo Slim. As one of the best players to ever have graced the felt, I really got the feeling from reading the book that Slim had more up his sleeve than he was giving us! While the information that is passed along is useful, there isn't much more beyond what could normally be seen in a basic poker book or from a quick tutoring session. Slim expresses the reason that there may not be much more than what he gives when he says, "there's millions of ways to play, and how you do it is up to you." It is possible, with his Texan's wisdom and style of speech, that there wasn't more that he could say than he did. Nevertheless, I would have loved an expanded section on strategy in the games, especially the ones that are currently popular.
Even with this stated, I would still have to recommend Amarillo Slim's "Play Poker To Win". Besides being an excellent look at nearly every form of poker imaginable, it is also a tribute to one of the best players that poker has ever seen. It is also a great look back at the history of the game from its true roots of the backrooms of bars and the beginning of the worldwide phenomenon that is now the World Series of Poker. Near the end of the book, Slim states about the World Series, almost reluctantly, "...now that TV has taken hold of poker, it's turned into more of a circus and a lottery than an exclusive gathering." It's nice to be able to pick up part of that history from "Play Poker To Win", if nothing else.
Ed Note: No need to stay slim...You can get fat on all your winnings at Noble Poker