The vociferous poker player
Jack "Tree Top" Straus
LEGENDS OF POKER Jack Straus was a great champion of poker back in 1982 and like most of the immortals in the game he’ll be remembered best for his vocal outbursts.
“If God had wanted us to hang onto money he’d have made it with handles!” was perhaps one of his most notorious. In many a tussle with the great opponents of his day Jack described his best characteristic as “intestinal fortitude” which any player under stress can relate to and hope to develop. Straus was a player who took aggression to a whole new level. On his way to the ’82 championship he had tumbled all the way down to his last five hundred dollars before bluffing all the way back into contention. This was a feat he managed to top by winning the then top prize of $520,000. Fabulous money in the early eighties. Most people who witnessed Straus in action say it was his almost mystical ability to take a lousy hand and turn it into a winner that made him special. On one well documented occasion he was dealt poker’s worst hand: 7-2 unsuited. Strauss raised! The flop came 7-3-3 delivering Straus two pairs. Jack raised again but turned deathly pale as his opponent raised Jack’s $5,000 bet.
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At that point Jack realised his opponent had to have stronger pairs than he was holding. Sanity required him to fold or go for a courageous bluff. Jack decided to throw his opponent into a mental turmoil: He simply called. When the turn came it was a two which paired Jack’s other hole card but did nothing for his hand as there was already a communal pair of threes on the board available to him and his opponent. Jack promptly bet $18,000! This was followed by a considerable pause for “intestinal fortitude” on the part of both players. While his opponent wrestled with what to do, Jack grinned and offered a suggestion.
“You give me one of your twenty five dollar chips and you can see EITHER of my hole cards!” The opponent tossed over the twenty five dollar chip and returned Jack’s grin. Jack showed him his 2! In the opponent’s mind the only possible explanation for Jack’s twenty five dollar offer was that whichever of his hole cards he had to show, it would be a 2, meaning he had to have ALL four twos to make sense of an $18,000 wager. The opponent folded his winning cards and Jack added to his legend.
Tragically, Jack Straus died during a poker game age just fifty eight. Like so many champs, he had always said he would like to die at the poker table, preferably while losing heavily. As it turned out, he was winning. Such is life and death and poker.
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Saturday, October 29, 2005: Legends of Poker: Jack "Tree Top" Strauss