Jack “Treetop” Straus (1930 – 1988) was an American professional poker player.
Straus began playing in World Series of Poker events in the early 1970s. Famously, Straus’s 1982 win was a comeback after being down to a single $500 chip, supposedly the origin of the common tournament poker aphorism: “a chip and a chair.” Although accounts vary, the most common story is that he pushed his chips into the pot, was called and lost the hand. Getting up, he discovered he had one chip left under a napkin on the table. Because he didn’t declare himself all-in, the tournament directors allowed him to continue playing. Modern lore says that this feat occurred at the final table, but the 1983 classic book The Biggest Game in Town suggests that this occurred on the first day. He won the 1982 World Series of Poker main event, earning $520,000 and a second WSOP bracelet.
Straus is credited with one of the most celebrated bluffs of all time. Whilst playing in a high-stakes no limit Texas Hold’em cash game, Straus had won several large pots in a row and so decided that he would raise the next hand pre-flop with any two cards. When he looked down he found that he had been dealt 7-2 offsuit, the worst starting hand in Hold’Em, but, playing a ‘rush’, he raised anyway. Straus’ raise was called by a single opponent and the flop came 7-3-3. This was a good flop for a 7-2, so Straus bet out. However his tight opponent made a large raise, indicating a likely overpair to the board. Strauss knew he was almost certainly behind, but he decided that he might be able to beat his opponent by representing trip threes, so he called the large raise.
The turn was a 2, for a board of 7-3-3-2, which was no help to Straus with a better pair already on the board, but he made a huge bet anyway. This set his opponent thinking deeply. Straus knew that he was desperate to avoid a call, as his chances of drawing out to win on the river were very slim. After a few minutes, Straus offered his opponent a proposition. He told him that for $25, he could choose either one of Straus’s hole cards and Straus would show it to him. The guy considered for a while, then tossed Straus $25 and chose a card. Strauss showed him the deuce.
After another long pause, his opponent eventually figured that Straus would only make such an offer if both his hole-cards were the same value, therefore giving him a full house, deuces over treys. He reluctantly folded, and Jack Straus entered poker folklore as one of the most creative bluffers of all time.
The bluff was depicted in the Stu Ungar biopic Stuey; however, Straus is not a character in the film and the bluff is credited to another player.
Straus was nicknamed “Treetop” because he was 6’6″; he was a graduate of Texas A&M and had played varsity basketball there in his youth. Aside from his poker-playing, he was well-known as a marksman, a big-game hunter, and an erudite wit. He died of a heart attack in August 1988 at the age of 58, during a high stakes poker game. He was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame later that year.
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