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Legends of Poker – Jack Straus

📁 Blog 🕔31.May 2018
Legends of Poker – Jack Straus

We’re back with another Legends of Poker piece, and today we’re going to be talking about one of the most legendary poker players of them all – Jack Straus!

Not much is known about Jack Straus’ early years so let’s dive right into his poker career, beginning with:

A WSOP legend

From the early 1970s right up until his death in the 1980s, Jack Straus was a regular at the World Series of Poker. He has two WSOP bracelets to his name, and also made it to the final table thrice; which places him in a small and elite group of players to have achieved that feat, including Johnny Moss.

The greatest comeback of them all

Even though Straus was a consistently excellent poker player, he will probably best be known for one of the most incredible turnarounds in the history of the game. During the 1982 WSOP Main Event, Straus was down to a single $500 chip before staging an unbelievable comeback to win the tournament.

The story goes that Straus pushed all of his chips into the pot, lost the hand and thought he was out of the tournament; but, as he got up, he noticed that one $500 chip had gotten stuck under a napkin. As he hadn’t formally announced that he was all-in, he was allowed to continue playing.

This was the origin of the popular poker phrase ‘a chip and a chair’ – essentially, never give up hope because all you need is a chip and a chair and you can still turn it around.

Masterful bluffer

Straus was also celebrated as one of the best bluffers in the game, and this is perfectly illustrated by yet another legendary story. Having had a run of success during a high-stakes cash game, Straus decided that he was going to raise the next hand pre-flop no matter what his cards were. His cards happened to be 7-2 offsuit, also known as the worst hand in poker, but he went ahead and raised anyway. Unfortunately, one opponent called him and raised on the flop (7-3-3) as well as the turn (2). Straus knew he was likely outmatched, but he called anyway which gave his opponent pause.

After some time, Straus told his opponent that, for $25, he could show his opponent one hole card of his choice. Having considered it, the opponent took him up on the offer, tossed him $25, and looked at the 2. After much thinking, the opponent concluded that the only reason Straus would have stayed in the hand and called his raises was if he had a pair of 2s, giving him a full house. So he folded, and Straus’ gambit worked.

Death and the Hall of Fame

Like Wild Bill Hickok before him, Jack Straus died while playing poker. He suffered an aortic aneurysm while playing in a Los Angeles casino on August 17, 1988 at the age of 58. Later that year, he was posthumously inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame.

Jack Straus certainly led an eventful life, and packed a lot of folklore-worthy moments into a relatively short poker career. He was one of the best there was, and that’s why he’s a Legend of Poker!


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