/ June 2006:
Pro: Jack "Treetop" Straus
He may have been the tallest poker player ever. He was certainly the tallest Jewish poker pro. And his World Championship is one of the great legends of poker.
by Bradford R. Pilcher
He had exactly one chip left. Only $500 amidst thousands in chips was all he had to stage a comeback with. He'd pushed all his chips into the pot, but he never said the words "All in," so when he lost the hand but found a single chip hidden under a napkin, he was allowed to play on.
Accounts vary. Some say this happened at the final table, but the 1983 book The Biggest Game in Town (possibly one of the greatest books on poker) says it happend on the first day of the tournament. If it did, then it is one of the greatest feats ever in the history of poker.
Why? Because the man they called "Treetop" Jack Straus went on to win the whole tournament, snagging a world championship and his second World Series of Poker bracelet. The story remains the source for the oft-repeated phrase, "a chip and a chair," as in all you need is a chip and a chair. For most players, it's not true, but Straus proved it was possible in 1982.
And this alone would be enough to put the celebrated poker pro into the history books, but it's not even his greatest story. It's possible the single chip story is even apocryphal, but Straus is also remembred for the greatest bluff in poker history.
As it is told (and as it was depicted in the low-budget movie about Stu Ungar, High Roller: The Stu Ungar Story), Straus was playing a high-stakes cash game. Having won a series of big hands, he decided to raise with any two cards, and his next hand was a 7-2 offsuit -- the worst hand in poker.
Having raised, and having been called by one player, the flop came down 7-3-3. A decent flop for Straus, he bet out but was raised. Figuring he was beat, but could represent trip-threes, Straus made the call. When the turn card was a 2, giving Straus two-pair, he bet out again. His opponent began thinking long and hard.
Knowing he was probably beat, his opponent likely holding a three, Straus devised a beautiful bluff to get his opponent to fold. He offered him $25 to show him one of his hole cards. After some more thought, his opponent threw him $25 and picked the 2. Assuming his opponent would only offer if both cards were the same, the man folded against what he thought was a full house.
At six feet, six inches, Straus had perpetrated one of the greatest bluffs in poker history. Among poker afficionados, it's one of the great stories of poker lore.
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