– General Introduction –
Jack Straus was an American professional poker player. He was born on June 16th, 1930 in Travis, Texas and passed away on August 17th, 1988.
He’s best known for winning the 1982 World Series of Poker Main Event – and he did it in quite a unique way. He was down to his last chip in the tournament on Day 1, but managed to climb his way back to victory. The famous poker saying, “chip and a chair”, comes from his story.
Straus has another WSOP gold bracelet from the $3,000 No Limit Deuce to Seven Draw event in 1973. Overall, he has $830,269 in live tournament earnings.
The anecdote about him bluffing with 7-2 in a high stakes cash game stuck with poker fans for generations. For his tall stature (he stood at 6’7) and big, frizzy hair he was affectionately nicknamed “Treetop”. His untimely death at age 58 was due to an aortic aneurysm during a poker game.
– Key Career Dates –
- c. 1970: He moves from Texas to Las Vegas to further pursue his career as a professional gambler.
- 1973: He wins his first WSOP gold bracelet after finishing first in the $3,000 No Limit Deuce to Seven Draw event for $16,500.
- 1982: He wins his second WSOP gold bracelet after finishing first in the $10,000 Main Event for $520,000. Famously, he was down to his last chip early in the tournament. This is also the biggest single live tournament cash of his career.
- 1988: He gets posthumously inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame.
– Jack Straus’s Career –
→ Beginnings ←
Straus was born and raised in rural Texas. He attended Texas A&M University. After graduating – just like another Texas poker legend, Doyle Brunson – he spent a few years teaching. However, gambling and poker have always been a big part of his life.
Here’s what he told Texas Monthly Magazine in August 1973:
“I learned how to play from my daddy and been playin’ cards since I was six or seven, just like the rest of these Texas boys. I can remember when I was a kid they’d be shootin’ craps out in the woods. They’d lay a four-by-four piece o’ plywood on the ground and you’d get 50 or 60 cars pulled up in there, people sittin’ round drinkin’ beer and throwin’ dice. At night they’d turn the car lights on and they’d go all weekend.”
So, he soon made poker and sports betting his main sources of income, quitting his career as a teacher only after a few years. Originally, he was a traveling gambler in Texas and Oklahoma. Around 1970, as the real action started to concentrate in Las Vegas, he too relocated to Southern Nevada.
→ Live Tournaments ←
Straus has $830,269 in live tournament earnings, according to his Hendon page. He amassed that sum by cashing in 20 different tournaments over the course of 15 years.
His first recorded live cash is his first WSOP bracelet win. However, tracking results from decades ago is very difficult for Hendon. Therefore, likely many of his live results were lost, and only the ones from the biggest tournament series were recorded.
Having said that, the first live cash on his profile outside the WSOP is from January 1983. He came in 5th in the $5,000 No Limit Hold’em Event at the Stairway to the Stars series in Las Vegas for $14,000.
In February 1983, he finished second in the $10,000 No Limit Hold’em Main Event at Amarillo Slim’s Super Bowl of Poker for $62,500. He lost the heads-up battle for the title to Hans Lund. Back then, this tourney series organized by his fellow Texan poker legend Amarillo Slim was second in prominence behind the World Series. It ran annually between 1979 and 1991.
His last result, which came only a few months before his death, is a tournament victory. He took down the $1,000 NLHE event at the Cajun Cup at the Las Vegas Hilton in March 1988. He got no less than $66,444 for his last victory.
→ World Series of Poker ←
Jack “Treetop” Straus won 2 WSOP gold bracelets in his lifetime.
One of the most famous stories in WSOP history is connected to him. It was the way he won the 1982 WSOP Main Event.
During a hand played on Day 1, Straus shoved the stack in front of him in the middle – and lost. Since the Main Event has always been a freezeout, this is where the story would end in most cases. However, as Straus got up, he found a single 500 denomination chip under a napkin. Since he never announced all in, just shoved his chips, he was allowed to stay in the tournament.
That single chip was enough for him to navigate his way to victory. Straus defeated Duane Tomko heads-up for the title at the end, winning the $520,000 first prize along with the most coveted World Series bracelet. Since then, the saying “all you need is a chip and a chair” has become widespread among poker players. Doyle Brunson famously repeated in every intro for the classic NBC poker show Poker After Dark.
Straus’ other bracelet is from 1973. He won the $3,000 No Limit Deuce to Seven Draw event for $16,500.
He also had two runner-up finishes. He came in 2nd in the $2,500 No Limit A-5 Draw Lowball event for $18,500 in 1981; and in the $10,000 No Limit Deuce to Seven Draw event for $42,000 in 1983.
Overall, Straus cashed in 4 World Series events (amazingly, two victories and two second palace finishes) for a total of $597,000 combined.
→ Live Cash Games ←
Since this is an anecdote recorded only by word of mouth, some details are missing from the story.
Jack Straus ran one of the most famous bluffs in poker history in a high stakes No Limit Hold’em cash game in Las Vegas sometime in the 1980’s. Given he was on a heater, he decided to raise up the worst starting hand in poker, 7-2. Only one of the other players called.
The flop came 733, and Straus c-bet from out of position. His opponent made a big raise – this made Straus aware that he was likely behind some kind of overpair. He still called, planning to steal the pot on a later street. The turn was a deuce, not improving Straus since 8’s through Aces still win with a better two pair.
The hero of our story led out anyway – and he made it big. His opponent, visibly distraught, went into the tank. At this point, Straus made a proposition: for a $25 chip, he’d turn over either of his two hole cards. After a while, the opponent took him up on his offer. The deuce in Straus’ hand was revealed.
This completely threw off the other player. The man eventually came to the conclusion that Straus would let him randomly pick either card only if both the cards were the same – which meant that Straus would’ve been holding 22 for a full house! So, the duped player folded his pocket Kings.