A chip and a chair

Story-teller Straus would be
proud that one of the best
yarns is about him – the most
amazing WSOP win of all time

Texan-born Jack Straus was one of a band of road gamblers (Doyle Brunson, Amarillo Slim) who travelled across the dusty southern states of America in search of high stakes gambling action in the hazy 1960s and 70s.

First and foremost Straus was a bettor who loved to gamble on sports and horse racing, once lumping $30,000 on a ball game – a hefty packet back then. But he never worried about money – a hallmark of all big gamblers – and was relentlessly optimistic about his life: ‘I have only a limited amount of time on this earth, and I want to live every second,’ he once said.

Like his gambling friends at the time, Jack made his way to several World Championship poker events at Binion’s casino, and won the title in 1982 with the most extraordinary comeback of all time. At one point he pushed all his chips into the centre of the table… and lost the pot! But an eagle-eyed dealer spotted a stray $500 chip under his napkin and implausibly Straus doubled through time and again to win the entire competition. Naturally, it spawned a catchphrase – ‘chip and a chair’ – to describe someone who is down to their final chip but still in with a shout.

‘Treetop’ – so named due to his mammoth 6’7’’ frame – was one of the more friendly and loveable characters in the game, often known to spin many a betting or poker yarn at the table to the delight of his attentive fans.

Perhaps fi ttingly, Straus died at the table in 1988, when he suffered a heart attack while playing in a high stakes poker game at the Bicycle Club in California. He was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame later that year.

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