Poker Hall of Famers: Jack ‘Treetop’ Straus

A special segment to remind you of true poker legends and their most memorable poker stories. Meet Jack ‘Treetop’ Straus.

Jack 'Treetop' Straus

Jack Straus was Born in San Antonio, Texas. Played basketball and was considered good at it. His impressive 6’6’’ stature definitely helped. His height was also the reason behind his nickname ‘Treetop’.

A chip and a chair

As a poker player Jack was ultra-aggressive and acted on the slightest sign of the opponent’s weakness. This strategy led him to busting out quite often, but also winning a lot. 

He would say:

“I’d rather live one day as a lion than my whole life as a lamb.”

And it really resembled his poker strategy. 

While other high rollers made their bets with calculated risks, Jack “Treetop” Straus gambled for the joy of it and was not afraid of going all in on sometimes rather weak hands. 

On one of the occasions, which lead to the now famous phrase ‘a chip and a chair’, Jack went all in and busted.

It is believed that while shoving all of his chips to the middle of the table, he didn’t verbally declare ‘all in’. Most probably that’s why he was allowed to sit back at the table when one of his leftover chips was noticed under the napkin. 

“As long as I have a chip and a chair, I’m still alive in this event.”

These were the words that Jack Straus said, after he managed to recover from this loss and finally win WSOP of 1982.

Jack 'Treetop' Straus Professional poker player

The greatest bluff

Great players have great stories to tell. 

During one of the NL Hold’em cash games Treetop raised the pot preflop having not the strongest pocket cards. Off suite, too. One player called and the game went to flop heads up. The community cards came 7 3 3.

Straus bet out. 

His opponent decided to raise. Straus figured his opponent had a good hand, since he seemed to be a tight player. 

However, being fearless, there was no way Straus would back up. He called. 

The turn was a deuce. Straus had something but understood that there was a high chance the opponent was likely holding an over pocket pair.

As a sign of his usual aggression Jack bet big again, hoping this would scare his opponent of further actions. 

His opponent tanked. Treetop acted. 

‘For 25$ you can see one of my cards, either one’. 

His prey agreed and a 2 was turned over. It was nothing but a smart decision to fold, thinking Jack had a pair of 2’s in hand and the third was on the table.  

With the other card in his hands being 7, this was named the greatest bluff of all time. 

Reverse bluffing 

Straus was also called “the master of the withering bluff and a man with a reputation for total fearlessness”. 

During 1981 WSOP Straus demonstrated what could be called a perfect reverse bluff. 

In a seemingly not exciting game, at one-point Jesse Alto (also a professional player) bet the pot before the flop. Strauss, raised. 

Alto called. Everyone else folded. 

The flop came K 8 10 unsuited. 

Alto had K 8 as his pocket cards and decided to check Straus. Straus bet 1000$, Alto reraised 5000$ without much hesitation. 

Straus paused. 

Stared his opponent in the eyes. 

Then raised 30,000$.

After some thinking Alto went all in with his 30,000$. Alto flipped his two pair; Straus had a pocket pair of tens. 

The dealer dealt a seven and a four.

Strous won with something you could consider a good hand. How is this a bluff you might ask. 

The real trick Straus did here was luring Alto to believing he was bluffing or chasing, when in fact he had a good hand from the start. 

Apparently, Straus used exactly the same betting pattern twice before at the same table. Both times Alto called him and both times won, however the amounts were much less. 

Straus made Alto believe he was playing loosely, only to lure him into right action when Straus needed it.  

Extraordinary player, great man

There is a perfect story to illustrate Jacks chivalrousness in a book by Nolan Dalla and Peter Alson ‘One of a kind. The rise and fall of Stuey ‘The Kid’ Ungar, the world’s greatest poker player”. 

“In a world of cutthroats, where suckers were never given an even break, Straus had a heart.” 

When a young man came into the casino, and saw a table with black chips flying around, he decided to join. Having no better understanding of Texas holdem, he bought 20,000 in chips and joined the table just to lose it all in less than an hour. 

That was a persistent youngster. Having recently inherited his father’s business, he decided to go back to the cashier for another round of 20,000$ worth of chips. 

As he was standing in line to the cashier, one of the men, who were in the game approached him and said he wanted to tell him something but wouldn’t like anyone else to find out.

‘Okay,’ the young man said. ‘What is it?’

‘Don’t buy back into that game. You can’t beat it, because it’s no-limit Hold’em and those are the best five players in the world. You haven’t got a chance, brother’. 

Apparently, Stu Ungar, Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan, Chip Reese were sitting at that table. Alongside Jack Strauss, who was the one to warn the young man.

The legend lives on

Jack “Treetop” Straus was a gambler in his blood. This true Texan left a notable footprint in poker history. 

Jack died of heart attack in 1988 on 17th of August, at the age of 58. While playing poker. 

The stories he left behind are now legends. And he will always be known as a poker legend, too. 

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