Picture this: A poker table in a cloudy room with glasses clinking, and in the midst of it all, a towering figure with a presence so commanding, it’s as if he’s grown roots right there at the table. That, my friends, was Jack “Treetop” Straus, a poker legend whose tales are as tall as his stature.

From Humble Beginnings to Poker Stardom

Jack Straus was born on June 16, 1930, and from the get-go, it seemed like he was destined for greatness. But who would’ve thought that a lad from Alabama would become one of the most iconic figures in the world of poker? Well, if you’ve ever heard the phrase “a chip and a chair,” you’ve got Straus to thank for it. But we’ll get to that in a bit.


Now, what’s in a nickname? In Straus’s case, “Treetop” wasn’t just a cool moniker. Standing at a towering 6’6″, the name was a nod to his lofty height. But it wasn’t just his height that made him stand out. Straus had a knack for poker that few could match.

a blue sky with a treetop

A Chip, A Chair, and A Legendary Comeback

Have you ever been down to your last chip in a poker game? Most wouldn’t make it far with that, but not Straus. In the 1982 World Series of Poker Main Event, Straus was down to a single $500 chip. But instead of busting out, he mounted one of the most legendary comebacks in poker history. How did he do it? With sheer determination, a bit of luck, and a whole lot of skill.


Legend has it that after pushing his chips into the pot and losing the hand, Straus thought he was out of the game. But lo and behold, under a napkin on the table lay a single chip. Since he hadn’t declared himself all-in, the game was still on. And boy, did he make that chip count! From that point on, Straus played like a man possessed, eventually clinching the title and coining the phrase “a chip and a chair.” Talk about turning the tables!

The Bluff to End All Bluffs

Jack Straus was a master of the art of bluffing, elevating it to legendary status in the poker world. In one memorable high-stakes Texas Hold’em game, Straus, riding on a winning streak, decided to raise pre-flop with the least promising hand: a 7-2 offsuit. The game took an interesting turn when the flop revealed 7-3-3, offering Straus a glimmer of hope. As the betting heated up, Straus’s opponent made a significant raise, suggesting he held an overpair to the board. Despite likely being behind, Straus saw an opening to bluff his way to victory by representing trip threes. When the turn card was a 2, giving Straus a counterfieted two-pair, he boldly continued his ruse with a hefty bet.

The tension rose as Straus, now holding sevens and twos, decided to play a psychological game. He offered his opponent a choice: for $25, he could see one of Straus’s hole cards. The opponent, intrigued, accepted and chose the deuce. This move led the opponent to deduce that Straus must be holding a full house with deuces over threes. After a prolonged moment of contemplation, his opponent, outmaneuvered by Straus’s cunning play, folded. This masterful bluff not only won Straus the pot with a two-pair but also cemented his reputation as one of the most creative bluffers in poker history.

a chip and a chair

More Than Just a Poker Player

While poker was undoubtedly Straus’s first love, he had other passions too. An alumnus of Texas A&M, he was rumored to have played varsity basketball, though this claim remains unverified. But one thing’s for sure: Straus was a man of many talents. Known as a marksman and a big-game hunter, he had a zest for life that was infectious.

But it wasn’t just his skills at the poker table or his adventures off it that made Straus a legend. He was known for his wit, often regaling fellow players with tales of his exploits, both on and off the felt. His charisma and charm made him a favorite among poker enthusiasts, and his legacy lives on to this day.

A Legacy Cut Short

Tragically, Straus’s life was cut short on August 17, 1988, when he suffered an aortic aneurysm while playing poker at the Bicycle Casino in Los Angeles. He was just 58. But in his short life, Straus left an indelible mark on the world of poker. Later that year, he was posthumously inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame, a testament to his contributions to the game.


Jack “Treetop” Straus was more than just a poker player. He was a legend, a giant in every sense of the word. From his towering stature to his larger-than-life personality, Straus was a force to be reckoned with. His tales of comebacks, bluffs, and victories are the stuff of poker lore, and his legacy will forever be etched in the annals of poker history. So, the next time you’re down to your last chip, remember the tale of Jack Straus and know that as long as you have “a chip and a chair,” anything is possible.