Jack Strauss - 1982 WSOP champ
This week we can take a look at one of the most famous bluffs ever pulled in the history of poker. I have said before that poker is half science and half art. This particular play is probably one of the most advanced pieces of poker art ever created.
The main protagonist of the story is Jack Strauss. He won the 1982 World Series of Poker after being reduced to just one chip early in the tournament, which gave rise to the saying “a chip and a chair.” This particular play, however, was not part of his World Series heroics. It was just a normal high stakes no-limit cash game in Las Vegas.
Strauss was dealt 7-2 off suit. Obviously, most plays end with a fold there and then, but this time Strauss decided to raise with the worst possible starting hand. The flop came down 7-3-3. This was an excellent flop for Strauss. It was unlikely that his opponent would call a big raise with a 7 or a 3 of any form, so he fired a $3,500 bet. His opponent, however, came back on top of him with a $5,000 raise. This changed the picture completely. It was highly likely that he held a top pair of some kind or at least an A-7, perhaps.
Again, most hands would end there and then with a fold. However, Strauss made a call, confusing his opponent. The turn came: a 2. Of course, this did not help Strauss because he already had a higher 2 pair. He fired a $20,000 bet anyway.
This is where the story starts to get extraordinary. The other player was heavily contemplating his move. Strauss is obviously keen not to get called on that 20k bet, so he made the following proposition – for a $25 chip, he offered to let his opponent see one of his two hole cards. After further contemplation, the opponent agreed, pointed to one of the cards, and Strauss flipped over the deuce.
At this point, the opponent was completely thrown off. In the end, he figured that the only way Strauss would make the proposal that he made as if both his cards were the same, and the pocket deuces gave him a full house. So he mucked his pocket jacks, and Strauss entered poker folklore. The beauty of the play was that even if the opponent had chosen the other card, seeing a 7 would have probably led him to the same thought process.
There is a lot to be learned from this bluff. Obviously the particulars are so specific and rare that the play itself cannot be replicated. But the general principles of bluffing are still very valid – Strauss controlled the hand by being aggressive and kept his opponent unsure, in doubt, and guessing the whole time. Those are all important fundamentals. Strauss just found a way to combine them in an incredibly creative way to win a big hand. It just serves to remind us of the unlimited possibilities the game of poker offers.