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WSOP: History -- 1982 Recap

Jack Straus Wins the World Championship with The Greatest Comeback in Poker History


The size of the World Series of Poker main event passed the century mark in 1982, as 104 players entered the world championship. This marked a large growth rate of 25 percent, which was great for the event, but it was not so great for the professional players hoping to win their second or third bracelets. The large field was making the first couple of days more about luck than poker, and many big names fell early. Those early victims included Stu Ungar and Bobby Baldwin.

The first day of play almost claimed one legendary player in particular, almost…

Tall tales are apt to surface in reference to historical figures in the world of poker as they are anywhere else. In the case of Jack “Treetop” Straus those tall tales were right on target. He stood six-feet-seven-inches tall, and his charismatic personality stood several feet taller than that. He had a certain disregard for money, which made him one of the most aggressive gamblers around. His ability to disassociate the value of money tied to his chips is best summed up by Straus himself, “If they had wanted you to hold on to money they’d have made it with handles on it.”

He had a zest for all things in life that reached as far as the plains of Africa, where he enjoyed hunting big game. Straus wore a stuffed lion’s paw from one of his trophies around his neck that read, “Better one day as a lion, than a hundred years as a lamb.” Straus was one of the original Texas road gamblers and he had played in every year of the WSOP. Despite his larger-than-life existence as the Ernest Hemmingway of poker, and his quick wit at the tables, Straus had yet to win his first world championship. That was all about to change in the most unlikely of ways.

Straus had pushed all of his chips into the middle of the table early on day one and lost the hand. He had not announced all in however, and when he got up from his chair to high-tail it to the cash games nearby, a single 500 chip was discovered between his napkin and the table bumper. Most players would have given up in this situation, but not Straus. He had been training for this moment his whole life by living everyday as if it were his last. The comeback he made required him to play every pot as if it were his last and he succeeded with flying colors. By the end of day two he held 90,000. By the end of day three he had increased that stack to 341,500. Straus was now the chip leader.

Jack StrausTreetop was just as good as Ungar at wielding a large stack of chips like a hazardous weapon toward his opponents. He continued to ride the rush and no one had an answer to stop him. One by one they fell, Carl Cannon (ninth), Sailor Roberts (eighth), Buster Jackson (seventh), Dody Roach (sixth), A.J. Meyers (fifth), Doyle Brunson (fourth), Berry Johnston (third), all eliminated by Straus. When these players were moved to the chair on the right of Straus, it was the final chair they sat in for the tournament.

Dewey Tomko was the last man standing against Straus in the 1982 World Series, and he was facing a monumental task considering the gigantic chip lead that Straus had accumulated. The match was just ten-minutes old when Tomko fired a 100,000 bullet preflop. Straus reraised an additional 180,000 on top of that and Tomko decided to move all in. They turned up their cards and it was only fitting that Straus had Tomko dominated with A 10 over A 4. The board hit the table 6 5 4 Q 10 and Straus won the world championship in the most impressive fashion imaginable. His accomplishment that year has since been immortalized by the famous poker saying, “All you need is a chip and a chair.”

1982 WSOP Results

WSOP history article links:

Preludes - 1970 - 1971 - 1972 - 1973 - 1974 - 1975 - 1976 - 1977 - 1978 - 1979

- 1981

Quote source: “All-In the (Almost) Entirely True Story of the World Series of Poker,” by Jonathan Grotenstein and Storms Reback