I'm not sure why it took me ten years to wonder if there was anything wrong with this classic poker story, but anyway...
The most famous line with regards to poker tournaments is "If you have a chip and a chair you can win," usually shortened to "A chip and a chair." The line was spoken by Jack "Treetop" Straus, who engineered perhaps the most famous World Series of Poker comeback in history.
One of the most famous stories about the world championship was the way the late, great Jack Straus had won the title in 1982. He had fought his way back starting from a single $500 chip, which he had found under his cigarette pack. He had won the blinds, played it up, doubled through, and by good fortune and good judgment come right back into the event. David Spanier: The Hand I Played: A Poker MemoirNow, I've heard this story quite a few times, but for some reason one question has never before occurred to me: how do you get left with just one chip?
I mean, let's picture the scene. Straus had just lost what we can assume to be a big hand, one that he must have thought eliminated him from the tournament. He's standing up, saying his goodbyes, getting ready to leave when he picks up his pack of Lucky Strikes...hey! I still have a chip!
But how could he have been left with one chip? If he had just lost a big, all-in pot, wouldn't that last chip belong to the winner of the previous hand (and this must have been discovered immediately, or else he wouldn't have continued to be dealt in)? If he had just pushed in all of his chips (minus the hidden last one) and was called by his opponent, wouldn't that certainly violate some kind of rule, creating a kind of stealth all-in that did not allow his opponent to truly put him all-in? I suppose his opponent could have had exactly $500 less than him, but that seems fairly unlikely. Could his opponents have just been scared of saying anything that might piss off the six-foot-seven Straus (he wasn't called Treetop for nothing)?
Not to take anything away from his obviously epic achievement, but if anybody has any insight into what might have happened there, I'd certainly be curious to read about it.