The Term Chip and a Chair in Poker


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Sports are full of epic tales in which a player comes in and changes even a lost match into a win, for example, how Lass Virion won the 10,000 meter final in the 1972 Olympic games or Liverpool’s victory against AC Milan after trailing behind by 3 goals by half time. But there’s no other game that witnesses this more than Poker.

Poker is a game that involves a lot of skills with a pinch of luck, but when there’s a game between two professionals, luck plays a major role in deciding the fate of the battle. The ultimate example of this situation is when the late Jack Strauss turned an almost-lost game into a win in the 1982 World Series of Poker and invented the term “chip and a chair meaning.”

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Who was Jack Strauss?

Jack “Treetop” Strauss was an American professional poker player born on June 16, 1930. He was called Treetop because of his 6 feet 6 inches height, but that’s not what he is known for. He is the person in history who won a World Series of Poker tournament with a single chip and a chair and thus gave birth to the term “chip and a chair,” widely known across the Poker playing community.

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Jack Strauss And The Term Chip And A Chair

Before knowing the meaning of the term ”chip and a chair,” here’s a brief introduction to how the term came into existence and became one of the most widely used terms in the history of Poker.

Strauss was one of the Poker giants back in the day when the only thing harder than winning a poker tournament was getting your winnings out of the town safely. During those, no luxurious casinos with top-notch security or online poker games run by trusty regulated organizations.

The story starts with the first World Series of Poker held at Binion’s Horseshoe Casino in Las Vegas in 1971. In that tournament, Strauss came in second, losing to Johnny Moss, the best poker player of that time. Strauss never came close to winning the World Series of Poker until the infamous 1982 tournament.

In the 1982 World Series of Poker held in Las Vegas, Strauss was involved in a massive pot against a lone opponent. After the last card was dealt, Strauss pushed all his chips into the pot. His opponent called out his bluff, and it seemed like Strauss was out of the tournament. He stood up from the table, put on his coat, and prepared to leave, but his game was far from over. Just as he was about to leave, lady luck smiled at him, and he noticed a single $500 chip underneath a cocktail napkin alongside the drink he had ordered, which completely changed the entire game. Then he took off his coat, sat back on the chair, and said, “As long as I have a chip and a chair, I’m still alive in the event.” Strauss had not called all in, so he was allowed to play. After that, he moved in on the next run and doubled the amount. He called all in again and doubled again. Fast forward to two days, and he was sitting with all the chips beating a professional poker player of that time, Dewey Tomko, in a heads-up game to win the tournament. Strauss won $520,000 from the 1982 tournament, roughly equivalent to 1.4 million dollars in 2021!

Strauss’ close-to-impossible victory gave rise to the saying, “All you need is a chip and a chair.” That poker game is considered one of the most memorable and intense poker games in history.

chip and a chair meaning

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What Does “Chip And A Chair” Mean?

Now that you know the story behind the term, you must be eager to know what it means. The term “chip and a chair” means that no matter what happens, as long as you have a single chip and a chair at the tournament table, you are very much in the game. After Strauss’ victory in the 1982 World Series of Poker, the term “chip and a chair” became a staple in almost every poker game, whether it's an online game or a high stake game in a casino.


Jack’s comeback victory in the 1982 World Series of Poker proves why you should never give up in a tournament, even if you are down to a single chip. You never know when your luck can turn around the whole game. Chip and chair are just one out of the hundreds of poker terms already in use, but it is one of the most important (and inspiring. Now that you know the meaning of the term, you are now ready to impress your poker buddies by using the phrase correctly and appropriately! So go ahead and join a good game of pocket and play your cards well till the very end, as all you need to last in a game is a chip and a chair.

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