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Deal Me In: High-stakes gambling was Maverick's game

8 January 2016

Dear Mark: I watched an episode of the 1950’s TV show Maverick online. In the show, reference was made to the book According to Hoyle as the definitive authority that prior agreement of the players is necessary for a five-card straight to be a winning hand. Have you ever heard that a straight needs to be agreed to in advance for it to be a winner? Eric P.

First, Eric, thank you for the question that gave me the opportunity to view the episode "According to Hoyle" on You Tube ($1.99 full episode). I relish research, and it was worth the two bucks.

Bret Maverick (James Gardner), an adroitly articulate card sharp, was always seeking out high-stakes games. One of the more notable gambling episodes was "According to Hoyle."

At the beginning of "According to Hoyle," the television audience viewed phrasing on the screen that stated: "The Rule of Hoyle quoted in this story is authentic, and is from 'Hoyle's Book of Games, 1876."

The story plays out that when during a hand confidence woman and grafter Samantha Crawford (portrayed by Diane Brewster) played a pair of nines against Bret Maverick's straight, Maverick objected when she declared it a win. Crawford then read aloud from "Hoyle's Games," "In five-card stud poker, straights are not played unless it's determined at the commencement of the game that they be admitted." She then handed the book to Maverick to read for himself. Bret then asked to see the bar's copy of Hoyle to verify what he had just read. The bar's version confirmed this rule.

The real deal, Eric, is that the 1876 edition of Hoyle's Games does not include that passage. Moreover, there is no reference in the book to stud poker, let alone five-card stud, nothing about establishing table rules at the beginning of a game, and finally, nothing about straights.

When it comes to the subject of poker, Hoyle refers to it as "Bluff,” and in the 1876 edition, it is only two pages long. The only mention of Poker is Twenty Deck Poker, which is "played with the Tens, Knaves (Jacks), Queens, Kings, and Aces only.” Nowhere else are there any other variations of the game of poker, such as stud, draw, hold'em, etc.

Besides, Eric, it was faro, not poker, that was the most celebrated and popular game Maverick would have encountered. Many a plantation, many a slave, many a man's gold fortune and occasionally a life were won or lost on a faro table. So popular was the game, faro could be found in just about every saloon in every Western one-horse town.

As for me refereeing the hand, strictly going according to the 1876 edition of Hoyle, I believe Crawford wins the hand. The order of rank of the Value of Hands listed in the 1876 edition is as follows: "one pair," "two pairs," "three" (of a kind), "Flush," "Full" (full house) and "four" (of a kind). Since straights were not acknowledged in that printing, they cannot be recognized.

Let’s just chalk this one up, Eric, to an ambitious screenwriter who took “writer’s liberty” while penning a script for a 1950’s audience.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "As my old pappy used to say, 'Work is fine for killin' time, but it's a shaky way to make a living.'" –Bret Maverick
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Best of Mark Pilarski
Mark Pilarski

As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.
Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.