Thursday, March 06, 2008

How to Cheat at Poker the Army Way!

We have all heard humorous stories about poker cheats, some of whom demonstrated wit and balls and others who demonstrated little but balls and still others who were raw buffoons. This particular Korean War poker cheating story caught my eye. In which category you want to put it, I don't know, but it is without doubt, one of the funniest and most colorful I've ever heard, and it's as true as the Battle of the Bulge!

A platoon leader named Lieutenant Jason was particularly hard on one of his buck-privates named Hogan. With no apparent provocation, the lieutenant scolded the private on his whims. Another of Jason’s habits was playing poker with his men. He constantly played poorly and whenever his losses piled up too high, Hogan, who wasn’t even in the game, took the brunt of the lieutenant’s frustration.
Near the end of a humiliating march during which Jason ridiculed Hogan, the private hatched an idea that would win so much favor with the lieutenant that Jason might put him in for a promotion. He approached the lieutenant as soon as the platoon returned to camp.
“Sir, I have an idea how to improve your poker game,” Hogan began timidly.
“What the hell do you know about poker!” snapped Lieutenant Jason, in no mood to deal with the private.
“Well, not much, sir, but I think I know how to make you win.”
Jason didn’t really want to hear it but he’d recently lost an amount that exceeded his monthly pay.
The next platoon game was played later that afternoon. Hogan, a botany freak since childhood, was skilled at climbing trees. He found an easy one high above the campground where the soldiers played poker. He climbed it half an hour before the start of the game, his binoculars strapped around his neck. No one noticed.
The tree was just feet from their makeshift poker table. From his perch above, Hogan could look through the binoculars and clearly read the cards of each player whose back was toward him. Sometimes he could read the hands of players sitting at ninety-degree angles to him as well. In all, he could supply his lieutenant with enough information to destroy the poker game.
The ingenious method Hogan used to signal Lieutenant Jason the value of his opponents’ cards was to shake the branches of the trees. Jason would look up at the swaying branches and receive the data needed to play his hand. The first day they worked the scam, it went off like a charm. The next two days worked equally as well, but the following day it was very windy and Jason too often got Hogan’s signals mixed up with the wind. From then on, Jason would only play when there was nothing more than a slight breeze.
After two months of scamming his men for their wages, Jason put Hogan in for a promotion. The rest of the platoon couldn’t understand why, but what perplexed them even more was the sudden emergence of the lieutenant’s poker skills. They just couldn’t beat him and it seemed like Jason’s winning streak would go on forever.
Perhaps it would have, but one fateful day brought a lightning-quick end to their scam. The game started out underneath a beautiful sky with absolutely no breeze. But then a sudden storm came out of nowhere. The soldiers, in appreciation of the rapidly darkening sky, had agreed to play only one more hand. Hogan, in the tree, wanted to get down quickly but had to wait until the rest of the platoon cleared out.
An instant later, a lightning bolt struck the tree. Hogan fell out of it and landed smack in the pot.
One of the soldiers called. Another raised.
Private Hogan never returned from Korea.