"The Buck Stops Here" (ca. 1930)

David W. James vnend at ADELPHIA.NET
Sat Apr 23 13:37:08 UTC 2005

On Apr 23, 2005, at 3:18 AM, Douglas G. Wilson wrote:
> In this case the etymology story looks likely IMHO. "Pass the buck"
> had the
> alternatives "shove the buck", "push the buck". In the old days it was
> often "ante and pass the buck"; this is the form of the expression in
> the
> earliest example I've found (Mark Twain, 1872), and it's kind of hard
> to
> suppose that this is not poker-related: <<"I reckon I can't call that
> hand.
> Ante and pass the buck.">>. "Pass the buck" meant "pass the deal",
> apparently. The details are not known to me, but in some styles of
> poker
> the dealer antes for everybody, and it may be that if he didn't want to
> deal he could pass the deal but had to ante anyway. OTOH, in
> conventional
> "jackpots" and similar games, IIRC, it often happens that no player
> opens
> (*presumably* nobody having jacks or better), in which case there is
> another ante and a new deal (!), typically dealt by the next person, so
> "ante and pass the buck" might originally have been an expected event
> rather than an instance of unusual deference or pusillanimity.
> -- Doug Wilson

> "I reckon I can't call that hand. Ante and pass the buck."

That would mean that one of two players still in the hand had bet (or
raised a prior bet) and the speaker decided that he would not match
that bet.  At that point the hand is over, the last person to bet
claims the pot and it was time to ante (everyone antes.  One or two
person forced opening bets are always (in my experience) referred to by
some other term) and pass the deal.  No need to invoke anything other
than 'standard' poker.

If 'the buck' meant the deal, is there any evidence of a deck of cards
being referred to as 'the buck' as well?  It would seem a likely link,
whichever came first, and would help confirm the origin of the phrase
if found.

amateur poker player

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