[Ads-l] buck, n.9 (token in poker) -- quotations and definition in OED2

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Thu Jan 29 20:27:52 UTC 2015


Ben Zimmer found a great instance of "pass the buck" in 1856. A writer
was part of a group that was crossing a body of water called the Buck
Creek, and he mentioned the phrase as a pun while referencing the
alternative interpretation in the poker domain.

http://listserv.linguistlist.org/pipermail/ads-l/2005-April/048838.html

Ben or anyone: Do you know if 1856 is still the earliest citation?

There seems to be some confusion about the purpose of "the buck" in
poker, and it may have been used in more than one way. There was an
interesting appearance of "passes the buck" in 1868 that explained how
"the buck" was employed. Also, in 1868 the buck was "a knife or key"
according to this citation.

Year: 1868
Title: The Modern Pocket Hoyle: Containing All the Games of Skill and
Chance as Played in this Country at the Present Time
Author: "Trumps"
Publisher: Dick & Fitzgerald, New York
Entry Title: Straight Poker
Start Page 156, Quote Page 156 and 157
Database: Google Books Full View

https://books.google.com/books?id=lmIVAAAAYAAJ&q=buck#v=snippet&

[Begin excerpt]
To avoid confusion, and prevent misunderstanding, instead of each
player depositing an ante before the cards are cut, it is usual for
one of the players (at the commencement of the game, the dealer) to
put up a sum equal to an ante from each, thus: if four are playing and
the ante is one chip, the dealer puts up four chips, and passes the
buck, i.e., a knife or key, to the next player at his left. When the
next deal occurs, the player having the buck puts up four chips, and
passes the buck to his next neighbor, who in turn does the same, and
so it goes round as long as the game continues. Straight Poker is but
seldom played, having been superseded by the Draw game.
[End excerpt]

Garson


On Wed, Jan 15, 2014 at 3:27 PM, Joel S. Berson <Berson at att.net> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
> Subject:      Re: buck, n.9 (token in poker) -- quotations and definition in
>               OED2
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>
> At 1/15/2014 12:53 PM, W Brewer wrote:
>>DG: <<Because the dealer also plays, putting the deck down to examine his
>>cards.>>
>>WB:  Dealer puts the deck down, in plain sight, right in front of herself.
>>Question remains:  Is the "buck knife (handle)" in poker a MERE
>>folk-etymology, or is it actually ATTESTED in USE?)
>
> Responding, and also supplementing (and not conflicting with) Doug
> Wilson's message (I haven't looked into the 2005 archives) -- from the OED:
>
> Yes "buck" and "knife" are attested.  "Buck knife" specifically is not.
>
> "buck, n.9" (for poker) has four quotations, starting in 1865 (New
> Mexico).  Perhaps interestingly, this is just 10 years later than the
> earliest quotation for "buck, n.8" = dollar.  I'm imagining
> '49ers.  The next quotation comes from an undisputable authority
> (Mark Twain, 1872); the last two from "dictionaries" (books
> describing the practice of poker).  One of these two says "usually
> knife or pencil", the other "pocket-knife".
>
> Both "buck" entries are OED2, so the mines may have garnered additional ore.
>
> Also, readers and poker players may be interested in the OED's
> definition for the poker buck -- "U.S. In the game of poker, any
> article placed in the pool with the chips."  From what I read here,
> some players would not agree.  However, the OED's quotations seem to
> disagree with each other (or describe variant uses of the buck) --
> three say it's "passed", but the following seems consonant with but
> more detailed than the OED definition:
>
> 1887   J. W. Keller Game of Draw Poker 38   They resort to the bold
> and ludicrous experiment of 'passing the buck'. The 'buck' is any
> inanimate object, usually knife or pencil, which is thrown into a
> jack pot and temporarily taken by the winner of the pot. Whenever the
> deal reaches the holder of the 'buck', a new jack pot must be made.
>
> Disclosure:  I am not a poker player.
>
> Joel
>
>>JL:  <<More appropriate for a horse-laugh on the Pecos>>
>>WB: Haha! Good one!
>>
>>
>>On Thu, Jan 16, 2014 at 1:35 AM, Dan Goncharoff <thegonch at gmail.com> wrote:
>>
>> > ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>> > -----------------------
>> > Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>> > Poster:       Dan Goncharoff <thegonch at GMAIL.COM>
>> > Subject:      Re: impactful, below-the-line, etc.
>> >
>> >
>> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>> >
>> > Because the dealer also plays, putting the deck down to examine his cards.
>> >
>> > Knowing who is dealer is important because the dealer pays the entire ante.
>> >
>> > DanG
>> >
>> >
>> > On Wed, Jan 15, 2014 at 12:26 PM, W Brewer <brewerwa at gmail.com> wrote:
>> >
>> > > ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>> > > -----------------------
>> > > Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>> > > Poster:       W Brewer <brewerwa at GMAIL.COM>
>> > > Subject:      Re: impactful, below-the-line, etc.
>> > >
>> > >
>> >
>> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>> > >
>> > > RE: buck or buck knife or buck knife handle as poker dealer indicator.
>> > > Seems to me, whoever is holding the deck tells you who the dealer is. Why
>> > > would you need any further indication? (I.e., is the "buck" in poker a
>> > mere
>> > > folk-etymology, or is it actually attested in use?)
>> > > {The buck stops here} sign = there is no further bucking (i.e. evasion)
>> > of
>> > > responsibility at this desk.
>
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