If I say the name “Custer” what do you immediately think about? Long, blonde locks flowing in the wind during one of America’s earlier ill-fated decisions to enforce their culture upon an indigenous people? Or perhaps you aren’t quite capable of winning the National Spelling Bee and the image of an egg-based pie popped into your consciousness. George Armstrong Custer holds the fame or infamy-dependent upon your point of view of just who was the real victim at Little Big Horn and, frankly, I’ll bet you’d be wrong if you predicted my opinion-of being the person named Custer that most of us remember. However, it was George’s brother Tom who provides the history of gaming with the most exciting story. In fact, Tom Custer was notorious throughout the Wild West as one of the all-time great poker bluffers. That unique ability did not serve him quite as successfully at Little Big Horn, however. Like his more charismatic brother George, Tom Custer’s corpse was also mutilated by those “noble savages” the Black Hills of Dakota.
Like his brother, Tom Custer was an officer in the U.S. Calvary, though of a less rank to be sure. Captain Tom Custer resembled George Armstrong in one way, to be sure. Like the golden-haired, flamboyant West Point graduate Tom was also given to taking massive risks. George Custer bucked the odds on the bloody ground on which he fought the red man; Tom Custer bucked the odds over the poker table, often bluffing while holding absolutely nothing. If there really is such as a thing as an addition to be poker bluffing, Tom Custer had it. His typical tactic was to continue bluffing a pot to overflowing, secure in the knowledge that nobody could ever be sure whether his bluff was real or a fake-out.
One night Tom Custer made history during a friendly game of stakes poker when he received three spades: the 6, 7 and 10. Immediately, Tom dove into his standard bluff attack, raising the rest of the table like a man possessed. There was a rule to the type of poker that was being played that night; if a card that arrived courtesy of the opening deal got exposed, even by sheer accident or clumsiness, the player had to keep it. However, if a card was revealed during the draw was not allowed to be kept and had to be replaced. As it happened, Tom Custer did manage to draw that 8 of spades he was desperately hoping for but when he put his hand out for his second draw card he accidentally caused it to flip over. It was the King of Spades and would have fulfilled his flush. As the derisive and hopeful laughter of the other players rang in his ears, Custer carefully received the card that he was forced to take to replace the lost King of Spades.
Without missing a beat, Tom Custer picked up right where he’d left off, raising the stakes again. Of course, the general agreement was that he was simply attempting one of his patented bluffs since it was incredibly unlikely that he’d drawn six spades in a row. Using all this talents for the poker bluff, Custer pushed the stakes up until at last all the other players called, waiting in anticipation to see what suit the fifth card Tom Custer was actually holding.
The greatest irony of Tom Custer’s poker career as a man known for collecting pots when others folded with winning hands while he had nothing was that this story ends with the fact that when Tom Custer showed his hand, not only had he managed the unbelievable feat of getting six spades in a row after having to jettison one of them, he had actually managed to draw the 9 of spaces, giving him one of the most unbeatable hands in all of poker, a straight flush.