This yarn was adapted from an undated clipping from the Hailey, Idaho newspaper.
In the days of the Idaho Territory, stores didn’t have many Christmas goods to sell. Churches and tap rooms were the primary gathering spots for the holiday. The Mint bar in Hailey made up a big batch of Tom-and-Jerry and served it free on Christmas Eve. That and the free lunch marked the extent of the festivities. Some patrons stayed long past midnight watching a poker game. Doctor Foss, “Buddy” Ingersoll, who was a young mining engineer, “Slim Jim” Gill, who owned the Blue Eagle Mine, and T. B. Murdock, who was new to town, sat around the table. The largest pot of money of the evening was in play. Murdock had been winning pretty regularly. The doctor and the engineer weren’t thinking clearly after having sipped liquor for hours at the card table. Slim Jim took his card playing seriously and was wide awake; he looked slightly puzzled.
Murdock stunned the assembly by announcing in good humor that no one would be held to their bets because he had dealt the present hand from a stacked deck. He was, he said, the best poker player west of the Mississippi, and visiting this small town just to replenish his funds. He claimed to know to a certainty that the doctor and the engineer had very good hands, because he knew the cards he had given them. He said that he had given himself an even better hand. But Slim Jim had nothing, just low cards, said Murdock. He urged the doctor and the engineer to lay out their cards so that everyone could admire his handiwork. At this point, Slim Jim spoke up: “Wait a minute, wait until we see where we’re at. This is the phoniest poker game I have ever seen and I’d like to know where we’re at. Admitting, Mr. Murdock, that everything you say is straight, I still don’t see how you can be so sure.” Murdock replied, “You’re not in this at all, Slim Jim, because you ain’t got a hand at all.” But Doctor Foss and Buddy decided to keep their cards and finish the hand.
Slim Jim spoke to Murdock again, “I’m willing to take a chance—and make a side bet of $100 that you don’t have the best hand.” Murdock met that and raised it. Spectators predicted a calamity as the two put up another $1800 each. Murdock called for the showdown. He laid out four kings and the ace of hearts. Doctor Foss put down four jacks and the ace of diamonds. Buddy took a look at the hands on display and threw his cards in the discard pile. As Murdock was preparing to rake in the pot, Slim Jim called out, “Wait just a minute.” He put his “little” cards on the table: the three, four, five, six and seven of hearts. So the pot went to Slim Jim, along with the duty of buying the first round of drinks on that Christmas morning in Idaho Territory.