For some time now, some of my on-line friends have advised me to provide a version of CassidySlangScam without the invective aimed at Cassidy and his supporters. In response to that advice, I am working on providing a glossary of the terms in Cassidy’s ludicrous book How The Irish Invented Slang with a short, simple and business-like explanation of why Cassidy’s version is wrong.
In his etymological hoax, How The Irish Invented Slang, the late Daniel Cassidy claimed that the game stud poker from the Irish stad, meaning to stop, because apparently the dealer does not go from player to player but stops (stad) with the house.
Is there any evidence for stad being the origin of stud in stud poker? No. For one thing, if the concept of stopping is such a salient aspect of the game, why isn’t stopping mentioned in the Wikipedia article on stud poker? Secondly, the game was always known as ‘stud horse poker’ in early references, including the legislation banning it in Texas in 1885.
A newspaper letter from 1985 gives this account of its origins:
Having earned my living for more than a decade with a pack of cards, as a professional magician, your editorial (Aug. 5), “Poker Is Poker Is Poker,” caught my interest. I may be able to shed some light on the phrase “stud horse poker.”
The first game of stud poker is said to have been played in a backwoods saloon somewhere in Ohio, just after the Civil War. The game on this occasion started as draw poker. During the course of play came a pot that was opened by a player holding three kings. There was much raising before and after the draw. The dealer, the man who opened and one other man stayed.
Having bet all his money, the man who opened put his cards down, ran outside, and came back into the room leading a spirited stallion, which he tied to the back of his chair. Then he realized that during his absence the other players had probably seen his three kings. So he made a proposition:
“You fellows know damned well what I’m betting on and I’ve got all my money up on it. Now I propose that to make it fair all around each man turns three of his cards face up, discard two, and draws two more face down. I’ll gamble this here thoroughbred stud horse on my chances.”
There is no guarantee that this is true but the fact that it is often called Stud Horse Poker suggests that the term’s origin lies in this or some similar story.