The History of Poker on M*A*S*H

I don’t play poker. But a lot of people do. And some of them even write about it. One such player and writer is Martin Harris, who pens a column at PokerListings called “Pop Watch,” in which he plans to explore “the many ways poker and pop culture intersect.” He recently wrote about the history of poker on M*A*S*H. He discusses five episodes involving poker: “Deal Me Out,” “Payday,” “Lt. Radar O’Reilly,” “The Merchant of Korea” and “Wheelers and Dealers.” The article also mentions “Your Hit Parade” and Double Cranko (which is included in not one but two Wikipedia articles). Poker plays a role in a number of Season One episodes, including “The Moose,” in which Radar uses a telescope to help Hawkeye cheat at cards (and almost blows the whole thing by eyeballing a good-looking nurse rather than the cards), and “The Long-John Flap,” in which Trapper loses Hawkeye’s long-johns during a game.

Can anyone identify these legs?
“The Moose” – Can anyone identify these legs?

Personally, my favorite poker moment is the aforementioned game from “The Moose.” What other episodes involved poker?

14 Comments

  • Seoul City Sue says:

    Weren’t Hawkeye and Trapper playing poker while wearing gorilla suits in ‘As You Were?’

  • Tim Foust says:

    I think that was gin. They were playing poker in Novicane Mutiny, Where Frank banned poker while Col Potter was away.

  • Eric says:

    My favorite poker moment was in season 2. I love the entire episode “Deal me Out.” I think it was a clever way to show how chaotic the 4077th was by centering the episode around a poker game. Plus, any episode with Dr. Freedman is great! He was always so believable as a psychiatrist.

  • I think my favorite poker moment is “The Merchant of Korea” (6×15), but then again, that’s one of my favorite episodes in general, mostly because I live in the south, and while I’m surrounded by some beautiful landscape of ridges and mountains bordering our little Toledo-esque city, the climate is murder on us, especially during spring, summer, and early fall, where it is HOT-HOT-HOT… our summers usually consist of temps ranging from 90 to 100, with heat indexes anywhere between 100 and 115, so this episode is very relatable as far as heatwaves go.

    But I digress, I like how Charles, who claims to not be very good at poker, had such a lucky streak, until the others finally figured out his little secret of how he unwittingly whistles louder and louder the worse his hand gets, and in the end, he’s had the tables turned on him, lol.

    Poker was also played throughout “Sticky Wicket” (1×21): in one game, they apparently were playing for so long, Ugly John fell asleep, and was playing the same hand for several rounds (both winning and losing each time), then later, Radar beat Trapper, who was outraged at how well Radar bluffed him out, “Don’t think you’re going home when the war is over, you and I are staying in Korea until I get even!”

    • 5 O'Clock Charlie says:

      Is the Sticky Wicket episode where Trapper asks Radar “Who taught you to play poker?” and Radar says “You did!!”

  • MASHGuy says:

    All the poker moments are great on this show!

  • Pinkpagoda says:

    Was it poker that was played in “Rally Round the Flagg Boys” with the Mayor and Chief of Police of Uijeongbu?

  • Pinkpagoda says:

    Or was that Bridge?

    • I’m pretty sure it was bridge: they each had about ten cards in hand, and despite being quite the skilled card player, Hawkeye didn’t know how to play the game and was basically humiliating himself by telling everyone all the cards he had and not knowing what to bid, “I’m reminded of this story you’ve probably heard… the king and queen of this land had a son named Jack, who was surprised that they only had three hearts between then, when his sister Little Deucy and her dog Tre started singing four diamonds are a girl’s best friend, while the whole family beat her to death with two clubs and buried her with two spades.”

    • Dan says:

      I think so because there was another episode where Charles and Potter challenge each other and have to find partners. Which is a very good episode and when theyre playing in Rally around the flagg boys the to korean men were the mayor of uijeongbu and his little brother the chief of police. Also Hawkeye and Charles are arguing over who should be Potter’s partner because hawkeye dosent know how to bid int game on books.

      • Pinkpagoda says:

        You guys are right. I couldn’t remember if that was the episode when Hawkeye was doing all that tap dancing around his cards, or if that was a different episode. I just remember they were setting up for cards, when Flagg thought they were having some sort of sinister rendesvoux.

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