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Is Bugs Bunny the Best Gambler Ever?
Chances are Elmer J. Fudd wasn’t much of a card player. He wore his heart on his sleeve, always seemed to be on tilt, and his poker face was nonexistent. If he had a bad hand, you’d know it. One of the funniest fictional characters ever produced by Warner Bros., and one of the original Looney Tunes, Fudd was destined for the bright lights and big screens of Hollywood. Not the flashing neon of Las Vegas. He was too preoccupied to contemplate a bet, raise or fold. His mind was on other, more sinister, things.
“Shhh. Be vewy vewy quiet, I’m hunting wabbits.”
It’s one of his most popular and hilarious catch phrases. He’d utter it in that distinctive voice of his, replacing the R’s with L’s and W’s, and he meant every word of it too. You didn’t think he carried that shotgun around to run double-barrel bluffs, did you?
In poker slang, ‘rabbit hunting’ means to run out the rest of the hand even though the actual hand has concluded. For instance, let’s say you have four cards to a flush but are forced to fold on the turn to a large bet. You may ask the dealer to ‘rabbit hunt’ the river card. Sometimes it’s nice to know whether you would have made your hand. It’s fair to say, Fudd preferred the term’s more literal definition.
What’s Up Doc?
His adversary, Bugs Bunny, on the other hand, was an expert card shark. And, it could be argued, he was one of the greatest gamblers ever, if not the greatest. There is no better evidence than the 1956 cartoon short classic Barbary-Coast Bunny. After his nemesis Nasty Canasta had stolen all his gold and used the ill-gotten gains to open a casino, Bugs not only vowed revenge, but got it in the most spectacular way.
First, playing the role of a naive country boy, Bugs enters the shamelessly rigged casino and confuses a slot machine for a ‘telly-o-phone.’ When he uses it to call home for some money, he hits the jackpot. After moving to the roulette table, his good fortune continued, and he went on a winning streak on the #23. He just couldn’t lose.
Then, in one last game of draw poker, Canasta seemed a sure thing to recoup his losses after turning over a full house.
“All I got is two pair,” Bugs said nonchalantly. “A pair of ones, and another pair of ones.”
Four of a kind? That beats a full house any day of the week. The episode ends with Canasta attempting to rob him at gunpoint but, in true Looney Tunes fashion, Bugs spins the revolver bullet cylinder like a slot machine and a mass of coins inconceivably pours out the gun’s barrel.
The moral of the story? As the star of the show would say, “Don’t steal no karats (carrots) from no rabbit.”
Cheaters Never Prosper
In the Looney Tunes short Mississippi Hare, released in 1949, Bugs Bunny is pitted against Colonel Shuffle, a neurotic riverboat gambler with a penchant for cheating. Again, this was no contest, the rabbit was just too skilled. Starting with a $100 stake, it didn’t take long for Bugs to win all his opponent’s money.
The final hand was hard to believe. The cheating Shuffle had five aces, but Bugs somehow had six, literally beating him at his own game.
Bugs Bunny was a master of all the games, not just poker. In the 1948 Warner Bros. Merry Melodies short, Bugs Bunny Rides Again, our protagonist finds himself in a duel with Yosemite Sam, which eventually culminates at the card table.
The dialogue was quintessential cartoon:
Bugs Bunny: Gin rummy’s my game, Sam.
Yosemite Sam: Okay, cut the cards.
*Bugs takes a hatchet and cuts the deck of cards in two*
Yosemite Sam: Not that-a way, you darn galoot!
The game didn’t last long, either. After Sam reshuffled and dealt the cards, Bugs convinced him to discard the two of hearts, which he promptly scooped up. Then, with a thud, he quickly fanned his cards face-up across the table for the win. A single discard victory in Gin Rummy? Yes, Bugs is that good.
Hare & Loathing
In a parody of Hunter S. Thompson’s book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and its film by the same name, Hare and Loathing in Las Vegas is a 2004 cartoon short starring Bugs Bunny and Yosemite Sam. Reprising his role as casino owner, Sam builds a casino directly on top of a rabbit hole Bugs called home. Given the option to ‘gamble or get out’, Bugs tries his luck and, you guessed it, wins big again.
By the time he left the casino, and much to Sam’s chagrin, Bugs was up a whopping $8,042,123,297.55. As he exits, more money comes out of Sam, as if he was another slot machine. Sam soon realized he had been “hornswoggled” because lucky rabbit’s feet were not permitted inside his betting parlour.
More than $8 billion in winnings? Lucky rabbits’ feet and all, Bugs Bunny may be the best ever.
That’s what’s up doc!