Why did John Oakhurst choose the two of clubs to bear his epitaph?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Throughout the Bret Harte story, "The Outcasts of Poker Flat," there are metaphors about cards that used by Mr. Oakhurst.  For one, he hides the cards when the situation worsens.  Then, he tells Tom that they have had a streak of bad luck since they left, but he says, "If you can hold your cards all along, you're all right."  Finally, Harte writes,

Mr. Oakhurst set himself coolly to the losing game before him...."There's one chance in a hundred"

he tells Tom Simson, and intends to stay, but his better self urges him to go, as well, for help. But, his luck has remained bad and Mr. Oakhurst has "turned in his chips."  He has written his epitaph on the deuce of clubs perhaps because it is the low card in the deck, usually a losing card.  And, sometimes too, it is a wild card; Mr. Oakhurst hoped he had a wild card, but it was dark and solitary, so it had no value, no luck attached to it.  Mr. Oakhurst leaves a symbol that he cannot play against the odds.

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

John Oakhurst, the kind-hearted and realistic gambler who was among the group of undesirables run out of town in "The Outcasts of Poker Flat," probably chose the deuce of clubs to illustrate the bad luck that had followed him since his ouster. The deuce of clubs--along with the two of diamonds, hearts and clubs--is one of the four lowest cards in a deck. Drawn deuces are usually a poor selection and considered unlucky to most gamblers. So, Oakhurst probably chose the card to symbolically show that his run of bad luck had continued right up until the time of his death.

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The Outcasts of Poker Flat

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