If you have ever watched Turner Classic Movies chances are you have heard a monochromatic character being insulted as a “four-flusher” or a “four-flushing rat.” But what is the actual origin of that unique pejorative term? At first glance you would probably have a natural inclination to suppose it has something to do with toiletry, or at least sewage-related plumbing of some kind. It’s a natural thing to link fecal matter to an slur. In fact, however, the term four-flushing refers to an original and rather easily accomplished cheating system in poker. When a character calls another character a four-flusher it is generally done so as a very specific insult. He is basically calling him a cheater in significantly more colorful terms. A four-flusher by definition is someone to be regarded as deceitful and not to be trusted. A dirty rat, in other words. (That is why is so quickly entered the political lexicon.)
What is a four-flusher in reference to the wonderful world of poker cheating? Well, look at the term: four plus flusher. You need five cards of the same suit to meet a flush, right? Obviously, a four-flusher would indicate that somebody was trying to get away with passing off only four cards of the same suit as a flush. Impossible, you say? Here’s how it is done. You are sitting at the poker table and you drew four diamonds, but your luck ran out with the arrival of that fifth card. However, that fifth card was a heart. If you are attempting to pull off the four-flusher scam you arrange your cards so that your diamonds kind of cover up the heart. They’re both red and from a distance even kind of look the same. And you might just be lucky enough to be playing somewhere where the lighting isn’t bright like in a casino and the other players have already knocked back four or twelve bottles of Budweiser. Under those conditions mistaking a heart for a diamond really isn’t that tough. If you can lay out your cards just right you just might be able to convince the other players to mistake a diamond for a heart, a spade for a club or vice versa. However, the four-flusher poker cheat is even easier to pull off if you are part of a four-flusher team.
And by team I mean just two people. Here is how this four-flusher poker scam works. Let’s say you are still the person who drew the four lucky cards and unlucky fifth. Same situation there you where very carefully show your cards with the not-flush suit hidden in the pack. Your partner in four-flushing then immediately expresses disgust with this development and tosses his hand down onto yours as you grab the pot. It works best if the partner’s toss succeeds in knocking both your cards and his off the table. Of course, if your partner doesn’t actually have a card that fills in your flush this can be very risky. The team approach to the four-flusher scam must be done in rapid succession of showing your hand, tossing the cards, and grabbing the kitty. It doesn’t hurt to rehearse it as a little theatrical performance either. The more disgusted the partner acts, the better because that draws attention away from the cards and toward him. In the meantime, the four-flusher can act to mix up the cards. The more outrageously the partner acts the better your chance of pulling this off.