Green’s Dictionary of Slang

trick n.4

[naut. use trick, a turn at the wheel]

1. a period of work, usu. one that is physically demanding or unpleasant.

[US]R.H. Dana Two Years before the Mast (1992) 42: That night it was my turn to steer, or, as the sailors say, my trick at the helm for two hours.
Press (N.Y.) 17 Apr. 6/3: Captain John Gunner [...] was doing his ‘trick’ at Police Headquarters the other night, when a PRESS reporter dropped in.
[UK]J. Masefield ‘Sea-Fever’ in Salt-Water Ballads 69: All I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover, / And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 29 Oct. 24/1: Says he to me, as I took my trick: / ‘Keep her so, sonny!’ / Was the skipper drunk, or was he sick? / Nor’-west by North, there!
[US]D. Hammett ‘Two Sharp Knives’ in Nightmare Town (2001) 184: Send Mason home to get some sleep. he’ll have to take over Wally’s night trick.
[US]J. Hoyt Cummings Fatal Pay-off 48: For the past few years he had worked the night trick while his brother, recently drafted into the Army, ran the stand in the daytime.
[US]J. Crumley One to Count Cadence (1987) 48: Most of the vop was quite good for the day-trick.
[UK]D. Powis Signs of Crime 205: Trick [...] (b) Unpleasant or demanding period of work, usually of short duration, for example: ‘I’ve done my trick (at the wheel of a car or cab) and now it’s your turn.’.

2. any period spent within an institution, e.g. a hospital.

[US]C.L. Cullen Tales of the Ex-Tanks 224: The usual ten-day trick in the you-have-them ward.

3. (US) a prison sentence.

[US]C.L. Cullen Tales of the Ex-Tanks 196: They’ve nabbed me for a job of ship-swiping [...] I’ll do my little three or five trick over the road for it.
[US]H. Simon ‘Prison Dict.’ in AS VIII:3 (1933) 32/2: TRICK. A prison term.
[US]G. Milburn ‘Toledo Slim’ in Hobo’s Hornbook 196: I thought my girl would stick / And keep the flat a-going while I did my little trick.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn) 70: do a trick To serve a term in prison.
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 226/2: Trick. [...] 2. (Central and mid-Western States; rare) A term served in a prison, reformatory, or penitentiary.
[US]B. Jackson Get Your Ass in the Water (1974) 132: I didn’t worry, I thought my broad would stick / and keep my flat a-runnin’ while I done my little trick.
[US]Bentley & Corbett Prison Sl. 24: Stretch Time spent in prison [...] (Archaic: piece, ride, trick).

4. (US) a term of service, e.g. in the army, on a ship.

[US]D. Runyon ‘The Defence of Strikerville’ in From First To Last (1954) 12: We all see another three-year trick sticking up.

5. a situation one dislikes.

[US]T.A. Dorgan Indoor Sports 9 Mar. [synd. cartoon] (Listening to the author give his first reading of the play to the cast) I’m gonna blow this trick quick.

6. an organization.

[US]T. Thursday ‘Missed in Missouri’ in Top-Notch 15 May [Internet] They thought that J. Twaddle Hemm, the general agent, had pulled a bum joke on the whole trick.