Green’s Dictionary of Slang

stroke n.2

1. (UK Und./police) an action considered audacious or daring; sometimes criminal activity.

[UK]T.S. Surr Winter in London III 162: What a great general your grace is! Two new carriages for the birth-day, and not a creature to know the fact till the very moment of their launch! That was a profound stroke.
[UK]C.R. Read What I Heard, Saw, and Did 14: He told me he was doing a rattling stroke.
[UK]Leaves from Diary of Celebrated Burglar 41/2: Well, I ain’t going to ‘work’ another stroke with this ‘stuff’ about us.
[UK]A. Bennett Grand Babylon Hotel 48: ‘Ah! I see,’ said the Prince; ‘this is one of your American “strokes”. You have bought to sell again.’.
[UK]G. Kersh Night and the City 28: We’ve all done some funny strokes in our time, but may I be paralysed I draws the line at poncing.
[UK]‘Henry Green’ Caught (2001) 64: It ended in a smashing stroke, he’d had both girls in the same bed.
[UK]J. Curtis Look Long Upon a Monkey 28: A nice, well-planned, little surprise job, that’s a different stroke altogether.
[Ire]B. Behan Confessions 177: We knew that this deep cogitation meant that uncle Ritchie was thinking up a stroke.
[UK]‘P.B. Yuill’ Hazell and the Three-card Trick (1977) 60: We were all meant to wonder how anybody could be mug enough to fall for such a clumsy stroke.
[UK]A. Payne ‘Willesden Suite’ Minder [TV script] 53: What a stroke, eh Dave, and it’s legit.
[Ire]J. Healy Wild One (in Magill) Apr. n.p.: He loved the stroke. He loved going into the local school unannounced and asking for a day off for the students [BS].
[UK]N. Barlay Hooky Gear 288: You think some squeegee refugees gonna mess up my big stroke?
[UK]K. Richards Life 128: I don’t think Andrew or any of us were geniuses, it [i.e. the Rolling Stones’ ‘bad boy’ image] was just a stroke that hit the mark.

2. (US) a monopoly; rights to do something.

[US](con. 1920s) J. Thompson South of Heaven (1994) 6: So you’ve got the stroke on the gambling.

In derivatives

stroker (n.)

(Irish) a criminal, a trickster.

[Ire]P. Howard The Joy (2015) [ebook] ‘I’m a fucking stroker, man. A villain. When I need money, I just hatch a little scheme’.

In phrases

pull (off) a stroke (v.) [SE stroke, ‘a vigorous attempt to gain or do something’ (OED); a suggested link with rowing strokes seems implausible]

to attempt and/or get away with anything outrageous or daring.

[UK]‘Tod Sloan’ Tod Sloan by Himself 28: For fifteen years he was always plunging, and in his time he pulled off the biggest strokes in the country, betting as much sometimes as fifty thousand dollars on a race.
[Ire]B. Behan Scarperer (1966) 37: He doesn’t pull these strokes from the goodness of his heart.
[UK]N. Cohn Awopbop. (1970) 90: Hustled the biggest deals and pulled the biggest strokes.
[UK]T. Parker Frying-Pan 42: The powerful and educated will pull every stroke they can to get you round to their way of thinking.
[US]Ian Dury ‘Plaistow Patricia’ [lyrics] Pulling strokes and taking liberties.
[UK]A. Payne ‘All Mod Cons’ Minder [TV script] 52: You’re pulling strokes with my bleeding home, Arthur!
[UK]J. Healy Grass Arena (1990) 90: Everybody laughing and telling each other fucking lies about the clever strokes they pulled last night, last week, last year.
[Aus]R.G. Barrett Boys from Binjiwunyawunya 305: You pull more strokes than a GPS Regatta.
[Ire]J. O’Connor Salesman 325: I knew he was a psycho all right but I didn’t know he’d pull a stroke like that.
D. Shaw ‘Dead Beard’ at [Internet] The stories I could tell about the strokes my customers have tried to pull on me would turn your hair white, straight up.
[UK]J.J. Connolly Viva La Madness 407: If you ever pull a stroke on me like you and Dougie did on Sonny, I will kill you.