Green’s Dictionary of Slang

powder n.2

In phrases

give a powder (to) (v.)

to desert, to abandon.

take a powder (v.) (also do a powder, pull a powder) [abbr. run-out powder n.]

1. [1910s+] to escape, to run away; also as imper.

2. [1940s+] to leave without paying one’s rent.

3. [1940s+] of a boxer, to lose deliberately.

4. to lose something.