poker terminology

Jesse T Sheidlower jester at PANIX.COM
Fri Jan 14 14:52:48 UTC 2000

George Thompson, at the end of this post, asked if people had
any comments. In passing I'll say that the HDAS wouldn't
consider all of these to be slang, but as a poker buff I can
comment about some of the terms as well. There is a wide range
offered here; some terms are extremely common and universally
used for their referent, while others are either new to me or
are comparatively rare.

As an aside, there are a small number of really excellent
books on poker, usually about Texas Hold'em, and all other
books or articles are generally awful in comparison. Anyone
interested should read A. Alvarez' _The Biggest Game in
Town_ (and any of his _New Yorker_ articles on the subject)
and Anthony Holden's _Big Deal._

> poker game.  This has particular reference to a variant called
>         "Texas Hold ‘Em (aka seven-card crack) [which] begins with each

Not "aka." This game is always called Texas Hold'em or just
"Hold'em," with various capitalization and punctuation variants.
No one calls it "seven-card crack."

>         player being dealt two cards face down, called the pocket.  Then,

"The hole" or "hole cards," only rarely "the pocket," except in
certain expressions, such as "pocket rockets" = 'a pair of aces
as ones hole cards' or "pocket pair."

> American Airlines.  A pocket (see pocket, below) pair of aces.  [See also
> Additional Terms]


> Big slick.  Holding an ace and a king in your pocket.

No currency at all.

> Broadway.  An ace-high straight.

No currency at all.

> The chop.  What the house charges to play.  [See also Additional
> Terms]

More usually "the rake" or "the drop."

> The marriage.  A king and a queen as your down cards.  (Known as the
> divorce if your hand doesn't win.)

No currency.

> Muck.  The discard pile.

Universal currency; the only term every used. Also as
a verb 'to throw one's hand away; fold'. [In casino play
there are complicated rules about folding but usually
any motion of the cards towards the muck is a fold, and
that's the only way to fold. Thus if you yelled, "Shit!,"
and tore your cards in half, your hand would still be
good if you didn't move your torn-up cards towards the

> The nuts.  The highest possible hand; you're unbeatable. [See also
> the passage quoted above and the passage under "wheel" in Additional
> Terms, below.]

Universal. Often modified, as in "stone[-cold] nuts."
More common than syn. "lock."

> The Oedipus Rex.  A starting hand of a queen and a jack.

No currency.

> Pocket.  Your two down cards in Texas Hold ‘Em.

See above.

> San Francisco busboy.  A queen and a three.  (A queen with a trey —
> get it?)

No currency.

> The steel wheel.  A five-high straight flush.  [See also Additional
> Terms]

No currency.

> Bad luck leads to bad beats, which leads to losing a lot.  [Also:]
> If somebody gives you a bad beat, just smile and say, "good hand."
> [RHHDAS: 1884, but the only citation; though apparently also from a
> poker context.]

In poker a "bad beat" is specifically a defeat that you did not
deserve, usually because your opponent misplayed a hand but
ended up winning anyway. I can't tell if the Esquire article was
clear about this. In the second example, though, the point is
that you _want_ to get some bad beats, because it will make
your opponent think he's playing well, and yo want to encourage
him to do stupid things.

> The flop (the first three cards [of the community cards]) came up ace
> of clubs, 10 of spades, and 5 of clubs.

Universal. Also "the turn" for the fourth card, and "the river" for
the fifth. This last is used as a verb to mean 'to draw (a [specified]
card) on the river', e.g. "He rivered an ace," and 'to win/lose to
(a [specified] person), or in (a [specified] manner)', etc., e.g.,
"I got rivered when my opponent hit his flush."

> Then a hand came, and seven players called a speed-limit raise ($55).


> A player who splashes the pot, meaning he throws his chips in the
> middle without counting them out . . . may be trying to skim
> money.


> This gave me a wheel (the lowest possible straight), which also
> happened to be the nuts.

Usually this only applies to lowball games or high-low games and
then only in certain contexts. It's very weird in Texas hold'em.

>         [Any comments?]

See above.


Jesse Sheidlower

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