The game of poker has a terminology all its own – some words adopted from our common language, some you have probably never heard of, some that are just plain interesting, and some that go way back in modern times.
In many respects, that special lexicon is something that sets poker apart from other popular card games. To be sure, games like blackjack also have their own words unique to the game; e.g., split, stand, hit, etc. But the game of poker is so broad, with so many variants beyond Texas Hold’em, and so much richness, especially due to there being multiple participants (as opposed to it being a competition between you and the casino), that the poker lexicon and vocabulary are almost a language all on its own.
The book POKER – A Guaranteed Income for Life by Using the ADVANCED CONCEPTS OF POKER by Frank R. Wallace, Ph.D., published in 1968, includes a huge glossary. I selected a few words and terms to share for your interest:
Action – the betting.
Bait – a small bet that encourages a raise.
Bear – a tight player.
Belly Hit – when a draw fills an inside straight. (Gut Shot)
Bicycle – a straight to the five. . . A-2-3-4-5 (Also called a Wheel.)
Blaze Full – a full house in picture cards.
Blaze Back – a raise after previously calling or checking.
Boost – to raise.
Bull or Bullet – an Ace.
Bull the Game – to bluff or bet aggressively.
Bump – to raise.
By Me – an expression meaning “I pass.”
Card Odds – the probabilities of being dealt or drawing to various hands.
Cards Speak – a rule that the value of a hand is based on what the cards are rather than on what a player thinks he has.
Cinch Hand – a certain winner; a lock.
Close to the Chest – to play tight.
Customer – an opponent who calls.
Naturally there are plenty more words; I’ve just selected a few beginning with the letters A-C. If you don’t have Wallace’s book handy, there are a number of sites where your questions about poker term definitions could be answered, such as the various subsections of Quora.
There are about one million words in the English language. Every year, new words, terms, and phrases are created. Language is at the very core of human life. Can you imagine playing poker without access to the words above?
Poker even has its own dictionary, a soft-cover book with 277 pages, published in 1999 by former poker pro Michael Wiesenberg. Also, many poker books include extensive glossaries to help understand the language of poker.
My Own Poker Words, Terms and Phrases
I have been involved with the game of poker for decades. Along the way, I have created or borrowed numerous words and coined phrases and terms of my own. On occasion, I have used them while playing the game and writing my books and columns.
► Bad Outs – too few outs on which to risk your chips.
► Esther Bluff – named after my granddaughter, Esther, who created a special way to bluff opponents: Betting with high (apparent) confidence and self-assurance, reinforced with a reverse tell to induce opponents to fold their hands.
► Good outs – make pot odds higher than your card odds. Highly playable.
► Hold’em Caveat – a cautionary plan: With a marginal starting hand, consider mucking your two hole cads unless there is no raise (or a raise anticipated) and there are at least three opponents staying to see the flop.
► Poker Algorithm – a mental process that makes starting-hand selection so easy.
► Poker Pigeon – a player with few (if any) skills. He’s bound to be a loser.
► Ready to Play – just seated or back from a break, he is ready to join the action.
► Set the Bait – check or bet small to keep opponents behind you in the pot so you can later raise to build the pot.