Poker Terms, Part I

The game of poker has had a resurgence of popularity in recent years. More popular than ever, there really are big bucks in the game. Poker tournaments garner large TV audiences and the lines for a place at table in a casino or card room are long.

This is the first of three articles that examines the jargon and slang of the game. In this first part, we take a look at names of various styles of poker.

poker, n., a card game in which a player bets that the value of his or her hand is greater than that of the hands held by the other players, other players must then either equal or raise the bet or drop out, the player holding the highest hand at the end of the betting wins the pot. Poker has great number of variations in the number of cards held and the sequence in which they are dealt and in how betting is conducted. These all share the fact that final hand consists of five cards and are ranked as follows: pair, two pair, three-of-a-kind, straight, flush, full house, four-of-a-kind, and straight flush.

The game of poker is American in origin and the game as we know it dates to at least 1836. It is based on a number of European games, including brag. The origin of the name is uncertain, but is probably from either the German poch or the French poque, both names of similar games.

ace to five, adj., a type of lowball poker where straights and flushes do not count, A2345 is the lowest (best) hand.

community, adj., a type of game where face-up cards dealt to the middle of the table are shared by all the players in a hand. Hold ‘em and Omaha are community games.

dealer’s choice, adj., a format where the dealer selects the particular game to be played. Sometimes, to eliminate positional advantage, players take turns selecting the game for an entire round of deals.

declare, adj., a type of game where players must declare before the showdown, typically used in high-low games where the players must declare whether they are attempting to win the high, low, or both pots.

deuce to seven, adj., denoting a form of ace-high lowball where the lowest possible hand is 75432 with no flush. Also known as Kansas City lowball. Cf. ace to five.

draw, adj. & n., a style of the game where players may discard and replace, or draw, cards after the initial round of betting. The draw is followed by the showdown round of betting, 1857.

five-card draw, n., style of game where each player receives five cards, there is a round of betting, then a draw, followed by a second and final round of betting. Perhaps the best known style of play, it is not used much in casinos or cardrooms.

high, high-ball, adj., style of play where the highest-ranked hand wins the pot, the best possible hand is a straight flush. Standard poker. Cf. low, low-ball. In the late-19th century high-ball was a game similar to keno.

high-low, adj., style of play where the pot is split between the highest and lowest hands.

hold‘em, n., style of play where each player is dealt two face-down cards and then five community cards are dealt, players then make the best five-card hand. Often called Texas Hold’em.

let it ride, n., a style of poker played in casinos. A player places three bets and receives three cards, two community cards are dealt face down. The player then has the option of removing the first bet or letting it ride. The dealer turns over the first of the community cards. The player then has the option of removing the second bet before the second card is turned over. Hands are paid off based on a fixed schedule; at least a pair of tens is required to win.

low, low-ball, n., style of play where the worst hand wins. What constitutes the worst hand varies from game to game.

Omaha, n., a flop game similar to hold’em, but with two key differences: 1) each player is dealt four hole cards, 2) a hand must be made using two of the hole cards and three of the community cards.

ring game, n., a regular game as opposed to a tournament.

straight poker, n., played without wild cards or unusual betting procedures, five-card draw or five- or seven-card stud, 1864.

stud, n., variety of the game where a player is dealt one or more face-down hole cards and a face-up card followed by a round of betting. Players are subsequently dealt additional face-up cards each one followed by a round of betting until they have filled their hands. Often the final card is dealt facedown. The chief variants are five-card stud, where each player is dealt a total of five cards and seven-card stud, where each player is dealt seven and must make the best five-card hand out of those. Originally called stud-horse poker, 1879. Why stud or stud-horse was chosen as the name is not known.

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