Poker Terms, Part III

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 third of three articles that examines the jargon and slang of the game. In this part, we take a look at terms for the cards and hands as well as poker slang terms.

ace, n., the highest (or lowest in some games) rank in a deck of cards, via Old French from the Latin as, meaning a unity or a unit. In Old French the use of the word was restricted to the side of a die bearing only one pip. Ace makes its English debut c.1300 as a dicing term. By 1533 its meaning had been extended to cards.

advertise, v., to mislead an opponent by blatantly calling attention to one’s style of play, typically to play recklessly in early hands to make opponents think one is a poor player or frequent bluffer, in other games to discard in the hopes of leading another player to discard a similar, but needed card, 1931.

back door, n. & adj., the last two cards dealt to a player in stud or hold ‘em, a hand that uses the last two cards dealt. 

back into, v., a winning hand other than the one you were originally aiming to, e.g., attempting to get three of a kind but drawing a flush instead.

bad beat, n., a losing hand that one expected to easily win, e.g., holding four of a kind and losing to a straight flush.

belly buster, n., a draw made for an inside straight. Also double belly buster, drawing two cards for an inside straight.

berry, n., an easy opponent, 1887, also berry patch, a table filled with easy opponents.

bicycle wheel, n., a A2345 hand; the best possible hand in ace-to-five poker and an extremely good hand in ace-to-five high-low games, where it is likely to be both the highest and the lowest hand. Cf., steel wheel.

big slick, n., an ace and a king dealt as hole cards.

blank, n., a card in community games that does not look like it will be of value to any of the players.

board, n., the cards dealt face-up in the center of the table in community games. To make a hand without using any of one’s hole cards is to play the board.

boat, n., a full house, c.1969. Also full boat.

brick, n., a card that counterfeits one’s hand.

broadway, n., an ace-high straight.

buck, n., an object used to denote who is the dealer, hence pass the buck, of unknown origin, 1865. Cf. button.

bullet, n., an ace, originally used in brag, 1807.

buried, adj., denotes cards in the hole, esp. a pair.

button, n., a marker used to mark a particular position at the table, esp. the designated dealer in a casino or card-room poker game. Cf., buck.

card sharp/shark, n., a skillful card player, esp. one that cheats. It is often claimed that card sharp is the original and proper form, but this is not the case. Both forms have existed in parallel for centuries. Sharker and to shark, denoting a swindler and his practices date to the 1590s, from the metaphor of a predatory animal. Sharper, meaning a cheat or swindler dates to 1681 and to sharp from c.1700. Card sharp dates to 1856; card-sharper, 1859; card shark, 1903.

club, n., a suit in a standard deck of cards, from a translation of either the Spanish basto or the Italian baston (both are cognates of baton). Use of the term in English dates to 1563. The origin is not obvious because over the years the symbol on English decks of cards changed. English cards adopted the symbol used in French decks, where it is called a trèfle, or trefoil, but kept the old name club.

complete hand, n., a hand that is defined by all five cards, a straight, flush, full house, or straight flush.

connector, n., cards of consecutive rank, useful in forming straights, e.g., a jack and a queen are connectors, when of the same suit they are suited connectors.

counterfeit, adj., when a previously good hand is duplicated or beaten by subsequent draws. 

cowboy, n., a king, 1951.

dead man’s hand, n., a hand consisting of a pair of eights and a pair of aces (sometimes also kings or jacks), 1908, traditionally said to be the hand held by James "Wild Bill" Hickock when he was murdered in Deadwood, Dakota Territory In 1876. The actual cards held by Hickock when he was shot in the back are disputed.

deuce, n., a two in a deck of cards, from the French deux, 1519.

door card, n., the first card dealt face up to each player in seven card.

down and dirty, adj. & interj., denotes the final card dealt in stud which is dealt face down. The phrase is often uttered by the dealer when making the final deal.

fast, adj., denotes aggressive play.

fifth street, n., the fifth card dealt in seven-card stud.

fish, v., to stay in a hand longer than is advisable in hopes of an improved hand.

flop, n., the first three community cards in hold ‘em or Omaha which are dealt as a group. 

flush, n., a hand with five cards of the same suit. The origin is uncertain. It would seem to come from the sense of the word meaning fullness or abundance. But while that sense undoubtedly had some influence on the English form of the word, it does not appear to be the origin. Flush has cognates in several European languages that rule out an origin in flush meaning abundance. The immediate source is not known, there are French, Italian, Spanish, and Dutch candidates, but the ultimate origin appears to be the Latin fluxus, meaning flow.

four flush, n., a hand with four cards of the same suit, unless the fifth card forms a pair or straight a four flush is worthless, 1887. Hence the verb to four-flush, meaning to bluff or deceive, 1896, and four-flusher, meaning a braggart or pretender, 1904.

fourth street, n., the fourth card dealt in a hand of seven-card stud.

full house, n., a hand consisting of three of a kind and a pair, 1887.

hand, n., cards, the cards dealt to a player, a single round of a game of cards, 1630.

hit and run, v., to win a big pot and then quit the game, especially if one has only been playing a short time. 

hole card, n., a card dealt face down in stud, 1908. Also pocket card. Blackjack, the dealer’s facedown card.

inside straight, n., four cards of a straight missing one of the cards in the middle. 5689 is an inside straight and can only be completed with a 7. 5678 is an outside straight and can be completed with either a 4 or 9. Remaining in a hand in the hope of filling an inside straight is considered an amateur’s mistake.

jack, n., the lowest of the face cards, from the man’s name, 1674. Jack was also a synonym for knave, which was the card’s earlier name.

joker, n., an additional card in a deck, sometimes used as a wild card, often ornamented with the image of a medieval jester hence the name.

kicker, n., the highest unpaired card in a hand that does not fill a straight or flush, kickers determine the winner in case of a tie.

lady, n., a queen, 1900.

outside straight, n., four consecutive cards, none of them an ace. Also known as an open-ended straight.

paint, n., a face card, from the colorful decoration on them.

pat, adj., draw poker, a hand that does not need any more cards. Used in v.phr. to stand pat, to decline an additional card. A pat hand dates to c.1868.

pineapple, n., a variant of hold’em in which each player gets three hole cards and must discard one at some point.

position, n., where one is sitting, especially with respect to the order of betting. The first few players to bet are in early position, the next few in middle position, and the last few in late position. Late position is best, with the advantage of knowing what one’s opponents have done. Players may be more liberal about the hands they will play from later positions.

quads, n., four of a kind.

qualifier, n., a minimum standard a hand must meet in order for it to be eligible the pot, esp. in low-ball games, e.g., 8 or better.

rail, n., the sideline at a poker table, the (usually imaginary) rail separating spectators from the players.

railbird, n., a spectator.

river, n., the final card dealt in a hand of stud or hold‘em.

rock garden, n., a game or table populated with rocks.

rock, n., a very conservative player, from the lack of action they generate.

rockets, n.pl., a pair of aces in the hole, also pocket rockets.

rolled up, adj., describes a three-of-a-kind dealt in the first three cards in a stud game, pocket rockets and then another ace are rolled up aces.

round, n., a series of bets or hands. A betting round begins after card(s) are dealt, each player is given a chance to bet, and it ends when all players have either folded or called the last bet. Each round of betting is followed either by further dealing or a showdown. In certain games, such as hold’em, a round of hands consists of one hand dealt by each player at the table.

rounder, n., a professional player.

royal straight flush, n., an ace-high straight flush, the best possible hand. Also royal flush, or just a royal.

sandbag, v., betting to disguise the strength of one’s hand, e.g., betting conservatively in opening rounds to encourage other players to bet aggressively and then increasing the stakes in later rounds.

scoop, v., to win the entire pot in a high-low game.

seventh street, n., the fifth and final round of betting in seven-card stud, after the seven cards in each player’s hand.

showdown, n., the final phase of a hand which occurs after the last betting round and where the players who remain in the pot must expose their hands to the other players, 1892.

sixth street, n., the fourth round of betting in seven-card stud, after the six cards in each player’s hand.

slow roll, v., to reveal your cards one at a time in a showdown, slow rolling is usually considered to be bad etiquette.

spade, n., a suit in a standard deck of cards, from the Italian for sword, 1598. The word is etymologically unrelated to spade meaning shovel and the symbol is a stylized representation of a sword, not a shovel.

splash, v., to throw one’s chips into the pot, instead of placing them their. Splashing the pot is considered bad form because it can be used to disguise the amount one is putting into the pot.

steal, v., to win the pot by bluffing, esp. when no one else has placed a bet yet in that round.

steel wheel, n., a five-high straight flush, five high, A2345 of the same suit.

straight flush, n., a hand of five consecutive cards of the same suit, 1882.

straight, n., a hand of five cards of consecutive ranks.

suit, n., one of four sets of cards in a standard deck, denoted by the symbols clubs, diamonds, hearts, and spades, 1529.

suited, adj., of the same suit.

tell, n., an unconscious gesture or behavior that reveals information about one’s hand, e.g., tapping on the table when one is bluffing.

third street, n., the first round of betting in seven-card stud, because the players have three cards each.

three of a kind, n., a hand with three cards of the same rank and two additional cards of no worth.

trey, n., a three, from the French tres, c.1386 for dice, 1680 for cards.

trips, n., three of a kind.

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