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Poker Dictionary of Terms Part VI

Poker chips can get a bit unweildy in large quantities, so cardrooms usually supply plastic racks that hold 100 chips in 5 stacks of 20. A rack of red means a rack of red chips, typically worth $500. If someone asks for a rack, it usually means they’re about to leave the table. If someone asks to buy a rack of red, it means they’d like to buy $500 in chips.
Someone is said to be “racking up” a game if they’re winning a lot of money at the table.

A card, usually a low card, that, when it appears, has no apparent impact on the hand. A flop of 7 4 2 is a rag flop – few playable hands match the flop well. If the table shows QJT9, all of spades, a 2h on the river is a rag.
I didn’t think anyone could’ve hit the flop when it came all rags.

The rail is the sideline at a poker table – the (often imaginary) rail separating spectators from the field of play. Watching from the rail means watching a poker game as a spectator. People on the rail are sometimes called railbirds.

Someone watching a game from the rail.

See rough.

Three or four cards of different suits, for example on a flop. (Two cards of different suits are unsuited and five is impossible.)
I figured my rockets were going to win when the flop came queen seven two, rainbow.

After someone has opened betting in a round, to increase the amount of the bet is to raise. For example, if the betting limit is $5 and player A bets $5, player B can fold, call the $5, or raise it to $10. Knowledgeable poker players sometimes get irritated when someone says raise to indicate an opening bet. But they usually know what you mean.

The money removed from each pot by the house. Medium and high-limit games typically have a time charge rather than a rake. A typical Atlantic City low-limit rake is 10% of the pot up to a $4 maximum. The same table in California may rake just the big blind, with the small blind going towards a jackpot.
Despite all the bad players, the high rake made it hard to turn a profit at the game.

Each card has a suit and a rank. The eight of diamonds and the eight of hearts have the same rank. A pair is two cards of the same rank. Come on, you know this.

Seven card stud played for low (ace to five) only.

To read someone is to have a good idea from their play (or through tells) what their cards might be. To have a read on someone is to have a good understanding of how they play. Reading players is an important skill in poker, because… well, if you can’t figure out why, it’s going to be hard to explain here.

When you first sit down at a game, you buy in with a certain amount of money. Re-buying is what you do when you buy more chips before you leave.

Re-buys are also allowed in some tournaments to players who fall below a certain point – usually only up until a certain point and often limited to a fixed number of re-buys. The time during which one may re-buy, usually lasting from the start through the early stages of the tournament, is called the re-buy period. Tournaments with re-buys are called, generically, re-buy tournaments. See also add-on.

I had to re-buy after the second hand when I had quads shot down.

Red is the most common color for $5 chips. If someone bets a stack of red, it means they’re betting a bunch of $5 chips, probably 20 of them. See also white, black, and green.

A way to further improve your hand after hitting a draw is a redraw. For example, if you hold 9s2s (on the big blind of course) and the flop comes JsTs3c, you have a flush draw. If the turn is the 8s, you have made your flush and picked up a straight flush redraw.

To bet in such a way as to indicate that you have a certain hand. For instance, when you check-raise after the third suited card hits the board in hold’em, you are representing a flush, even if you don’t actually have one.

Any raise after the first raise in a round. Player A bets, player B raises, player C (or A) re-raises. See also cap and check-raise.

Ring Game
A bunch of people playing poker for money at a table in a cardroom. The term ring game is used to differentiate such games from tournaments.
Tournaments are fun, but I much prefer ring games.

The last of five community cards in flop games (e.g. hold’em and omaha). Sometimes called fifth street. Sometimes “river” is used to refer to the last card in non-flop games, such as seven card stud.

A player who plays an extremely tight, patient game is a rock. Rocks don’t create a lot of action, and when they enter a pot, more often than not they’re in as a favorite. This is a decent strategy at some tables (especially at a table full of maniacs). But good players with more varied strategies will eventually get the best of a real rock.

Rock Garden
A table populated with rocks.
I never play there anymore, it’s a real rock garden.

Or “pocket rockets” – a pair of aces in the hole.

Short for bankroll.

Rolled Up
In seven card stud, three of a kind on the first three cards are called rolled up X’s, where X is the rank of the cards. The hand and the player can both be said to be rolled up.
I didn’t outdraw you, I was rolled up.

I haven’t had a rolled up hand in weeks.

Root Canal
A really unpleasant form of dental surgery.

A hand of a particular type that will not beat many other hands of that type. Often used in low games to indicate non-nut low hands with a particular high card. A rough 8 in ace to five lowball could be any eight high hand other than 8432A, although 8532A isn’t too rough. Rough is the opposite of smooth.

A round can refer either to a round of betting or a round of hands. A betting round usually begins after a card or several cards are dealt. Each player is given a chance to act, and the round ends when everyone has either folded to or called the last bet or raise. (See it.) Each round of betting is followed either by further dealing or by a showdown.
A round of hands consists of one hand dealt by each player at the table (or, when there’s a house dealer, one hand with the dealer button at each position). In a round of hold’em you’re in each position once, and you expect on average to hold the best hand once (although you will fold it pre-flop and kick yourself for the rest of the evening).

One more round and I’m outta here. (round of hands)

After I missed the check-raise I made sure to open the next round. (round of betting)

Royal Straight Flush
An ace high straight flush is a royal straight flush, or a royal flush, or just a royal. Some traditionalists dislike the phrase “royal flush” (preferring “ace high straight flush”), but no one dislikes the hand. It’s the most powerful hand in casino poker.

A hand made on the last two cards. A player holding 55, with a board of AA455, in that order, makes runner-runner quads. See also backdoor.

Two needed cards that come as the last two cards dealt are said to be running.
I had nothing when I called his re-raise, but I caught running 7’s to lay that bad beat on him.

A player who wins a large number of pots in a short period of time is said to be on a rush. Some players feel superstitiously that a rush is an independent entity, and will “play their rush” or “bet their rush” after winning a few pots – play looser and more aggressively, or just be certain to play out each hand until the rush ends. Sometimes this isn’t such a bad idea if the other players at the table are superstitious as well and will fold.
I was down about $500 after two hours of bad beats, but then I went on a monster rush and made it all back in three hands.

Sandbagging means concealing your strength for the purpose of increasing your profit. In poker, this usually means slowplaying in the early betting rounds in order to extract more profit on the later rounds. Especially when called “sandbagging,” this practice sometimes has the negative connotation — usually among occasional or less serious players — of being a hostile or marginally unethical way to play. Experienced players regard it as just another part of the game, a vital strategic tool. The same is true for check-raising, which bears some resemblance to slowplaying.

Scare Card
A card that when it appears makes a better hand more likely. In hold’em, a third suited card on the river is a scare card, because it makes a flush possible. If you’re pretty sure your opponent paired a king on the flop, an ace on the turn is a scare card. Scare cards will often make it difficult for the best hand to bet, and offer an opportunity for bluffing. Obviously such cards are scarier in pot-limit or no-limit games.

To win an entire pot, especially in high-low split games.
When he failed to make his low, I scooped.

Scooting is the practice of passing chips to another player after winning a pot. Typically, scooting partners will agree to “scoot” each other a predetermined number of chips after winning each pot. This is at least technically illegal at most table stakes games, but single chips can often be scooted anyway.

Seat Charge
See time charge.

Seating List
In most cardrooms, if there is no seat available for you when you arrive, you can put your name on a list to be seated when a seat opens up. Typically, games are listed across the top of a board, and names are written below each game so that players are seated for games in the order in which they arrive. See also table change.

Second Pair
See middle pair.

A semi-bluff is similar to a bluff, except that the semi-bluffer has some chance of making a winning hand. The idea behind a semi-bluff is that while neither the bluff nor the draw might be positive expectation, in combination they could be. Betting a weak draw is often only correct as a semi-bluff.

Serious Poker
Serious poker players like to distinguish the game they play from the average weekly penny poker game. Although these things tend to be relative (a 10-20 hold’em game might not seem so serious to someone used to playing 150-300), some particular features common to home games tend to make the game less “serious.” Most irksome to the serious player is probably a proliferation of zany, poorly thought-out games, often involving wild cards, and sometimes having little in common with other poker games. While some serious players like the challenge of having to develop a strategy on-line for a game that was just invented, many feel it just increases the luck factor. Less serious games also tend to involve very low stakes, because they are played for fun, and not out of either a deep interest in poker or in making money at it.
Hey Bob, wanna play poker with the guys tomorrow?
Sorry, Ted, I only play serious poker. Also you irritate me.

Three of a kind with two in the hole.
If I don’t flop a set with 22, I almost always fold immediately.

Seven Card Stud
Of the poker games most commonly played in public cardrooms, seven card stud is probably the most well known. In seven card stud (sometimes “seven stud” or just “stud”), each player is dealt seven cards of their own: two down, then four up, and a final card down. There is a round of betting after the first up card and after each subsequent card dealt.
Stud is usually played with a small ante and a forced bring-in on third street. In limit games, the bet size typically increases on fifth street.

A shill is similar to a proposition player, except a shill gambles with the cardroom’s money instead of his/her own.

A tournament format in which a single player ends up with the entire prize money, or in which play continues at each table until only one player remains.

Short Stack
A short stack is a stack that’s too small to cover the likely betting in a hand. A player who has such a stack is said to be short-stacked. This has advantages (e.g., that you cannot be pressured to fold) and disadvantages (e.g., that you cannot get maximum value from your winning hands). Asking whether or not this is a good thing over all is a good way to start an argument.
The phrase “short stack” can also refer to the players at a table (especially in no-limit or pot-limit play, often in a tournament) who have the least money in front of them.

After building up a big chip lead in the tourney, I proceeded to beat up on the short stacks.

A game is said to be shorthanded when it falls below a certain number of players. Most poker tables accomodate nine or ten players. Five players is clearly shorthanded, nine players is clearly not. Since many people are uncomfortable playing shorthanded, some cardrooms make special provisions for shorthanded tables – reducing the blinds or the rake, or providing shills or props. Since the number of players at a table has a significant impact on strategy, learning to play well shorthanded is an important skill. This is especially true in tournaments, where shorthanded play is much more common (if you last long enough).

When all the betting’s done, if more than one player is still in the pot, showdown is the process of figuring out who wins. Usually the last player to open or raise is required to show their cards first, and anyone else can try to muck their cards if they decide they’ve lost. However, in most cardrooms any player who reaches showdown (or calls the final bet) can be asked to show their cards. When used to describe the process, showdown is one word. When used to describe what each player does at that point, it’s usually two words.
Only one hand made it to showdown in the entire hour.

I was embarassed to show down such ugly cards.

Show One Show All
Most cardrooms have a rule, generally referred to as “show one show all,” that if a player shows their cards to anyone at the table they can be asked to show everyone else (even if they would ordinarily not be required to show their hand). This usually comes up at the end of a hand that did not reach showdown (e.g., if a player shows a friend a successful bluff). Obviously showing one’s hand to someone else who has cards is illegal for more reasons.

Before each hand, the dealer shuffles the cards – mixes them up in order to make their order as unpredictable as possible. Most cardrooms have fairly specific requirements for how the cards are to be shuffled.

Side Pot
See main pot and all-in. If you still don’t know what a side pot is, we can’t help you.

“Sir” is one of those confusing terms that can have a completely different meaning at the poker table than elsewhere. If someone says “nice hand, sir,” after you win a big pot, what they are really saying is, “congratulations on winning money through your own stupidity, you clueless moron.” The word “sir,” when uttered in this context, somehow absorbs all the venomous thoughts the person is feeling, although if you listen carefully you can often hear them rattling around in there. Note that people at the poker table do sometimes use the word in its less colloquial sense, simply as a polite expression of mild respect. It’s up to you to figure out who means what.
To the best of my recollection, I’ve never heard “ma’am” used in this way, although I’m sure it can be.

When you play passively, you are playing slow. See speed.

To slowplay is to underbet a very strong hand (i.e., to play it slow, except that when used in this way it’s made into one word). The purpose of slowplaying a hand is to give other players the chance to make stronger second-best hands, and also to conceal the strength of your hand. Instead of betting early and risking the loss of future action, slowplay means checking and calling. It’s of course best to slowplay when you have a hand that no one is likely to actually catch (e.g., four of a kind). Slowplay is not the same thing as check-raising, but the two strategic options are similar in that both are often intended to trap more money in the pot in situations where you are fairly sure you will win.
I tried to slowplay my quad nines and walked right into a straight flush.

To reveal one’s hand slowly at showdown, one card at a time, is to slowroll anyone else who thinks the pot might be theirs. This is usually only done with a winning hand, for the purpose of irritating other players (well, some people do it innocently).

Small Bet
See big bet.

Small Blind
See blind bet.

The best possible low hand with a particular high card. 8432A is a smooth 8. See also rough.

Smooth Call
To call one or more bets with a hand that’s strong enough for a raise, with the intention of trapping more money in the pot. Smooth call is like flat call, although it more strongly connotes a powerful hand that one is trying to slowplay.

Snap Off
To beat someone, often a bluffer, and usually with a not especially powerful hand, is to snap them off.
I snapped off his pair of eights with my small two pair.

Speed refers to the level of aggressiveness with which you play. Fast play is more aggressive, slow play is more passive. Good players may change speeds so that their play will not be so predictable.

Someone who is caught bluffing is sometimes said to be caught speeding. See speed and table cop for more of this metaphor.

Splash (the pot)
To throw your chips into the pot, instead of placing them in front of you, is to splash the pot. Doing so can make it difficult for the dealer to determine if you’ve bet the correct amount, or to keep track of the action.

Split Pot
In a game that isn’t high-low split, a hand in which two players show down the same hand (especially in games with community cards) results in a pot split between those two players. In a high-low split game, of course, many hands result in split pots.

When a cardroom starts a table for a particular game, it is said to spread that game. If you want to know what games are played in a particular place, you can ask what they spread.
We don’t spread high only stud.

Spread Limit
Betting limits in which there is a fixed minimum and maximum bet for each betting round, and any amount in between these limits may be bet. See structure.

The amount of money you have in front of you on the poker table (i.e., stack of chips). Often used in the plural. See also short stack.
A stack can also refer to a particular number of chips. Most chip racks take stacks of 20 chips. Many players like to keep their chips in stacks of particular numbers of chips. I favor 10-chip stacks, but most players seem to opt for 20 to 30.

I was doing well earlier, but my stacks have been dwindling.

To (attempt to) steal a pot is to make a bet when it appears no one else has anything. A player who raises from the small blind when everyone else has folded (and who is therefore competing only against the big blind) is likely to be on a steal. Similarly with a player who opens from late position when it’s checked around on the flop.

A player who is on tilt is sometimes said to be steaming. A steam raise is a raise made more out of frustration than out of strategic concerns.

Steel Wheel
A straight flush, five high. That is, A2345 of the same suit. A pretty nice hand to have in a high-low split game.

In a game played with blinds, the player under the gun may raise before looking at their cards, effectively posting an additional blind bet. This is called a straddle. House rules often make these bets live, so that the player who posts a live straddle has the option of raising when it’s their turn again, even if no one has re-raised. It’s hard to imagine a good reason to do this, although some players like to do it to liven up a tight table, or for advertising value.

A hand composed of five cards of consecutive ranks (aces count as high or low). A2345 is a five high straight, or a straight to the five. 789TJ is a jack high straight, or a straight to the jack. TJQKA is an exercise for the reader (but see broadway). In comparing straights, the straight to the higher card wins.

Straight Flush
A hand consisting of five cards of consecutive ranks of the same suit. A straight flush is the strongest possible hand. Of two straight flushes, the one with the highest high card is better. An ace high straight flush is often called a royal flush or a royal straight flush, or just a royal.

The cards that come out one at a time in a card game are sometimes referred to as different numbered streets. The door card in seven card stud is third street, and subsequent cards are numbered consecutively. In hold’em and other flop games, players sometimes refer to the turn and river as fourth and fifth street.

String Bet
Most cardrooms (and serious home games) require you to make your entire bet at once. In other words, you can’t raise by putting out enough to call and then reaching back to your stack for your raise. As well, since verbal statements are considered binding at most poker games, if you say “I call your bet and raise you ten more,” you have called, since the raise was added afterwards. To be on the safe side, when you want to raise it’s best to say “raise” so that your bet won’t be mistaken. The reason for the string bet rule is to prevent players from strategically misleading other players about the size of their bet (see angle). Note that movie and television depictions of poker games are filled with egregious examples of string bets.

The structure of a game refers to the details about the betting, including antes, blinds, and the amount that may be bet on any round. In cardrooms, games are typically posted along with shorthand for the limits. For example, 5-10 hold’em is usually a fixed limit game, played with $5 bets and raises pre-flop and on the flop, and $10 bets and raises on the turn and the river. This usually generalizes to any game where the structure is X-2X. Games with more complicated structures sometimes spell it out like this: 5-10-10-15. Spread limit games are ones in which the betting in a given round is constrained to a particular range. So a 1-4 spread limit game would allow a bet from $1 to $4 on any round (often constrained that a bet or raise must be at least the size of the previous action). Many different structures are possible, and the sizes of antes and blinds vary from game to game. The structure of a game has a substantial impact on appropriate strategy.
In connection with tournaments, structure can also mean anything having to do with the amount of money in tournament chips players can get, the rebuy and add-on rules, and the way in which the blinds increase.

I was reluctant to dive right in because of the unfamiliar structure.

Losing money, usually enough so you’d notice.
I was stuck about $200 after that hand, but I couldn’t quit.

Even the best players in the world get stuck sometimes.

Usually short for seven card stud. Also refers to stud games in general, including five card stud, in which each player is dealt a number of non-shared cards and must use only those cards. May be contrasted with flop games and draw games.

Suck Out
To win a hand by virtue of hitting a very weak draw, often with poor pot odds.

You know, clubs, diamonds, hearts, spades.

Of the same suit.
I almost never play 98 unless it’s suited.

To sweat someone is to watch them play from the rail, in order to lend your support.

Find more poker terminology hereĀ