Poker Dictionary of Terms Part VII
October 10, 2017
The word “table” can be used to refer to community cards, the poker table itself, or the players at the table as a group.
When the case 9 hit the table, I checked.
The table was playing tight, so I was bluffing more than usual.
This is a nice table, I especially like the cup holders.
If you’re playing at a public cardroom, and you’d like to play at a table other than the one you’re currently at, you can ask the floor for a table change. Different cardrooms handle this differently, but typically you’ll be moved as soon as an opening develops, and a player from the seating list will be moved into your seat.
A player who calls with the intention of keeping other players honest (e.g., to snap off bluffs) is said to be playing table cop. Also a player who makes an effort to point out violations (significant and otherwise) of casino rules (e.g., reminding other players to act in turn, which is properly the responsibility of the dealer).
Table stakes is simply the (nearly universal) rule that a player may only wager money they have on the table at the beginning of a hand. Usually it also implies that money may not be removed from the table at any time (exceptions are made for tipping), although money may be added to one’s stacks between hands. A player who goes all-in at a table stakes game may not continue to bet, and is eligible only for the main pot. Sometimes “table stakes” also implies no-limit play.
To the best of my knowledge, Maryland is the only place where most of the games are not table stakes, although the Maryland rules seem to change fairly often.
Any discussion at the table of the hand currently underway, especially by players not involved in the pot, and especially any talk that might affect play. Depending on the nature of the discussion, table talk is often considered somewhere between rude and an act of war. The most common example of table talk to be avoided is announcing what cards you’ve folded. If the flop is 888 and you shout “Damn!” or slam your fist into the table, you’ve done a disservice to anyone at the table who thought they might like to represent quads. See also coffeehousing.
A tell is any habit or behavior that gives other players more information about your hand than they would have simply from your play. For instance, you might unconsciously play with your chips every time you bluff. Or you might notice that another player blinks a lot whenever he has a strong hand. Mike Caro’s “The Body Language of Poker” describes a large number of tells that can often be seen in inexperienced (and experienced) players.
I picked up reliable tells on two players at the table, so my evening was very profitable.
Texas Hold’em (or just “hold’em”) is a poker game in which each player gets two pocket cards, while five community cards are dealt face-up on the table. The strength of a player’s hand is the best hand that can be made with these seven cards. There is a round of betting after the pocket cards are dealt, after the first three community cards (the flop), after the fourth, or turn card, and after the final, or river card.
Three of a kind
Three cards of the same rank. Also called trips. For example, if you hold 888AK, you have trip 8’s.
Playing tight simply means playing fewer hands and folding them earlier. In essence, tight with your cash. A tight table is a table dominated by tight players. Tightness is frequently described as a good thing, and especially at low levels of play can be a big advantage over players who will always pay you off. Tightness should not be confused with passivity. Many good players recommend a tight aggressive strategy.
He was playing so tight, when he finally played a hand we all folded pre-flop.
Good poker seems to require good discipline. However, even good players are often tempted to do things they know are bad ideas when they get frustrated, angry, or upset for any reason. They go “on tilt.” Sort of like a pinball machine, except with pinball it only costs you a quarter. Typical tilt play is much too loose and often very aggressive, beacause a player on tilt wants very badly to win a pot, and isn’t rational enough to wait for cards that are worth playing or situations that are worth attacking.
When he started raising every hand, I thought he was on tilt, but it turned out he just had an incredible run of good cards.
If the house doesn’t drop from the pot but instead collects money from each player periodically, this is called a time charge, or a seat charge, and you’re said to be “paying time” to play.
“Time” is also what you’re supposed to say whenever you need more than about a second to decide what to do.
An amount “to go” is the amount it takes to enter the pot. In limit flop games, this is usually the amount of the big blind, but if someone raises in a 5-10 game, they’re making it ten to go. In some pot-limit and no-limit games, an initial call is more than the largest of the forced bets, so the game might have blinds of $5 and $10 and be $20 to go.
A tip, usually a tip to the dealer affer winning the pot. Tips are usually between $.50 and $3, depending on the limit, the size of the pot, and the generosity of the player.
I toked the dealer an extra couple bucks because it was my first straight flush in over a year.
If there are three cards of different ranks on the flop in hold’em (or any flop game), and you pair the highest one, you have top pair.
Even though the board was suited, I bet out when I flopped top pair.
The general idea behind poker tournaments is that a bunch of poker players sit down with the same number of chips, and eventually only one player has any chips left. In order to ensure that the event will finish in reasonable time, tournaments institute a schedule by which the blinds and/or antes increase. Tournaments are usually played with chips that have no value outside of the tournament. So a buy-in of $30 might get you $500 in tournament chips to play with, but you can’t cash them out in the middle. The winner of a tournament (the last player to bust out) as well as several of the other top finishers are typically awarded prize money according to some predetermined schedule.
Tournament details vary widely, but a typical arrangement might include an initial buy-in, a re-buy period during which a player who runs out of tournament chips may buy more, and an opportunity to add on to one’s stack after the re-buys have ended. Other details about the structure can vary widely.
See also shootout and freezeout.
Three of a kind.
Money is trapped in the pot if it faces the imminent danger of becoming dead money. Typically you’re trapped if after putting some money in the pot you’re faced with the proposition of calling a raise in order to continue, especially an uncomfortably large raise. A player is also said to be trapped if caught calling (e.g. on a draw) between two other players who keep raising and re-raising each other.
Threes are sometimes called treys. So 33377 can be called treys full of sevens.
The fourth of five community cards in flop games (e.g. hold’em and omaha). Sometimes called fourth street.
A hand consisting of two cards of one rank, and two cards of another rank (and an unpaired card). AA883 is two pair, sometimes also called aces up. Wise guys often describe their quads as two pair. “Let’s see, I got a pair of tens and… another pair of tens.” Bad things happen to wise guys.
Under the gun
The first player to act after the blind bets is said to be under the gun. See also position and straddle.
I’ll play those cards occasionally, but never under the gun.
When two hands face off, the underdog is the one that’s less likely to win than the other. As with many of the terms in this dictionary, this isn’t poker terminology, this is just English.
Aces up is two pair with aces as the higher pair. Kings up is two pair with kings as the higher pair. Are you getting this?
In stud games, your face-up, exposed cards are also just called your up cards.
There are many potential reasons to bet or raise (e.g., to get people to fold, to manipulate the size of the pot, to express anger, to impress someone watching from the rail, etc.). Betting for value is one of the better ones. Value means the return you get on your investment; the expected increase in your equity in the pot (your return), as compared to the size of your bet or raise (your investment). Typically this means either that you believe you will receive action from inferior hands, or that the the chance you will win the hand makes the bet worthwhile.
If you have a sufficient advantage at the game you’re playing, you expect to make money over the long haul. This is true whether the game is poker, blackjack, or craps, and whether your advantage is due to skill, cheating, or psychic powers. However, over a small period of time, you may do better or worse than what your average should be. For example, you may expect to make one big bet per hour at the poker table, but in a given hour it may not be uncommon for you to win or lose twenty big bets. Variance is the statistical measure of just how widely your results will be dispersed. When variance is high enough, a small advantage may be of no use during your lifetime. When variance is low enough, a small sample will be much more likely to reflect your real advantage (or disadvantage). In other words, variance describes just how long the long haul is. In poker terms, high variance means that a small number of hands will not be very representative of your long-term expectation.
Here’s a simple non-poker example. A slot machine that pays you $1 every time you put two quarters into it (or vice versa) has no variance whatsoever. Your expected win (or loss) is $.50 per spin, and you get exactly that every spin. On the other hand, a slot machine that takes the same two quarters (or $1) and usually just eats them but one time in ten thousand spits back $10,000 (or 5,000) will have identical expectation. If you play enough games, you will tend to average the same $.50 per spin profit (or loss). But because you need so many more spins to get a representative sample of the possible outcomes, your variance is very large.
Variance is such a strong contributor to poker results that it often obscures the importance of good play. The best player at the table may start with the best cards and still have far less than a 50 percent chance of winning the hand. A skilled professional can lose money over days or weeks, without necessarily doing anything wrong. And while bad play may have negative expectation, it is often rewarded in the short term – players who draw for incredible longshots do sometimes get lucky, despite their poor judgement. Variance is what makes losing players think they have a chance in the long run, and what gives them a real chance in the short run.
Poker players often characterize particular plays as higher or lower in variance. For example, in a situation where you know it will cost you a few bets to draw for a real longshot, but the pot is large enough to justify the calls, your expectation may be positive while your variance will be much higher than you’d like. This sort of situation is typical of high-variance bets – high potential payoff with a small probability of winning. As well, different qualities of the other players at the table can contribute to your variance. If many of the players are maniacs, willing to cap the betting and see the flop with any two cards, your variance may be high at that table. On the other hand, exceptionally weak and passive players, who may fold an extremely high proportion of the time when they are raised, will reduce your variance. Obviously the variance you experience in your play will be affected not just by the nature of the game, but also by your style of play and by the style of those you play with.
Although in the context of poker it’s often used loosely, “variance” is a statistical term with a precise definition. Given accurate estimates of your variance and expectation (along with some assumptions about the distribution of your outcomes), it is easy to calculate confidence intervals, or ranges, within which your results are most likely to fall over different periods of time. If all this is news to you, pick up a book. Learning a little about statistics wouldn’t kill you, especially if you want to play poker seriously.
To walk in poker is to be away from the table long enough to miss one or more hands. Such people, and/or people who do so frequently, are called walkers. Depending on local conditions, walkers may be off getting food, smoking, playing craps, or waiting for more fish to sit down. Or something else, who knows what these mysterious people do? Most cardrooms have well-defined but poorly enforced rules about walkers – i.e., that a player’s chips may be picked up (by the house, that is) after they’ve been gone for some specific amount of time. Too many walkers at a table can cause it to break, often through an unfortunate chain reaction. Once one or two players get up from the table, it makes it more likely for others to walk, or just leave.
A style of play characterized by a readiness to fold and a reluctance to raise. Weak is also used to generally describe a poor player or a table that’s easy to beat.
See bicycle wheel.
White is the most common color for $1 chips. See also red, black, and green.
A card that can serve as any other card in making your hand. For example, if tens are wild, and you have four aces and a ten, then your hand is five aces. Obviously wild cards make for some odd games. See also bug and serious poker.
A pair in the hole in seven card stud is a wired pair.