The Vernacular of Poker Part One


Arguably more so than any other particular activity, the game of poker has a vernacular that is uniquely its own. Through the usage of colorful terms and expressions, players have been able to express their thoughts in a manner that is singular to the game. Over the span of the next few articles, we’ll look at some of these terms, but with a warning…most players won’t use them because they’ll look like a “newbie”!

Advertising – There are a couple of ways to look at this term. When a player wants to give an impression as to their playing style, they may make obvious bets or bluffs that, in the future, an opponent will use that false impression of the user’s style of play. The second is when a player will flash a card either during or after a hand to give the impression that they have (or had) the hand sewn up.

Angle/Angle Shooting – This term is used when someone makes a technically legal but unethical play on the table. Such moves as looking like you’re going to push a bet out (to gauge a reaction from an opponent), misrepresenting your hand (but not tabling it) to get an opponent to fold or not laying out a bet in a clearly countable manner (if you have the chips in your stack misarranged, it is known as “barber poling”) are some of the methods of angle shooting that can be done.

Backdoor – Get your mind out of the gutter! When someone nails a backdoor draw, all it means is that a player had to hit two perfect cards over the final two rounds (the turn and the river) to make their hand. This is often seen when a player makes a straight or flush by the river in Texas or Omaha Hold’em, but it can also be done with a full house and can also be seen in other forms of the game.

Backraise – This term is one that comes as a particular surprise when you’re at the tables. A backraise is when a player that has previously called a hand fires out with a reraise during the same round of betting. For example, say a player has simply called in front of you and you push out a raise. When the action comes back to the caller, he/she suddenly pops up and makes a reraise over your bet. Congratulations, you’ve just been “backraised.”

Bad beat – This term can be used incorrectly by many on the tables. In essence, a bad beat occurs when a normally dominant hand is beaten by a lesser offering. No better example came than during one of the Epic Poker League events, when Joe Tehan used a 4-2 off suit to knock Faraz Jaka’s pocket Aces and Vanessa Rousso’s pocket Queens out of the tournament.

A bad beat can also occur when someone hits a miracle card on the river. A bigger pair against a smaller pair is a 81%-19% favorite pre-flop; if the lower pair doesn’t hit by the river, the odds go to 95%-5%, as the smaller pair is normally only looking at two outs to win. If that smaller pair hits, THAT’S a bad beat.

A “bad beat” DOES NOT occur when you get your chips in with A-K against a middling pocket pair such as sevens or sixes. This is what is called a “race” and, with the breakdown in such a hand normally around 53%-47% (with the Big Slick taking on the 47%), those big cards are going down.

Bottom dealing – A particularly nasty way of playing poker, it is when the dealer will deal cards from somewhere other than the top of the deck (normally coming off the bottom). Players who are able to do this are called “mechanics” and it is NOT an acceptable form of behavior on the poker tables.

Bottom end – This term comes into play when there are straight draws on the board. If, for example, there is a 6-7-8 on the board, a player holding a 5-4 would be said to have the “bottom end” of the straight. Because it isn’t the nuts and the potential exists for someone to have a 9-5 or a 10-9 (which would be the “top end” of the straight”, it is also called the “idiot end.”

Bridge order – A term that you’ll normally only hear in a Seven Card game, “bridge order” comes into play when players have to determine who brings in the bet for a hand. If two players have a deuce showing (the low card to bring in), the player who brings in the bet is determined by the order of strength of suits in the game of bridge:  spades, hearts, diamonds, and clubs. If, in our example above, one player has the deuce of hearts and the other has the deuce of diamonds, then the deuce of diamonds brings in the opening bet.

Broadway – This term is used in coordination with the best straight possible in poker, A-K-Q-J-10. The reason that the term became popular is because the hand represents “the best” (it is not often it is beat) and the street in New York City is supposed to represent the best that the acting world has to offer.

Wow, we’re not even through two letters of the alphabet! There are several more colorful terms we’ll get to, but what are some of your favorites? Either comment below or head over to the forum and perhaps we’ll get your selection of the vernacular of poker into future articles!

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Earl Burton
Earl Burton is a veteran journalist in the poker industry, having covered the game since 2004. He has played the game much longer, however, starting out playing in family games at a very early age. He has covered tournaments across the United States, including the World Poker Tour, the World Series of Poker and various charitable events. Earl’s background includes writing for some of the top poker news sites in the industry as well as other poker media outlets that include Poker Player Newspaper and Canadian Poker Player Magazine. Earl keeps an unblinking eye on the poker world, offering coverage of news from the industry, tournament action, player interviews, strategy and his opinions on the game. Whenever possible, Earl will also step to the tables to demonstrate that there’s more than just writing talent behind his poker game!



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