The Vernacular of Poker, Part Two


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”!

In Part One, we barely had gotten into the B’s before we had to take a break. Let’s pick it up there and see where the language of poker takes us!

Buck – Basically, all this means is the dealer (can also be called the “button”), but it is one of the terms in poker which has been picked up by the English language and is in common usage. If someone “passes the buck” it means that they are passing on the responsibility to someone else. Former U. S. president Harry Truman (a passionate poker player) had a nameplate on his desk which read “The Buck Stops Here,” indicating that responsibility ended with him.

Buy Short – When a player doesn’t buy into a cash game for the full amount allowed it is said that they are “buying short.” Normally this isn’t allowed in a casino setting, but the rules can be bent if a player has just busted out (lost all the money they previously had on the table) or the other players at the table agree to it. “Buying short” is usually not a good idea as you don’t have enough ammunition to battle against the larger stacks at the table.

Buy The Button – This was a creation from the card rooms in California regarding procedure on the table. If a new player came in with the button on his right, he normally has to wait for the blinds to come around to him before he can get in the game. “Buying the button,” however, allows that player to immediately get in the game by paying both blinds ($3, for example, if the blinds are $1/$2) and taking cards.

In another instance, the term can be used for a late position player making a bet that drives out the player who has the dealer button, thus “buying the button.”

Calling Station – Normally a player you like to see on your patch of felt, a “calling station” will normally call bets or raises but rarely will throw out a bet or raise on their own. If playing a “calling station,” you normally will know your status in the hand from the player’s actions; if the “calling station” suddenly wakes up and starts betting aggressively, you can figure that they have made a big hand while “chasing you down” (see next entry).

Chase – Simply put, this is what you do when, despite the evidence that your hand is beaten at a certain point in a hand, you continue to stay in the pot to potentially make a better hand (on the turn or river in Hold’em, usually). When you “chase someone down,” you make your hand on one of those streets and beat an opponent’s holdings that were leading for most of the hand’s play.

Chip Declare – A unique situation that is used in Hi/Lo games on occasion. In such a situation, you put none, one or two chips in your hand simultaneously with other players still in the hand. In the “chip declare,” no chips means you’re playing for the low, one chip means you’re playing for only the high and two chips means you’re going for the scoop (both high and low). To win, you have to take whatever your declaration is; for example, if you put two chips in your hand but only win either the high or the low, you don’t have any claim to the pot and those chips would go to either the player who was second best or – if there’s only one player – that player takes all of the chips.

Click Raise – When a player makes a minimum bet on the felt, it is often called a “click raise” (you may have seen this term in reports on tournaments). It is called a “click raise” because of online poker, which makes the option available (on most software setups) to just click one button to make a minimum bet or raise rather than having to type in the exact amount.

Coffee Housing – When a player attempts to mask the strength of their hand by talking as if it isn’t good, this is known as “coffee housing.” For example, if a player holding pocket Aces pre-flop says, “Oh, let’s gamble it up,” in an attempt to draw others into the hand, he is “coffee housing.” In the United States, it is deemed acceptable to do this, but much of the international poker community frowns on such actions.

Cold Deck – There are two potential definitions here. First, a deck that has been previously arranged so that a player cannot win (usually, the player thinks their hand is tremendously strong, but someone has something to beat it – such as a player holding four of a kind while someone else has a straight flush) is called a “cold deck.” The term has also been used to indicate that a player couldn’t get dealt strong enough hands to be able to play, usually in a tournament setting.

This only brings us up to the middle of the C’s and there are several more terms that have become common in poker that give it the color and panache we all have come to enjoy. Come back next time when we take a tour further down the alphabet in the vernacular of poker!

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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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