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Introductory Poker-ese

One of the most entertaining aspects of playing poker is its special jargon. Poker is full of funny terms for the various elements, actions or situations involved in the game. For a beginning poker player, this can be challenging, and mastering the lingo in one of the steps to mastering the game. The purpose of this article is to explain some of the key terms in poker (especially no-limit Texas Hold ‘Em known as the “Cadillac of poker”) which you have probably heard on TV or at your games.

At this point, most players are familiar with the basic rounds of Hold ‘Em: the flop, turn and river. The flop refers to the three cards turned face-up simultaneously in the center of the table after the initial round of betting. These cards are common to all hands. The flop is followed by a betting round and then comes the turn card (also known as “fourth street”), the fourth community card turned face up on the table. Finally, the river card (also known as "fifth street") is the fifth and last card turned up in the center of the table, also common to all hands. The river is followed by a final betting round.

In no-limit Texas Hold ‘Em, one of the most exciting terms is when a player goes all-in, meaning he or she bets or raises all of the chips they have in front of them. You have probably seen and heard Mike Sexton, the “ambassador of poker” exclaim “He’s all-in!” while commentating for the World Poker Tour on television. Going all-in can be an intimidating move if you’ve got more chips than the remaining opponents in the hand, and if you’re playing in a tournament on-line at PokerStars or Full Tilt or one of the other online poker rooms, it could mean that your tournament stake is at life. In that case, your all-in is known as a covered bet since you will be eliminated if you lose the hand, but your opponent will not. If more than two players are involved in the pot, a side pot will include those chips than cannot be covered by the smallest stack. In a few cases, there may be multiple side pots.

When two players are involved in a pot and one is all-in, there can be no more betting so both players reveal their hole cards (i.e., the two cards dealt to each player face-down at the beginning of the hand which no other player can see ). In some cases, two hands share a common hole card, in which case the player with the lower other card is said to be dominated. For example, when two players hold ace-king and ace-queen, the player with the queen is dominated, since he needs to catch a queen to win the pot.

It’s also important to be aware of the antes and the blinds. The small blind is the required bet made by the player to the left of the dealer, while the big blind is the required bet made by the player to the left of the small blind, to generate initially action in the pot. The big blind is the minimum bet amount for subsequent betting while the small blind is half of the big blind. Since these players have to place these bets, they actually bet last (after the dealer) in the first round of betting. The player who sits to the left of the big blind has to act first in the first round of betting and is thus known as “under the gun” while the player sitting to the right of the button (i.e., the dealer) sits in what is known as the “cut-off seat”.

An ante is the amount of money all players are required to place in the pot at the beginning of a hand. In a typical tournament, players don't ante up until five or six betting rounds have passed, so you’ll notice as you survive to later rounds of the on-line tournaments at Titan or Everest, that you are required to pay an ante each round. This speeds up the action in the tournament.
Another interesting term comes from these required bets, known as getting “blinded away”.  If a player, especially if he’s got the short stack (i.e., the fewest amount of chips at the table), doesn't play many pots, he may eventually lose all his chips through the antes and the blinds.  Doyle Brunson, one of poker’s living legends, admonishes in his book Doyle Brunson’s Super System that players who sit and wait for strong starting hands “will go like Broomcorn's uncle”. That’s a funny way for Doyle to warn that players who play a very tight and defensive style of poker will get anted and blinded away.

Starting hands have their own terms, too! For example the 10-2 is named after Doyle Brunson since he won the World Series of Poker two years in a row with those same exact hole cards. A 9-5 is known as “Dolly Parton”, a J-5 is known as “Jackson Fives”, while receiving a pair is known as having a pocket pair or wired pair. Having a pocket pair can be very deceptive to your opponents – especially if you flop a set (i.e., three of a kind). The term suited connector refers to two cards of the same suit in sequence such a 6-7 of clubs or 10-J of hearts. These hands are known as good drawing hands because they can complete a flush or a straight.  When drawing, it is critical to be aware of your outs, meaning how many cards remain in the deck which will give you a winning hand if it arrives. And always be careful when drawing to straights or flushes, unless you can be sure that you’ve got the nuts! This popular term refers to the best possible hand, such as an Ace-high flush (when there can be no full house or straight flush).

Of course, there are many other colorful terms associated with poker and this article is just meant to introduce you to some of the basics, so that whether you play at Absolute Poker, Bodog Poker or Ultimate Bet, you’ll be well-versed in some of poker’s vibrant terminology.

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