Welcome to Dan's Poker Dictionary, a lexicographic exploration of the most popular card game on earth (i.e., a big page full of poker words).
As every poker player knows - especially anyone who's tried to tell a poker story to a non-player - the language of poker is a language all its own. It's a rich, seductive, and often confusing shorthand for the complex concepts of a complex game. Learning the language isn't always easy, but it is required if you want to understand the contents of poker magazines and books, messages in poker-related internet newsgroups, table talk in cardrooms, and poker stories. Thus this dictionary.
I originally wrote this dictionary in 1995-1996, and an edited version of it became the glossary for my book, Serious Poker, which first came out in November 2000. The second edition was published by ConJelCo in March 2002. If you'd like to see an earlier version of it, a few snapshots are available on archive.org. If you happen to know of an archive that might have the original 1996 release, please let me know.
Please note that the text of this poker dictionary is original and copyrighted, and that the copyright has been registered in the United States. You are welcome to print out a copy for your own personal use, and/or to make unmodified copies for non-commercial purposes. If you'd like to license it for commercial or some other use, email me and ask.
Why is this a dictionary and not a glossary? I'd be happy to call it either one, but I consider a glossary a reference for the terms used in a larger work, and a dictionary as a work meant to stand on its own (i.e., as a general reference). So I decided to call this a dictionary, although when my book came out it became a glossary as well. One thing it doesn't include that dictionaries often do is pronunciation information. Although some other poker terminology references do, I don't think there's any purpose to it. Virtually none of the words in a poker dictionary are peculiar to poker. They're just regular English words that have poker-specific meanings.
FYI, there are at least four other good references for poker terminology online:
My goal in writing this dictionary was to be helpful, not necessarily comprehensive. Although it would be nice to have an entry for every word ever used in connection with poker, I've left the thankless task of writing an exhaustive reference to others. Instead, I've tried to avoid including terms that aren't generally in use, even though you might run into them somewhere (for some reason I included pushka, just because I like the word). I like to think that my dictionary has a few advantages you won't find anywhere else. Although it's no longer the only hyperlinked poker dictionary on the web, or the largest, I think it has an informal tone that will be more helpful to players learning the game. Some of the entries are a little more detailed than you'd expect from an actual dictionary (e.g., variance). I've made an effort not to leave anything out that anyone new to poker might wonder about, however basic (call, pot, and it are all in there). Lastly, many of the definitions have examples of usage, a feature I think is helpful, but which is unfortunately omitted from most such references.
Overall, I've made an effort to get things right, and I think I've done that (although I'm always making improvements). However, if you do find particular points of ignorance, naivete, confusion, incompleteness, or datedness, please bring them to my attention. Similarly, if you would like to suggest any additions or other changes, offer feedback or contributions, or comment on my html or writing style, just send me email. Thanks for listening, and enjoy the dictionary!Back to the Poker Dictionary
Who am I to write a poker dictionary?
I took up serious poker in 1994 at the suggestion of a friend. My poker knowledge comes from the newsgroup rec.gambling and now rec.gambling.poker, from a year of hanging out on IRC poker constantly, from a few thousand hours of live play between 2-4 and 15-30 (mostly at the Taj Mahal and in the now-defunct Maryland "firehouse" games, lately also online), from around fifty poker-related books, and from many issues of Card Player magazine (and several other short-lived poker magazines). I'm not a world class player or poker scholar, and I can't lend any unique historical insight into the language of poker. But I can answer the many questions that I've had answered for me since I took up the game.
In the process of compiling my online poker dictionary, I noticed that the poker literature lacked a comprehensive introduction to serious poker. So I wrote one. The result, Serious Poker, is now in its second edition and is published by ConJelCo.
Beginning in December of 2001, Barry Shulman invited me to start contributing a column to Card Player Magazine. The column, entitled "Thinking About Poker," is archived both on the Card Player web site and linked from here.
I have had one notable poker-related accomplishment (aside from publishing my book). In December 2000, I entered the $500 buy-in no-limit hold'em event at the US Poker Championships, and made the final table (just barely). It's by far the biggest tournament I've ever entered, and I had a blast. See this page for details. Although I know intellectually that a single good result in tournament poker is nearly meaningless, and I also know that some weak play kept me from having a realistic shot at the top few spots, I felt like I played well and did a lot better than I had any right to expect.
In case you're interested, what I really do for a living is toil away in a field called cognitive neuroscience. In the abstract, this means I'm a research scientist interested in what the brain does and how it does it, at a fairly high level (that is, I'm a psychologist, not a physicist). More concretely, this means I spend my time designing and carrying out studies of cognitive and brain functions, using a variety of interesting research methods (including testing both normal and brain-injured human subjects, computer simulation of brain function, drug studies with neuropharmacological agents, and most currently, functional brain imaging techniques such as BOLD fMRI). Of course, I really spend my time mindlessly going about this while daydreaming about hitting that perfect card on the end to win the main event at the WSOP. Don't tell anyone.
The information that's gone into this dictionary comes mostly from my own experience and exposure to poker language (see about the author). Starting with a few obvious entries, I just added everything that came to mind or that came up in the context of another definition. A few people have been kind enough to mail me omissions or corrections, for which I'm grateful (Harry Baldwin in particular has sent in a number of patches). I continue to add new entries when I come across a gap it would be helpful to fill, although sometimes I go months or longer between updates.
When necessary I've double-checked with published sources (including at least a half dozen published and unpublished glossaries) to make sure I got things right (or at least wrote something I can defend). I've also occasionally checked with some of the more trustworthy rec.gambling.poker folks and my poker-playing friends to get a consensus on some subtleties (the consensus has been that a good consensus is hard to come by). I've tried to find a happy medium in those cases where popular and the (arguably) more correct usage conflict, or where there's been a shift in usage.
With a few minor exceptions I haven't included any terms I've never heard or seen in use myself, which may have resulted in some minor idiosyncrasies, but which I felt was necessary in order maintain some measure of integrity. At this point, I've heard just about everything that's in common use anyway. Note that some of these terms are not especially poker-specific, but I put them in out of the goodness of my heart (and also because they just come up more often in poker than in everyday English). All of the text is entirely my own, and to the best of my knowledge none of the terms are themselves copyrighted or trademarked or whatever you do with terms.
If you're still reading, that probably means you'd like to see a list of on-line dictionaries, glossaries, and indices to the same. Alas, although I used to maintain such a list, I don't anymore, because there are hundreds (probably thousands) of them, and the links break constantly. So you will have to take my word for the fact that this dictionary does not live in isolation, but is part of a proud new tradition of esoteric on-line lexicography, made possible by the ease of publishing on the internet. If you'd like to get a sense of what kinds of dictionaries are out there, take a look at OneLook.com, a site that indexes over 700 of them.