Why is “hold ’em” spelled different ways? (FAQ)

Answer: You’ll find many different spellings of “hold ’em” in publications and online. Even though you’ll see it spelled differently in various Poker1 content, Mike Caro strongly believes it should be “hold ’em,” with a space after “hold” and an apostrophe before “em.”

There’s a logical reason for this. The name almost certainly began as a contracted form of “hold them.” So the space should be maintained, and the apostrophe represents the missing letters “th.” The reason you’ll sometimes notice it spelled differently, even on our site, is that many manuscripts were prepared for publishers with their own style guidelines. Today, you’ll see hold ’em, hold’em, hold-em, holdem, and perhaps other forms.


Caro says that in Doyle Brunson’s original Super/System — A Course in Power Poker, which he helped create in 1977, “we decided that hold ’em was most appropriate, and I’ve never changed my opinion.” Probably the most incorrect form is “hold ‘em,” with the “apostrophe” going the wrong direction and becoming a opening single quotation mark. This is usually because some word processing software makes that mistake by default.

While Caro admits that he’s not very vigilant about policing other typographical or grammatical issues, he’s quite passionate in believing that the name of the most-popular form of poker should be “hold ’em.” Even so, exceptions sometimes are used deliberately at Poker1. In the MCU/Wiesenberg Official Dictionary of Poker, Michael Wiesenberg accepts “hold’em” without a space. He believes that the term is so widely used that way today that it has become the norm.

And you could argue that hold’em (without the space) is logical, because it forms a valid contraction that incorporates the space into the apostrophe. Some contractions do that. But Caro believes that maintaining the space is better, because it makes clear that the original is two words.

Bottom of list

You’ll often see hold ’em spelled “wrong,” even here at Poker1.com. Unfortunately, correcting these nonconforming instances is toward the bottom of our priority list.

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Known as the “Mad Genius of Poker,” Mike Caro is generally regarded as today's foremost authority on poker strategy, psychology, and statistics. He is the founder of Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy (MCU). See full bio → HERE.


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