Wiesenberg: MCU Dictionary of Poker | Introduction

Foreword | Introduction



Introduction to the 2010 Edition

Of Pocket Rockets and Belly-Busters

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“I finally get pocket rockets and it’s capped before the flop. The flop comes ace-four-nine rainbow, so I’ve got a set, and I come out swinging. I’m not very worried when an eight hits on the turn, so I’m still betting and this one tourist is calling me all the way. A five comes on the river. I bet and the tourist pops it. I have to call now, since I’m potstuck. The tourist shows me Union Oil offsuit. The only thing he had going was a belly-buster. This really put me on tilt.”

What’s going on here? What strange language is this person speaking? Welcome to the wonderful world of poker, a demimonde with its own argot. Until now, there has been no definitive dictionary devoted exclusively to the terminology of poker.

Completely New Edition

This is a completely new and updated edition of The Official Dictionary of Poker; it includes thousands of new terms and definitions. I examined every definition; I corrected and revised most. I added new examples of words in use, updating them to current usage, and expanded many definitions. This is truly the most complete dictionary of poker terms ever compiled. It is the only one that provides definitions in true dictionary format, including parts of speech and correct grammatical definitions and examples of terms. (Some of the quotations are deliberately ungrammatical; they faithfully reflect the language actually heard in real cardrooms.)

The dictionary includes many hand names, but it does not include all that you will find, particularly on the Internet. I did not include player X’s — insert the name of any well-known (or not so well-known) player — favorite hand. You’ll find hundreds of these in so-called online poker glossaries. You may think that such usage is widespread, because you’ll find them on scores of websites. But when you look closely, you find that the wording in the definitions is identical. This is because many of these sites shamelessly copy from each other. I included hand names that I myself have heard in use in cardrooms, that are well-known to players, and are seen commonly in print. For example, Doyle Brunson (in hold’em, 10-2 as starting cards) belongs, because most poker players know that this living legend twice won the World Series of Poker main event (1976 and 1977) with those two hole cards.

Speaking of unsanctioned copying, you may find on other websites duplicates of many of the definitions contained herein. (Having many of the same terms is no problem because these are the language of poker; I didn’t make up the terms.) In fact, on some you’ll find a wholesale lifting of the entire dictionary, without attribution. These copies do not appear with permission and are to be deprecated. Sites get payments (from sponsors who place ads on these sites, mostly linking to online casinos) for numbers of hits and someone doing a web search may inadvertently be lured to them. In trying to pad otherwise vapid material, they steal material from other sites. You’ll see the exact same wording for many definitions on sometimes scores of sites. This is because they copy from each other, again without permission. Apart from two other sites that have licensed earlier (and hopelessly out of date) versions of The Official Dictionary of Poker), no site other than Mike Caro University carries the real thing.

History, Etymology

Speculations on the origins of many of the terms of poker are just that, speculations, because the etymology has been lost in the mistiness of imprecise historicity or lack of note-taking. For example, there weren’t too many historians in the Old West.

Home Games

This dictionary defines many of the crazy poker variations played in home games, but it cannot list all of them. Anaconda, Cincinnati, Texas Tech, and three-toed Pete are played all over the country, and warrant inclusion here. In somebody’s home in Dubuque, Iowa, the boys are playing Kick the Kitty at their Friday night game, or in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, the girls are playing Octopus. I’m afraid you won’t find them here. (In Octopus, a high-low split game, every player gets eight downcards, dealt one a time, with a betting round after each. At this point, any player can trade any five—and it must be five—of her cards with any other player, provided that player is willing, after each player wishing to make a trade adds $5 to the pot. Eight community cards are dealt face down in the center of the table, arranged in two columns of four cards each, and then turned up one a time, again with a betting round after each. You form a hand using the best five from your eight plus any two in the same row or two from opposite corners. When the entire widow has been exposed, players make a chip declaration of which way they’re going, followed by a final bet after the declare, and the showdown. In Octopus, the winning low hand is often, but not always, a six or better and the high hand four of a kind or better.)

Poker-Like Games

Many cardrooms have a “California games” section, in which games that bear some resemblance to poker are played. The main similarity to poker of these games is the ranking of the hands; however these games are more like casino games, because players place bets before seeing their cards, and generally have no opportunities for betting on the strengths of hands after they have seen the hands. Also, one of the most important elements of poker, the bluff, is entirely absent in these games. Some of these games, like pai gow poker and 13-card, are defined briefly, but not in great detail. Others, like Super Pan 9, while they are often played in the same room as poker, have so little resemblance to poker that they are not cited at all.

Casinos offer games that have poker in their names but that resemble poker mainly only in hand rankings. These include games like Big Raise Hold’em, Caribbean Stud, and Traktor Poker. They are described, often in detail, for completeness.


Quotations embedded within definitionsshow the terms in use in cardrooms. They are what you hear actual card players say. For example:

salty. (adv) Having poor luck; on a losing streak. “How ya doin’?” “Been running salty lately; can’t seem to make a hand when it counts.”

If the definition alone doesn’t present quite enough to show usage, the quotation provides typical usage.

A term in quotes is a saying heard in cardrooms that warrants definition. Such a term is usually reworded in “common English,” or explained. For example:

“Send it.” (v phrase) “Push the pot, losers.” Said by an ungracious winner after showing down the best hand, usually in a big pot.

The term “Send it” is what you may hear in a cardroom. “Push the pot, losers” is the translation, while the rest of the definition provides more explanation.


A ace
adj adjective
adj phrase adjectival phrase
adv adverb
adv phrase adverbial phrase
J jack
K king
lit literally
n noun
n phrase noun phrase
o offsuit
pl plural
Q queen
s suited
T ten
v verb
v phrase verb phrase
vi verb intransitive
vt verb transitive
x any unspecified card


For terms that begin with a number, look up entries alphabetically as if the number were spelled out. For example, terms that begin with the number 3 are not at the beginning of the T’s; look, rather, under entries alphabetically beginning thr or thi. The entry 3-5-7 poker is found between three fates and three-flush; the entry 13-card is found after third-street.

For terms that begin with a punctuation mark, look for the first actual letter. For example, -outer appears after outdraw.

Font Conventions

An underlined link indicates a cross-reference that you should look at for more information about a term.

Words in italics have three interpretations:

  1. In a definition, a term that has an entry elsewhere sometimes appears in italics; if that is the case, no further information is to be found at the other entry than is already in the entry you’re looking at. For example:

    Cincinnati. (n) A form of poker found only in home games, a widow game in which each player receives five cards face down, as does a central area of the table, followed by a round of betting, and then the dealer turns up each central card, one at a time, each followed by another round of betting. At the showdown, each player uses the best five cards among his five and those of the widow. The game is often played high-low split. Also called Utah, Lamebrains, or California. Southern Cross is a variant of Cincinnati.

    You’ll learn more than appears in the definition for “Cincinnati” by also looking under “widow game” and “Southern Cross,” but you won’t learn anything new by turning to the definition for “Utah, “Lamebrains,” or “California,” because each merely politely refers you back to “Cincinnati.” Sometimes italics sets off a word that is used with the term.

  2. Sometimes italics shows the defined term in use.
  3. The following definition shows both 2 and 3:

    throw off. (v phrase) 1. Gamble away; sometimes followed by something. If someone asks you to throw off something, he wants you to gamble it up, that is, play looser. 2. discard (definition 1)

    In this definition, “something” is a word that can follow the term “throw off”; “throw off something” is an example of the term’s cardroom usage.

Boldface is for terms and definition numbers.

Gender Neutrality

In an attempt not to be sexist in this dictionary, I have interspersed instances of masculine gender with feminine. Even though it is conventional and grammatically correct to use “he” when what is really meant is “he or she,” the latter is awkward. “S/he” is worse, and “they” and “their” when the subject is singular are patently wrong. Mike Caro thinks my proclivity is too much a manifestation of political correctness. While I think that leaning too far in that direction — remember when “janitoress” and “chairwoman” were in vogue, and later “fireperson”? — is going overboard, I have attempted to be even-handed. (I also want readers to know that I am aware that a large number of poker players are of the female persuasion.)

The Wizard of Odds

Thanks to Michael Shackleford, “The Wizard of Odds,” for input on some of the definitions of nonpoker games. Go to his site, http://wizardofodds.com/, for good strategies on how best to play many casino games and mathematical analyses of the house edge.

♦ ♦ ♦ Michael Wiesenberg ♦ ♦ ♦

— Calgary, Alberta —

Foreword | Introduction



Entire dictionary copyright (©) 2010, Michael Wiesenberg. Online publication rights owned by Mike Caro / MCU. No part of this dictionary may be republished without written permission.


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