Introduction:

Playing poker is becoming a very popular sport/game. In the past you could only play in either a casino or with friends, but now it is possible to play it 24 hours a day from your home on the internet. Although poker is a simple game, it has a terminology and rules which are used that can make it a little confusing (especially if the poker game is in English and you are a non-native speaker).

In this first part of two online exercises on 'poker vocabulary', we will look at and explain some of the basic/essential English vocabulary used in poker. In this exercise, we will not focus on the vocabulary that is used to play an actual game of poker (which is covered in the online exercise 'English vocabulary for poker exercise part 2') but on the terminology connected to poker in general. Although in this exercise we focus on the most commonly played type of poker 'Texas Hold'em' (where the players each hold/have 2 cards and 5 cards are laid/put down in the middle of the table for all the players to see), these terms can also be used for other types of poker as well.

Click here to see our other exercises on Poker & Card Games Vocabulary.


Exercise: Playing poker

In the following conversation between two work colleagues (Peter and Juan), Peter is explaining to Juan some things that he needs to know to play poker in English.

From the context, try to guess what the meaning of the words/phrases in bold are. Then do the quiz at the end to check if you are right.

Peter:'So, are you coming to the casino tonight to play Texas Hold'em poker?'

Juan:'I suppose so. But I think I'll just watch you guys play. I have gambled before in casinos, but I've only gambled my money in games of roulette and blackjack. I have no idea how to play poker.'

Peter:'It's not difficult to play. I'm sure you've seen people play it in films.'

Juan:'I understand the game, each player bets or gambles their own money in the game. The last player left or the player with the best cards wins all the money that all the players have gambled/spent on the game. But I have no ideas about what to say or what to do when I'm playing.'

Peter:'I'll explain it to you. You play poker to win the pot. The pot is the name for all money that the players bet or gamble during one game of poker. In poker, when a player gambles their money, they say the player puts in money or puts money into the pot.

The size of the pot increases during a game as players gamble/put in more money. The person who wins the pot is the person who is still playing in the game at the end and has the best cards, which is called the best hand.'

Juan:'I understand if your hand is four kings, it is better than if somebody else's hand is three 10s. But how many cards will I get to play with? 5 or 7?'

Peter:'In Texas Hold'em, they deal or give to each player two cards. These cards are dealt face down to each player, so none of the other players can see what type or number the cards are. These are called a player's hole cards.

Then during the poker game another 5 cards are dealt, but this time in the middle of the poker table and this time they are dealt face up, so all the players can see what type or number they are.'

Juan:'Who deals the cards? Is it another player?'

Peter:'When you're playing at home, yes. But in a casino, the person who deals the cards is called the dealer. He or she works for the casino and normally doesn't play poker in the game.'

Juan:'Ok. So how do you start to play?'

Peter:'Well, before you can play poker in a casino you have to convert your money into chips. These are small plastic circles/discs of different colours. Each colour represents a different amount of money (For example, a red chip represents $5).

When you have converted your money into chips, you go to a poker table where there is a seat available and wait under the current game finishes. You can also buy chips at the poker tables.'

Juan:'Is that it to join a game?'

Peter:'No. In a lot of large casinos, you can't just go to a poker table and sit down and start playing. In these casinos there is a waiting list to join the poker tables. You have to put your name down on this waiting list and wait until all the people in front of you on the list have joined a game. When it's your turn, they will call your name and tell you which poker table you're playing at.'

Juan:'Ok, that makes sense.'

Peter:'Also, to join most poker games you need to have a minimum amount of chips with you to join the game. This can be anything from $40 to $10,000 or more, it depends on the poker game. This is called a buy-in. Often a poker game on a poker table will have a buy-in of $40 to $100 to join.'

Juan:'Do you have any advice on choosing which poker table to join?'

Peter:'Because you are new to playing you should look to see what the minimum amount of money that a player can put into to the pot during a game is. This is called the minimum bet. This can be anything from $2 to over a $100. You should look for a poker table with a very low minimum bet, so you don't lose too much money when you're playing.'



Quiz: English vocabulary for poker part 1

Below is a definition/description of each of the words/phrases in bold from the above text. Now choose the word/phrase from the question's selection box which you believe answers each question. Only use one word/phrase once. Click on the "Check Answers" button at the bottom of the quiz to check your answers.

When the answer is correct, two icons will appear next to the question. The first is an Additional Information Icon "". Click on this for extra information on the word/phrase and for a translation. The second is a Pronunciation Icon "". Click on this to listen to the pronunciation of the word/phrase and to do a pronunciation speaking test.

1. A verb which means to 'give' players cards in a card game, is
         

Deal:
(verb) The infinitive is 'to deal'. This verb has many different meanings, but in the context of playing card games, it means to 'give' players cards in cards games. For example, 'whose turn is it to deal now?'. The name of the person who 'deals' the cards to all the players in a card game is called the 'dealer' or 'croupier'.

In Spanish: "dar/repartir".

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Deal:

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2. A verb that means to 'spend'/'bet' money on any type of casino game (e.g. poker, roulette etc...), is
         

Gambles:
(verb) The infinitive is 'to gamble'. This means to spend money in games of chance (e.g. poker, roulette etc...) or trying to guess the result of activities/sports (e.g. horse racing) where there is a possibility/chance that you will win more money. But there is also a high probability/risk that you will lose the money that you have spent or 'gambled'. In poker in casinos, you have to 'gamble' your money to play.

A verb with the same meaning is 'to bet'. But whereas 'gamble' is normally used to talk about spending money in games of chance in general (e.g. 'he gambles a lot in casinos, mainly in poker'), 'to bet' is normally used to talk about spending money on a specific game/occasion (e.g. 'he bet $450 in the last game of poker' or 'I want to bet €20 on Leeds United to win against Manchester United').

The noun of 'gamble' is 'gambling' and means the activity of spending money on these types of things, e.g. 'she likes gambling'.

In Spanish: "jugar/apostar".

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Gambles:

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3. When in a casino, you give your name to somebody to add it to a waiting list, so you can join a poker game, is
         

Put your name down:
(phrase) This phrase is used in this context to mean when your name is put on a waiting list to play poker. In most casinos, to play poker you can't just go to a poker table and start playing. You have to go first to an employee of the casino (called the 'board attendant') and tell him or her what type of poker you want to play (type and how much the minimum and/or maximum bets are). If there is a seat/space available at a poker table, the board attendant will send you to that table. If there isn't, you will have to wait until a seat is available.

You have to 'put your name down' on the waiting list, which means give the board assistant your name (although normally you just give your initials (e.g. the initials for Simon Parker are SP)) and tell them what type of poker you want to play, e.g. 'can I put my name down for Texas Hold'em' 'yes' 'it's Simon Parker'. Your name/initials will then be put on a big white or electronic board and you will have to wait and watch the board. When a seat is available, the board attendant will call you and tell you which poker table to go to.

In Spanish: "poner/inscribir/apuntar un nombre en una lista".

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Put your name down:

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        id="speech" type="text" x-webkit-speech speech error onwebkitspeechchange="checkIfCorrect(this.value, 'put your name down', 'audio_answer3');" />  

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4. The small plastic circles/discs that are used in casinos instead of money, are called
         

Chips:
(noun) Are also called 'tokens', but this name is less common. In most casinos you can't play any games (e.g. poker, blackjack, roulette etc...) with normal money (notes and coins). Instead, you have to convert your money into small plastic discs/circles before playing and use these to bet/gamble with. These are called 'chips' and on each it says what the value is (e.g. $1) and the name of the casino. Different coloured 'chips' have different values.

In most casinos, white chips have a value of $1, red chips have a value of $5, blue chips have a value of $10 etc... Normally, you can only use the 'chips' of one casino in that casino.

When you convert the 'chips' back into money, it is called 'to cash in', e.g. 'I'd like to cash in my chips, please'.

In Spanish: "fichas".

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Chips:

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5. The name for the total amount of chips/money that all the players gamble/bet in one game of poker, is called the
         

Pot:
(noun) The 'pot' is the money that all the players in a game of poker are trying to win. In theory, the 'pot' is the name for the place in the middle of a poker table where all the money/chips that the player gamble in a game goes. But, people also use 'pot' in poker with the meaning of 'the total amount of money/chips which is gambled/bet by the players during one game', e.g. 'what's the pot now?' '$643'. In a game of poker, if players want to continue to be in the game they normally have to continue to 'put more money/chips into the 'pot' (which means to gamble/bet more of their own money/chips).

'pot' is also used with the same meaning in the card game called 'baccarat'.

In Spanish: "pozo/bote".

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Pot:

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6. The smallest/lowest amount of money that a player can gamble/spend in a game of poker, is called the
         

Minimum bet:
(noun) In most poker games they have a rule about what is the lowest/minimum amount of money which can be gambled or bet by each player during one round of poker (a round is each time a new card or cards are dealt and there are normally 3 or 4 rounds in one game of poker). This is called the 'minimum bet'.

The 'minimum bet' in a poker game can be from $2 to $1,000 or even more. It is common in poker games in casinos for the 'minimum bet' to increase in the last two rounds of a game of poker. Normally, in casinos they tell the players before they start playing what the 'minimum bet(s)' are. For example, if you see $4/$8 written next to the name of a poker table, it means the 'minimum bet' for the first two rounds is $4 and for the last two rounds it is $8.

All types of casino games have a 'minimum bet'.

In Spanish: "apuesta mínima".

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Minimum bet:

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7. A verb that has the same meaning as 'gamble' chips/money, but is only used in poker and some other card game, is
         

Puts in:
(phrasal verb) The infinitive is 'to put in'. In this context it means to 'gamble' money in a poker or some other card game (but is not used in other casino games like roulette). 'to put in' is used to tell people how much money/chips a player has 'gambled'. For example, 'player 2 has put in $235 in the last round'. 'put in' is more commonly used in poker games than 'gamble'. This phrasal verb is normally followed by an amount/quantity of money (e.g. £50, $85 etc...), e.g. 'she just put in €45'.

A phrase which has the same meaning and is only used in poker is 'to put into the pot'. The amount/quantity of money is placed in this phrase between 'put' and 'into'. For example, 'she just put €45 into the pot'.

In Spanish: "poner".

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Puts in:

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        id="speech" type="text" x-webkit-speech speech error onwebkitspeechchange="checkIfCorrect(this.value, 'puts in', 'audio_answer7');" />  

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8. The name of the person who gives/deals the players their cards in a card game, is the
         

Dealer:
(noun) The 'dealer' or 'croupier' is the name of the person responsible for dealing players their cards in all card games (e.g. poker, baccarat, blackjack etc...). The 'dealer' in a poker game is not only responsible for dealing the cards, but also for managing the game (like a football referee) and looking after the 'pot' (the money all the players gamble/bet in a game of poker).

When poker is played between friends and family, the 'dealer' is normally one of the players and normally each player takes turns at being the 'dealer' while still playing poker.

In casinos, the 'dealer' is an employee of the casino and never plays in the game.

In Spanish: "crupier/tallador".

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Dealer:

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9. The cards that a player in a game of poker has to play with, is called their
         

Hand:
(noun) A 'hand' has two different meanings in poker (and in other card games too). The first meaning of 'hand' in poker is the set of cards that a player has to play with in a game of poker. At the end of a game, the player with the best 'hand' or five cards wins the game. For example, if player one's 'hand' is three queens, a 10 and a 5 (called 3 of a kind) and player two's 'hand' is 2 kings, a jack, a 10 and a 7, player one wins because his 'hand' (cards) is better.

The second meaning of 'hand' in poker is one game of poker. It is common to hear people say 'wait until the hand has finished' or 'who won the last hand?'. This can be confusing for non-native speakers of English. The only way to know which meaning of 'hand' is being used is from the context. This will help you to decide whether they mean a 'player's cards' or a 'game'.

In Spanish: "mano/cartas".

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Hand:

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10. When you are given/dealt cards so that nobody else can see what they are, they are dealt
         

Face down:
(adverb) To give/deal playing cards 'face down' means to give a player cards which only he or she can look at (by picking up) and see what type of cards they are. The other players and dealer can only see the back of the cards. In most types of poker, each players will be receive some or all of their hand/cards dealt 'face down'. This adverb is normally used with the verbs 'to deal' or 'to give' e.g. 'the dealer deals each player two cards face down'.

The opposite of 'face down' is 'face up'. 'face up' means to deal/give cards to players where everybody (all the players and dealer) can see what type of cards they are.

In Spanish: "boca abajo".

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Face down:

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11. The minimum total value of chips/money that you need to join/start to play in a poker game, is
         

Buy-in:
(noun) Each poker game (especially in casinos) has a rule/requirement for the minimum total of chips that each player needs to have to enter/join the game (e.g. $100 of chips). This is called the 'buy-in' or 'minimum buy-in'. If you don't have the value of chips of what the 'buy-in' is (e.g. a buy-in for a game could be $300), you can't join/enter the poker game.

Normally in casinos, the dealer or the board attendant (who organises at which poker tables people play at) will tell you what the 'buy-in' is at a poker table/poker game. For example, 'the buy-in at this poker table is $200'.

In Spanish: "compra".

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Buy-in:

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12. When you are given/dealt cards so that every player can see what they are, they are dealt
         

Face up:
(adverb) To give/deal playing cards 'face up' means to deal cards where everybody (all the the players and dealer) can see what type of cards they are. In some types of poker (e.g. Texas Hold'em), some of the cards in a game are dealt 'face up' (in Texas Hold'em, the last five cards that are shared by all the players are always dealt 'face up' and in the middle of the table). This adverb is normally used with the verbs 'to deal' or 'to give' e.g. 'the dealer then deals three cards face up'.

The opposite of 'face up' is 'face down'. 'face down' means to deal/give cards to a player when nobody else (the other players or the dealer) can see what type of cards they are (the other players and the dealer can only see the back of the cards).

In Spanish: "boca arriba".

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Face up:

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Click here to go to the second part of this exercise for poker vocabulary used when playing a game





Practice

Now that you understand the new vocabulary, practise it by creating your own sentences with the new words/phrases.