Origins of Poker Lingo: Who Created Some of Poker’s Best Catchphrases?

Origins of Poker Lingo:

Who Created Some of Poker’s Best Catchphrases? :By Davida Mintz

Poker lingo comes so naturally to players, words like“Donkaments,” roll off our tongues. Here’s a look at where this, and some of poker’s most widely used phrases were born.


Poker players communicate in a language more meaningful than jargon. Poker lingo breaks down language barriers, allowing players worldwide to communicate. The term fish is universal, and donkey means the same thing at poker tables across the globe. Poker isn’t a difficult second language to learn. It’s become so much a part of our culture that it’s second nature. Our vocabulary is constantly expanding, as players find new ways to express the emotions of the game. Anyone living outside the poker world would require a course from Rosetta Stone to keep up.

Poker slang is multifaceted and its origin has sprung from many places. Who was the first player to declare, “Ship it, ”after winning a big pot? Somewhere online, a pokersayingsmystery player who only played bad players decided, “Bum Hunting” was a catchy description of this strategy. The controversial strategy and the name caught on. Although this poker speak is not easy to trace, here are some examples of where some of the lingo is said to originate.

It was 1982, and Jack “Treetop” Straus pushed all his chips in the middle and lost. Straus busted and got up from the table when he noticed a single chip hidden underneath a napkin. Because he hadn’t declared himself all-in, World Series of Poker directors allowed him to continue playing. In an extraordinary turn of events, Straus won the championship, and the catchphrase, “A chip and a chair,” was born.

Origins of Poker Lingo

Pretend you’re at a table, with one empty chair and the floor manager announces, “Unabomber” will join the game. Your average person, not too drunk to move, will run out of the casino, expecting mailbox bomber Ted Kaczynski. Poker players know Phil Laak is on his way, wearing his “Unabomber” hooded sweatshirt and sunglasses. Search for the term “felted” in Urban Dictionary, and you’ll find the name Phil Laak next to it. Wikipedia confirms Laak coined the term “felted”, which means you’ve lost all your chips in a poker game, leaving you with nothing but the felt table top in front of you.

The term “Donkament” traces back to the Two Plus Two forums, where users apparently came up with a word to describe the huge tournaments filled with bad players who only know one move, all-in. The rest of us first learned about “Donkaments” from Barry Greenstein during a 2006 episode of High Stakes Poker. Greenstein looked up from his cards and said “LOL Donkaments,”  then another player burst out laughing, Gabe Kaplan continued his commentary, but his co-announcer was clearly confused about what had just been said. Greenstein went along in exchange for a  $10 thousand donation from Two Plus Two forums.

Pocket Fives Senior Writer Dhubermex takes credit for adding a dozen slang words to the poker language. The most inventive, ”Mouse Tard,” is defined as: Anyone claiming to be able to manipulate the way the cards are dealt, including anyone who had ever bought ripoff programs to see opponents hole cards or players who posted bad beats in the Poker discussion forum.

Finally, the phrase that transformed poker overnight, the “Moneymaker effect.” When Chris Moneymaker won the World Series of Poker 2003, and $2.5 million, a massive wave of new players crashed onto the poker scene. Attendance soared and so did the prize money, with the next year’s champ winning $5 million.

Origins of Poker Lingo

origins of poker lingoThe internet is filled with poker dictionaries. Poker Terms is the most original, with outrageous terms that will challenge even the most seasoned pro. Poker players are very familiar with the term degenerate, and often use it to describe themselves. In Poker Terms, you’ll find the word “Degenerous” defined as: Describes the state of being both degenerate and charitable or generous. A slang word I wasn’t aware of, but should have been “Bee Stinger,” is defined as a vicious stinging loss in a poker hand. The act of being owned in a poker situation, getting sucked out on, or simply losing a poker hand. The dictionary of more than 1000 words is a mix of fundamental terms and popular lingo.

Need a refresher course in poker lingo? The World Series of Poker is the equivalent to a semester abroad for a newbie learning the language. You might hear announcer Lon McEachern say a player is on life support when his large chipstack has dwindled down to shove mode. Count on Norman Chad to for an education in original expressions including, “He’s just a ___with a dream,” and “Squadoosch.”

Origins of Poker Lingo

When a player draws a 10-2, the announcer will call it a Doyle Brunson, and the player will usually muck. Not Brunson. That’s the hand he won the WSOP main event with two years in a row. I’d rather have a Doyle Brunson as a starting hand than a Dolly Parton, named after her ‘80’s comedy, Nine to Five. I Poker Stoved the two and found that pre-flop, 10-2 has 58% equity, against 42% for 9-5. Have you been introduced to Texas Dolly? It’s a nickname Brunson picked up when good friend Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder mixed-up his words, calling Brunson “Texas Dolly,” instead of “Texas Doyle.”

Who will get credit for the next round of terms we poker players are spouting off? Could it be you?

Origins of Poker Lingo: Who Created Some of Poker’s Best Catchphrases?

By Davida Mintz

What is your Poker Lingo 

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