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New Poker Lingo

by Thomas Keller |  Published: May 17, 2005


Poker has been growing at an exponentially fast pace in recent years, and new poker lingo is evolving at a fast rate, as well. Whether you play in brick-and-mortar casinos, online, or even in a weekly home game, I am sure that you have heard some new lingo in your games. I'd like to share my take on some of the newest poker expressions that I have come across in the past year of playing live and online.

By far the most extensively used new expression is "donkey," and it is commonly abbreviated as "donk." Donkey as an English slang word is a playful way of calling someone stupid. Similarly in poker, one use of the word donkey is to describe a player who does stupid things while playing poker. Many other older poker expressions like tourist, fish, or sucker have similar meanings, yet they seem to carry more demeaning connotations than donkey. Donkey is generally perceived as a friendly word, and few people I have run across have taken great offense at being called a donkey – whether it be for making a bad play or accidentally posting right in front of the big blind. Even I have been called a donkey at times for things I have done at the poker table, and I usually have gotten a good chuckle out of it. Lots of professionals will even refer to themselves as donkeys when they make a mistake, saying such things as, "I played that hand like a donkey," or sometimes they just let out a good heehaw (the sound a donkey makes). The poker term donkey is unique, though, in that it can be used not only as a noun or an adjective, but also as a verb.

Donkey is conjugated as a verb by using the term "donk." For example, after busting out of a tournament, I may say, "Damn, I donked off a ton of my chips running a huge bluff against the nuts." One can also get "donked" in a poker hand by taking a bad beat. Similarly, one can donk another player by getting lucky and sucking out on him (oftentimes when not getting the proper odds to draw to whatever long shot is hit.) Many players will even apologize for their donkey ways by saying, "Sorry I donked you," or, "Donkeys have to eat, too."

Now, donkey has become a fairly common term in poker, but the next few terms are less widely known and more on the cutting edge of poker lingo. Despite their relative obscurity, I predict that most if not all of these terms will be widely used within the next few years, so you might as well learn them now! These terms are currently being used by a lot of the younger generation of players, who tend to play both online and live (although most play mostly online), and the nature of the terms reflects the new, young poker generation. One of my personal favorites is "frenzy." Frenzy refers to a player becoming incredibly aggressive. Now, you may think this sounds like tilt, to which frenzy definitely has some similarities, but tilt really is much more general than the term frenzy. When players go on tilt (which generally results from taking a very bad beat or a successive number of bad beats), they do so in many different ways. Some become very aggressive, while others become very loose-passive or even weak-tight – figuring their luck has abandoned them and they want to put money in only when they have a big hand. Frenzy refers only to extreme aggression on the part of a player, and is not always a result of running bad (although bad beats will often make a player frenzy who is prone to do so). Sometimes, especially when playing shorthanded or heads up, a good player sensing that his opponent or opponents are playing weakly will go into a frenzy mode in an attempt to crush them and take full advantage of their weak play.

A player who is prone to frenzy is referred to as an "animal." Animals are generally profiled as being younger players, who oftentimes are very talented and quite fearless. We all have played with animals before (and perhaps you are an animal), and know that when an animal is hitting cards, he can be a real headache! Animals often have to revise their strategy when playing in full games or risk losing a lot of money, since it is hard to run over a full game; but, when heads up or shorthanded, the animal's very high-variance frenzy strategy can be very rewarding.

Oftentimes when two animals square off, one will crush the other one for a huge sum of money. This is generally referred to as a "bloodbath." When one player gives another a bloodbath, it doesn't necessarily mean that he broke the other player; it usually means that he gave the other player's bankroll a pretty good beating!

A new term I really like for busting a player – generally in, but not limited to, tournament play – is "felted." An example of its use would be, "I felted John when he went all in against my pocket aces." This term is so cool because it is a spinoff of an old poker saying, "down to the felt," meaning down to your last few chips. The expression brings about a nice visual of most or all of a player's chips being gone, leaving only the felt of the table remaining in front of him. Now, bloodbathing would usually be used in reference to winning either in a ring game or a heads-up match, whereas felted would primarily refer to busting someone (or at least severely crippling his stack) in a tournament.

That is all the new lingo I am sharing today, but I'm sure I will be exposed to some more soon that I can explore in future columns. I hope you enjoyed the lighter content of this column (as a departure from my generally serious topics), and maybe knowing these new poker expressions will help you avoid getting bloodbathed by a frenzied animal, and perhaps help you felt some donkeys!

Thomas "Thunder" Keller is a 24- year-old professional poker player and one of poker's young and rising stars. He can often be found playing at under the name gummybear. To learn more about him, go to his website at