Jump to content
This Entry
Sign in to follow this  
  • entry
  • comments
  • views

How French poker players speak poker-English.

Sign in to follow this  


In this global world, English is the #1 second language - that is, you speak your mother tongue first, then you learn English. For those who are native English speakers (I am not), it may be amazing that so many English languages can be heard around the world - different accents, different vocabulary mistakes, different grammatical murders to the ears... and how the French speak English is no exception to this. When playing poker in France, the French have their typical own way of using the English poker vocabulary.

First, using English words for the poker vocabulary was no fate in France. The French language already had all the words to describe what is happening during a poker hand. Je mise, je relance, je passe, un brelan, une quinte, une couleur, un carré (I bet, I raise, I fold, a set, a straight, a flush, quads) and all the expressions that describe gambling - isn't roulette a French word? - have existed in the French language for centuries. However, and this may come as a surprise to you, the word gambling has no direct translation into French. We have to use the slang words Flambe, flamber, flambeur (gambling, to gamble, a gambler) to reach close enough, with a subtle bias : the flambeur is the guy playing at high stakes in a casino, spreading (spilling?) his chips all over the tables, not worrying at all about winning or losing - he's filthy rich and he can afford to play for the thrill of it, period. I guess this is not exactly what backgammon, blackjack or poker players do when they gamble : they are playing a game that relates to the laws of randomness.

Anyway, the French will use the perfect English poker vocabulary, but with some flaws. Some major ones. They sure know what bet or raise mean, but they never cared to learn a complete sentence in English using these words. So, they are using those in a sentence in French. Il a bet hors de pos (He bet out of pos[ition]) is a typical quote from a French poker player - all the words but one are in French, the direct translation into French for to bet does exist, yet the English word is used. In this example, matters are quite straighforward : to bet / I bet / bet is a stable expression of the idea of betting, and the same form can be used as a noun, too!

But if we now use the same structure with the idea of raising, we may stumble into a chaotic language. Il a raise hors de pos (He raised $20 out of pos[ition]). Please note that raise, in this sentence, is a new form for a conjugated verb. A raise, he raises, he raised, raised : none of these genuine forms is used here. The rest of the French sentence carries the past tense of the action. The French sentence does not care that the verb to raise must carry some transitiveness. You don't raise full stop. You are raising an eyebrow : this sucker raised $20 into the pot, can you believe it?

But the French poker players may go further into chaos. For poker vocabulary, any form of word can be used in a French sentence. A verb can be a verb, but it can also be a noun although it is not one in English. A noun can be used as a verb, who cares about how we should conjugate it anyway? Il m'a donké all-in à la river! (He donk bet all-in on the river) is a more complex example where, besides using several English poker words into a French sentence, a poker slang expression is completely transformed : the verb to bet is dropped out, donk is turned into a verb and conjugated into a French form of a past tense. How would Joe Hachem understand when a Frenchman told him "He donked me on the river!" ? Did he get a lift to cross the river to the Sydney opera?

But enough with the grammar. Some flaws with the French speaking English are just about how the words are pronounced. When a French poker player speaks a sentence in French with an English poker word in it, he will not switch between the languages (changing his pronounciation or how the word flow is stressed) as people in Canada would. The English word will be pronounced as if it were a French word. Loose is pronounced lose. Stack is pronounced stake (or steak). Three is pronounced tree. Straight may sometimes sound like street. As most of these words are used in the poker vocabulary, it is likely that you'll have many misunderstandings with French poker players when you hear this poker language of their own. And a lot of entertainment, too.

Post scriptum : sometimes, the fun does not come from a mistake in grammar or in pronounciation, but from a genuine misunderstanding. In 2015, a French player in Vegas was announcing pack when playing $100-$200 limit 2-7 triple draw. By the way, the French word for pat is servi. All served!

Sign in to follow this  


Recommended Comments

Nice article - I must admit, as an Englishman living in France, the forums and the chat take a while to get used to - it took me ages to work out the true sense of chatter/chattard (yeah, at first I really did think it meant a «bavardeur».  It's true that French poker tables use a bastardised mix of English and French: I see the non-existant verb 'folder' all the time, but never 'parier' - which is what we basically do.  Interesting too that virtually everybody knows and uses English abreviations like GL, BJ, NH, GG...

But the worst thing when you start has to be all the abreviated text language used by the players.  If you've got 4 or 5 tables going on, by the time you've worked out that 'G n tk 5' actually means 'j'ai gagné un ticket de 5 euro/I won a five euro ticket' (crap example I know, can't think of a good one right now), well the chat's long since moved on to another subject.

Interesting as well that most players use T for 10 - never D for dix, Q and K - never D and R for dame and roi , but the jack is split 50/50 between J and V.


Share this comment

Link to comment
You are commenting as a guest. If you have an account, please sign in.
Add a comment...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoticons maximum are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Back to top