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Lock Poker Definitions

What is a Lock Hand? - Locked Seat

by Jesse Knight
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Lock Poker Hand
Lock -
1. A hand that cannot be beaten.
2. To reserve a seat in a casino.


A hand that is guaranteed to win is called a “lock,” or a “lock hand.” The technical definition of a lock hand is a hand that consists of the nuts, and cannot be sucked out on. For example, if a Holdem player held A♥A♣, and the board read A♠ A♦ 9♦ 2♦, they would have a lock hand. As you can see, in this situation four aces is the nuts, and there is no river card than can come that makes it possible for it to lose. Although in a technical sense a hand must be unbeatable to be a lock, the term is often used to describe a nut hand which there are some outs. For instance, if a player held 8♥8♣, and the flop came 8♠ 8♦ 7♠, you might hear this described as a lock. Clearly, four eights are not unbeatable in this situation. With two cards left to come, there are several ways to make a straight flush, both in spades and diamonds, plus six different possible over pairs which all have the potential to make running quads. Even so, you may see a hand such as this described as a lock, because it is a virtual lock; the odds against it losing are very long.

Players also use the term “lock” to describe a nut hand in a hi-lo split game. In Stud Hi-Lo, a wheel (5-4-3-2-A) is often referred to as the “lock low.” Omaha Eight or Better (O8) games often feature back and forth raising between the lock high hand and the lock low hand. Also, when someone has made the nut low in an O8 game, and cannot be counterfeited, they are said to have a “lock on the low.” For example, if a player holds 6-3-2-A, and the flop comes 8-5-4, this player would have the low “locked.” This is also referred to as having an “uncounterfeitable” low.

Besides being used to describe a poker hands, the term “locked” is also used to describe an open seat in a poker game which is unavailable, because it has been reserved by the dealer or floorman (floor person) for a specific player. When a seat opens up in a poker game, the player who is first up on the board (waiting list) is called. If that player wants the seat, they will typically respond to the call by saying “lock it,” or “lock it up.” This lets the staff know that the player intends to take the seat that they were called for. The floor person will then “lock up,” or “place a lock on” the open seat. This is usually done by placing a note with the player’s initials, or some other object indicating that the seat is reserved, on the table or rail in front of the open seat.

Among other things, it is the floor person's job to seat the incoming players. There are procedures which govern the seating of new players, to ensure that seating happens in a fair and orderly manner. This protects both the players and the games. Strict guidelines governing seating procedures prevent the floor staff from treating the customers unequally. Players, for their part, know that they cannot move haphazardly into and out of games, but must rely on the floor staff for seating.

When you have multiple games of the same type and limit, and there is a waiting list (called “the board”), seating is pretty straightforward. When a seat opens up, table changes take priority, and then names are called from the board until the seat is full or the list of names is exhausted. If seats open up in multiple games, the floorman must control the seating in such a way that the tables “stay balanced.” This means that the floorman does his best to make sure that each game going has an equal number of players as the other games. He accomplishes this by disallowing table changes which unbalance the tables, and by requiring as a matter of policy that new players go into the game with the most open seats. This is usually enforced by the floorman strictly controlling the open seats. The floorman will lock up all open seats in all games except for the seats in the most shorthanded game, to prevent anyone from sitting in any of those seats. He will sometimes write “FL” on a table note, and use it to lock a seat, indicating that the seat is “Floor Lock.” This lets the dealer know that the seat is locked up by the floorman, and that no player is on the way.

Usage: I Had a Lock, Lock Up That Seat, Lock Low

Previous Poker Term: Live One
Next Poker Term: Loose

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