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Santa Barbara

What is ‘Santa Barbara’?

‘Santa Barbara’ is one of many nicknames given to the poker hand of A-K in Hold’Em and stud games where the player receives two cards to start. The hand has many names which relate to it being ‘slippery’ and hard to hold on to, or it looking good but not winning often. ‘Santa Barbara’ derives from this logic – it is related to the ‘Big Slick’ nickname also given to the hand.

‘Santa Barbara’ Explained

Santa Barbara is a district in the state of California, known for its beaches and for attracting tourists. It was also the scene of a major oil spill in 1969 – one of the worst oil disasters in US history. It is for this reason that ‘Santa Barbara’ lends its name to a poker hand – the ‘Big Slick’, or A-K hand. Sometimes the phrase is only used to describe black A-K hands – suited or offsuit sets of clubs and spades – but it can apply to any A-K set.

‘Santa Barbara’ is one of a few oil spill-themed nicknames which relate to this hand. It is also known as the ‘Exxon Valdez’, another major oil producer which suffered a serious spill event. The hand has long been called the ‘Big Slick’ as it is said to look good but be extremely slippery for the player, and this is why several oil-related nicknames have sprung up for the hand.

Other names which are unrelated to oil companies are the ‘AK-47’ because of the initials or the ‘Kalashnikov’ after the gun’s designer, and also the ‘King Arthur’ or ‘Korean Airlines’ because of the initials of the cards. If the player hopes for the high straight or even the royal flush, K and A are two essential components of this hand – however, it is still a tricky hand to play and the player will hope for improvement or support at the flop.