What is ‘Vaca’?
Vaca, or more usually vaca vaca, is a poker phrase used to describe a shared buy-in, or sometimes to request to share a buy-in with another player. Casinos may permit shared buy-ins, with the players splitting any winnings equally. The phrase is more often heard as the English form ‘cow’ – to ‘cow’ means to club together and share the entry costs.
In poker, players usually use their own funds, play their own hands and keep their own winnings. In the case of contests and tournaments, there is no other option for the player – everyone must enter and play as an individual. Teamwork is often viewed negatively in card games: cheaters and card counters often use an accomplice when they want to avoid detection. Players are often suspicious of players who are operating together.
However, in standard games there are many casinos and card rooms which allow players to split a buy-in fee, and share any subsequent winnings. This is known as cowing or to cow, and might also be heard as vaca, la vaca or vaca vaca – from the Spanish for cow. If players have made a deal to go vaca for the game, they each contribute half of the buy-in and start with half of the chips each. They can play in the game as an individual player, and they share winnings. Occasionally they might share hands – play half the turns each – but often they play at the same time as though they had bought in separately.
Because the players effectively get two entries in the game for one price, it will not be permitted at every card room. However, if the tables are fairly empty and the housewants to get more players involved, allowing two players to split a buy-in is a great way to boost numbers. The arrangement to ‘cow’ a game is not officiated by the casino: it is up to the players to arrange splitting winnings, and any disagreement comes down to their own verbal contract.