How To Play

Learn how to play poker in minutes with our guide to the basics

Glossary of Poker Terms

The following is a glossary of poker terms used in the card game of poker. Besides the terms listed here, there are thousands of common and uncommon poker slang terms.

A

Air

Nothing of value; worthless cards.

Aggressive

A style of play involving more frequent betting and raising, rather than calling and checking.

Alternate

When a live tournament has more players wanting to play than seats available, players can register as an alternate and take their seat when someone is eliminated.

Ante

A forced pre-flop bet from all players.

B

Bad Beat
A hand lost after getting chips in as a strong favourite and then getting unlucky.
Bankroll

The money a player has at their disposal to play poker. Click for more on “bankroll management”.

Big Blind

 A forced bet two to the left of the button in community card games such as hold’em.

Big Slick

Ace-King as hole cards.

Brick

An unconnected card that fails to complete any draws or improve a hand.

Bubble

The finishing position in a poker tournament one place outside the prize positions.

Bullets

Slang for pocket aces. A “bullet” can also refer to an entry in a re-entry tournament.

Button

A symbol showing the dealer position on the poker table.

Buy-in

The amount it costs to enter a tournament, or amount of chips needed to sit down in a cash game.

C

Call: To match the current highest bet (or go all in) to stay in a hand.

Case card: The last available card of any rank. 

Check: Pass the move to the following player without betting, if there has been no bet already placed in the round.

Chop: Split the pot or prize money.

Cold deck: Where a player has a strong hand but another player has an even stronger hand, so there is little chance of avoiding a showdown (also known as a “cooler”). 

Collusion: Two or more players working together in a poker game. 

Community cards: Five cards placed face up (also known as the “board”) that are used by all players in games like Texas Hold’em and Omaha to make the best 5-card poker hand, in combination with your own personal “hole” cards.

Cooler: See “Cold deck”. 

Counterfeit: When a hand has less chance of winning when a new card is placed on the table, it is said to have been counterfeited. 

Crack: To improve in order to beat a strong hand. 

Crippled: When you have lost the majority of your chips in one hand or a series of hands.

Cut-Off (CO): The position on a poker table to the right of the button.

D

Dark (also Blind): A player acts in the dark (or blind) when they make an action without having seen their hole cards or before community cards are dealt.

 

Dead Money: Chips in a pot not put in by the “live” (still active) players. Sometimes also used to refer to inexperienced players who are seen as unlikely to win.

 

Dealer:  The player shuffling and dealing the cards, signified by the button in dealer-dealt and online games. 

 

Dirty Stack: When playing live, if a player mixes up their chips in a haphazard manner so that it is hard to count them, they are said to have a dirty stack.

 

Dominated: A dominated hand is one which has three or fewer outs, making it statistically very unlikely to win.

 

Donk lead: A bet out from an early-to-act player after they have called bets/raises from a late position one on an earlier street.

 

Donkey (donk): Poker slang for a bad player.

 

Double Belly Buster: An inside straight draw where there are two ranks of cards that can complete the draw (a gutshot straight draw is a “belly buster”).

 

Double Board: A community card game version where two flops, turns and rivers are dealt after betting rounds and the pot split evenly between the winners of the two boards.

 

Drawing Dead: Having no outs to win a hand, with cards still to come.

 

Dry Pot: When one player is all-in, with more than one caller (with chips left to bet), a side pot is created known as a dry pot. 

E

Early Bird: Incentive for players to start up games (or show up at the beginning of live tournaments).

 

EV (Expected Value): The combined value of all the possible outcomes for a situation/hand over time. 

F

Fantasy Land: In Open Face Chinese, following the non-fouling set of (usually) QQ+ in the top hand, a player receives their full hand (usually 14 cards) at once. This is known as being in fantasy land.

 

Felt: The material covering poker tables, so as a verb “to felt” a player is to eliminate them from a tournament or win all their chips.

 

Field: Collective term for the players in a tournament.

 

Fill Up: To complete a full house draw.
 

Fish: Unflattering term for a new or unskilful player.

 

Fixed Limit: In Fixed Limit games, players may only bet and raise in the increments specified on the table. 

 

Float: To call a bet without a made hand with the intention of winning the pot – one way or another - on a later street.
 

Flop: The first three community cards dealt in e.g. hold’em, dealt after the first betting round.

Flush: Five non-consecutive cards of the same suit.
 

Fold: To throw your hand away and take no further part in a particular pot.

 

Four of a Kind: Four cards of the same rank. Also known as “quads”.

 

Freezeout: A tournament that allows each player just one entry.

 

Full House: Three of a kind plus a pair.

G

GG: Shorthand for “good game.”
 

Grind: To rack up table hours at low to medium stakes for a regular return or nurse a short stack in a tournament.

 

Gutshot (also Inside Straight Draw): A straight draw where just one rank completes the draw

H

Hero Fold: A player folding a very strong hand due to a read on an opponent or a situation is said to make a hero fold. 
 

High Card: If no player has a pair or better at the end of a hand, it is won on high card (ace being high). 

 

Hijack: The position at the table two to the right of the button.

 

High-Low: A poker variant where the pot is split between the winner of the high hand and the winner of the low hand (if the low qualifies – click for more). 

 

Hit: To make a better hand when cards not in your initial starting hand improve it e.g. ace-king can hit an ace on the flop to make a pair. 

 

Hold’em: Popular community card poker game where players use any combination of two hole cards and five board cards to make their best five-card poker hand. 

 

Hole Cards: Players’ personal (face-down to opponents) hands (two cards in Hold’em, four+ in Omaha, three in stud, etc.).

 

I

ICM (Independent Chip Model): Used to calculate a chip stack’s worth in terms of equity in a prize pool in tournaments, often used in final table deal making.

 

Implied Odds: An extension of pot odds including the potential for winning more money than the current pot should you hit a draw.

 

Insurance: An option to reduce variance while playing by paying to insure against a beat when all-in with the stronger hand.

J

Jam: To move all in.

 

Joker: The jokers are two extra cards (usually with pictures of jesters) added to a 52-card deck and sometimes used as “wild cards”.

K

Kicker: The “extra” card(s) that complete a five-card poker hand. When hands are tied (for example, the same pair in hold’em), the winner is decided on the strength of the kicker(s).

 

Kill Pot: In some fixed limit games, when a player wins consecutive pots, or a pot grows over a certain size, it triggers a kill pot the next hand, with a bigger blind increasing the limit for that hand.

 

Knockout (KO) Tournament: A tournament in which a portion of every player’s buy-in is placed on their own head as a bounty.

L

LAG: Loose-aggressive player.

Last Longer: A side bet on who will go further in a tournament.
 

Limp (Limp in): Call the amount of the big blind pre-flop (usually in NL/PL games).

M

M: A calculation used to measure stack size as a function of the cost to play each round. 

 

MTT: Multi-table tournament.

N

Nit: Term used to describe a tight player.
 

No Limit: In no limit games, the minimum bet is the size of the big blind and the maximum bet is all your chips, during any betting round. 

 

Nuts: The best possible hand currently available.

O

Offsuit: Unmatched in suit.

 

OFC: Open Face Chinese Poker.  A poker variant where players make three hands using 13 cards, two five-card hands and one three-card hand. OFC can be played high only or “pineapple”. 

 

Omaha: Community card poker game where players are dealt four (or more) hole cards and use a combination of exactly two of them with three from the board to make their best five-card poker hand. 

 

Outs: The cards left in the deck that will improve a hand to a (probable) winner.

 

Overpair: A pair in the hole that is above the highest-ranked board card e.g. a pair of queens is an overpair to a ten-high flop.

P

Passive: A player who checks and calls frequently rather than driving action with bets and raises plays “passively”.

 

Peel: Stay in to see another card (usually hoping to hit something or bluff on a later street).

 

Polarized: Where a player’s action on a particular board texture means that they can only have a very strong hand or a bluff in their range, they are said to be “polarized”.
 

Pot Committed: A player is pot committed when they have invested too much of their stack to fold without making a mistake.
 

Pot Limit: In Pot Limit games, the minimum bet is the size of the big blind and the maximum raise is the “pot” (combined chips already in the pot plus the call amount).

 

Progressive Knockout (PKO): See Knockout (KO) Tournament

Q

Quads: Four of a kind. 

R

Rabbit Hunt: After a hand is over, to take a look at the card(s) that would have come next from the deck. 

 

Rags: Low-rank or low value cards. Deuce-six would be a “raggy” hold’em hand, as would any non-connected, low, unsuited combination of cards.
 

Rail: In live poker, the area around the poker tables where spectators can watch. You are “sent to the rail” when eliminated from a game.
 

Rainbow: Cards of all different suits (three or four).  A flop, for example, is rainbow if there are three suits on it, as is a four-card Omaha hand with no duplicate suits.

 

Raise: Increase the bet after an initial bet from another player. 

 

River: The last card dealt before the final betting round (the fifth community card in games like hold’em or the seventh card to each player in Seven Card Stud).
 

Rock: A tight player, playing only premium hands.
 

ROI: Return on Investment.

 

Royal Flush: T-J-Q-K-A of the same suit – the highest hand possible in poker.

Rundown: In Omaha, a starting hand where the cards are in consecutive order.

 

Run It Twice: In cash games, players who agree to “run it twice” in all-in situations deal two run-outs and split the pot between the winners of the two boards (the same player can win both).

S

Satellite: A single or multi-table tournament that has as prizes tickets to a larger tournament (goal tournament or next step satellite).

 

Set: Three of a kind made using two hole cards and one board card in community card games.

 

Shark: A skilled player.
 

Ship: To win a tournament or pot is to “ship it”. Alternatively, slang for moving all in.

 

Shove: To move all-in.


Showdown: The end of a hand when remaining players reveal their hole cards and the winner receives the pot.

            

Side pot: When a player in a multiway pot is all in, the pot in which they have matched all bets is counted as the main pot and any further betting takes place in a side pot. 

 

Slow Play: To feign weakness/decline to bet with a strong hand.
 

Slow Roll: To intentionally delay showing down a hand that is very likely to win (generally regarded as bad etiquette).

 

Small Blind: The first forced bet to the left of the dealer button.
 

SNG (Sit and Go): A tournament (single or multi-table) that starts when a specified number of players have registered, rather than at a scheduled time.

 

Soft Play: Intentionally go easy on a player when it would be possible – and expected - to extract more chips from situations. Regarded at best as bad etiquette and at worst as a form of collusion.

 

Split Pot: A pot divided between two or more winners. Pots in high-only games are split in the event of a tie; some games are designed as split pot games like high-low or double board.

 

Squeeze play: Following a raise and a call(s), a squeeze is another (large) raise putting pressure on the initial bettor and caller(s).

 

Stack: The chips a player has available, either cash chips or tournament chips. As a verb, to “stack” a player is to take all their chips.

 

Station (Calling Station): Unflattering term for a (usually passive) player who has a tendency to call a lot of bets, rather than raise or fold.

 

Steam: See Tilt.

 

Straddle: An optional third blind (usually double the size of the big blind) posted preflop. 

 

Straight: Five consecutive cards in any suit with A-2-3-4-5 the lowest and T-J-K-Q-A the highest.

Straight Flush: Five consecutive cards of the same suit.
 

Street: A dealt card or betting round.
 

Suck Out: To win with inferior cards.

T

TAG: Tight-aggressive player.

 

Tell: A quirk in a player's demeanour or actions that gives an indication of the strength of their hand. Also known as a “read”.

 

Three-Bet: A second raise in a betting round is a three-bet. For example, preflop action starts with a big blind bet, so an initial raise is a “raise” and the next raise a “three-bet” (the next “four-bet” etc.).

 

Three of a Kind: Three cards of the same rank.

 

Tight: A player who plays fewer hands than average (therefore a narrower, stronger range) is said to have a “tight” playing style.

 

Tilt: To be emotionally upset by an occurrence in poker (often a bad beat) so that your decion-making suffers.
 

Timebank: Either the allotted time to act (online) or extra period(s) of time for a player (usually online, but increasingly live) to use when facing particularly tough decisions. 

 

Triple Crown: When a player has won a WSOP bracelet, a WPT Main Event and an EPT Main event during their career, they are said to have completed the Triple Crown.

 

Trips: Three of a kind. 

 

Turn: The fourth community card, dealt after the second betting round.
 

Two pair: Two pairs of cards of the same rank. These are compared highest first, and in the event of a tie, the hand with the highest kicker as the fifth card wins.

U

UTG (Under the Gun): The player to the left of the big blind – first to act pre-flop.

V

VPIP: A statistic showing how often a player Voluntarily Puts (Money) In (the) Pot outside of the forced blind bets. The higher the VPIP, the more active (and usually aggressive) the player.

Villain: Slang for opponent.

W

Whale: A high-limit gambler with deep pockets. 

Wheel: The lowest straight, running from ace to five.  

Wrap: In Omaha, a hand with a draw where three or more ranks can make a straight (click through for an example).