Knowing how to play poker and knowing how to look and sound right at the tables are two completely different things.
Swag and poker slang terms certainly aren't as important as playing a proper strategy, but they can be fun to play around with and useful if you are looking to keep up the pretenses.
So many young poker players who learn to play great online are given away by their lack of swagger at the tables. If you don't want people to know you come from an online background, learning some common Texas Hold’em terminology at least is probably a good idea.
What’s even more, you want to understand what everyone else at the tables is saying. This may come naturally after a while, but you can also just learn it beforehand.
For all these reasons, I decided to compile an extensive list of popular poker hand nicknames that you will hear in poker rooms around the world.
Some of these are extremely popular and often used when referring to certain hands, while other poker hand names may be slightly less common.
In either case, here is a list of poker hand names that you will want to know if you enjoy playing the game.
Pocket Aces – American Airlines, Pocket Rockets, Bullets
Pocket aces are the best possible starting hand in Texas Hold’em and many other forms of poker. As such, they have been given a number of nicknames over the years.
The term American Airlines comes from the initials AA, which represents two aces. One could also think about the metaphor of flying high on your pocket aces.
The name “pocket rockets” comes from a similar metaphor, a couple of rockets ready to take you all the way to the Moon.
Finally, “bullets” is another popular term for two aces. Aces are sharp and pointy, and they can easily kill off your opponents for a massive pot.
Pocket Kings – Cowboys
Pocket kings are most commonly referred to as the cowboy despite the fact there is nearly no resemblance between the two.
Both terms sound fairly similar, and holding a pair of cowboys simply sounds so much better than a pair of kings.
Pocket kings are a massive hand in poker, and most players will be all too thrilled to get them. However, the joy only lasts until that ace hits the flop, which is why Kings are sometimes also referred to as the Ace Magnets.
Pocket Queens – Ladies
This poker hand nickname needs no special explanation. Pocket queens are known as the ladies because that’s exactly what they are.
The ladies can be your best friend if you are one of the lucky guys but remember, they have also been the downfall of many men, in poker and otherwise.
Pocket Jacks – Hooks
Pocket Jacks is a poker hand that often gives players mixed feelings. A big pocket pair is always nice to see, but Jacks aren’t what you’d describe as a massive hand.
The nickname “hooks” comes from the way pocket Jacks look, which is similar to a pair of fishing hooks.
While this poker slang does stand for the jacks, you should make sure not to be the one who is hooked into losing a big pot with just a pair of jacks, especially when overcards hit the board.
Pocket Tens – Dimes
A ten-cent coin is colloquially known as a “dime,” so there is no big mystery surrounding this particular hand nickname.
What’s more, the terms “nickel and dime games” has been present in poker for a long time, used to describe small stakes (or micros, if you will), so that’s even more reason as to why this is an expression you’ll often hear at the tables.
Dimes are a decent poker hand, and players seem to love them more than hooks. Presumably, it's because they're not picture cards, so they're easier to give up on and don't cause so many players to get felted.
Ace-King – Big Slick, Anna Kournikova
The big slick is one of the best starting hands in poker, especially if you can get both cards to be the same suit.
However, remember that this hand can sometimes result in big losses, too, so tread carefully.
The nickname Anna Kournikova comes from the card initials, AK. This can often be substituted with a name of another famous person or even a player in your home game.
The other term, “big slick,” is one of the most popular and best-known names of poker hands you’ll come across, and if you enjoy watching televised poker, you probably know just how much commentators enjoy talking about the “big slick.”
Ace-Queen – Anthony and Cleopatra
Ace-queen is a premium poker hand but certainly not a guaranteed winner. If you are dealt an ace and a queen, some might say you were dealt a Rocket Queen, but more often, you will hear the name Anthony and Cleopatra.
The A stems from the initial for an ace, while the Cleopatra is not related to the initial but rather the fact that Cleopatra was a queen and wife to Roman king Anthony.
In all fairness, this isn’t the most common of poker hand names out there, and you won't hear it nearly as often as the other ones on this list. That said, it's a nice piece of information to have that might come in handy at some point.
Another term you might hear used for this poker hand is “Rocket Queen” (since aces are rockets), but it’s also a reference to a song by Guns N’ Roses.
Pocket Eights: Snowmen
Pocket eights is a pair that can sometimes be good to play big pots on its own, while it is best for set mining in other situations – it all depends on the odds you’re getting.
In either case, a pair of eights is known as snowmen, simply because of the way an eight looks on the cards. If you never noticed this before, look at an eight card and compare it in your mind to a snowman to make things crystal clear.
If this doesn't work, take an old deck and try drawing a carrot for a nose and a little hat on top, and you'll certainly see the resemblance.
Pocket Sevens: Candy Canes, Hockey Sticks, Walking Sticks
From looking at the pair of sevens, you are probably getting a pretty good idea as to how this poker hand nickname came to be.
A seven looks a lot like a stick of some kind, and the imaginative minds of poker players over the years have come up with candy canes, walking sticks, and hockey sticks, all as alternative names for a humble pair of sevens in the hole.
Pocket Fours: Sailboats, Luke Skywalker
You are probably guessing just from looking at a pair of fours that the name sailboats stems from the looks of the four on a playing card.
While sailboats is one of the most common card hand names used for a pair of fours, the newer generations have come up with a much more innovative name for them.
The famous phrase “may the force be with your” from the Start Wars movies made its way into the poker world through this hand.
A simple wordplay turns the phrase into “may the fours be with you.” For this reason, players often refer to the hand as the Luke Skywalker or the Darth Vader hand after the iconic characters from the movies.
Pocket Twos – Ducks, Deuces
The word deuce has roots in the French language, which borrows many expressions found in various card games. Pocket deuces is, in fact, the most common way to refer to a pair of twos.
Like most hands, players have also found some meaning in the way the cards look. Put the deuces on top of a pond, and it won’t be too hard to envision two little ducks floating around.
Pocket deuces may be the smallest of pairs, but they can be equally as deadly as big hands like pocket aces or any other pocket pair if they hit the right flop.
Ace Eight – The Dead Man’s Hand
Holding an ace and an eight in your hand is often referred to as having the dead man's hand. To be more precise, you would only actually have the dead man's hand if you were holding two pairs of aces and eights.
This hand got its name after Wild Bill Hickok, who supposedly had this exact hand when he was shot from the back in a South Dakota poker game back in 1876.
Whether the story of the dead man’s hand is completely true or not is beside the point, but the name stuck to this day, and ace-eight is referred to as the dead man's hand all over the world.
Ace Two – Hunting Season
This one is quite an imaginative poker hand nickname, derived from the combination of the poker hand names for pocket aces and for pocket twos.
We know pocket aces are the bullets, and pocket deuces are the ducks. Combine the two, and you get the hunting season, a brilliant name for a hand that's often best avoided.
Modern-day players have found some use for the hunting season as a good candidate to bluff with before the flop, but I still urge caution with this particular hand.
King Jack – Kojak, Jackie Kennedy
Kojak was a popular TV series back in the 70s when the hand actually got this interesting nickname. It's quite clear how King Jack gets turned into Kojak, so if you hear this word in the poker room, you can know what hand is being discussed.
The initials of the hand are KJ or JK, and like many hands, this one also got another nickname after a celebrity. Jackie Kennedy was the First Lady to President John F. Kennedy, and the rest is history.
On that note, your stack can also easily turn into history if you go too crazy with a “Kojak,” as this hand looks much prettier than it plays in big pots.
King Nine – Canine
This is one of the more straightforward poker hand nicknames deriving from a simple play on words. “K” for a King and “nine” for a 9 – results in a canine.
Contrary to popular belief, this hand isn't your best friend, nor does it feature a dangerous bite. Tread carefully when getting involved with K-9, especially of the off-suit variety.
Jack Ten – TJ Hooker, Justin Timberlake
Another hand that got its name from a famous TV show character, Jack Ten, is often referred to as the TJ Hooker hand.
Justin Timberlake is yet another way to refer to this hand, as the initial JT can stand for both. The famous actor did actually play a character in the poker movie “Runner, Runner,” making an even stronger case for this particular poker slang.
Jack Five – Jackson Five
Presumably, the only reason this poker hand name exists in the first place is because of the popularity of Jackson 5.
It's hard to imagine anyone looking at J-5 and thinking: well, that's such a nice hand to get; it needs to have its own name.
Just because a hand has a name, it doesn’t mean you should play it. In fact, there is hardly ever a reason to play “Jackson Five” unless you’re defending from the big blind against a relatively small raise.
Ten Seven – Daniel Negreanu
At first sight, this one makes absolutely no sense. That’s because it actually doesn’t, except for the fact that one of the best poker players ever has adopted it as his favorite poker hand many years ago.
Of course, we all know that his real favorite poker hand is a pair of aces, but Daniel has been known to play Ten Seven more than any other player normally would.
Another name for this hand is the Bowling Hand, for the infamous 7-10 split in bowling that every bowler dreads.
Ten Two – Doyle Brunson
This is actually one of those hands that are basically never really played in Hold'em, but for a particular reason, it has a special nickname.
Back in 1966 and 1967, Doyle Brunson won back-to-back WSOP Main Events, and he held these exact two cards on the final hand of both those events.
Ever since then, people have been trying to win a hand with this combination, only to turn over the Doyle, usually with little success.
Even some big-name pros have been known to try and win a pot with 10-2 on shows like High Stakes Poker when Doyle was in the lineup, just to make him smile. Of course, a special bonus would be actually beating Brunson holding a hand named after him, but the hand is so bad that this doesn't happen very often.
Nine Six – The Dirty, Big Lick, Happy Meal
You may have guessed it! Even though nine six is not much of a poker hand at all, the number 69 stands for something completely different, and most of you know it.
The famous sexual pose made its way into the poker slang, but quite a few different names for this hand have been invented, too, including The Dirty, Big Lick, Happy Meal, Breakfast of Champions, and more.
Nine Five – Dolly Parton
One of the more famous poker hand nicknames is “Dolly Parton,” describing a hand containing a 9 and a 5.
In fact, if you were wondering, this is because one of Patron's most famous country songs is actually called “9 to 5.”
As far as poker hand names go, this one makes a lot of sense, especially if you consider the part of the world where the game first became popular.
Seven Four – Double Down, Kalashnikov
Seven four, at least when suited, is a poker hand that has some potential. Regardless of its poker options, it got several interesting nicknames.
The Double Down comes from the game of blackjack, where holding a 7 and a 4 gives the player a total of 11, good for a double down and a chance at 21.
The Kalashnikov reference is also quite clear, as this is the popular name for the AK47 rifle that is often used by Russian and other Eastern European armies.
Five Four – Moneymaker, Jesse James
Poker probably wouldn't be what it is today had it not been for one man, Chris Moneymaker. In 2003, he won the WSOP Main Event with this very hand, showing that an amateur player could actually win the biggest poker tournament.
The poker boom that ensued has led to thousands of players joining the game and poker tournaments becoming bigger than ever before.
Of course, before Chris ever played poker, this hand was called Jesse James, for the famous Colt 45 that the Wild West outlaw was allegedly killed by.
Quad Kings – Four Horsemen
There are very few situations where you’d consider not putting all your chips on the line with quad Kings. If your opponent calls, they’ll likely be headed for the rail or reaching for their pocket to add some chips.
So, the nickname “Four Horsemen” is a fitting one, referencing four biblical riders of the apocalypse. Admittedly, losing your stack isn’t as bad as the apocalypse, but it’s not a good feeling, either.
Ace to Five Straight – The Wheel
Another of the popular card hand names is that describing the lowest possible straight you can get in different types of poker, from Hold’em to Seven Card Stud.
The wheel is a five-card straight containing A, 2, 3, 4, and 5. It’s especially powerful in split (hi-lo) games as it is the best possible low hand and can often also be the best high hand.