Poker Terms – The Most Important Lingo Of The Game

There are many poker terms and phrases that may not be clear for anyone outside of this game. So, if you want to take it seriously, learning poker terminology and all the lingo that comes along is a must.

Understanding the language of the game will help you have a better time while playing and discussing hands with your friends.

This glossary of common poker terminology will help you find the most common poker expressions, as well as some slang terms which is a big part of poker games. You can find a full list of various saying in the poker dictionary, but here are the main terms that you should know.

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A – Game

This term is used to describe a state when you play and feel in the best possible way. When you are playing your “A – Game,” it means you are making the right decisions, can concentrate on what matters, and evaluate all available information. You are simply performing as good as you can.

It is worth mentioning that you can play “A – Game,” and still lose because of the variance, but it still means you did everything you could, just got unlucky.

ABC poker

It refers to a style of playing that is very straightforward and based on fundamental knowledge of the game. “ABC player” will not run random bluffs, or crazy moves and will stick to standard strategy.

This style can be effective against very weak recreational opponents, but more experienced players can quickly notice such tendencies and take advantage of the limit arsenal of “ABC poker player.”

Ace-High

A poker hand, in with the highest card is an Ace without making a pair or other stronger combination. For example, if you hold A8 and the board comes K J T 5 3, you have an Ace-high hand (A K J T 8), because there is no other possible combination.

Action

Poker term used to describe your move at the poker table. Everything you do when it is your turn to act is called an action, with five main options being – betting, raising, folding, calling, or checking.

Action card

This poker term refers to a specific card, which comes on the turn or the river and is perceived to increase the strength of the hands of two or more players who are still playing. As the name suggests, it can cause significant betting and raising action to increase the pot.

Acting out of turn

When a player verbally announces his action, folds, checks, or even place the chips when it is not his turn to act.

It can be done accidentally or intentionally to see how other players react to gain additional information. If done on purpose, it can be an “angle shoot,” which is an unfair action.

Active player

Any player that not folded and is still in hand is called an active player.

Add-on

Add-on is only used in rebuy poker tournaments and allows you to purchase more chips when the rebuy period ends. Add-on is optional, so you may choose either you want to buy more chips or not.

That being said, in many tournaments, you will get more chips for the same buy-in price, making it a profitable choice.

Aggressive

Poker terminology that describes playing style when the player chooses to bet or raise instead of calling or checking, thus, taking aggressive action.

Such players will be entering the pot with a raise most of the time, and keep betting in many situations instead of trying to see a cheap showdown.

Air

A very weak holding, without any value on its own, and slim chances to improve with further cards.

All-in

When the player bets all the remaining chips(his entire stack), he is all-in. It means, he already put all of the money in the pot, and will not need to do anything else in the hand.

American Airlines

A popular slang term used to describe pocket aces (AA) as a starting hand.

Angle shooting

It means performing any action that will give you an unfair advantage over your opponents. While technically, it is not counted as cheating, but still can get you in a lot of trouble in some poker rooms, so should be avoided.

It is a very broad topic, so I wrote a separate article with plenty of examples and actionable tips about angle shooting in poker.

Ante

It is a small bet that all players are required to make before the hand starts. It is mostly used in poker tournaments but could be found in cash games as well.

For example, if you have a 40/20 game with 5 ante, it means that the big blind is 40 chips, the small blind is 20 chips, and every player on the table needs to give 5 chips to the dealer as ante, to increase the size of the pot.

Backdoor draw

A type of draw that requires to hit both turn and river cards to make a winning hand. You could have a backdoor flush draw (for example, Ah Jd on Kh 7h 3c, meaning you need heart on the turn and another heart on the river to make a flush), or a backdoor straight draw (for example,  AT on K 9 3, where you need exactly Q and J to make a straight)

Backer

A person who finance poker players to play specific games or tournaments by giving them a bankroll for a share of their winnings. Backer invest in poker players hoping to achieve a positive return on their investment.

Bad beat

When a player loses against someone who had very slim chances to improve to the winning hand but hit the “magic” card and won the pot, it means he got a “bad beat.”

Bankroll

The sum of money that is used for playing poker, and is set aside specifically for that. You can say that it is a balance sheet of a poker player that he uses to pay for the tournaments, cash games, and cover other expenses related to poker.

Bankroll management

An important discipline referring to finance managing for a poker player. It helps to determine what stakes you should be playing, how much % of your overall bankroll you can invest in a single event, an much more.

It is needed to protect players from losing all of their money and can reduce the risk of huge variance swings. You can learn more about bankroll management here.

Bet

An action, where player voluntarily puts chips into the pot by choosing how much he wants to bet if no-one bet before him.

Bet blind

Make a bet without looking at your cards.

Big blind

The poker term big blind can have two meanings.

  • A second position clockwise from the dealer in games with three or more players
  • A first position after the dealer in heads-up games
  • An amount of chips that player sitting in the big blind position need to place, based on the game that he plays.

Big slick

Poker lingo for Ace-King(AK) hand.

Blocker

Blockers are the cards that make certain combinations less likely to appear on the board, or for your opponent to have it.

For example, if you have an Ace of diamonds in your hand, you know that your opponent can’t have a nut flush on Qd Td 7d 6c 2d, so you can use such hand to bluff. As this poker term suggests, you are blocking his possibility to have that hand. More about blockers.

Blocking bet

A small bet made on the flop, turn, or river to prevent your opponent from betting bigger if you checked to him.

Bluff / Bluffing

Betting with a weak hand with the only purpose of making your opponent fold.

This is a move used when you know that you will not win a hand by any other way, and choose to take the aggressive line to try and steal the pot. Read about the bluffing strategy here.

Bluff catcher

A weak hand that can only win against your opponent’s bluffs and air hands.

This terminology refers to the holdings that can’t bet for value, but still, have a chance to win the pot if your opponent decides to give up or bluffs. More about bluff catching here.

Boat

It is a jargon name for a full-house hand.

Broadway

This poker terminology also has a couple of different meanings:

  • An ace-high straight containing A K Q J T, which is the best possible straight you can have
  • Cards ranked from Ten to Ace. Any hand that has two of these cards is called “Broadway hand.” For example, AJ, KQ, QT, etc.

Bubble

It is a term used to describe a phase of the tournament where only one or a few players need to be eliminated for everyone else to get a payout.

For example, if there are 83 players left in the tournament with 82 paying places, it means that it is in a bubble phase, and when one player is eliminated, everyone else is guaranteed to win some money.

Burned card

A card that is dealt face down before dealing faced up community cards.

It is used in live games to protect players from cheating, such as marking cards, where cheater would be able to know what is the next card to come if no-one would burn the first one.

Buy-in

A term in poker used to describe the minimum about that player needs to pay to play in a specific game, be it a tournament or a cash game.

For example, a poker tournament could have a $100+$20 fee. This means that the total buy-in is $120, where $100 goes to the prize pool, and $20 is a fee to organizers.

For cash games, buy-in can be $200, which means you need to put at least $200 in front of you if you want to play in such a game.

Call

An action where the player matches previously made bet amount.

Check

When it is player's turn to act, and no one has made a bet before, he can choose to check instead of betting himself.

Coin flip

A situation where players already placed all their money in the middle of the pot and have a very similar chance to win it. This refers to an equal chance of winning the hand.

Community cards

Poker term used to describe cards that are dealt face up in the middle of the table and can be used by any player in the hand.

Continuation bet (c-bet)

A bet made after seeing community cards by the player who was the original aggressor pre-flop. It means that the player chooses to continue betting instead of checking his hand.

Learn about c-betting strategies here.

Cooler

Slang used to describe a situation where one player with a strong hand loses against even better holding.

In most cases, it refers to a situation where the player could not avoid losing the hand because both opponents had very strong holdings and money was going in the pot no matter what.

Dead man’s hand

A poker hand containing two aces and two eights (AA88x). The name originated in the late 19th century based on the tragic story of Wild Bill Hickock. Read more about Dead Man’s Hand here.

Dead money

It refers to money that has been contributed by the players who are no longer in the hand.

It could be antes from players who already folded or other bets from players who are not active anymore.

Dealer

Someone who handles the dealing process, distributes pots and monitors all the action at the table. Sometimes, the last position at the table is also called the dealer (button position).

Draw

A hand that still needs to improve, to make a strong holding.

Examples of common draws are – a straight draw and a flush draw. Read how to play draws here.

Donk bet

A bet made postflop from a non-aggressor player leading into the preflop aggressor.

Downswing

A series of short term results that are lower than your mathematical expectations in the long run.

Edge

An advantage over another player, be it because of more skill or favorable circumstances such a better position or anything else that gives an advantage.

Effective stack

This poker term defines the number of chips that can be won from another player with a different stack size.

For example. If you have $200 in a cash game, but your opponent only has $120, the effective stack is $120 because it is the most you can win or lose in a particular hand. The same applies to tournaments.

Equity

It refers to your mathematical expected share of the pot.

Equity is calculated by multiplying chips amount in the pot by your probability of winning it.

Fish

A weak player who is very likely to lose money in the game but still chooses to play, to have a good time.

Free card

A card that you get to see without investing any of your chips.

If every player decides to check on the turn, you are going to see a “free” river card, and have a chance to improve your hand without investing any of your money.

Freeroll

A chance to win something without risk of losing.

This poker terminology often refers to a free tournament, that does not have any buy-in fee, but gives you a chance to win actual money.

Also, it could mean that both players have the same hand at the moment, but one of them has a chance to improve to a better one meaning he is either going to split the pot or take it all down if he improves. For example, AsKs vs. AhKd is “freerolling” on QsJsTd because both players have a straight at the moment, but if another spade comes, a player holding AsKs will take down the whole pot, while he has no chance to lose it.

GG

Expression “gg” is most often used in online game chat, and means “good game.”

GTO poker

It means Game Theory Optimal strategy, which is a mathematical model to ensure you are playing a balanced strategy in a way that no one can exploit you.

While it is a great model against tough opponents, you can win more money by applying exploitative play and targeting your opponents' mistakes in most cases. (read more about GTO poker and exploitative play here)

Gutshot

An inside straight draw, where you need a specific card to make your straight (you have only 4 outs to hit it).

For example, if you have QT on J87, you have a gutshot, because only a 9 will give you a straight.

You can read a full strategy article about playing gutshot inside straight draw! 

Hand rankings

A list of hand value from weakest to strongest showing what beat what, and how different poker hands ranks. The full list of poker hand rankings.

Heads-up

A game or a pot, where there are only two players involved.

Hit and run

An act of leaving the poker game soon after winning a huge pot or several in a short period of time. It is considered to be bad etiquette.

Hole cards

Cards that are dealt face down and can only be used by you.

In Texas Holdem, you are getting two hole cards every hand that you play, in Pot Limi Omaha, you are getting four hole cards.

ICM

Independent chip model used in tournaments to determine the actual money value of the chips in any given situation.

It is based on two parameters – payout structure and stack sizes of players left in the tournament. There are many situations where this model dictates the correct play in the MTT, so it is worth learning more about ICM poker.

ITM

This term refers to a situation in a tournament where all remaining players are guaranteed a payout – they are “in the money.”

Jam

Put all your money in the middle. Poker lingo for moving all-in.

Kicker

A side card that does not make any combination, but can determine the winner of the hand if players have a similar hand.

For example, if one player has A 8 8 7 7, and another has Q 8 8 7 7, the first one wins, because his “kicker,” Ace, is a higher card and determines the winner.

Limp

An action where you choose to enter the pot by calling instead of raising when there is no raise before you.

For example, if you only call the size of the big blind, it means you limped in the pot.

Made hand

It is a description of a strong poker holding.

This term refers to a situation where you already have a strong, thus “made” hand and aren’t drawing to hit something.

Miss

When you have a drawing hand such as a straight draw or a flush draw, and community cards do not help you to improve your draw, it means you “missed” it.

Muck

To throw away or fold your hand without showing it to other players.

You can “muck” a hand even on the showdown if the opponent shows a stronger holding, and you choose to fold without showing what you had.

Multiway pot

A pot with more than two active players. It requires some adjustments to your overall strategy because hand equities change quite a bit. Read more about playing multiway pots.

No Limit

A type of the game, where a player can bet as much as he wants in any given situation, even his whole stack.

For example, in Pot-limit games, the maximum you can bet is the size of the pot, but in no-limit games, you can always bet even your entire stack.

Odds

Probability of making your hand when you are drawing to something, or mathematical expression to hit a specific card.

For example, you odds of hitting a flush on the next card when you have a flush draw on the flop are around 19%. Learn more about poker odds here.

Open (open raise)

This poker term is self-explanatory and means making the first raise in the pot.

Most often used when everyone folds to a specific player who chooses to “open” the pot by raising.

Open-ended straight draw

When you have a combination with four cards in a row, meaning any card that connects to one end or another will make you a straight.

For example, if you have JT on 983 board, you have an open-ended straight draw, because any Q or 7 will make you a straight.

Opening ranges

A set of poker hands that you choose to play from each position.

Get free poker opening ranges here.

Outs

It refers to the number of cards that will improve your hand to the winner.

For example, if you have QQ against a player with AK on K83, you only have two “outs” to win the hand, because there are only two queens left that can help you.

Poker face

A poker lingo used to describe a player who is not showing any emotions or giving away any tells, thus making it very hard to read him.

Poker room

A live or online setting where poker games take place.

It can be a casino, or even a simple, dedicated room for playing poker, also an online poker app.

Poker rules

A list of guidelines that regulates how the game should be played. You can find poker rules for different games here.

Poker software (tools)

A dedicated program for poker players helping them in one way or another. It can be tracking software to help them analyze the results, solver for learning poker strategy, or one of many different available tools.

You can find a list of the best poker software here.

Pot

The amount of chips in the middle of the table which was placed by players in a particular hand.

For example, everyone folds to the SB, which opens to $10, and the BB calls $10. This makes the pot of $20 at the moment.

Position

Players place (seat) on the table in relation to the dealer.

Your position changes every hand as the dealer button moves clockwise, and it determines your place in the betting order.

Probe bet

It is a bet made out of the position on either the turn or the river after the initial raiser decides to skip on the continuation bet on the flop.

More about probe bets here.

Rake

Terminology for the fee, which is taking by the host of the game to cover their expenses and make a profit.

There are two main types of fees in poker:

  • A fixed fee for the tournaments (for example $100+$10 tournament has a $10 fee which goes to the organizers)
  • A fee in cash games as a percent of the pot (a % that is taken from the pot to the organizers pocket from every hand).

Reddit (poker)

It is one of the most popular sites in the world, basically, a huge forum that has a separate discussion part for poker players. Learn more about Reddit and other poker forums here.

Runner runner

A hand that improved to the winning one by hitting both the turn and river cards.

For example, if you have AK against QQ, on Q 9 3 and manage to hit J and T to make a straight, you just hit a “runner runner” hand.

Running bad

Extended losing streak, where you are winning much less than you should, based on your equity in the game.

Running it twice

A situation in a cash game, when players who are already all-in agrees to run the remaining cards twice. This way, the full pot is divided into two equal pots, and each of them can be won separately.

For example, if two players, one holding AJ and another 98, move all-in on the flop of JT3 and agree to “run it twice,” the pot is divided into two separate ones and dealers deals turn and river twice. Both players can win both pots or one, depending on the runout.

Satellite

A type of tournament where instead of getting a standard cash prize, winners are awarded tickets to higher buy-in tournaments or live events.

Semi-bluff

A bet or raise made with a drawing hand.

If a player knows he is likely behind but still choose to perform an aggressive action like betting or raising with a hand that has the potential to improve to the strong holding, he is “semi-bluffing.”

Set mining

A play with a pocket pair, where you are calling a preflop bet with a hope to hit a set.

For example, if someone raises and you have 55 on the BTN, you elect to call and “set mine,” meaning the only realistic way for you to win the hand is by hitting a set. Otherwise, you will be folding to any bet on the flop.

Short deck (Six-plus Holdem)

It is a popular game variation, where deuces through fives are removed from the full deck, and then played like a standard Texas Holdem.

Learn short deck poker rules and strategy here.

Slow roll

It is an act of teasing other players or giving them an illusion that they won the hand by not revealing your holdings in a timely manner.

Slow rolling is considered bad etiquette, and you should avoid doing it intentionally to other players.

Spin & Go

A popular online tournament format that is very quick and has a random prize based on a random number generator. Learn more about the Spin & Go strategy here.

Split pot

This poker phrase is used to describe a pot, which is equally shared by two or more players because they have identical hands.

For example, if one both players have AKo and the bord is A Q 7 6 2, they will split the pot.

Squeeze

A play of reraising before the flop, when someone already raised and there are one or more callers.

For example, if Cut-off opens the pot by raising, BTN calls, and you decide to re-raise on the BB, it means you are squeezing. You can read more about the squeeze play strategy here.

Straddle

It is a third blind used in some cash games, which is usually twice the size of the big blind. Straddle could be forced, meaning everyone has to put it when it is their turn, or made voluntarily, meaning that you have an option to choose if you want to make it.

Most often, a straddle is posted by a player in the first position to act (under the gun). You can learn how to adjust your strategy in straddle games by reading this article.

String bet

A type of bet in a live game setting, when a player fails to put all the amount he wants to bet in one motion, and is forced to take back his chips.

Either done by accident or on purpose, a lot of the time, only the first part of the bet will be counted by the dealer. Read more about string betting here.

Tell (poker tells)

Poker tell is an act of accidentally giving away a clue about the strength of your hand.

Find the most common poker tells and take advantage of this information.

Tilt (tilting)

A state of mind, when a player is not able to make optimal decisions because negative emotions at the table influence him.

A lot of the time, players start to tilt after losing big pots, or when someone hits a lucky card against them and steals the pot.

Tracking software

A specific program for poker players that helps track your results analyze your play and competition tendencies. It is a very powerful weapon that every online player should use.

Read about the most popular tracking software here.

Underdog

Someone who is not a favorite to win the hand.

This poker terminology is often used to describe a player in a situation where he has a draw against a made hand. Thus, he is considered an “underdog” and has to hit his draw to win a hand.

Underpair

A pocket pair which is lower than all the card on the board.

For example, pocket fives (55) is an underpair on the AJ8 board.

Upswing

A series of short term results, where you are winning more compared to what you should, based on your mathematical expectations.

Upswing poker

A popular training site created by Doug Polk.

You can read a detailed Upswing Poker Lab review here.

Value bet

A bet made with a good hand with the hope that someone will call it. In simple poker terms, it could be called a “bet for value.”

More about value betting strategy here.

Variance

Poker variance is the difference between your mathematically expected winnings in the long run and short term results. It includes all downswing and upswings involved with playing poker.

While the variance is a natural part of the game, you can reduce your swings and lower poker variance by applying the right strategies at the table.

VPIP

It stands for “Voluntarily Put Money ($) In Pot” and is one of the most important statistics in the game. Read more about VPIP poker stat, and how to use it.

WSOP

It is a shortened term for World Series of Poker. The biggest poker tournament series in the world, taking place in Las Vegas every year in June and July.

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