Below, you will find some of the most commonly used poker terms and their definitions. Brush up on your poker vocabulary to sound like a pro during your next session at the tables.
Action – (1) The play one makes when it is their turn to act. “The action is on the player in seat one.” (2) A description of how much intensity of bets and/or raises there is during a specified amount of time. “When the third heart came on the river, there was a great deal of action.”
Ante – Small bets that are required by players to post before the deal, typically used in Stud and Draw poker games and also in the later stages of Flop poker game tournaments (in addition to blinds). Antes are used to seed the pot and drive the action.
All-In – An expression used to describe the action when a player bets all of their remaining chips. “The player in seat four bet his remaining $100 and was all-in.”
Backdoor Draw – A draw that requires the last two remaining cards to come in your favor. For example, if you held two spades, and there was only one spade on the flop, you would have a “backdoor” flush draw because you would need both the turn and the river to come as spades in order to complete your hand. Backdoor draws are also called “running draws” or sometimes simply “runner-runner.”
Bad Beat – An instance of extraordinary bad luck, when an opponent gets lucky after originally being an underdog in the hand.
Big Blind – The larger of the two forced bets required in Flop games such as Hold’em and Omaha. The player seated immediately to the left of the small blind (and two seats to the left of the dealer button) posts the big blind, which is usually roughly twice the size of the small blind. The size of the big blind determines the minimum bet required for all players to continue with the hand, and largely determines the overall size of the game being played.
Blank – A card that is seemingly useless and does not affect the outcome of the hand.
Blind – A forced bet that is used to seed the pot and determine the bet sizing, usually used in Flop games (see “small blind” and “big blind”).
Board – A name for the community cards (flop, turn and river) that are shared among all players in Flop games like Texas Hold’em and Omaha.
Bottom Pair – A hand that consists of one hole card (face down) paired with the lowest upcard (face up). For example, if you hold J6 and the board is K8Q67, you have bottom pair with your pair of sixes.
Burn Card – A card that is dealt face down and discarded during predetermined times during a hand. For example, the dealer will always burn a card prior to dealing the flop, turn and river. Burn cards were first introduced in live poker games so that players could never tell what card might be dealt next, in case the deck was somehow marked by a cheater.
Button – A round, circular disc that is rotated clockwise around the table after the completion of each hand. The button (also called “dealer button”) signifies the position that each player has during each hand, and who is required to post the blinds.
Buy – To essentially purchase the pot by “buying” it with a bet, usually when no one else has shown interest in it themselves. “Nobody bet so I decided to buy the pot with a $10 wager.”
Call – To match the minimum required amount in order to continue with the hand. “The player in seat four bet $5, and his opponent called that amount.”
Calling Station – A negative name given to those players who continuously call bets from their opponents, no matter their holdings, and rarely raise or bet themselves. These players are also referred to as loose-passive.
Cap – To put in the last raise allowed during a betting round in limit games. Depending on the house rules, this is typically the third or fourth raise. “The player in seat six capped the pot with their raise.”
Case – The only card left in the deck that is remaining. For example, if you held 66 and your opponent held KK on a 62K board, and the turn came a 6, you have hit the “case” six (as it is the last remaining six in the deck).
Check – (1) To pass on the action, or opt to not place a bet. (2) Another word for a poker chip.
Check Raise – To first check (or pass on the action) and then raise when an opponent bets. Check raising is generally considered to be a strong move, indicating either a threatening hand or a bold bluff.
Cold Call – To call multiple bets in one action. For example, if one opponent bets $5, and another raises to $20, simply calling this would be considered a “cold call.”
Community Cards – The shared, face-up cards dealt in the center of the table in flop games such as Hold’em and Omaha.
Complete – (1) A hand that has hit its draw, typically referring to a straight hand or stronger. “A ten hit on the river to give me a straight and complete my hand.” (2) In Stud games, the action of bringing the minimum bet up to the full structured bet size. “The player in seat 8 completed.”
Connectors – Two cards that are next to each other in numerical rank. For example, 67, TJ and 34 are all connectors.
Counterfeit – When a superior hand becomes inferior due to a board card falling that changes its value. For example, say you held 78 on a 782 board, and your opponent held AA. So far, you are ahead with two pair but suppose a 2 falls on the turn. You have just been counterfeited, as your opponent now holds aces and deuces for a better two pair.
Crack – To beat someone’s superior hand by hitting a lucky card or cards. “I had pocket kings and hit a king to crack my opponent’s pocket aces.”
Dealer – (1) The person who is dealing the cards. (2) The player who is seated in the dealer button position, but is not actually dealing the cards (casinos use hired dealer employees to deal the cards to the players).
Dog – Meaning an “underdog,” or a hand that is not favored to win against an opponent’s hand.
Dominated Hand – A holding that is extremely likely to lose against an opponent’s hand. For example, AT is dominated against AK.
Draw – (1) An instance when you need to hit a card (or cards) to complete your hand. For example, if you have two spades in your hand, and there are two on the Flop, you are on a spade flush draw. (2) The act of exchanging cards for new ones in Draw poker games.
Drawing Dead – An instance in which a player is drawing to outs that will not win them the pot. For example, if you are drawing to a flush but your opponent has already made a full house, then you are drawing dead because the flush cards cannot save you.
Equity – The share of the pot that you’re entitled to by virtue of the strength of your hand versus that of your opponent’s. “My JJ had about 52% equity against my opponent’s AK offsuit.”
Expectation – How much you stand to win or lose in the long run based upon the equity of your hand or play.
Family Pot – Refers to a hand in which every player at the table enters the pot.
Fast Play – To play a hand aggressively and straightforwardly, usually to protect a made hand that is vulnerable.
Favorite – A hand that is more likely to win statistically.
Flop – The first three community cards that are dealt face up and all together in the middle of the table in Flop games such as Hold’em and Omaha.
Fold – To discard your hand and forfeit the pot.
Foul – A hand that has been voided and is deemed unplayable. For example, if a player’s hand touches the muck (the pile of already discarded cards), the hand is fouled and can no longer be played.
Free Card – When an additional card is dealt because no player bet the previous street. “Nobody bet the flop, so we received a free card on the turn.”
Freeroll – (1) When a player is guaranteed to win a portion of the pot but is also drawing to a chance to win the entire pot. For example, if two players have flopped the same straight, but one player is also drawing to a flush, this player is said to be “freerolling” because they have the opportunity to win the entire pot. (2) A tournament that is free to enter.
Gutshot Straight – A straight that was made by hitting a card on the inside (also called an “inside straight”). For example, if you hold 9J on a 8Q2 board and a T hits on the turn, you have hit a gutshot straight.
Heads-Up – (1) A pot that is only being contested by two players because everyone else has folded. (2) A game of poker consisting of only two players who are playing one on one.
Hole Cards – The face-down cards that are kept private from all other players at the table, also sometimes called “down cards.”
Implied Odds – Odds that are not in existence currently, but are considered for the future if you are to make your hand. For example, you can include implied odds in your calculations for drawing to a flush if it is implied that your opponent will pay you off if you hit it. However, if your opponent is cautious and will almost certainly not call any bets if a flush card hits, then you have no implied odds to consider.
Inside Straight – Synonymous with “gutshot straight,” an inside straight is one that is completed by hitting a card inside. For example, if you held QJ on a AT board, and a K falls, you have completed an inside straight.
Jackpot – A cash bonus that is paid out when a player takes a particularly bad beat. Also called “bad beat jackpots,” these special rewards are funded by a collection (in addition to the rake) taken during each hand, and have predetermined requirements and payout division percentages (typically a large amount goes to the loser of the hand, about half that amount to the winner of the hand, and the rest evenly divided among the remaining players at the table). Jackpots are more common to see in live casinos than in online card rooms.
Kicker – A second, unpaired card that a player holds in addition to the card that has made their hand. A kicker will determine the winner of a hand on occasion. For example, if you hold TJ and your opponent holds T9 on a TK237 board, your kicker (a jack) beats theirs (a nine) and will win you the pot.
Maniac – A term used to describe a player who is extremely active. Typically, a maniac with be very loose-aggressive and will take a lot of risks without showing much regard for losing.
Muck – (1) The already-discarded pile of cards that sits in the middle of the table. (2) Another word for fold, as in “he mucked his hand.”
No-Limit – A poker variation in which there are no structured betting amounts. In no-limit games, players may bet or raise anywhere between the minimum amount required and the amount they have in front of them.
Nuts – A nickname for the best possible holding at the time.
Offsuit – Cards that are not of the same suit.
One-Gapper – Two cards that are two rankings apart. For example, 24, 8T, and JK are all one-gappers.
Open Ended Straight – A straight that is made by hitting a card on either side, rather than inside. For example, if you hold 9T on a JQ2 board, you have an open ended straight draw. If you hit either an eight or a king, you will have completed your straight.
Out – A card that is needed to give you the winning hand. “He had a straight so my only out was a spade to give me a flush.”
Outrun – To win the hand, usually referring to a circumstance in which a draw has been hit. “His 9T outran my aces when he made a straight.”
Overcard – A card that is higher than any card showing on the board. For example, if you hold TK and the board is T36, you have a pair of tens and an overcard (a king).
Overpair – Two paired hole cards (a pocket pair) that are higher in ranking than any cards on the board. For example, if you hold QQ and the board is 2TJ, you have an overpair.
Payoff – To call an opponent when they have you beat. “I made my flush on the river, and my opponent payed me off with his set.”
Play the Board – To create your best five card poker hand with only the community cards because your hole cards do not play. For example, if you hold 25, and the board is AAJ8J, you play the board because neither of your hole cards play.
Pocket Cards – Your face-down private cards, also called “hole cards.”
Pocket Pair – Two paired cards that are dealt face down to a player.
Post – To put in your blinds when you are not seated in the blind position, due to either coming back to the table after taking a break, changing seats (depending on where you move in relation to the button) or first joining the table (depending on the casino rules).
Pot Limit – A variation of poker in which the maximum amount a player may bet or raise is equal to the size of the current pot.
Pot Odds – The relation of the amount of the required bet to the amount that is already in the pot. For example, if it is $10 to call and there is $20 in the pot (including the bet you are calling), the pot odds are 2 to 1. Players compare pot odds against the odds of winning their hand to determine if it is mathematically correct to call.
Price – The amount of money it costs to call. “It would have cost me $100 to draw to my flush, so the price was too high.”
Protect – (1) To bet and/or raise aggressively in an attempt to prevent a hand from being drawn out on; essentially “protecting” it. (2) To place a chip or small object on top of your cards to prevent them from being fouled by a mucked hand or unintentionally folded by the dealer.
Quads – Four cards of the same ranking, also called four of a kind.
Ragged – Community cards that are not likely to have improved any player’s hand; typically all low unconnected cards.
Raise – To increase the bet.
Rake – The amount of money that is collected by the house during each poker hand. The rake is how card rooms make a profit.
Rank – The value of a card or a hand. For example, a K out ranks a J, while a flush outranks a straight.
Represent – To act as if you have a certain hand. “His betting represented that he had a flush, so I folded my two pairs.”
Ring Game – A poker cash game in which the chips represent real money (as opposed to a tournament). Also sometimes called a “live game.”
River – The fifth and final shared community card that is dealt in flop games like Hold’em and Omaha.
Rock – A term used to describe a player who is extremely tight, meaning that they are very selective in the hands they chose to play.
Runner – Two cards that come to make a player’s hand, usually called “runner runner”, “running cards” or a backdoor. For example if you had two diamonds in your hand and there was one on the flop, you would need running diamonds (one on the turn and one on the river) to make your flush.
Scare Card – A card that is likely to have helped an opponent, and is therefore “scary.”
Second Pair – A pair consisting of one hole card and the second highest card on the board. If you held A7 on a 27T board, you have second pair.
Semi Bluff – A bet or raise that is essentially a bluff at the time, but is somewhat insured by a chance of improvement in the future. When players make a semi-bluff, they would prefer to induce a fold, but are not devastated by a call because they still have outs to improve their hand and win the pot.
Set – Three cards of the same ranking (three of a kind), consisting of a pocket pair along with one more card of the same rank appearing on the board.
Short Stack – An amount of chips that is small in comparison to your opponents’ stack.
Showdown – The comparison of hands at the completion of the hand. A showdown determines who will be awarded the pot when there are at least two players remaining when the final betting round is complete.
Side Pot – A pot that is created when one or more players is already all-in, but there is more action between other players. For example, if a player in seat one goes all in on the flop for $100, and two other players call, this money will go into the main pot, and all future betting will create a side pot, which the seat one all-in player will not be eligible to win.
Slow Play – To play a strong hand passively to encourage more players to enter the pot and disguise your holding.
Small Blind – The forced bet required to be posted (prior to the deal) by the player seated to the immediate left of the dealer button. The small blind is typically half the size of the big blind, which is the minimum amount required to enter the pot before the flop.
Smooth Call – To simply call a bet as opposed to raising. This usually refers to a situation in which a raise is certainly warranted due to the strength of the hand, but a players opts to only “smooth call.”
Spread Limit – A variation of poker in which bets are raises must be placed in amounts that fall within a predetermined range (or “spread”).
String Bet – In live poker, when a player makes two forward motions with their bet; first placing chips out and then reaching back into their stack for more. String betting is not permitted in most card rooms, as it can be used to get a read on opponents before finally deciding how much to wager. Unless a player verbally declares the amount of the bet, they are only permitted to bet or raise in one motion.
Structured Bets – Wagers that have predetermined amounts. For example, limit games are structured because players can only place bets in certain increments, as opposed to no-limit games.
Suited – Refers to cards that are have identical suits. If you hold two cards that are both hearts, your cards are suited.
Tell – A hint or clue as to what an opponent is holding. Tells may be physical or based on betting patterns.
Tilt – When a player is affected by losing a hand or hands, and this is apparent in their play. “John lost three hands in a row and was really tilted so he started to play poorly.”
Time – (1) An expression used to by players to request more time to make a final decision on their hand. You will often hear players simply say “time” in a live game to alert the dealer that they need a few more moments to think things through. (2) A collection that the house takes from each player on a regular basis (a predetermined amount of time, typically hourly or every half hour) rather than raking the game. Also called “time collection.”
Toke – Another word for tip or gratuity. It is customary in many countries to give a toke to the dealer if you are awarded the pot.
Top Pair – A hand that consists of one hole card pairing with the highest card on the board. For example, if you hold J6 and the board is 24J9, you have top pair.
Top Two – This refers to top two pair, meaning each of your hole cards have paired with the top two cards on the board. For example, if you hold AK and the board is AK4, you have top two.
Top and Bottom – A hand that consists of two pair, with one hole card pairing with the top card on the board and the other hole card pairing with the lowest card. For example, if you have Q7 in the hole and the board is 79Q, you hold top and bottom pair.
Trips – Three cards of the same ranking (three of a kind) in the instance when you hold one of the three in your hand and the other two appear on the board. For example, if your hole cards are JT and the board is TT3, you have trip tens.
Turn – The fourth shared community card that is dealt in flop games such as Hold’em and Omaha. Also called Fourth Street.
Under the Gun – The table position that is to the left of the big blind player. The under the gun player (also called “UTG”) is first to act preflop.
Underdog – A hand or player who is not a favorite to win.
Value – (1) Another word for expectation. “The players were weak, so the game was good value” or “My hand was strong on the river so I made a small bet that I knew my opponent would call, in order to get maximum value.”