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Peter Addison
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If there’s a poker term you don’t understand then you will find it explained here. Poker is a very old game, and over the years has developed its own lexicon of poker terms and expressions that could be viewed as being unfathomable to the non-poker player.

Let’s get going with our full A to Z of poker terminology. Some terms in poker may be familiar to you, but some may not, but read through the list and you won’t get stumped during your next high stakes poker conversation.

A

Action

Checking, calling, betting or raising.

All-in

To bet all your chips on the outcome of a hand. If you go all-in, your opponents must match your bet or go all-in themselves.

Ante

A small, pre-deal bet that is required from all or some players before play can commence so the pot never has zero value. Comes from a Proto-Indo-European prefix meaning ‘before’.

B

Backdoor

Completing a hand on the turn or the river. For example, if you have 9J as your hole cards, with a T and Q on the flop and land a K on the river, then you have completed a backdoor straight.

Bad Beat

Losing a strong hand because your opponent(s) with a weaker hand got lucky. For example, having AA and another ace on the flop but your opponents completes a flush on the river.

Big Blind

An ante paid by the second player to the left of the dealer in community card games. It is the value of the lowest possible opening bet, and is twice the value of the small blind. Comes from betting ‘blind’ i.e. before seeing any cards.

Bluff

To bet in a manner that suggests you have a good hand when in truth, you do not.

Board

The community cards in Texas Hold’em and Omaha.

Bubble

In any type of tournament, the player who finished highest but received no money. For example, if the top ten positions are paid in a MTT, then they player who finished eleventh is the bubble.

Burn

To deal a card unseen. In real-world tournaments a card is typically ‘burned’ before each round of betting.

Button

A small, circular disk that is used to mark the position of the dealer. In poker games at online poker sites and real world poker rooms one player is marked as the dealer even though they do not deal. Being ‘on the button’ is advantageous as it means that player is the last to act. The button is passed one player clockwise at the end of each hand.

Buy-In

The entry fee for a tournament, which is usually twenty times the big blind. If you enter a tournament with $0.05/$0.10 blinds, then the buy-in should be $2.

poker game

C

Call

To make a bet the same level as the current highest bet s0 that you can remain in the hand.

Check

To remain in the hand without increasing your bet, as your current bet matches the current highest bet on the table.

Check-Raise

A popular betting tactic. A player will check upon their first action in a betting round but then raise should the action return to them in the same round.

Connector

Sequential hole cards. 89 and JQ are connectors. If the connectors are the same suit, then they are suited connectors.

Community Cards

In games such as Hold’em and Omaha, the cards dealt face up in the centre of the table that anyone can use to complete their hands.

Cut-Off

The player position to the immediate right of the button – the penultimate player to act.

D

Dealer

The person who deals the cards. In online play and IRL tournaments, the players do not deal the cards, but the position of the player who would have been the dealer is marked by the button.

Weird Poker Terms

suits Among the poker terms and phrases you might hear, you may come across the phrase ‘Dead Man’s Hand’. This is poker slang for a specific hand – As Ac 8s 8c and one other disputed card. It is allegedly the hand held by outlaw Wild Bill Hickok when he was shot dead while playing the game in August 1876. In poker terms under the gun was given a whole new meaning by this occurrence.

Draw

Remaining in the deal with a weak-ish hand with the hope of improving it. For example you have two spades as your hole cards, and two spades appear on the flop. You remain in the hand in the hope of completing your flush draw on the turn or river. If you fail, then your hand is worthless. If you ‘draw out’ then you complete your draw.

F

Fish

A derogatory term for a poor poker player.

Fixed Limit

A form of poker where bets and raises cannot (typically) in total be bigger than four small blinds pre-flop and on the flop, and bigger than the four big blinds on the turn and the river. For example in a $0.10/$0.20 fixed-limit game, the pot cannot be raised higher than $1 pre-flop.

Flop

The first three community cards dealt in Hold’em or Omaha.

Flush

A poker hand with five cards of the same suit.

Fold

To take no further part in a hand, and to lose all chips (if any) bet upon it.

Four of a Kind

A poker hand with four cards of the same rank.

Full House

A poker hand with three of a kind and a pair.

G

Gutshot

A straight that can only be completed by one card. For example, 78TJ is a gutshot straight, whereas 789T is an open-ended straight.

Funny Poker Terms

suits It is possible to have a double gutshot draw. For example, if your hole cards are J9 and there is 875 on the table, then either a T or a 6 would complete a straight. This has become know as a ‘double belly buster’ as it’s twice the guts needs for a single gut shot draw.

H

Heads-Up

A form of poker with only two players, or the state of play on a multi-player table where only two players remain.

High Card

A poker hand that does not fall into any other category and is ranked by the highest card it contains.

Hole Cards

The cards dealt face down to players in community card games. Also called pocket cards.

I

Implied Odds

A way of calculating odds based on the implication that players taking action ahead will call as opposed to bet or fold.

poker hand ranking

K

Kicker

The highest card in a hand that does not contribute to the hand’s definition. For example AA77J is two pairs with a J kicker. If at showdown an opponent reveals AA77K as their hand then they win, as the K kicker is higher than the J kicker.

L

Late Position

The two positions to the right of the button. Called late as players in these positions act after most of the rest of the table have acted.

Limping

To call or check as opposed to betting or raising.

M

Muck

The pile of discarded cards from the players who have folded.

MTT

Multi-table tournament. A tournament that takes places across multiple tables. As the player numbers diminish, tables are removed until eventually only a single table remains.

N

No-Limit

A form of poker where there are no limits on the bets that can be made.

Nuts

Having the best hand. For example, if you have a pair of Ks and the flop is Ks 9c 2h, then you have the nuts as three kings is the currently the highest possible hand. If the turn is an A though then you no longer have the nuts as someone may have pocket aces.

O

Off-Suit

Pocket or hole cards that are not suited.

Over-Pair

Having a hole cards pair that is bigger than any community card. An example of an over pair would be KK with Q83 on the flop and T on the river.

Open-Ended

A straight that can be completed by one of two cards. For example, 5678 is an open-ended straight as it can be completed by a 4 or a 9.

Out

Any card that improves a hand. Have Kh Th as pockets card and Kc Qh and 9h has numerous outs – any K, any heart and any J. Any Q, T or 9 would also complete two pairs.

Over-Cards

Having better cards than your opponent but with more cards to be dealt. For example AK v 77 – although a pair of sevens is the higher hand, the ‘over cards’ of AK mean any A or K dealt subsequently would win.

Funny Poker Terms

suits Some other funny poker slang terms you might want to add to your repertoire. ‘Airball’ – bluffing with an absolutely terrible hand; ‘Cowboys’ – pockets Ks; ‘Crabs’ – pocket 3s; ‘Ducks’ – pocket deuces; ‘Rags’ – a trash hand; ‘Sailboats’ – pocket 4s and Snowmen – pocket 8s.

P

Pair

A poker hand having two cards of the same rank.

Pocket Cards

The cards dealt face down to a player to start a hand. Also called hole cards.

Pocket Pairs

Being dealt a pair as your pocket or hole cards.

Pot

The total sum of all chips bet so far in a single hand.

Pot-Limit

A form of poker where players cannot bet or raise higher than the current value of the pot.

Pot Odds

A poker strategy that is a way of calculating the value of a hand. If the current pot is $200 and you need to bet $20 to remain in the hand, then your pot odds are 220 (pot + bet) / 20 (bet) = 11/1. If you think your chances of having the winning hand are better than 11/1 then you call, or if they are significantly better, raise.

R

Rake

The percentage of the pot the casino (online or real world) removes as their fee for organising the game(s).

Ring Game

A ‘casual’ poker game where players can take a seat at the table (if room) or leave at any time.

River

In community card games, the river is the final community card dealt.

Raise

To call to the current highest bet level and then add to your current bet. Other players must match your bet if they are to remain in the hand.

Royal Flush

AKQJT of the same suit. The highest possible hand in all forms of poker.

poker positions

S

Satellite

A tournament where the highest-placed players move on to further tournaments with higher prize pots. Many real-world tournaments such as the World Series of Poker have online satellite tournaments that enable anyone to qualify for them.

Semi-Bluff

To bet as though you hold a strong hand when you have a weak hand that has the potential to become a strong hand.

Set

A pocket pair that becomes three-of-a-kind thanks to the community cards.

Shark

A player who hunts around ring games, looking for weak players to take advantage of and gobble up their chips.

Short Stack

Having the least amount of chips remaining on a table during a tournament.

Side Pot

If a player goes all-in but subsequent players bet higher, then the all-in player is only entitled to the proportion of the pot that matches their all-in bet. Chips bet over the all-in amount then go into a side pot. For example, if a player goes all-in with $500 and the next player bets $1,000, then $500 goes into the main pot, and $500 into the side pot. If the all-in player wins, then they receive the main pot. The player with the best hand when the all-in player’s hand is taken out of the equation wins the side pot.

Sit and Go

Also called a Sit&Go or SNG. Usually a single-table tournament that players buy-in to enter. Once there are a sufficient number of players, play commences.

Small Blind

The ante paid by the player to the immediate left of the dealer, half the value of the small blind.

Split Pot

A rare occasion when the pot is shared between two players with identical hands.

Straight

A poker hand with five sequential cards of different suits.

Straight Flush

A poker hand with five sequential cards of the same suit.

Street

An alternative name for the community cards. The first flop card is the first street and so on, up to the fifth card (the river) which is the fifth street,

T

Top Pair

Having the highest pair from combined hole cards and community cards. For example, if a player has J8 and the community cards are J93 then they have top pair. The emergence of A, K or Q on the turn or river means they now do not have top pair.

Trips

Another term for three of a kind.

Turn

In community card games, the card that is dealt after the flop.

Texas Holdem Poker Terms

suits One set of poker terminology that confuses many are the Texas Holdem poker terms for the community cards. Where did the phrases ‘flop’, ‘turn’ and ‘river’ come from? It is thought that ‘flop’ comes from the dealer ‘flopping’ three cards onto the table. ‘Turn’ is thought to be because the fourth community card is the one most likely to turn a poor hand into a more valuable one. The ‘river’ … no one knows – some say it’s because poker used to be played ‘on the river’ on riverboats, and some say from the French work ‘river’ which can mean ‘to fix’ i.e. when the river card is dealt, the seven possible cards of a hand are now fixed.

U

Under the Gun

The player sitting immediately to the left of the big blind, pre-flop, and to the left of the dealer, post-flop i.e. the first to act.

W

Whiff

To hope to complete a straight on the turn or river, but to be disappointed.

FAQs

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Peter Addison

A vastly experienced sports betting specialist, Peter joined SafeBettingSites in 2021 as a sports editor. Peter has been focusing on the iGaming realm since 2013, and had written millions of words on all aspects of online casino play and sports betting since then. His articles have been featured in numerous high-profile online publications. When not writing, Peter can be found playing his electric guitar. He is such a talented guitarist that his next-door neighbours often join in, adding percussion by banging loudly on the walls.

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