How to play
Poker terminology: common poker terms & meanings
When you're playing poker, you may come across words that are unfamiliar. To help you learn the lingo of poker, we've developed a handy glossary of poker terms. To help you understand the relationships between these terms, we've built links between many of them. Simply press your browser's 'back' button to return to your previous position in the glossary.
A basic poker playing style that is considered by the book. ABC players are no-thrills, and their actions tend to reflect their hand strength. For example, they raise when they are strong and check when they are weak.
A five-card hand containing an ace, but no straight, flush or pair.
A full house with three aces (and any pair).
When your hand contains two pairs, one of which is a pair of aces.
The betting aspect of the game, including checking and raising.
Any player who hasn’t folded.
A chance to buy more chips. Comes at the end of the re-buy period during a multi-table tournament (MTT), normally after 60 minutes.
Air is a term used for a weak hand with little or no value. Some people say their super weak hand is an airball. A perfect example would be holding seven-six on an ace-ten-five flop.
AK is an abbreviation for the No-Limit Hold'em hand, ace-king. Some players called ace-king "Big Slick."
Betting your entire chip stack, either as a tactic, or to call (match) another player’s bet.
American Airlines is the slang for holding pocket aces as your starting hand in Hold'em. Some people call aces rockets due to the A being a similar shape to a rocket.
Ammo or ammunition are your chips at the table or the number of buy-ins you have in your bankroll. If you bust, you are out of ammo.
Angle Shooting is the act of using underhand tactics to gain an advantage. While angle shooting is not illegal, it is deemed unethical and not in the spirit of the game.
A fee you pay before you see your hand, on top of the blinds – usually applies in later rounds of tournaments. The bigger the blind, the bigger the ante.
Arsenal can describe your or your opponent's stack or the possible hands you or they hold. For example, you may have an arsenal of 100 big blinds. In addition, you may decide that your opponent would not play certain cards because those cards are not in their arsenal.
When you need the last two cards (the turn and the river) to make your hand. For instance, say you have J and Q of clubs with a flop of A of clubs, 5 of hearts and 6 of spades. If the turn and river are K and 3 of clubs, you’re looking at a backdoor flush.
When a strong hand – one that statistically ought to win – does not. Trust us, this does happen.
The money you have to bet, either in your partypoker account or set aside to add later.
Bankroll management (BRM)
Choosing the right game for your bankroll size, and knowing when to switch up to bigger games, and back down again.
A Belly Buster is slang for an inside straight draw, a straight where you need one card in the middle to complete the straight. It derives from you needing a card that hits the deck in the belly. For example, you hold 8-7 on an A-T-6 flop. A nine gives you a belly buster straight.
A big blind is twice the small blind (blinds being the two fixed bets that start a hand going).
Big blind special
A big blind special is a term used when you make an unlikely strong hand from a weak starting hand. For example, making a straight with the lowly 6-3. Such holdings are usually played from the big blind when the action is checked around to you.
Big Slick is the slang term for holding Ace-King in Hold'em games.
A card that doesn’t go with anything else in your hand.
Some commentators describe it as a bloodbath when two or more players contest a large pot because such a scenario usually leaves one or two players severely short of chips.
When you haven’t got a great hand, but bet or raise as if you do.
In multi-table tournaments (MTTs), we put a bounty on certain players, which means a reward for whoever knocks them out of the game.
Multi-table tournaments (MTTs) can get quite long, so they often have built-in breaks, normally 5 minutes at 55 minutes past the hour.
A brick is any card that does not improve your hand. It is usually used negatively to describe missing your outs.
The last player out before the prize money starts. For example, if you have 200 entrants in a tournament and the prizes start at position 15, to finish 16th is the bubble (sorry, bubble).
A pair of aces.
Busted describes a worthless hand that did not improve as you wished. For example, if you fail to improve to a flush, you can say you have a busted flush draw. Also, bust is the term used to describe someone that has been eliminated from a cash game or tournament.
A small disk marking the dealer position (moves one place clockwise at each hand).
The money you start with in a cash game, or the entry fee in a tournament.
Where you match the bet someone else just made.
Someone seemingly receiving strong starting hands and/or making strong ones after the flop throughout a cash game session or tournament is referred to as a cardrack.
In tournaments, chips have a point value. In cash games they have a cash value.
It’s your turn, there’s no action in front of you and you choose not to bet.
A classic move. You check, hoping to draw others in to bet. When they do, you raise.
Chip dumping is the illegal process of handing chips to someone you know by intentionally losing them. The practice is more common in poker tournaments because it gives the player receiving the chip dump a larger stack that can be used to win one of the tournament's bigger prizes.
A term that originates from the online poker world and is used to describe a play that does not make any sense from a strategy point of view; it is like the player is sitting there randomly clicking buttons.
The five cards in the centre of the table – the flop, turn and river (also known as ‘the board’).
If you are dealt Q7 offsuit, you have been dealt the computer hand. It is called such because computers showed that queen-seven offsuit is the weakest Hold'em starting hand with positive equity against a random hand.
A type of bluff. Before the flop, your hand looked like the nuts – after, not so much. Your opponent doesn’t know that, so you bet again anyway. Cunning.
A cooler is a situation where something is seemingly destined to happen; it usually results in one or more players losing a lot of chips. The perfect example would be for you to have kings and an opponent holding aces, or you holding a set and your opponent holding a stronger set. You could have done nothing to avoid losing; it was a cooler situation.
Cowboys is the slang term for the starting hand pocket kings.
AKA ‘on the button’. The last to act in a betting round and the strongest position at the table.
First in the betting order, usually two positions to the left of the blinds.
The house’s portion of the tournament entry stake, usually 10%.
Unlike the buy-in (purely the cost of entering a tournament), entry stakes are the amounts players bring that make up the total prize pool.
Also known as the 'river'. The fifth community card on the table and the final round of betting.
A new player, easy pickings for the more experienced ‘sharks’ at the table.
Calling a bet without raising.
After the first round of betting, three cards are dealt face-up on the table. This is the ‘flop’, which starts the second round of betting.
Any five cards of the same suit.
When you have four cards in the same suit, hoping you’ll get a fifth to make a flush.
When you pull out of a hand by passing or ‘folding’ your cards.
Four of a kind
Four cards of the same number or face value, also known as ‘quads’.
The fourth community card dealt (also known as the 'turn'). Starts the third round of betting.
A tournament that’s free to enter.
A hand of three same-value cards, plus a pair. For example three aces and two queens.
Gappers are hands that are loosely connected in value but have a gap between them. Nine-seven is a one-gapper, while jack-eight is a two-gapper, and so on.
GG is an abbreviation of good game, something people say to an opponent usually after they bust, commending them on their performance. Some people use it sarcastically if someone makes a bad play.
Going South means removing some of your chips before you physically leave the table. The term is used in cash games. Going South is not only unethical, and an angle shoot, but is usually against the cardroom rules. You must leave your chips in play until you leave the game.
When there are only two players in a hand. Also known as ‘1 on 1’ at partypoker.
You are the hero when you relay a hand history to someone. It is a term that became prevalent in the online poker world and on poker training sites. The opposite of a hero is a villain, which is any of your opponents.
High society are chips with the highest value. Usually reserved for cash games, a stack of the highest denomination chips is a stack of high society. Anyone that has seen the poker movie Rounders will have heard this term several times.
Hit and run
If you win a big cash game pot, then leave the game soon after doing so, you have hit and run. Although technically not against the rule – unless stated in the card room – hitting and running is unethical and should be avoided.
The two cards every player gets before betting starts.
A horse is a poker player that is financially backed by somebody else. If the backer has several horses, they are part of a stable.
HORSE can also be the acronym for the mixed game where you play Hold'em, Omaha, Razz, Seven Card Stud and Seven Card Stud Hi-Low 8 or Better in rotation.
When it comes to flushes and straights, if you have the low end of the hand, you have the idiot end. For example, the flop reads 9-8-7-Q-2, and you hold 6-5, you have the idiot end of the straight.
In the money
In the final part of a tournament when everyone left will win a prize, we say the players are ‘in the money’.
Jam is the word used to describe a player moving all-in; they have jammed their stack into the middle of the table.
Usually two places left of the button – the last players to bet, except the dealer. A strong position on the table.
A game where betting is capped at 4 raises per round, with no bet bigger than the big blind.
When you enter the pot by calling rather than making a raise. Most often seen when the first person to act only calls the big blind.
A player approaching the game with a loose playing style, who appears not skilled, is known as a live one.
Lodden Thinks is a guessing game created by poker pros Johnny Lodden and Antonio Esfandiari. Some players play Lodden Thinks between or during hands. A player asks a question, one person writes their answer down, and everyone else places bets on what answer they think has been written down.
Micro cash game
Where you only need a small amount of cash to join the table, and the blinds are very small – perfect for the new player.
Somewhere between the early and late positions on a round of betting (the fifth, sixth and seventh seats to the left of the button on 10 seater tables).
Minimum sit down
The minimum amount of cash chips you are allowed to join a cash game with. This is normally a multiplier of the big blind (e.g. $1 / $2 blinds with a multiplier of X 35 will require $70 to join the table.
Multi Table Tournament, a tournament with many entrants, the bigger the number the bigger the prize money!.
You have mucked if you fold your hand without showing it to an opponent. The muck is also a term used to describe the discarded cards in a live poker game.
A Nitfest is a table where everyone plays poker in an overly tight style. These games tend to generate little action unless a cooler hand is dealt.
A game with no limit to the amount you can bet. No Limit Hold’em is the world’s most popular poker game.
Nosebleeds are the highest-stakes cash games possible; they are a level above high-stakes games. In the online poker world, nosebleeds are $ 50/ $ 100, $ 100/ $ 200, and $ 200/ $ 400 tables. In the live world, they can be far larger.
Nuts/Nut nut is when you have the best possible hand now but also have a redraw to another nut hand. For example, you may hold a Broadway straight but can improve to a royal flush.
The statistical likelihood of whether you’ll make a hand (or not).
Two hole cards of a different suit.
On the button
Dealer's position. The last player to act in a round.
On their backs
When two or more players are all-in and no-one else has bet. Players turn their cards over and the remainder of the board is dealt.
When you’ve had a few bad beats and emotions take over, you risk making things worse by chasing your losses rather than moving on.
Four consecutive cards where one more at either end will make a straight.
The number of cards left in the deck that will improve your hand. So, if after the turn you have 4-5-6-7, you need either an 8 or a 3 for a straight, there are 4 of each left, you have 8 outs.
To fold your cards.
Playing the board
In Hold’em, this is when your best 5-card hand uses the 5 community cards, not your hole cards.
When you have a pair as your hole cards.
A pair of aces as your hole cards. The odds for getting this hand are 220-1.
Where you sit in relation to the dealer, which gives you your place in the betting order.
The amount of money or chips on the table, and available for players to win.
The probability of winning the hand versus the size of the pot and the size of the bet. Helps you work out whether to call or fold.
Bets made and called (action) before the flop is dealt.
Prize fund or prize money
A calculation of total tournament entrants multiplied by the entry stake gives the total amount in the prize fund.
Pwned started life as a mistyped "owned" in the video game community. It went viral, and some poker players adopted it. If you have been pwned, you have either found yourself on the wrong side of bad luck or an opponent has outplayed you. You have likely lost most, if not all, of your chips.
Four of a kind.
Rags are weak starting hands that you should not be playing because they have little to no chance of improving to the best hand. 73o, 94o, and T5o or rags or raggedy hands.
Where the flop comes down all different suits, so the odds of hitting a flush are much lower.
To increase the previous bet.
The small charge made by the house in cash games, normally 5% of the pot, up to a maximum of a few dollars.
The value of each card and hand.
Enables a player to buy back into a tournament (normally the first hour) if they were to lose all their chips. This is only applicable to tournaments explicitly stated as a re-buy tournament.
When someone has already raised the bet, and you raise it further.
The last community card, also known as ‘5th street’.
Someone who loses all of their stack or even their entire bankroll has gone busto. Robusto is the polar opposite and is used to describe when someone goes on a massive heater and wins a vast sum of money, usually in a short time.
An ace high straight (A-K-Q-J-10) of the same suit. The best possible hand in poker.
The amount of players taking part in a tournament.
A runner-runner hand is when you hit cards on both the turn and river to make a hand. If you have a hand such as Kd-Qd and the flop has one diamond on it. Hitting running diamonds on the turn and river gifts you a runner-runner flush.
A mini-tournament you play to qualify for a larger tournament.
Some people call the starting hand pocket four sailboats because the number four has similarities to the sail on a boat.
Set mining is a potentially profitable strategy where you call a raise preflop with a pocket pair, usually a low-to-medium strength pair, hoping to improve to a set on the flop and potentially win a big pot.
A shark is a highly skilled poker player who you should be very weary off because they can bust you anytime. Sharks are complete opposites of fish, donkeys, and whales, which describe weaker, lesser-skilled opponents.
A shill in the poker sense of the word is someone that continually talks positively about a company even if that company has much negativity surrounding it. It can also refer to a player paid to play poker in the room, usually in quieter live poker rooms. A shill sometimes receives money for starting cash games or keeping them running if the table looks like it will soon break.
In tournaments, when your chip stack is quite small compared to other remaining players.
When all active players turn their cards face-up after the final betting round to see who’s won the pot.
A separate pot that comes into play when one or more players are all-in.
Sit & Go
A single-table tournament, normally with 10 players.
A sleeper straddle is a scarce form of straddle only found in live cash games. A straddle is an optional blind bet usually made from the button or under the gun. A sleeper straddle is posted anywhere at the table but only comes into play if everyone folds.
The amount put in the pot by the person immediately to the left of the dealer (button), before the cards are dealt.
Snowmen is the nickname of the starting hand pocket eights.
The two cards dealt to each player before betting starts.
Starting hand value
All starting hands have a value, based on how likely they are to win the pot. The best would be a pair of aces is the best, followed by K-K, Q-Q, A-K and so on.
The amount of chips each player begins with, in a tournament.
Five consecutive cards of any suit.
Five consecutive cards of the same suit.
The king of hearts is known as the suicide king because most decks of cards have this card showing the king with a sword through his head or heart.
Suicide King was part of the title of a popular poker-related book featuring nosebleed cash game action. Michael Craig wrote the Professor, The Banker, and The Suicide King.
Two consecutive cards of the same suit, for example 9 and 10 of hearts.
Players that are taking their time to make their decision are known as tanking. A player goes into the tank when faced with a difficult decision, which means they are thinking about what to do next.
Excessive tanking is not only disruptive to the pace and flow of the game but is also considered unethical. By all means, go into the tank, but don't overdo it regularly.
The action is on you means it is your turn to call, pass, raise or fold.
When the flop, turn and river cards are all on display, this is known as the board.
The fourth community card that starts the third round of betting.
Under the gun
The first person to act in a betting round. Or, to put it another way, the first player left of the button still holding cards.
The range of results you can expect over a given time period.
You have walking chips if you take an unscheduled break from a tournament while the game continues playing. It is not advised to do this because you will stay pay the blinds and antes and miss opportunities to win more chips from your opponents.
A straight including the cards ace to five.
Missing the card you need or failing to complete a draw is known as whiffing. You may raise with ace-queen, and the flop falls 8-7-2. Here, you have whiffed the flop.