Poker Terms

Learn to use these common terms and slang and everyone will think you’re a seasoned pro when playing Poker anywhere. This list isn’t exhaustive, but it will get a player started in the Poker world.

Ace-High: A five-card hand containing an ace but no pair; beats a king-high, but loses to any pair or above.

Aces Full: A full house with aces over any pair.

Aces Up: Two pairs, one of which is aces.

Action: A bet. A player might ask, “Where’s the action?” which means: “Whose turn is it to bet?”

Add-on: A poker tournament may offer an “add-on,” which is an option to buy more chips than the amount a player gets with his or her original buy-in. An add-on differs from a rebuy because players can choose to “add-on” no matter how many chips they have.

Ante: Place a predetermined amount in to start the pot. Not a bet.

Bad Beat: One of Poker’s heartbreakers, when a typically winning hand loses to a less favorable hand that scores a lucky draw.

Bankroll: The amount of money a player has available to bet.

Belly Buster: An alternative name for a draw that fills an inside straight, meaning the card that links two sections of a sequence together, such as 3-4-6-7. See also “gutshot.”

Bet: To wager an amount.

Betting Structure: The rules for how bets will be placed in a Poker game.

Big Bet Poker: A term for pot-limit and no-limit poker.

Big Blind: The larger of the first two bets in a game of Texas Hold ‘Em, so called because it’s made without seeing any cards. Abbreviated BB.

Blank: A card that doesn’t improve a player’s hand.

Bluff: To bet or raise with a hand not likely to win; a psychological tactic.

Bubble: The point in a Poker tournament when the next player out will not win any money, but the rest of the remaining players will win something at the tourney’s end. For example, in a tournament that pays out the top 25 players, the bubble occurs when 26 players are left in play. At that point, all are on the bubble, and the one who loses is knocked out “on the bubble.”

Bullet: An Ace.

Busted: Lose all one’s chips or cash; broke.

Button: Usually a round marker that shows who the dealer is in a hand. Also known as the dealer button, the Puck, or the Buck. A player is “on the button” when the marker is placed before him or her.

Bump: To raise.

Buy-In: Typically the amount of money needed to join a Poker game or a Poker tournament.

Call: To match the previous bet.

Capped: Restricted by a betting limit, such as a limit on the number of raises allowed in each round in limit games or the most a player can be in one hand, used in some pot-limit and no-limit games.

Cash Out: To leave a game and convert one’s chips to cash.

Caught Speeding: Slang for caught bluffing.

Check: To pass on betting, retaining the right to raise or call if another player bets.

Cutoff: The second-best seating position in poker, located to the right of the dealer or the button.

Equity: The value of a combination of cards or a hand.

Family pot: When every player stays in a hand.

Fill: To draw the card a player wants.

Fill Up: To complete a full house.

Fish: A poor poker player or an amateur who loses a lot of money. Prey for expert poker players known as “sharks.”

Fold: To lay down one’s cards and quit the game (also see “laydown”).

Free Card: When no one bets but there are still cards to be dealt, all players get the next card without having to pay to see it, hence a “free card.”

Freeze-out: The most common type of Poker tournament in which players pay their buy-in, receive their chips and play until they run out or win.

Full House: Any three cards of the same denomination, plus any pair of a different denomination.

Gutshot: A draw that fills an inside straight, meaning the card that links two sections of a sequence together, such as 3-4-6-7. The “gutshot” would be any 5, since it will complete the straight. Also known as a belly buster or a one-gapper.

Hand: A player’s best five cards in virtually any poker game.

Heads up: Any Poker hand in which only two players compete. Also known as a head to head.

Inside Straight: Four cards in sequence needing the middle card to complete a straight.

Kicker: A card used to decide ties in a Poker game. For example, if two players each holds a pair of aces at the showdown (see below), each player’s next highest card is the “kicker,” and the higher of the two kickers wins the pot for the player.

Kick it: To raise a bet. Synonym for “bump” (see above).

Jacks Or Better: A variation of draw poker requiring a player to hold a pair of Jacks or better in order to start the betting. Tends to build up a larger pot.

Laydown: To fold one’s hand, or to concede the game to a player with a better hand.

Limp: To bet the minimum or merely to call.

Muck: 1) To fold one’s hand, or 2) discarded hands.

Open: To make the first bet in a game.

Play the Board: To use all five of the face-up cards to make a player’s hand in Texas Hold’em. Typically used when a player’s hole cards won’t make a better than what’s on the table.

Post: To put in a bet, usually a forced bet like a blind.

Rainbow: Several cards of different suits.

Raise: To match and increase the previous bet.

Rebuy: A player’s option to “rebuy” back into a game or a tournament when his or her chips fall below a required number or when the player goes bust.

Satellite: A poker tournament with a low buy-in where the prize is a higher buy-in to the next level of tournament play. that awards the winner(s) an entry to a higher buy-in poker tournament. For example, a satellite for a World Series of Poker main event seat would require a first prize of $10,000. A single-table satellite would require each player to buy in for $1,000, while an event with 100 players would cost $100 each for buy-in. The total buy-ins would make up the first-prize entry fee for the main event tourney.

Showdown: The end of the game when all remaining players turn up their cards to see who has won.

Small Blind: The smaller of the first two bets made in Texas Hold ‘Em, so called because it’s made without seeing any cards. Abbreviated SB.

Stack: A player’s total amount of chips on the table, or bankroll. A player is “short-stacked” when he or she has fewer chips that opposing players.

Tap City: To go broke, lose all one’s chips or cash. Also called “tapped out.”

Tell: A player’s nervous habit that signals his or her hand to other players.

Under the Gun: The first person to act in a poker hand. Abbreviated UTG.

Wild Card: A card that can be played as any value, often a joker.

Slang for Texas Hold ‘Em Hands

As anyone who has watched any televised game knows, Texas Hold ‘Em has its own slang. How these terms got started in shrouded in the mists of play, but here are some of the most common terms.

A-A: American Airlines, bullets, pocket rockets

A-K: Big Slick, “Walking back to Houston”

A-J: Ajax

K-K: Cowboys

K-Q: Marriage

K-J: Kojak

K-9: Canine

Q-Q: Dames, divas, ladies, the Hilton sisters, Siegfried & Roy

Q-J: Maverick, Oedipus Rex

Q-7: Computer Hand

Q-3: A San Francisco Busboy (a queen with a trey; we don’t make ’em up, we just report ’em)

J-J: Jokers, hooks

J-9: T. J. Cloutier, named in honor of the great poker player from Richardson, Texas.

J-5: Jackson Five, Motown

10-5: Five and dime

10-2: Doyle Brunson, named in honor of the great player who won two World Series of Poker titles with this hand.

9-9: Meat hooks

8-8: Snowmen, Octopuses

7-7: Hockey Sticks, walking Sticks

7-2: The Hammer; when unsuited, the worst Hold ‘Em hand a player can have, because the spread between the cards is too wide to make a straight and won’t make a flush.

5-5: Nickels, presto, speed limit

5-4: Jesse James, for his Colt .45

4-4: Sailboats

2-2: Ducks

Tournament Abbreviations
Learn the following poker abbreviations to read Poker books and articles and tournament listings easily.

Abbreviations for Poker Games:
HE – Hold’em
LHE – Limit Hold’em
NLHE – No Limit Hold’em
O8 – Omaha Hi/Lo 8-or-better
PLO – Pot Limit Omaha High
PLO8 – Pot Limit Omaha Hi/Lo 8-or-better

Abbreviations for Betting and Position:
BB – Big blind or big bet.
OTB – On the button
PL – Pot Limit
NL – No Limit
SB – Small blind
UTG – Under the gun

Abbreviations for Poker Tournaments
AO – Add On
MTT – Multi-table tournament
RB – Rebuy
SNG – Sit and Go