Poker Terms

Phrases, Glossary and Dictionary

Like most activities that have become as popular as poker over the years, the game has developed its own unique language. This lexicon continues to grow every year, but here are some of the terms every player should know before they set up shop at the poker table.

Basic Poker Terms:

  • Action: Action most often refers to bets that have either already been made or are yet to be made. Dealers will often say “action to you” when it is your turn to check, bet or call.
  • Ante: Antes are compulsory bets that must be made by all players involved with a hand; not to be confused with blinds.
  • All-In: A bet in which a player places all of his or her remaining chips into the pot. No-limit games allow a player to make this bet at any time, while limit games will only allow players to go all-in if their chips are low enough to fit within the established betting limits at the moment.
  • Bad Beat: Losing while holding a strong hand
  • Bankroll: The money a player reserves for poker purposes, including their initial buy-in and any cash devoted toward a re-buy
  • Blinds Blinds are compulsory bets that will be made by the two players seated to the left of the current dealer on the table. The player closest to the dealer will be a “small blind,” meaning he or she will commit half of the “big blind,” which the player to their immediate left will have to pay. These blinds serve as the minimum bet for the rest of the table throughout the hand and must be called in order to participate in a hand.
  • Board: Community cards shared by all players. Only used in certain poker varieties.
  • Bubble: In tournament play, used to describe the point at which enough players have been eliminated for all remaining players to earn money for their play.
  • Burn: Burning is the action of placing a card face-down without showing it to anyone involved with the hand. In games with community cards, dealers will typically burn cards between different rounds of betting before dealing further community cards.


  • Button: The button is a small plastic disk passed around the table to show other players who is the current dealer in any given hand
  • Call: To match a previously-made bet.
  • Check: Often acted out as a knock on the table, a check is when a player declines the chance to bet and moves the hand along to the player whose turn is next.
  • Draw Dead: When no combination of cards could give a player a winning hand
  • Family Pot: When all players call the bet and remain in the hand for the next round of betting or final decision
  • Flop: The first three community cards to appear on the board in a game of Texas Hold ‘em or Omaha; can also be used as a verb to describe the hitting of a hand during those first three cards
  • Heads Up: When only two players remain in a hand
  • Hole Cards: Cards dealt face-down to a player in the beginning of a round of betting. They are unique to the player to which they are dealt
  • In the Money: Finishing a tournament placed high enough to earn prize money
  • Limp: To simply call a big blind rather than fold or raise
  • Muck: To fold your cards without showing your hand. Can also be phrased as throwing one’s cards “into the muck”
  • Option: Used to describe the final player to act’s decision to check and see a free card or raise the pot
  • Outs: Cards that have yet to be drawn that could give a player the winning hand

Position is the location of the player’s seat, relative to the dealer.

  • Position: The player’s seat location in relevance to the dealer. Players sat to the immediate left of the dealer are said to have early or “weak” position, while those further down the table’s rotation are said to have late or “strong” position
  • Post: To place one’s blind or ante into the pot
  • Protect: Usually used to describe one’s blinds, a player protects his or her investment by placing more money into a pot to ensure that their initial bet (i.e. blinds) are not lost without a fight
  • Push: To move all-in
  • Rabbit Hunt: To deal the remainder of the community cards once a hand has been completed. This is viewed as an amateur suggestion, and is therefore not allowed in most (if not all) professional card rooms.

The first three community cards dealt are called the flop.

  • Rainbow: When the first three or four community cards fail to feature two cards of any given suit.
  • Raise: To one-up the current bet on the table with additional chips. Unlike the simple bet, a raise can only happen when another player has already placed a wager.
  • Read: An understanding of an opponent’s hand strength. Can be based on tells, behavior during previous hands, etc.
  • Represent: To make a bet or some subtle action to suggest to one’s opponents that they have a particular card or cards (similar to a bluff)
  • River: The final card dealt in games with community card, such as Omaha and Texas Hold ‘em
  • Runner-Runner: When the final two cards of a community board (the turn and river) combine to give one player the winning hand.
  • Satellite: A tournament wherein the prize is entry into another tournament
  • Shorthanded: When a table is not entirely full
  • Side Pot: When a player pushes all-in and has multiple callers, any further betting will go into a separate collective only available to those players remaining
  • Sit-and-Go: A tournament without a scheduled start time, beginning whenever enough players have signed up
  • Slow Play: Purposefully playing strong cards conservatively to entice opponents to stay in the pot
  • Slow Roll: Hesitating to reveal a winning hand until other players reveal theirs. This viewed as poor table etiquette and is widely looked down upon in the poker community.
  • Split Pot: When multiple players share the winning hand, the pot will be evenly divided among them. Also known as a “chop”
  • Straddle: A bet separate from the blinds that is made without seeing one’s cards. These bets must be at least twice the big blind, and are entirely optional.
  • String Bet: Only in live play, when a player moves in only a portion of his or her bet at first, then moves in additional chips. This is against the rules of play at casinos because the initial chip movement is considered the final bet unless the player verbally announces a raise. The thought is that the first motion is intended to draw a reaction from an opponent, with the second taking advantage of said response.
  • Suck Out: Winning a hand based on the final community card to appear

A tell is a movement or reaction that can give away the status of your hand.

  • Tell: A movement, reaction of otherwise observable quirk that allows opponents to judge a player’s hand strength
  • Tilt: Anger or frustration that affects a player’s judgment (also said as “going on tilt”)
  • Turn: In games with community cards, the fourth card on the board, appearing after the flop but before the river
  • Under the Gun: The position to the immediate left of the big blind; this player will be the first to act pre-flop

Poker Hand Terms:

  • Big Slick:Hole cards of ace king
  • Blank: A community card that fails to improve a player’s hand
  • Boat: A full house

A royal flush occurs when you get an Ace-high straight of the same suit.

  • Broadway: The highest straight possible (A K Q J 10)
  • Case Card: The final card of any particular rank when the three other cards of that value have already been accounted for
  • Coin Flip: When two players with similarly strong hands go heads up; so called because of the players’ similar odds for success
  • Connectors: Two cards whose values are consecutive; i.e. 3 and 4

A pair of kings is also called Cowboys.

  • Cowboys: A pair of kings
  • Dead Man’s Hand: A two-pair hand of aces and 8s. Named after the legendary Wild Bill Hickok, who was allegedly killed while holding the hand
  • Deuce: 2
  • Dolly Parton: A 9 5 of any suit; Named for the movie starring Dolly Parton
  • Doyle Brunson: In Texas Hold ‘em, 10 2 off-suit. Named in honor of the player, who won two World Series of Poker Main Events with the hand.
  • Fishhooks: A pair of jacks; Also known simply as “hooks”
  • Gutshot: Describes a straight draw in which a player has four of the five cards he or she needs, but is missing one in the middle; also known as an “inside” straight draw
  • Kicker: A card that exists outside of any made hand; can be used to break ties
  • Ladies: A pair of queens
  • Made Hand: A hand that has achieved some rank (i.e. a pair or higher)
  • Nuts: The best possible hand considering the community cards on the board
  • Off-Suit: When both hole cards come from two different suits
  • Open-Ended: A straight draw in which a player has four cards in sequence and needs one card at the high or low end to complete the hand
  • Paint: Any of the royal cards (jack, queen or king); also known as “face” cards
  • Pocket Pair: When a player’s hole cards are of the same value

Four of a kind is sometimes referred to as Quads.

  • Quads: Four of a kind
  • Rag(s): Weak or insignificant card(s)
  • Sailboats: A pair of 4s
  • Set: Three of a kind; also known as trips
  • Snowmen: A pair of 8s
  • Suited: Describes two cards of the same suit
  • Trey: 3
  • Wheel: The lowest possible straight (A 2 3 4 5)

A wheel is the lowest possible straight, where Ace = 1.

Poker Player Terms:

  • Big Stack: The player with the most chips at a table
  • Calling Station: A player who will call most any bet, though does not typically make bets or raises of their own
  • Dealer: Both the person holding the cards and the position marked by the dealer button as the beginning of the betting cycle; the title moves to the player to the immediate left of the current dealer at the end of the hand
  • Donkey: A weak player, also called a “donk” or a “fish”
  • Grinder: A cash game specialist, typically one known for making consistent but small gains rather than big up and down swings
  • Horse: A player whose expenses are covered (or “staked”) by an outside investor, usually for a share of the profits
  • Nit: Extremely conservative players, typically unwilling to take big risks and only playing premium hands
  • Maniac: Players who are loose and aggressive, typically raising every hand to throw their opponents off and making calls most players would consider reckless
  • Rock: A very tight player; sometimes also referred to as a turtle
  • Shark: A very skilled player
  • Short Stack: The player with the fewest chips at the table.