Essential Poker Glossary and Terminology
If poker is a world within itself, then poker terminology defines the boundaries of that world. Newcomers to the game have often pointed out that poker seems to have a language of its own, while veterans will argue that poker talk is as essential to the game as any set of rules or strategies – except it’s a lot easier to learn.
Poker talk is cheap. It’s simple to master, and allows a natural flow of communication around the table. Without risking any chips, poker terminology can give you the appearance of someone who knows what they’re doing. An overkill of poker terms, on the other hand, may generate the opposite effect. Either way, understanding essential poker terminology is your rite of passage into the poker world.
Poker lingo isn’t limited to smoky back rooms in Vegas casinos – it’s a common phenomenon in online poker as well. The chat function found in online poker rooms keeps the traditional poker talk alive and confirms the players’ feeling that they have entered the magical land of poker. Moreover, online poker gave life to a new set of poker terms, helping the language of poker evolve into the Internet era.
When ‘the action is on’ someone, it is his or her tern to make a poker play. The five possible poker actions are: check, bet, call, raise (and re-raise) or fold.
Some tournaments allow players to add more chips to their stack during certain periods, usually at the beginning of a tournament or a new round.
Going all-in means throwing all your chips into the pot, risking everything you've got. This happens automatically if you don’t have enough chips to cover a required bet. You can also choose to go all-in if the bet is higher than your chip count, but you choose to make the bet nonetheless. In No-Limit games, where the bets are not limited to any specific amount, going all-in can be a strategic statement. Once you’ve gone all-in, you can only win the share of the pot that was accumulated up to and including your all-in bet. Any bets added above and beyond that point form a side-pot that you cannot win.
In online poker, the all-in rules are applied in case connectivity is lost in the middle of a hand. Your last bet placed before losing connectivity seals the main pot for you. All subsequent bets from other players form a side pot, but you are kept alive in the main pot.
A forced bet collected from everyone at the table at the beginning of each round.
The image used to represent the player in online poker.
Away From Table:
In poker tournaments, play is continuous. You cannot ‘sit out’ of the game. Instead, if you want to pause, you’re status is ‘away from table’ – you are dealt into every hand, and post blinds/antes when it’s your turn. You are automatically folded when a higher bet is placed. In online poker tournaments, if you get disconnected from the server you are ‘away from table’.
When a heavily-favored hand loses to a hand that is, statistically speaking, a severe underdog.
The amount of money a player sets aside for poker play at any given time.
Bet the Pot:
When a player bets the total amount currently in the pot. Usually used in Pot Limit games.
Forced bets, usually placed by the two players sitting directly to the dealer’s left. The blinds are placed before any cards are dealt or seen, hence the name ‘blinds’. The two blinds are the small blind, usually equal to half the size of a small bet, and the big blind, which is usually the size of the small bet.
Betting or raising with an inferior hand. By representing a better hand than you actually have, you try to get your opponents to fold. To many, bluffing is what makes poker such an interesting psychological battle.
The community cards in flop games such as Texas Holdem
are known as ‘the board’.
To burn a card is to dismiss it from play. In brick-and-mortar rooms, the dealer will burn the top card from the deck before dealing the next community card. In online poker rooms cards are not burnt, since there is no risk of cheating. In Stud Poker games such as Seven Stud
, any showing card that has been folded is considered burnt. Players must learn to memorize burnt cards in order to accurately calculate their odds and their outs.
A rotating disk-shaped marker indicating which player is the dealer of the hand. The button is used in positional poker games, where relative position to the dealer is crucial in determining the order of action and therefore poker strategy.
The minimal amount of money a player must pay in order to participate in a game. In poker tournaments, entry fees are considered the ‘buy-in’.
Calling is the action of matching the prior bet on the table.
In Limit poker games, not only is there a limit on the amount of each bet, but there is also a maximum number of bets allowed during each round. The last permitted raise during a given betting round is known as ‘the cap’.
If no one placed a bet before your turn comes, and you do not wish to bet, you can ‘check’, passing the action to the next player. Checking is considered a passive action, but can be used to trap unsuspecting opponents.
The player currently stacking the most chips. Used mainly in tournaments.
Collusion is cheating by sharing information. When two or more players share information about their cards they gain an advantage over the other players. In casinos and tournaments, languages which are foreign to the dealer are not tolerated around the table. Online poker rooms apply adroit software that seeks and disqualifies collusion.
Community Cards (Window Cards, Shared Cards):
In Flop poker games, these are the cards dealt face-up in the middle of the table to be shared by all. Players assemble the best possible five-card hand using a combination of the community cards and their hole cards. See also board.
A hand that is no longer participating in the game.
Down Cards (Face Down):
Cards that are dealt face-down to a player. Also known as hole cards. The opposite of face up.
Draw, Drawing Hand:
A poker hand that isn’t yet complete. A player drawing to a straight, for example, must ‘hit his outs’ (see outs) in order to complete the hand. The opposite of a made hand.
Drawing to a hand that will lose even if it is made. For example, if you’re drawing to a straight, but your opponent already has a full house, you are drawing dead.
Dropping a hand is the same as folding a hand – you forfeit the hand, losing all chance to take the pot.
Face Up (Up Cards):
Cards that are dealt face-up so everyone can see their value. Face-up cards are not necessarily shared cards. In Seven Card Stud
, for example, there are no shared cards, yet of the seven cards players are dealt, four are face –up while three are dealt face down. The opposite of down cards.
When each and every player at the table calls the initial pre-flop bet, the pot is called a family pot.
An easy-to-beat player, usually a newcomer to the game. The opposite of a shark. You can recognize a fish by his passive play, his inability to know when he’s beat, and the excessive number of hands he chooses to play.
The first three community cards dealt face-up in Texas Hold’em.
Folding a hand means giving up on a hand, forfeiting a hand with no chance at winning the pot. See also drop.
Some poker variants require bets to be placed at certain intervals of the game, usually at the beginning of each round. Blinds and ante bets are examples of forced bets.
A poker tournament with no entry fee. Freeroll tournaments are very popular online, usually only requiring registration. Freerolls typically pay cash prizes, or grant free access to bigger tournaments.
A poker tournament with no re-buys. Players leave the tournament as soon as they lose their chips, with no hope to return. The last player standing is the winner. Freezeout play is the most common form of poker tournaments.
A set of cards used during a single poker round by a single player. Also, a hand is the cycle that includes shuffling, dealing, betting and determining the winner.
Heads Up (Head to Head):
One-on-one poker. Heads-up is any game of poker played with two players only.
The highest ranking card in a hand.
The traditional card ranking system
in poker. The opposite of Lowball.
High-Low (Split Poker):
Games that reward the lowest ranking hand as well as the highest, splitting the pot between them. Hi-Low games typically have qualifying rules for the low hand, and in case those aren’t met the high hand alone takes the pot.
Cards that are dealt face-down to a player. Also known as down cards. The opposite of face up cards.
If you’re ‘in’, you’re an active player and participating in the hand. You have not yet folded.
In the Money (ITM):
Finishing a tournament in a paying spot. Also known as cashing in on a tournament.
Inside Straight (Belly Buster, Gut Shot, Gut Draw):
A hand that is missing one card to complete a straight, and the missing card is in the middle of the straight, rather than on either end. For example, if a player is holding 4,5,7,8, he must draw the 6 to make his hand. Drawing to an inside straight is usually considered a tactical error, since there are only four outs (in our case, the four 6’s).
Jackpots also exist in poker. Some online poker rooms and brick-and-mortar casinos have accumulating jackpots that are rewarded under certain circumstances. A popular poker jackpot is the bad beat bonus, awarded to the entire table witnessing and participating in bad beats meeting the casino’s specifications.
The card used to break ties between several poker hands.
Games in which both the size and number of bets allowed are limited. The opposite of no limit games.
Poker variants that reward the lowest-ranked hand with the pot. The opposite of high hand.
A hand that doesn’t have to improve in order to be of some value. A made hand can improve into a better hand. For example, 4,5,6,7,8 is an eight-high made straight. Hitting a 9 will improve it into a nine-high straight. A made hand will not necessarily win, since your opponent may be holding a better made hand. The opposite of a drawing hand.
This poker term has two meanings. As a noun it refers to the pile of folded, burnt and discarded cards. The verb ‘to muck’ means to choose not to show your cards at the end of the hand. If you are beat, sometimes the correct strategy is to muck your cards.
A common complement in online poker rooms, nh is shorthand for ‘nice hand’.
No Limit Games:
Games in which the neither the size nor the number of bets allowed in each round are limited. The only restriction is that players can only bet the amount of chips they have on the table. The opposite of limit games.
Nut Hand (the Nuts):
The absolute best possible hand in a given round of poker. Mainly applicable to Flop games such as Texas Holdem
, where all players must use shared community cards to make up their individual hands. Taking into account the community cards on the board, you may know that you’re holding the nuts.
On The Button:
The dealer position in Texas Holdem or Omaha. The dealer position rotates clockwise throughout the game, and is marked by a button with the letter D on it.
Your outs are any unseen cards that may improve your hand, bringing it closer to your drawing hand (see above).
Outside Straight (Two-Way Straight Draw, Open Ended Straight Draw):
A hand that has four cards in a row towards a straight. This hand has eight outs, since drawing the card on either end of the straight will complete the hand. For example, if a player is holding 4,5,6,7, he or she can either draw a 3 or an 8 to make the hand.
Chips used in play-money games or fun tables, and have no monetary value.
Playing the Board:
In Texas Holdem, when your best possible hand is the five community cards showing you are playing the board. Usually this is not a good thing.
The two down cards (or hole cards) dealt at the beginning of a hand of Holdem.
When a player’s pocket cards are paired.
The stack of chips, usually placed in the center of the table, that may be won during a single hand of poker.
Increasing the bet by surpassing the amount previously bet.
A small percentage of the pot that is taken by the house as commission for its service.
The poker value of a card.
Any chips that are purchased after the initial game buy-in.
Removing your chips from the table, only to immediately return with fewer chips, thus securing the removed chips as your winnings. Reducing is considered poor poker etiquette.
The final card dealt during a hand of poker.
A tournament which offers its winner(s) entry to a bigger or more important tournament.
The identity under which poker players are known online. Some celebrity online players are known only by their screen name.
A veteran poker player, the opposite of a fish.
The final stage of the hand. After all bets have been made, players expose their cards to determine the winner.
A tournament with no scheduled starting time. As soon as enough players have taken seats around the table(s), the game is in play.
Playing a strong hand as if it were weaker than it really is. You slow play a hand when you believe you’re in the lead, in order to get more money into the pot. Slow playing is the tactical opposite of bluffing.
In Limit poker games, stakes are the fixed amounts for bets and raises.
Poker slang for three-of-a-kind.
Sped-up poker games – players have little time to make decisions so the action is super fast.
The fourth community card dealt in Texas Holdem and Omaha.
Cards dealt face up, so all players at the table may see their value. The opposite of down cards. See also face up.
The best low hand in some Lowball poker variants. The wheel is the hand A,2,3,4,5.