Poker Glossary

The language of poker is full of acronyms, phrases and words that can seem daunting to beginners or non-players. You can use this poker glossary to learn more about the most commonly used terms in the game so that you arrive at the tables with confidence.


A

Ace in the Hole - An ace dealt as a hole card to a player, meaning that it is hidden from their opponents.

Action - Action refers to raising, betting and checking.

Add-on - Buying additional chips during play. In a tournament, purchasing add-ons may only be allowed

Aggressive - An aggressive player will tend to bet and raise more than they call as a means of taking the lead at the table. They don’t necessarily play lots of hands, but when they do, it is very rare for them to just call. See also: loose-aggressive, tight-aggressive.

All-in - To bet the entirety of one’s stack. If you go all-in during a round of betting, the amount you bet is placed in a separate pot, which you can still win provided that you have the best hand.

Ante - A forced bet made by stud and draw poker players to start the action.

B

Bad Beat - If a player has a strong hand based on their hole cards but still loses to an opponent, it is referred to as a “bad beat”.

Bankroll - The funds a player uses to purchase entries to poker games and tournaments.

Bet - Adding chips to the pot. Doing so forces players after you to meet your bet, raise or fold and leave the hand.

Big Blind - The player sitting to the immediate left of the small blind is referred to as the big blind, and must post a forced bet of approximately twice the amount posted by the small blind.

Bluff - Deliberately misleading opponents at the table by making a bet that would lead them to believe you hold a much stronger hand than you actually do. The goal is to make opponents fold before the showdown, ensuring that you win the pot. Players may use a stone-cold bluff, where they raise knowing they have a hand that has no chance of beating any of the others, or they may rely on a semi-bluff, where they hope to see their hand improve later in the game.

Bubble - The player who finishes right outside the prize payouts in a poker tournament may be referred to as the “bubble”. It may also be used as a verb: “Bob bubbled in sixth place because they only paid out to the top five players.”

Burn Card - The card dealt face-down before each round of cards is dealt. One burn card is dealt before the flop, another before the turn and a final one is dealt prior to the river.

Buy-in - The amount a player must pay in order to enter a game. In tournaments, the value is usually represented as X + Y, where X is the amount that goes to the prize fund and Y is the amount given to the organisers. For ring/cash games, players will usually have a minimum and maximum buy-in they must meet to take part.

Bust - A hand that does not improve as the community cards are dealt.

Button - Nickname for the dealer’s position at the poker table; so named because of the button printed with “dealer” that sits in front of the player.

C

Call - Matching the amount that a player behind you has bet. For example, if the player sitting to your right bets £50, you would call and add £50 to the pot.

Capping a Raise - In some variants of poker, such as Limit Texas Hold’em, the number of raises per round is capped - the players cannot keep raising and re-raising.

Cardroom - A facility where poker is played. Cardrooms are often found in casinos, but may also have their own dedicated venues. An online poker site may also be referred to as a “poker room”.

Check - Refraining from betting if the players before you have not completed any action. The action then moves to the player sitting on your left, but you get to keep your cards and stay in the game. If you are not sitting in the blinds, you do not contribute any chips to the pot.

Check-Raise - In a round of poker betting, a player who at first checks and later raises when the action returns to them.

Cutting the Deck - To split the deck of cards in two after shuffling.

Cut-off - The position to the immediate right of the dealer.

D

Dealer - The player who deals the cards in a poker game, or who sits in that position in a game in a cardroom where a member of staff may deal the actual cards.

Dealer’s Choice - A poker game in which the style or variant changes as the dealer position passes around the table. For example, the first dealer may choose Omaha, while the second dealer may pick Texas Hold’em.

Deck - The deck of cards used to play poker.

Discard - The cards a player discards when they fold a hand; may also be known as “mucking”.

Double Gutshot - Similar to a Gutshot in that the player is missing cards they need to complete a straight, but in this instance they could create one of two straights depending on what cards are dealt on the turn and the river.

Downswing - Sustaining a general loss over several games of poker.

E

Early Position - The player or players sitting to the left of the big and small blinds are in early position. Players in early position will want to play in a tight style and not be afraid to fold hands.

Effective Stack - The actual number of chips in play for two players. If one player has more chips than the other player, neither player can win more than the value of the smallest stack. For instance, if Tom has 20,000 chips, but Bob only has 6,000, neither Tom nor Bob can win more than 6,000 chips in that hand.

F

Fifth Street - The final community card dealt in Texas Hold’em. Also known as the river.

Fish - A poker player who constantly loses hands and most, if not all, of their bankroll.

Flat-Call - If a player calls a bet where they would normally raise, the action is referred to as “flat-calling”.

Flop - The first three community cards dealt in Texas Hold’em (and Omaha) are known as the flop.

Flush - A player who holds five cards, all of the same suit, is said to have a flush, which is a fairly strong hand.

Flush Draw - If a player’s hand contains four cards of the same suit and they are waiting to see if the next community cards yield a fifth card of that suit, they are said to hold a flush draw.

Fold - To stop playing a hand. Folding means you discard (muck) your cards and exit the game for that hand.

Four of a Kind - A hand with four cards of the same value, such as 4-4-4-4-5. This hand is only beaten by a straight flush or a royal flush.

Freeroll - Commonly offered at online poker sites, freerolls are tournaments which are free to enter and offer cash or other prizes for winners.

Freeze-out - A game that does not allow players to purchase additional buy-ins to remain in the action; once the player is out of chips, they are done. The game continues until one one player is left with the entire pot.

G

Grinding - If a player consistently plays at low-stakes tables to earn small amounts of profit over a long period of time, they are said to be “grinding”. They may also be referred to as a “grinder”.

Guarantee - A tournament with a guaranteed prize pool. These games may also be referred to as “GTD”. For example, a tournament listed as “GTD £5,000” has a prize pool of £5,000.

Gutshot - A hand where a player holds four cards that could make a straight, but one of the middle cards is missing. For example, a player might hold 3-4-X-6-7, and would need a 5 to be dealt to complete the sequence. See also: Double Gutshot.

H

Hand - The five best cards held by a player, consisting of their two hole cards and three of the community cards.

High Hand - The best hand at the table.

Hijack - The player who sits to the right of the cut-off position, two seats to the right of the dealer.

Hit - To get cards on the flop, turn or river that help your hand.

Hold’em - Another term for Texas Hold’em.

Hole Cards - The two cards dealt face-down to a player in Texas Hold’em.

I

J

Junk - A hand with no value.

K

Kicker - The highest-value card in a hand that is not part of a pair. A kicker is often used to distinguish ties. For example, if both you and one other player both have Q-Q pairs at the end of the round, but you also hold an ace, you would win the hand as you have the “kicker”.

L

Late Position - The most favourable of the poker table positions. A player sitting in late position is typically in the hijack or cut-off seats and acts after all the players behind them, giving them time to analyse their opponents and make a decision.

Limit Poker, Limit Stakes - Poker games where a fixed limit has been set on the value of raises as well as how many raises can be made in each round of betting.

Limp, Limping - Entering the pot without raising. A player who calls instead of raising when the action comes to them may be described as a “limper”.

Loose - A player who enters a lot of hands, whether strong or weak, is referred to as having a “loose” style.

Loose-Aggressive - A loose player who frequently bets or raises and rarely calls is described as a “loose-aggressive” player.

Loose-Passive - A player who enters many hands, but tends to call or check more than they bet is described as having a “loose-passive” style.

M

Made Hand - A hand which already contains a high-ranking pair in the hole cards.

Middle Position - Players who sit between the early and late positions at the poker table.

Monster - A player who has incredibly strong hole cards, usually A-A, K-K or Q-Q, could be described as having a “monster” hand.

Muck - Folding your hand. The pile of discarded or folded cards in a game may also be referred to as the “muck”.

N

No Limit - A game of poker without restrictions on bet values or the amount of raises that can be made in each betting round.

Nut Flush - The best possible flush a player could make during that round of betting.

Nuts - The best hand a player could possibly make.

O

On the Button - Sitting in the dealer’s position.

On Tilt - Experiencing strong, irrational emotion (usually over a losing streak), which affects the ability to play poker according to the player’s best possible strategy.

Open-Ended Straight Draw - A four-card hand that needs another card either at the beginning or the end to make a straight. For example, if you hold 5-6 and the flop dealt is 7-8-3, you need either a 4 or a 9 to make the straight.

Overpair - Holding a pocket pair that has a higher value than any of the community cards dealt.

P

Passive - A passive poker player will call or check hands more regularly than they bet or raise. This doesn’t mean that they play fewer hands; just that they don’t lead the action very often. See also: aggressive, loose and tight.

Pocket Rockets - Having a pair of aces as your hole cards.

Poker Network - A group of online cardrooms which all use the same poker software, but with a different design or “skin” to differentiate them from the others. These networks pool players from associated sites to maximise traffic. Some examples include the iPoker network and the Microgaming Poker Network (MPN).

Position - Where a player sits at the poker table in a flop game like Texas Hold’em is referred to as their position. The most advantageous place to sit is in late position, while players sitting in early position will be at more of a disadvantage.

Pre-flop - The round of betting after the players have received their hole cards but before the flop cards has been dealt is often referred as the “pre-flop”. For example: “I folded pre-flop because I knew I had a junk hand.”

Q

Quads - Another term for Four of a Kind.

R

Raise - Increasing the value of the previous bet. For example, if Bob bets £5, but you know you have a monster hand, you might raise by betting £15.

Rake - Cardrooms and online poker rooms often take a cut, or “rake”, of the chips paid for by players to cover the costs of running poker games.

Re-buy - Poker chips bought by players after the initial buy-in if their stack falls below a certain amount. In some tournaments, re-buys are allowed up to a certain point in time and then are promptly stopped.

Re-entry - A type of tournament where players must be eliminated from the action before paying the buy-in amount again to be seated at a different table in the same tournament.

Ring game - Another term for a cash game.

River - The last community card dealt in Texas Hold’em.

Royal Flush - A straight sequence consisting of A-K-Q-J-10, all of the same suit. This is the highest possible hand in poker and cannot be beaten.

S

Satellite - A poker tournament in which the top prize offered is entry into a bigger tournament offering a larger prize pool and a higher level of competition.

Shark - A shrewd poker player who seeks out fish to prey on, and who may pose as an inexperienced player in order to gain an advantage over others at the table without their realising it.

Showdown - If more than one player is still in the hand after the last round of betting has taken place, all players reveal their hole cards to compare them with the community cards and determine the winner of the hand.

Side Pot - A side pot is an additional pot created by players not going all-in during a round of betting. The player or players who are all-in cannot play for the side pot.

Slow Roll - When a player holds off on revealing their hand at the showdown to coerce other players into showing their hands first. This is generally frowned upon in poker.

Stack - Used to refer to the collection of chips held by a player during a cash game or a tournament.

Straight - Holding five cards in sequence (such as 5-6-7-8-9) that are not of the same suit.

Straight Flush - Holding five cards in sequence that are all of the same suit.

T

Tank - Taking an exceptionally long period of time to decide what you will do during your turn. This is usually used as a verb: “Dave tanked for eight minutes before he eventually folded, by which point half the table had fallen asleep.”

Texas Hold’em - The most popular variant of poker, which sees players attempt to create the best five-card hand out of two hole cards and five community cards. See the Texas Hold’em section for more details.

Tell - Any action, whether that is a betting pattern or their physical behaviour, that tells you something about the hole cards held by your opponent.

Three of a Kind - A poker hand which has three cards of the same rank in addition to two unmatched cards. If two players at the table both have three of a kind, the player with the highest-value set wins.

Tight - A “tight” player will see fewer hands, choosing only to enter the pot when they hold strong starting cards. See also: aggressive, loose and passive.

Tight-Aggressive - A tight-aggressive poker player will enter fewer hands, but when they do, they tend to bet or raise right from the start instead of calling to wait and see what happens.

Tilt - A state of emotional distress, caused by losing streaks, bad beats or a variety of factors, which leads to a player not performing at their best. A poker player might describe themselves or another player as being “on tilt”.

Tournament - A type of poker game with a set buy-in for all players, multiple tables and rising blind levels over set periods of time. The play continues until one person is left with the pot and is declared as the winner.

Trash - Used to refer to poor starting hands that are generally low in rank or not similar enough in rank or suit to potentially form a straight or a flush. The best strategy for a trash hand is to fold it.

Turn - The fourth community card dealt in games like Texas Hold’em.

U

Under the Gun - The player sat to the immediate left of the big blind is said to be “under the gun”. They are the first to open the action after the forced bets have been posted and the hole cards have been dealt, and cannot anticipate what players ahead of them might do.

V

Variance -

W

World Series of Poker (WSOP) - The World Series of Poker is a prestigious event that is held each year and which encompasses a number of different poker events and styles. Winners receive bracelets, which act as medals of sorts.

World Poker Tour (WPT) - The World Poker Tour consists of several international poker tournaments throughout the year.

X

Y

Z


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