Poker Terms Explained

It seems there’s a poker slang term for everything that could possibly happen in a game, but don’t worry – our definitive guide to poker terminology is here to help you make sense of it all! You can use this page as a reference to look up any poker phrases you come across that you’re unfamiliar with, or why not learn some new poker lingo to break out at your next home game?
Glossary of poker terms
  • Action

    A player’s turn to act during a betting round (‘action is on the small blind’ means it is the small blind’s turn to act); 2. Betting activity (‘there was no action on the flop so I saw the turn for free’).

  • Add-on

    In a poker tournament, an additional amount of chips that players may optionally buy in for on top of their existing stack, usually offered at the end of the rebuy period.

  • All-in

    For a player to have bet the last of their chips.

  • Ante

    A forced bet that all players must post, prior to the deal. Antes are often used in poker tournaments and stud formats.

  • ATC

    What extremely loose players need to see a flop: ‘Any Two Cards’.

  • Backdoor

    A flopped drawing hand which needs to hit on both the turn and the river (‘when I flopped a third heart to go with the two in my hand, I had a backdoor flush draw’).

  • Bad Beat

    When a hand which is a strong favorite is improbably outdrawn.

  • Bankroll

    Funds which a player has dedicated to playing poker.

  • Bet

    To wager on the strength of your hand, forcing any other players who wish to continue to match the amount of your bet.

  • Big Blind

    In poker games which employ blinds, the big blind is the second, larger forced bet made by the player to the left of the small blind. If the big blind is not raised during the pre-flop betting round, the player in the big blind position has the option to raise when the action reaches them.

  • Big Blind Special

    An unlikely winning hand for the player in the big blind, made possible thanks to them playing a hand they would not usually have played had they not been forced to put chips in the pot.

  • Big Slick

    A nickname for the Texas Hold’em hand of an Ace and a King.

  • Blank

    A community card which is extremely unlikely to make a difference to the strength of any players’ hands (‘she had a backdoor flush draw on the flop, but the turn and river were both blanks so in the end she made an easy fold’).

  • Blind

    A forced bet which some players are required to post before the deal in certain poker variants. In Texas Hold’em, for example, the player to the left of the dealer is usually the small blind, and has to wager a certain number of chips, while the big blind is to their left and has to make a forced raise of the small blind.

  • Bluff

    A bet made with the intention of causing your opponents to fold.

  • Board

    In flop games like Texas Hold’em or Omaha, another name for the community cards.

  • Boat

    Another term for a full house (three of a kind with a pair).

  • Bottom Pair

    A pair made using a hole card and the lowest available community card.

  • Bounty

    A prize awarded for eliminating an opponent in a poker tournament. Some tournaments may have bounties for certain, specific players, while others may award bounties for every player eliminated.

  • Broadway

    A straight from ten to ace.

  • Bring-in

    In stud poker games, a forced bet which a player is required to make to get the betting started. In Seven-Card Stud the lowest visible upcard has to ‘bring it in’, while in Razz it is the highest visible upcard which has to make the bet. The bring-in is usually a choice between two amounts.

  • Bubble

    In a poker tournament, the last elimination before the prize-winning positions (‘the tournament paid prize money to the final 8 positions, but sadly I went out on the bubble in 9th place’).

  • Burn

    A single card dealt face down from the top of the deck before dealing the flop, turn and/or river. Historically, burn cards were used to make sure players couldn’t identify the next card to be dealt by studying the back of the card on the top of the deck.

  • Bust

    To be eliminated from a poker tournament or ring game (‘I bust that tournament in 15th place’); 2. A draw that failed to materialize (‘I couldn’t call when all I had was a busted flush’); 3. To lose your whole stack or bankroll (‘I can’t afford the tournament, I’m bust’).

  • Button

    An oversized chip used to identify the player in the dealer position – last to act – in any poker hand; 2. Another poker term to describe the dealer position itself.

  • Buy-in

    The amount required to enter a tournament or ring game. In ring games 100x big blinds is often considered to be a single buy-in.

  • C-bet

    Or ‘continuation bet’. After raising pre-flop, a bet on subsequent rounds to apply continuous pressure and project strength, whether the hand improves or not. Hands which are strong pre-flop, but which don’t connect with the flop, may win the pot with a well-judged c-bet bluff.

  • Call

    To match the amount previously bet, in order to stay in the hand without raising the bet.

  • Calling Station

    Nickname for a passive player who rarely raises or folds. It’s difficult to bluff a calling station, as they will often call you with a bad hand which could still beat you.

  • Cap

    In games where only a certain number of raises are allowed per betting round, the final permitted raise.

  • Case

    The last remaining card of a certain type that’s left in the deck (‘When Jenny told me she’d folded an ace I was confident my three kings would beat Bob’s pair of aces, but then he hit the case ace on the river to make a higher three of a kind’).

  • Catch

    To draw the card you need to make your hand (‘I didn’t have much until I caught that fifth spade on the river for a flush’).

  • Check

    To stay in the hand without betting any chips. Note that a player may only check while no other player has bet any chips during that betting round, so checking pre-flop is not possible due to players posting the blinds.

  • Check-Raise

    The action of checking, waiting for a player behind you to bet, then raising their bet. Check-raising is often a sign of a strong hand trying to trap an opponent into committing chips to the pot, when betting out might cause an opponent to fold.

  • Chip Leader

    The player with the most chips in the game.

  • Chop

    To split a pot or a tournament with another player. Split or chopped pots occur when multiple players have the same winning hand (or in hi-lo games when one player has the best high hand and another has the best low hand). Chopped tournaments occur when players agree between themselves to split the prize money.

  • Cold Call

    To call multiple bets and raises in one action.

  • Community Cards

    In flop games like Texas Hold’em or Omaha, cards dealt face up which every player may use in making their strongest five-card poker hand.

  • Connectors

    Hole cards with no gaps in their rankings, e.g. 3-4, 7-8 or J-Q. Good potential for making straights, and even more playable when they’re suited.

  • Cooler

    A hand where multiple players are dealt strong cards and, even when played correctly, one of the strong hands loses (‘Finally I got dealt pocket kings, but the small blind had aces and won all my chips. Talk about a cooler!’)

  • Counterfeit

    A community card which renders your hand worse than it was, either by duplicating a card from your hand (e.g. if you held 6-8 on a board of 7-9-T for an straight, and an 8 came on the turn, any jack would make a higher straight), or by creating a pair on the board (e.g. if you held 6-8 on a board of 6-8-J for two pair, and a J came on the turn, any pocket pair higher than 8s would have a higher two pair).

  • Crack

    To come from behind to beat a made hand. Often used to describe beating a pair of pocket aces (‘That’s the third time I’ve had aces cracked this week!’).

  • Cut-off

    Term used to describe the position to the right of the dealer button.

  • Dead Money

    Poker slang to describe players in a tournament that are highly unlikely to reach the prize-paying positions.

  • Dealer

    The person who deals the cards in a poker game; 2. The latest of late positions at a poker table, also known as the button, with the advantage of being last to act on most betting rounds.

  • Dog

    Short for ‘underdog’, a hand which is statistically less likely to win than the one it is up against.

  • Dominated Hand

    A hand which is losing, and which is unlikely to win as certain outs are held by the opponent (‘I had a short stack so went all-in with Q-J, but when I saw I was up against K-J I knew I was dominated’).

  • Donk

    Short for ‘donkey’, a pejorative term for a bad player; 2. To make an unexpected opening bet, especially when out of position.

  • Draw

    A drawing hand is one where further specific cards are required to make it a winner. The act of adding cards to your hand, including those added as shared community cards, is known as drawing cards; 2. A form of poker with no community cards, where players have the option to discard and draw cards to try and improve their hand, e.g. five-card draw.

  • Drawing Dead

    When your hand cannot beat your opponent’s, no matter what cards you hit, you are said to be drawing dead.

  • Dry Board

    A board, or collection of community cards, which doesn’t feature any pairs or obvious draws to a straight or flush.

  • Effective Stack

    In a hand between players with stacks of different sizes, the most that can be won or lost in the hand.

  • Equity

    A mathematical representation of your ‘share’ in a pot (‘I figured I was winning that $100 pot 50% of the time, so my equity was $50’).

  • Expected Value (EV)

    The amount you expect to win or lose, on average, in a specific situation (‘I know I’m only winning that hand around 1 in 4 times that I call, but when I do I’m winning so much more than I’d lose, so calling in that spot has a positive expected value’).

  • Extra Blind

    In a ring game, when a player has been sitting out long enough to miss posting their blinds but they want to re-enter the game before they are big blind again, they may post an extra blind and rejoin the game.

  • Family Pot

    A pot in which every player stays in to see the flop.

  • Favorite

    Any hand which is statistically likely to win versus another hand (‘2-2 is a favorite to win against A-K, but at 52% it’s only a slight favorite’).

  • Flat Call

    To call a bet in a spot where you might be expected to raise instead.

  • Float

    To call a bet on the flop without a strong hand, but with the suspicion that the bettor is weak and can be bet or raised off the pot later in the hand.

  • Flop

    The first three community cards to be dealt in flop games such as Texas Hold’em or Omaha.

  • Fold

    To voluntarily end your participation in a pot, rather than commit more chips.

  • Fold Equity

    When estimating your chances of winning a specific pot, fold equity refers to the probability of you winning thanks to your opponents folding to a bet.

  • Free Card

    When drawing hands are able to see the turn or river without having to call a bet, they are said to be receiving a free card.

  • Freeroll

    A poker tournament which is free to enter but awards real prizes; 2. Any position where you stand to win if a certain event takes place, but will not lose if it doesn’t (‘We both had pocket aces so were almost certainly going to split the pot, but when the flop came with three hearts, and I had the ace of hearts, I had a freeroll to win the whole pot’).

  • Gutshot Straight Draw

    A draw to a straight which requires one specific card, e.g. 3-4-6-7 (needs a 5) or T-J-Q-A (needs a king).

  • Heads Up

    A two player poker game.

  • Hijack

    Term used for the position to the right of the Cut-off.

  • Hit

    When you receive the card you need, you can be said to have ‘hit your card’.

  • Hole Cards

    Private, face down cards which can only be seen or used by you.

  • Hollywood

    Shorthand for any physical or verbal behavior in a live poker game which is intended to mislead your opponents into taking the actions you want them to take. Named for the acting capital of the USA.

  • House

    The casino or poker room itself (‘I would be a much bigger winner in that game if the house didn’t take so much rake’).

  • HUD

    Short for heads-up display, a graphical overlay which some online poker players use to track their opponents’ behaviors and tendencies.

  • ICM

    Stands for ‘Independent Chip Model’, a mathematical approach to evaluating equity in the late stages of a poker tournament.

  • Implied Odds

    A factor to be considered when choosing whether or not to call with a drawing hand. Pot odds help determine if a call is worthwhile given the amount in the pot to be won; implied odds do the same, but also factor in any further chips you may win in addition to those already in the pot.

  • In Position

    The order in which the players act is said to be their position. A player acting after another is said to be ‘in position’ compared to the earlier player and has a strategical advantage due to having more information when it is their turn to play.

  • Inside Straight Draw

    Needing a card of just one specific rank to make a straight, e.g. 4-5-7-8 requires a 6 specifically.

  • ITM

    In the prize winning places in a tournament (‘In The Money’).

  • Jackpot

    A table, or a group of tables where a prize is offered for a specific occurrence. Usually for making a rare hand, such as a Royal Flush using both Hole cards at Hold’em or having a very strong hand, such as a Full house or Four-of-a-Kind beaten. The Jackpot is accumulated by a separate charge taken every hand in addition to the standard rake.

  • Jam

    To go all-in.

  • Kicker

    A card which may be used to break ties in a poker hand when two players have identical holdings. For example, a hand such as A-A-9-9-Q will beat A-A-9-9-7 because the Q and the 7 kickers are part of the five cards. Also called a side card.

  • Knockout

    A tournament format in which prizes are awarded for every player eliminated.

  • Limp

    To simply call the blinds pre-flop, rather than raise.

  • Lojack

    A nickname for the position three places to the right of the dealer.

  • Loose

    A style of play where one plays more hands than expected.

  • Made Hand

    A hand which does not need to improve with a draw, such as a straight or a flush. Sometimes known as a pat hand.

  • Maniac

    A reckless and aggressive player.

  • Muck

    To fold; 2. The pile of discards on a poker table. In a casino game, any cards which have made contact with the muck are usually deemed to be folded.

  • Nit

    A very tight player who is unwilling to take risks.

  • No Limit

    A variation of poker where players are allowed to bet all of their chips at any time, regardless of pot size and stakes, (except for special circumstances when a raise of any kind is restricted, such as a player under-raising all-in).

  • Nuts

    The best hand possible.

  • O8

    Omaha Hi-Lo, also known as ‘Omaha eight or better’. A variation of Omaha where half the pot is awarded equally to both the best high hand and the best low hand, but only when the low hand is deemed to legally qualify.

  • Offsuit

    Two or more cards which are not the same suit.

  • Omaha

    A variation of poker whereby a player is dealt four Hole cards, with five community cards dealt face up in three stages: the flop, turn and river. Players make a hand using the best five-card combination of the seven cards available to them, but have to use exactly two from their Hole cards and exactly three from the board.

  • One-Gapper

    Cards separated by a single rank, e.g. K-J, 2-4 or 6-8.

  • Open

    To make the first bet in a betting round, or the first raise pre-flop.

  • Open-Ended Straight Draw

    A Straight draw which has the possibility of being completed by drawing a card of two different ranks. For example, 4-5-6-7 can be completed by either a 3 or an 8.

  • Out

    A card in the deck which will give you the best hand if it is dealt.

  • Out of Position

    A player acting before another player is at a strategic disadvantage and said to be out of position.

  • Outrun

    To hit one of your outs, beating a hand which was beating yours.

  • Overcall

    To call a bet or a raise after another player has already called the bet.

  • Overcard

    A community card that is higher than any pocket pair in the hole cards held by a player, or a card in the player's hole cards that is higher than the community cards.

  • Overlay

    When a poker tournament has a guaranteed prize pool, which is not covered in full by the entrants’ contributions, the tournament is said to have an overlay.

  • Overpair

    A pair in the hole that is higher than all of the community cards.

  • Pay Off

    To call a value bet.

  • PKO

    A Progressive Knockout: a knockout tournament where each elimination awards part of the bounty (typically 50%) as prize money, with the other half added to the bounty of the eliminating player. A player who wins a PKO keeps their own bounty.

  • Play the Board

    In community games, to use the community cards as your hand without using any hole cards.

  • PLO

    Pot Limit Omaha.

  • Pocket

    A nickname for hole cards, e.g. ‘pocket rockets’ or ‘an ace in the pocket’.

  • Pocket Pair

    A pair in the hole.

  • Post

    To pay a blind.

  • Pot Limit

    A betting format where the maximum size of any bet or raise is limited by the size of the pot at the time.

  • Pot Odds

    The ratio of chips in the pot to the chips required to call a bet. Calling $10 to win a pot of $100 would be indicate pot odds of 10 to 1.

  • Price

    The relationship between the amount required to call a bet, and the odds of winning the hand. Calling a bet with pot odds of 10 to 1, but with a greater than 10 to 1 chance of winning the pot, would be ‘the right price’.

  • Protect

    Betting while holding a good hand, to prevent worse hands from improving for free.

  • Push

    To go all-in.

  • Quads


  • Ragged

    Descriptive of a board that does not offer any obvious possibilities to make strong hands.

  • Rainbow

    A flop featuring three cards of different suits.

  • Raise

    To increase the bet size after another player has made a wager.

  • Rake

    The fee taken by the cardroom for each hand after the hand is finished. Rake is part of the pot during the hand.

  • Read

    To determine an opponent’s holdings by studying their appearance and/or behavior.

  • Rebuy

    In ring games, bringing more chips to the table. In some tournaments, to purchase more chips during a period near the start of the tournament, if the player has no chips left or less than the starting amount.

  • Represent

    To play a hand in a way that strongly suggests a certain holding or a degree of strength, possibly strong or weak.

  • Ring Game

    Poker games where players can join or leave as they wish, and the games may continue indefinitely as long as there are players seated.

  • River

    The fifth and final community card dealt in flop games.

  • Rock

    Nickname for an extremely tight player.

  • Royal Hold’em

    A variant of Texas Hold’em in which all cards below a 10 are permanently removed from the deck before play begins.

  • Runner-Runner

    When the Turn and the River cards are necessary to complete a hand. Also known as Backdoor.

  • S&Go

    A tournament requiring a certain number of players to register in order to start, as opposed to a scheduled startin

  • Sandbag

    To play a strong hand slowly by smooth calling bets or checking with the intention of getting action later in the hand.

  • Satellite

    A tournament which is a feeder to a tournament with a larger entry stake. The prize payout of a satellite is most commonly a ticket or a seat (direct entry) to the next event which may not be used for any other purpose.

  • Scare Card

    A card that falls and may help an opponent improve their hand, such as a card pairing the board or making the completion of a straight or flush easier in a flop game.

  • Second Pair

    To make a pair with the second-highest community card and one of your hole cards.

  • Semi-Bluff

    To bet with a hand that may improve at a later stage and thus have a chance of also winning the pot when it does not improve.

  • Set

    Three-of-a-kind when two hole cards from the hand and one from the board are used, or all three cards are in the hand at stud.

  • Shootout

    A multi-table tournament variation where each table plays down to a winner and there is no rebalancing, with the winners being reseated together and repeating the process.

  • Short Handed

    A game having fewer than the usual or expected number of players – generally 6 or fewer.

  • Short Stack

    A player with a stack of chips which is much less than one or more other stacks at the table.

  • Showdown

    The act of comparing hand strengths at the completion of all rounds of betting, if more than one player remains.

  • Shove

    To go all-in.

  • Side Pot

    One or more pots separate from the main pot, created to cater to the situation where players are all-in and have differing amounts of chips.

  • Slow Play

    To disguise the strength of one's hand by appearing passive and checking or just calling other players' bets instead of raising.

  • Small Blind

    The smaller of the forced bets made by two players immediately to the left of the Dealer before cards are dealt.

  • Smooth Call

    To call a bet with a strong holding when a raise would also be considered.

  • Soft Play

    To deliberately not win the maximum amount from an opponent – possibly as a form of collusion – by betting small amounts or checking.

  • Splash the Pot

    To scatter chips into the pot, when calling or raising, in a way which makes them difficult to track or count and which may be interpreted as rude. Splashing the pot is to be discouraged in home games, and is generally not allowed in casino play.

  • Split Pot

    When two (or more) hands of exactly equal strength win a hand, and the pot is divided between them.

  • Spot

    A decision point during a hand.

  • Spread-limit

    A betting variation – such as no limit or pot limit – whereby all bets and raises must fall within a certain range, e.g. $2-6.

  • Stacked

    To have lost all your chips.

  • Straddle

    An optional third blind, permitted in some ring games, which is usually double the size of the big blind and acts as a live blind. This means it can be raised by the original straddler, if not raised by another player.

  • Street

    A round of betting or the card which is dealt for that round.

  • String Bet

    When raising, adding chips to the pot in instalments. String bets are not allowed, as they afford the raiser the opportunity to read their opponents’ reactions as increase the size of their raise. For this reason, raises must be made in a single forward motion, or through immediate verbal confirmation.

  • Suited

    Two or more cards of the same suit.

  • Table Stakes

    The principle that players can never wager more than they have on the table at the start of a hand, nor can they be required to call for more than the chips they have on the table at the hand’s start.

  • Tank

    To think for a prolonged amount of time before making a play.

  • Tell

    An indication of another player's hand strength through observation of their behavior, such as body language. Most relevant in live games but some players believe there are timing tells in online games.

  • Texas Hold’em

    The world’s most popular variation of poker whereby a player is dealt two hole cards, with five community cards then dealt face up in three stages. Players make a hand using the best five cards of the seven available to them.

  • Three-Bet

    To re-raise the first raise of a betting round, putting in a third bet.

  • Tilt

    Reckless play, usually associated with overly aggressive, sub optimal play. Avoiding tilt is something every good player strives to do.

  • Top Pair

    When a hole card matches the highest card on the board.

  • Top Set

    Three-of-a-kind made using a pair of hole cards and the highest card on the board.

  • Top Up

    To add more chips to your stack in a ring game, in between hands.

  • Trap

    To slow play with a strong hand.

  • Trips

    Three-of-a-kind made using a pair on the board and a single hole card.

  • Turn

    The fourth community card dealt in a flop game, such as Texas Hold’em or Omaha.

  • Under the Gun

    Nickname for the position directly following the blinds, and therefore first to act pre-flop.

  • Underdog

    A hand that is not favored to win.

  • Value Bet

    A bet which is sized to encourage callers, because the bettor either has the best hand or wants to build the pot due to having a draw with a high expectation of winning.

  • Variance

    The statistical measure of how far results differ from expectation.

  • Wet Board

    When the community cards are coordinated, and strong hands are seemingly likely.

  • WSOP

    The World Series of Poker, a series of poker tournaments held every year in Las Vegas, attracting the biggest names in the game and awarding iconic gold bracelets to event winners.