Poker Terminology

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In terms of vocabulary, Poker ranks among the world’s most colourful card games. There are slang terms for just about everything that happens in the course of play, and a comprehensive glossary could easily fill several pages.

Many of Poker’s words and phrases come from its “Wild West” legacy, such as Aces being called “bullets” and the first player to bet, located to the left of the dealer (or Big Blind), being “under the gun.” When a player tries to draw to an inside straight, the phrase used is “gut shot,” and attempting to improve a hand that has no chance of winning is called “drawing dead.” Also, the final showing of cards to determine the winner is called a “showdown.”

New players should set a goal of mastering the language of Poker, beginning with the terms used in basic play. Experience is the best way to learn the various words of the game, and asking other players for the meaning of a phrase is absolutely acceptable during play. Here are several dozen of the most common terms to get players started:

  • All-In – To wager everything a player has left; also known as to “Move In” or “Push.”
  • Bet – The first instance of placing money into the pot during a round; thereafter, money put in is either a “call” or a “raise.”
  • Big Blind – The player two positions to the left of the dealer, who must put up a wager before the cards are dealt, typically twice the size of the small blind.
  • Blind – In lieu of an ante, money put into the pot before the cards are dealt. (Also see Big Blind and Small Blind.)
  • Bluff – When holding a weak hand, a bet or raise made to force opponents to fold in order to claim the pot without revealing the winning cards.
  • Board – All of the community cards that are shown face up.
  • Boat – Slang for a Full House.
  • Button – In live action games, a small marker that indicates which player is the dealer for the hand.
  • Buy-in – The amount of money paid for chips when joining a table; also, the cost of joining a Poker tournament.
  • Call – To match someone else’s bet.
  • Cash Game – A regular poker game played for cash, which can be joined or left at any time, also known as a Ring Game.
  • Check – To decline the opportunity to bet when no prior bet has bee made.
  • Check-Raise – To raise a bet later in a round after checking initially; note that some games prohibit this practice.
  • Cut-Off – The position to the immediate right of the button.
  • Deuce – A two; the lowest ranking card in the Latin 52-card deck when Aces are counted only as high.
  • Draw – Cards received or to take a card.
  • Fifth Street – The very last card dealt face up in Texas Hold’em or Omaha; also known as “The River.”
  • Flop – The first three community cards dealt in Texas Hold’em and Omaha.
  • Flush – A hand with all cards of one suit.
  • Four-of-a-Kind – Four matching cards of the same rank.
  • Fourth Street – The fourth card dealt face up; in Texas Hold’em and Omaha it comes after the flop and before the river; also known as “The Turn.”
  • Freeroll – Any game in which there is no buy-in required; also, when a player has a lock on half the pot in a Hi/Lo game and is competing to win the other half.
  • Freeze-Out – A tournament format whereby players who lose all of their chips must leave the table; re-buys (buying in again) are typically not permitted.
  • Full House – A hand made of Three-of-a-Kind and a Pair; also called a “Boat.”
  • Heads-Up – Two players competing against each other one-on-one.
  • Hi-Jack – The seat just to the immediate right of the cut-off, two removed from the button.
  • Hole or Hole Card(s) – Any of a player’s cards dealt face down and unseen by the other players.
  • Kicker – Any card that completes a hand but does not affect its rank, such as the fifth card when holding Four-of-a-Kind or Two Pair.
  • Limp – To call the Big Blind instead of raising.
  • Lock – A hand that cannot lose.
  • Loose – Betting aggressively with weak hands.
  • Made Hand – Any hand with a pair or better.
  • Nuts – To be the player holding the best hand at the start of the game, before any community cards are dealt.
  • Out – A card (or cards) that would, if drawn, create a winning hand.
  • Overcall – A call made after an intervening call.
  • Pair – Two-of-a-kind, two cards of the same rank.
  • Pocket Pair – Two hole cards that form a pair.
  • Position – A player’s place in the betting order.
  • Pot – The total amount of money being played for at any time during a hand.
  • Raise – To increase the size of a bet or raise.
  • Rake – A small commission taken by the dealer from each pot.
  • Re-Raise – As applied to the initial bettor, to raise another player’s raise.
  • Ring Game – A money game that is not a tournament. (See “Cash Game.”)
  • River – The final card dealt up face up; also known as “Fifth Street.”
  • Royal or Royal Flush – A Straight Flush headed by an Ace.
  • Sandbag – A check-raise or any other attempt to hide a strong hand.
  • Small Blind – The player immediately to the left of the dealer, who must put up a wager before the cards are dealt, typically the table minimum. (Also see “Big Blind.”)
  • Set – A Three-of-a-Kind, especially one created with a Pair in the hole plus a third card of the same rank on the board.
  • Showdown – The final showing of cards, in which the winner is determined.
  • Side Pot – When a player is all-in and more than one other player remains in till the showdown, any amounts bet that are not matched by the all-in player become a separate pot for the remaining players to vie for.
  • Slowplay – To check and call when holding a made hand, rather than betting or raising.
  • Sit & Go – A type of tournament that starts as soon as all seats are filled.
  • Straight – Five cards ranked in sequence.
  • Straight Flush – A Flush with all five cards ranked in sequence.
  • Suit – One of four groups of thirteen cards in a standard 52-card Latin deck—Clubs, Hearts, Diamonds, or Spades.
  • Suited – Cards of the same suit are said to be “suited.”
  • Tell – Any subconscious mannerism or behavior that reveals the strength of a player’s hand.
  • Third Street – The first card dealt face up in a Stud game.
  • Three-of-a-Kind – A hand containing three of the cards have the same rank; also referred to as “Trips,” “Triplets” or a “Set.”
  • Tight – Said of a player who rarely bluffs and only bets, calls, or raises with a strong hand and checks or folds otherwise.
  • Tournament – Poker played for a fixed prize pool, as opposed to a Cash Game.
  • Trey – A three, the next highest card in rank above a deuce.
  • Turn – The fourth community card dealt face up in Texas Hold’em or Omaha; also see “Fourth Street.”
  • Two Pair – A hands containing two separate pairs of matching cards.
  • Wheel – The lowest straight possible: Ace-2-3-4-5.
  • WSOP – World Series of Poker, an annual tournament held in Las Vegas.
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