Poker Glossary & Terminology

​Players new to the game of poker might find the vernacular daunting. You might decide to show your cards at the end of a hand when all the sudden another player says something like: “Looks like you were going for an open-ended straight draw but ended up with a double gutshot.” – leaving you slack-jawed and wondering whether a “gutshot” could ever be considered a good thing. Poker has a colorful past, and much of the terminology was brought about by famous hands that resulted in bodily harm. This article will hip you to the jargon so you will know if you’re holding a “dead hand” or “the nuts.”

Why Is Poker the World’s Most Popular Card Game?

Throughout history, every culture has enjoyed passing the time by playing games of chance. From dice to dominos, to card games of every sort, the enjoyment of friendly competition has always been a way to take the edge off. Games like “Primero”, an early version of poker, were even played by warring emperors in the 13th century during deliberations. Known to pacify as well as provoke, throughout time the game of poker has beget peaceful unions just as often as sudden murders. The ability to cultivate such extremes has made poker ubiquitous throughout the world. From the riverboats that drifted along the Mississippi, to the legal U.S. poker sites that exist today, the game continues to thrive as an American tradition.

Poker Terms

Now that you understand poker's place in history and ready to learn to play legal online poker, let’s get you talking the talk. Next time you’re at a table, online or in real life, you can quote the great Doc Holliday and instill a little bit of fear in the opposition.

Action: (a) The players turn to act during a hand, (b) Used to describe an exciting game

Ante: A preliminary bet that players are required to make prior to the hand being dealt. Similar to a Blind.

All-In: Placing all of your chips into the pot during a bet. “Going all-in.”

Backdoor: Getting the cards needed to make your hand on the turn and the river. For example, if you’re holding two spades and there’s one on the board and two more spades show up on the turn and the river, you’ve hit a “backdoor” flush.

Bad Beat: When a player loses with a good hand.

Bad Beat Story: When a player tells a story about a bad beat. These are predictable, boring tales that always end the same.

Big Blind: The number of chips the player two seats to the left of the dealer must bet before the hand is dealt. Similar to the Ante.

Blind: A term referring to the big and small blind.

Board: The cards that are dealt on the table that all players use to form a hand. Also known as the “community cards.”

Burn: When the dealer discards the top card before each betting round. The dealer places a card down before dealing a card on the board, which is used to dissuade cheating.

Button: Marks the position of the dealer, usually with a white chip that is passed around the board. In online poker this is automated.

Buy-In: The minimum amount required to sit down at a cash game, or the cost to enter a tournament. Usually, it will be 20 times the big blind.

Call: To commit the minimum amount of money to the pot.

Check: To pass on betting when it’s your turn. If there is no action to you, you can check instead of betting.

Check-Raise: When a player checks on the first opportunity to bet and raises on a subsequent round of betting.

Cold Call: When a player calls two or more bets on their turn. If a pot has been raised before your turn, and you call you are cold calling.

Connector: Chronological pocket cards. A 6 of hearts and a 7 of clubs would be connectors. If the cards are the same suit they would be “suited connectors.”

Community Cards: The cards that are dealt to the table. These are the cards all players use to make a hand.

Dealer: The player who deals the cards. A dealer is “on the button.”

Draw: When a player keeps playing a hand in the hopes of it improving.

Draw Out: Getting a community card that gives you a winning hand.

Drawing Dead: The opposite of drawing out. Your losing hand keeps on losing.

Flop: The initial three community cards dealt out all at once.

Flush: A five card hand in which every card has the same suit. Considered a very good hand.

Fold: When the player decides to bow out of a hand. When you fold, you lose whatever money you have in the pot.

Four of a Kind: Having four cards of the same rank in your hand. Beats a full house, loses to a straight flush.

Full House: A hand that consists of three of a kind, as well as a pair. Beats a flush, but loses to four of a kind.

Gutshot: When you are missing the middle card in a straight, you need that one card to complete the hand.

Hand: Five cards make a hand. The culmination of the cards that a player has used at the end of betting.

Heads-Up: Playing a game against one other player. Marks the last game of a tournament.

Kicker: If two players have the same hands at the end of the game, the one with the highest “kicker” card wins the pot.

Limit: A limit game is one that regulates the betting amounts. You can’t go “all-in” when playing in a limit game.

Muck: The pile of discarded cards from players folding.

No-Limit: A no-limit game allows betting of any amount. These are the games you can go “all in” on.

Nuts: The best possible hand in there is at any given time.

Off-Suit: Holding cards that contain different suits.

Omaha: Omaha is a version of Hold’em where the player receives 4 pocket cards, using any two of them together with 3 of the 5 community cards to make a hand.

Open-Ended: A straight draw in which the player needs a beginning or ending card to complete the hand. Similar to a Gutshot except for the middle of the hand is made, so you need to make either of the outside cards to complete the straight.

Out: A single card that will make or improve your hand.

Pair: Two cards of the same rank. A Pair beats a high card and loses to any better hand.

Pocket Cards: The cards that a player holds, that no other players can see. Used to make a hand along with the community cards.

Pot-Committed: When a player has contributed a significant amount to the pot, and folding would mean losing a lot of money.

Quads: Another name for four of a kind.

Rake: The amount of money the house receives from a poker hand.

River: The last card dealt to the board. The last community card dealt.

Raise: To wager more than the minimum required to stay in the hand.

Royal Flush: A five card hand consisting of an Ace-high suited flush. The best hand in poker.

Satellite: A tournament with smaller buy-ins. Winners of satellite tournaments graduate to higher-stakes tournaments.

Semi-Bluff: Bluffing with a hand that has the chance to improve.

Short Stack: A player with the smallest amount of chips. The opposite of a Chip Leader.

Side pot: The betting that goes on between players after one or more players has gone all in. The player that has gone all in does not stand to win any of the side pot.

Sit-And-Go: A tournament in which players register for, and starts when enough players have registered. There are also Sit-and-go games in which a player can join at any time if a spot is available, and can cash out at any point.

Small Blind: Refers to the player immediately left of the dealer. The small blind has to bet half the big blind amount before the cards are dealt.

Split Pot: When two or more players win with the same hand, the pot is split up amongst them.

Straight: A 5-card hand in sequential order, but not suited. Beats three of a kind, but loses to a flush.

Straight Flush: Same as a flush but the cards are suited. The 2nd best hand in poker.

Tell: A physicality or a “tick” which gives away a players hand. Many professional poker players claim to be able to “read” players that have tells.

Tilt: Derived from the tilting of pinball machines in order to win, a player is on tilt when they are continually losing but playing on nonetheless.

Top Pair: Having a pair that uses the highest card on the board. If there is an ace on the board and you have an ace in the pocket, you have a top pair.

Tournament: A series of games that consists in rounds, and involves more than one table playing at a time. Winners from each table go on to further tournaments until the last game is played. Generally, the top 3 players get to take home a piece of the winnings.

Up The Ante: A term that means increasing the stakes.

Vigorish: The same as the Rake. Also known as the “Vig.”

Get to Betting!

Now that you know how to talk the talk at online poker sites that are legal, it’s time to hit up those tables and show those short stacks who the real chip leader is! Remember, throwing out slang is only step one, now you need to play a lot to make sure you have the cards to back it up!

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