Poker Terms and Abbreviations from A to Z
Poker can be a confusing game for new players. Terms, abbreviations and slang are rife. This page is a quick-reference guide with all the terms in one place. You’ll find things laid out in alphabetical order below.
ABC Poker: A straightforward style of play where a player raises good hands and bets for value more than bluffs. This works well against inexperienced players.
Action Card: When a card like an ace or king hits the turn or river, it can cause a lot of betting and raising – as it is likely to hit the types of hands people like to play. A card completing a flush draw or straight can also be an action card.
Action Player: A weaker player who plays a lot of hands and calls a lot of raises.
Add-On: In poker tournaments with rebuys, players are often offered the chance to add on more chips at the end of the rebuy period. Sometimes add-ons are available at the start of a tournament.
Advertising: Showing a bluff or even a strong hand when opponents fold to induce action on later hands.
AF: This stands for ‘Aggression Factor’ it is used by poker tools including Poker Tracker and Hold’em Manager. It gives a score that compares the number of times a player raises, compared to the times they call.
Aggression: Betting and raising frequently is known as an aggressive style of poker.
Air: When a player bluffs with no hand and no draw, they are said to be bluffing with air. This could be called an ‘airball’.
All-In: Putting all of your chips in the pot. This could be as a raise, or a call of someone else’s bet.
American Airlines: A slang term for pocket aces.
Angle: When someone is tricky, though within the rules, they are said to be ‘angle shooting’. This is often used against novice players.
Anna Kournikova: A slang term describing Ace-King. This is a hand which looks pretty, though does not win often.
Ante: A mandatory bet before the flop made by all players. This is typically used in the later stages of poker tournaments. It is also used in games suck as 7-Card Stud, which do not use blinds.
Ax: This is a starting hand containing an ace and another card. If a player is said to play any ‘Ax’ hand, they play all aces, regardless of the size of the side-card.
Backdoor: If you flop a draw which requires 2 favourable cards to complete you hand, you have a ‘backdoor draw’. While this is rarely reason to continue on its own, it can add equity to you hand.
Back Raise: Limping into a pot, only to reraise after somebody else raises behind you.
Bad Beat: When you put your chips into the pot as a big favourite, only to see an unlikely card hit the board to give the pot to your opponent.
Balance: This refers to playing your bluffs and value hands in similar ways, to prevent your opponents knowing which you have.
Bankroll: The total amount of money you have dedicated to poker.
Bankroll Management: A disciplined approach where you assign a small percentage of your overall bankroll to each game. This allows pro players to ride out the natural variance in the game.
Behind: This has two contextual meanings. It can refer to being after someone in the betting order or holding a hand which is an underdog to win the pot.
Big Blind: This is a forced bet which makes up the initial pot (together with the small blind), in Hold’em games. It is typically 1% of the maximum buy-in or less.
Big Blind Special: Winning a big pot with a bad hand where you got to see the flop without putting more chips in from the big blind.
Big Slick: A slang term for Ace-King.
Blind Stealing: Raising with a wide range from the button or cut-off position in an attempt to win the blinds without seeing a flop.
Blocking Bet: A small bet which is made to prevent an opponent betting a larger amount.
Blockers: Cards in your own hand which make it less likely an opponent has a monster. For example, if you have Ace-King, this makes is less likely your opponent holds a pair of aces or a pair of kings.
Bluff: Raising when you do not have the best hand in an attempt to win the pot without a showdown.
Bluff Catcher: A hand which can only win the pot if your opponent is bluffing.
Board: This refers to the community cards dealt in Hold’em style games. It can also refer to the visible cards in Stud poker variants.
Brick and Mortar: A live poker room or casino.
Boat: A slang term describing a full house.
Bounty: In some tournaments a bounty is paid for each player you knock out.
Bubble: When there are only a few players to bust out before the money paying places in a poker tournament.
Button: The dealer button, which moves clockwise around the table after each hand. This is a favourable position – as this player bets last on the flop, turn and river betting rounds.
Calling Station: A player known for calling too many raises. This is often a novice player, who will not give up a hand if they have any hope of winning the pot.
Cap: Games have limits (caps) on the amount you can buy-in for. Some games have a capped betting system, where you can only bet a certain amount on each street – or bet a designated number of times.
Cash Game: A poker game played for chips with a direct real money value.
Chase: If you are calling a bet to try and hit a flush or straight, you are said to be ‘chasing’ those hands.
Check: Instead of betting, players in an unraised pot can pass the betting to the next player (essentially betting zero) by electing to check. This is not possible if there is a bet ahead of you, where the only remaining options are to raise or fold.
Check-Raise: A powerful move in poker, where you check when first to act, only to re-raise once one or more opponents raise the pot.
Chip Dumping: This is a form of cheating, in which one player folds after putting chips into the pot against a specific opponent with the aim of giving away their chips.
Chip Lead: The player with the most chips in a poker tournament.
Chop: At the end of a tournament, players often elect to divide up the prize money or ‘chop’. In some cash games, if the action is folded to the blinds, players will chop (take back their own blinds) rather than play the hand.
CO: An abbreviation for the ‘Cut Off’, the position one to the right of the dealer button.
Coin-Flip: When two hands get all-in with an approximately equal chance of winning the pot. The classic example is Queens vs Ace-King (the pair is a slight favourite, though close enough to be considered a 50-50).
Cold Deck: When you can’t get a good hand or favourable flop for an extended period.
Cold Call: Usually used when there is a re-raise, and a 3rd player elects to call it before knowing what the original raiser’s reaction will be.
Collusion: Cheating by working with another player. This could involve sharing hole-card information or betting in such a way as to force out a 3rd player.
Combination Draw: Drawing to more than one type of hand. For example, you might have a hand on the flop which could win by hitting a straight or a flush.
Continuation Bet: When a player raises before the flop, they often bet whether they connected or not – continuing their story. This is the most common / frequent type of bluff.
Cooler: When two players get dealt strong hands, for example a set-over-set situation. The losing player has been ‘coolered’ here.
Counterfeit: In Hi-Lo games, a player could hold the best low hand, only to see a card matching their hand hit the board – creating a new nut low. Their low has been counterfeited.
Cowboys: A slang term describing pocket Kings.
Dead Man’s Hand: Ace-8 off-suit, made famous after a player died at the poker table holding these cards.
Deal: When players chop up the money at the end of a poker tournament, they are said to be making a deal.
Dealer: The person responsible for shuffling and pitching the cards and controlling the betting / pot.
Dealer’s Choice: A poker variation where the player with the dealer button chooses which game format to play. This was recently added to the WSOP in tournament format.
Declare: If a player verbally indicates their intention at the table, for example ‘raise’. This is binding.
Deep Stack: When chip stacks are big in relation to the blinds, they are said to be deep.
Defend: Mostly used to describe players in the blinds, who choose to play back at a late position raiser.
Deuce: Slang term for a 2.
Domination: When a hand is a huge favourite against another, it is said to ‘dominate’ that hand. For example, pair vs higher pair, ace-king vs ace-jack and so on.
Donk: Slang derogatory term for a terrible player.
Donk Bet: Betting into a pre-flop raiser when you called before the flop is called a ‘donk bet’. This started a derogatory term, though these days it can be used by experienced players as part of a balanced strategy.
Donkey: Another slang term to describe a terrible player.
Door Card: In Stud variants, the card showing from the initial 3 cards each player is dealt.
Double Belly Buster / Gutter: A straight draw which has single card draws at either end. For example, if you hold 6-7 and the board comes 4-8-10, both a 5 and 9 (individually ‘gutshot’ straight draws) will make your hand.
Double Suited: Used in Omaha Poker games, describes hands with exactly 2 of each of 2 suits.
Down Bet: Betting less than you did on a previous betting round. This could be as a blocking bet, or to induce a raise.
Draw / Drawing Hand: Any poker hand which requires favourable cards on the turn or river to become a winner. Typically, this involves 4 to a flush or straight.
Drawing Dead: When your hand can improve and will still lose the pot. For example, if the board is paired and your opponent has a full-house, you could improve to a flush and still lose. Also describes spots where no cards that could come on the river will win the pot for you.
Dry Board: A flop with few possible draws to straights or flushes.
Early Position: One of the first players to act pre-flop, usually describes the first 3 players to the left of the big blind at a full table.
Effective Stack: If one player has more chips than another, the effective stack is the amount of chips the shorter-stacked player has. This is the maximum that can be won / lost in the current hand.
Eight or Better: Used to describe Hi-Lo split poker games, a low must be 5 unique cards 8 or lower.
Equity: Your share of a pot at a point in time. If you have a 30% chance of winning, and the pot is $300, then your current ‘equity’ would be $100.
Expectation / EV: The results of running the current hand 1000’s of time will show your long-term win / loss in a situation, or your expectation.
Family Pot: When many players at the table call before the flop.
Fast-Play: The opposite of slow-play, playing a value hand aggressively, raising / reraising.
Fill Up: When trips become a full house, a player is said to fill-up.
Final Table: The last table in a poker tournament.
First Position: Also known as ‘Under the Gun’, the spot where the player acts first before the flop.
Fish: A weak / bad poker player.
Fixed-Limit: Any game where the size of bets is predetermined. Fixed limit games usually double the bet size at a designated point in the hand.
Flat Call: Where someone raises and a 2nd player elects to call that raise.
Floor: This refers to the person in a live poker room who resolves any disputes between players or issues with the dealer.
Float: Calling a bet on an early street without a good hand, with the intention of taking away the pot by raising if the betting player shows weakness later.
Flop: The first 3 community cards dealt in Hold’em style poker games.
Flush: 5 cards of the same suit.
Fold: Throw away your hand, relinquishing any chance of winning the pot.
Fold Equity: The potential money you win by getting your opponent to fold their hand.
Free Card: If you check behind a player that expected you to raise, you are seeing the next community card for free.
Freeroll: A poker tournament with a real prize pool which does not cost anything to enter.
Full House: 3 of a kind, plus a pair in the same poker hand.
Full Ring: A table of 9 or 10 players, usually used to describe cash games.
Gapper: A suited connector with a gap between the two cards, for example 7-9 suited is a ‘one-gapper’.
Grinder: This describes a poker pro that plays online, usually on multiple tables. Grinders often play in 8+ games, ‘grinding’ out a profit on each to make up a big hourly rate.
Guarantee: A prize pool for a tournament which is set at a certain level. If there are not enough players entering to make up the prize pool, then the casino will contribute the difference.
Gutshot: A straight draw which needs a specific card to complete, giving the player 4 outs to complete their hand.
Hand History: Online poker sites provide text-based outputs which shows the entire hand as it played out. These can be used in conjunction with poker tools to replay hands – or shared on forums.
Hand for Hand: When one more player needs to bust before the money in a poker tournament, all tables play one hand to completion. This stops any advantage from playing slowly.
Heads-Up: A poker game involving just 2 players – this also occurs at the end of a poker tournament.
Heater: When a player is getting great cards and hitting a lot of flops, they are said to be on a heater.
Hero Call: When you call a big bet with a hand that can only realistically beat a bluff.
Hijack: The position one to the left of the cut-off (2 to the left of the dealer button)
Hole Cards: The cards only a player can see, dealt before the flop.
HORSE: A mixed poker game which is played in both cash game and tournament format. The games are Hold’em, Omaha 8/b, Razz, Stud and Stud Eight or Better.
Hollywood: Acting, when a player pretends to be weak before putting in a big reraise.
Home Game: An amateur poker game, typically played by friends in someone’s home.
HUD: An acronym for ‘Heads Up Display’, this is an overlay of statistics about each players tendencies provided by paid poker tools including Hold’em Manager and Poker Tracker.
ICM: An acronym for the ‘Independent Chip Model’, this assesses the value of chip stacks in terms of current prize-pool equity at the end of a poker tournament.
Idiot End: Hitting the low end of a straight, for example if the board is 7-8-9-10-K and you hold a 6, you have the ‘idiot end’, and can be beaten by a player holding a jack.
Implied Odds: Bets you can win on future streets when you do not currently hold the best hand.
ITM: ‘In the Money’, the phase of a poker tournament where all remaining players are guaranteed a prize.
Inside Straight Draw: The same as a ‘gutshot’ straight draw, you need a specific card to complete your straight.
Isolation: When a bad player enters a pot, experienced players might raise with a wide range of hands. The intention is to knock out the other good players still to act, and ‘isolate’ the fish.
Jackpot: A prize awarded by a poker room or site. The most common form is a ‘bad beat jackpot’. Here players who get strong hands (aces-full or better for example) beaten share a progressive jackpot.
Jam: A slang term for going all-in.
Juice: Money collected by the house or poker site.
Junk: Hands which are not usually playable are known as ‘junk hands’.
Kicker: The side-card, usually held with an ace. If you hold Ace-Ten, then the Ten is your kicker.
LAG: This acronym stands for ‘Loose Aggressive’, this is a deliberate style played by some players that involves raising and reraising with a wide range of hands.
Leak: Some aspect of your play which regularly leads to losses.
Level: Blind levels in tournaments refer to the size of the blinds (and antes).
Limp: Matching the big blind, instead of using your option to raise.
Lock: When you have a hand which can’t be beaten regardless of what community cards come on the turn and / or river, you have a lock.
Loose: Describes a player or game in where there is a lot of action – with a wide variety of hands being played.
Luckbox: A derogatory term, usually used in the context of where a player got their chips in as a big underdog and managed to win the hand.
Made Hand: A hand which does not require any help (typically on the turn or river), this is the opposite of a drawing hand.
Maniac: A crazy player who plays too many hands and makes big bets.
Micros: Also used as ‘Micro Limits’. This describes online poker games where the buy-in is $10 or under for a full stack.
Move: If you decide to bluff someone, or to make a big check-raise – you are ‘making a move’.
MTT: Acronym for ‘Multi-Table Tournament’
Muck: Throwing away your hand, usually after showdown when your opponent shows that you are beaten. Can also describe ‘the muck’ which is the pile of discarded cards collected by the dealer.
Multi-Way Pot: Pots with 3 or more players still involved in the hand.
Nit: A player who only plays the very best hands, folding for hours to wait for a favourable situation.
No-Limit: The betting format where you can bet any amount up to the chips you have in front of you. This is the most popular style of betting.
Nosebleed Stakes: Games employed by the biggest names in the game. Often a single big blind will be more than many player’s entire bankroll. For example, $500 / $1000 No-Limit Hold’em with $100k stacks.
Nuts / Nut Hand: The best possible hand is known as the ‘nuts’.
O8: Acronym for Omaha Hi-Lo 8 or Better.
OESD: Acronym for Open Ended Straight Draw.
Off-suit: Cards which are of different suits, can be represented by a simple ‘o’. For example, AQo, would signify an Ace and a Queen of different suits.
Omaha: A popular poker game which can be played in different formats. The consistent theme is that players get 4 hole-cards – and need to combine two cards from their hand and three from the community cards to create a hand at showdown. The most popular form is Pot-Limit Omaha.
OOP: Acronym for ‘Out of Position’. This describes a situation where a player must act before their opponents, often over several betting rounds.
Open: Can be used in the context of ‘opening a pot’, usually by raising before the flop.
Open-Ender / Open-Ended: A straight draw which can be completed by hitting a card at either the high end or lower end – this gives the holder 8 outs to complete their hand.
Open Limp: If instead of raising when first to enter a pot, a player elects to match the big blind, they have just open-limped.
Out: Any card in the remaining deck which will improve your hand. For example, if you have 4 cards to a flush after the flop, there are 9 unseen cards of your suit which will complete your hand. These are your ‘outs’.
Overcard: Typically used when you raise with a pair pre-flop and see one or more cards ranked higher than this on the flop.
Overlay: In a poker tournament with a guaranteed prize pool, if there are not enough players to match the guarantee, then the excess cash is called the ‘overlay’.
Overpair: A pair ranked higher than any card the community card board.
Paint: Any jack, queen or king.
Pair: Two matching cards.
Passive: A player that elects to limp and call bets frequently, and rarely raises.
Pat: This term comes from draw poker. When a player keeps all of their cards, deciding not to draw any, is said to ‘stand pat’.
Pocket Pair: Two hole-cards of the same rank.
Poker Face: Players that give away little information at the table with their mannerisms or facial expressions are said to have a ‘poker face’.
Polarized: When a bet represents either the stone-cold nuts or a complete bluff, it is said to be polarized.
Position: Where you act in the betting of a poker hand. If you act last, you are said to be ‘in-position’. This is favourable, as you get to see what other players do before you commit chips. If you act first, you are ‘out of position’.
Post: Placing the blind bets before the hand is dealt.
Post-Oak Bluff: A subtle bluff employed by expert players. This involves making a small bet after the river, which makes it look like you are trying to get value from a monster hand. This bluff only works against players who understand what you are representing.
Pot: The money in the middle of the table.
Pot-Committed: When you put so much of your stack into the pot, that you need to call off the rest with even the smallest hope of winning a hand.
Pot-Limit: This betting format allows players to bet up to the size of the current pot every time. Pots start small, getting big only on later streets.
Pot-Odds: The price you get (or give) on a call. This is the size of the call, compared to the size of the pot. You can combine this with your chances of winning the hand to make good decisions.
Pre-Flop: The betting round before the first 3 community cards are dealt in Hold’em games.
Probing Bet: Making a small bet or raise to get information about the strength of your opponent’s hand.
Prop Player: A player employed by a casino or poker room to start new games or keep existing games running. These players will play with their own money, and usually be paid an hourly rate from the casino.
Protection: A bet for protection is usually made against a player you think has a drawing hand. You are said to protect your main hand by charging an opponent to draw.
Push: Another word to describe going all-in.
Quads: 4 of a kind of the same rank.
Quartered: This term comes from Omaha Hi-Lo. It describes a situation where you share the low side of the pot with another player – with that player (or a 3rd one) winning the high side. You end up with a quarter of the pot, which is usually a loss on the hand.
Rags: A bad starting hand, usually off-suit low cards.
Rail: The crowd of people watching a poker game, usually only refers to the final stages of big prize poker tournaments. Those people are said to be ‘rail birds’.
Rainbow: Describes a flop of 3 different suits. If the turn is the 4th suit, no flushes are possible.
Raise: Put more chips into the pot.
Range: Since it is hard to put a player on an exact hand, expert players assign a range of possible starting hands based on position and tendencies of an opponent. This ‘range’ can then be narrowed down based on actions later in the hand.
Rake: The fee taken by poker rooms, this is based on the size of the pot, and will have a limit (for example $1 for every $20 in the pot, up to $5 max).
Rakeback: Online poker sites incentivise high-volume players by returning a proportion of their rake. This is no longer as widespread – since it incentivises multi-tabling grinders, who have a negative effect on the games.
Read: Your assessment of whether an opponent is weak or strong – of even the specific types of hand they hold.
Rebuy: Many poker tournaments offer player the chance to buy extra chips. This can be after busting out, or during play.
Re-Raise: To raise a player who has already raised – also known as a 3-bet (or even 4-bet).
Ring Game: A full table cash game, with 9 or 10 players.
River: The final community card dealt in Hold’em games.
ROI: Return on Investment, this is usually for tournament players, who will compare their total buy-ins to wins – calculating a percentage return.
Royal Flush: The best hand in poker, 10, j, Q, K, A of the same suit.
Runner-Runner: Describes a situation where two perfect cards are needed on the turn and river to give a player the winning hand. For example, after flopping 3 to a flush, two more hearts appear, giving that player the pot.
Sandbag: A slang term for slow-playing (see below).
Satellite: A tournament or Sit N Go which awards prizes of entry into a bigger buy-in tournament.
Scare Card: A card which hits the turn or river, which worries an opponent holding a lower ranked pair. The usual example is an ace.
Scoop: In Omaha Hi-Lo, when a player wins both the high and low pots with the same hand, they are said to have ‘scooped’ the pot. This term is also used as an acronym in a different context. It can stand for the ‘Spring Championship of Online Poker’ – an event held at PokerStars.
Semi-Bluff: When you bluff with a hand which is currently unlikely to be the best hand – though has chances of improving if your bet is called.
Set: if you are holding a pocket pair, and a 3rd card of that rank is among the community cards.
Shark: A strong player, one that feeds on the ‘fish’.
Short Stack: Players with relatively few chips in their stack. This can happen in a poker tournament as the blinds increase. Players that buy-in for the minimum in cash games are said to be ‘short-stacking’.
Showdown: When hands are revealed after betting is complete. The player who made the last aggressive action has to show first. At this point the other player can elect to either show or muck their hand.
Side-Pot: If one player is all-in, and other deeper stacked players with to continue betting, a second pot is created for additional bets.
Sit N Go: A tournament which starts as soon as enough players join. These can be any size, though the most common format is a 9-player single table, with 2 people in the money.
Slowplay: The opposite of bluffing, playing a hand cautiously when you have a strong holding to induce bets and raises from opponents.
Slowroll: When you have the best hand at showdown and wait an unreasonably long time to turn over your hand. This is considered among the worst behaviour poker players can engage in.
Small Blind: The player to the right of the big blind posts a small bet, typically half of the amount of the big blind.
Soft-Play: Two players who don’t raise or re-raise each other even with strong hands. This is a form of cheating / collusion.
Squeeze Play: After a raise and a call, a 3rd player puts in a big re-raise. If the initial raiser is loose, and the caller already declined the chance to raise, there is a bigger chance that this ‘squeeze’ will take down the pot.
Staking: Players often sell a proportion of their action. This reduces variance and financial pressure. The player being staked agrees to make-up any losses and shares their profits.
Starting Hand: The cards you are dealt before the flop.
Steal: Raising or reraising without a hand in an attempt to take the pot.
Straight: 5 consecutive ranked cards.
Straddle: An optional bet, typically under the gun, which is placed before any cards are dealt. In some cardrooms, the small blind starts the action when there is a straddle.
Straight Flush: 5 cards of consecutive rank of the same suit. The Royal Flush is the highest possible straight flush.
String Bet: Placing bets in live poker games must be performed in a single action (or announced verbally). If a player puts out chips, and the goes back to their stack to add more, this is a foul play.
Stud: A poker variant where players have their own ‘boards’, and community cards are not used. Games include 7-Card Stud, Stud Hi-Lo, Razz and 5-Card Stud.
Suckout: When a player gets the money in with the worst hand and hits a miracle card on the river to take the pot.
Suited Connectors: Starting hands which are consecutive ranks and the same suit. For example, 5-4 suited.
Table Stakes: This rule means that only the total amount of money / chips on the table at the start of the hand can be used for betting and raising.
TAG: Acronym for ‘Tight Aggressive’. This describes a player who waits for good hands, then plays them strongly with bets and raises.
Tank: If a player takes time to consider their options (usually after a big bet), they are said to have ‘gone into the tank’.
Tell: If a player gives away the strength of their hand through either mannerisms or bet sizing information, they have a ‘tell’. Experienced live players are on the lookout for these signs.
Texture: When the flop comes it can have one of two textures. A ‘wet’ flop has coordinated, and often suited cards. This makes a lot of draws possible. The opposite texture is a ‘dry’ flop, which is uncoordinated.
Three-Bet: If you re-raise someone who has already raised.
Tight: A player who does not open pots with many hands.
Tilt: An emotional reaction to events in the game. The classic example is getting angry and frustrated after a bad beat. This can lead to bad play as the player tries to get ‘their’ chips back.
Top Pair: If one of your hole-cards matches the highest ranked card on the flop.
Trap: To play a strong hand in such a way as to get your opponent to commit a lot of chips to the pot. This is another term for slowplaying or sandbagging.
Turn: The fourth community card dealt in Hold’em games.
Turbo: A poker tournament with very fast blind increases – forcing a lot of action.
UTG: Under the Gun, this is the first position (to the left of the blinds) at a table in a Hold’em type poker game.
Under-Full: If more than one full house is possible after the river, the player with the lower one has the ‘under full’.
Upswing: The opposite of a downswing, where the good side of variance hits a poker player.
Value Bet: A bet made with the best hand, sized to extract the most profit from an opponent.
Variance: The natural swings of fortune in poker caused by the random shuffle.
VPIP: This acronym stands for ‘Voluntarily Put into Pot’. It shows the number of times a player calls, limps or raises, compared to the times they fold. This is a key statistic used with Heads-Up-Display software.
Walk: When everyone at the table including the small blind folds, and the player in the big blind gets the pot they are said to have received a ‘walk’.
Weak Player: An inexperienced opponent who plays badly, typically calling too much.
Wet Board: A coordinated community card board, where many draws are possible.
Wheel: In a low hand poker game like Razz, the wheel is the best possible holding. This is a straight ace through 5.
Wrap: This term comes from Omaha Poker. With 4 hole-cards, it is possible to have huge straight draws, often with 20 or more outs. This draw ‘wraps around’ the community cards to create many different straights.