Poker Hand Nicknames and Slang Terms

Posted by James Guill . Last updated:

Poker is full of slang terms and acronyms. You will find most of the abbreviations and terms in our detailed Poker Glossary. This page keeps things simple. Here you will find the standard poker hand rankings, which shows the best 5 card poker hands in order of strength. After that is an entertaining look at the nicknames assigned to different starting hands.

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Standard Poker Hand Rankings

The first thing any new poker player needs to learn is what beats what at the end of a hand. Poker uses 5 card hands. In the most popular game, Texas Hold’em, your best hand includes 5 cards out of the 7 total – your own 2 cards and the 5 community cards. It is possible to use any combination. This can be all 5 community cards, your own 2 cards with 3 community cards, or 1 of your own with 4 community cards.

Poker Hand Name Cards Example Hand
Royal Flush A, K, Q, J, 10 – same suit royal flush
Straight Flush Five sequential cards – same suit straight flush
Four of a Kind Four cards of the same value, one of each suit – fifth card doesn’t matter four of a kind
Full House Three cards of the same value, and a pair of an additional value full house
Flush Five cards of the same suit – any order flush
Straight Five sequential cards – any suit straight
Three of a Kind Three cards of the same value – other two cards don’t matter cards-three-of-kind
Two Pair Two cards of the same value and two cards of a different value – fifth card doesn’t matter cards-two-pair
One Pair Two cards of the same value – other three cards don’t matter cards-one-pair
No Pair All five cards of different values and not all the same suit

Poker Hand Nicknames – Made Hands

Many poker hands have slang terms once they are made. While these are not as prevalent as the nicknames given for starting hands, they are still worth knowing.

  • Quads: This slang term is used for a 4 of a kind hand.
  • Boat: This describes a full house. If you hit a card on the river (for example) giving you a full house, you are said to have ‘boated up’.
  • Wheel: The lowest possible straight A-2-3-4-5 is called a wheel. This is important in games which involve split pots – like Omaha Hi-Lo. Here you can win the low pot with your wheel – and have a straight which can win the high pot.
  • Trips: When you make 3 of a kind with one of your own hole-cards, and two more of that rank on the board.
  • Set: Again, this is for a 3 of a kind hand. This time you have a pair in your hand – and hit one of the same rank on the board.
  • Top Pair / Top Kicker: An example of winning with one pair is holding Ace-King, when the board contains an ace and lower cards. As long as nobody has 2 pair or better, you beat any ace with a lower side-card.

Pre-Flop Hole Card Nicknames

There are a lot of nicknames given to hands before the flop. Some of these are commonly used, while others are regional / out of favor. Some of them are derogatory and should be used with caution in public card rooms.

I have covered the most common nicknames for different hands, and simply listed the alternatives after each entry.

Pair of Aces

Pair of Aces Pocket Rockets Nickname

This is commonly known as ‘Pocket Rockets’ or ‘American Airlines’. The American Airlines is used as your hand matches the ‘AA’ that company uses on their planes. You might also hear this hand referred to as ‘Bullets’.

Alternatives: Snake Eyes, Needles, Two Pips

Pair of Kings

Pair of Kings Poker Cowboys Nickname

Kings are called Cowboys when you are dealt a pair before the flop. Some players also call them ‘Ace Magnets’. This is because it always feels like an ace hits the flop when you raise and get called holding King-King!

Alternatives: King Kong, Krispy Kreme

Ace-King

This hand has a lot of different nicknames. The most common is ‘Big Slick’.

Alternatives: Big Ugly, King Arthur, Korean Airlines

Pair of Queens

Poker Pair of Queens Ladies Nickname

Surprisingly, this premium pocket pair does not have as many names as some of the other hands. Some players simply refer to it as ‘Ladies’.

Pair of Jacks

Poker Pair of Jacks Nickname Fish Hooks

The most common name for Jack-Jack is ‘Fish Hooks’. This is more for the fact that novice players get hooked into playing them than their chances of catching fish at the table. With 3 different over-pairs available, post-flop play can be tricky.

Alternatives: Jakes, Brothers, Jaybirds

Pair of Tens

Poker Pair of Tens 10s Nickname Tension

With the chances of an over-pair on the flop shooting up, some people refer to tens as ‘Tension’. This makes sense in the context of them being tricky to play, yet too high value to fold for a single bet.

Alternatives: Dynamite or TNT.

Smaller Pairs

Poker Pair of Twos Ducks Nickname

The smaller the pair, the less you win with them, and the nicknames follow – with fewer and more obscure references the lower you go. Here is a selection of names for each lower pair:

  • Nines: Phil Hellmuth (who won the WSOP with this hand).
  • Eights: Snowmen, Pretzels, Fat Ladies
  • Sevens: Hockey Sticks, Sunset Strip, Candy Canes
  • Sixes: Cherries
  • Fives: Snakes, Speed Limit
  • Fours: Sailboats, Magnum
  • Threes: Crabs, Treys
  • Twos: Ducks, Deuces, Quack Quack
Poker Ace High Ace 10 Bookend Nickname

Hands Containing Aces

Poker Ace High Ace 10 Bookend Nickname

Big Slick (ace king) was already covered above. This section includes notable nicknames for hands which contain aces and other side cards.

  • Ace-Queen: Big Chick, Little Slick, Antony and Cleopatra
  • Ace-Jack: Blackjack, Apple Jacks, Armani Jeans
  • Ace-Ten: Bookends (as the hand has both ends of the highest straight), Johnny Moss (after the former WSOP Main Event champ)
  • Ace-Nine: Rounders / McDerment, after the famous Poker movie character.
  • Ace-Eight: Dead Mans Hand (this was held by gambler ‘Wild Bill Hickok’, when he died at the table – the hand continued).

Notable Unpaired Hands

A few more hands which have picked up nicknames for various reasons are listed below. Some of these names are based on the shape of the digits, others for their play in major poker events.

  • King-Jack: Kojack
  • Jack-Ten: Justin Timberlake, TJ Hooker
  • Jack-Five: Motown, Jackson five
  • Ten-Two: Doyle Brunson (he won two WSOP Main Events with this hand)
  • Eight-Four: Orwell or Big Brother
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