Poker Hand Nicknames and Slang Terms

Slang Terms for Different Poker Hands – and What Beats What

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.

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.

Here are the ranks:

  • Royal Flush: Ace, King, Queen, Jack and Ten of the same suit is unbeatable in poker. If you hit a royal flush, make sure you celebrate – as a hand this strong is very rare.
  • Straight Flush: This includes any 5 cards of consecutive rank which are also the same suit. Essentially, a royal flush is the highest possible straight flush. Aces can count as low, so the lowest straight flush is ace to 5 of the same suit.
  • Four of a Kind: Known as ‘Quads’, having 4 cards of the same rank is a monster hand, beating everything except straight flushes.
  • Full House: This hand is two of one card, with 3 of another. For example, Ace-Ace-Ace-King-King.
  • Flush: 5 cards of the same suit is a flush in poker, this is a strong hand. In the event that more than one player has a flush, the player with the highest unique card wins the hand. For example, an ace-high flush beats a king-high flush.
  • Straight: 5 cards of consecutive rank. If these are the best possible 10 though to Ace cards, this is known as a ‘Broadway’ straight. Aces can count as a low card, as well as high.
  • 3 of a Kind: 3 cards of the same rank.
  • Two Pair: Two separate pairs using a combination of your own cards and the community cards.
  • One Pair: The winner of the hand where both players have a pair will have the highest ranked pair. If both players have the same pair, the player with the highest unique side-card wins the pot.
  • High Card: In the event that nobody can make a poker hand, the player with the highest unique card wins the pot.

Poker Hand Nicknames – Made Hands

Many made hands have slang terms. 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 favour. 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.

#1 – Pair of Aces

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, Tepees

#2 – Pair of Kings

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

#3 – Ace-King

This hand has a lot of different nicknames. The most common is ‘Big Slick’. Another name which caught the imagination is ‘Anna Kournikova’. This is used because the initials are shared with this famous tennis player. She was a model too – and the hand Ace-King is said to look good, though rarely win (just like Anna!).

Alternatives: Big Ugly, King Arthur, Korean Airlines

#4 – Pair of Queens

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’. A more derogatory term is ‘Bitches’. This name probably appeared from the frustration of either aces or kings on the flop making play difficult.

#5 – Pair of Jacks

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

#6 – Pair of Tens

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.

#7 – Smaller Pairs

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

#8 – Hands Containing Aces

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 died at the table – the hand continued).

#9 – 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