Poker Terms

So, you've decided to master the game of poker. Practice, a keen eye, and a lot of confidence will help you to succeed, but you also need to pick up the lingo. There are several terms that you may not be familiar with. The following glossary should help you to speak poker as well as you play it.

Action: The betting within a poker hand. If you bet first, you are starting the action. Games described as having a lot of action have a lot of betting.


All-In: To place all of the chips you have on the table into the pot.

Back Door: A draw that requires two cards to complete a straight, flush, or full house. For example, to complete a flush the correct suit must hit on the turn and the river.

Bad Beat: Losing a hand in which you were a decisive favorite to win before the river card.

Bankroll: The amount of money you have available with which to play poker over a particular period of time.

Best of It: To be a favorite to win.

Bet: To place money into the pot.

Blind: Forced bet that must be made before the cards are dealt.

Bluff: To bet with an inferior hand in the hope that your opponents will fold.

Board: Community cards.

Bottom Pair: Having a pair containing the lowest card on the board.

Button: A token that represents the dealer position (the last to act in most games after the first round).

Call: To place an amount of money equal to a previous opponent's bet.

Check: To decline to bet or to pass when it is your turn to act.

Check-Raise: To check and then raise if an opponent bets.

Community Cards: Cards placed in the middle of the table and shared by all players.

Drawing Dead: Drawing to a hand that, even if it hits, will lose to a hand that is already better.

Expected Value (EV): The average amount you will win when betting in the same situation numerous times.

Favorite: To have the best chance to win.

Flop: The first three community cards in Texas Hold'em and Omaha.

Gutshot: A straight draw that requires a card in the middle to hit to complete the straight. It is also called a "belly buster" and an "inside straight draw."

Hand: The cards in a player's hand or one game of poker in which a pot is won. When you hear or read this term, understand it in its context so you won't be confused.

Heads-Up: Playing against a single opponent.

Hole Cards: The first cards dealt to you that your opponents cannot see.

Implied Odds: Bets that you can reasonably expect to collect in addition to the bets already in the pot if you hit your hand.

Kicker: A card used to break ties. In Hold'em, if you have A-5 with an ace on the board, your 5 is your kicker. If an opponent also has an ace and their kicker is higher, you lose.

Limit: The set amount or amounts that may be bet, often expressed as 5/10 ($5 bets on the first two rounds and $10 bets thereafter).

Limp-In: To enter a hand with a call before the flop.

Loose: To play more hands than should be played.

Middle Pair: To have a pair containing the second highest card on the board.

Muck: To discard a hand.

Outs: Cards that can come that will improve your hand.

Overcard: A card that is higher than other cards, usually in reference to community cards that are higher than your hole cards.

Pair: Two cards that are the same rank (such as two kings).

Position: Your place in the order of betting action. If you act first, you are in first position.

Pot: All money that has been bet in a hand.

Pot Odds: The mathematical computation of the odds of your hand improving, the amount of money in the pot, and the size of the bet you must call.

Quads: Four of a kind (such as four aces).

Raise: To place a higher bet than an opponent has already placed.

Rake: The amount a card room takes from each pot, usually a percentage that has a set upper limit.

Reraise: To raise after an opponent has raised.

Seat Charge: The amount of money some card rooms charge per hour to play in addition to, or in place of, a rake.

Semibluff: To bet with a hand that may not be the best but has a good chance to improve to the best hand.

Set: Three of a kind (such as three jacks).

Short Stacked: To have the smallest stack of chips at the table.

Side Pot: An additional pot created when one player is all in and two or more other players are still betting.

Steal: To force an opponent to fold when you don't have the best hand.

Suited: Cards of the same suit (such as 4 and 7).

Tell: An action that a player makes that gives away the strength of their hand.

Tight: To play fewer hands than normal.

Tilt: When a player is emotionally upset and starts making poor decisions.

Trips: Three of a kind (such as three queens).

Under the Gun: The first person who must act on the first round of betting.

Wired Pair: When your hole cards contain a pair.

You may not have all the slang down for your first game, but with the help of these terms, you should have an easier time entering the world of poker.


For more information on poker and the games in which these terms are used, try the following links:

  • To see all of our articles on poker rules and advice, go to our main article on How To Play Poker.
  • For an introduction to the game itself, look over these Poker Basics.
  • Several of these terms are specific to hold'em poker. To play the most popular of these games, learn How to Play Texas Hold 'Em Poker.
  • These phrases will come in handy when competing against experienced players. Learn other useful advice on How to Play Poker in a Tournament.