If you’re new to poker and sit down at a table for the first time you may get confused with some of the common poker terms people use while playing. It almost sounds like a different language and if you don’t know what a word or phrase means, it could be embarrassing. With this piece, well get you up to speed with all the popular poker phrases so you can be on the up and up at your next game. You may even impress your friends at the next home game. We’ll explain some of the more important terms and then use them in a sentence to give context to situations where they may be used.
Action - A person’s turn to act. If it’s your turn to act, the dealer or other player may say, “The action is on you.”
Ante - A forced bet usually on all players before the hand starts. Usually this bet is a very small percentage of the blinds. So for example, in a tournament the small blind may be 400, the big blind 800 and the ante 50. Every player would need to put 50 chips into the pot before the small/big blinds put their chips in. The blinds then put their chips in as usual. Ante’s are used to encourage play later on in tournaments, where games can get very slow.
All-In - When making or calling a bet with the rest of your chips. If you make a bet with all of your remaining chips, instead of counting all of them out, you simply say, “I’m all-in.”
Bad Beat – When you are statistically favored to win the hand and lose to a much worse hand. If you have Aces and lose to Deuces, this is a bad beat. “Man I’ve had so many bad beats tonight it’s unreal.”
Big Blind - A forced bet by the player two spots to the left of the dealer button. The Big Blind will move clockwise after each hand and be forced on every player at the table. “This guy has been stealing my Big Blind every damn hand!”
Big Slick - Another name for the hand AK. “I was dealt big slick two times today.”
Board - The community cards dealt out in Hold ‘Em or Omaha. “That board looks pretty scary.”
Brick and Mortar - A live casino, i.e. The Wynn, Harrahs and Borgata. This term is used to differentiate online poker rooms and real ones.
Bubble or Bubbled - The stage of a tournament when one player needs to be knocked out before everyone is in the money. “I bubbled the last 10 tournaments I played and made no money.” Can also be used to describe just missing the final table of a tournament.
Button - The position at the table directly to the right of the blinds, the dealer’s position effectively. This position is the best possible at a table. Also used to describe the physical white disk used on a table to keep track of where the dealer is. This position will change after every hand and the button disk will slide to the player on the left. The button is last to act in betting round except for the first. In the first round, the big blind is last to act.
Buy-in - The amount of money needed to enter a tournament or cash game table. “The buy-in for the World Series of Poker Main Event is $10,000.”
Call - When a player bets and you match the bet by putting that amount in the pot. “If he bets this time I am going to call.”
Calling station - A term used to describe a player who never folds, or calls too often. Often a bad thing to be called. “This guy can’t be bluffed, he’s a calling station and never folds.”
Case - The only card left of that suit or value. For example if you have three fives in your hand, the last five is considered the case 5. “He hit the case Ace to win the pot.”
C-bet - Another term used to describe a continuation bet.
Check - To choose not make a bet. If you are first to act you can choose to check and let the next player decide his action. “I’ll check it to you.”
Check in the dark - To check prior to the betting round happening, usually done by the player first to act in the next round of betting. For example, if the small blind called the first round of betting, he could check in the dark after the first round of betting, but before the flop comes down, the first player to act would then be the big blind. This is a way of ensuring that you are last to act in the particular round of betting, whilst being in early position. If everyone else checks however, you cannot then bet when the betting comes round to you. You cannot check in the dark online, and some casinos do not allow it.
Check-Raise - When you check to a player who then bets, and you raise his bet. “He check-raised me and forced me to fold.”
Chop - When two players who are in the small and big blind agree to take back their blinds if it’s folded to them Pre-Flop. This is usually an agreement made in Brick and mortar casinos. Once agreed upon the two players must not look at their cards and always stick by this agreement. It’s not a casino rule but one of those unwritten rules that if broken is severely frowned upon and considered to be unethical. A chop can also mean to split the pot between two players, if both players win a hand. (e.g. if two players had a straight Ace to five, and no other hand beat them, they’d chop the pot).
Continuation bet - When the pre-flop raiser bets again on the flop. “When Joe raises pre-flop, he usually fires a continuation bet on the flop.”
Draw - When a player does not yet have a strong hand but can be strong if the right cards come. Usually used to describe when a player has 4 cards to a straight or flush. “I had to call his bet; I had an Ace high flush draw.”
Drawing Dead - When no card in the deck can win you the hand. “I got all-in with a King high flush and was drawing dead since he had the Ace high flush.”
Fish - A term used to describe a bad player, typically extremely passive, who constantly calls without odds to do so. A fish can often agrivate good players when they make their hand on the river, with all odds against them. “The table was full of fish. I didn’t want to leave.” If you are called a fish, it’s not a good thing. But if someone is calling you a fish, they are probably the fish since better players know not to do anything to make a bad player leave the table. If people are being overly nice to you than it’s likely you are probably the fish.
Flop – The first three community cards put down, after the first round of betting.
Kicker - The card used to determine the winner if players have the same hand. For example, if two players have a pair of aces, the other card in your hand is what determines who wins, the higher card wins. If you have and your opponent has , your kicker would beat his kicker.
Leak - A mistake in ones game that he makes over and over. An example of a leak would be always pushing all-in with pocket nines, no matter what the rest of the table are doing pre-flop.
Muck - When everyone folds their cards the dealer will place them in a pile to the side called the muck. “I folded so fast my cards were in the muck before I could blink.”
The Nuts - Used to describe the best possible hand given the board. If you have Aces and the other two Aces are on the board, you have the nuts. Likewise, the “second nuts” is the second best hand you could possibly have given the board, the third nuts the third best, and so forth.
Outs - If you are behind in the hand but can still win with certain cards, these cards are called outs. If you go all-in and have a flush draw and your opponent has a set, you have outs to the flush and can still win.
Overpair – A pocket pair which is greater than any of the cards down on the board.
Pot Committed - If you have few chips left and are facing a bet you are essentially forced to call. “I only had $2 bucks left and the pot was already $50 so I am pot committed and have to call.”
Rainbow - When the flop comes down three different suits.
River – The river is the final community card dealt in Texas Hold ‘Em.
Scare Card - When a card comes that can complete a hand based on the board. If you have and the flop is and the turn brings a this is potentially a bad card for you (as it makes the flush your opponent may have been drawing for) and is called a scare card.
Splash the Pot - When someone throws their chips in the middle when betting or calling a bet. It’s considered bad poker etiquette to do this. You are expected to place your chips in the middle and let the dealer collect them. If you throw them in the middle they could roll over to some ones stack and may get confused with others chips, making the dealer’s job harder and annoying other players.
Turn - The card to come after the flop.
Tell - A certain mannerism or action made by a player that may give away what they have. If a player covers his mouth while betting this may be a tell he has a weak hand, for example.
Three-bet – Fully explained in our “What is a 3-bet?” article.
Tilt - When a player loses and begins to play recklessly because he is frustrated. “Phil always goes on tilt when he loses a big pot.”
Underpair – A pocket pair smaller than any card on the board.
Wet Board – A wet board is one where typically very few hands can be made. For example if there was lots of action before the flop, then the flop came down this would be considered a wet board. The range of the players is likely above the cards on the flop. Over pairs typically look for this sort of board in order to c-bet, as most of the time they are miles ahead.
These are probably just half of the many common poker terms you may hear at the tables, but these cover the most common. Some people like to make their own words up and who knows what they mean so just ignore it and nod your head like you understand them. Got any you would like to add? Leave a comment and we’ll edit any good suggestions in.