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Poker terms

Understanding Basic Poker Terminology: The Game Changer

In the world of poker, it’s not just about the hand you’re dealt; it’s about the language you speak. Being conversant with poker’s unique language can be the difference between winning big or folding too soon. That’s why mastering the basic poker terminology is a pivotal element of a successful poker strategy.

The Intricate Language of Poker

A first-time encounter with a live poker game can be both exciting and bewildering. The table is set, the game is on, and suddenly, you’re surrounded by a flurry of terms like ‘Three-bet’, ‘Big Blind’, ‘Continuation Bet’, ‘Straddle’, and ‘Set’. This is the complex vocabulary of poker, a language unto itself. Comprehending each term is the first step towards enhancing your winning potential.

Whether you’re participating in a high-stakes poker tournament with an alluring prize pool or playing a relaxed game with friends, knowledge of common poker terms can provide the upper hand. This comprehensive guide focuses on breaking down these terms, helping beginners and intermediate players alike to up their game.

Basic Poker Terminology: Setting a Solid Foundation

ABC Poker

ABC Poker is a term that symbolizes a fundamental and reliable strategy. It encapsulates a tight and aggressive style of play, characterized by robust preflop hand selection. Outlandish bluffs and audacious calls do not fit into the ABC Poker strategy, which tends to thrive in low-stakes games.


Ace-high hands rank as the best non-made hands in poker. Although they don’t contain a pair or a higher-ranked hand, they do include an ace. An example of an ace-high hand could be A♥J♣7♥6♠2♦.


Utilized in rebuy tournaments, add-ons allow players to acquire more chips when registration concludes. It’s a strategic decision that can provide a vital edge, often at a fraction of the buy-in cost.


Going all-in signifies putting all your chips into the pot. It’s an aggressive move, a definitive statement of intent. The option to go all-in is always available in No-Limit Hold’em.

Angle Shooting

Poker, much like any other game, has its own set of unspoken ethics and rules. Certain actions are either outright against these norms or are frowned upon. Such actions are categorized as angle shooting. For instance, pushing a bet towards the pot and then retracting it is considered angle shooting.


An ante is a compulsory bet that each player must contribute before any cards are dealt. It stimulates early pot growth and initiates the action of the game.

Backdoor Draw

The term ‘Backdoor Draw’ is used when the flop delivers three cards for a straight or a flush. To complete a backdoor draw, both the turn and river cards are needed.

Bad Beat

One of the most frequently used terms in poker, a bad beat transpires when a hand that’s significantly favored ends up losing.


A bankroll is the amount of money a player has dedicated for poker, essentially the player’s poker budget. The practice of managing this bankroll efficiently is vital for sustained success in the game.

Belly Buster

A belly buster, also known as a double gunshot, is a non-consecutive straight draw that can be completed by two different rank cards.

Big Blind

The big blind is a mandatory bet that rotates around the table after each hand. This bet plays a significant role in determining the game’s stakes and minimum-allowed bet.


Blinds are mandatory bets that progressively increase over time. They serve to drive the action in poker tournaments, pushing players to actively participate. These include a small blind and a big blind (usually double the small), which rotate around the table after each hand.


A bluff is a strategic move where a player bets with a weak hand. The objective of a bluff is to pressure the opponents into folding, thereby winning the pot.

Bluff Catcher

A bluff catcher is a hand played as a call, hoping to catch your opponent’s bluff.

Board Cards

Board cards are the community cards in games like Omaha and Texas Hold ’em. They comprise the flop, the turn, and the river, and are shared among all players.


Often referred to as the “dealer button” or simply the “dealer”, the button is a poker table position that always acts last in every postflop betting round. This strategic position gives the player an edge, as they can observe all other players’ actions before making their move.


The buy-in is the entry cost of a poker game. It varies widely based on the game stakes and can determine the size of the winning pot.


A call matches the previous highest bet, keeping the player in the game without raising the stakes.

Calling Station

This term is used to describe a player who consistently calls bets but rarely raises, irrespective of the strength of their hand.


If there’s no bet to call, a player can choose to check, passing the action to the next player without contributing to the pot.


A check-raise is a tactical move where a player checks early in a betting round, enticing another player to open before raising the bet in the same round.

Community Cards

Community cards are the face-up cards available to all players in the pot, forming part of their poker hand. They are prominently used in hold’em games.


Connectors are sequentially ranked cards that can be combined to form a straight. For instance, 7-6 of hearts would be referred to as a “suited connector”, increasing the odds of making both a straight and a flush.

Continuation Bet (C-Bet)

When the last player who raised preflop continues to bet postflop, that bet is known as a continuation bet or c-bet. It’s a commonly used tactic to maintain the aggressive momentum.

Dead Man’s Hand

This is a specific combination of two pairs: aces and eights. The name originates from Wild Western gunfighter Wild Bill Hickock who reportedly held this hand when he was fatally shot at a poker table.


A popular term to describe a ‘2’ card in poker, like the two of spades or clubs. This term is frequently used in poker games where deuces (twos) are wild cards and can be played as any card.

Donk Bet

A donk bet is made by a player other than the preflop aggressor, who bets first postflop.

Down Cards

The down cards or community cards are shared among all players in the game. These include the flop, the turn, and the river. These five cards can be used in any combination to create the best five-card hand.

Drawing Hand

A drawing hand refers to a hand that isn’t currently a winning hand but can improve with the turn and river cards. The term is usually used to describe hands that are on the cusp of forming a flush or a straight.

Effective Stack

When two players are in a pot, the player with the smaller stack determines the maximum amount that either player can win. This is referred to as the effective stack.


Equity in poker terms refers to the mathematical probability a player has to win a pot. For instance, in an all-in preflop battle between pocket aces and pocket kings, the aces have 81.9% equity.

Expected Value (EV)

Expected Value is a significant poker concept that calculates the expected outcome of a decision over time. EV helps players make profitable decisions in the long run.

Fifth Street

Fifth street, also known as the river, is the final community card placed down by the dealer. The game concludes after the river card is played, and the player with the best five-card hand emerges victorious.


In poker parlance, a fish refers to a novice player who lacks the experience and skills of a regular player.

Flush Draw

A flush draw occurs when a player has four cards of the same suit and requires one more card to complete a flush, which consists of five cards of the same suit.


Folding is when a player opts out of a hand, effectively surrendering their chance to win the pot. Players usually fold when they believe their hand is too weak to compete against the others.

Forced Bet

A forced bet is a mandatory wager made in the first betting round. It takes different forms in various poker variants, such as the ante, blind, or bring-in.


This is a hand consisting of four cards of the same rank. It’s a highly prized hand, exceeded only by a straight flush and a royal flush.

Fourth Street

Fourth street, or the turn card, is the fourth community card that the dealer puts on the table. It comes after the flop and before the river card is dealt.

Full House

A full house is a hand comprising three-of-a-kind and an additional pair.


Often used in online poker, GG is an abbreviation for ‘Good Game’. It’s an expression of sportsmanship, usually stated at the conclusion of a game.

GTO Poker

GTO, or ‘Game Theory Optimal’, is a theoretical strategy aimed at playing poker in a mathematically perfect way.


A gutshot refers to a straight draw with four outs, needing a middle card to complete the straight. For example, the hand 6♠5♥3♣2♥ represents a gutshot straight draw, requiring a four to complete the straight.


Heads-up is a term that denotes a game or a pot involving only two players.

Hole Cards

Hole cards are the cards dealt face-down to each player. In Texas Hold’em, each player receives two hole cards.

Inside Straight

An inside straight refers to a hand that has four of the five required cards for a straight, missing only the middle card.


A kicker, or a side card, is a card that does not contribute to the hand’s rank. However, in the case of a tie between equally ranking hands, the kicker comes into play. The player with the higher kicker wins the tie.


Limping is when a player opens the preflop betting round by calling the big blind, instead of raising.


Mucking is another term for folding. A player can choose to muck their hand at any point in the game.


No-Limit games permit players to bet their entire chip stack at any point in the game. This betting structure introduces a level of volatility and excitement to the game.


The nuts refers to the best possible hand at any given stage of the game. It can range from the top possible set to a royal flush.


An open, also known as an open raise, is when a player raises the pot after all previous players have folded.

Open-Ended Straight Draw

An open-ended straight draw is a hand that has four consecutive cards and can be completed with a card on either end. For instance, 6♠5♥4♣3♥ is an open-ended straight draw, requiring a seven or a two to complete the straight.


Outs are cards that will transform a player’s current hand into a winning hand. For example, if the player has A♠K♥ and the board shows J♠9♥6♣3♥, the remaining aces and kings in the deck are considered outs.

Over Card

An over card is a card in the player’s hand that is higher in rank than any card on the board. For example, if a player holds a King-Queen on a ten-high flop, they have two over cards.

Pocket Pair

A pocket pair is when a player’s starting hand consists of two cards of the same rank. These pairs form a strong foundation for a potentially winning hand.

Poker Rooms

Poker rooms are designated areas within casinos where poker games are hosted. These specialized sections house poker cash games and tournaments. The term can also apply to online platforms, but it primarily describes physical rooms.


Pot-limit (PL) is a betting structure that enables a player to bet or raise any amount from the minimum bet to the current size of the pot.

Pot Odds

Pot odds represent the ratio between the current size of the pot and the cost of a contemplated call.


Quads is another term for four-of-a-kind in poker. Only a straight flush and a royal flush can outrank quads.


The house cut from any cash game pot or tournament entry fee is referred to as the rake.


A rebuy allows a player who has busted out of a tournament to re-enter by paying the original buy-in. Players receive a new stack of chips and usually retain their seats.

Ring Game

A ring game is synonymous with a poker cash game. These games offer more relaxed rules compared to tournaments, with no set time or number of hands to finish.


The river is the fifth and final community card placed face up on the table. After the river card is dealt, there’s one final round of betting before the cards are shown and the winner declared.

Royal Flush

A royal flush is the highest ranking hand in poker, consisting of the ace, king, queen, jack, and ten of the same suit.


Satellite tournaments award entries to larger buy-in tournaments as prizes, rather than cash. It’s an opportunity for players to gain access to high-stakes games without paying the hefty buy-in.


A semi-bluff is a bet made with a hand that isn’t currently strong but has the potential to become so depending on the remaining community cards.

Short Handed

Short-handed refers to any poker table that isn’t fully seated with nine players. It’s most commonly seen in six-max tournaments or cash games, and is typically favored in online formats.

Side Pot

A side pot is a secondary pot separate from the main pot. It’s created when one or more players go all-in. The side pot can only be won by the players who contributed to it.

Small Blind

The small blind is the mandatory bet posted by the player sitting to the left of the dealer button. It’s typically half the amount of the big blind.

Split Pot

A split pot occurs when two or more players have identical winning hands. The pot is evenly divided among the winners.


A squeeze refers to a re-raise made against an original raiser and at least one caller.


In some cash games, players can opt to post a voluntary blind bet, usually double the big blind, before the cards are dealt. This move is known as a straddle.


A straight is a hand that contains five cards of sequential rank, but of different suits.

Straight Flush

A straight flush is a hand comprising five consecutive cards of the same suit. It ranks higher than any other hand except a royal flush.


The first re-raise in a pot is referred to as a three-bet. Continual raises are subsequently called four-bets, five-bets, and so forth.


This is a hand composed of three cards of the same rank.

Top Pair

Top pair refers to pairing the highest-ranking card on the board. It’s typically a strong hand postflop.

Under the Gun

The term “Under the Gun” (UTG) refers to the position immediately to the left of the big blind. The UTG player is the first to act before the flop, hence the term, which acknowledges the pressure of acting before everyone else.

Value Bet

A value bet is made with the intention of getting called by a worse hand. This bet should be made when a player believes they have the best hand.


VPIP, or Voluntarily Put in Pot, is a poker analytics term. A player with a high VPIP is typically active preflop, frequently putting chips into the pot beyond the forced blinds. Conversely, a player with a low VPIP is perceived as tight and plays only premium cards.

A deep understanding of these basic poker terminologies can significantly augment your poker prowess. Mastering the language of poker can truly be a game-changer, transforming a beginner into a formidable player. In the intricate game of poker, knowledge truly is power.

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