Learning poker slang isn’t just about sounding clever, it’s one of the most effective ways to become a winning player. You don’t know how many times we’ve seen people misunderstand basic poker phrases and lose money.  Therefore, if you’ve got any ambitions of winning, you need to know the most important poker terms.

poker chips - poker terms

Poker Terminology Explained

Learning the most important terms in poker won’t turn you into a winning player, but they will help you sound like a pro. Beyond sounding like a pro, the right poker terms will unlock the door to important strategy concepts. Put simply, if you don’t know common poker terms and phrases, you won’t be able to discuss hands or formulate a winning strategy.

Therefore, if you want to get better at different types of poker, you need to know poker lingo. The following list contains all the poker words you need to know if you want to play and, importantly, study the game. There are poker terms for winning. There’s some Texas Hold’em terminology, and there are online poker terms.

Our tip is to bookmark this page and have our list of poker terms handy every time you play. That way you’ll know what someone means when they call you a fish or say “GH”. Now you know the reasons poker terminology is useful, let’s get into it. Below are the most important poker terms for beginners:

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List of Poker Terms: A-Z

All poker terms are relative. Some poker words might mean something in one setting and something else in another. We’ve tried to avoid poker phrases with malleable or ambiguous meanings. The list below contains all universally understood poker betting terms you can use in a live cardroom or online.


ABC Poker – Someone who sticks to the fundamentals and uses a straightforward strategy is said to play ABC poker.

Ace – The highest card in the deck. An ace can also be a strong player.

pocket aces cards - poker terms

All-in – Putting all your chips into the pot is known as going “all-in.” This is one of the most important Texas Hold’em poker terms if you’re playing No Limit games.

Angle Shooting – A move designed to gain an unfair advantage is known as an angle i.e. you’re angle shooting. This is one of the poker terms and phrases you don’t want aimed at you.

Ante – A forced bet made before any cards are dealt is an ante. The blinds are a type of ante.

Aggro – At top offshore poker sites, the most popular poker terms are often shortened. Aggro stands for an aggressive player.


Backdoor – An unobvious draw is called a backdoor in poker slang. For example, if you’ve got 5-6 and on a 3-9-J flop, you’ve got a backdoor straight draw because a 4 and 7 makes a straight (3-4-5-6-7).

Bad Beat – Getting extremely unlucky is a bad beat e.g. he went all-in with Aces against 7-2 and lost to a bad beat.

Bankroll – The money you have available to play poker with is your bankroll.

poker bankroll - poker terms

Big Slick – One of the common poker card terms for a hand containing an ace and a king. In the 2000s, the hand was also known as ‘Anna Kournikova’.

Blinds – The antes in community-card poker variants are known as blinds. The small blind is half the value of the big blind. The blinds are immediately to the left of the dealer button and move clockwise around the table.

Busted – Losing all of your chips (stack) is known as going bust in poker slang.

Button – The button is a disc that represents the dealer. The player on the button always acts last post-flop.


Call – You’re calling someone when you match their bet e.g. if they bet $10 and you match it, that’s a call.

Chips – You don’t make bets with banknotes or coins, even if you’re playing a cash game. Chips are used in all forms of poker. You receive chips in exchange for cash or once you’ve paid a tournament’s entry fee (aka buy-in).

Check – Passing on the action without putting a chip into the pot is known as checking. You can only check if there hasn’t been any action (i.e. bets before it’s your turn to act).

Collusion – Working in secret with other people to gain an unfair advantage is called collusion. This is another one of the terms in poker you don’t want to hear.

Continuation Bet – Betting on the flop after raising/re-raising pre-flop is known as a continuation bet i.e. you’re continuing your pre-flop aggression. This is one of the poker terms for winning you need to know if you want to master basic strategy.

Cut-Off – This is one position before the dealer button.


Dead Money – Chips you can’t win from the pot is dead money.

Donk – This is one of the words on our poker terms list that has two meanings. A donk is a bad player. A donk bet is when you bet into the pre-flop raiser i.e. you steal the momentum so they can’t make a continuation bet.

Drawing Dead – You’re drawing dead when you’ve got a 0% chance of winning a hand.

Dry Board – A selection of unconnected community cards are said to be dry. This poker term can be used to describe a board after the flop, turn, or river. These poker words are useful when you’re learning how to bluff because dry boards typically offer little value for other players.


Early Position – The first few positions to the right of the big blind are referred to as early positions.

Edge – Having an edge in poker means you’ve got an advantage. We’ve written this list of poker terms for beginners so you can master the game’s fundamentals and have an edge.

Equity – Your percentage chance of winning a hand is known in poker lingo as your equity.

Expected Value (EV) – The long-term statistical outcome of a scenario is known as its expected value (EV). For example, if you move all-in with Aces vs. 7-2, the EV of the move is 87%. This means you’ll win 87% of the time in the long run.


Fish – If you want to know how to win at poker, you should be targeting weak players, known as fish. The opposite of fish are sharks (aka strong players).

Float – Calling a bet on the flop or turn with the intention of bluffing at a later point is called floating. You’ll need to know poker phrases like floating when you’re learning Omaha and Hold’em strategy.

Fold Equity – This term refers to the amount of equity you gain when someone folds when you’re bluffing i.e. the amount of a disadvantage you’ve overcome by winning the pot with the worst hand. This is one of the important poker terms to understand if you want to master bluffing.

Flop – The first three community cards are known as the flop. This is one of the most common Texas Hold’em poker terms you’ll hear.

Flush – Five cards of the same suit in a hand.


Game Theory Optimal (GTO) – Utilizing good poker strategy is about understanding GTO. It’s a mathematical way to look at poker games that makes you theoretically unexploitable.

Good Game (GG) – This is what you say to someone when you exit/win a tournament. It’s a sign of sportsmanship. Other online poker terms with a similar meaning are GH (Good Hand) and WP (Well Played).

Grinder – Someone who plays low or mid-stakes cash games consistently to earn a living is said to be grinding. Therefore, they’re a grinder.

Guarantee – The amount of money a tournament host agrees to pay out is known as the guarantee. A guarantee the least a prizepool can be. Even if the number of buy-ins doesn’t cover the guarantee, the tournament’s host is obliged to pay the advertised guarantee.

Gutshot – Needing one card to complete a straight is known as a gut shot draw.


Hand – The cards you’re playing constitute a poker hand. This is one of the most important card terms in poker because you need hands to win pots. Therefore, you need to know the ranking of poker hands to stand any chance of winning.

Hand Rankings – The list of poker hands in order of strength. The Royal Flush is the strongest hand in standard poker games.

Poker Hand Rankings - poker terms

Heads-Up – Playing against one other person is known as heads-up poker.

Hole Card – The cards you’re dealt that only you can see are hole cards.

HUD – This acronym for Heads-Up Display (HUD) is one of the most common poker terms used when discussing online strategy. HUDs track a player’s actions and display them as statistical values. You can make decisions based on these values.


Implied Odds – The money you could potentially win if you make a hand is used to determine your implied odds.

In the Money – Players who make it into the final stages of a tournament are “in the money.” This means they’ve lasted long enough to get a return on their investment. The “bubble” precedes the money payouts. Tournament payouts are usually distributed among the top 10% to 20% of the field.

Independent Chip Model (ICM) – Tournament players use ICM as a way to determine their payout equity. The calculation takes into account a player’s stack, the stack sizes of their opponents, and the remaining prizes.

The results tell players what their stacks are worth, theoretically, in dollar amounts. Players use this information to make decisions in the later stages of tournaments and when they’re discussing deals.


Jamming – Moving all-in is also referred to as jamming in poker terminology.

Joker – A joker is one of the poker card terms that only appears in video poker. In regular online games, jokers are usually removed from the deck.


Kicker – A card used to separate two identical hands is the kicker. For example, if one player has A-K, another has A-9, and the board is A-2-7-5-J, they’ve both made a pair of aces. However, poker hands are made up of the best five cards. Therefore, A-K wins the pot because their kicker (the King) is higher than a 9.

Knock – Players wanting to check in a live game will knock the table. This is one of those poker terms you don’t need to worry about if you only play online.


Ladies – A pair of queens can also be called ladies in poker slang.

LAG – This acronym describes Loose and Aggressive players. These players play a lot of hands and often bet or raise.

Late Position – Any spot on the table near to the dealer button is regarded as late position. This is one of the poker terms for winning you need to know because, in general, you should play the majority of your hands from late position.

Leak – Persistent weaknesses are leaks i.e. you’re repeating a mistake that’s costing you money.

Limp – Calling the minimum bet is known as limping into the pot.

Loose – Playing a lot of hands is described as a “loose” strategy i.e. you’re loose with your hand selection. The opposite of playing loose is playing tight. These are useful poker terms for beginners trying to master different styles.

Luckbox – A bad player who wins through luck rather than skill.


Maniac – A player who seems to have no regard for poker strategy or common poker terms and phrases is a maniac.

Min Buy-In – Cash games have minimum and maximum buy-ins. For example, if you play a $1/$2 cash game on Bovada, the maximum buy-in is 100x the big blind i.e. $200. The minimum buy-in is 40x the big blind i.e. $80.

Misdeal – Poker dealers aren’t perfect and sometimes they make mistakes. If they make a mistake, it’s known as a misdeal. This poker term isn’t used online because cards are dealt by random number generators (RNGs).

Multi-Table Tournament – Any tournament that starts at a set time and has more than one table is an MTT.

SportsBetting.ag Poker - poker terms tournaments

Muck – Folded hands get put into the muck where they can’t be retrieved.


Nut Flush Draw – Trying to hit a fifth suited card is known as playing a flush draw. Playing to hit the best possible flush is a nut flush draw.

Nit – Tight players who have a narrow range (i.e. they only play the very best hands) are called nits.

No Limit – A betting structure that doesn’t restrict the amount you can wager in a hand is called No Limit.

Nuts – The best possible hand is known as the nuts. Other popular poker terms based on this word are nut flush and nut straight.


Offsuit – There are four suits in a deck of cards: hearts, diamonds, clubs, and spades. Five cards of the same suit make a flush, so any card that doesn’t complete a flush is “offsuit.”

On the Button – The player who acts last post-flop is on the button.

Outs – Any card you can hit to make a ranked poker hand is known as your outs.

Overbet – Betting more than the value of the pot is an overbet. Skilled players often use overbets as a way to confuse opponents.

Overlay – An overlay happens when the money collected from buy-ins doesn’t amount to the value of the guarantee. A tournament organizer has to make up this shortfall.

Overpair – Some poker words are self-explanatory and this is one of them. Any pair that’s higher than what’s on the board/what an opponent holds is called an overpair.


Pair – Two cards of the same value are called a pair. There are a lot of poker terms for specific pairs. For example, A-A is called pocket rockets in poker slang.

Picture Cards – The jack, queen, king, and ace are picture cards.

Playing the Board – When you’re unable to combine any of your hole cards with those on the board, you’re said to be “playing the board.”

Pocket Pair – Being dealt two cards of the same value, such as A-A, is called a pocket pair in poker.

Position – Where you are relative to the blinds and button determines your position at the table.

Pot – The chips you bet got into a pot along with everyone else’s chips. Your aim is to win more pots than you lose. There are plenty of poker terms and phrases that link to this one. One of the most important is Pot Odds. This poker term refers to the amount you have to call vs. the amount of money in the pot.

Pre-Flop – Action that takes place before the first three community cards are dealt is “pre-flop” i.e. before the flop. Other important poker terms that link to this one are Pre-Flop Raise and Pre-Flop Fold.

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Quads – Four-of-a-kind i.e. a hand with four cards of the same value.


Raise – Betting more than the previous biggest bet is known as raising. For example, if someone bets $10 and you make it $30, that’s a raise. You can also re-raise, which means raising a raise.

Rake – Poker operators take a small percentage of cash game pots and tournament buy-ins to cover their costs. This deduction is called rake. Other poker terms linked to rake are “rakeback” (a bonus that gives you back some of the rake you’ve paid) and “rake reduction” (promotions that reduce the rake for a certain amount of time).

Read – Noticing a recurring trait within an opponent is referred to as getting a read on someone. It means you can read what they’re going to do based on the way they bet and/or act.

Ring Game – A different poker term for a cash game (see Cash Game).

BetOnline cash game - poker terms

River – The fifth and final community card is called the river.

Rock – A tight player is called a rock in poker betting times. Rocks only play strong hands.

Royal Flush – The best possible hand in poker is a Royal Flush. It’s made up of 10, J, Q, K, A suited.

Running Bad – An extended downswing (losing streak) is known as running bad in poker.


Satellite – Qualifiers that give you entry into a bigger tournament are called satellites. You can play satellites on all of our recommended online poker sites, including Ignition.

Semi-Bluff – Betting when you’ve probably got the worst hand but have outs is a semi-bluff. A pure bluff is when you’re betting with no outs.

Set – Three-of-a-kind containing a pair in your hand and one of the community cards.

Showdown – The point at which two or more players are left and the betting is over signals the end of a hand. At this point, everyone has to show their cards.

Slow Play – Deliberately taking a long time to show a hand you know will win the pot is called slow playing.

Straight – Five cards in sequential order are known as a straight e.g. 5-6-7-8-9.


Tell – A recurring trait that gives away the strength of someone’s hand is a tell.

Three-Bet – Re-raising a pre-flop raise is known as a three-bet (3-bet) in poker lingo.

Tilt – You’re said to be on tilt if you completely lose control of your emotions and play recklessly.

Trap – Playing deceptively so opponents make mistakes.

Trips – Three-of-a-kind containing one hole card and two of the community cards.

Turn – The fourth community card.


Under the Gun – The first player to act is said to be “under the gun” (UTG).


Value Bet – A bet designed to make an opponent call when you’re confident you’ve got the best hand.

Variance – Even if you make all the right moves, results won’t always go your way. That’s because there are very few situations where the odds are 100% in one direction or the other. Of all the concepts we’ve explained in our list of poker terms, this is one that players struggle to cope with. Why? Because no one likes losing, especially if you’ve done everything right.

VPIP – Voluntary Pot in the Pot is one of the most important online poker terms to learn. It refers to the number of hands someone plays, which tells you whether they’re loose or tight.


Wet Board – A board with a lot of connected cards – i.e. lots of suited cards, picture cards, or straight cards – is said to be wet. It’s wet because you might drown.

WPT – The World Poker Tour (WPT) is a leading tournament organization that hosts some of the game’s best events.

WPT World Poker Tour - Poker terms

(Credit: Nica Stylianos/WPT)

WSOP – The World Series of Poker (WSOP) is the game’s biggest tournament festival. It takes place between May and July every year in Las Vegas. It attracts the best players in the world and winners of each WSOP event get a bracelet.

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Responsible Gambling

Reading through our poker terms list doesn’t won’t make you invincible. You should always play responsibly, make sensible decisions, and never spend more than you can afford to lose. Check out our responsible gambling FAQ for more information.


Daniel Smyth

Daniel Smyth is a gambling industry veteran who has covered poker, casino gaming, and sports betting for over a decade. Daniel first anted up at a poker table while studying for a degree in English. He parlayed those early lessons into a job with WPT Poker Magazine. Working alongside some gambling greats, Daniel soon became adept at creating captivating copy and folding pocket jacks to a 3-bet. He subsequently spread his gambling wings and now produces content for some of the industry’s biggest players, including ReadWrite.

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