Ante - A small portion of a bet contributed
by each player to seed the pot at the beginning of a poker
hand. Most hold'em games do not have an ante; they use "blinds"
to get initial money into the pot.
All-In - To run out of chips while betting or
calling. In table stakes games, a player may not go into his
pocket for more money during a hand. If he runs out, a side
pot is created in which he has no interest. However, he can
still win the pot for which he had the chips. Example: "Poor
Bob. He made quads against the big full house, but he was
all-in on the second bet."
Backdoor - Catching both the turn and river
card to make a drawing hand. For instance, suppose you have
As-7s. The flop comes Ad-6c-4s. You bet and are called. The
turn is the Ts, which everybody checks, and then the river
is the Js. You've made a "backdoor" nut flush. See
Bad Beat - To have a hand that is a large underdog
beat a heavily favored hand. It is generally used to imply
that the winner of the pot had no business being in the pot
at all, and it was the wildest of luck that he managed to
catch the one card in the deck that would win the pot. We
won't give any examples; you will hear plenty of them during
your poker career.
Big Blind - The larger of the two blinds typically
used in a hold'em game. The big blind is a full first round
bet. See also "blind" and "small blind."
Big Slick - A nickname for AK (suited or not).
Its origins are unknown (to me, anyway).
Blank - A board card that doesn't seem to affect
the standings in the hand. If the flop is As-Jd-Ts, then a
turn card of 2h would be considered a blank. On the other
hand, the 2s would not be.
Blind - A forced bet (or partial bet) put in
by one or more players before any cards are dealt. Typically,
blinds are put in by players immediately to the left of the
button. See also "live blind."
Board - All the community cards in a hold'em
game -- the flop, turn, and river cards together. Example:
"There wasn't a single heart on the board."
Bot - Short for "robot". In a poker
context, a program that plays poker online with no (or minimal)
Bottom Pair - A pair with the lowest card on
the flop. If you have As-6s, and the flop comes Kd-Th-6c,
you have flopped bottom pair.
Brick & Mortar - A "real" casino
or cardroom with a building, tables, dealers, etc. This is
in contrast to an online poker site.
Bubble - (1) The point at which only one player
must bust out before all others win some money. (2) The person
who was unfortunate enough to finish in that position.
Burn - To discard the top card from the deck,
face down. This is done between each betting round before
putting out the next community card(s). It is security against
any player recognizing or glimpsing the next card to be used
on the board.
Button - A white acrylic disk that indicates
the (nominal) dealer. Also used to refer to the player on
the button. Example: "Oh, the button raised."
Buy - (1) As in "buy the pot." To
bluff, hoping to "buy" the pot without being called.
(2) As in "buy the button." To bet or raise, hoping
to make players between you and the button fold, thus allowing
you to act last on subsequent betting rounds.
Buy-In - An amount of money you pay to enter
a tournament. Often expressed as two numbers, such as $100+9,
meaning that it costs $109 to enter the tournament; $100 goes
into the prize fund and $9 goes to the house.
Call - To put into the pot an amount of money
equal to the most recent bet or raise. The term "see"
(as in "I'll see that bet") is considered colloquial.
Calling Station - A weak-passive player who
calls a lot, but doesn't raise or fold much. This is the kind
of player you like to have in your game.
Cap - To put in the last raise permitted on
a betting round. This is typically the third or fourth raise.
Dealers in California are fond of saying "Capitola"
Case - The last card of a certain rank in the
deck. Example: "The flop came J-8-3; I've got pocket
jacks, he's got pocket 8's, and then the case eight falls
on the river, and he beats my full house."
Center Pot - The first pot created during a
poker hand, as opposed to one or more "side" pots
created if one or more players goes all-in. Also "main
Chat - Typed conversation that you can have
with other players at an online poker site (or any online
gathering, for that matter).
Check - (1) To not bet, with the option to call
or raise later in the betting round. Equivalent to betting
zero dollars. (2) Another word for chip, as in poker chip.
Check-Raise - To check and then raise when a
player behind you bets. Occasionally you will hear people
say this is not fair or ethical poker. Piffle. Almost all
casinos permit check-raising, and it is an important poker
tactic. It is particularly useful in low-limit hold'em where
you need extra strength to narrow the field if you have the
Chop - An agreement between the two players
with blinds to simply take their blinds back rather than playing
out the hand if nobody calls or raises in front of them.
Clean Out - A card that would almost certainly
make your hand best. If you are drawing at a straight, but
there is a flush draw possible, then the cards that make your
straight but also the flush are not clean outs.
Cold Call - To call more than one bet in a single
action. For instance, suppose the first player to act after
the big blind raises. Now any player acting after that must
call two bets "cold." This is different from calling
a single bet and then calling a subsequent raise.
Come Hand - A drawing hand (from the craps term).
Complete Hand - A hand that is defined by all
five cards -- a straight, flush, full house, four of a kind,
or straight flush.
Connector - A hold'em starting hand in which
the two cards are one apart in rank. Examples: KQs, 76.
Counterfeit - To make your hand less valuable
because of board cards that duplicate it. Example: you have
87 and the flop comes 9-T-J, so you have a straight. Now an
8 comes on the turn. This has counterfeited your hand and
made it almost worthless.
Crack - To beat a hand -- typically a big hand.
You hear this most often applied to pocket aces: "Third
time tonight I've had pocket aces cracked."
Cripple - As in "to cripple the deck."
Meaning that you have most or all of the cards that somebody
would want to have with the current board. If you have pocket
kings, and the other two kings flop, you have crippled the
Crying Call - A call that you make expecting
to lose, but feel that you must make anyway because of the
Cut-Off - The position (or player) who acts
one before the button.
Dead Money - (1) Money contributed to a pot
by a player no longer in the pot. (2) A player in a tournament
who has no realistic chance of winning.
Dog - Shortened form of "underdog."
Dominated Hand - A hand that will almost always
lose to a better hand that people usually play. For instance,
K3 is "dominated" by KQ. With the exception of strange
flops (e.g., 3-3-X, K-3-X), it will always lose to KQ.
Draw - To play a hand that is not yet good,
but could become so if the right cards come. Example: "I'm
not there yet -- I'm drawing." Also used as a noun. Example:
"I have to call because I have a good draw."
Draw Dead - Trying to make a hand that, even
if made, will not win the pot. If you're drawing to make a
flush, and your opponent already has a full house, you are
"drawing dead." Of course, this is a bad condition
to be in.
Equity - Your "rightful" share of
a pot. If the pot contains $80, and you have a 50% chance
of winning it, you have $40 equity in the pot. This term is
somewhat fanciful since you will either win $80 or $0, but
it gives you an idea of how much you can "expect"
Expectation - (1) The amount you expect to gain
on average if you make a certain play. For instance, suppose
you put $10 into a $50 pot to draw at a hand that you will
make 25% of the time, and it will win every time you make
it. Three out of four times, you do not make your draw, and
lose $10 each time for a total of $30. The fourth time, you
will make your draw, winning $50. Your total gain over those
four average hands is $50-$30 = $20, an average of $5 per
hand. Thus calling the $10 has a positive expectation of $5.
(2) The amount you expect to make at the poker table in a
specific time period. Suppose in 100 hours of play, you win
$527. Then your expectation is $5.27/hr. Of course, you won't
make that exact amount each hour (and some hours you will
lose), but it's one measure of your anticipated earnings.
Extra Blind - A blind put in by a player just
entering the game, returning to the game, or otherwise changing
his position at the table. See also "blind" and
Family Pot - A pot in which all (or almost all)
of the players call before the flop.
Fast Play - To play a hand aggressively, betting
and raising as much as possible. Example: "When you flop
a set but there's a flush draw possible, you have to play
Fish - A poor player -- one who gives his money
away. It's a well-known (though not well-followed) rule among
good players to not upset the bad players, because they'll
stop having fun and perhaps leave. Thus the phrase, "Don't
tap on the aquarium."
Flop - The first three community cards, put
out face up, all together.
Fold Equity - The extra value you get from a
hand when you force an opponent to fold. That is, if you don't
have to see a showdown, your hand has more value than if you
Foul - A hand that may not be played for one
reason or another. A player with a foul hand may not make
any claim on any portion of the pot. Example: "He ended
up with three cards after the flop, so the dealer declared
his hand foul."
Free Card - A turn or river card on which you
don't have to call a bet because of play earlier in the hand
(or because of your reputation with your opponents). For instance,
if you are on the button and raise when you flop a flush draw,
your opponents may check to you on the turn. If you make your
flush on the turn, you can bet. If you don't get it on the
turn, you can check as well, seeing the river card for "free."
Free Roll - One player has a shot at winning
an entire pot when he is currently tied with another player.
For instance, suppose you have Ac-Qc and your opponent has
Ad-Qh. The flop is Qs-5c-Tc. You are tied with your opponent
right now, but are free rolling, because you can win the whole
pot and your opponent can't. If no club comes, you split the
pot with him; if it does come, you win the whole thing.
Gap Hand - A starting hand with cards more than
one rank apart. For instance, T9 is a one-gap hand. 86 is
a two-gap hand.
Gutshot Straight - A straight filled "inside."
If you have 9s-8s, the flop comes 7c-5h-2d, and the turn is
the 6c, you've made your gutshot straight.
Heads-Up - A pot that is being contested by
only two players. Example: "It was heads-up by the turn."
Hit - As in "the flop hit me," meaning
the flop contains cards that help your hand. If you have AK,
and the flop comes K-7-2, it hit you.
House - The establishment running the game.
Example: "The $2 you put on the button goes to the house."
Implied Odds - Pot odds that do not exist at
the moment, but may be included in your calculations because
of bets you expect to win if you hit your hand. For instance,
you might call with a flush draw on the turn even though the
pot isn't offering you quite 4:1 odds (your chance of making
the flush) because you're sure you can win a bet from your
opponent on the river if you make your flush.
Jackpot - A special bonus paid to the loser
of a hand if he gets a very good hand beaten. In hold'em,
the "loser" must typically get aces full or better
beaten. In some of the large southern California card clubs,
jackpots have gotten over $50,000. Of course, the jackpot
is funded with money removed from the game as part of the
Jam - To move all-in in a no-limit (or pot-limit)
Kicker - An unpaired card used to determine
the better of two near-equivalent hands. For instance, suppose
you have AK and your opponent has AQ. If the flop has an ace
in it, you both have a pair of aces, but you have a king kicker.
Kickers can be vitally important in hold'em.
Leak - A weakness in your game that causes you
to win less money than you would otherwise. Example: "She
takes her pocket pairs too far; it's a leak in her game."
Limp - To call. Generally the term refers to
pre-flop action. For instance: "He limped in early position
Live Blind - A forced bet put in by one or more
players before any cards are dealt. The "live" means
those players still have the option of raising when the action
gets back around to them.
Live - Cards that are not duplicated in an opponent's
stronger hand. For example, if you have A9 and your opponent
has AJ, then your ace is not "live" because making
a pair of aces won't do you any good. The nine, however, is
live; making a pair of nines gives you the better hand.
Maniac - A player who does a lot of hyper-aggressive
raising, betting, and bluffing. A true maniac is not a good
player, but is simply doing a lot of gambling. However, a
player who occasionally acts like a maniac and confuses his
opponents is quite dangerous.
Made Hand - A hand to which you're drawing,
or one good enough that it doesn't need to improve.
Micro-Limit - Games so small that they couldn't
be profitably dealt in a real cardroom. They exist only at
online poker sites. You might arbitrarily call games $.25-.50
and smaller "micro-limit."
Muck - The pile of folded and burned cards in
front of the dealer. Example: "His hand hit the muck
so the dealer ruled it folded even though the guy wanted to
get his cards back." Also used as a verb. Example: "He
didn't have any outs so he mucked his hand."
No-Limit - A version of poker in which a player
may bet any amount of chips (up to the number in front of
him) whenever it is his turn to act. It is a very different
game from limit poker.
Nuts - The best possible hand given the board.
If the board is Ks-Jd-Ts-4s-2h, then As-Xs is the nuts. You
will occasionally hear the term applied to the best possible
hand of a certain category, even though it isn't the overall
nuts. For the above example, somebody with Ah-Qc might say
they had the "nut straight."
Offsuit - A hold'em starting hand with two cards
of different suits.
One-Gap - A hold'em starting hand with two cards
two apart in rank. Examples: J9s, 64.
Out - A card that will make your hand win. Normally
heard in the plural. Example: "Any spade will make my
flush, so I have nine outs."
Outrun - To beat. Example: "Susie outran
my set when her flush card hit on the river."
Overcall - To call a bet after one or more others
players have already called.
Overcard - A card higher than any card on the
board. For instance, if you have AQ and the flop comes J-7-3,
you don't have a pair, but you have two overcards.
Overpair - A pocket pair higher than any card
on the flop. If you have QQ and the flop comes J-8-3, you
have an overpair.
Pat - A hand that you make on the flop. For
instance, if you have two spades in your hand and the flop
has three spades, then you've flopped a pat spade flush.
Pay Off - To call a bet when the bettor is representing
a hand that you can't beat, but the pot is sufficiently large
to justify a call anyway. Example: "He played it exactly
like he made the flush, but I had top set so I paid him off."
Play the Board - To show down a hand in hold'em
when your cards don't make a hand any better than is shown
on the board. For instance, if you have 22, and the board
is 4-4-9-9-A (no flush possible), then you must "play
the board": the best possible hand you can make doesn't
use any of your cards. Note that if you play the board, the
best you can do is split the pot with all remaining players.
Pocket - Your unique cards that only you can
see. For instance, "He had pocket sixes" (a pair
of sixes), or "I had ace-king in the pocket."
Pocket Pair - A hold'em starting hand with two
cards of the same rank, making a pair. Example: "I had
big pocket pairs seven times in the first hour. What else
can you ask for?"
Post - To put in a blind bet, generally required
when you first sit down in a cardroom game. You may also be
required to post a blind if you change seats at the table
in a way that moves you away from the blinds. Example: a player
leaves one seat at a table and takes another in such a way
that he moves farther from the blinds. He is required to post
an extra blind to receive a hand. See also "extra blind."
Pot-Committed - A state where you are essentially
forced to call the rest of your stack because of the size
of the pot and your remaining chips.
Pot-Limit - A version of poker in which a player
may bet up to the amount of money in the pot whenever it is
his turn to act. Like no-limit, this is a very different game
from limit poker.
Pot Odds - The amount of money in the pot compared
to the amount you must put in the pot to continue playing.
For example, suppose there is $60 in the pot. Somebody bets
$6, so the pot now contains $66. It costs you $6 to call,
so your pot odds are 11:1. If your chance of having the best
hand is at least 1 out of 12, you should call. Pot odds also
apply to draws. For instance, suppose you have a draw to the
nut flush with one card left to come. In this case, you are
about a 4:1 underdog to make your flush. If it costs you $8
to call the bet, then there must be about $32 in the pot (including
the most recent bet) to make your call correct.
Price - The pot odds you are getting for a draw
or call. Example: "The pot was laying me a high enough
price, so I stayed in with my gutshot straight draw."
Protect - (1) To keep your hand or a chip on
your cards. This prevents them from being fouled by a discarded
hand, or accidentally mucked by the dealer. (2) To invest
more money in a pot so blind money that you've already put
in isn't "wasted." Example: "He'll always protect
his blinds, no matter how bad his cards are."
Put On - To mentally assign a hand to a player
for the purposes of playing out your hand. Example: "He
raised on the flop, but I put him on a draw, so I re-raised
and then bet the turn."
Quads - Four of a kind.
Ragged - A flop (or board) that doesn't appear
to help anybody very much. A flop that came down Jd-6h-2c
would look ragged.
Rainbow - A flop that contains three different
suits, thus no flush can be made on the turn. Can also mean
a complete five card board that has no more than two of any
suit, thus no flush is possible.
Rake - An amount of money taken out of every
pot by the dealer. This is the cardroom's income.
Rank - The numerical value of a card (as opposed
to its suit). Example: "jack," "seven."
Rebuy - An option to buy back into a tournament
after you've lost all your chips. Tournaments may offer one
or more rebuys or (often) none at all.
Represent - To play as if you hold a certain
hand. For instance, if you raised before the flop, and then
raised again when the flop came ace high, you would be representing
at least an ace with a good kicker.
Ring Game - A regular poker game as opposed
to a tournament. Also referred to as a "live" game
since actual money is in play instead of tournament chips.
River - The fifth and final community card,
put out face up, by itself. Also known as "fifth street."
Metaphors involving the river are some of poker's most treasured
cliches, e.g., "He drowned in the river."
Rock - A player who plays very tight, not very
creatively. He raises only with the best hands. A real rock
is fairly predictable: if he raises you on the river, you
can throw away just about anything but the nuts.
Runner - Typically said "runner-runner"
to describe a hand that was made only by catching the correct
cards on both the turn and the river. Example: "He made
a runner-runner flush to beat my trips." See also "backdoor."
Satellite - A tournament that does not award
cash to its winners, but a seat (or seats) in a subsequent
Scare Card - A card that may well turn the best
hand into trash. If you have Tc-8c and the flop comes Qd-Jd-9s,
you almost assuredly have the best hand. However, a turn card
of Td would be very scary because it would almost guarantee
that you are now beaten.
Second Pair - A pair with the second highest
card on the flop. If you have As-Ts, and the flop comes Kd-Th-6c,
you have flopped second pair. See "top pair."
Sell - As in "sell a hand." In a spread-limit
game, this means betting less than the maximum when you have
a very strong hand, hoping players will call whereas they
would not have called a maximum bet.
Semi-Bluff - A powerful concept first discussed
by David Sklansky. It is a bet or raise that you hope will
not be called, but you have some outs if it is. A semi-bluff
may be correct when betting for value is not correct, a pure
bluff is not correct, but the combination of the two may be
a positive expectation play. Example: you have Ks-Qs, and
the flop is Th-5s-Jc. If you bet now, it's a semi-bluff. You
probably don't have the best hand, and you'd like to see your
opponents fold immediately. Nevertheless, if you do get callers,
you could still improve to the best hand.
Set - Three of a kind when you have two of the
rank in your hand, and there is one on the board.
Short Stack - A number of chips that is not
very many compared to the other players at the table. If you
have $10 in front of you, and everybody else at the table
has over $100, you are playing on a short stack.
Showdown - The point at which all players remaining
in the hand turn their cards over and determine who has the
best hand -- i.e., after the fourth round of betting is completed.
Of course, if a final bet or raise is not called, there is
Side Pot - A pot created in which a player has
no interest because he has run out of chips. Example: Al bets
$6, Beth calls the $6, and Carl calls, but he has only $2
left. An $8 side pot is created that either Al or Beth can
win, but not Carl. Carl, however, can still win all the money
in the original or "center" pot.
Slow Play - To play a strong hand weakly so
more players will stay in the pot.
Small Blind - The smaller of two blind bets
typically used in a hold'em game. Normally, the small blind
is one-third to two-thirds of a first round bet. See also
"big blind" and "blind."
Smooth Call - To call. Smooth call often implies
slow playing a strong hand. Example: "I flopped the nut
flush but just smooth called when the guy in front of me bet
-- I didn't want to scare anybody out."
Soft-Play - To go easy on another player at
the table (e.g., not betting or raising against him). Suppose
you and your brother are the last two people left in a hand.
On the river, you have the nuts, but he bets. If you don't
raise, you are "soft-playing" him. Please note that
soft-playing is prohibited in tournaments and can result in
penalties, up to and including forfeiture of winnings.
Splash the Pot - To toss chips directly into
the pot rather than put them in a stack in front of you. Don't
Split Pot - A pot that is shared by two or more
players because they have equivalent hands.
Split Two Pair - A two pair hand in which one
of each of your cards' ranks appears on the board as well.
Example: you have T9, the flop is T-9-5, you have a split
two pair. This is in comparison to two pair where there is
a pair on the board. Example: you have T9, the flop is 9-5-5.
Spread-Limit - A betting structure in which
a player may bet any amount in a range on every betting round.
A typical spread-limit structure is $2-$6, where a player
may bet as little as $2 or as much as $6 on every betting
Stop-and-Go - A play where you call (rather
than re-raising) a raise, but then come out betting on the
Straddle - An optional extra blind bet, typically
made by the player one to the left of the big blind, equal
to twice the big blind. This is effectively a raise, and forces
any player who wants to play to pay two bets. Furthermore,
the straddler acts last before the flop, and may "re-raise."
String Bet - A bet (more typically a raise)
in which a player doesn't get all the chips required for the
raise into the pot in one motion. Unless he verbally declared
the raise, he can be forced to withdraw it and just call.
This prevents the unethical play of putting out enough chips
to call, seeing what effect that had, and then possibly raising.
Structured - Used to apply to a certain betting
structure in poker games. The typical definition of a structured
hold'em game is a fixed amount for bets and raises before
the flop and on the flop, and then twice that amount on the
turn and river. Example: a $2-$4 structured hold'em game:
bets and raises of $2 before the flop and on the flop; $4
bets and raises on the turn and river.
Suited - A hold'em starting hand in which the
two cards are the same suit. Example: "I had to play
J-3 -- it was suited."
Table Stakes - A rule in a poker game meaning
that a player may not go into his pocket for money during
a hand. He may only invest the amount of money in front of
him into the current pot. If he runs out of chips during the
hand, a side pot is created in which he has no interest. All
casino poker is played table stakes. The definition sometimes
also includes the rule that a player may not remove chips
from the table during a game. While this rule might not be
referred to as "table stakes," it is enforced almost
universally in public poker games.
Tell - A clue or hint that a player unknowingly
gives about the strength of his hand, his next action, etc.
May originally be from "telegraph" or the obvious
use that he "tells" you what he's going to do before
he does it.
Thin - As in "drawing thin." To be
drawing to a very few outs, perhaps only one or two.
Tilt - To play wildly or recklessly. A player
is said to be "on tilt" if he is not playing his
best, playing too many hands, trying wild bluffs, raising
with bad hands, etc.
Time - (1) A request by a player to suspend
play while he decides what he's going to do. Simply, "Time,
please!" If a player doesn't request time and there is
a substantial amount of action behind him, the dealer may
rule that the player has folded. (2) An amount of money collected
either on the button or every half hour by the cardroom. This
is another way for the house to make its money (see "rake").
To Go - The amount a player must call if he
wishes to continue playing. Example: "The big blind was
$20. Sarah raised $40 more, making it $60 to go."
Toke - A small amount of money (typically $.50
or $1.00) given to the dealer by the winner of a pot. Quite
often, tokes represent the great majority of a dealer's income.
Top Pair - A pair with the highest card on the
flop. If you have As-Qs, and the flop comes Qd-Th-6c, you
have flopped top pair. See "second pair."
Top Set - The highest possible trips. Example:
you have Tc-Ts, and the flop comes Td-8c-9h. You have flopped
Top Two - Two pair, with your two hole cards
pairing the two highest cards on the board.
Top and Bottom - Two pair, with your two hole
cards pairing the highest and lowest cards on the board.
Trips - Three of a kind.
Turn - The fourth community card. Put out face
up, by itself. Also known as "fourth street."
Under the Gun - The position of the player who
acts first on a betting round. For instance, if you are one
to the left of the big blind, you are under the gun before
Underdog - A person or hand not mathematically
favored to win a pot. For instance, if you flop four cards
to your flush, you are not quite a 2:1 underdog to make your
flush by the river (that is, you will make your flush about
one in three times). See also "dog."
Value - As in "bet for value." This
means that you would actually like your opponents to call
your bet (as opposed to a bluff). Generally it's because you
have the best hand. However, it can also be a draw that, given
enough callers, has a positive expectation.
Variance - A measure of the up and down swings
your bankroll goes through. Variance is not necessarily a
measure of how well you play. However, the higher your variance,
the wider swings you'll see in your bankroll.
Wheel - A straight from ace through five.