New to the world of poker? Don't worry if you find yourself surrounded by unfamiliar terms and phrases that may seem confusing at first.You don’t need to learn everything at once. Remember, this is not about memorizing poker jargon; it's about understanding how the game really works.

So, start with the basics. Learn the rules of poker and the theory behind them. Then, get into the action! Whether you're playing cash games or tournaments, you'll gradually expand your vocabulary and quickly become a master of poker terminology.

Below, we've put together a handy glossary of the most common poker terms. You'll find all the words that no good poker player can do without. So, let's get started.


Poker Terminology sign on cards and chips background


When it’s your turn to play, you’re tasked with performing an action like folding, checking, calling or raising.

The term “action” also refers to games where there’s a lot of heavy betting and raising (i.e., “That game had great action.”

If a person backs a player, they are said to have a part of the player’s action.

Active Player

Someone playing in a live hand.


The amount of chips each player has to put in the pot before a hand is dealt.

You won’t see antes in games that use blinds, such as Texas Hold’em, but you will see them in poker tournaments where the blinds grow larger, as they ensure that tournaments finish in a timely fashion.


When a player puts all their money in the pot and has no chips left to call or raise with.




This is a hand that can make a draw if it catches two more cards.

Usually, a backdoor draw isn’t strong enough on its own, and the odds against making your hand are high. However, if you combine a backdoor draw with a made hand, such as top pair or a second draw, it becomes much more valuable.


The amount of money a player has specifically put aside to play poker with.

When you bankroll a player, you act as an investor and finance their play.


An action that involves putting money or chips into the pot.

Betting Round

Betting rounds occur at any point during a hand where players can bet, starting when the cards are being dealt. Each poker game has a predetermined number of betting rounds.

Big Blind

A mandatory live bet that’s posted before the start of each hand.

Depending on the game type and limit, the big blind can range from an amount equal to one half of the big bet for the table, up to the full big bet amount. It’s positioned two places to the left of the dealer and is almost always preceded by a small blind (positioned immediately to the left of the dealer). 


A card that most likely won’t impact the hand or benefit anyone at the table.


A mandatory bet posted by a player in relation to the stakes of the game.


A bet made to seem like a player is holding a strong hand, when in fact the hand in question is a weak one that can only win if the other players fold out of the pot. 

Bottom Pair

A pair made using the lowest card on the flop such as holding 8-9 with a flop of K-10-9.


An ace-high straight made up of ace through 10.


A pair of aces in the hole or pocket. Chips are also referred to as bullets.


To raise a pot or a hand.


To discard the top card of the deck before each hand and any cards are dealt to ensure that the deck isn’t stacked and that other players have not seen the top card.

Burn Cards

The cards that are discarded and placed in the muck or discard pile during a hand.


When one loses all their money or chips. This often happens when a player doesn’t make a straight or flush draw.


A white plastic disc that moves clockwise around the table to identify the position of the dealer in games like Texas Hold’em and Omaha. When a player’s the dealer, they are referred to as being “on the button”.


When a player tries to win a hand by over-betting or buying the pot. This is often done by bluffing or betting with a marginal holding. You can buy the button when you knock out the players behind you by making a large enough raise to become the last player to act in future betting rounds.


The amount of money a player needs to buy into a tournament or sit down at a cash game table.

A specified minimum in a cash game table.




When a player matches a bet amount in a betting round instead of folding or raising. In this case the player might say “I call your raise.”

Calling Station

A passive player who calls bets instead of raising or folding, regardless of how strong their hand may be. This type of player almost always plays off a better hand but it usually tough to bluff.


A cap is a pre-set limit on the number of raises permitted in a betting round; usually three or four.


The last or fourth card in a rank, when the rest of the cards are in play. For example, if three cards of the same rank are on the board, the fourth card is referred to as the “case card” of that rank.


When a player keeps getting good cards, they are said to be “catching cards”.


Players can opt to check or take no action instead of placing a bet. If a player follows up with a bet, the player that checked must fold, call or raise the bet on their turn.

A check is also another word for a poker chip.


When a player with a strong hand checks in a betting round, hoping to convince the opposing player that they have a weak hand so that they respond by betting. The one who checked can then re-raise and put more money in the pot.


Small colored disks that represent real money in cash games. In tournaments, they act as theoretical tournament dollars. Each color represents a specific denomination of money.

Cold Call

When a player calls more than one bet at the same time. Cold calls typically occur when a bet and raise have been made before the action reaches them. This requires calling two bets to stay in the hand.

Come Hand

A weak hand whose only chance of winning is if the player holding it draws the right cards needed to complete it.


A starting hand with hole cards which are coordinated by rank such as a 6 and a 7, or a 10 and a J.


A hand is considered to be counterfeit when a card is dealt that nullifies a player’s hand advantage. For example, if an A-2 is vying for two pairs against a hand consisting of A-K, and A-10-2 is on the board, a turn card of 10 counterfeits the first hand’s advantage. The second hand has two pair, a better kicker and wins the hand.


Any King. A pair of Kings is referred to as Cowboys.


To beat a strong hand. For example, a Q-10 making two pairs would "crack" a pair of Aces.


A player that loses a lot of chips in a lot in a tournament is said to be "crippled."


A deck is legitimized when it's divided, or "cut," into two or more sections before dealing.




A dog is short for underdog, which is the statistically weaker competitor or poker hand.

Dominated Hand

The statistically weaker hand is the dominated hand. For example, a pair of Kings dominate a pair of Jacks.

Door Card

The first face-up card dealt to players in a game of stud poker.

Draw Dead

When a player maintains a stake in a pot with the hope of drawing a higher hand down the line – unaware of the fact that no possible card could result in a win. For example, a player calls hoping to pick up a flush on the river; however, the opponent picked up a full house on the flop.


A player folding is said to be "dropping" the hand.




The amount of money in a pot that equates to a hand's chance of winning. If there is $300 in a pot, and a player's hand has a 50% chance of winning, the player's equity is $150.


The amount of money a player will theoretically make or lose over a specific time period based on past earnings. To calculate expectation, take the total win/loss amount and divide it by the length of time playing. For example, if you won $2,000 in 100 hours, then you have an expectation of $20 an hour.



Family Pot

When the majority of players call pre-flop. This is a good time to play suited connectors and small pairs.


Quick increases in the amount wagered in the earlier rounds. It's often used as a bluffing strategy in order to avoid an opponent outdrawing a strong hand.


A term for a Jack based on the resemblance to a fishhook.


The initial three cards dealt at the center of the table that act as community cards for all players to share in Texas Hold'em and Omaha.


The act of withdrawing from a hand and forfeiting any claim to the pot.


The term for a hand that's cancelled because of a broken rule or missed procedure. For example, if the dealer forgets to burn a card, the round is deemed foul.

Free Cards

Cards that players get to see without contributing to the pot are known as "free cards."


Tournaments that don't require players to buy in or pay a fee.

Full House

A hand that's comprised of one pair and one three of a kind. For example, three Queens and a pair of Jacks.



Gutshot Straight

The fifth card that fits in the middle of a straight, also known as an inside straight.  If you have a 3-4 and the flop has a 6-7, catching the 5 would give you a gutshot straight.




A complete round of poker, starting with the posting of blinds and finishing with one player winning the pot.

Also refers to an individual player's cards, "Mark's got a killer hand."

For reference, please see our poker hand rankings.

Heads Up

When only two players are contending for a pot.

High Hand

The winning hand in a round of poker.

In Hi-Low games (where both high and low hands win), the high hand denotes the winning hand made up of high cards.


When you catch the card needed to complete a solid hand. For example, if a player is dealt a weak pair, and then catches a triple on the flop, then the player "hit" on the flop.


The term for the space in which the game is played, along with the staff. This could be a casino or poker room, including the management.

For a House hand, see Full House.



Ignorant End

The less favorable end of a straight, which constitutes some risk because another player could have the higher end. For example, if you have the 4-5 out of a 6-7-8 flop, you're at risk of losing to a player who has 9-10.

Implied Odds

The expected amount of money to be in the pot by the end of the hand compared to the amount of money required to wager and maintain a stake in the pot.

Inside Straight

Hitting the middle card needed to complete a straight. If you have a 7-8 and the flop reveals a 10-J-2, hitting the 9 on the turn or river would give you an inside straight. Also known as a gutshot straight.




A bonus payout awarded to a player for meeting a certain requirement outside of regular play. For example, Ignition Casino offers a Bad Beats Bonus to players who lose with a full house Aces full of Kings.


A fast-paced and aggressive style of play. For example, "I started jamming it when I caught trips on the turn."




The second unpaired hole card. The kicker is used to determine a winner when a tie arises. For example, if the board has K-J-9-7-2 and player No. 1 has A-K, player No. 2 has K-10, and player No. 3 has K-3, player No. 1 wins because of the Ace high kicker.




Cards are live when they haven't been dealt or revealed.

An active hand that hasn't been folded is considered live.

Live Blind

The required contribution to the pot before any cards are dealt. It's considered live if players still have to check, raise, or call once they get their hands.


A playing style that entails people going in on too many hands and staying in without a reasonable chance of winning. The opposite style is tight play, where few hands are played.


A hand that's guaranteed to win. For example, "I went all in when I got a lock on the flop."




Players are said to "make their hand" when they pick up a card needed to compete. Someone could ask if "you made your hand."


A player that is constantly raising without any regard to the value of the hand.


The pile of discarded cards typically found beside the dealer. If at any point you touch the muck, the hand is automatically deemed foul.

Also describes the act of folding a hand. For example, "I mucked my hand."



No Limit

A game with no maximum betting restrictions. At any point, you can go all in; whereas, limit games require you to bet multiples of the game's stakes. An example of a no limit game is Texas Hold'em.


The best possible hand based on the revealed community cards and players' hole cards. For example, if the flop is 10c-6d-Ah, the nuts would be Aces three-of-a-kind, using pocket Aces and the Ace on the board.




Cards with varying suits.


A variant of Texas Hold'em, where each player gets four hole cards and must make the best five-card hand using two of the hole cards and three of the community cards.


A term that describes two hole cards that are consecutive in rank. For example, 8-9 in the hole.

On Tilt

Playing while frustrated or angry, which impedes the quality of play.


Any card on the board that improves a hand's value. If you have a straight, the cards that contribute to the straight would be considered "outs."


When you start off strong, but then get beat by a player who picks up a card needed to make a stronger hand. For example, "I picked up rockets and began to bet fast so as not to get outdrawn on the flop."


To call a bet after previous players have already called.


Hole cards that are higher than any of the community cards, or inversely, community cards that are higher than a player's hole cards. For example, "I called a small raise despite not catching anything on the flop because I had two overcards."


A pocket pair that's higher than any of the cards on the board.




A term that refers to any face cards.


A style of play where the player checks and calls, but rarely raises.

Pay Off

To raise or call when there is little chance of winning the pot. This is done for strategic reasons, such as wanting to see the opponent's cards on a showdown to get an understanding of a person's playing style.

Play the Board

Using only community cards to make the best possible hand. If no other player's pocket cards can beat the hand, the pot is evenly distributed between all the active players.

Pocket Cards

The cards dealt directly to each player. These cards aren't revealed to other players unless there's a showdown.


Part of the term, "in the pocket," which refers to the collection of hole cards a player is carrying. For example, "I had Jacks in the pocket," or "I had pocket Jacks."


To put money towards the pot in the form of blinds or antes before the hole cards are dealt.


All the chips collected throughout a hand are put in the "pot" and given to the player who wins the hand.

Pot Limit

A limit put on the amount players can bet during each of their turns.

Pot Odds

A ratio that compares the amount of money in the pot with the money required to pursue winning the pot.


To safeguard your cards by:

  • Viewing them in a way that prevents others from seeing them.
  • Placing a marker on them. This distinguishes them as active cards and protects them from accidentally being mucked or touching other players' cards, in which case the hand would be deemed foul.

You can also protect your blinds by calling a raise out of the blinds, otherwise, opponents may try to bully and steal your blinds.




A term for a four of a kind. You could say, "I caught quads on the turn."




An undesirable card that doesn't amount to much.


A flop with community cards that don't match up in any helpful way.


When there is a lot of variance in suits on either the flop or the final board, making a flush impossible.


When a player bets a higher amount than the previous player, forcing the competition to call or fold.


The percentage of profit that the dealer takes from the pot for the poker room. Click here to learn more about Ignition Casino's Rake.


How card values stack up against each other. For example, in Texas Hold'em a Jack is of a lower value or "rank" than a King.


Playing in a way that makes opponents believe you have a hand that differs from your actual hand. Mainly used for purposes of deception.


When one player raises, and the following one raises the amount wagered even higher.

Ring Game

A type of game that uses fixed blinds and continues on as long as there are players seated. Also referred to as cash games because the chips represent real money.


The fifth and final community card in Texas Hold'em and Omaha.


A conservative player who doesn't play many hands. If a game has many tight players, it may be referred to as a "rock garden."


A turn or river card that strengthens or completes a hand. You could say, "Between my hole cards and the community cards, I had a 5-6-7-8 after the flop and knew I'd need to hit a runner to get the straight."


A turn and river card that are both needed to complete a hand. These wins are rare.



Scare Card

A community card that has the potential to improve or make an opponent's hand. For example, if a King shows up in the flop, and you have a pair of nines, you could call the King a scare card.

Second Pair

A pair that is made up of one hole card and the second highest card on the flop.


When you have a strong hand, but bet as though you have a mediocre one. This lures opponents to call or raise, thus building up the pot that your strong hand should win.


Betting aggressively to try and get others to fold with a moderate hand that has the potential to win in a showdown – usually on the hope that you'll pick up something on the river.


Three of a kind. Generally used to describe a three of a kind that consists of two hole cards and one community card.

Seven-Card Stud

A poker game where each player is dealt seven cards. The first two are dealt face down, followed by four face up, and then one final face-down card. There are no community cards, and the best five-card hand wins.

Short Stack

The player with the least amount of chips.


After all the action has been completed and all bets were placed, the players going for the pot flip over and reveal their cards to see who wins.

Side Pot

When one or more players go all in, a side pot is started for any following bets placed by the other players. The side pot can only be won by the players who contributed to it. The players who went all in can not win the side pot.

Slow Play

A style of play characterized by holding back on raising or playing aggressively in the earlier rounds despite having a strong hand. This helps build up the pot. Also known as sand bagging.

Small Blind

A mandatory bet posted before the start of each hand to help start the pot. The small blind is generally a quarter or half the amount of the big blind, depending on the game and limit.

Split Pot

When two or more players have the same hand, the pot is split evenly between them.

Split Two Pair

When your two hole cards each make a pair with a community card.


When the player to the left of the big blind voluntarily posts an additional blind to boost action.

String Bet

A player putting their chips in the pot in two separate motions. This is typically not allowed in poker rooms because players can gauge their opponent's reaction to the first bet and use it to decide whether or not to re-raise. For example, "I call your $50... and re-raise $150."

Structured Limit

When your bet needs to follow pre-determined amounts depending on the round. For example, a $2/$4 limit Texas Hold'em game means that players can only bet $2 in the first two rounds and $4 in the last two rounds.


When there are fixed wagering amounts for the bets placed before and on the flop, and then are doubled for the turn and river.


A term for both hole cards having the same suit in Texas Hold'em. Also applies to a player's first three cards having the same suit in Seven-Card Stud.



Table Stakes

A chip restriction placed on the game that limits players to using only the chips on the table for bets. Players cannot replenish their chips midgame.


A player's unintentional reaction that reveals clues as to the strength of their hand, what they intend on doing with their next hand, etc.

Texas Hold'em

A popular poker game that involves two pocket cards, five community cards and four rounds of betting.


When faced with a challenging decision, a player may request a time out from the dealer.

When a poker room doesn't collect a rake, they often use time collection, which allows the dealers to collect fees at set time intervals throughout the game.


A tip given to the dealer by the winner of a pot. It's not mandatory, but considered good form.

Top Pair

A pair comprised of one hole card and the highest-ranking card on the board.


Making a three of a kind with one hole card and two cards on the board.


The fourth and second-last round in community card games such as Texas Hold'em. This is also the round in limit games when the betting limit doubles.



Under the Gun

The player that must act first is "under the gun." This is the person sitting to the left of the big blind.


The statistically weaker player or hand. The underdog is not expected to win.



Value Bet

Betting the ideal amount in order to ensure a player with a worse hand calls.


Fluctuations between your expected win rate and how much you actually win or lose in the short term.