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Online Poker Room Guide - Glossary of Basic Poker Terms

The following is a basic glossary of frequently used poker terms:

The placing of money into the pot. A table with a lot of action is one at which there are a lot of bets, raises, and re-raises - in other words, betting action. In most cardrooms, verbal comments like "I raise" are binding, and are therefore said to constitute action.

Advertising usually means showing down a mediocre hand, to give the impression that you play overly loose or that you play a generally weak game. The idea is that other players will then give you more action when you make a legitimate hand. Since people are bad at revising first impressions, this potentially beneficial effect can be long-lasting.

A style of play characterized by frequent raising and re-raising. This is not the same thing as loose play. Many good players are selective about the cards they will play, but aggressive once they get involved in a hand. An aggressive table is one dominated by aggressive players.

When a player puts the last of their chips into a pot, that player is said to be all-in. When playing table stakes (as in most places), an all-in player is not eligible to win any money bet above their final bet (the side pot). However, the all-in player will be eligible for the main pot, and therefore cannot be forced from the hand.

A small forced bet that everyone at the table is required to pay before each hand. In games with an ante, these bets constitute the initial pot. When used as a verb, it means to post this bet.

Bad Beat
Different people seem to feel differently about what counts as a bad beat. One thing is certain: you have to lose the hand. What makes the beat bad? Maybe one or all of the following: you lose in a situation where you're a very big favorite; you lose with a hand you couldn't possibly have been expected to fold; you lose so improbably you feel compelled to tell the story multiple times; you lose to a player who couldn't have beat you without misplaying the hand (but who was astoundingly lucky); you lose in a way that seemed inconceivable until you saw it happen; or more than two experienced players at your table say, "ouch."

Big Bet
In limit games in which the size of the maximum bet increases in later rounds, a big bet is the largest bet size. A small bet is the smallest bet size. So in a 5-10 hold'em game, small bets are $5 and big bets are $10.

A blind bet, or blind, is a forced bet that must be posted before you see any cards. Blinds are an alternative to antes for getting money in the pot initially. Blinds are more often used in flop games like hold'em and omaha than in stud and draw games. Typically in hold'em the two players to the left of the dealer button are forced to place blind bets. In limit play, the small blind (to the dealer's left) is typically half the size of a small bet, and the big blind (to the small blind's left) is a full small bet. Betting then starts with the player to the left of the big blind (who is considered under the gun), who must at least call the big blind to stay in. When you sit down at a new table, it's good to wait until it's your turn to blind before playing a hand. See also live blind, structure, and straddle.

A bet with a weak hand (typically a busted hand), usually intended to get other players to fold. A bluffing player usually has little or no chance of winning a showdown, but may suspect that other players will fold if they have not made strong hands either.

The community cards in a flop game (like hold'em) or the up cards in a stud game (like seven card stud).

Another name for a full house.

A pair of aces in the hole.

A button is a marker, usually a plastic disc, used to mark a particular position at the table. Usually "the button" refers specifically to the dealer button, used to mark the dealer position, or the player playing in that position. In games with a professional house-supplied dealer (who is not playing), this marks the player who acts in the dealer's position (who is dealt the last card and who is last to act in games where the order is fixed). This player is said to be "on the button."

To buy a pot is to make a bet large enough that other players would be extremely unlikely to call.

The amount of money with which you enter a game is your buy-in.

To call is to match the current bet.

If there has been no betting before you in a betting round, you may check, which is like calling a bet of $0, or passing your turn. If all the players at a table check in turn in the same round, it is said to be checked around, resulting in a free card.

A check-raise is just what it sounds like -- a raise after you have already checked within a betting round. Check-raises can be used to trap a player who (for example) would have folded to a single bet, but who will open if it is checked to them.

Community (Cards)
Face-up cards that are shared by all the players in a hand. Flop games have five community cards.

A nickname for Kings, more often heard in the plural.

After the cards are shuffled but before they are dealt, usually the deck is split in the middle and the halves reversed. This is known as cutting the cards.


To deal is to give out the cards during a hand. The person who does this is called the dealer.

Twos are sometimes called deuces.

Your mathematical share of a pot, based on the amount in the pot and your chances of winning it.

A bad player. A terrible player. A player who will tend to give away lots of money. Fish-ness can also be relative. Common poker wisdom holds that if you can't find the fish at your table, you're it.

Five Card Draw
Probably the most well known poker game, although it's not widely played in public cardrooms anymore. Each player receives five cards. There is a round of betting, after which each player may draw a certain number of cards (house rules often stipulate how many may be drawn and under what circumstances). Then there is a second round of betting, and (if necessary) a showdown.

A number of games, such as hold'em and omaha, are played with five community cards. The first three of these cards are dealt all at once, and are called the flop. Games with a flop can be called flop games.

To abandon your hand, usually because someone else has made a larger bet than you are willing to call. Usually, one folds by mucking one's cards.

Play between only two players.

Your first two down cards in seven card stud.

The cardroom (management, owners, etc.) is the house.

Kansas City
Kansas City, or Kansas City lowball, is a low only game played for a deuce to seven low.

The highest unpaired card in your hand that doesn't participate in a straight or flush - i.e., the card that does not contribute to the strength of your hand except by itself.

Limit poker is any game in which there is a fixed limit on how much you can bet or raise in any round.

A lock is a hand guaranteed to win at least part of the pot.

Playing loose simply means playing more hands and holding on to them longer. In essence, loose with your cash.

An extremely strong hand, one that is almost certain to win the pot.

The pile of discarded cards in front of the dealer, or the act of putting cards in this pile (and therefore taking them out of play).

As you might guess, any game in which there is no limit on the sizes of bets and raises.

The nuts is the best possible hand.

Not of the same suit, especially in reference to hole cards. Sometimes abbreviated to just "off."


Omaha is a flop game similar to hold'em, but with two key differences. First, each player is dealt four cards instead of just two. Second, a hand must be made using exactly two pocket cards (out of those four) and three from the table. That is, if four suited cards hit the table, you still need two more to make a flush. And if you start with four aces, then you have a pair of aces, with little chance to improve. The high-low variant of omaha, with an 8 or better qualifier for low, is especially popular.

Passive is a style of play that is characterized by reluctance to bet and raise. This does not always mean tight. A typical loose-passive player will call with almost anything, but raise only with very powerful hands (see calling station).

The two cards dealt to you face down in hold'em, or the first two face down in seven card stud are your pocket cards, or hole cards. Hold'em players tend to call them pocket cards, stud players tend to call them hole cards.

Pocket Pair
Two pocket cards of the same rank.

Position refers to your place at the table, especially with respect to the order of betting within a particular betting round. The first few players to act are said to be in early position, the next few in middle position, and the last few in late position.

To post a bet is to place your chips in the pot (or, commonly, out in front of you, so that your bet can be counted).

All the money in the middle of the poker table that goes to the winner of the hand is the pot.

Any game in which the maximum bet or raise is the size of the pot.

Proposition Player
A proposition player, or "prop," is a player who is paid by a cardroom to play poker, usually in order to keep games going when they get shorthanded, or to get games started. Props are paid a salary, but they gamble with their own money.

Four of a kind.

After someone has opened betting in a round, to increase the amount of the bet is to raise.

The money removed from each pot by the house.

To bet in such a way as to indicate that you have a certain hand. For instance, when you check-raise after the third suited card hits the board in hold'em, you are representing a flush, even if you don't actually have one.

Any raise after the first raise in a round. Player A bets, player B raises, player C (or A) re-raises. See also cap and check-raise.

Ring Game
A bunch of people playing poker for money at a table in a cardroom. The term ring game is used to differentiate such games from tournaments.

The last of five community cards in flop games (e.g. hold'em and omaha). Sometimes called fifth street. Sometimes "river" is used to refer to the last card in non-flop games, such as seven card stud.

Or "pocket rockets" - a pair of aces in the hole.

Rolled Up
In seven card stud, three of a kind on the first three cards are called rolled up X's, where X is the rank of the cards. The hand and the player can both be said to be rolled up.

Seven Card Stud
Of the poker games most commonly played in public cardrooms, seven card stud is probably the most well known. In seven card stud (sometimes "seven stud" or just "stud"), each player is dealt seven cards of their own: two down, then four up, and a final card down. There is a round of betting after the first up card and after each subsequent card dealt.

A game is said to be shorthanded when it falls below a certain number of players. Most poker tables accomodate nine or ten players. Five players is clearly shorthanded, nine players is clearly not. Since many people are uncomfortable playing shorthanded, some cardrooms make special provisions for shorthanded tables - reducing the blinds or the rake, or providing shills or props. Since the number of players at a table has a significant impact on strategy, learning to play well shorthanded is an important skill. This is especially true in tournaments, where shorthanded play is much more common (if you last long enough).

Spread Limit
Betting limits in which there is a fixed minimum and maximum bet for each betting round, and any amount in between these limits may be bet. See structure.

The amount of money you have in front of you on the poker table (i.e., stack of chips).

The cards that come out one at a time in a card game are sometimes referred to as different numbered streets. The door card in seven card stud is third street, and subsequent cards are numbered consecutively. In hold'em and other flop games, players sometimes refer to the turn and river as fourth and fifth street.

Usually short for seven card stud. Also refers to stud games in general, including five card stud, in which each player is dealt a number of non-shared cards and must use only those cards. May be contrasted with flop games and draw games.

Of the same suit.

A tell is any habit or behavior that gives other players more information about your hand than they would have simply from your play. For instance, you might unconsciously play with your chips every time you bluff. Or you might notice that another player blinks a lot whenever he has a strong hand. Mike Caro's "The Body Language of Poker" describes a large number of tells that can often be seen in inexperienced (and experienced) players.

Texas Hold'em
Texas Hold'em (or just "hold'em") is a poker game in which each player gets two pocket cards, while five community cards are dealt face-up on the table. The strength of a player's hand is the best hand that can be made with these seven cards. There is a round of betting after the pocket cards are dealt, after the first three community cards (the flop), after the fourth, or turn card, and after the final, or river card.

Playing tight simply means playing fewer hands and folding them earlier. In essence, tight with your cash. A tight table is a table dominated by tight players. Tightness is frequently described as a good thing, and especially at low levels of play can be a big advantage over players who will always pay you off. Tightness should not be confused with passivity. Many good players recommend a tight aggressive strategy.

Good poker seems to require good discipline. However, even good players are often tempted to do things they know are bad ideas when they get frustrated, angry, or upset for any reason. They go "on tilt." Sort of like a pinball machine, except with pinball it only costs you a quarter. Typical tilt play is much too loose and often very aggressive, beacause a player on tilt wants very badly to win a pot, and isn't rational enough to wait for cards that are worth playing or situations that are worth attacking.

Top Pair
If there are three cards of different ranks on the flop in hold'em (or any flop game), and you pair the highest one, you have top pair.

The fourth of five community cards in flop games (e.g. hold'em and omaha). Sometimes called fourth street.

Under the gun
The first player to act after the blind bets is said to be under the gun.

A style of play characterized by a readiness to fold and a reluctance to raise. Weak is also used to generally describe a poor player or a table that's easy to beat.

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