30 Poker Terms You Must Know Before Playing

Emily Turner
Emily TurnerLast updated:
30 Poker Terms You Must Know Before Playing
12 min

When playing a poker game as a fresh face, you’ll likely encounter a fair share of jargon thrown around the poker table and poker tournaments alike.

Much of the poker terms used may sound like a foreign language (and in some ways, it is!)

Hole cards, pocket pair, inside straight draw and preflop betting round can often sound like gibberish to the unfamiliar ear.

Sound familiar?

Well, don’t stress. Whether you’re a fairly experienced punter at the poker table or a newbie holding a poker hand in their mitts for the first time, these 30 essential terms will be a vital card up your sleeve (I’ll show myself out).

Walking the walk is important, but you have to be able to talk the talk first too.

Let’s get stuck in.

Big Blind

In virtually all forms of poker, there exists the concept of blinds.

These actions are essentially a forced bet to get the poker game going, and the big blind is the larger version (double the small blind).

The big blind sits next to the small blind, and the positions shift with every round of betting.

Small Blind

The small blind works much like the big blind and will sit directly to the left of the dealer.

Blinds are essentially for getting some money and building the pot to make sure that there’s cash in each round.

The small blind is like a warm-up bet and will be half of the big blind.

For the players whose turn it is for a blind bet, it is obligatory.

Community Cards

I once had someone new to poker ask me, is this like the community cards in Monopoly?

For better or worse, not at all.

Community cards put simply, are like shared cards that everyone at the table can use.

In games like Texas Hold’em, five community cards are placed face-up in the middle of the table. These cards are for everyone to combine with their own “hole” cards to make the best possible poker hand.

Which brings us to the next term:

Hole Cards

These cards are your own private pair that only you can see, and try your best to not let them affect your emotions (a poker face is essential here)

You use them along with the community cards to build the best hand possible, and in Texas hold’em, two-hole cards are dealt face down to each player.

The essence of most poker disciplines boils down to using your hole cards wisely to outplay your opponents!

Poker Face

You’ve certainly heard of this famous term before, as it’s one of those curious things that has transcended the game itself.

In the context of poker, a poker face is used to describe the act of not giving away any physical tells on the quality of your hand, whether it be amazing or dreadful.

Poker games are heavily influenced by reading the physical tells and actions of opponents, which is a big part of poker psychology, therefore a well-trained poker face will give away little to the other players at the table.

All In

Ah yes, the most famous phrase to emerge out of the poker game.

As the name suggests, all-in refers to the action of taking the ultimate risk and all the money (that big stack of poker chips) you have in the pot.

Usually only taken when one has an extremely powerful hand worthy of throwing all their tournament chips in the hope of turning into a bigger chip stack.

Where wagered chips go, the all-in is the make or break, so you best be sure you’ve got the best hand before you use it.

Check

In every round of betting in Poker, checking is one of the actions you have the option of taking.

Checking is the passive action, choosing to do nothing and passing the play to the next player while staying in the game.

If everybody checks in the same betting round, then the next card is then dealt and the poker game continues.

In saying this, after checking, if someone decides to bet or raise, you do have the option to match these.

Call

Imagine this.

The player next to you seems like they are sitting on a hot hand. They decide to raise and put all the chips they have into the middle.

Everybody else ducks out of the round and folds, but you’re sitting on a straight flush drawing hand, and you’re confident you’ve got this player beat.

Matching this bet with the same sum would be what is known as calling.

Raise

Raise is another essential component of the betting structure when you play poker and is often one of the most impactful moves in a poker game a punter can make.

Provided you are playing a cash game, the raise is used in poker rooms both in online poker and at casinos to raise the stakes of the round of betting, often forcing other players to either fold or call the bet.

The most famous example of a raise would be, of course, the all-in.

Fold

The last option available in actions to take during the betting round, folding is a useful tactic commonly used to describe the action one takes when they see no viable reason to continue playing the subsequent betting rounds.

Folding is often a good idea when you have a weak poker hand, when the pocket cards are sub-par or when the community cards don’t line up.

Also, being conservative at times and not betting all the money you have every round is essential for longevity in poker terms, so use folding to your advantage.

Pocket Cards

You’ll often hear in poker terminology, pocket pair, pocket aces, pocket kings and so on.

These phrases refer to combinations you’ll often receive when you are dealt your hole cards. Having a pocket pair is a nice way to get a round of poker started.

But be careful, don’t get too confident too fast, it may come back to bite you!

Pot

We’ve mentioned the pot quite a lot already, so it would be rude not to give it the proper explanation it deserves.

The pot is the central bank of sorts, the place where all the money goes in a cash game.

The size, the shifts and the shape of the pot dictate much of how a poker round ends up going, generally increasing the intensity as it grows larger and larger.

On that note, let’s go through some terms related to the pot.

Split Pot

While there is often a clear winner at the end of each poker round, there are times when there are two or more players that have hands of equal strength, which is when a split pot must be summoned.

A split pot is essentially dividing the total sum of the pot between the two (or more) players that have won the round with the strongest hand of the same rank.

In other forms of poker, such as high-low games, splitting the pot is a bit more complex.

Pot Odds

Pot odds are a useful term to know during a betting round, as the pot odds can help you make the right decision on the type of bet you want to make.

Pot odds refer to the ratio between the size of the pot and the bet you are facing.

It’s essentially a calculation of how much risk you have with how much you gain. An ideal position in that sense is to be able to win a large pot from a low betting sum.

You can calculate pot odds by dividing your bet to make the call by the size of the pot.

Hand Rankings

Knowing hand rankings to a T is a cornerstone of being a great poker player, such as a flush draw, a straight draw, a full house, and an open-ended straight draw.

Hand rankings are the hierarchy that dictates the strength of a poker hand, and what decides who wins poker games.

Hand rankings are a highly intricate facet of poker that deserves an entire article to cover it properly, which is why we wrote a comprehensive hand rankings guide explaining it in detail.

Suits

In many games which use playing cards, suits carry a lot of weight and there exist myriad rankings depending on the suit.

Referring to poker terms, the suits of a card only matter when forming hands such as the flush draw, which is having five cards of the same suit in your hand.

Therefore, it’s always beneficial to keep your eyes peeled for suits as they appear through the rounds.

Showdown

All things, good and bad, must come to an end, and the showdown in poker is the grand finale.

When all the betting is done, and there are still players in the game, it’s time to reveal your cards.

Players turn over their hole cards, and the best hand wins the pot. It’s like the climax of the game where everyone’s cards are on the table, and the winner gets to strut their stuff.

So, the showdown is when the tension rises, and the best hand takes the glory and the chips!

Tell

The tell(s) in poker refers to the physical giveaways that indicate the strength or weakness of one’s hand.

One of the more coveted skills in poker tournaments is the ability to correctly read the physical tells of your opponents and make calculated, effective betting decisions based on them, to ultimately make the right moves and take the full pot home.

Another reason why the poker face is so important.

Ring Game

A ring game is a format of poker that refers to poker played in a non-tournament setting with real money at stake.

For example, a ring game could refer to the classic poker game played between friends at somebody’s house with a 20 bucks buy-in.

While there normally aren’t the same poker tournament stipulations, players generally still need to meet the requirements such as the buy-in and not going south.

Going South

Going South is a term in poker used to describe the act of removing an amount from your chip stack to reduce the risk of losing more chips.

Often this move is carried out by somebody who has won a few rounds and wants to quit while they are ahead.

As you can imagine, this is outlawed by almost every brick-and-mortar casino, and online poker room too.

Stack

The stack is a term that will refer to the number of poker chips that are currently in the possession of a player.

Much like a stack of cash, it’s always a good idea to use your chip stack wisely and take all measures you can to make it bigger if possible.

After all, going home with a tidy amount of winnings is never a bad thing.

Flop Games/The Flop

The flop in poker terms is when the community cards are dealt face up onto the poker table on display for all.

This phase is both the turn where the first three cards are dealt and the beginning of the second betting round.

Poker variants such as Texas Hold’em and Omaha are often referred to as flop games or community card games.

Turn

After the flop comes the turn, which is the fourth community card that emerges.

The turn is also known as the fourth card or fourth street.

It’s a critical round and adds an extra layer to the game as the players now have six cards to choose from to create the best possible poker hand.

The River

The river is the last of the community cards dealt in poker games, and can also be referred to as the fifth card or the fifth street.

This stage of the poker round often makes or breaks the hands of the remaining players and defines the winner of the showdown.

Folded and Burned Cards

Folded and burned cards are terms used to describe cards that have exited the playing field.

These can be from two methods.

Either from being folded by the punters who have wished to exit the betting round or cards that have been removed from play by the dealer.

Often when dealing, a dealer will remove one card before dealing, effectively burning the card.

Stud Games

Stud poker is a style of poker where players receive a mix of face-up and face-down cards.

Unlike games like Texas Hold’em where you have community cards, in stud poker, each player gets their own set of personal cards.

For example, in seven card stud, players get a combination of face-up and face-down cards throughout the hand.

So, you’re left to do your best without sharing community cards. In this way, it’s a more personal poker hand consisting of your best decisions.

Donk Bet

A donk bet is best summarised as a poker curveball.

It’s when a player who didn’t initiate the betting in the previous round suddenly leads with a bet in the next round.

It’s often seen as unexpected or unconventional because it goes against the usual pattern.

It’s a bit like throwing a surprise twist into the game to catch the remaining players off guard. Donk bets can be used strategically to mix things up and keep your opponents guessing about your intentions.

Bad Beat

It’s not as bad as it sounds, I promise!

Bad beat in poker terms is used to describe the David and Goliath scenario, of a heavy underdog coming out victorious against a far superior hand.

Much like a hand that by all accounts, should not have been in the pot, but caught by pure luck that one card dealt from the deck that changed it all.

It happens often in Poker, and you’ll no doubt hear about it.

Gutshot Straight Draw

Thought we’d end the list with a bang, and what better than the gutshot straight draw?

Put simply, the gutshot straight draw, or inside straight draw, is a straight where the fifth card drawn in the game is between the highest and lowest of the cards required for a straight, thus completing the straight draw from the inside.

Typically, comparing the gutshot straight draw with a standard straight draw (and especially a straight flush) the odds are lower.

Bonus – Drawing Dead

Drawing dead is a scenario that most players would be happy to avoid.

This poker term means that you have virtually no chance of winning the hand, no matter what card is drawn next.

Such a player will usually fold in a scenario like this unless they have a bluff strategy going on.

Conclusion

Now that you’ve made it this far, thank you for taking the time to read this poker glossary, and bravo for your increased poker know-how!

The next time you’re at the poker table, you’ll be a fluent speaker of poker terminology and be able to stay sharp with both your plays and communication.

So, whether it’s at the online poker table at a top online casino, or playing a casual cash game, there’s no limit to the amount of funny words and poker terms there are. This list is a great base, but always keep your ears open for more!

Now get out there and get those pocket aces!

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Emily Turner
Emily Turner Content Writer
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Emily is our seasoned content writer. She writes easy to read and helpful game guides, so you can quickly understand the rules of each game and get some useful tips that can help boost your chances of winning.

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Last updated: June 27, 2024