Complete guide to poker hand nicknames

Poker.Org Staff
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Published: May 31, 2022 2:53 PM EDT

Poker’s colorful and long history has produced some interesting (and in some cases eye-popping) nicknames for poker hands. Many are reflective of the times, referencing television shows or movies. Some don’t make a lot of sense, a few are controversial, and others are downright offensive.

Try these at your next poker game and see if anyone gets the references.

Pocket pairs

Poker players have assigned the most nicknames to pocket pairs because players generally like them so much, especially as hole cards.

Ace-ace

The favorite set of hole cards for most players also has more nicknames than any other pair of cards. The nicknames American Airlines and Alan Alda reference the letters themselves.

Other nicknames refer to the shape of the letters, like pocket rockets, teepees, and needles. Bullets is a shape reference and hints at the power of the hand. The double-A makes some people think of batteries. And the value of aces (one each) prompted nicknames like snake eyes (from craps) and Apollo 11

King-king

The second-best set of hole cards have garnered a few nicknames over time. King Kong plays off the KK initials, while Elvis Presley references “the King.” Cowboys is an old favorite derived from cowboys being treated like kings in the Southern U.S. 

Some call kings the ace magnets, as they draw out the one hand that can beat them.

Queen-queen

The most common nickname for pocket queens is the ladies — an obvious gender reference. Some call them the cowgirls (partners to the cowboy kings).

Jack-jack

During poker’s heyday, some called the double J the John Juanda — a well-known player during the poker boom. Some call the jacks brothers. Referring to the shape of the J, the jacks can be hooks, too, as in fish hooks. 

Ten-ten

One of the most dated nicknames is Bo Derek, who starred in the 1970 movie 10, referring to her rating as a “10.” This pair is also called the dimes or train tracks as the zeroes could look like wheels and the ones like tracks. There’s also dynamite for ten-and-ten (TNT).

Nine-nine

The Wayne Gretsky refers to the hockey legend’s jersey number of 99. This is also known as the Phil Hellmuth, who won the 1989 WSOP Main Event with pocket nines. The nickname Popeyes is a stretch, as the nines are supposed to look like Popeye’s muscles. 

Eight-eight

The Dale Junior represents the number on Dale Earnhardt Jr’s race car. Calling eights the time travel or time travelers refers to the Back to the Future film, in which the car needed to reach 88 miles per hour to travel in time.

Other nicknames for eights include piano keys (for 88 keys on a piano), pretzels, racetracks, infinity, and the most popular snowmen.

Seven-seven

Poker players have called sevens hockey sticks, candy canes, walking sticks, axes, and even mullets for the shape of the numbers.

Six-six

Route 66 is one of the most famous roads in America, and kicks is a nickname derived from the Nat King Cole Trio song “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66.” Some people also call sixes the boots or cherries for their shapes. 

Five-five

This pair is often called the Sammy Hagar because of his song “I Can’t Drive 55,” when that was the common highway speed limit in America. Nickels is a nickname referring to the value of a nickel as five cents. Fives are also dubbed the snakes.

Four-four

The Magnum is pocket fours because it is a 44-caliber gun. Sailboats refer to the shapes of the fours. But the most common references allude to the pronunciation of fours as the force, bringing to mind Star Wars, thus the nicknames Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker.

Three-three

Pocket threes are often referred to as treys and less commonly known as crabs for their shapes.

Two-two

Twos are most frequently called deuces, though ducks became popular because of the shape of the numbers. Some people even say “quack, quack” to indicate pocket twos. Sometimes, players invoke the name of Desmond Tutu because his last name sounds like “two-two.”

Ace combinations

Ace combinations are popular because ace-high guarantees a high card if two players are vying for the same hand. 

Ace-king

The reason Big Slick is the most common nickname for A-K is because it looks good but is slippery and dangerous. The hand is also sometimes referred to as the Anna Kournikova, because it shares her initials.

Other nicknames for AK based on the letters alone are Korean Airlines and King Arthur.

Ace-queen

A step below the A-K, A-Q is often called Little Slick. Other variations are Big Queen and Big Chick. It is also sometimes called the Anthony and Cleopatra because it can be a tragic pair to play. 

The other reference for AQ is Rocket Queen, because the A is a rocket and it pairs with a Guns & Roses song.

Ace-jack

The nicknames are all fairly harmless for AJ: Apple Jacks (after the classic cereal), hijack, blackjack, jackass, and Ajax because it literally sounds like the name of the hand.

Ace-ten

This hand is sometimes called the Johnny Moss because he was an ace who started playing at 10 years old. AT is also called the bookends because it holds the top and bottom cards of a Broadway straight. 

Ace-nine

Chris Ferguson won his 2000 WSOP Main Event with A-9, and Teddy KGB won the hero’s money with A-9 in the movie Rounders.

Ace-eight

This combo is famously a part of the dead man’s hand of aces and eights, held by Wild Bill Hickok when someone shot him dead in 1876 in Deadwood, South Dakota.

Ace-seven

They call this the slapshot — a hockey move — because the ace is the bullet and the seven the hockey stick.

Ace-six

The Mile High Club is this hand’s nickname because the A is the airline and 6 sounds like sex.

Ace-five

The nickname high-five is obvious.

Ace-four

The Stu Ungar hand is named for his final holding in the 1993 World Series of Poker Main Event. The A-4 rivered a straight for his third and final WSOP win. 

This hand is also known as fake aces because the four can be mistaken for an ace, and it is called the plane crash because the AA (American Airlines) is missing a wing.

Ace-three

The Baskin-Robbins refers to the famous 31 flavors slogan. Plays on words brought names like ashtray (ash-trey) and thrace.

Ace-two

Acey-deucey is the most common reference for this hand, but some call it hunting season because A is the bullet and 2 is the duck.

King combinations

King-high hands are tough for many players, but the nicknames have been easy to come by.

King-queen

Most references to the KQ refer to the gender mix, such as the marriage, Valentine’s Day if there are two hearts, and divorce if the hand loses. Lucy and Ricky is an older reference to the famous couple in the I Love Lucy sitcom.

King-jack

Kojak was the most famous name for KJ, as it plays on the letters and gives a nod to Telly Savalas, an actor in the sitcom Kojak and a man who loved poker. Another reference to the initials was Jackie Kennedy, as well as the words just kidding (JK).

King-ten

Katie (KT) and Ken are the usual names for this hand.

King-nine

Doctor Who refers to the robotic dog named “K9” on the Doctor Who series, which leads to other nicknames like canine and Rin Tin Tin. The latter is the famous German shepherd dog of television fame.

King-eight

Kate is a common name for this one, as is feast because it is what the kings (K) ate (8).

King-seven

Kevin is the only common reference for this hand.

King-six

Kicks is a sort of pronunciation of these cards.

King-five

Knives is the only reference for K5.

King-four

By switching it to 4K, it sounds like fork. And the offsuit 4K is the fork off.

King-three

The king crab name plays on the shape of the three.

King-two

This is the Donald Duck because he is the king of the ducks.

Queen combinations

The king had its turn, and now the queen gets to garner some nicknames.

Queen-jack

The Maverick is this hand’s nickname, referring to lyrics in the theme song for the TV show Maverick of the 1950s and 1960s, starring James Garner, a fan of poker.

Other nicknames for this hand include quack for phonetic reasons and Hawaii, the latter because they say if you don’t play this hand for one year, you can afford a trip to Hawaii with the money you save.

Queen-ten

The Robert Varkonyi hand is the QT that he used to knock Phil Hellmuth out of the 2002 Main Event. Quentin Tarantino plays on the letters as initials, and other terms used include cutie (Q-T), quint, and Q-tip. 

Queen-nine

Quinine is a drug and used phonetically to refer to this hand.

Queen-eight

Kuwait is an innocent way to refer to this hand.

Queen-seven

When computers were new, this was called the computer hand because the IBM Q7 Sage program deemed it a 50/50 hand to win.

Queen-six

Quix and Nesquik are a stretch but play on the sounds.

Queen-five

It was a reach, but some called this the Granny May because of the queen and the five referring to May, the fifth month of the year.

Queen-two

Daisy Duck is the queen of ducks.

Jack combinations

Jack is easier for nicknames, since it’s a common man’s name. However, he is dominated by the queen and king, so there simply must be an obvious perk to picking up a jack.

Most hole card combinations including the jack play off that word in various phrases and names.

Jack-ten

The initials can represent Justin Timberlake (JT) or TJ Hooker. The latter is the name of a 1980s television show featuring William Shatner.

Jack-nine

The TJ Cloutier refers to the famous poker player who reportedly flopped three straight flushes with his hand in one year. Some also call this hand braggers, the name of a card game with jacks and nines wild.

Jack-eight

A jacket plays on the sound of the hand. Jeffrey Dahmer was a serial killer whose nickname was Jack and he ate (8) his victims.

Jack-seven

The Jack Daniels references that brand of old No. 7 whiskey.

Jack-six

It’s a stretch, but this can be the railroad if you say the words over and over quickly to sound like a train engine.

Jack-five

An easy one, this was commonly known as the Jackson Five or the Motown — the record label of the musical group.

Jack-four

Some said this was the new Motown, the one without Michael Jackson, making it the Jackson Four. It is also the flat tire, because it is what a jack is for (4).

Jack-three

The lumberjack is a jack with a tree (or trey, if you will).

Jack-two

The Prince and the pauper is a common reference to the famous novel. The curse-word reference here is to call it the jack-shit hand — one that is complete garbage.

Ten combinations

Ten combinations are tough for nicknames because they no longer reference queens, kings, or jacks.

Ten-nine

Ten and nine are the first words in a typical numeric countdown.

Ten-eight

The only odd nickname to be found for this one is tetris.

Ten-seven

At one time, this was said to be Daniel Negreanu’s favorite hand. It is also called the split, as in bowling because of the famous 7-10 pin split

Ten-six

This is the sweet sixteen hand.

Ten-five

The most common reference for older players is the Woolworth, as it was a legendary five-and-dime store.

Ten-four

All of these nicknames play on the “10-4” term used by truckers, inspiring this hand to be called the trucker, the CB hand, okay good buddy, roger that, and over and out.

Ten-two

Most poker players know that the ten-deuce is the hand that won two WSOP Main Event titles for Doyle Brunson. Others call this the Terminator 2, after the Arnold Schwarzenegger film.

Nine combinations

At this point in the nickname game, there are fewer references. Players tended not to focus too much attention on these hands.

Nine-eight

This refers to the Oldsmobile ‘98 automobile.

Nine-six

All words associated with this hand have sexual connotations, such as the big lick or big love. There are also lesser-used terms like good lover, breakfast of champions, and the Happy Meal.

Nine-five

One of the best-known nicknames for 9-5 is Dolly Parton because of her famous song and movie Nine to Five.

Nine-four

This is the Joe Montana, referring to the legendary San Francisco 49ers quarterback.

Nine-three

People called this the Jack Benny hand because the comedian famously joked that he was always 39 years old.

Nine-two

The Twiggy nickname emerged from news that the model Twiggy had a 29-inch waist.

Eight combinations

Hands with an eight are popular for many players — and for those nicknaming hands — because eight can always refer to “ate.”

Eight-seven

RPM is the reference for this hand, harkening back to vinyl records that spun at the 78 speed.

Eight-six

Maxwell Smart was the main character, Agent 86, in the 1960s television comedy Get Smart.

Eight-five

This is known as the Chad, named after NFL player Chad Johnson who played in jersey #85.

Eight-four

In reference to the classic book 1984, this hand is often called George Orwell after the author of that book, or Big Brother after one of its references.

Eight-three

Famous actress Raquel Welch always claimed to be 38 years old.

Eight-two

This is the tadpole hand because it’s what the duck (2) ate (8).

Seven combinations

This series of hole card combinations ranges from a steak sauce to the best and worst hands in poker.

Seven-six

Union Oil is the company that owns the “76” gas stations. The other reference is from The Music Man, which featured the song “76 Trombones.”

Seven-five

Sometimes, this hand is the Double-0-7 (007) because 7-5 is the hand that won for James Bond in the film Casino Royale. Others simply call this the Heinz, the company that produces Heinz 57 steak sauce.

Seven-four

The most common reference for 7-4 is the double-down hand, as the 7 and 4 in a game of blackjack means that the player needs to double down. Another reference is gun-related and named after Mikhail Kalashnikov, who designed the AK-47 rifle.

Seven-three

Some call this hand the Joe Hachem, as he won the 2005 WSOP Main Event with it.

Seven-two

Some people love to play the hammer, but most call this the WHIP (worst hand in poker). Yet others call it a beer hand, so on the rare occasion that it wins, the winner should buy everyone a beer to celebrate.

Six combinations

Hole card hands that include a six have only a few nicknames to go around.

Six-five

UK players named this one the bus pass, as people in the UK can ride the local buses for free at age 65.

Six-four

The Binion hand nickname refers to a question and answer on the 1950s game show called The $64,000 Question, as one of the answers was “Binion.”

Six-three

Commonly, people call 6-3 the Spanish Inquisition because if it wins, nobody was expecting it. Doyle Brunson called it Blocky in his famous Super System book.

Six-two

Some call this vodka because there are usually 26 ounces in a bottle.

Five combinations

It’s down to the bare bones of combinations at this point, but these few combinations have some interesting nicknames.

Five-four

The most famous reference for this hand is Jesse James or Colt 45, both referring to the Colt 45 gun that was his favorite. Since 2003, poker players have also called this hand the Chris Moneymaker, as it was the hand with which he won the 2003 WSOP Main Event — the win that created the poker boom.

Five-three

The only nickname people could come up with for this hand was the Juggernaut, a Magic: The Gathering reference.

Five-two

The nickname quarter for this hand is obvious, as it represents 25 cents. An older reference calls it two bits, as a bit used to be 12.5 cents.

Other popular nicknames for this hand include the bomber, referencing the B52 bomber, and pickup, pertaining to the famous card game called 52 Pickup.

Four combinations

These are quite popular hands, and each one produced several results for nicknames.

Four-three

Older players may refer to the 3-4 hand as the waltz, since that style of music is played to a 3/4 beat. Others will remember only the nickname of books, as that is what a tree (trey) is for (4).

Four-two

Television drama fans call this hand the Jack Bauer, referencing that character’s part in the 2001-2010 TV show called 24. It can also be called the lumberjack’s or lumberman’s hand, as wood typically comes in a 2-by-4 size.

Three combinations

As the nature of the cards dictate, there is only one combination not yet covered by other hands. That is the deuce-trey.

Three-two

Sports fans sometimes call this the Michael Jordan hand, as his famous and now-retired jersey number was 23. Mixed game players call this the nut low, because it’s the lowest possible hand in draw games.

The takeaway

From the obscure to the most obvious nicknames, poker clearly has lots of monikers for dozens of starting hands.

The fun thing about hand nicknames is that you can make up your own, too. If they catch on, we can include them in future updates to this list.

Featured image source: Flickr by Poker Photos used under CC license