Poker Terms

Geoff Fisk
Published by:
Posted on 03/21/2021

Why is it important to know the terms?

Poker is full of common terms known only to those familiar with the game. Sitting in a live poker game for the first time, for example, will expose you to terms like the following:

  • Three-bet
  • Big Blind
  • Continuation Bet
  • Straddle
  • Set

Understanding what each of these terms means is crucial to a winning poker strategy. The poker terms primer focuses on some of the most common terms used in poker.

Useful poker terms: What beginner’s need to know

ABC Poker – ABC Poker refers to playing a sound, basic strategy. An ABC Poker strategy focuses on tight, aggressive play and solid preflop hand selection. Out-of-line bluffs and hero calls don’t fit into this approach. An ABC Poker strategy will usually win in low-stakes games.

Ace-High – Ace-high hands are the best non-made hand you can make in a game of poker. These hands don’t contain a pair or anything higher in the poker hand rankings but do include an ace. Examples of ace-high hands could include holdings like AJ♣76♠2 and A♠954♣3.

All-In – Going all-in on a hand means putting all of your chips into the pot. In No-Limit Hold’em, you can go all-in at any time.

Angle Shooting – Certain actions at the poker table are either flat out against the rules or ethically frowned upon by poker players. These kinds of actions fall under the category of angle shooting. For example, pushing a bet toward the pot, then pulling it back, is considered angle shooting.

Backdoor Draw – When the flop gives you three cards to a straight or flush, you hold a backdoor draw. Backdoor draws require both the turn and river to complete the draw.

Bad Beat – One of the most frequently used terms in the game; a bad beat happens when a hand that’s a big mathematical favorite ends up losing.

Big Blind – The big blind is a mandatory bet that rotates around the table after each hand. The amount of the big blind determines the stakes of a game, as well as the minimum-allowed bet.

Bluff – Betting with a hand that’s likely not going to win unless you get your opponent to fold. Bluffs should be played the same way you would play a strong hand.

Bluff Catcher – A bluff catcher is a hand that’s played as a call, in an effort to catch your opponent bluffing.

Button – Also known as the “dealer button” or “dealer,”, the button is a position at the poker table that always acts last in every postflop betting round. When you’re on the button, you’re said to be “in-position” on all other players.

Call – A call matches the amount of the previous highest bet.

Check – If there’s not a bet to call, you can check, passing the action to the next player without putting money in the pot.

Continuation Bet (aka c-bet) – When the player who made the last raise preflop also makes the first bet after the flop, that bet is known as a continuation bet or c-bet.

Donk Bet – When a player other than the preflop aggressor makes the first bet postflop, that bet is known as a donk bet.

Effective Stack – When two players are in a pot, the smaller stack represents the maximum amount either player can win. This amount is called the effective stack.

Equity – Equity refers to the mathematical chance a player has to win a pot. For example, in a preflop all-in battle between pocket aces and pocket kings, the aces have 81.9% equity.

Fish – A fish, aka recreational player, is a less-experienced, weaker player when compared to someone who regularly plays poker.

Fold – When you surrender your hand and exit a pot, that action is known as folding.

GG – Commonly used in online poker games, GG means “good game.”

GTO Poker – GTO stands for “Game Theory Optimal,” a theoretically mathematically perfect way to play poker. 

Gutshot – A gutshot refers to a straight draw with four outs, which needs one of the middle cards of the straight to come in. For example, 6♠53♣2represents a gutshot straight draw, needing a four to come in to complete the straight.

Heads-up – Refers to a pot or game involving only two players. 

Hole Cards – Cards that are dealt face-down and only seen by the player to which they’re dealt are known as hole cards. In Texas Hold’em, each player is dealt two hole cards.

Limping – When a player opens the preflop betting round by calling, instead of raising, that player is said to be limping, or limping in.

Muck – Surrendering your hand at any time is known as mucking. Muck and “fold” can be used interchangeably, but you can also muck at showdown. 

No-Limit – Games that allow players to bet their entire stack at any time are played with a No-Limit betting structure.

Open – An open, aka open raise, refers to when a player raises a pot after no other player has previously called or raised. An open is also sometimes known as “raise first in.”

Open-Ended Straight Draw – A straight draw with eight outs, needing a card to complete one end or the other, is known as an open-ended straight draw. For instance, 6♠54♣3represents an open-ended straight draw, needing a seven or a two to make the straight.

Outs – An out is a card that turns your holding into the winning hand. For example, if you hold A♠K, your opponent holds Q♠Q, and the board reads J♠96♣3, the aces and kings remaining in the deck are your outs.

Rake – The house cut of any cash game pot or tournament entry fee is known as rake. 

Satellite – Satellite tournaments award entry to larger buy-in tournaments as prizes, rather than cash.

Squeeze – Raising against a previous raiser and at least one caller is known as squeezing.

Straddle – Some cash games allow players to post a blind bet, at least double the big blind amount, before the cards are dealt. This action is known as a straddle.

Three-bet – The first re-raise in a pot is known as a three-bet. Raising against a three-bet is known as a four-bet, raising a four-bet is called a five-bet, and so on.

Value Bet – A value bet aims to prompt another player to call. You should only make value bets when you think you have the best hand.

Featured image source: Flickr/Raffaele Sergi