Published on October 25, 2023

Poker Terminology: An Introduction

It’s pretty much accepted that Poker derives from two games ‘Poque’ and ‘Brag’, but how did it evolve?

The former was believed to have been brought into the USA by French merchants and seamen in the 1800’s. The latter is, apparently, English but based on a German card game, also imported into the USA in the 1800s.

While we can tentatively claim that our modern version of poker is American, its popularity is uncontested. But what sets poker apart from any other casino game you care to mention?

Well, there are two reasons. Firstly, unlike slots or roulette, say, players have the opportunity to affect the outcome of the game with skill and psychology.

Secondly, it can be played anywhere with just two players and a deck of cards. More recently online poker has given poker fans the chance to play alone or with tech-savvy friends. 

Of course, you don’t need to play poker with actual money, but it makes it far more interesting when cash is at stake. And -especially if you’re playing for money- you’ll need to understand the rules of the game inside and out. 

We’re going to go ahead and assume you do know the rules -if you don’t, learn them and come back! But before you jump into a game, you’ll need to learn some poker terminology.

You can’t afford to be trying to figure anything out outside of winning a game when you’re sat at the playing table. The slightest look of puzzlement as you attempt to understand the language of the game will be picked up and used against you. 

In short, what we have below, is the difference between winning it all and losing everything. 

Common Poker Terminology: In alphabetical order (when accompanying definitions contain additional terminology, these will be in bold). 

Add-on – The opportunity to buy extra chips after the first period of play. 

All-In – Putting all your chips into the pot.

Ante – The bet made before the cards are dealt.

Bad Beat – Unexpectedly losing against a player after convincing yourself you’d win.

Bicycle – Sobriquet for a low straight: e.g. A-2-3-4-5

Big Slick – Sobriquet for an Ace-King.

Blind(s) – The mandatory bets made by the player(s) sitting to the left of the dealer.

Bluff – The art of convincing the other players you’ve a strong hand, when you do not.

Board – The community cards on the table.

Boat – Sobriquet for ‘full house’.

Burn – When the dealer discards the top card.

Button – That which denotes the position of the dealer.

Buy-In – The purchase of chips with live currency. 

Call – Matching the highest bet. 

Cash In – Quit the game and exchange your chips for live currency.

Check – Not betting when your fellow players have also refused to bet. 

Check-Raise – After a check, raising the bet after a fellow player makes the first move. 

Community Cards – The board cards lying face up in the centre of the table.

Cowboys – Sobriquet for two Kings

Fifth Street – aka the River, this is the fifth and final community or board card.

Final Table – When all the other players have left, this is the last table in the game. 

Fish – A player hoping, against the odds, for a winning hand from the cards they’re dealt.  

Flush -Five cards of the same suit.

Flush Draw – Assuming you have four cards of the same suit, receiving the fifth card to make up a five-card flush

Fold – aka muck your cards. To quit the game.

Fourth Street – aka the turn. The fourth community card.

Heads Up – A two-player game.

High Roller – A player that places large bets with equally large expectations.

Hole Cards – The two cards dealt face down that only you can see. 

Kicker – A component of a five-card poker hand, but not a significant part of a poker combination.

Lay Down – Quit (or fold, muck) the game.

Limp In – Call the amount of the blind without raising it.

Loose – A regular player who takes unnecessary risks.

Muck – Quit (or lay down, fold) the game, but without showing your hand.

Nuts – A bad hand.

Outs – Good cards that could see you winning the game. 

Pocket Rockets – aka two Aces.

Pot – Where the chips are at.

Re-Raise –When a player has already raised, and you raise again

River – The final community card.

Rock – A player who doesn’t take risks

Rush – A succession of wins. 

Second Pair – The second-highest two cards on the board.

Set – Three of a Kind.

Short Stack – Under the average amount of chips.

Showdown – The showing of cards to see who has won.

Slow-Play – A tactic to check or call bets (rather than raising them) possibly to imply a weak hand.

Straight – Five cards in a row.

Tell – A subconscious gesture or movement that gives your game away.

Tilt –Playing badly through exasperation. 

Turn – The fourth community card.

Whale – A wealthy player who can afford to lose. 


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