(1) Opportunity to act. If a player appears not to realize
it's his turn, the dealer will say "Your action, sir."
(2) Bets and raises. "If a third heart hits the board and
there's a lot of action, you have to assume that somebody
has made the flush."
A small portion of a bet contributed by each player to seed
the pot at the beginning of a poker hand. Most hold'em games
do not have an ante; they use "blinds" to get initial money
into the pot.
To run out of chips while betting or calling. In table stakes
games, a player may not go into his pocket for more money
during a hand. If he runs out, a side pot is created in which
he has no interest. However, he can still win the pot for
which he had the chips. Example: "Poor Bob - he made quads
against the big full house, but he was all-in on the second
Catching both the turn and river card to make a drawing hand.
For instance, suppose you have As- 7s. The flop comes Ad-6c-4s.
You bet and are called. The turn is the Ts, which everybody
checks, and then the river is the Js. You've made a "backdoor"
nut flush. See also "runner."
To have a hand that is a large underdog beat a heavily favored
hand. It is generally used to imply that the winner of the
pot had no business being in the pot at all, and it was the
wildest of luck that he managed to catch the one card in the
deck that would win the pot. We won't give any examples, you
will hear plenty of them during your poker career.
A board card that doesn't seem to affect the standings in
the hand. If the flop is As-Jd-Ts, then a turn card of 2h
would be considered a blank. On the other hand, the 2s would
A forced bet (or partial bet) put in by one or more players
before any cards are dealt. Typically, blinds are put in by
players immediately to the left of the button. See also "Live
All the community cards in a hold'em game - the flop, turn,
and river cards together. Example: "There wasn't a single
heart on the board."
Pair A pair with the lowest card on the flop. If you have
As-6s, and the flop comes Kd-Th-6c, you have flopped bottom
To discard the top card from the deck, face down. This is
done between each betting round before putting out the next
community card(s). It is security against any player recognizing
or glimpsing the next card to be used on the board.
A white acrylic disk to indicate who is the (nominal) dealer.
Also used to refer to the player on the button. Example: "Oh,
the button raised."
(1) As in "buy the pot." To bluff, hoping to "buy" the pot
without being called.
(2) As in "buy the button." To bet or raise, hoping to make
players between you and the button fold, thus allowing you
to act last on subsequent betting rounds.
A weak-passive player who calls a lot, but doesn't raise or
fold much. This is the kind of player you like to have in
To put in the last raise permitted on a betting round. This
is typically the third or fourth raise. Dealers in California
are fond of saying "Capitola" or "Cappuccino".
The last card of a certain rank in the deck. Example: "The
flop came J-8-3; I've got pocket jacks, he's got pocket 8's,
and then the case eight falls on the river and he beats my
The first pot created during a poker hand. This is as opposed
to one or more "side" pots that are created if one or more
players goes all-in. Also "main pot."
(1) To not bet, with the option to call or raise later in
the betting round. Equivalent to betting zero dollars.
(2) Another word for "chip", as in poker chip.
To check and then raise when a player behind you bets. Occasionally
you will hear people say this is not fair or ethical poker.
Piffle. Almost all casinos permit check-raising, and it is
an important poker tactic. It is particularly useful in low-limit
hold'em where you need extra strength to narrow the field
when you have the best hand.
To call more than one bet in a single action. For instance,
suppose the first player to act after the big blind raises.
Now any player acting after him must call two bets "cold."
This is different from calling a single bet and then calling
a subsequent raise.
A drawing hand (probably from the craps term).
A hand that is defined by all five cards - a straight, flush,
full house, four of a kind, or straight flush.
A hold'em starting hand in which the two cards are one apart
in rank. Examples: KQs, 76.
To make your hand less valuable because of board cards that
duplicate it. Example: you have 87 and the flop comes 9-T-J,
so you have a straight. Now an 8 comes on the turn. This has
counterfeited your hand and made it almost worthless.
To beat a hand - typically a big hand. You hear this most
often used to apply to pocket aces: "Third time tonight I've
had pocket aces cracked."
As in to cripple the deck. Meaning that you have most or all
of the cards that somebody would want to have with the current
board. If you have pocket kings, and the other two kings flop,
you have crippled the deck.
Shortened form of "Underdog".
A hand that will almost always lose to a better hand that
people usually play. For instance, K3 is "dominated" by KQ.
With the exception of strange flops (e.g. 3-3-x, K-3-x), it
will always lose to KQ.
Try to make a hand that, even if made, will not win the pot.
If you're drawing to make a flush, and your opponent already
has a full house, you are "drawing dead". Of course, this
is a bad condition to be in.
Your "rightful" share of a pot. If the pot contains $80, and
you have a 50% chance of winning it, you have $40 equity in
the pot. This term is somewhat fanciful since you will either
win $80 or $0, but it gives you an idea of how much you can
"expect" to win.
(1) A term referring to the amount of you expect to gain on
average if you make a certain play. For instance, suppose
you put $10 into a $50 pot to draw at a hand that you will
make 25% of the time, and it will win every time you make
it. Three out of four times, you do not make your draw, and
lose $10 each time for a total of $30. The fourth time, you
will make your draw, winning $50. Your total gain over those
four average hands is $50-$30 = $20, an average of $5 per
hand. Thus calling the $10 has a positive expectation of $5.
(2) The amount you expect to make at the poker table in a
specific time period. Perhaps in 100 hours play, you have
won $527. Then your expectation is $5.27/hr. Of course, you
won't make that exact amount each hour (and some hours you
will lose), but it's one measure of your anticipated earnings.
A pot in which all (or almost all) of the players call before
As in "play fast." To play a hand aggressively, betting and
raising as much as possible. Example: "When you flop a set
but there's a flush draw possible, you have to play it fast."
The first three community cards, put out face up, all together.
A hand which may not be played for one reason or another.
A player with a foul hand may not make any claim on any portion
of the pot. Example: "He ended up with three cards after the
flop, so the dealer declared his hand foul."
A turn or river card on which you don't have to call a bet
because of play earlier in the hand (or a reputation which
you have with your opponents). For instance, if you are on
the button and raise when you flop a flush draw, your opponents
may check to you on the turn. If you make your flush on the
turn, you can bet. However, if you don't get it on the turn,
you can check as well - seeing the river card for "free."
For one player to have a shot at winning an entire pot when
he is currently tied with another player. For instance, suppose
you have Ac-Qc and your opponent has Ad-Qh. The flop is Qs-5c-Tc.
You are tied with your opponent right now, but are free rolling
on him, because you can win the whole pot and he can't. If
no club comes, you split the pot with him - if it does come,
you win the whole thing.
Straight An straight filled "inside". If you have 9s-8s, the
flop comes 7c-5h-2d, and the turn is the 6c, you've made your
Up A pot that is being contested by only two players - "It
was heads up by the turn."
As in "the flop hit me." It means the flop contained cards
that help your hand. If you have AK, and the flop comes K-7-2,
it hit you.
The establishment running the game. Example: "The $2 you put
on the button goes to the house."
Pot odds that do not exist at the moment, but may be included
in your calculations because of bets you expect to win if
you hit your hand. For instance, you might call with a flush
draw on the turn even though the pot isn't offering you quite
4:1 odds (your chance of making the flush) because you're
sure you can win a bet from your opponent on the river if
you make your flush.
A special bonus paid to the loser of a hand if he gets a very
good hand beaten. In hold'em, the "loser" must typically get
aces full or better beaten. In some of the large southern
California card clubs, the jackpots have gotten over $50,000.
Of course, the jackpot is funded with money removed from the
game as part of the rake.
An unpaired card used to determine the better of two near-equivalent
hands. For instance, suppose you have AK and your opponent
has AQ. If the flop has an ace in it, you both have a pair
of aces, but you have a king kicker. Kickers can be vitally
important in hold'em.
A forced bet put in by one or more players before any cards
are dealt. The "live" means those players still have the option
of raising when the action gets back around to them.
A player who does a lot of hyper-aggressive raising, betting,
and bluffing. A true maniac is not a good player, but is simply
doing a lot of gambling. However, a player who occasionally
acts like a maniac and confuses his opponents is quite dangerous.
The pile of folded and burned cards in front of the dealer.
Example: "His hand hit the muck so the dealer ruled it folded
even though the guy wanted to get his cards back." Also used
as a verb - "He didn't have any outs so he mucked his hand."
A version of poker in which a player may bet any amount of
chips (up to the number in front of him) whenever it is his
turn to act. It is a very different game than limit poker.
The best treatise on no-limit poker is in Doyle Brunson's
The best possible hand given the board. If the board is Ks-Jd-Ts-4s-2h,
then As-Xs is the nuts. You will occasionally hear the term
applied to the best possible hand of a certain category, even
though it isn't the overall nuts. For the above example, somebody
with Ah-Qc in the above hand might say they had the "nut straight".
A hold'em starting hand in which the two cards are of different
A hold'em starting hand in which the two cards are two apart
in rank. Examples: J9s, 64.
A card that will make your hand win. Normally heard in the
plural. Example: "Any spade will make my flush, so I have
To beat. Example: "Susie outran my set when her flush card
hit on the river."
To call a bet after one or more others players have already
A card higher than any card on the board. For instance, if
you have AQ and the flop comes J-7-3, you don't have a pair,
but you have two overcards.
A pocket pair higher than any card on the flop. If you have
QQ and the flop comes J-8-3, you have an overpair.
To call a bet where the bettor is representing a hand that
you can't beat, but the pot is sufficiently large to justify
a call anyway. Example: "He played it exactly like he made
the flush, but I had top set so I paid him off."
Play the Board
To show down a hand in hold'em when your cards don't make
a hand any better than is shown on the board. For instance,
if you have 22, and the board is 4-4-9-9-A (no flush possible),
then you must "play the board" - the best possible hand you
can make doesn't use any of your cards. Note that if you play
the board, the best you can do is to split the pot with all
Your unique cards that only you can see. For instance, "He
had pocket sixes" (a pair of sixes), or "I had ace-king in
To put in a blind bet, generally required when you first sit
down in a cardroom game. You may also be required to post
a blind if you change seats at the table in a way that moves
you away from the blinds.
A version of poker in which a player may bet up to the amount
of money in the pot whenever it is his turn to act. Like no-limit,
this is a very different game from limit poker. Pot Odds The
amount of money in the pot compared to the amount you must
put in the pot to continue playing. For example, suppose there
is $60 in the pot. Somebody bets $6, so the pot now contains
$66. It costs you $6 to call, so your pot odds are 11:1. If
your chance of having the best hand is at least one out of
twelve, you should call. Pot odds also apply to draws. For
instance, suppose you have a draw to the nut flush with one
card left to come. In this case, you are about a 4:1 underdog
to make your flush. If it costs you $8 to call the bet, then
there must be about $32 in the pot (including the most recent
bet) to make your call correct.
The pot odds you are getting for a draw or call. Example:
"The pot was laying me a high enough price, so I stayed in
with my gutshot straight draw."
(1) To keep your hand or a chip on your cards. This prevents
them from being fouled by a discarded hand, or accidentally
mucked by the dealer.
(2) To invest more money in a pot so blind money that you've
already put in isn't "wasted." Example: "He'll always protect
his blinds, no matter how bad his cards are."
Four of a kind.
A flop (or board) that doesn't appear to help anybody very
much. A flop that came down Jd-6h-2c would look ragged.
A flop that contains three different suits, thus no flush
can be made on the turn. Can also mean a complete five card
board that has no more than two of any suit, thus no flush
An amount of money taken out of every pot by the dealer -
this is the cardroom's income.
The numerical value of a card (as opposed to its suit). Example:
To play as if you hold a certain hand. For instance, if you
raised before the flop, and then raised again when the flop
came ace high, you would be representing at least an ace with
a good kicker.
A regular poker game as opposed to a tournament. Also referred
to as a "live" game since actual money is in play instead
of tournament chips.
The fifth and final community card, put out face up, by itself.
Also known as "fifth street". Metaphors involving the river
are some of poker's most treasured cliches - e.g. "He drowned
in the river."
A player who plays very tight, not very creatively. He raises
only with the best hands. A real rock is fairly predictable
- if he raises you on the end, you can throw away just about
anything but the nuts.
Typically said "runner-runner" to describe a hand which was
made only by catching the correct cards on both the turn and
the river - "He made a runner-runner flush to beat my trips."
See also "Backdoor."
Card A card which may well turn the best hand into trash.
If you have Tc-8c and the flop comes Qd- Jd-9s, you almost
assuredly have the best hand. However, a turn card of Td would
be very scary because it would almost guarantee that you are
A pair with the second highest card on the flop. If you have
As-Ts, and the flop comes Kd-Th-6c, you have flopped second
As in "sell a hand". In a spread limit game, this means to
bet less than the maximum when you have a very strong hand,
hoping players will call whereas they would not have called
a maximum bet.
A powerful concept first discussed by David Sklansky. It is
a bet or raise that you hope will not be called, but you have
some outs if it is. A semi-bluff may be correct when betting
for value is not correct, a pure bluff is not correct, but
the combination of the two may be a positive expectation play.
Three of a kind when you have two of the rank in your
hand, and there is one on the board.
A number of chips that is not very many compared to the other
players at the table. If you have $10 in front of you, and
everybody else at the table has over $100, you are playing
on a short stack.
The point at which all players remaining in the hand turn
their cards over and determine who has the best hand - i.e.
after the fourth round of betting is completed. Of course,
if a final bet or raise is not called, there is no showdown.
A pot created in which a player has no interest because he
has run out of chips. Example: Al bets $6, Beth calls the
$6, and Carl calls, but he has only $2 left. An $8 side pot
is created that either Al or Beth can win, but not Carl. Furthermore,
any more bets that Al and Beth make go into that side pot.
Carl, however, can still win all the money in the original
or "center" pot.
To play a strong hand weakly so more players will stay in
A pot which is shared by two or more players because they
have equivalent hands.
Split Two Pair
A two pair hand in which one of each of your cards' ranks
appears on the board as well. Example: you have T9, the flop
is T-9-5, you have a split two pair. This is in comparison
to two pair where there is a pair on the board. Example: you
have T9, the flop is 9-5-5.
A betting structure in which a player may bet any amount in
a range on every betting round. A typical spread limit structure
is $2-$6, where a player may bet as little as $2 or as much
as $6 on every betting round.
An optional extra blind bet, typically made by the player
one to the left of the big blind, equal to twice the big blind.
This is effectively a raise, and forces any player who wants
to play to pay two bets. Furthermore, the straddler acts last
before the flop, and may "re-raise."
A bet (more typically a raise) in which a player doesn't get
all the chips required for the raise into the pot in one motion.
Unless he verbally declared the raise, he can be forced to
withdraw it and just call. This prevents the unethical play
of putting out enough chips to call, seeing what effect that
had, and then possibly raising.
Used to apply to a certain betting structure in "flop" games
such as hold'em. The typical definition of a structured game
is a fixed amount for bets and raises before the flop and
on the flop, and then twice that amount on the turn and river.
Example: a $2-$4 structured hold'em game - bets and raises
of $2 before the flop and on the flop; $4 bets and raises
on the turn and river.
A hold'em starting hand in which the two cards are the same
suit. Example: "I had to play J-3 - it was suited."
A rule in a poker game meaning that a player may not go into
his pocket for money during a hand. He may only invest the
amount of money in front of him into the current pot. If he
runs out of chips during the hand, a side pot is created in
which he has no interest. All casino poker is played table
stakes. The definition sometimes also includes the rule that
a player may not remove chips from the table during a game.
While this rule might not be referred to as "table stakes",
it is enforced almost universally in public poker games.
A clue or hint that a player unknowingly gives about the strength
of his hand, his next action, etc. May originally be from
"telegraph" or the obvious use that he "tells" you what he's
going to do before he does it.
To play wildly or recklessly. A player is said to be "on tilt"
if he is not playing his best, playing too many hands, trying
wild bluffs, raising with bad hands, etc.
(1) A request by a player to suspend play while he decides
what he's going to do. Simply, "Time please!" If a player
doesn't request time and there is a substantial amount of
action behind him, the dealer may rule that the player has
(2) An amount of money collected either on the button or every
half hour by the cardroom. This is another way for the house
to make its money (see "rake").
A small amount of money (typically $.50 or $1.00) given to
the dealer by the winner of a pot. Quite often, tokes represent
the great majority of a dealer's income.
A pair with the highest card on the flop. If you have As-Qs,
and the flop comes Qd-Th-6c, you have flopped top pair.
Three of a kind.
The fourth community card. Put out face up, by itself. Also
known as "fourth street."
The position of the player who acts first on a betting round.
For instance, if you are one to the left of the big blind,
you are under the gun before the flop.
A person or hand who is not mathematically favored to win
a pot. For instance, if you flop four cards to your flush,
you are not quite a 2:1 underdog to make your flush by the
river (that is, you will make your flush about one in three
times). See also "dog."
As in "bet for value." This means that you would actually
like your opponents to call your bet (as opposed to a bluff).
Generally it's because you have the best hand. However, it
can also be a draw which, given enough callers, has a positive
A measure of the up and down swings your bankroll goes through.
Variance is not necessarily a measure of how well you play.
However, the higher your variance, the wider swings you'll
see in your bankroll.