Understanding Poker Speak - A Poker Glossary
To the uninitiated, poker jargon can be a confusing minefield of modern mathematical terms coupled with ancient cardshark western slang. We've put together this lengthy guide to the colourful lingo of poker so:
- You'll quickly grasp what's going on around the table.
- You'll better digest online poker site reviews.
- You'll be able to talk the talk and sound like a seasoned pro.
- You'll have even more fun interacting with other players in what sounds like secret code to the uninitiated.
Here are the most common things you're likely to hear at the table and what they mean to you:
Action is the term for the events of a hand - what's the action in this hand? Player 1 raised, Player 2 re-raised, and Player 3 went all in. That's the action. If you're inattentive at the table you may also hear players telling you that "the action's on you" - in other words, it's your turn to act.
Blinds (and antes) are the forced bets made by players in order to get the hand started. They're mandatory, because without them everyone would just fold until they had aces. Blinds force the action and in tournaments they increase to encourage eliminations.
Blank cards are those that don't change the situation - for example, if the flop is Ac-Kd-Tc then a 2h turn is a blank.
Board is a term for the community cards (flop, turn, and river) in flop games, or for the players' open cards in Stud games. There is no board in draw poker.
Bubble is a noun and a verb, and the latter isn't pleasant to do. The bubble of a tournament is the point at which one more player has to be eliminated to reach the money - for example if there are 27 places paid and 28 players left. If you bust in the 28th spot, you've bubbled.
Buy-in is, as you might expect, the cost of entry to a tournament (or the amount of chips you purchased in a cash game).
Chop refers to either splitting a pot (when both players have the same hand) or when the final few players in a tournament make a deal and distribute the remaining prize pool more evenly.
Dead money refers to either money bet by a player that has since folded (making it up for grabs) or a player in a tournament with little-to-no chance of winning.
Domination is when one hand beats another by having a superior second card. For example, if you have AK against AQ you both have big aces but your king dominates your opponent's queen.
Drawing dead is not something you want to be - it means that you have a 0% chance to win the hand.
Expected value/EV refers to the amount of money you would expect to win in a pot - for example, you're an 82% favourite with aces against kings so in a $100 pot your EV is $82.
Equity refers to your chance of winning at showdown. If you have a flush draw against an overpair, you have roughly 35% equity.
Fold equity is the chance that you will make your opponent fold. Typically not measured in a quantifiable way, but discussed in terms of its presence - "you have no fold equity, you should not bluff here".
Freeroll can mean one of two things - a freeroll tournament is a tournament with no entry fee but a real prize pool. If you are freerolling your opponent, it means you cannot lose the pot but you can still win - for example, if you and your opponent each have the same straight but you have a flush draw on top.
Implied odds refer to the amount of money you can expect to win from your opponent. If you do not have direct odds to call with a draw on the river, but suspect that your opponent will go all-in on any river card, you may have the implied odds to call.
Live cards are cards that are not dominated by your opponent. If you get in 65s against AK, you are an underdog but your cards are live. If you had A6s you'd be much worse off.
Outs are the cards you need to make your hand. With a flush draw, you have nine outs (the remaining cards of your suit).
Position is one of the most important parts of poker - the later your position (the more opponents act before you), the bigger advantage you have. Positions, from earliest to latest, are: small blind, big blind, under the gun, middle position, hi-jack, cut-off, button.
Pot committed means you have to call, regardless of how much equity you believe you have. If you've bluffed, but misread your opponents stack size and only have to call $1 into $100, you have to call even if your hand is garbage.
Pot odds are a way of calculating your equity with draws. The easiest way to do it is to count the number of cards that will make your hand, then multiply that number by 2 and add 2. This gives you your percentage equity to make your hand on the next card - for a flush draw, it is (9*2)+2 = 20%.
Ring game is a term used to refer to non-tournament games, better known as cash games.
Runner Runner describes when cards come on both the turn and river to make the best hand - it's very unlikely, of course. If you go all-in with As-Ac against 33 on a board of 3s 4s Jd and get a turn and river of Ks 9s you've made a runner runner flush.
Satellite tournaments are smaller "feeder" tournaments that allow you to enter larger tournaments at a reduced buy-in. A £1,000 tournament might have a £100 satellite in which ten players compete for a seat.
Straddle refers to an action-generating "third blind" that many cash game grinders play - the player to the left of the big blind puts in a blind minimum raise.
String bets are a common etiquette breach for new players - this means not declaring a bet and putting in chips one after the other. To prevent collusion, players must place all their chips in the pot at once or verbally declare the size of their bet.
Variance is a poker player's best friend and worst enemy and simply refers to the luck inherent in the game.
Interested in more poker and gambling terms? Here's a great page explaining terminology across the world of gambling.