Copyright 1995-2003 by Daniel Y. Kimberg.

Read the Introduction

If you like my poker dictionary, consider checking out my book. Serious Poker is a great way to get into the game, if I do say so myself.

Alphabetic Index

#... A... B... C... D... E... F... G... H... I... J... K... L... M... N... O... P... Q... R... S... T... U... V... WXYZ

6, 7, 8, 65, 64, 74, 75, 76, etc.

In games played for low, an unpaired low hand is referred to by its highest card, often its highest two cards and sometimes more if needed. So 8432A (in ace to five lowball) is "an eight" or "an eighty-four." (There's only one way to make an 84, so you'd never need to say an 843). If you showdown an 86 and another player shows down an 86, you might need to point out that you have an 863 while they have an 864. 5432A is usually just called a wheel. See also smooth and rough.

If you don't bet your sixes, you might as well not even play.


Seven-card stud high-low with an 8 or better qualifier is sometimes referred to as 78. Old record albums are also sometimes referred to 78's, because that's how many revolutions per minute you have to play them at in order for them to sound right.

8 or better

A common qualifier for low hands in high-low split games is that they must be unpaired with no card higher than an 8. Note that "8 or better" implies high-low split. See also 8.

Ace to five

In a game played for low, ace to five means straights and flushes don't count and the ace can be used as a low card. The best possible hand in an ace to five game is therefore A2345 (often called a wheel). See also deuce to seven and lowball.


To do something when it's your turn, one of: check, call, fold, open bet, and raise. See also action.


The placing of money into the pot. A table with a lot of action is one at which there are a lot of bets, raises, and re-raises - in other words, betting action. In most cardrooms, verbal comments like "I raise" are binding, and are therefore said to constitute action.

To give action is to put money into the pot when someone else should be expected to win the hand. To receive action is to have someone else put money into the pot when you expect to win the hand. It's better to receive than to give.

Action is also used to mean someone's turn to act.

This table is too tight, let's go someplace where there's some action.

Sure, I'll give you some action.

Your action, sir.


Some tournaments allow players the opportunity at a certain point to buy additional chips, called an add-on. This is different from a re-buy, because usually anyone still in the tournament can add on, and the opportunity to add-on usually marks the end of the re-buy period.

I was in such bad chip position, I decided it wasn't worth paying for the add-on.


Advertising usually means showing down a mediocre hand, to give the impression that you play overly loose or that you play a generally weak game. The idea is that other players will then give you more action when you make a legitimate hand. Since people are bad at revising first impressions, this potentially beneficial effect can be long-lasting.

Typical advertising plays in hold'em might be to show down top pair with a weak kicker (e.g., K2), middle pair, or a gutshot draw that missed. These hands have marginal intrinsic value, but playing them early in a session might pay off later. Of course, it's best to advertise if you actually want to be called down more often, e.g., at an especially tight table. At a table full of calling stations, it might be unnecessary or even harmful.

More generally, advertising can mean anything you do at the poker table to manipulate how other players assess you.


A style of play characterized by frequent raising and re-raising. This is not the same thing as loose play. Many good players are selective about the cards they will play, but aggressive once they get involved in a hand. An aggressive table is one dominated by aggressive players.


When a player puts the last of their chips into a pot, that player is said to be all-in. A player who doesn't have enough chips to call a bet can call all-in, creating a main pot and a side pot. A player may also make an all-in bet or raise.

An all-in player can not be forced from the hand, but can only win the portions of other players bets he or she was able to match. For example, if player A bets $10, player B calls, and player C calls all-in for $5, player C can only win $5 of the two $10 bets. The remaining $10 is placed in the side pot, to be contested among players A and B.

It's a shame you had to go all-in with your straight flush, because you could've gotten two or three more bets out of those guys.

After he raised my small opening bet, I put him all-in.


An angle is any technically legal but ethically dubious way to increase your expectation at a game. Depending on who you ask, a particular weapon in your arsenal may be a sleazy underhanded trick (a typical angle) or a vital strategic tool that no player should be without. An example might be pretending to be about to fold (or even folding out of turn and then retrieving your cards, if the rules allow it), in order to encourage a call (when you are about to raise). A player who regularly takes advantage of angles is said to be an angle shooter.


A small forced bet that everyone at the table is required to pay before each hand. In games with an ante, these bets constitute the initial pot. When used as a verb, it means to post this bet.

Sir, you forgot to ante.

No, that's my ante right there.

Back Door

A hand made back door is one made using both of the last two cards, as in seven card stud or Texas hold'em. For example, if in hold'em you hold AhTh and the flop comes Ad4c9h, you have top pair and a backdoor flush draw. The back door draw isn't anything to get excited about, but it can tip the scales occasionally. While you're busy playing your made hand, you might accidentally make a flush in the back door.

I couldn't believe he stayed around for that back door straight with no other outs.

Back Into

When you make a hand other than the one you were originally drawing to, you are said to have backed into it. For example, if your first four cards in a seven card stud hand are AA44, and you end up making a flush, you backed into the flush.

Bad Beat

Different people seem to feel differently about what counts as a bad beat. One thing is certain: you have to lose the hand. What makes the beat bad? Maybe one or all of the following: you lose in a situation where you're a very big favorite; you lose with a hand you couldn't possibly have been expected to fold; you lose so improbably you feel compelled to tell the story multiple times; you lose to a player who couldn't have beat you without misplaying the hand (but who was astoundingly lucky); you lose in a way that seemed inconceivable until you saw it happen; or more than two experienced players at your table say, "ouch."

Here's an example. Say you're playing hold'em, you hold AA, the flop comes A55, and someone holding 98, suited with one of the fives, catches two perfect cards for a straight flush, you have suffered a very painful bad beat. The guy holding 55 is in a similar position, only more so.

The phrase "bad beat" is heard often in the phrase "bad beat stories," because many poker players, especially (but not exclusively) occasional or inexperienced players, love to tell stories about how rotten their luck was. Some people don't mind listening, or even enjoy these stories. Other people (especially jaded poker veterans who are pretty sure they've heard and seen it all) would sooner sit through eight hours of root canal surgery than listen to one bad beat story. Don't take it personally.

Another phrase you'll hear is "bad beat jackpot." Some games have jackpots for particular types of bad beats.

After that bad beat I put on him, he went on tilt for about six months.


The total amount of money one is willing (and able) to put at risk. Many players keep poker bankrolls separate from their other finances. An adequate playing bankroll for a particular game (assuming positive expectation) is an amount large enough to survive the expected swings due to variance. For a negative expectation game, an adequate bankroll is one which doesn't run out before you die.

Some players also limit their risk on a per-session basis, in effect playing with a session bankroll. Whether a bankroll is for poker in general, for poker this week, or for poker today, depends on how you manage your money.

To bankroll someone is to provide some or all of the money they use to gamble. In effect, you assume part of the risk in return for part of the profit.


Before the last cards have been dealt, you either have the best hand or you don't. If you don't, you're said to be behind. See also chase.

Even though I was probably behind, I decided to raise because I had a lot of outs.

Belly Buster

Another name for an inside straight draw. See also double belly buster.


To bet is to put money into the pot, usually by opening as later action in a round is a raise or a re-raise. As a noun, a bet can be the money added to the pot by a player on one turn, or the amount required in order to call. It can also be used to mean "turn to act," and lastly, especially when used in the plural, it can be used to mean the number of bets and raises.

Who bet? (meaning who opened)

That's his bet. (meaning that there is the money he wagered)

What's the bet? (meaning how much to call)

Your bet. (meaning your turn)

Let's make it two bets. (meaning I raise)

Bicycle Wheel

A bicycle wheel (also called a wheel or a bicycle) is just the following hand: A2345. Normally this is a straight to the five. In games played for low, this is sometimes the best possible low hand (see ace to five). It's also a great hand in some high-low games where it's the nut low and counts as a straight for the high pot. Note that in Kansas City Lowball, a wheel is 23457, or the nut low. See also steel wheel.

Big Bet

In limit games in which the size of the maximum bet increases in later rounds, a big bet is the largest bet size. A small bet is the smallest bet size. So in a 5-10 hold'em game, small bets are $5 and big bets are $10. See structure and limit.

Big Bet Poker

Pot-limit and no-limit poker are sometimes referred to as big bet poker (as contrasted with limit games of any size). The "big" in a sense refers to the size of bets relative to the pot, irrespective of the amount of money involved.

Big Blind

See blind bet.

Big Slick

An ace and a king as your hole cards in hold'em.

I had big slick eight times last night, and didn't win one pot with it.


Black is the most common color for $100 chips. If someone tells you they saw someone betting black at a blackjack table, it means they were betting at least $100 a hand. See also white, red, and and green.


Any card that doesn't look like it's going to help anyone.

I was pretty sure she was on some sort of draw, so I didn't mind betting into her when the river was a blank.

Blind Bet (or Blind)

A blind bet, or blind, is a forced bet that must be posted before you see any cards. Blinds are an alternative to antes for getting money in the pot initially. Blinds are more often used in flop games like hold'em and omaha than in stud and draw games. Typically in hold'em the two players to the left of the dealer button are forced to place blind bets. In limit play, the small blind (to the dealer's left) is typically half the size of a small bet, and the big blind (to the small blind's left) is a full small bet. Betting then starts with the player to the left of the big blind (who is considered under the gun), who must at least call the big blind to stay in. When you sit down at a new table, it's good to wait until it's your turn to blind before playing a hand. See also live blind, structure, and straddle.

"Big blind" and "small blind" are also used to refer to the players who posted these bets.

I didn't get a playable hand for over three hours, but I lost $135 in blinds.

I tried to steal the blinds with a late-position raise, but the big blind raised me back.


A bet with a weak hand (typically a busted hand), usually intended to get other players to fold. A bluffing player usually has little or no chance of winning a showdown, but may suspect that other players will fold if they have not made strong hands either. In limit play, bluffing is more often a good idea against weak, tight players, who may fold even if they think they have a chance of winning. Bluffing is a bad idea against players who call too often, because it's unlikely to scare them out of the pot. Bluffing is also a much more significant factor in pot-limit and no-limit play, where the bluffer can make calling an expensive proposition. See also semi-bluff, represent, speeding, table cop, and advertising.


The community cards in a flop game (like hold'em) or the up cards in a stud game (like seven card stud). Someone who "plays the board" isn't using any of their hole cards.


Another name for a full house. I've also heard "full boat," but I think it sounds idiotic so I'm not giving it a separate entry.

Bottom Pair

If there are three cards of different ranks on the flop in hold'em (or any flop game), and you pair the lowest one, you have bottom pair.

I figured bottom pair was enough since we were heads up.


Some tournaments offer small amounts of cash - bounties - to anyone who knocks out another player in the tournament. This is typically in low buy-in tournaments, and the size of the bounty is usually fairly small (since as many bounties as the number of entrants might be awarded).


A blank, or (especially in low or high-low games) a card that counterfeits one's hand. "Brick" is more often heard in seven card stud, while "blank" is more appropriate to hold'em, probably because a brick is a personal thing, while a blank is a community thing.

Bring In

To bring in the betting is to make the first bet on the first round of a hand (not including blind bets and antes). A player who does this is said to "bring it in." In seven card stud, often the lowest card on the board is forced to bring it in. The bet so placed is called the bring-in.


An ace high straight.


A cardroom employee responsible for managing the seating list is sometimes called the brush.


A joker, usually in five card draw or draw lowball. In high games, a bug can usually only be used as an ace or to complete a straight or flush.


A pair of aces in the hole.


To raise.


A buried pair is a pair in the hole in seven card stud - a pair in the first two down cards. Buried kings are kings in the hole, buried aces are aces in the hole, etc.


In order to reduce the chances of players getting advance information about cards to come, in many games the top card on the deck is discarded at certain pre-determined points in the dealing process (e.g., in hold'em, before the flop, turn, and river). These cards are the burn cards. In general, any time a card is discarded from the top of the deck it's called a burn card.

Burn Card

See burn.


To run out of money, especially in a tournament.

I busted in the second round, when my rockets lost to 87 off suit.

Busted Hand

A hand in poker without so much as a pair (i.e., any hand that will lose to a pair of 2's). A busted hand that missed a draw to a straight or a flush is a busted straight or a busted flush.


A button is a marker, usually a plastic disc, used to mark a particular position at the table. Usually "the button" refers specifically to the dealer button, used to mark the dealer position, or the player playing in that position. In games with a professional house-supplied dealer (who is not playing), this marks the player who acts in the dealer's position (who is dealt the last card and who is last to act in games where the order is fixed). This player is said to be "on the button." Other buttons include the ever-popular big blind button, used to indicate a player who was absent when it would have been their turn to post a blind bet (and who will be forced to post before they can return to the game).

(For some reason, in Maryland the dealer button sits to the left of where it should be, so when you're on the button you post the first blind and act first in subsequent rounds. As far as I know Maryland is the only blatant exception.)

I wouldn't have called with that hand, except that I was on the button.


To buy a pot is to make a bet large enough that other players would be extremely unlikely to call.

To buy the button in flop games is to raise before the flop in order to induce the players with better position than yourself to fold. If everyone closer to the button folds, you've bought the button. Obviously this works better the closer to the button you start out.


The amount of money with which you enter a game is your buy-in. In a ring game, this is (hopefully) the amount you get in chips. Most ring games have a minimum buy-in that's typically less than you'll realistically need. In a tournament, your buy-in is the amount it costs you to get your initial bunch of tourney chips. As a verb, to buy in is to make your initial purchase of chips.

I wanted to play in the bigger game, but the buy-in was too high.


To call is to match the current bet. If there has been a bet of $10 and a raise of $10 then it costs $20 to call. Calling is the cheapest (and the most passive) way to remain in a hand. See also cold call, flat call, and it.

Calling Station

A player who calls much too often is called a calling station. Such a player will pay you off when you make hands, and will often fail to press their advantage when they have relatively strong hands (see passive). On the other hand, calling stations will hit more backdoor and other unlikely draws than other players, making it occasionally frustrating to play against them, especially in large numbers.

Most of the players at the table were tough, but it was worth playing there because of the two calling stations.


In limit games, the cap is the limit on the number of raises in a round of betting. In many places it's 3, for 4 bets total, but you can get into very irritating arguments about the maximum number of raises that's appropriate. A cap on the betting makes it more difficult for players to collude. Some dealers have cutesy expressions they like to use when a pot is capped (e.g., "capuccino"). To make the final allowed raise is to cap the betting, or to "cap it."

After I made the loose call in early position, much to my dismay the pot was raised, reraised, and capped.


Cardrooms are the rooms in which poker is played, or the organizations that run those rooms. Most casinos that offer poker have a separate room, or at least a roped-off area, designated as the cardroom. In some places where poker is legal, you will also find separate cardrooms (not part of a larger casino) dedicated mostly to poker. Key things to look for in a cardroom include tables, floorpeople, the brush, chips, etc.

Cards Speak

Cards speak is simply the rule that the value of your hand is determined solely by your cards. You don't have to declare your hand properly in order to claim the part of the pot you deserve. The alternative to this is mainly declare games, usually played in home games for low stakes.


The fourth card of a particular rank.

I knew he was bluffing because I had folded the case 7.


When the cards are treating you well, you are said to be catching cards. The word often carries a mild connotation of improbable luck. Someone who says "nice catch" may mean anything from "okay, take the pot, you clueless moron," to "guess you outdrew me, no problem."


When you're behind, you can either choose not to contend the pot (i.e., check and fold as appropriate), try to steal it, or stick around, hoping you'll improve enough to win. To stay in a pot, with the sole hope of making a particular hand (e.g., chasing a flush). Usually chasing implies poor pot odds.


If there has been no betting before you in a betting round, you may check, which is like calling a bet of $0, or passing your turn. If all the players at a table check in turn in the same round, it is said to be checked around, resulting in a free card.

Poker chips are also sometimes called checks. This is mostly European (esp. British) usage.

I checked with the intention of folding on the turn and the river, but no one ever bet.


A check-raise is just what it sounds like -- a raise after you have already checked within a betting round. Check-raises can be used to trap a player who (for example) would have folded to a single bet, but who will open if it is checked to them.

While check-raising is legal virtually everywhere serious poker is played, there are apparently a few public cardrooms which prohibit it at the lowest limits. Home poker games, which may be more or less serious, vary more widely.

I noticed he liked to position bet a lot, so whenever I had a good hand I check-raised him.


Poker chips are small round discs used instead of money at the poker table. The ones used at casinos are typically made of clay, while home poker games often substitute cheaper plastic chips. Using chips instead of cash has a number of advantages, mostly just that they're easier to count and manipulate. Color designations for chips are arbitrary, but many casinos use white for $1 chips, red for $5 chips, green for $25 chips, and black for $100 chips. If someone asks for a rack of white, they'd like $100 in $1 chips.

Chip Race

In tournaments, as the limits go up, lower demonination chips are taken out of circulation (see color up). Often, odd chips, rather than simply being rounded up or down for each player, are randomly given to one player at each table. Typically, each player is dealt a card for each odd chip, and the player with the highest card dealt is given all the odd chips (which are then colored up).


To return the blinds to the players who posted them and move on to the next hand. This may happen in hold'em when nobody calls the blind. By agreeing to chop rather than play the hand, the two blinds sometimes avoid paying the rake, since many cardrooms only collect on those hands when there is a flop. At a table which ordinarily sees more action, players will often agree to chop so as to get on to a "real" hand more quickly.

Wanna chop?



To talk about a hand one is involved in, usually with the intent of misleading or manipulating other players, is coffeehousing. It's usually considered just barely on one side of ethical. Which side that is depends on who you ask. See also table talk.

Cold Call

Cold calling is calling more than one bet at once. If one player bets, another player raises, and a third player calls the two bets, this is a cold call. This is contrasted with the situation in which a player calls one bet before the raise, and then calls the raise.

I knew he had at least trips when he called two bets cold.

Color Up

To exchange one's chips for ones of higher value, usually in order to reduce the number of chips one has on the table. In tournaments, players are forced to color up periodically as the tourney money becomes divided among fewer and fewer players and the sizes of the forced bets go up (it makes no sense to play with $25 chips when the blinds are $10000). See also chip race.

Come Hand

A hand which must improve in order to have a realistic shot is a come hand. See also draw and drawing hand.

Community (Cards)

Face-up cards that are shared by all the players in a hand. Flop games have five community cards.


Cards of consecutive ranks, especially pocket cards, are connectors. If they're also of the same suit, they're suited connectors.


In flop games, when your great hand is subsequently made less powerful because of board cards that duplicate the strength of your hand, your hand is said to be counterfeited. For example, if you hold J9 and the flop is T87, you hold the nuts. If the turn is a 9, suddenly anyone with a J has a straight, and QJ has a better straight. If the river is a J, you're counterfeited even further - you're playing the board and anyone with a Q beats you. Counterfeiting is especially common in high-low split omaha. If you hold A2JQ and the flop is 678, you have the nut low. However, if the turn card is an A or a 2, your nut low has been counterfeited. It's no longer the nut low, and is probably not even a winner.


A nickname for Kings, more often heard in the plural.

I had cowboys six times last night and didn't win a pot with them.


When a powerful hand (especially powerful pocket cards) is beat, it's said to be cracked.

I've had rockets cracked twelve consecutive times.

Crying Call

A call by someone who is virtually certain they will not win the pot, and probably knows it.


After the cards are shuffled but before they are dealt, usually the deck is split in the middle and the halves reversed. This is known as cutting the cards. In cardroom games with house dealers, this is done by the dealer. In home games, it's usually done by the player next to the dealer.


A dead card is a card that is no longer available to help you. In seven card stud, for example, a pair of kings in the hole is less strong if the two remaining kings are two other players' door cards, and therefore dead.

A dead hand is a hand that is no longer eligible to win the pot (i.e., one that has been mucked or otherwise invalidated).

Dead money is money that was put in a pot by a player who has since folded.


To deal is to give out the cards during a hand. The person who does this is called the dealer. At most public cardrooms, a dealer is hired for this purpose (and for generally running the game). At most private games, players take turns dealing.

To be dealt in is to be given cards during a hand. To be dealt out or dealt around is not to be given cards.

Dealer Button

See button.

Dealer's Choice

A format in which the dealer is allowed to select the particular poker game that will be dealt. Sometimes this means before each hand, although a more sensible system (since in many games the dealer has a positional advantage) is one in which players take turns choosing the game for an entire round.


Declare games are games in which you must declare the value of your hand in order to claim the pot. A typical example is a high-low split game in which you must declare before showdown whether you are claiming the high, low, or both pots (typically if you declare both you must win both in order to claim either). Declare games are played almost exclusively in home games. In most if not all cardrooms, cards speak.


Twos are sometimes called deuces. So 22277 can be called deuces full of sevens.

Deuce to Seven

In a game played for low, deuce to seven usually means that the best low hand is simply the worst poker hand. If you haven't figured it out already, that hand is 75432, with no flush. Deuce to seven lowball is also called Kansas City, or Kansas City lowball. See also ace to five.


See underdog.


A starting hand that will almost always beat another starting hand is said to dominate that hand. For example, in hold'em, AK dominates K2. Most of the time K2 makes a playable hand, AK will make a better hand. However, a 2 might still spoil the party.

Door Card

The first card dealt face up to each player in seven card stud is the door card.

Double Belly Buster

A double belly buster is a hand with two inside straight draws. For example, 79TJK can become a straight with an 8 or a Q. It's roughly equivalent to an open-ended straight draw, except that the double belly-buster is more deceptive, and people often fail to notice that they have one (especially in cases such as when the 7 in the above example shows up on a later street, and the player is focused on the gutshot they already had).


The word draw has slightly different meanings in different contexts, although generally it has something to do with receiving more cards, with the hope of improving your hand.

Draw games are games where at some point during the hand you are allowed to discard some or all of your cards, to be replaced from the deck. Drawing two is thus exchanging two of your cards. "The draw" is the point during the game at which players may do this. By default, when someone asks you if you want to play some draw, they usually mean five card draw.

In other poker games, drawing simply means staying in the game with the hope of improving your hand when more cards come (as opposed to with the intention of seeing if your hand is best). A draw means a way to improve. For example, if you have four suited cards, you have a flush draw. When you stay in a hand with the hope of improving, you are said to be "on a draw." You are also said to be "drawing to" the hand you hope to make. For example, in lowball, if you hold K7642 and draw one, you are drawing to a (ragged) 7 (i.e., a 7 low).

See also open-ended straight draw, inside straight draw, draw out, draw dead, and drawing hand.

I had to stay in the hand, I had a great draw.

I was sure he was on a draw, so when the river was a blank I felt comfortable betting with bottom pair.

Draw Dead

To draw when it turns out you would lose even if you hit your draw. Most trivially on the turn in hold'em, if you have a fourflush with KQs but someone else holds A5s and has already made a pair of aces, you're drawing dead. Whenever you make your flush, they make a better flush.

Draw Out (on)

To draw out on someone is to outdraw them.

When I called his all-in bet, I didn't realize he had made trips, but I was lucky enough to draw out on him with my backdoor flush.

Drawing Hand

A hand with which you expect to be on a draw is a drawing hand. Suited connectors in hold'em (e.g., QhJh) are drawing hands, since while they make strong hands (straights and flushes) relatively often, they will rarely make them on the flop.


To fold is to drop. To drop is to fold.

To lose a particular amount of money. At poker, that is, you don't have to literally drop it on the carpet.

The drop is also what the house takes from a hand (see also rake).

I bet again on the turn and three more players dropped.

I dropped $600 in ten minutes. Guess omaha isn't my game.

I never play there, they drop 15% of every pot.


Your mathematical share of a pot, based on the amount in the pot and your chances of winning it. If the pot is $100, and your chances of winning are N%, then your equity in that pot is $N. If the pot is $200, your equity is $2N.


See expectation.


Expectation is the rate of profit (or loss) you would expect to make if there were no variance, or on average over a very large number of trials. A positive expectation poker player is one who, due to an advantage in poker skill over his/her opposition, will earn money in the long run. A negative expectation poker player is someone you want at your table.

Just about anything with a numerical outcome has an associated expectation. A positive expectation situation is one in which you will, in the long run, expect to make money. A positive expectation bet is a bet that would, if you made it a sufficient number of times in nearly identical circumstances (from your perspective), earn you a profit. Such a bet is said to have positive expectation.

Note that a player's overall expectation is not a rigid constant. You may be a positive expectation player overall, but perhaps not at certain tables, or when you're in a particular emotional or other state.

Expectation is closely linked (essentially identical) to "expected value," or EV, a mathematical concept best illustrated by the following example. If you have a 50% chance of winning (and a 50% chance of losing) a $100 pot, your expectation is $50, even though you will definitely not win exactly $50. This example also illustrates variance.

Positive expectation is sometimes abbreviated as +EV, and negative expecation as -EV.

I finally stood up when I realized that it wasn't just back luck, I was a negative expectation player at the table.

Family Pot

When everyone at the table decides to enter a pot (e.g., see the flop in hold'em), it's said to be a family pot.


To play fast is to play aggressively. The opposite of playing slow. See also speeding.


The hand that is expected to win most often in a particular situation. In hold'em, AA is always a pre-flop favorite. If the flop is 775, the player with 75 is now a pretty big favorite.

I knew he was on the flush draw, so I figured I was still a favorite.


The surface of most poker tables is made of some sort of felt, or is in any case referred to as such. A player who is running out of chips rapidly can be referred to as "down to the felt."

Fill Up

To draw to andmake a full house either from trips or two pair.


A bad player. A terrible player. A player who will tend to give away lots of money. Fish-ness can also be relative. Common poker wisdom holds that if you can't find the fish at your table, you're it. See also provider.

I love playing at that fish pond.


A nickname for a jack, more often heard in the plural.

Damn these fishhooks, they keep getting me into trouble.

Five Card Draw

Probably the most well known poker game, although it's not widely played in public cardrooms anymore. Each player receives five cards. There is a round of betting, after which each player may draw a certain number of cards (house rules often stipulate how many may be drawn and under what circumstances). Then there is a second round of betting, and (if necessary) a showdown.

Flat Call

Flat call is a way of saying call that emphasizes the fact that the player didn't raise. See also smooth call.

When he flat called me on the flop and on the turn, I put him on the flush draw.


See floorperson.


A gender-specific form of floorperson.


In a cardroom floorpeople are responsible for the moment to moment management of the cardroom - seating players, starting new tables, settling disputes, generally making sure the cardroom runs smoothly. You'll probably hear the "floorman" or "floor" more often.

Floor, get some live ones in these empty seats!


A number of games, such as hold'em and omaha, are played with five community cards. The first three of these cards are dealt all at once, and are called the flop. Games with a flop can be called flop games.

To flop a hand is to make that hand on the flop. To "see" the flop is to still be in the hand when the flop comes.

I missed my pre-flop raise, and lost the hand when the big blind made a gutshot on the river.

I flopped a fourflush and made my hand on the turn.


A hand in which all five cards share the same suit. When comparing two flushes, the hand with the highest card not in common is better. So AK873 of hearts is a better flush than AK872 of diamonds. Not much better.


To abandon your hand, usually because someone else has made a larger bet than you are willing to call. Usually, one folds by mucking one's cards.

Forced Bet

Just what it sounds like - a bet that one is forced to place, typically a blind bet or a bring-in.


A hand with four cards of the same suit. If there are no cards remaining to come (or to draw), a fourflush is not very useful.

With top pair and a fourflush, I thought my raise was a good idea.

Four of a Kind

Four cards of the same rank. Also called quads. For example, if you hold 88882, you have quad 8's.

Free Card

Whenever you get to see an additional card without having to call a bet, it's a free card (usually this means it's been checked around). Generally speaking, you'd like to get free cards when you need to improve, and you'd like to avoid giving free cards when you're ahead.


Whenever you have at least part of the pot locked up and you still have a chance to outdraw your opponents, you're said to be freerolling on them. In hold'em, this happens when you and another player have the same hand at the moment, but you also have a draw to a better hand. At worst you'll tie, but you have a chance to win the whole pot while the other player doesn't. For example, if you hold AhKh and the flop is As6h4h, you have a freeroll on a player holding AdKd. While you both have the same hand at the moment, you might still make a flush, while they can't outdraw you.

Freeroll tournaments are tournaments with no apparent entry fee or initial buy-in. Such tournaments are typically promotional events cardrooms host in order to attract players. Sometimes players must clock a certain number of hours in the cardroom in order to qualify, or meet some other requirement.


Any tournament format in which you cannot re-buy. A freezeout is a good format for heads-up pot-limit or no-limit play, since the amount at stake can be fixed in advance, and the competitors can use arbitrarily valued chips as in tournaments.

We decided to play a series of no-limit hold'em freezeouts to show who was the better player.

Full House

A hand consisting of three cards of one rank and two cards of another rank. AAA33 is aces full of threes, often abbreviated to "aces full." To fill up is to draw to and make a full house. Also called a boat.

I figured even if my trip sevens were no good, there was a decent chance I'd fill up.


See to go.


An inside straight draw.


Green is the most common color for $25 chips. If someone bets a stack of green, it means they're betting a bunch of $25 chips, probably 20 of them. See also white, red, and black.


A hand is also everything that happens between shuffles - cards are dealt, betting is done, a winner is declared, and the pot is pushed. To "play a hand" sometimes means to be dealt in, and sometimes means to at least call the initial bet. Use context to figure out which.

A hand also refers to the cards you hold - in games where you have more than five cards (e.g., seven card stud or Texas hold'em), it's your best five cards.

For your enjoyment, here are the different types of hands you can make in poker, in increasing order of strength: no pair; pair; two pair, three of a kind, straight, flush, full house, four of a kind, straight flush.

Lastly, sometimes the phrase "a hand" means specifically a good hand or a playable hand.

I've played (been dealt) two thousand hands in a row without making a flush.

I haven't played (seen the flop with) a hand in hours.

I didn't get a hand for the next six hours.

Lemme see your hand.


Play between only two players.

We decided to play a heads-up freezeout to settle the argument.

I raised on the turn and managed to get it heads-up.


Someone who says they need help means they need their hand to improve in order to have a chance at the pot. Or that they've just pawned their pacemaker to fund a few more hours of poker. Use context to figure out which.


The high hand is simply the best hand. When playing a high-low split game, one is said to "win the high" when one has the best hand, while another player wins the low. In seven card stud, the player with the strongest up cards is said to be high, and is usually first to act on fourth and subsequent streets.

High-Low Split

In high-low split games, half the pot goes to the best hand (the high), half to the worst (the low). The criteria for deciding the low vary - see low. Split games are also often played with a qualifier that the low hand must be "8 or better." This means that the low hand must have five unpaired cards 8 or lower. Omaha and Seven Card Stud are the most popular high-low split games.

Note that if there is a sole winner of one pot and a tie for the other, the sole winner wins half the pot while the other half is split evenly among the tied hands.


To hit (or miss) the flop means to match (or not to match) the flop in some way, usually to pair one of the flopped cards. You can also hit or miss on a draw, depending on whether or not the cards you were drawing for showed up. Players whose bluffs are called when they miss their draws on the river often mutter "I missed," as if to point out that they weren't betting completely insanely.

The reason I bet with overcards was because I didn't see how anyone who called my raise could've hit that flop.

Hit and Run

A player who leaves the table shortly after scooping a big pot is sometimes described as playing hit and run poker, especially if they'd only been at the table a short time. It's loosely implied that they would not have left if they hadn't won the pot.


See Texas Hold'em.


Your first two down cards in seven card stud. If they're both jacks, you have a pair of jacks "in the hole." See also pocket.


Another word for scooting - the practice of passing a small amount of money to another player after winning a pot.


The cardroom (management, owners, etc.) is the house. The house rakes money from the pot, has house rules, and when someone walks in, you might say they're "in the house." If you're so inclined. See also full house.

Implied Odds

Implied odds are similar to pot odds, except that the money in the pot is not actually there yet. In an extreme case, if you're first to call a bet, and you know for a certainty that the eight players to act after you will all call (and not raise), you have great implied odds. Similarly if you know that several players in the hand will pay you off when you make your flush - you can act as though the pot were larger. In general, implied odds is just a way of referring to odds that require some estimation.

In the Air

Traditionally, a poker tournament starts when the tournament director (or whoever's running things) instructs the dealers to get the cards "in the air." This just means to start dealing.

Inside Straight (Draw)

An inside straight draw is a draw to a straight that's missing one of the cards in the middle (as opposed to on the end). 4578 is an inside straight, 4567 is an outside straight. Also called a one-gapper or a gutshot.


In big bet poker, it is possible to reach a situation in which you are uncomfortable with the amount of money you have invested in a pot. To reduce variance, players will sometimes take insurance against an unfortunate outcome, essentially selling the actual outcome of the hand for its mathematical equity (at a slight discount). For example, if you hold a flush against a player who has three of a kind, your equity in the pot is a percentage of the pot equal to the probability that the other player will not fill up. If the pot is large, and you don't want to risk coming away with nothing, you might take insurance from somebody who has more money and would be glad to have the overlay.


To raise with the intention of thinning the field to yourself and a single other player is to isolate that player.

I raised to isolate him, but ended up getting three callers.


Yes, "it" is poker terminology. "It" usually refers to the largest amount anyone has yet bet in a round. If someone opens for $5, and the next player raises $10, they're "making it $15." With the exception of all-in players, if a player wants to see the next round, eventually they have to match whatever "it" is. "It" can also mean the amount required to call. So if someone bets $5 and two other players each raise $5 in the same betting round, they may ask "what's it to me?" The correct answer is, "Pay attention."


When is a bad beat not so bad? When you're playing jackpot poker, of course. A number of cardrooms offer sizeable jackpots for particularly bad beats. The rules vary somewhat, but typically you must have aces full or better beat (sometimes by quads or better). If the game is hold'em, often both players must use both of their pocket cards. Other rules and technicalities make it worthwhile finding out just what could invalidate a jackpot before you play your first hand. Typically the "loser" gets the lion's share (e.g., 50%), the winner of the hand the next largest share (e.g., 25%), and often the remainder of the table splits the rest of the jackpot. The jackpot itself is usually built by a jackpot drop from every hand, sometimes the entire small blind. Jackpots for low-limit games are often in the tens of thousands of dollars, and can get very big if no one wins for a while.

Feelings about jackpot poker are divided. Some players get upset about all the bad beats they take at the hands of wild players chasing every remote chance at the jackpot, and resent the extra money taken out of every pot. On the other hand, jackpot poker is certainly popular, and it's hard to argue with anything that fills seats.

Poker jackpots are occasionally outlawed or reinstated in various locations. Check your local listings.

Yay, I hit the jackpot.


To bet or raise the maximum, especially in no-limit, is to jam.


A joker is an additional card in the deck that is used in some games. The jokers isn't often used in serious poker, but when it is it's usually considered a wild card. See also bug.

Kansas City

Kansas City, or Kansas City lowball, is a low only game played for a deuce to seven low.


The highest unpaired card in your hand that doesn't participate in a straight or flush - i.e., the card that does not contribute to the strength of your hand except by itself. For example, if you hold AA743, you have a pair of aces with a 7 kicker. Five card hands - straights, flushes, and full houses, - don't have kickers per se. In games with community cards, kickers are especially important, because it's easy for two players to make similar hands. For example, if you hold A8 and someone else holds A7, and the flop is AK642, you have your opponent out-kicked. Your hand is AAK86 while theirs is AAK76. And you both lose to the guy playing 53 off suit under the gun.


A "kill" game is one in which a player may place an extra bet, causing the betting limits to go up for just that hand. The player posting the bet is the "killer," and the hand is considered a "kill pot." The player is said to have "killed the pot" for the amount of the kill. The exact details depend on the local rules and on the game.

As examples, here are the rules for three kill games I've played in (all in San Diego). In the kill hold'em game, any player who wins two pots in a row is required to kill by posting a blind small bet on the subsequent hand, with the limits doubled for that hand. In a kill high-low split game, any player who scooped a pot larger than a certain size was required to kill the subsequent pot. And in a draw game, any player could kill any pot for an arbitrary amount after looking at their first two cards. These are just examples, the details vary from cardroom to cardroom.

Large Bet

See big bet.


Winning poker players often lose back part or all of their winnings through other gambling habits, either at the casino or elsewhere (e.g., sports betting, craps, or golf). These are often referred to as leaks.

Limit (Limit Poker)

Limit poker is any game in which there is a fixed limit on how much you can bet or raise in any round. Limit games usually offer either fixed-sized bets for different betting rounds or spread limits, in which there is a minimum and maximum bet for each round. For example, a 5-10 hold'em game usually requires $5 bets and raises on the first two rounds and $10 bets and raises on the last two.

Games are often referred to as low-limit, medium-limit, and high-limit. Typical low-limit games are 2-4, 3-6, and 5-10. Medium limits are 10-20, 20-40, and 30-60. High-limits are 50-100 on up.

More generally, the word limit is used to refer to the maximum bet at a given point, whether it's pot-limit, spread limit, or whatever. See also structure.

I didn't want to give him a chance to draw out on me, so I bet the limit.


To flat call an opening forced bet is to limp into a hand.

Three players limped in ahead of me, so I decided just to call.


A live player, or "live one," is someone who is expected to lose their money at a pretty good rate. Players reminding floorpeople to fill a vacant seat often request a live one.

For other uses of the word "live" see live blind, live card, and live hand.

Live Blind

A blind bet is considered a live blind if the player is allowed to raise even if no one else raises first. See also straddle.

Live Card

A live card is a card that has not been seen. In seven card stud, for example, a player with a draw to a flush, is concerned with how many of the remaining suited cards are live (i.e., have not been seen in other players' hands). A live hand is a hand for which many of the outs are still live.

Live Hand

A live hand is a hand that is still eligible to win the pot (i.e., one that has not been mucked or otherwise invalidated). In seven card stud, a hand is also called live if many of the cards which would improve it are still unaccounted for (see live card).


A lock is a hand guaranteed to win at least part of the pot. In a high-low split game, for example, the lock low is the best possible low hand. See also nuts.


Playing loose simply means playing more hands and holding on to them longer. In essence, loose with your cash. A loose table is a table dominated (so to speak) by loose players. Loose isn't always bad - excessively tight play can be equally costly, especially at high levels of play. Looseness should not be confused with aggressiveness.

A loose call is a borderline inadvisable or even incorrect call.

He was playing so loose, it seemed like he was in every pot.


In most poker games, the best hand wins. Most but not all. In a number of games, the worst hand wins all or some of the pot. Draw lowball and razz are just two examples of games played for low. Omaha and seven card stud have popular high-low split variants, in which the low hand gets half the pot. There are two common ways to evaluate low hands. In deuce to seven games, the best low hand is just the worst high hand. The best possible low is 75432, provided there is no flush. In ace to five games, straights and flushes don't count, and aces are lower than 2's. So the best possible low is A2345, a wheel.

Lowball (or Draw Lowball)

Five card draw played for low only (i.e., where the low hand wins the entire pot).

Main pot

When a player goes all-in in a table stakes game, that player is only eligible to win the main pot - the pot consisting of those bets they were able to match. Additional bets, placed in a side pot, are contested among the remaining players.

Unfortunately, since I was all-in pre-flop, the main pot was very small.


To (non-specifically) make a hand means to get a decent hand that has a shot at winning the pot.

I didn't make a hand for two hours, but then I went on a major rush.


A maniac is a player who plays extremely loose and aggressive, often raising with just about anything. Maniacs at the table tend to increase the variance considerably.

With all the maniacs at the table, I decided to just wait for the nuts and let the money come to me.

Middle Pair

If there are three cards of different ranks on the flop in hold'em, and you pair the middle one, you have middle pair.

I'll often raise with middle pair and an overcard.


See hit.


An extremely strong hand, one that is almost certain to win the pot.

It's often a bad idea to slowplay unless you make a monster.


The pile of discarded cards in front of the dealer, or the act of putting cards in this pile (and therefore taking them out of play).

The house rule is that as soon as the cards touch the muck, they are ineligible to win the pot.

After I mucked my hand, I realized that I should have called the bet.


As you might guess, any game in which there is no limit on the sizes of bets and raises. Note that in table stakes games, players are still limited to the amount of money they have in front of them.

Nuts (or Nut -)

The nuts is the best possible hand. This makes most sense in flop games like hold'em, where the community cards make the nuts pretty much the same for everyone. An exception is when your hole cards make a better hand impossible. If the board is AAK52, the nuts would be AA to an observer, but a player with AK would effectively hold the nuts (assuming the 2 and 5 didn't share a suit with one of the A's). In hold'em, the nuts is never less than trips. "Nut xxx" is used to refer to the best hand of a particular type, especially a straight or flush. If the table described above had the AK2 of spades, the nut flush would be the queen and any other spade.


A ratio of two probabilities, usually the probability of making a hand to the probability of not making the hand. Thus if you have a 25% chance of making a hand, the odds are 3 to 1 against your making it. In poker, this is especially important in considering pot odds.


Not of the same suit, especially in reference to hole cards. Sometimes abbreviated to just "off."

I'll play KT off suit occasionally, but never in early position.


Omaha is a flop game similar to hold'em, but with two key differences. First, each player is dealt four cards instead of just two. Second, a hand must be made using exactly two pocket cards (out of those four) and three from the table. That is, if four suited cards hit the table, you still need two more to make a flush. And if you start with four aces, then you have a pair of aces, with little chance to improve. The high-low variant of omaha, with an 8 or better qualifier for low, is especially popular.


The term "Omaha8" is simply shorthand for omaha high-low split, with an 8 or better qualifier for low, is especially popular.


See inside straight.


To open, or open betting, is simply to make the first bet in a round.

When everyone checked to me, I figured it was okay to open with middle pair.


See open-ended straight draw (right down there).

Open-Ended Straight (Draw)

An straight draw is open-ended if it consists of four consecutive cards (none of them an ace). The straight can be completed at either end. See also double belly buster and inside straight.

I had an open-ended straight draw. Really.

Open Pair

An open pair in seven card stud is an exposed pair - a pair among your up cards.


When a player posts a live blind, that player is given the option to raise when their turn comes around, even if no one else has raised. The dealer will typically say something like "your option," to remind them. See also straddle.


An out is a card that will improve your hand, usually one that you think will make it a winner. In hold'em, an open-ended straight draw has eight outs (the four cards of each rank that will complete the straight). But it may be only six outs if there are two suited cards on the table and someone else is drawing for the flush.

With all that money in the pot and fifteen outs, it seemed like a good idea to call the raise. Except that I was drawing dead on both the flush and the straight.


To make a better hand than an opponent by merit of the cards you draw.


See outdraw.

Over Button

In some games, players can take "over" buttons that mean they're willing to play at higher limits. Any time everyone left in the hand has an over button, the limits go up.


Any additional call after a bet is first called. Player A bets, player B calls, player C overcalls.


In flop games, a card higher than the highest card on the board. If you hold AJ and the flop is J92, you have top pair with an overcard. If the flop is T92, you just have two overcards.


In flop games, a pocket pair higher than the highest card on the board. If you hold AA and the flop is K62, you have a nice overpair.


A jack, king, or queen (i.e., a card with a picture on it).

Let's see some paint.


Two cards of the same rank. If you hold AAKJ3, you have a pair. See also top pair, middle pair, bottom pair, and two pair.


To pass is to fold.


Passive is a style of play that is characterized by reluctance to bet and raise. This does not always mean tight. A typical loose-passive player will call with almost anything, but raise only with very powerful hands (see calling station). A passive table is one with many passive players, so that, for example, few hands are raised pre-flop.


In draw games, a pat hand is one to which you draw no cards. In lowball, J7542 is a pat jack, but also offers a draw to a 7.

The other day I made pat straights twice in a row.

Pay Off

To call a bet by a player you're reasonably sure has you beat. Usually you ought to have some sort of reason to do this, other than just generosity. Weak players pay you off more often than other players.

I was pretty sure he had the flush, but with all that money in the pot I figured it was worth paying him off to be sure.


When you only have one way to make a hand, you need perfect cards. Usually this means two cards. If you hold 8JQ, you need two perfect cards for a straight. To catch perfect is to hit a perfect card.


Any of a number of variants of hold'em in which each player gets three cards and must discard one at some point (usually before or after pre-flop betting, after the flop, or after the second round of betting).


To play a hand in poker means to make it past the initial round of betting. In seven card stud, this usually means calling the bring-in, while in hold'em, this means calling the big blind. If someone says they haven't played a hand in hours, they're not usually telling you that they've been walking, they're whining that they haven't had cards good enough to play. Don't encourage them.

To make a play, or put a play on (someone), means to present a pattern of behavior inconsistent with your cards, that will mislead your opponent and cause them to make a mistake. Often this means bluffing them out of a pot, but it can also mean getting them to call when you have a strong hand, or more generally anything calculated to guide their behavior.

Play Back (at)

To play back at someone is to raise their opening bet.

Play the Board

In flop games like hold'em, if your best five card hand uses the five community cards, you're playing the board. The best you can do in this situation is split the pot with anyone who calls. Nevertheless, betting can be a good idea if you don't think anyone else can improve on the board either. For example, if the board is ThJhQdKdAd, someone would have to have two diamonds not to be playing the board.


The two cards dealt to you face down in hold'em, or the first two face down in seven card stud are your pocket cards, or hole cards. Hold'em players tend to call them pocket cards, stud players tend to call them hole cards. See also pocket pair.

Pocket Pair

Two pocket cards of the same rank.


Poker isn't just a card game - it's many card games. While no definition is going to satisfy everyone, the majority of poker games do share some common features, especially betting in rounds and the ranking of hands. Poker is commonly played in cardrooms (often within casinos) and in private home games (illegally in many states). The games played in cardrooms seem to divide into stud games, draw games, and flop games. In home games, however, anything goes, including games that seem to have no reason to be called poker. The varieties played in home games probably number in the hundreds, or even the thousands. Some common cardroom games include Texas Hold'em, Seven Card Stud, Omaha, Razz, Lowball, Pineapple, and Anaconda. (Okay, just kidding about the anaconda.)


Position refers to your place at the table, especially with respect to the order of betting within a particular betting round. The first few players to act are said to be in early position, the next few in middle position, and the last few in late position. Late position is almost always best, since you have the advantage of knowing what your opponents have done. For this reason, many players are more liberal about the hands they will play from later positions. In some games (most flop and draw games), position is fixed from one round of betting to the next, and the dealer (or the player on the button) is always in last position.

More generally, to have position on someone is to be in a position to bet after them, either during a particular hand or in general. You have position on anyone sitting immediately to your right, since you will far more often than not be able to act after them.

I didn't think he could've made the straight because he would've had to be playing 65 in early position. Shows what I know.

Position Bet

A position bet is a bet made more on the strength of one's position than on the strength of one's hand. A player on the button in hold'em is in good position to steal the pot if no one else opens.


To post a bet is to place your chips in the pot (or, commonly, out in front of you, so that your bet can be counted). In poker, posting usually means a forced bet, such as a blind.


All the money in the middle of the poker table that goes to the winner of the hand is the pot. Any player who has not yet folded is said to be "in the pot." A player who has called an initial bet is said to have entered the pot.


Any game in which the maximum bet or raise is the size of the pot. For raises, the size of the pot includes the call, so if the pot is $100 and player A bets $100, player B can throw $400 out for a maximum raise (calling the $100 and then raising the size of the $300 pot).

Pot Odds

The ratio of the amount of money in the pot to the amount of money it will cost you to call a bet. The greater the pot odds, the more likely you should be to call (all else being equal), because you will have to win fewer times (in the long run) to make the bet positive expectation.

I knew it was a longshot, but with all that money in the pot and a draw to the nuts, I had no choice but to call.


A nickname for pocket 5's, usually in hold'em. This nickname comes from the internet newsgroup rec.gambling (now, and is sometimes used among the readership of that newsgroup to identify other members.


Short for proposition player.

Proposition Player

A proposition player, or "prop," is a player who is paid by a cardroom to play poker, usually in order to keep games going when they get shorthanded, or to get games started. Props are paid a salary, but they gamble with their own money. Props either learn how to play pretty solid poker or they run out of money. See also shill.


To protect a hand is to bet so as to reduce the chances of anyone outdrawing you (by getting them to fold). A hand that needs protection is one that is almost certainly best, but that is vulnerable to being outdrawn. Large pots make it difficult to protect hands, since players will be willing to chase more long shots. The structure of a game has a large impact on how easy it is to protect a hand, as do the personalities of the players at the table. It's easiest to protect a hand in no-limit play, where you can potentially make it as expensive as you like for someone to draw.

To protect your cards is to place a chip or some other small object (players often have particular artifacts they like to use) on top of them so that they don't accidentally get mucked by the dealer, mixed with another player's discards, or otherwise become dead when you'd like to play them.


A provider is a poker player who makes the game profitable for the other players at the table. Similar in meaning to fish, although provider has a somehow less negative connotation. A provider might be a decent player who just happens to be playing out of his/her league. A fish is usually someone who's probably out of any league.


What the dealer does with the pot when he or she figures out who the winner is. Because of the nature of poker tables, the dealer can almost always orient him- or herself so as to be facing the winner of the pot. From this position, pushing the pot (literally, the chips in the pot) will result in the movement of the pot towards the winner of the hand, so that the player can add the chips to his or her stacks. Aren't you glad you asked?


A pushka is an arrangement between two or more players to share part of the pots they win, or more precisely, the container into which the shared chips are placed. Typically pushka partners will place as much as $10 from each pot won into a container, and split the container's contents later. I've only heard this term in Maryland, although apparently it's due to the Polish word for box, via Yiddish. Of course removing chips from the table is illegal in table stakes games. See also scoot.

Put On

To put someone on a hand (or on a draw) is to guess that that is what they are holding.

When she re-raised the flop, I tentatively put her on two pair.

When she flat called the re-raise, I put her on the flush draw.


Four of a kind.


In high-low split games, the qualifier is a requirement that a hand must meet in order to be eligible for part of the pot, generally the low part. See 8 or better.


To win one fourth of the pot is to be quartered. This is usually the result of splitting half the pot in a high-low split game.

Rabbit Hunting

Rabbit hunting is the act of asking to see what cards would have come up if a hand had continued. For example, if a hold'em player folds a flush draw, but would like to know if the flush would have come in, he or she might ask the dealer to deal out the next few cards. Some cardrooms prohibit it.


Poker chips can get a bit unwieldy in large quantities, so cardrooms usually supply plastic racks that hold 100 chips in 5 stacks of 20. A rack of red means a rack of red chips, typically worth $500. If someone asks for a rack, it usually means they're about to leave the table. If someone asks to buy a rack of red, it means they'd like to buy $500 in chips.

Someone is said to be "racking up" a game if they're winning a lot of money at the table.


A card, usually a low card, that, when it appears, has no apparent impact on the hand. A flop of 7 4 2 is a rag flop - few playable hands match the flop well. If the table shows QJT9, all of spades, a 2h on the river is a rag.

I didn't think anyone could've hit the flop when it came all rags.


The rail is the sideline at a poker table - the (often imaginary) rail separating spectators from the field of play. Watching from the rail means watching a poker game as a spectator. People on the rail are sometimes called railbirds.


Someone watching a game from the rail.


See rough.


Three or four cards of different suits, for example on a flop. (Two cards of different suits are unsuited and five is impossible.)

I figured my rockets were going to win when the flop came queen seven two, rainbow.


After someone has opened betting in a round, to increase the amount of the bet is to raise. For example, if the betting limit is $5 and player A bets $5, player B can fold, call the $5, or raise it to $10. Knowledgeable poker players sometimes get irritated when someone says raise to indicate an opening bet. But they usually know what you mean.


The money removed from each pot by the house. Medium and high-limit games typically have a time charge rather than a rake. A typical Atlantic City low-limit rake is 10% of the pot up to a $4 maximum. The same table in California may rake just the big blind, with the small blind going towards a jackpot.

Despite all the bad players, the high rake made it hard to turn a profit at the game.


Each card has a suit and a rank. The eight of diamonds and the eight of hearts have the same rank. A pair is two cards of the same rank. Come on, you know this.


Seven card stud played for low (ace to five) only.


To read someone is to have a good idea from their play (or through tells) what their cards might be. To have a read on someone is to have a good understanding of how they play. Reading players is an important skill in poker, because... well, if you can't figure out why, it's going to be hard to explain here.


When you first sit down at a game, you buy in with a certain amount of money. Re-buying is what you do when you buy more chips before you leave.

Re-buys are also allowed in some tournaments to players who fall below a certain point - usually only up until a certain point and often limited to a fixed number of re-buys. The time during which one may re-buy, usually lasting from the start through the early stages of the tournament, is called the re-buy period. Tournaments with re-buys are called, generically, re-buy tournaments. See also add-on.

I had to re-buy after the second hand when I had quads shot down.


Red is the most common color for $5 chips. If someone bets a stack of red, it means they're betting a bunch of $5 chips, probably 20 of them. See also white, black, and green.


A way to further improve your hand after hitting a draw is a redraw. For example, if you hold 9s2s (on the big blind of course) and the flop comes JsTs3c, you have a flush draw. If the turn is the 8s, you have made your flush and picked up a straight flush redraw.


To bet in such a way as to indicate that you have a certain hand. For instance, when you check-raise after the third suited card hits the board in hold'em, you are representing a flush, even if you don't actually have one.


Any raise after the first raise in a round. Player A bets, player B raises, player C (or A) re-raises. See also cap and check-raise.

Ring Game

A bunch of people playing poker for money at a table in a cardroom. The term ring game is used to differentiate such games from tournaments.

Tournaments are fun, but I much prefer ring games.


The last of five community cards in flop games (e.g. hold'em and omaha). Sometimes called fifth street. Sometimes "river" is used to refer to the last card in non-flop games, such as seven card stud.


A player who plays an extremely tight, patient game is a rock. Rocks don't create a lot of action, and when they enter a pot, more often than not they're in as a favorite. This is a decent strategy at some tables (especially at a table full of maniacs). But good players with more varied strategies will eventually get the best of a real rock.

Rock Garden

A table populated with rocks.

I never play there anymore, it's a real rock garden.


Or "pocket rockets" - a pair of aces in the hole.


Short for bankroll.

Rolled Up

In seven card stud, three of a kind on the first three cards are called rolled up X's, where X is the rank of the cards. The hand and the player can both be said to be rolled up.

I didn't outdraw you, I was rolled up.

I haven't had a rolled up hand in weeks.

Root Canal

A really unpleasant form of dental surgery.


A hand of a particular type that will not beat many other hands of that type. Often used in low games to indicate non-nut low hands with a particular high card. A rough 8 in ace to five lowball could be any eight high hand other than 8432A, although 8532A isn't too rough. Rough is the opposite of smooth.


A round can refer either to a round of betting or a round of hands. A betting round usually begins after a card or several cards are dealt. Each player is given a chance to act, and the round ends when everyone has either folded to or called the last bet or raise. (See it.) Each round of betting is followed either by further dealing or by a showdown.

A round of hands consists of one hand dealt by each player at the table (or, when there's a house dealer, one hand with the dealer button at each position). In a round of hold'em you're in each position once, and you expect on average to hold the best hand once (although you will fold it pre-flop and kick yourself for the rest of the evening).

One more round and I'm outta here. (round of hands)

After I missed the check-raise I made sure to open the next round. (round of betting)

Royal Straight Flush

An ace high straight flush is a royal straight flush, or a royal flush, or just a royal. Some traditionalists dislike the phrase "royal flush" (preferring "ace high straight flush"), but no one dislikes the hand. It's the most powerful hand in casino poker.


A hand made on the last two cards. A player holding 55, with a board of AA455, in that order, makes runner-runner quads. See also backdoor.


Two needed cards that come as the last two cards dealt are said to be running.

I had nothing when I called his re-raise, but I caught running 7's to lay that bad beat on him.


A player who wins a large number of pots in a short period of time is said to be on a rush. Some players feel superstitiously that a rush is an independent entity, and will "play their rush" or "bet their rush" after winning a few pots - play looser and more aggressively, or just be certain to play out each hand until the rush ends. Sometimes this isn't such a bad idea if the other players at the table are superstitious as well and will fold.

I was down about $500 after two hours of bad beats, but then I went on a monster rush and made it all back in three hands.


Sandbagging means concealing your strength for the purpose of increasing your profit. In poker, this usually means slowplaying in the early betting rounds in order to extract more profit on the later rounds. Especially when called "sandbagging," this practice sometimes has the negative connotation -- usually among occasional or less serious players -- of being a hostile or marginally unethical way to play. Experienced players regard it as just another part of the game, a vital strategic tool. The same is true for check-raising, which bears some resemblance to slowplaying.

Scare Card

A card that when it appears makes a better hand more likely. In hold'em, a third suited card on the river is a scare card, because it makes a flush possible. If you're pretty sure your opponent paired a king on the flop, an ace on the turn is a scare card. Scare cards will often make it difficult for the best hand to bet, and offer an opportunity for bluffing. Obviously such cards are scarier in pot-limit or no-limit games.


To win an entire pot, especially in high-low split games.

When he failed to make his low, I scooped.


Scooting is the practice of passing chips to another player after winning a pot. Typically, scooting partners will agree to "scoot" each other a predetermined number of chips after winning each pot. This is at least technically illegal at most table stakes games, but single chips can often be scooted anyway.

Seat Charge

See time charge.

Seating List

In most cardrooms, if there is no seat available for you when you arrive, you can put your name on a list to be seated when a seat opens up. Typically, games are listed across the top of a board, and names are written below each game so that players are seated for games in the order in which they arrive. See also table change.

Second Pair

See middle pair.


To call a bet is sometimes referred to as seeing it. This usage comes up often in the context of string bets, when players more familiar with home poker say things like, "I'll see your fifty and raise you a hundred."


A semi-bluff is similar to a bluff, except that the semi-bluffer has some chance of making a winning hand. The idea behind a semi-bluff is that while neither the bluff nor the draw might be positive expectation, in combination they could be. Betting a weak draw is often only correct as a semi-bluff.

Serious Poker

Serious poker players like to distinguish the game they play from the average weekly penny poker game. Although these things tend to be relative (a 10-20 hold'em game might not seem so serious to someone used to playing 150-300), some particular features common to home games tend to make the game less "serious." Most irksome to the serious player is probably a proliferation of zany, poorly thought-out games, often involving wild cards, and sometimes having little in common with other poker games. While some serious players like the challenge of having to develop a strategy on-line for a game that was just invented, many feel it just increases the luck factor. Less serious games also tend to involve very low stakes, because they are played for fun, and not out of either a deep interest in poker or in making money at it.

Serious Poker is also the title of a book I wrote, that I think has a lot to offer both novice and more experienced players. Click here for more information.

Hey Bob, wanna play poker with the guys tomorrow?
Sorry, Ted, I only play serious poker. Also you irritate me.


Three of a kind with two in the hole.

If I don't flop a set with 22, I almost always fold immediately.

Seven Card Stud

Of the poker games most commonly played in public cardrooms, seven card stud is probably the most well known. In seven card stud (sometimes "seven stud" or just "stud"), each player is dealt seven cards of their own: two down, then four up, and a final card down. There is a round of betting after the first up card and after each subsequent card dealt.

Stud is usually played with a small ante and a forced bring-in on third street. In limit games, the bet size typically increases on fifth street.


A shill is similar to a proposition player, except a shill gambles with the cardroom's money instead of his/her own.


A tournament format in which a single player ends up with the entire prize money, or in which play continues at each table until only one player remains.

Short Stack

A short stack is a stack that's too small to cover the likely betting in a hand. A player who has such a stack is said to be short-stacked. This has advantages (e.g., that you cannot be pressured to fold) and disadvantages (e.g., that you cannot get maximum value from your winning hands). Asking whether or not this is a good thing over all is a good way to start an argument.

The phrase "short stack" can also refer to the players at a table (especially in no-limit or pot-limit play, often in a tournament) who have the least money in front of them.

After building up a big chip lead in the tourney, I proceeded to beat up on the short stacks.


A game is said to be shorthanded when it falls below a certain number of players. Most poker tables accomodate nine or ten players. Five players is clearly shorthanded, nine players is clearly not. Since many people are uncomfortable playing shorthanded, some cardrooms make special provisions for shorthanded tables - reducing the blinds or the rake, or providing shills or props. Since the number of players at a table has a significant impact on strategy, learning to play well shorthanded is an important skill. This is especially true in tournaments, where shorthanded play is much more common (if you last long enough).


When all the betting's done, if more than one player is still in the pot, showdown is the process of figuring out who wins. Usually the last player to open or raise is required to show their cards first, and anyone else can try to muck their cards if they decide they've lost. However, in most cardrooms any player who reaches showdown (or calls the final bet) can be asked to show their cards. When used to describe the process, showdown is one word. When used to describe what each player does at that point, it's usually two words.

Only one hand made it to showdown in the entire hour.

I was embarassed to show down such ugly cards.

Show One Show All

Most cardrooms have a rule, generally referred to as "show one show all," that if a player shows their cards to anyone at the table they can be asked to show everyone else (even if they would ordinarily not be required to show their hand). This usually comes up at the end of a hand that did not reach showdown (e.g., if a player shows a friend a successful bluff). Obviously showing one's hand to someone else who has cards is illegal for more reasons.


Before each hand, the dealer shuffles the cards - mixes them up in order to make their order as unpredictable as possible. Most cardrooms have fairly specific requirements for how the cards are to be shuffled.

Side Pot

See main pot and all-in. If you still don't know what a side pot is, we can't help you.


"Sir" is one of those confusing terms that can have a completely different meaning at the poker table than elsewhere. If someone says "nice hand, sir," after you win a big pot, what they are really saying is, "congratulations on winning money through your own stupidity, you clueless moron." The word "sir," when uttered in this context, somehow absorbs all the venomous thoughts the person is feeling, although if you listen carefully you can often hear them rattling around in there. Note that people at the poker table do sometimes use the word in its less colloquial sense, simply as a polite expression of mild respect. It's up to you to figure out who means what.

To the best of my recollection, I've never heard "ma'am" used in this way, although I'm sure it can be.


When you play passively, you are playing slow. See speed.


To slowplay is to underbet a very strong hand (i.e., to play it slow, except that when used in this way it's made into one word). The purpose of slowplaying a hand is to give other players the chance to make stronger second-best hands, and also to conceal the strength of your hand. Instead of betting early and risking the loss of future action, slowplay means checking and calling. It's of course best to slowplay when you have a hand that no one is likely to actually catch (e.g., four of a kind). Slowplay is not the same thing as check-raising, but the two strategic options are similar in that both are often intended to trap more money in the pot in situations where you are fairly sure you will win.

I tried to slowplay my quad nines and walked right into a straight flush.


To reveal one's hand slowly at showdown, one card at a time, is to slowroll anyone else who thinks the pot might be theirs. This is usually only done with a winning hand, for the purpose of irritating other players (well, some people do it innocently).

Small Bet

See big bet.

Small Blind

See blind bet.


The best possible low hand with a particular high card. 8432A is a smooth 8. See also rough.

Smooth Call

To call one or more bets with a hand that's strong enough for a raise, with the intention of trapping more money in the pot. Smooth call is like flat call, although it more strongly connotes a powerful hand that one is trying to slowplay.

Snap Off

To beat someone, often a bluffer, and usually with a not especially powerful hand, is to snap them off.

I snapped off his pair of eights with my small two pair.


Speed refers to the level of aggressiveness with which you play. Fast play is more aggressive, slow play is more passive. Good players may change speeds so that their play will not be so predictable.


Someone who is caught bluffing is sometimes said to be caught speeding. See speed and table cop for more of this metaphor.

Splash (the pot)

To throw your chips into the pot, instead of placing them in front of you, is to splash the pot. Doing so can make it difficult for the dealer to determine if you've bet the correct amount, or to keep track of the action.

Split Pot

In a game that isn't high-low split, a hand in which two players show down the same hand (especially in games with community cards) results in a pot split between those two players. In a high-low split game, of course, many hands result in split pots.


When a cardroom starts a table for a particular game, it is said to spread that game. If you want to know what games are played in a particular place, you can ask what they spread.

We don't spread high only stud.

Spread Limit

Betting limits in which there is a fixed minimum and maximum bet for each betting round, and any amount in between these limits may be bet. See structure.


The amount of money you have in front of you on the poker table (i.e., stack of chips). Often used in the plural. See also short stack.

A stack can also refer to a particular number of chips. Most chip racks take stacks of 20 chips. Many players like to keep their chips in stacks of particular numbers of chips. I favor 10-chip stacks, but most players seem to opt for 20 to 30.

I was doing well earlier, but my stacks have been dwindling.


To (attempt to) steal a pot is to make a bet when it appears no one else has anything. A player who raises from the small blind when everyone else has folded (and who is therefore competing only against the big blind) is likely to be on a steal. Similarly with a player who opens from late position when it's checked around on the flop.


A player who is on tilt is sometimes said to be steaming. A steam raise is a raise made more out of frustration than out of strategic concerns.

Steel Wheel

A straight flush, five high. That is, A2345 of the same suit. A pretty nice hand to have in a high-low split game.


In a game played with blinds, the player under the gun may raise before looking at their cards, effectively posting an additional blind bet. This is called a straddle. House rules often make these bets live, so that the player who posts a live straddle has the option of raising when it's their turn again, even if no one has re-raised. It's hard to imagine a good reason to do this in limit poker, although some players like to do it to liven up a tight table, or for advertising value.


A hand composed of five cards of consecutive ranks (aces count as high or low). A2345 is a five high straight, or a straight to the five. 789TJ is a jack high straight, or a straight to the jack. TJQKA is an exercise for the reader (but see broadway). In comparing straights, the straight to the higher card wins.

Straight Flush

A hand consisting of five cards of consecutive ranks of the same suit. A straight flush is the strongest possible hand. Of two straight flushes, the one with the highest high card is better. An ace high straight flush is often called a royal flush or a royal straight flush, or just a royal.


The cards that come out one at a time in a card game are sometimes referred to as different numbered streets. The door card in seven card stud is third street, and subsequent cards are numbered consecutively. In hold'em and other flop games, players sometimes refer to the turn and river as fourth and fifth street.

String Bet

Most cardrooms (and serious home games) require you to make your entire bet at once. In other words, you can't raise by putting out enough to call and then reaching back to your stack for your raise. As well, since verbal statements are considered binding at most poker games, if you say "I call your bet and raise you ten more," you have called, since the raise was added afterwards. To be on the safe side, when you want to raise it's best to say "raise" so that your bet won't be mistaken. The reason for the string bet rule is to prevent players from strategically misleading other players about the size of their bet (see angle). Note that movie and television depictions of poker games are filled with egregious examples of string bets.


The structure of a game refers to the details about the betting, including antes, blinds, and the amount that may be bet on any round. In cardrooms, games are typically posted along with shorthand for the limits. For example, 5-10 hold'em is usually a fixed limit game, played with $5 bets and raises pre-flop and on the flop, and $10 bets and raises on the turn and the river. This usually generalizes to any game where the structure is X-2X. Games with more complicated structures sometimes spell it out like this: 5-10-10-15. Spread limit games are ones in which the betting in a given round is constrained to a particular range. So a 1-4 spread limit game would allow a bet from $1 to $4 on any round (often constrained that a bet or raise must be at least the size of the previous action). Many different structures are possible, and the sizes of antes and blinds vary from game to game. The structure of a game has a substantial impact on appropriate strategy.

In connection with tournaments, structure can also mean anything having to do with the amount of money in tournament chips players can get, the rebuy and add-on rules, and the way in which the blinds increase.

I was reluctant to dive right in because of the unfamiliar structure.


Losing money, usually enough so you'd notice.

I was stuck about $200 after that hand, but I couldn't quit.

Even the best players in the world get stuck sometimes.


Usually short for seven card stud. Also refers to stud games in general, including five card stud, in which each player is dealt a number of non-shared cards and must use only those cards. May be contrasted with flop games and draw games.

Suck Out

To win a hand by virtue of hitting a very weak draw, often with poor pot odds.


You know, clubs, diamonds, hearts, spades.


Of the same suit.

I almost never play 98 unless it's suited.


To sweat someone is to watch them play from the rail, in order to lend your support.


The word "table" can be used to refer to community cards, the poker table itself, or the players at the table as a group.

When the case 9 hit the table, I checked.

The table was playing tight, so I was bluffing more than usual.

This is a nice table, I especially like the cup holders.

Table Change

If you're playing at a public cardroom, and you'd like to play at a table other than the one you're currently at, you can ask the floor for a table change. Different cardrooms handle this differently, but typically you'll be moved as soon as an opening develops, and a player from the seating list will be moved into your seat.

Table Cop

A player who calls with the intention of keeping other players honest (e.g., to snap off bluffs) is said to be playing table cop. Also a player who makes an effort to point out violations (significant and otherwise) of casino rules (e.g., reminding other players to act in turn, which is properly the responsibility of the dealer).

Table Stakes

Table stakes is simply the (nearly universal) rule that a player may only wager money they have on the table at the beginning of a hand. Usually it also implies that money may not be removed from the table at any time (exceptions are made for tipping), although money may be added to one's stacks between hands. A player who goes all-in at a table stakes game may not continue to bet, and is eligible only for the main pot. Sometimes "table stakes" also implies no-limit play.

To the best of my knowledge, Maryland is the only place where most of the games are not table stakes, although the Maryland rules seem to change fairly often.

Table Talk

Any discussion at the table of the hand currently underway, especially by players not involved in the pot, and especially any talk that might affect play. Depending on the nature of the discussion, table talk is often considered somewhere between rude and an act of war. The most common example of table talk to be avoided is announcing what cards you've folded. If the flop is 888 and you shout "Damn!" or slam your fist into the table, you've done a disservice to anyone at the table who thought they might like to represent quads. See also coffeehousing.


A tell is any habit or behavior that gives other players more information about your hand than they would have simply from your play. For instance, you might unconsciously play with your chips every time you bluff. Or you might notice that another player blinks a lot whenever he has a strong hand. Mike Caro's "The Body Language of Poker" describes a large number of tells that can often be seen in inexperienced (and experienced) players.

I picked up reliable tells on two players at the table, so my evening was very profitable.

Texas Hold'em

Texas Hold'em (or just "hold'em") is a poker game in which each player gets two pocket cards, while five community cards are dealt face-up on the table. The strength of a player's hand is the best hand that can be made with these seven cards. There is a round of betting after the pocket cards are dealt, after the first three community cards (the flop), after the fourth, or turn card, and after the final, or river card.

Three of a kind

Three cards of the same rank. Also called trips. For example, if you hold 888AK, you have trip 8's.


Playing tight simply means playing fewer hands and folding them earlier. In essence, tight with your cash. A tight table is a table dominated by tight players. Tightness is frequently described as a good thing, and especially at low levels of play can be a big advantage over players who will always pay you off. Tightness should not be confused with passivity. Many good players recommend a tight aggressive strategy.

He was playing so tight, when he finally played a hand we all folded pre-flop.


Good poker seems to require good discipline. However, even good players are often tempted to do things they know are bad ideas when they get frustrated, angry, or upset for any reason. They go "on tilt." Sort of like a pinball machine, except with pinball it only costs you a quarter. Typical tilt play is much too loose and often very aggressive, beacause a player on tilt wants very badly to win a pot, and isn't rational enough to wait for cards that are worth playing or situations that are worth attacking.

When he started raising every hand, I thought he was on tilt, but it turned out he just had an incredible run of good cards.


If the house doesn't drop from the pot but instead collects money from each player periodically, this is called a time charge, or a seat charge, and you're said to be "paying time" to play.

"Time" is also what you're supposed to say whenever you need more than about a second to decide what to do.

To Go

An amount "to go" is the amount it takes to enter the pot. In limit flop games, this is usually the amount of the big blind, but if someone raises in a 5-10 game, they're making it ten to go. In some pot-limit and no-limit games, an initial call is more than the largest of the forced bets, so the game might have blinds of $5 and $10 and be $20 to go.


A tip, usually a tip to the dealer affer winning the pot. Tips are usually between $.50 and $3, depending on the limit, the size of the pot, and the generosity of the player.

I toked the dealer an extra couple bucks because it was my first straight flush in over a year.

Top Pair

If there are three cards of different ranks on the flop in hold'em (or any flop game), and you pair the highest one, you have top pair.

Even though the board was suited, I bet out when I flopped top pair.


The general idea behind poker tournaments is that a bunch of poker players sit down with the same number of chips, and eventually only one player has any chips left. In order to ensure that the event will finish in reasonable time, tournaments institute a schedule by which the blinds and/or antes increase. Tournaments are usually played with chips that have no value outside of the tournament. So a buy-in of $30 might get you $500 in tournament chips to play with, but you can't cash them out in the middle. The winner of a tournament (the last player to bust out) as well as several of the other top finishers are typically awarded prize money according to some predetermined schedule.

Tournament details vary widely, but a typical arrangement might include an initial buy-in, a re-buy period during which a player who runs out of tournament chips may buy more, and an opportunity to add on to one's stack after the re-buys have ended. Other details about the structure can vary widely.

See also shootout and freezeout.


Three of a kind.


Money is trapped in the pot if it faces the imminent danger of becoming dead money. Typically you're trapped if after putting some money in the pot you're faced with the proposition of calling a raise in order to continue, especially an uncomfortably large raise. A player is also said to be trapped if caught calling (e.g. on a draw) between two other players who keep raising and re-raising each other.


Threes are sometimes called treys. So 33377 can be called treys full of sevens.


The fourth of five community cards in flop games (e.g. hold'em and omaha). Sometimes called fourth street.

Two Pair

A hand consisting of two cards of one rank, and two cards of another rank (and an unpaired card). AA883 is two pair, sometimes also called aces up. Wise guys often describe their quads as two pair. "Let's see, I got a pair of tens and... another pair of tens." Bad things happen to wise guys.

Under the gun

The first player to act after the blind bets is said to be under the gun. See also position and straddle.

I'll play those cards occasionally, but never under the gun.


When two hands face off, the underdog is the one that's less likely to win than the other. As with many of the terms in this dictionary, this isn't poker terminology, this is just English.


Aces up is two pair with aces as the higher pair. Kings up is two pair with kings as the higher pair. Are you getting this?

In stud games, your face-up, exposed cards are also just called your up cards.


There are many potential reasons to bet or raise (e.g., to get people to fold, to manipulate the size of the pot, to express anger, to impress someone watching from the rail, etc.). Betting for value is one of the better ones. Value means the return you get on your investment; the expected increase in your equity in the pot (your return), as compared to the size of your bet or raise (your investment). Typically this means either that you believe you will receive action from inferior hands, or that the the chance you will win the hand makes the bet worthwhile.


If you have a sufficient advantage at the game you're playing, you expect to make money over the long haul. This is true whether the game is poker, blackjack, or craps, and whether your advantage is due to skill, cheating, or psychic powers. However, over a small period of time, you may do better or worse than what your average should be. For example, you may expect to make one big bet per hour at the poker table, but in a given hour it may not be uncommon for you to win or lose twenty big bets. Variance is the statistical measure of dispersion, or just how widely your results will be distributed. When variance is high enough, a small advantage may be of no use during your lifetime. When variance is low enough, a small sample will be much more likely to reflect your real advantage (or disadvantage). In other words, variance describes just how long the long haul is. In poker terms, high variance means that a small number of hands will not be very representative of your long-term expectation.

Here's a simple non-poker example. A slot machine that pays you $1 every time you put two quarters into it (or vice versa) has no variance whatsoever. Your expected win (or loss) is $.50 per spin, and you get exactly that every spin. On the other hand, a slot machine that takes the same two quarters (or $1) and usually just eats them but one time in ten thousand spits back $10,000 (or 5,000) will have identical expectation. If you play enough games, you will tend to average the same $.50 per spin profit (or loss). But because you need so many more spins to get a representative sample of the possible outcomes, your variance is very large.

Variance is such a strong contributor to poker results that it often obscures the importance of good play. The best player at the table may start with the best cards and still have far less than a 50 percent chance of winning the hand. A skilled professional can lose money over days or weeks, without necessarily doing anything wrong. And while bad play may have negative expectation, it is often rewarded in the short term - players who draw for incredible longshots do sometimes get lucky, despite their poor judgement. Variance is what makes losing players think they have a chance in the long run, and what gives them a real chance in the short run.

Situations in poker may be higher or lower in variance. For example, in a situation where you know it will cost you a few bets to draw for a real longshot, but the pot is large enough to justify the calls, your expectation may be positive while your variance will be much higher than you'd like. This sort of situation is typical of high-variance bets - high potential payoff with a small probability of winning. As well, different qualities of the other players at the table can contribute to your overall variance at a given table. If many of the players are maniacs, willing to cap the betting and see the flop with any two cards, your variance may be high at that table. On the other hand, exceptionally weak and passive players, who may fold a high proportion of the time when they are raised, will reduce your variance. Obviously the variance you experience in your play will be affected not just by the nature of the game, but also by your style of play and by the styles of those you play with.

Although in the context of poker it's often used loosely, "variance" is a statistical term with a precise definition. Given accurate estimates of your variance and expectation (along with some assumptions about the distribution of your outcomes), it is easy to calculate confidence intervals, or ranges, within which your results are most likely to fall over different periods of time. If all this is news to you, pick up a book. Learning a little about statistics wouldn't kill you, especially if you want to play poker seriously.


To walk in poker is to be away from the table long enough to miss one or more hands. Such people, and/or people who do so frequently, are called walkers. Depending on local conditions, walkers may be off getting food, smoking, playing craps, or waiting for more fish to sit down. Or something else, who knows what these mysterious people do? Most cardrooms have well-defined but poorly enforced rules about walkers - i.e., that a player's chips may be picked up (by the house, that is) after they've been gone for some specific amount of time. Too many walkers at a table can cause it to break, often through an unfortunate chain reaction. Once one or two players get up from the table, it makes it more likely for others to walk, or just leave.


A style of play characterized by a readiness to fold and a reluctance to raise. Weak is also used to generally describe a poor player or a table that's easy to beat.


See bicycle wheel.


White is the most common color for $1 chips. See also red, black, and green.

Wild Card

A card that can serve as any other card in making your hand. For example, if tens are wild, and you have four aces and a ten, then your hand is five aces. Obviously wild cards make for some odd games. See also bug and serious poker.


A pair in the hole in seven card stud is a wired pair.

"Wired" can also describe someone who's had a few gallons of coffee trying to stay alert through an all-night poker game.