Poker Terminology

Poker, like all other activities, has a technical jargon that allows its participants to concisely communicate situations, actions and ideas. As with any jargon, it is gibberish to the uninitiated even though the words often have simple meanings. Poker vocabulary is extensive and cryptic at times. However, because it simplifies the writing I will make frequent use of some terms that describe key ideas in stud games and high-low games in particular. The terms explained below are used throughout the site.

all in— when a player places all his or her remaining chips on the table into the pot. Players going all in do not call additional bets, and they cannot compete for additional bets made by other players, which go into a separate side pot.

ante—an initial contribution to the pot that all players must make to be dealt cards. In popular Seven-Card games such as Seven-Card Stud, Seven-Card Stud High-Low Eight or Better, and Razz, the ante is approximately one-fifth of the first betting limit ($0.20 in a game with $1-$2 limits).

back in—a hand that plays out differently than intended. For example a player with a pair of kings at the beginning who then receives four additional cards of a suit matching one of the kings has “backed in” to a flush.

bet— to place money in the pot that other players must match to remain in the hand.

bicycle—a five-card hand consisting of A, 2, 3, 4, 5 of different suits. In high poker this is a 5-high straight. In low poker this is a 5-high low, which is the best low hand possible.

board—the exposed cards for the hands in play. board games—poker variants in which a fraction of the cards dealt to each player are exposed. Popular board games include Seven-Card Stud, Five-Card Stud, Razz, and Seven-Card Stud High-Low Eight or Better. Variants such as Omaha and Hold’em are not board games because only the community cards are exposed on the board. The cards dealt to each of the players are known only to them (see also stud games).

bluffing—betting on a weak hand in order to convince others that the hand is strong.

brick—a card dealt that does not improve the ranking of its hand.

bring-in—a forced bet after the initial deal. In board games such as Seven-Card Stud and Seven-Card Stud High-Low the player with the lowest exposed card must initiate betting action after the deal by making a minimum bet of approximately one-quarter of the first betting limit ($0.25 in a game with $1-$2 limits). In Razz it is the player with the highest exposed card that makes the bring-in bet.

call—to match another player’s bet.

community cards—exposed cards that all players can use to form their hands. The poker variants of Hold’em, Omaha, and Omaha High-Low all use community cards.

complete—the option in the first round of betting in stud games to raise the bring-in bet to the maximum allowed by the limits. For example, in a $1-$2 Stud game with a bring-in of $0.25, players acting after the bring-in bet can call the $0.25 or complete by raising to $1. At the beginning of betting, the bring-in also has the option of completing instead of making of the minimum forced $0.25 bet.

connected cards—a group of cards with sequential ranks.

dead hand—a hand that cannot improve, either because the cards needed are exposed in other hands, or because all possible improvements will not be enough to win. Also refers to a hand, that for any reason, can no longer contest the pot. For example, players absent or disconnected when it is their turn to act will have their hands declared dead.

door-card – the one exposed card of the initial starting cards in stud games.

drawing hand—a hand that must improve in order to win.

eight or better—the rule in many split-pot games that for a hand to win the low pot it cannot contain a card ranked higher than an 8. In the event that no low hand meets the “eight or better” condition the high hand is awarded the entire pot.

exposed-pair—two cards of the same rank face-up in a player’s hand.

flop—the first three exposed cards, which are shown all at once, in a poker variant that uses community cards.

flop games—poker variants that use community cards such as Hold’em, Omaha, and Omaha High-Low.

fold—to give up your cards and forfeit interest in contesting the pot (see also muck).

fold equity—value from betting that arises from the likelihood that the other players will fold and no showdown will be necessary.

freerolling— the ability to make bets and raises that cannot lose, but have the potential to win additional money.

high cards— the cards ranked Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9.

high-low poker—poker variants in which half the pot is awarded to the best high hand and half the pot to the lowest hand.

Hold’em— the most popular variation of poker. In Hold’em each player is dealt two cards at the beginning the hand, none of which are exposed. There is a round of betting, followed by the exposure of three cards on the table that all the players can use to form their hands (community cards). There is a second round of betting followed by the exposure of a fourth community card, a third round of betting followed by exposure of a fifth community card. A final fourth round of betting precedes the showdown. At showdown, players have seven available cards—five on the board plus the two they hold from the initial deal. The best five of these seven cards forms the players’ high hands.

jamming— betting or raising with the intention of re-raising if that option returns before the round of betting closes.

kicker—an unmatched card in a hand that is not part of a combination. The starting hand A, A, 2, is a pair of Aces with a 2 kicker.

limit games—betting structures that set fixed amounts for bets and raises for each round of betting. Board games are always played with a limit betting structure. In contrast, flop games are played with a variety of betting structures that include: limit, pot-limit, and no-limit.

limp—another word for call, which is the act of matching another player’s bet.

live hand—a hand that has the possibility of improving from additional cards to come. For example, a pair (two cards of the same rank) is “live” if the other two cards with the same rank have not been exposed in the hands of the other players.

low cards—the cards ranked Ace, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.

muck—to give up your cards and forfeit interest in contesting the pot (see also fold).

no-limit—a betting structure where in any betting round, the players can bet any amount up to what they have on the table.

nuts— the highest possible hand that can be formed given the current cards on the board.

nut-low— the lowest possible hand that can be formed given the current cards on the board.

nut-high—the highest possible hand in a high-low split pot game.

Omaha—a poker variant that like Hold’em, is played with community cards. In Omaha each player is dealt four cards at the beginning the hand, none of which are exposed. There is a round of betting, followed by the exposure of three cards on the table that all the players can use to form their hands (community cards). There is a second round of betting followed by the exposure of a fourth community card, a third round of betting followed by exposure of a fifth community card. A final fourth round of betting precedes the showdown. At showdown, players must use two and only two of the cards dealt to them, along with three of the five community cards, to form their best high hand.

Omaha High-Low Eight or Better—a variation of Omaha in which the high and low hands split the pot. Each player is allowed to form two different hands, one using any two of their pocket cards to make the best possible high, and one using any two of their pocket cards to make the best possible low. To claim the low pot, there can be no card higher than an eight in the low hand. Straights and flushes do not count in determining low. If no low hand qualifies, the high hand wins the entire pot.

outs—cards that will improve a hand. For example, if you have four to a flush, there are nine outs for making a flush.

position— a player’s turn to act in a hand relative to the other players. A player in an early position is one of the first to act; a player in a late position is one of the last.

pot—the sum total of all the antes, bets, and raises contested by the players during the play of a poker hand.

pot-limit—a betting structure that allows players to make bets and raises in any amount up to the amount currently in the pot.

quartered— a situation in a split-pot game in which two players split half of the pot either because they tied for the best high hand or tied for the best low hand.

quads—four cards of the same rank.

qualified low—a hand that meets the conditions for claiming the low half of the pot. Most high-low poker games have an “eight or better” rule as a condition for awarding half of the pot to the lowest hand. To qualify for the low pot, the five-card hand must have no cards ranked higher than an eight and no pairs. Aces are both lowest and highest ranked cards. Straights or flushes do not disqualify a hand from being low.

raise—both matching and increasing a bet made by another player.

rake—a fraction of each pot taken by the casino as a charge for running a poker game.

Razz—a variation of Seven-Card Stud in which the pot is awarded to the lowest ranked hand. There is no qualifying rule to win and, unless the best low hands are identical, no split-pots. Straights and flushes do not disqualify a hand from being low in Razz. Therefore, the best possible hand in Razz is a 5-high low, which would be A, 2, 3, 4, 5. The suits would not matter in the ranking of the hand.

rolled trips—a starting hand consisting of three cards of the same rank.

scoop—the act of winning the entire pot in a split-pot poker game. A player can scoop either by having the best high at showdown when no other hand qualifies for the low pot, or by simultaneously having the best high and best low hands.

Seven-Card Stud— a popular poker variant in which each player receives seven cards and uses five to form their hand. Each player receives three cards initially—two face down and one face-up. The next three cards are dealt face-up and the final card face down. There are five rounds of betting: one round after the initial three cards are dealt, and a round after each of the next four cards. The high hand wins the pot. In contrast to Hold’em, there are no shared cards in a Stud game. Players may only use the cards they receive.

Seven-Card Stud High-Low Eight or Better— a variation of Seven-Card Stud in which the high and low hands split the pot. Each player is allowed to form two different hands, one using the five cards that form the best possible high, and one using the five cards that make the best possible low. To claim the low pot, there can be no card higher than an eight in the low hand. Straights and flushes do not count in determining low. If no low hand qualifies, the high hand wins the entire pot.

showdown—the act of showing cards to determine the winners of a hand.

side pot—a separate pot created after one player goes “all in.” Additional money wagered by the players who are not all in goes into the side pot. The person going all in cannot compete for the side pot (see all in).

slow-play—representing a strong hand as weak by not betting in order to disguise the strength. The opposite of bluffing.

split-pair—two cards of the same rank with one card exposed.

Stud-Eight—a short name for Seven-Card Stud High Low Eight or Better.

stud games—variants of poker that deal a mix of exposed and un-exposed cards to the players. All cards dealt belong exclusively to the players receiving them. Popular variants in this group include: Seven-Card Stud, Five-Card Stud, Razz, and Seven-Card Stud High-Low Eight or Better.

table stakes—a rule requiring that all money put in play during a hand must be on the table before the hand begins.

tapped out—losing all the money placed on the table.

tell—a characteristic mannerism or behavior that indicates a player’s thinking.

trips—three cards of the same rank.

wheel—a short form of the word bicycle, which is the five-card hand—A, 2, 3, 4, 5. wheel cards—the cards ranked A, 2, 3, 4, 5.

wired-pair—two cards of the same rank with neither card exposed.