you’re getting confused watching the World Series of Poker or you simply want
to impress your friends, knowing poker slang can make you feel like an insider.
Learning it won’t make you a better player, but
it might help you have more fun at the tables and understand what other players
are talking about their hands and poker in general.
So it’s worth taking a few minutes to
understand the slang of the game we all love.
ABC poker is known as a basic and
straightforward strategy where players only play and bet strong hands and fold
everything else. It’s also known as playing by the book.
The term airball or airballing is used to
describe an action when the player is bluffing with complete “air”, meaning no
actual hand and no realistic chance of improving.
American Airlines is a common name for pocket
aces and comes from the hand’s abbreviation of “AA”.
Pocket aces, being the strongest hand in Texas Hold’em, have several other nicknames, another common one being “pocket rockets”.
The term “ammo” or “ammunition” is used to refer to a player’s chip stack. When you’re out of ammo, it means you no longer have chips.
You’ll find that a number of poker slang terms
have been borrowed from the military.
Angle shooting describes the action of trying to take advantage of other players using tactis that are not against the rules but are considered unethical.
You’ll usually find this term in the phrase
“shooting an angle”. An example would be a player who hides their big chip
denominations or falsely announces their hand at a showdown.
Another term borrowed from the military, poker arsenal describes the set of skills and plays a particular player has.
A player with a big arsenal is capable of
pulling different plays at different times to throw their opponents off and
take maximum advantage of a situation.
The better you know and understand all strategy
nuances and various moves, the more arsenal you have at the table.
The term belly buster is a common alternative
term used for a gutshot (inside) straight draw, meaning the kind of straight
draw where only four cards in the deck can be used to fill the gap and give the
player a made straight.
For example, if you have 98 on A65, you have a
belly buster because only one out of four 7s can make your straight.
Big Blind Special
If you’re a fan of poker shows, you’ll probably
have had an opportunity to hear this phrase quite often.
The big blind special describes a non-standard
combination of hole cards that a player would be unlikely to have in their
range, but they were able to see the flop because they were allowed to check
their option in the big blind or were getting excellent odds on a call.
Big Slick refers to the hand you definitely
want to play – Ace-King of any suit.
AK also has tons of popular names starting with the initials, such as Anna Kournikova, Korean Airlines, or AK-47 just to name a few.
Although a gory term that you won’t hear as much, “bloodbath” is sometimes used by poker commentators to describe a situation where two or more players are about to get involved in a huge pot.
This is usually a scenario where all involved
players have a big hand or a big draw, so it’s quite likely all chips will go
into the middle, resulting in several players being eliminated from the
tournament or having their stacks decimated.
The term brick is used to describe a card
that’s of no relevance to a current hand, and most likely did not change a
situation at the table.
The player who was ahead of his opponents in
previous rounds is probably still ahead after the brick hits the table.
For example, a 2c hitting on the turn after the
KQT flop with two hearts and a lot of action is the ultimate brick as it’s
virtually impossible that particular card helped any of the players involved.
Busting refers to losing all of your chips or
It can be used in a couple of different
situations, for example, you can be busted from the tournament because you lost
all of your chips.
The same could be said about cash games if you
lose all the money and you can’t reload anymore.
It could also refer to a situation where a player lost his entire bankroll and has no money to play poker anymore, so he is busted.
Poker players love naming different hands, and
sometimes you’ll come across a name that you’ve never heard before.
Cambodia is one such term, used to describe
74o. The suited version of the hand is sometimes referred to as “Cambodian
The term originates from New York City
cardrooms, but there’s no real explanation for where it got its name.
The term “cardrack” is used to describe a
player who’s been getting dealt good hands for the entire session or a
A “cardrack” will often go on a heater, getting big pocket pairs, hitting all of their draws, and stacking many players in the process.
The practice of chip dumping is only found in
poker tournaments and is when one player intentionally loses to another player
to transfer chips from one stack to another.
Players can chip dump for a variety of reasons,
but the most common scenario is when two players are colluding in a tournament
and one of them accumulates a big stack, allowing them to “share” some of their
Chip dumping is against the rules and can lead
to a tournament suspension or even money confiscation if players get caught
The term “clicking buttons” originated from online poker, but it’s also used in live games these days.
It’s used to describe actions that don’t really
make sense and are done just for the sake of doing something, mostly referring
to players who don’t understand what they’re doing.
An excellent example of a player “clicking
buttons” would be a player min-raising after an open and three calls. Their raise
achieves nothing of substance and is against any common sense or poker
Modern-day poker relies heavily on math and
numbers. People have come up with all sorts of calculations, especially for the
Someone worked out that the hand Q7o was the
worst profitable starting hand with slightly positive equity against a random
hand. This is how it got nicknamed the “computer hand”.
A cooler is
used to describe a situation where both players have a very strong hand and no
matter how they play it, all of their money is likely to end up in the middle
of the pot.
A cooler is
a situation that can’t be avoided and ends up costing one of the players a lot
You’ll often hear this term used by the players
and poker commentators alike, so you should remember that “cowboys” refers to
pocket kings (KK).
When you’re dealt any combination of pocket
threes, you’re dealt crabs.
The nickname likely originates from the fact
the number three on the cards is somewhat similar to a sideways crab.
Credit Card Roulette
Although this isn’t strictly a poker term, you’ve
probably heard it a few times, especially if you like to tune in for streams
and podcasts of highs stakes players.
Credit card roulette is a practice often used
by players to determine who’ll pay for the bill (dinner, drinks, etc.).
Everyone throws their credit card into a hat or a box, and the lucky winner
gets to pick up the check.
Sometimes you’ll even hear individual players complaining about running on the wrong side of variance playing credit card roulette.
“Dolly Parton” is another cool nickname for a
hand. Although it isn’t used as much anymore, you might hear the term used by
more seasoned players.
The name originates from the famous song
performed by Dolly Parton named “9 to 5” and, you guessed it, refers to any
starting hand combo containing a 9 and a 5.
You might also hear it being called a
This refers to someone who doesn’t know how to play well.
Although there’s no steadfast definition of a “poker donkey”, you’ll probably know it when you see it.
That being said, you should never refer to
anyone as one, but knowing what it means could be very beneficial.
Another expression originating from online
poker, “doomswitch,” is a term used to describe a player running poorly and on
the wrong side of variance.
It comes from a theory that poker sites have a
certain “switch” they can turn to make particular players win or lose more
Although most players take this as a joke,
there is a specific segment of the player base that does believe sites operate this
They believe that if you start winning too
much, the room will turn the switch on you to make sure things don’t get out of
hand. It’s only a myth, so don’t worry.
Pocket deuces (twos) are often referred to as
ducks, thanks to the number 2’s slight resemblance to a duck.
It’s common courtesy (and often a rule) to keep
your chips stacked in a way that provides other players with an easy way to
estimate how much you have in front of you at any given time.
However, some players just love creating “dirty
stacks” which contain chips of different denominations all pilled together and
contain a random number of chips.
Usually, you want to avoid this and keep your
stacks in increments of 10 – 10, 20, 30, 40, etc. – to make life easier for
The “fist pump” is a motion used to celebrate
winning a pot or another positive outcome at a table (such as making it past
It’s become quite common to refer to other
situations as well, such as “fist-pump shove” – being thrilled to move all-in
after your opponent bets into your monster.
The term “gapper” is used to describe hole
cards that have the potential to make straights (connectors).
The number of cards needed in the middle is the
“gap” so if you have a hand like 5-7, you have a one-gapper (the six is
A hand like 7-10 is a two-gapper, etc.
The expression “gears” is used in a similar fashion
It describes a player’s ability to quickly
adjust to different situations and find the best play available to them on the
Such a player is capable of shifting gears as
required, just as if they were driving a car.
abbreviation of a good game, often used online to express gratitude for a good
worth knowing that GG sometimes used to make fun of weaker players or when
someone makes a very bad play.
If you play live poker cash games, you may have
heard this term before since some players use this move from time to time, even
though it’s not exactly legal and can even be called an angle shoot.
When a player “goes south” in a poker game, it
means they removed a portion of their chips from the table.
This is against the rules in most games as
you’re not allowed to take out any chips for as long as you’re playing.
All the money you win has to remain in play
until you decide to get up and leave, so don’t be “going south” no matter what.
If you watch poker training videos or hand
reviews, you’ll often come across the term “hero”.
However, the expression doesn’t say anything
about the qualities of the player or his traits as a human being.
The “hero” is simply the player whose hand is
being reviewed or the one you are focusing on.
Although this is the term is used by gamblers
in general, it was made famous in poker circles thanks to the cult movie Rounders.
A stack of “high society” refers to the stack of the highest denomination chips available in the casino.
Hit And Run
This is when
you decide to leave the game very soon after winning a huge pot or several
banks in a row.
players use this to protect their winnings but it’s considered unethical
behavior and shouldn’t be something you practice a lot.
This expression is used to describe a player
who is being backed by someone else to play in a certain tournament or a cash
The “horse” provides their skills and the
backer provides a part or the full buy-in. Any profits are shared as agreed
between the “horse” and the backer.
The term “idiot end” refers to a straight
When a player has a draw to a straight where
they can only make the lowest straight possible, with one or more options for
bigger straights, they are said to be drawing to the idiot end of the straight.
Although a bit harsh, the term has some merits
as drawing to this type of a hand can very often be a losing proposition and
cost you a lot of money.
a situation where you put all your money in the middle of the pot – it’s another
name for raising all-in.
Quite similar to the term donkey, poker players
use the expression “live one” to describe a player who’s not very good at poker
and represents an easy target at the table.
A “live one” usually plays a lot of hands, has
a reasonably big bankroll, and doesn’t mind losing as long as they’re having
The game of “Lodden Thinks” was popularized by high stakes players such as Antonio Esfandiari and Phil Laak.
Although it has nothing to do with poker, it’s often used as a pastime between hands.
Players will bet on what another player thinks
about a certain topic.
The player who plays the part of “Lodden” will
write down their answer, and other players will place their bets. What makes
the game fun is the fact that the answer doesn’t have to be at all true.
It’s about what other players may think, so it
involves a certain degree of psychology and reading abilities.
“Muck” is another
name for folding.
mucking is mostly used to describe a situation at a showdown where your
opponent shows a better hand than you have, so you decide to muck (fold)
without showing your holdings.
A “nitfest” is a term used to describe a game
where all players are playing very tightly and cautiously.
It usually has negative connotations as a
“nitfest” table provides very little fun or excitement.
In the world of poker, there are low and medium
stakes, there are high stakes, and then there are the nosebleeds.
The term is used to describe ultra-high stakes
games where huge amounts of money are on the line all the time.
An excellent example of true nosebleeds is cash
games in Macau, where winning or losing a few million dollars in a session
isn’t a big deal.
You’re probably familiar with the term “the nuts”
which is used to describe the best possible poker hand in a given situation.
The term “nut nut” is the next level, though,
as it is the hand that’s both the nuts and the one that has a chance to improve
even further to even better nuts.
For example, you could have a flopped nut
straight with a draw to the best possible flush. In that case, you have what
poker players like to call “nut nut”.
Another term originating from the online world,
“pwned” means pretty much the same thing as “owned” – but it’s a bit more than
When you get “pwned” it means you were either
severely outplayed, or the other player got super-lucky.
Either way, a bulk of your chips will be moving
across the table.
“Rags” is used to describe bad and completely
Anything that has a very small chance of
improving and should be instantly folded preflop, such as 92o, J3o, etc.
Another expression you might hear in the same
context is “napkins”.
You’re probably familiar with the term “busto”,
used when a player busts out of the tournament or sometimes loses all of their
“Robusto” has the opposite meaning. It describes
someone who vastly increased their poker bankroll by playing a lot or by
winning a big tournament.
Usually, the term is found in the phrase “from
busto to robusto”.
to a situation where you had to hit both cards on the turn and on the river to
make your hand.
example, you have two clubs in your hand and there is only one club on the
flop, so to make your flush, you have to hit a club on the turn and another one
on the river.
you have a runner-runner flush draw.
Ths is slang for pocket fours because the number 4 looks similar to a sail.
have a small pocket pair and you play it with the sole intention of hitting a
set without any chance to win the hand otherwise, you are set mining.
The term “shark” is used to describe a player
that’s the exact opposite of a donkey.
A shark is someone who knows the game very well and takes advantage of weaker players by punishing them for mistakes.
Most of the time, shark refers to a solid professional poker player.
The term is often used in the broader context
as well, as a “card shark” is someone well-versed in many card games, not just
A “shill” is a person who tries to paint a
(usually false) positive picture about a specific product or company.
In the poker world, the term “shill” is usually
used for forum users who go out of their way to justify certain poker rooms and
their actions and give false testimonies to try and throw other players off
Poker players can never get enough action, so
straddles became a standard part of the game, especially in the live setting.
However, a “sleeper straddle” is a special kind
of straddle and you won’t find it in many games.
The “sleeper” can be posted anywhere, at any
position, and it only becomes active if there is no action before everyone
If someone announces “snowmen” it means they
have pocket eights.
The number 8 on the cards does look a lot like
a snowman, so the nickname is quite fitting.
Other slang for this hand includes “Octopussy”
The term “suicide king” is used to describe the
King of Hearts.
If you pay attention, you’ll notice this card
depicts a king with a sword drawn through his heart or head (at least in most
The term was also popularized thanks to the famous book “The Professor, The Banker, and the Suicide King”, which describes high stakes games that poker elites (“The Corporation”) played against the wealthy banker Andy Beal.
Yet another term that has its roots in the
military, “tanking” or “going into tank” describes a player who goes into deep thought
before making a decision.
You’ll often see players tanking when they’re
faced with a big bet on the turn or the river where their decision can have a substantial
It’s worth mentioning here that the poker
community at large has been complaining about excessive tanking lately, with
players taking way too much time to make even small decisions.
Even if it’s almost never a correct decision
from a strategic point of view, sometimes a player will feel they have enough
chips in a tournament to take a break and walk around the tournament area.
When asked, they’ll often explain they have
“walking chips” meaning they have enough chips to be able to take a stroll and
miss a few hands.
The only time it makes sense to do this is if
you are playing in a satellite (a tournament where all winners get the ticket
to another event) and are guaranteed a win because of your massive stack.
But even then, sticking at your table makes
sense since you do now know what can come up.
When you call a bet from another player holding
a flush draw, for example, but the turn card doesn’t help you at all, you’ve
To whiff means to miss entirely on your draw. It’s
just another term for missing out on the card you need.