Poker Terminology: Words Every Beginner Must Learn and Understand

No one is an expert in the beginning. A newbie in every endeavor, game, or sport will have to be ready to go through a learning curve, especially as far as the jargon and vernacular are concerned.

There’s nothing worse than pretending to understand what is being said when you actually don’t; and where poker terms are concerned, your “poker face” is for protecting your game and not for pretending you get the words being thrown about.

We get you: nobody wants to look stupid and ignorant. Besides, this could greatly affect your game and spell the difference between winning and losing big. So here’s a list of playing card terms or poker terms and definitions you need to understand as a first step to understanding the game (including Texas Holdem jargon and terminology).


Basic Terms in Poker

  • Action
  1. One’s turn to act during a hand, an initial bet or raise
  2. Used to describe a game in which there’s a lot of betting and raising
  • Ante
    A small bet all players are required to make before a hand is dealt
  • Pot
    The amount which will be won by the victor
  • Blind
    An amount put in the pot by two players to the left of the dealer common in Texas Hold‘em
    Note: A blind is played by two players. An ante is played by all at the table. 
  • Small Blind
    Played by the first player to the left of the dealer
  •  Big Blind
    Double the value of the small blind played by the player to the left of the small blind player
  • Tournament
    A poker event involving one or more tables of players. Each begins with a fixed amount of tournament chips.
  • Bubble
    The top finisher of the tournament who doesn’t get any winnings


Basic Terms in Betting

  • Call
    When a player contributes the minimum amount to the pot required to continue playing their hand
  • Check
    You’re not betting for that round, but you can only do this if no bets have been placed for that round
  • Raise
    Contribute the minimum amount plus wagering more
  • Fold
    Give up by placing your cards down on the table, losing all you have bet so far
    Tip: Fold only when you feel your hand is too weak to compete
  • Check-raise
    When a player checks on the first opportunity to bet and then raises succeeding bets in the same round
  • All-in
    A bet that places all of a player’s chips into the pot
  • Bluff
    Betting on a weak hand to intimidate other players into folding


Basic Terms in Dealing

  • Dealer
    The person dealing the cards
  • Button
    The position of the dealer marked with a plastic disk
  •  Burn Card
    Discarding the top card before each betting round to make sure the game is played fairly
  • Community Cards
    Cards dealt face-up on the table that all players use in making a hand
  • Board
    The table that all players use in making a hand
  • Flop
    First three community cards dealt after first round of betting is done
  • Turn or Fourth Street
    Fourth community card dealt face-up, by itself
  •  River
    Last of the five community cards

Basic Terms in Hands

  • Poker Hands
    The five cards you will play with
  • High-card Winner
    Nobody got a substantial hand and the pot goes to the person with the highest card value in their hand
  • Pair
    Any two matching cards
  • Two Pair
    Quite self-explanatory; examples are having a pair of kings and pair of aces in one hand
  • Three of a Kind aka Trips
    A hand consisting of cards having the same face value but in different suits
  • Straight
    Five cards in sequence (5-6-7-8-9)
  • Flush
    Five cards of the same suit but not in sequence
  • Full House
    When you have three of a kind and a (different) pair
  • Four of a Kind aka Quads
    When you’re dealt four cards of the same rank
  • Straight Flush
    Five sequenced cards of the same suit (5, 6, 7, 8, 9 of clubs)
    Tip: If you get this hand, go all-in!
  • Royal Flush
    An ace-high straight flush, the best possible hand in standard poker
  • Trivia: The odds of getting this hand are 649,740 to 1


Basic Terms in Player Behavior

  • Tell
    An indication that tells other players how strong or weak your hand is
  • Semi-Bluff
    A bluff that can be improved should the first bluff be ineffective
  •  Rock
    Nope, this is not the former wrestler turned actor. This is a player who is considered “tight.” He won’t bluff and folds hand after hand without playing for a pot.
  •  Slow Play
    When you play your hand less aggressively than necessary
  •  Time
    A request so a player has more time to think
  •  Clock
    A call other players make when a player on time is taking too long and disrupts the game
  •  Bad Beat
    When a player who initially has the upper hand (pun intended) loses it after a flop, turn, or river

Learning, understanding, and mastering these terms will aid you in not getting lost while playing poker. Of course, language is a “living document” and new slang always get invented (the beauty of language!). Just accept that learning is a never-ending process.

But knowing all these words by heart is a good place to start.