Common Poker Terms Explained – Learning the Language of the Game

There are a lot of things to learn if you really want to learn, and master, the game of poker. Learning what the common terms associated with the game are is one of the first things a new player needs to do, in order to understand what is going on around them when they hit the table, whether they will be playing a real life game of poker in a bricks and mortar casino or playing online.

Although there are literally hundreds of poker terms out there (and there are new ones being invented every day, although most of them are “poker slang”) here are some of the terms it is most important that as a newer player you understand:

Action – This term refers to all the bets and raises made during a hand. You my also hear it from a dealer if a player is not paying attention and needs to make a move ie: “It’s your action sir”.

Ante – At the beginning of some poker hands all the players contribute a small potion of their bet to “seed” the pot. This is known as the ante. Ante is something not usually used in a Texas Hold Em game though, as in many of those games blinds are used to fund an initial pot (see blinds).

All In – If a player has bet all of their money they are not allowed to simply go into their pocket (even their virtual pocket) to get more money. Instead a separate side pot is then created for other players to contribute to after a player declares they are all in. That player still stands to win the pot that contains some of his or her chips but they have no claim to the second pot that they did not contribute to.

Bankroll – A set amount of money that a player has at their disposal to bet during a game. managing your bankroll successfully is one of the biggest keys to winning in real money poker.

Bankroll Management – One of the most important, yet often overlooked parts of the real money poker game. Without a good bankroll management system it is very hard to make money on a regular basis however good you might.

Bad Beat – This is a hand that in theory was a real “underdog” hand but it manages to beat a better hand anyway when the player gets “lucky” cards.

Blind – A blind is a forced bet placed before a hand on the left of the dealer button.

Board – The term board refers to all the community cards in a Texas Hold Em game – the river cards, the flop cards and the turn cards.

Burn – Burn refers to the act of discarding, face down, the top card from the deck at the beginning of a new betting hand. This is a move that is supposed to stop players from getting a glimpse at the next card to be used on the board.

Call – The act of putting an amount of money into the pot that is equal to the last bet or raise. You are often more likely to hear the colloquial “see” instead though, as in “I’ll see the bet”.

Center Pot – The original main pot that is created at the start of the game. as players go all in a number of side pots may be created but usually every player left in at the table has a chance to win the center pot.

Check – A term with two poker meanings. It can mean choosing not to bet while retaining the right to call or raise later or it can be used as an alternate term for a chip.

Check Raise – The act of checking and then raising when a player behind you bets. You may hear some players complain that this is an unethical way to play poker. Most people though actually see it as an important tactic on their way to a win.

Community Cards – These are the cards in Texas Hold Em and some other poker variants that are placed face up on the table for all the players to share.

Equity – The term refers to your theoretical rightful share of the current pot. For example if the pot is $40 and you put in $20 then that is your equity.

Fast – Fast as in “this is playing fast”. It really means that players are betting aggressively and heavily to take advantage of a certain situation.

Flop – The first three face up community cards that end up on the board.

Fold – When you fold you forfeit the chance to win anything from the current pot. Basically you throw your hand down rather than make any more bets.

Free roll – These days free roll has two meanings. a free roll can either be a poker tournament for which no entry fee is being charged or it can mean that one player has a chance to win the whole pot when he is tied with another player.

Heads Up – A pot that is being contested for by only two players.

Maniac – A player who constantly bets heavily and aggressively. Usually not a good player if they are a “true maniac” but some poker players use occasional maniac betting to confuse their opponents.

No Limit – A poker variant that allows a player to bet as much as he or she likes (up to of course the actual number they have) on any hand.

Pay Off – The act of calling a bet when the player betting has a hand that you cannot possibly beat but the pot on the table is large enough to justify a call anyway.

Pot Limit – Another poker variant. In Pot Limit poker a player can bet up to the amount that is already in the pot on any given move.

Pot Odds – This term refers to the actual amount of money currently in the pot in comparison to the dollar amount you must put in the pot to continue playing. For instance there is $60 in the pot. The player before you bets $6, so the pot now totals $66. It will now cost you $6 to call, so the pot odds are 11:1.

Raise – Simply means to increase the amount of the current bet.

Rake – The portion of every pot taken out by the dealer and given to the house as income.

Rake Back – Offered by some online poker rooms rake back literally means the chance to earn some of the money you paid in rake to the house back over a set period of time.

Ring Game – A “regular game” that is not a tournament. The term can also refer to a game in which cash, not chips, are used.

Risk of Ruin – The odds that you will go broke and lose your bankroll. Considering the risk of ruin is something that is a part of good bankroll management.

Short Stack – A term used to describe the bankroll of a player who has considerably fewer chips than everyone else at the table. A short stack can signal to other players that the player it belongs to is vulnerable because they will probably be playing “tight” to protect what little bankroll they have.

Showdown – The point in a poker game when all the remaining players must show their hands and determine a winner.

Side Pot – A pot separate from the main pot that has been created when certain players ran out of chips of money to bet with but are still in the game. The players that “went broke” have no stake in the side pot but they still have a shot at the main pot that they did contribute to.

Spread Limit – A poker variant in which a player can bet any amount within a set “spread” on every betting opportunity. a typical online poker spread limit might be $2 – $6.

Table Stakes – The poker rule that decrees a player cannot go into his pocket for extra money during a hand, they can only use what they have on the table in front of them. One of the biggest reasons pre game bankroll management is so important.

Toke – A small amount of money that a pot winner traditionally gives to the dealer in a live casino.

Underdog – A player who in mathematical terms at least is not favored to win the pot. as is the case in the rest of life though sometimes the underdog does come out on top.

Variable – A term used to describe the ups and downs of poker play that all players experience, whatever their skill level.

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