Once upon a time poker was a game that many people associated with smoky back-room bars played by shady characters with dubious motives.
But, over the years, it is a game that’s come in from the cold to become one that’s enjoyed by millions of people all over the world. At the highest level, there are the thousands who head for Las Vegas each summer to compete in the prestigious World Series of Poker for some huge prizes. But, away from this elite, there are many others who play just for fun.
Like all games, poker has its own vocabulary and language. To the novice or outsider, this can be confusing but the good news is that it can be relatively easy to learn all the key poker terms that it’s necessary to know. While there simply isn’t space here to provide a full glossary of the words you’ll come across, these are some of the most commonly used and provide a good grounding to get you on your way.
To start at the very beginning, this is the small bet that all players have to make before a hand begins. This ensures that there’s some value in the pot before the other betting begins.
In a situation in which a player is confident that their hand may well be unbeatable, or even as a last throw of the dice, they can choose to go all-in. In this situation they put all their chips in on an all-or nothing bet.
In a hand, when everything looks to be going well and a player is in a seemingly winning position, in poker terms a bad beat is when that situation is unexpectedly reversed as other cards are revealed. Poker players tend to hear no end of “bad beat stories”.
The small and big blinds are the bets that the players sitting respectively to the left and second left of the dealer have to make to start the hand. The size of these bets generally depends on how strong they believe their hands to be.
This signifies the position of the dealer with each round, so called because the dealer traditionally has a button placed in front of them. This position moves round one place clockwise for each and that’s played.
When a player calls it simply means that they bet the minimum amount required to stay in the hand. If they want to increase the amount, they can raise instead.
On the other hand, you may choose to check. In this case, you pass on the betting. But if fellow players continue to bet, you’ll be asked to call, fold or raise.
These are the cards that are dealt facing upwards in the middle of the table and which all players use to complete their respective hands.
Poker is as much a game of knowing when to cut your losses as it is of betting hard. So throwing in your hand is called folding while you wait for the next, hopefully more successful, round.
The flop are the three first community cards that are laid out, face up, after the first round of betting has been completed.
A flush is a hand in which there are five cards of the same suit. The very best hand in poker is the royal flush in which it is an ace-high straight flush – a very rare occurrence indeed.
In a situation where two players have identical hands the winner can be decided using the kicker. This means that the player with the highest value card, not included in the hand they are playing, will win that particular round
When a player decides to fold and throws in their hand, they are said to “muck” them, a reference to the mess of unsorted cards left on the table.
These are the cards that a player holds in their hands and which are kept hidden from other players. These are also sometimes known as hole cards and there are a different number of them, depending on which variant of poker is being played.
Raising is betting more than the minimum amount required for the hand, thus forcing other players to also raise their bets. It has to be used wisely to prevent opponents taking fright and folding if they believe you can’t be beaten.
This is the final of the five community cards generally dealt in a game of poker, specifically in Hold’em, Omha and Stud variants.
A player who is being reckless and undisciplined in their play is described as being “on tilt”. They may be making wild bets, trying to bluff too overtly, or carrying on with hands when the wisest course of action might be to fold.
Under the gun
When you’re under the gun, you’re the player who has to be the first to act in any hand. It means that you’re sitting immediately to the left of the big blind. It’s not always the best position to be in as you are yet to see other players’ reactions to the cards they’ve been dealt.
As mentioned, this is not a comprehensive guide. But knowledge of these terms will certainly help to get you started and you’re sure to pick up more of the vocabulary as you go along.