57 Essential Poker Slang You Need To Know

57 Essential Poker Slang You Need To Know

Whether 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

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.

Airball

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

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”.

American Airlines - poker

Ammo (Ammunition)

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

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.

Arsenal

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.

Belly Buster

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

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.

Big Slick - poker

Bloodbath

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.

Brick

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.

Busted

Busting refers to losing all of your chips or money.

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.

busted in poker

Cambodia

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 Slick”.

The term originates from New York City cardrooms, but there’s no real explanation for where it got its name.

Cardrack

The term “cardrack” is used to describe a player who’s been getting dealt good hands for the entire session or a tournament.

A “cardrack” will often go on a heater, getting big pocket pairs, hitting all of their draws, and stacking many players in the process.

Chip Dumping

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 wealth.

Chip dumping is against the rules and can lead to a tournament suspension or even money confiscation if players get caught doing it.

Clicking Buttons

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 strategy.

Computer Hand

Modern-day poker relies heavily on math and numbers. People have come up with all sorts of calculations, especially for the starting hands.

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”.

Cooler

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 of money.

Cowboys

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).

Cowboys - poker

Crabs

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

“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 “full-time job”.

9 to 5, Dolly Parton - poker

Donkey

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.

Doomswitch

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 often.

Although most players take this as a joke, there is a specific segment of the player base that does believe sites operate this way.

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.

Ducks

Pocket deuces (twos) are often referred to as ducks, thanks to the number 2’s slight resemblance to a duck.

Dirty Stack

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 yourself.

Fist Pump

The “fist pump” is a motion used to celebrate winning a pot or another positive outcome at a table (such as making it past the bubble).

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.

Gappers

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 missing).

A hand like 7-10 is a two-gapper, etc.

Gears

The expression “gears” is used in a similar fashion to “arsenal”.

It describes a player’s ability to quickly adjust to different situations and find the best play available to them on the spot.

Such a player is capable of shifting gears as required, just as if they were driving a car.

GG

An abbreviation of a good game, often used online to express gratitude for a good match.

However, it’s worth knowing that GG sometimes used to make fun of weaker players or when someone makes a very bad play.

Going South

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.

Hero

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.

High Society

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.

Rounders - movie
Image: imdb.com

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.

Some players use this to protect their winnings but it’s considered unethical behavior and shouldn’t be something you practice a lot.

Horse

This expression is used to describe a player who is being backed by someone else to play in a certain tournament or a cash game.

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.

Idiot End

The term “idiot end” refers to a straight (draw).

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.

Jam

“Jam” desribes a situation where you put all your money in the middle of the pot – it’s another name for raising all-in.

Live One

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 fun.

Lodden Thinks

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

“Muck” is another name for folding.

However, 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.

Nitfest

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.

Nosebleeds

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.

Nut Nut

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”.

Pwned

Another term originating from the online world, “pwned” means pretty much the same thing as “owned” – but it’s a bit more than that.

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

“Rags” is used to describe bad and completely unplayable cards.

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”.

Robusto

You’re probably familiar with the term “busto”, used when a player busts out of the tournament or sometimes loses all of their money.

“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”.

Runner Runner

This refers to a situation where you had to hit both cards on the turn and on the river to make your hand.

For 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.

Therefore you have a runner-runner flush draw.

Sailboats

Ths is slang for pocket fours because the number 4 looks similar to a sail.

Pocket 4s - sailboats

Set Mining

When you 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.

Shark

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 poker.

Shill

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 track.

Sleeper Straddle

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 folds.

Snowmen

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” or “Infinities”.

Suicide King

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 standard decks).

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.

The suicide king - poker

Tanking

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 financial impact.

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.

Walking Chips

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.

Whiff

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 whiffed.

To whiff means to miss entirely on your draw. It’s just another term for missing out on the card you need.