POKER

From Snap Calls to Semi-Bluffs: Decoding Poker Terms for Ultimate Success

By David Huber
March 08, 2024

Poker terms have been around for as long as the game has been played. They have also increased in volume as poker’s popularity has risen.

If you’re a longtime poker player or someone who’s been around the industry for years, you may unconsciously make use of several poker terms in a single sentence – without even realizing you’re incorporating them.

There are a lot of concepts – unique to poker – that can be clearly communicated in the form of poker terms. In this article, we’ll take a look at these words and phrases, while providing definitions for newcomers who desire a general guide on when and how to use them.

poker terms

Poker Terms: Hole Cards in Texas Hold’em

Texas Hold’em has cemented its standing as the most popular poker variant in recent decades, and is chock-full of specialty phrases that are unique to the variant – and apply to both No Limit and Fixed Limit games (Pot Limit too).

Poker terms for Texas Hold’em hole cards (the two face-down cards that each participating player receives at the beginning of the hand), are as follows. Keep in mind that this isn’t a complete list of all the nicknames of hole cards, but the information below does contain the most common nicknames for Texas Hold’em hole cards.

AA – Pocket Rockets, Bullets
AK – Big Slick
A8 – Dead Man’s Hand
KK – Cowboys, Ace Magnets
K9 – Canine
QQ – Ladies, Canadian Aces
Q7 – Computer Hand
JJ – Fish hooks
TT – Train Tracks, Dimes
99 – Phil Hellmuth Hand
88 – Snowmen
77 – Hockey Sticks
66 – Route 66, Cherries
55 – Presto, Speed Limit
44 – Sailboats
33 – Treys, Crabs
22 – Ducks, Deuces

Poker Terms: Betting Actions

There are a few interchangeable terms for action that takes place in community card games like Texas Hold’em and Omaha.

Preflop – before the flop
Turn – Fourth Street
River – Fifth Street

Of course, the amount of poker jargon used to describe actions such as folding, betting, calling, and raising is much more extensive.

To Lead Out – This action describes the action of betting first after the flop has been dealt in community card games.

To Barrel – This is used to describe the action of performing an initial bet during postflop rounds when the player raises preflop. A double-barrel can be performed on the Turn, and a Triple Barrel bet refers to an initial River bet from the same player who raised the action preflop.

To Look Someone Up – If you look up another player, you are performing the action of calling. This poker term is typically applied in postflop scenarios. The player who is performing the betting can be looked up by a player who decides to call the action.

To Lay It Down – This refers to folding a hand, and can be equally used for preflop and postflop situations.

To Come Over The Top – This action refers to performing a re-raise. It can be used for both preflop and postflop scenarios.

To Snap Call – If you call a player’s action immediately, with little to no delay, you are performing a snap call.

To Overcall – This poker term is generally used when a player makes a call that is unjustified given the current pot odds for a specific hand.

To Shove – This means that a player goes all-in and is used mainly in No Limit formats. It’s linked to the physical action that occurs when a player pushes all remaining chips into a pot during an in-person poker game, but it can also be used for online poker games.

To Semi Bluff – A semi bluff refers to betting with a hand that would generally be an underdog to win at showdown, but could still be improved depending on which community cards are dealt during the Turn and/or River.

To Flash – A poker player who flashes is a poker player who intentionally shows one hole card face-up. This is sometimes done by a player who bets on the River and is performed in order to coerce/influence the other player to call, raise, or fold.

To Stack Someone – This poker term is used to describe when one player obtains the entire chip stack of one or more opponents, generally in a No Limit format but it can also be incorporated into Pot Limit games when relevant. You’ll hear this phrase frequently during poker tournament coverage.

To Get Away From A Hand – This term refers to when a player is able to fold a relatively strong poker hand, and is used when that player unknowingly faces a superior hand held by one or more opponents.

To Call the Clock – This action can be performed by one or more players at a live poker table to force another player to make a decision within a certain time limit. Casino and card room floor personnel can also become involved in a decision regarding how much time to give a player to make a decision.

To Slow Down – A player who opens a hand with a strong betting pattern but later decides to check or call a hand is slowing down the action, or keeping the pot relatively small.

One Outer – An “outer” refers to the number of cards remaining in the deck that can improve one’s hand to a point in which it wins at showdown. A player who is depending on one of three remaining aces to be dealt on the River is deemed to be seeking a three outer, for example.

To Muck – This refers to the action of folding a hand face-down, or pitching one’s hole cards face-down into the designated muck pile at a live table.

To Hold – A poker hand “holds” when it begins the action as a superior hand and remains a superior hand at showdown.

To Get Felted – see “to get stacked”

Coin Flip – This scenario occurs when two players are heads-up in a pot and begin with relatively similar hands, in terms of strength, once the action is all-in.

To Play The Board – A player is playing the board when one’s hole cards do not improve the poker hand strength in any way. This term is used in community card poker games.

To Suck Out – To be dealt one or more fortunate community cards (or door cards) that turn an inferior hand into a superior hand.

To Cold Call – A player cold calls when making a call during a betting phase in which the action has been raised at least once.

To Limp – This action occurs when a player calls the minimum Big Blind amount during the preflop phase of a hand.

To Be Pot Committed – A player is pot committed if standard pot odds would mathematically require a call from that player on ensuing streets (betting phases).

To Be Knocked Out – A player can be “knocked out,” or eliminated from a tournament. This means the player has no chips remaining and can no longer advance in poker tournament placement.

The Bubble – This describes the poker tournament placement in which a pay out level occurs. If a player “bubbles” a tournament, that player is understood to have been eliminated just before receiving a payout.

A Stack of High Society – Made famous by the poker-themed movie “Rounders” one stack of high society equals $10,000.

To Double Up – A poker player doubles up when winning an all-in hand that increases the size of his or her tournament stack by twofold or more.

To Get There – To make a superior hand.

Run It Twice – Players who are all-in during a particular hand with one or more community cards still to be dealt can decide to run it twice and divide the total pot accordingly if it is chopped.

Having Fun with Poker Terms

If you watch a lot of live stream poker games, you’ll notice there are situations in which more than half of an elongated sentence contains actual poker jargon.

“She stacked him with a semi bluff shove when he looked her up on Fourth Street with a gutshot and didn’t get there.”

“His Cowboys held against Big Slick when no three outer arrived.”

“He rivered a boat but got snap called by quads when he shoved.”

“She re-raised preflop but slowed down with her ladies and didn’t lead out when the flop came A-K-5. Her opponent donk-bet on the flop and she was able to get away from her hand.”

“I never limp with Pocket Rockets because I don’t want to get sucked out on.”

You can impress your non-poker friends by learning poker terms and then using them to describe action that occurs at a poker table. This is also a way to get friends interested in (or looking forward to) a poker game that you’re hosting.

So the next time someone asks you, “what is a cold call in poker,” or “what is flat call poker,” or “what is overcall poker,” or even “what is snap call poker,” you can answer them with confidence.

The options are pretty much limitless, as poker vocabulary is continuously evolving as new and old scenarios alike play out.

How to Learn More Poker Terms

Becoming involved in a dedicated poker study group or subscribing to premium poker training sites are two sure-fire ways to increase your understanding of poker jargon.

You can also tune-in to live streamed poker content on sites like Twitch and YouTube to learn specialized vocabulary from the commentators.

There’s also the most obvious way to learn poker terms, which is to sit down and participate in a live poker session at your favorite casino or card room.

If you’re interested in seeing how lyricists incorporate poker jargon into the music they perform, you might want to take a look at our Top 7 Songs about Poker article.

Get Involved in a Poker Community

If you and your friends regularly meet for a low stakes home game, or if you’d like to become involved in a poker community in your area, then knowing the most common poker terms can assist you in associating with any given group.

It’s not uncommon for a poker community group to use some form of a Play On Words when determining a group name — meaning a poker society may refer to itself as Pocket Rockets, Ladies, Big Slick, and so on.

The next time you’re participating in a micro-stakes game or any casual game in which the stakes aren’t very high and the obvious aim is “fun over skill,” try out some of the new poker terms you’ve learned and see what your friends can come up with.

There’s also a chance that you’ll encounter some of the terms mentioned above when playing at online poker rooms, but this is dependent on whether a chat feature is available when competing at real money games.

When it comes to poker terms, you may find that some may vary depending on the region. Pocket Aces may be referred to as one term on the East Coast while another word is used to describe them on the West Coast, etc.

Get involved in a poker community if you enjoy playing poker casually, and spread the “love of the game” by exercising your knowledge of poker terms on a regular basis. You’ll have lots of fun and can look forward to playing the game socially in a low stakes environment.

Have fun, learn more about the game, and maybe you’ll be lucky enough to win during your next poker session.

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David Huber poker author
Written By.

David Huber

David Huber has been involved in the poker industry for close to two decades: initially as a professional online poker player and later as an editor, consultant, writer, and forum manager. Known as “dhubermex” online, David’s poker-related work has been heavily published across numerous websites since 2004.

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