Top 10 Animals in Poker

By Robbie Strazynski
September 07, 2012

It’s been said that poker players have a lot in common with animals. Some legendary players of the game have had animal nicknames applied to them, including Billy “the Croc” Argyros, Hans “Tuna” Lund, and Dave “Devilfish” Ulliott (if you’ve never heard of them, check Wikipedia; makes for some great reading). That said, a number of words from the animal kingdom have made their way into poker’s lexicon over the years to describe specific hands, player types, games, and situations. So, we thought it appropriate to compile a list of the top 10 animals in poker. Without further ado…

ducks1. Ducks

This term is Texas Hold’em poker slang for a pocket pair of twos. Ducks fare best when played heads-up preflop against a single opponent, as they’re statistically favored to win against every non-paired two card holding.



crabs2. Crabs

Crabs refer to a pocket pair of threes which, much like Ducks, are best folded right away in multi-way pots. That is, of course, unless you can limp in for cheap from late position and hit a set, in which case your crabs will usually scoop a nice pile of chips.



fish3. Fish

Once upon a time all poker players used to be fish. Often new and inexperienced with the game of poker, a fish’s knowledge tends to be rudimentary at best. When taking a poker vacation in Las Vegas or Atlantic City, you can usually identify fish by the nametags they’re wearing while taking a break from an industry convention that’s in town for a couple days. At home games with a regular cast of characters, everyone usually knows who the fish are. Just be sure never to “tap on the aquarium”, lest you scare them (and your potential profits) away.


shark4. Sharks

The most feared animals in poker, sharks are highly skilled players that reside at the top of the game’s food chain. They feed on fish and feast on whales (see below). If you notice a shark or two lurking at your table, it’s probably best to request a seat change.



whale5. Whales

Whales usually come to play poker with plenty of disposable income. Think “wealthy businessmen”. They play poker either to blow off steam or more for the intellectual challenge of the game, which almost always makes them far more “okay” absorbing a loss, as the money means so much less to them. Playing against whales is risky due to their sheer bankroll size. Hungry for action, whales don’t hesitate to get involved in large pots, knowing they can always re-buy if they lose. Sharks know to play solidly against whales, but even they, like the poor fish, can literally get their bankrolls eaten alive if they’re not careful.


donkey6. Donkeys

The loose canons at any poker table, donkeys appear to have little to no idea of how to play the game. They also usually make this loudly apparent to everyone else sitting at the table both in words and in actions. Apt to say things like “but they were suited” or “I haven’t been lucky with pocket pairs today”, having a donkey at your table is a sure recipe for laugh-out-loud entertainment, often while you and your tablemates relieve them of their chip stacks. Note that otherwise solid players may exhibit donkey-like tendencies and/or mannerisms if on tilt or otherwise inebriated.


horse7. H.O.R.S.E.

H.O.R.S.E. combines five distinct poker disciplines: Texas Hold’em, Omaha hi-low, Razz, 7-Card Stud, and 7-Card Stud hi-low. Success in H.O.R.S.E., both in cash games and in tournament settings, requires players to exhibit tremendous overall poker skills, as expertise in one or two of the game’s disciplines typically isn’t enough to overcome disadvantages against opponents in the other games. Though Texas Hold’em may be the most popular poker game in the world, the prestigious $50,000 WSOP Poker Player’s Championship event awards a bracelet to the best H.O.R.S.E. player.


rabbit hunter8. Rabbit (hunters)

Rabbit hunting occurs when a player in a hand that has just been completed without a showdown asks the dealer to expose the next board card or two. Rabbit hunters typically do this in order to check whether the coming cards would’ve improved their hands had they not decided to fold. As far as poker room etiquette is concerned, rabbit hunting is generally looked down upon and often even illegal. In friendlier home games, however, the practice is somewhat common.


railbirds9. (Rail)birds

Railbirds can be found on the fringes of tournament fields, usually rooting on friends, family members, or players who they’ve got a stake in financially (or emotionally) that are still playing in the tournament. Railbirds of a feather flock together, so at prestigious events like the World Series of Poker, a player may have anywhere from a few to dozens to even hundreds of railbirds cheering for them.


pigs10. Pigs

Exclusively found in the wild poker home games that feature hi-low poker variants with a “declare”, pigs are the players who declaring both “high” and “low” in order to not have to split pots. Depending on how lucky or unlucky they may be running, players usually make pigs of themselves (for good and for bad) in these games by trying to scoop one pot too many.

If you can think of other popular poker animals, we’d be happy to get your feedback and comments below or on our Facebook page.



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Written By.

Robbie Strazynski

Robbie founded in 2009. A veteran member of the poker media corps, in addition to writing and video presenting, Robbie has hosted multiple poker podcasts over the years, including Top Pair, the Red Chip Poker Podcast, The Orbit, and the CardsChat Podcast. In 2019, Robbie translated the autobiography of Poker Hall of Famer Eli […]


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