If you made the decision to hit the felt, then you need to know the poker terms covered below. Nobody is going to quiz you on them or anything like that, but if you sit down at the poker table, one of these poker terms are used by another player, and you have no idea what it means, you’re going to be confused and wish you knew. In some cases, these poker terms will also reveal information about a poker player/person. Therefore, it’s imperative you know them.
Most poker articles that write about poker terms are cut and dry: Here’s the term and this is what it means. Just writing about that makes me want to take a nap. I will do my best to make sure you’re at least slightly entertained when reading about the poker terms below. Some poker terms can be boring though, and there is no way around it. Please forgive me in advance on those.
Without further ado (I had to look up the spelling of ‘ado’), below are:
21 Poker Terms Every Player Needs to Know
This is likely to be one of the poker terms you’re already familiar with, but in the event that’s not the case, all-in refers to a player risking all of their chips on one hand.
I once watched an entire WSOP Main Event on YouTube and recorded how many all-ins on the river were bluffs vs. how many times that player had the better hand. It turned out that the player who went all-in on the river had the better hand more than 70% of the time. If someone goes all-in, they usually have it, but a lot depends on the player.
If this is a tight player, they probably have it. This is a loose player, then you should base it on their betting patterns. If it’s a good player, they will only move all-in against you if they perceive you as a tight player who is likely to fold. Therefore, instead of just reading your opponent, you must read how they are reading you as well. This pertains to all aspects of poker and can help you tremendously.
Come to think of it, when I’m on my best runs in poker tournaments, it’s when I’m primarily focused on how my opponent is reading me. If I feel as though they think I only play premium poker hands, then I know they’re more likely to run a bluff on me. If I feel as though they think I’m all over the map, then I know they’re less likely to run a bluff on me and more likely to have the goods when they go all-in. You should apply this information for yourself as well.
#2. Bankroll Management
Bankroll Management refers to how well you manage your money that is reserved for poker only. Someone who is good at bankroll management will cut costs, minimize buy-ins without sacrificing upside potential, and stay away from temptations (drugs, alcohol, women, and casino games). Someone who is bad at bankroll management will stay in expensive hotels, fire seven bullets at a poker tournament, and give in to the aforementioned temptations.
Standard poker rules state that you should never use more than 5% of your bankroll on a poker tournament. By sticking to this approach, you will play your A game more often because you won’t be afraid to lose, you will be playing in smaller buy-in events vs. softer opponents, you will be learning a lot because you will be able to play more events, you will eventually gain enough experience that you will strengthen your game, and you should never go broke if you’re a good player.
#3. Big Blind
Before I get to the big blind, did you notice that these poker terms are in alphabetical order? I didn’t want you to think this was in order of importance.
The big blind is two left from the dealer and the position where you must pay a fee once per orbit. For example, if the blinds are 1,000/2,000 in a poker tournament, then you own 2,000 chips. The big blind remains the same in cash games based on the level you’re playing, but it moves up in Texas Hold’em poker tournaments and other tournament poker games.
Some people like to defend their big blind and others don’t. That should depend on the situation and who raised your big blind. The softer the player raising, the wider your range for defending should be. The stronger the player raising your big blind, the fewer poker hands you should play here. If you want to win in poker tournaments, then you must eliminate Ego. I cannot stress this enough. This isn’t just true for poker tournaments, but all poker games.
In poker tournaments, a bounty can mean two things…
A) You earn a bounty every time you knock someone out. For example, if it’s a $25 bounty and you knock out three players, then you have made $75. This is more common in lower buy-in tournaments. The bounty will usually be paid in casino chips, which can then be exchanged for cash at the cage.
B) A player (or players) has a price on their head. If you knock out that player, you earn a bounty. This type of bounty tournament is more common in higher buy-in events, or as an event in a poker tournament series. For example, I will be a bounty in the RunGood Bounty Tournament in Tunica. If someone knocks me out, they will earn whatever is in my secret envelope. This can be anything from a RunGood apparel to a RunGood Main Event seat to $1k cash.
The bubble is one of those poker terms you’re going to learn to hate. That’s especially the case if you end up on the bubble one day, which will eventually happen.
The bubble is the last place to not get paid in a poker tournament. When you finish on the bubble, you might want to punch walls, scream at pedestrians from your car window while driving home, and kick garbage cans on your block before entering your home and getting into the fetal position on the bathroom floor for three hours.
It doesn’t have to be like that, though. I have noticed something about finishing on the bubble. It leads to a ton of energy being generated. That is negative energy, but it can be transformed. It’s great to use for exercise. You’re going to kill it in the gym! I also once used it to write a book. So, when the bubble happens, turn the bubble into a doorway to better things.
The button refers to the dealer button, which means you are the last person to act. Unlike the bubble, this is one of those poker terms you will learn to love. When you’re last to act, you have poker position. This means you get to see what everyone else is doing prior to acting.
You have a big advantage, but it’s essential that you don’t take advantage of that big advantage. A button-raise used to be effective for stealing blinds. Nowadays, it can be disastrous. The blinds, especially the big blind, is much more likely to fight back.
This poker strategy is easy to remember: Only attack from the button when you’re holding strength. It doesn’t need to need to be a premium hand. Your poker range can be a little wider, but not too wide. And you need a premium hand if the pot has already been raised. Here’s the simple version: Don’t overvalue the button.
Check means you’re not betting on the hand and passing the action on to the next player. It’s one of the easiest poker terms to learn, and it’s one you will quickly become familiar with because it applies to all poker games.
Chop is one of the few poker terms that has two different meanings…
A) A Chop is when the two players in the blinds agree to take their blinds back without playing the hand because everyone else folded. This can only be done in cash games. I recommend always chopping. Playing the hand heads-up in a cash game slows down the action and the pot is usually small. You can play the hand if you choose to, but you’re going to aggravate everyone by doing so, including the dealer.
An important note here is that you shouldn’t say you will chop and then play a hand because you have AA. It’s not against the poker rules, but it’s extremely poor poker etiquette.
B) A chop is also when players at the end of a tournament decide to split the remaining winnings. There are two kinds of chops in this situation: Even Chop and ICM Chop. An Even Chop is when the money remaining is divided evenly among the remaining players. This usually happens when everyone is close in chips. An ICM Chop is more common when the chip stacks are not close to even. With this kind of chop, the money earned is based on how many chips each player has. You can use an ICM calculator to figure this out.
A c-bet is a continuation bet, which refers to betting on the flop after you raised pre-flop. You want to C-bet most of the time, especially against passive players.
This is also one of the more popular poker terms for people who like to talk strategy at the table. If you hear someone using “cool” variations of poker terminology, they’re usually advertising to make themselves sound good, which relates to their true lack of confidence in themselves as a poker player.
A Kicker is your second card when you have a pair. If two players have the same pair, then the person with the better kicker wins the hand. For example, if you have AQ, your opponent has A9, and you both make a pair of aces, then you win the hand.
Limp is associated with a soft player. Limping means entering the pot pre-flop just calling the big blind. Soft players supposedly love to limp-in to the pot. Some players who limp are indeed soft. Other players who limp are doing it to appear soft. The former is much more common, so don’t fret the trickery too much. Just be aware.
An added note here. Many players limp based on the strength of their poker hands. If you see a few limpers and you’re in position with marginal hand strength or better, raise. This will narrow the field and you will likely have the advantage. In some cases, everyone will fold and you just won some easy chips. Even if they call and you’re behind, you still have position.
This is going to be your favorite of all poker terms because when you have the nuts, you have the best hand possible. The key in these spots isn’t winning or losing the hand, but how much you can extract from your opponent(s) without them folding. You need to think of that perfect amount to bet, but you need to do it quickly. If you pause for too long and then bet, they might figure out the reason for your pause and they will be more likely to fold.
There is a certain trick I use when I have the nuts. I usually use the following poker strategy when I’m up against a good player who isn’t familiar with me.
Good players see overbets as bluffs. This won’t work every time, but I will often go all-in with the nuts against a player like this. My opponent will call about 30%-40% of the time. That might not sound like much, but it’s a ton. Keep in mind that I’m either going all-in or putting him all-in. Therefore, I’m either doubling up or building my chip stack.
This simple yet somewhat deceptive poker strategy has led to many of my biggest cashes. Think about it. If my opponent has top pair and I go all-in, how will that look to my opponent?
If I’m betting 40 Big Blinds and I go all-in (with the nuts), it’s sometimes going to look like a bluff. Once again, this won’t always work, but it will sometimes, and sometimes is enough because when you accumulate a lot of chips. You’re likely on your way to the money. This is especially the case when you can pull it off twice within one poker tournament.
Not all poker players know all poker terms. I have met people who have been playing in poker games for years and they still didn’t know what orbit meant. This is despite the fact that it’s one of the simplest poker terms in the book. All it means is one lap around the table. For example, your button to your button is one orbit.
This can be one of the more confusing poker terms to a novice. Rainbow pertains to a rainbow flop, which means three cards with different suits. On a rainbow flop, you don’t have to worry about a flush draw. It’s usually a great flop for top pair.
Rake is not going to be one of your favorite poker terms. The poker rake is how much the house collects for you to play. Remember, you’re not playing against the house when you play poker, but in a way you are because you’re playing against the rake. Playing fewer hands is one way to beat the rake in a cash game. Finding a soft table is another excellent idea (this is within the poker rules for a cash game). Request the table you want and wait for a spot to open up.
If you prefer Texas Hold’em poker tournaments, then you can’t choose where you sit. Instead of searching for the softest table, search for the softest poker tournaments with the lowest rake. There is one problem there, though. The softest poker tournaments usually have a higher rake because they are lower buy-ins, and the tougher poker tournaments have a lower rake.
You’re going to have to make this decision on your own. I have found that the lower buy-in tournaments with the higher rake have been more profitable for me, but that might be due to a lot of experience at relatively high levels. It’s like going from the Major Leagues to Triple-A.
Most people will say you can’t beat the rake in these lower buy-in/higher rake Texas Hold’em poker tournaments, but that’s because they haven’t played at a higher level for a long time and then moved back down. I always look at it this way. When I buy-in to one of these smaller tournaments, I’m only competing against half the field. The other half will make such bad decisions that they will take themselves out of the game. All I have to do is sit and wait until half the field is gone.
Another approach I like to use is to buy-in very late to these events, sometimes for as low as 10 BB. I wait to pick my spot. If I lose, so be it, I lost one buy-in at a cheap event. If I double-up, then I’m one more double-up from being above the average chip count. Then I’m dangerous. Most players will see this as against the standard poker rules for winning, but this has been a profitable poker strategy.
A satellite is a small tournament with a low buy-in that funnels into a larger tournament with a bigger buy-in. If you win a satellite, then you earn a ticket to the bigger event. You usually don’t need to win a satellite outright. A satellite will usually take one of every nine or ten players, depending on the buy-in amount for the satellite. However, there are all kinds of satellites, including shootouts, megas, and turbos.
This is one of the most fun poker terms. A semi-bluff is when you bet out when you have a draw. The reason for this type of bet is that you can win two ways. The first way is that your opponent(s) folds. The second way is that they call and you hit your draw. You could still run into trouble, though. You might be raised or you could miss your draw.
#18. Short Stack
Short stack means you don’t have many chips. Most poker players will go into auto-shove mode with 10 BB. I believe 5 BB is a better spot for this. You can shove with marginal hands with 6-9 BB, but I wouldn’t be shoving with a marginal hand with 10 BB. That’s a lot more chips than people think. Once you’re at 5 BB, don’t even look at your cards. Just go.
#19. Sit & Go
A sit & go is a single-table tournament. They usually last 1-2 hours, with most lasting closer to one hour. Most sit & go tournaments end in a chop. You usually only start with 4k in chips, and by the time you’re ready to chop, the blinds are incredibly high. This is why chops makes sense. I’m not a big fan of chops in regular poker tournaments, but I do believe in them here.
#20. Slow Play
A slow play means you’re checking the best hand in order to lure your opponent into betting against you. For some poker players, this is their favorite of all poker terms. They love to slow play, which can lead to a lot of trouble. It’s a good idea to slow play at the right time and against the right player, but it shouldn’t become a habit. Nothing should become a habit. Keep yourself unpredictable.
When you go on tilt it means you have lost your patience and composure. Tilt is usually caused by a bad beat. In some rare cases, it can be due to someone making a comment that aggravated you. Once tilt comes to town, you’re going to have a tough time getting back on track, and tilt usually means The Vanishing of your chips. In order to avoid tilt, go for a walk when something bad happens at the poker table. Even 10-15 minutes away from the table can do wonders for your mindset. You will have an opportunity to refocus.
Now you know the 21 Poker Terms Every Player Needs to Know. I would recommend bookmarking this article so you can review it several times. You will have them down pat in no time. See you at the WSOP!
Poker Terms – FAQ
What is a Donk in poker?
A donk is a donkey, which is someone who is a bad at poker. It's the same thing as a fish.
What does it mean to Jam in poker?
A jam means you're going all-in. It's the same as a shove.
What is the button in poker?
The button is the dealer button, which means you're the last person to act. This is a good place to be because it means you will be gathering a lot of information prior to acting.
What is a chop in poker?
In a tournament, it means the people remaining are splitting the prize pool money.