If poker lingo sounds like a foreign language, you’re not alone. Some of the things people say are nearly pure gibberish!

  • “So, I 3bet cowboys in the cutoff versus an under-the-gun open”.
  • “Can you believe he called my triple barrel on a one-liner with bottom two?!”
  • “I’m firing my fourth bullet.”

Seemingly simple sentences like “I’m stuck” can be confusing (- meaning a player is losing money).

The good news is that while overwhelming at first, learning poker lingo becomes fun and effortless faster than you think.

Absolute beginners can learn poker talk in no time!

But if you want a cheat sheet to accelerate the process, here is your ultimate guide.

Category #1:  Nicknames for Starting Hands

As masculine as poker may be, it’s surprising how many cutesy terms for cards exist. These are common nicknames for poker hands:


  • Pocket Pair: The dealer has dealt you two of the same card. Like a pair of twos, threes, aces, kings, etc.
  • Pocket Rockets/American Airlines/Bullets: All these are nicknames for being dealt the best pocket pair in poker… Aces! Most people will call these beauties "pocket rockets."
  • Cowboys: You're dealt a pair of kings.
  • Ladies: You're dealt a pair of queens.
  • Fishhooks: You're dealt a pair of jacks (because the "J" looks like a fishhook).
  • Snowmen: You're dealt a pair of eights (because the "8" looks like a snowman).
  • Ducks: You're dealt a pair of twos (because the "2" looks like a duck).
  • Big-Slick: You're dealt an Ace and a King.

7-2 (seven-deuce) is considered the worst starting hand in poker.

If two cards are the same suit, someone might call them “suited.” So, a nine and a ten of diamonds, for example, might be referred to as “nine-ten suited.”

If they are different suits—like a nine of clubs and a ten of spades—you’ll hear people say things like, “nine-ten off-suit.”

Nicknames for hands are one of the fun parts of learning poker lingo.

Who doesn't want to talk about pocket rockets?

Category #2:  Betting Rounds

No Limit Texas Hold‘em—the most common kind of poker—operates by a system of betting rounds.

  • Preflop: The dealer deals you two private cards. You can put in chips if you think they’re good cards worth playing. (Pro tip: Don’t feel pressured to play every hand. Did you know that some pros fold 80% of their hands before the flop? This strategy builds discipline. Throw away your cards in the preflop round unless they’re extra good… like pocket rockets!)
  • Flop: The dealer deals three public/community cards. Everyone tries to match their private cards to these public cards.
  • Turn: The dealer deals another public/community card.
  • RiverThe dealer deals the final public/community card.

Sometimes, players will turn these poker terms into verbs. Let’s say you have a pocket pair of kings, but the dealer puts an ace on the flop.

You might say, “Oh no! Did you out-flop me?”

Or if someone hits a flush on the river, you might say, “You rivered me!” (You’ll also hear people frustratingly say someone “sucked out” on them).

Category #3:  Poker Lingo for How to Play

You may have learned the names for the basic moves: bet, fold, raise. These are enough to get you started. You’re going to want to learn some more technical terms if you want to get more advanced.


  • Blinds: The blind is a mandatory “blind bet”—meaning you must put these chips out before looking at your cards. It’s similar to an ante. In No-Limit Texas Hold’em, there is a small blind and a big blind.

Don’t overthink this: If you're confused, the dealer will direct you on when to place your blinds. It happens all the time.

  • StraddleA player places a third preflop bet - acting as a third blind. So, let’s say you’re playing $1/$2 stakes. The person in the small blind will have to put in $1, and the person to their left in the big blind will have to put in $2.

Sometimes, the next person to their left will opt to “straddle”—they’ll double the amount (in this case, $4). Straddling is a way of raising the stakes and also getting to act last before the flop.

  • Three-bet/Four-bet/Five-bet: This part gets a little complicated—you can always swap any of these terms for the more general word “re-raise.” But if you want to get technical about it and master poker lingo, you should understand the terminology:
  • Technically, placing the blinds counts as the “first bet.”
  • If someone raises, that’s the “second” bet.
  • So, if someone re-raises them, that’s the “third” bet—a.k.a. “a three-bet.”
  • If someone re-raises again, that’s a “four-bet”, etc.
  • Let’s do an example. The blinds are in place. Robert raises with a pair of tens. Samantha three-bets with a pair of queens. Dan four-bets with a pair of kings. Eleanor five-bets with a pair of aces.
  • Again, if this is overwhelming, the catch-all term “re-raise” will do just fine. You can say, “Samantha re-raised him” rather than “Samantha three-bet him.”

Here’s another piece of technical poker trivia for all you advanced lingo lovers:

  • Since the blinds count as the first bet, it's called a raise whenever anyone puts an increased number of chips out preflop. You are raising the blind bet.
  • Once you get to the flop and put chips out, that’s a bet - not a raise. (There’s no amount you are raising).

Finally, if no one has raised preflop before you, people might refer to your bet as an “open raise.” It’s a more specific way of saying you were the first person to raise.


  • DonkThe higher you go in stakes, the more common it is for people to “check to the raiser.” Even if you hit a pair, you still automatically check and wait for the person who raised preflop to act first. If you don’t and bet into them instead, this is called a “donk” or a “donk bet.”

It's short for "donkey", which is generally unorthodox and silly. Against more experienced players, "donking" reveals you're an inexperienced beginner.

  • Barrel: This poker slang term means to bet or continuation bet on two or three streets of action. So, if you “triple-barrelled” versus an opponent, you bet on the flop, turn and river. Double-barrelling would be betting twice – usually flop and turn.
  • Nuts: The “nuts” is the best possible hand at any given time. Nothing can beat it! Your hand is undefeatable. “Flopping the nuts” would mean holding a jack and a ten on a flop of 7-8-9. Lucky you!

That said, nothing is more unlucky than having the "second nuts" against "the nuts." It is only possible for a single hand in the entire deck to beat you… which your opponent happens to have.

  • Bonus: What’s the poker lingo for getting super unlucky and running the second nuts into the nuts? Cooler! As in, “That’s a cooler!”

Category #4: Final Key Phrases to Know

poker chips

We’ve already covered poker lingo’s biggest buzzwords. Sure, you might hear some random obscurities. Someone will call pocket sevens “hockey sticks” every once in a blue moon for the obvious reason. But you’ve got the basics.

Here are a few final key poker phrases you should know:

  • Board: The board is the public/community cards the dealer has dealt face-up. If someone doesn’t like their hand in relation to the public cards, they might say, “That’s a bad board for me.”
  • Street: Back in the day of old school Texas Hold’em, people used the term “streets” instead of “betting rounds”. So, a “three-street bluff” means someone bet three times as a bluff. Or a “two-street hand” means your hand is only good enough to bet twice.
  • Rainbow: This phrase describes when all the public community cards are different suits. So, if the dealer puts out a three of clubs, a four of diamonds, and a five of spades, you could say, “The flop was three, four, five rainbow.”

If the turn card were the six of hearts, you’d be clear to say, “The turn card completed the rainbow.” Mostly, you’ll hear people talk about a “rainbow flop.”

  • Set: You have a pocket pair in your hand and hit three-of-a-kind using one of the public community cards. Perhaps you “flopped a set” or “turned a set.”
  • Trips: People often confuse this term with a set—they’re different! Even though they both mean three-of-a-kind, spiking a set specifically requires a pocket pair. Hitting trips means you got three-of-a-kind without a pocket pair.
  • For example, if you were dealt pocket queens in your hand and the flop was: Ace-Queen-Three. You would have flopped a set of queens.
  • But if you had a king and a queen in your hand and the flop was: Queen-Queen-Three. Then you would have flopped trip queens.

poker table

  • Thin/Thin Value: This more modern phrase means “betting thin for value”. You have a hand that you think is winning, but it’s close. Your bet is a bit risky When someone says, “That’s thin”, it means they’re surprised at the bet for value when they may be beat.

But it can also be used as a compliment if you were right! “Nice thin value bet” is pro-speak for a sophisticated bet where you eked out every last dollar.

  • Backdoor/Runner-Runner: This action occurs when someone needs two consecutive cards to make the winning hand. Hitting a “backdoor flush”, for example, meant you needed both the turn and river to complete your flush.
  • Position: After every new hand, the order of who goes first rotates one spot—which changes everyone’s relative position at the table. There are even names for every position at the table:
  • Under-the-Gun/UTG: The first person to act preflop.
  • UTG1 or Under-the-Gun + 1: The second person to act preflop.
  • UTG2: The third person to act preflop.
  • Lojack/MP (Middle Position): The fourth person to act or fourth person away from the button preflop.
  • Hijack: The fifth person to act or third person away from the button preflop.
  • Cutoff: The sixth person to act or second person away from the button preflop.
  • Button: The seventh person to act who has a button placed in front of them preflop.
  • Small Blind: The eighth person to act preflop who is sitting left of the button.
  • Big Blind: The BB is the ninth person to act preflop, sitting left of the small blind.

If you are only playing with eight players rather than nine, UTG2 is removed. It is rare to hear people talk about UTG2 or the Lojack.

Generally speaking, you’ll hear the following terms - blinds, button, Under-the-Gun, and Cutoff.

People will also lump seats together and say, “early position,” “middle position,” or “late position.”


Poker Lingo Strategy

If you want to get advanced with your poker lingo, here’s the reasoning behind some of the names:

  • When you’re on the button, you are supposed to play the broadest range of hands. So, the person in the Cutoff can “cut that person off” and raise before the button.

But the person in the Hijack can “hijack” this entire plan and raise before them!

  • Don’t fret if this is confusing. This super-nuanced terminology concerns the “range” of hands you should optimally play from each position. That’s a lesson for a different day!

Learning poker lingo will come more intuitively and naturally as you play. The further you go down the rabbit hole, the more funky and acute terms you will find. You don’t need to know everything.

Many poker players will scratch their heads even at “triple barrel”! Lots of people also misuse the above terms.

So, if you can master the listed vocabulary, you’re already way ahead of the game.

Congrats, “crusher!” (= super-skilled player).

Amanda is the author of the book A Girl's Guide to Poker, dedicated to making poker friendly and accessible to everyone. In 2021, she was a World Series of Poker final-tablist where she and her father took third place in the WSOP tag team event.