Know Your Poque From Your Poker

min read
Two men engaged in a poker game at a table, surrounded by cards and poker chips.
BetMGM Aug 29, 2023, 11:11 AM

Every sport, hobby or pastime has a language and slang of its own. And if you want to pass as a pro (or at least someone who knows what they’re talking about,) you can learn some key phrases to pepper your conversation with here and there and you’ll fit right in. 

To start with, it helps to know where the name of the game came from. The French brought “poque” to New Orleans at the end of the 17th century; it was then adapted and renamed poker by English-speaking settlers. The Americans returned the compliment and took the game back to Europe when the U.S. joined the First World War in 1917. It has been one of the most popular card and casino games, including the online poker version, on both sides of the Atlantic ever since.

The game’s popularity has spawned a whole poker slang with a vocabulary that refers either to the cards, the way the game is going or the behavior of the players. Wherever in the world the game is being played, the language of poker remains universal. Here’s a list of words and phrases that you need to know if you’re hanging out with other players.

Technical Terminology

These words and poker phrases are more terminology than slang but are an important part of your poker vocabulary. Don’t go entering any online poker tournaments until you’re completely familiar with them.

All in: Save this for when you have a winning hand. It’s when you put all your chips in the pot. Sometimes known as the shove.

Blind: This is the amount put in the pot by two players to the left of the dealer.

Small blind: This is the wager placed by the first player to the left of the dealer.

Big blind: Double the value of the small blind and placed by the player to the left of the small blind.

Bluff: Something you’ll need to learn to do. Dissembling by wagering on your own hand to convince other players they should fold.

Button: The plastic disk that denotes the dealer’s position.

Call: This is when a player puts the minimum amount required to stay in the game in the pot.

Community cards: Cards dealt face-up that can be used by any player.

Flop: These are the first three of the five community cards dealt after the first round of bets has been placed.

Fold: When you concede by placing your hand face-down on the table. You also lose all your stakes up to this point in the game.

Raise: This is when you put the minimum wager, plus an amount more, into the pot.

River: Last card of the five community cards to be dealt.

Turn or fourth street: The fourth community card, dealt face-up by itself.

What’s in Your Hand

Whether it’s Texas Hold’em poker or any other format of the game, next, you need to know exactly what it is you’re holding. Here are the terms for the most important card combinations.

Pair: Any two cards of the same value.

Two pair: This one’s self-explanatory.

Three of a kind: These cards can be of any suit but must be of the same value.

Straight: When you’re holding a series of sequential cards.

Flush: This is a hand of five cards of the same suit in no particular order.

Straight flush: This is a good hand. Five cards of the same suit, in sequence.

Royal flush: This is the best hand: an ace-high straight flush.

Full house: Three of a kind, plus a pair.

Slang To Make You Sound Like a Pro

If you really want to speak the lingo of poker, both at and away from the table, there are some expressions that players use that you really need to know. You’ll hear these expressions in land-based casinos as well as during online casino games.

Around the Table

Airballing: A term for bluffing.

Ammo: This is your “ammunition,” or stack of chips. Do you have enough ammo to stay in the game?

Arsenal: Airballing is part of your arsenal, that is, the skills you bring to the table.

Busted: Out of the game. A poor hand or not enough ammo.

Clicking buttons: You definitely don’t want to be accused of doing this. This is when you make a move just for the sake of it. A novice thing to do. In addition, taking too much or too little time to make a move is also risky and can be read by other players as so-called timing tells.

Donkey: Only a donkey would click buttons — someone who doesn’t play well.

Shark: Essentially, the opposite of a donkey — someone who plays well.

Nosebleed: There are stakes, high stakes and then there are nosebleeds. These are nosebleed-inducing stakes. Probably a good time to fold. Watch out for people placing astronomically high stakes in some of the richer online poker tournaments.

On the Street

Poker players’ very own jargon doesn’t end with poker online games. There are a few phrases that are frequently heard away from the table that require some deciphering, such as the following:

Drawing dead: In poker terms, this means you have no chance of winning. Outside of the game, it means that things really can’t get much worse. 

Running bad: This means you’re having an entire run of drawing dead or a streak of bad luck.

Tilted: Either of the above is enough to leave you tilted — meaning frustrated, angry or upset.

Nit: At the table, this refers to a person who is risk averse, but can also describe someone who is somewhat stingy. Don’t be a nit.

Freeroll: A nit might enjoy a freeroll, where there is little risk and the promise of some reward. You can see how this might apply in the game, but in life, it’s pretty much the same as a freeloader. Don’t be a freeroller.

Fish: A bit like a donkey.

Nuts or nuts low: If something is nuts, it’s insane, in a good way. The best online poker sites are nuts. However, if you’re “nut low,” it means you’re not so great. For example, “I’m nut low at poker.”

How Not To Be Nut Low at Poker

Once you’ve got the hang of poker jargon, you know what’s in your hand and how to play the cards, you’re ready to go out there and have some fun with live dealer casino games. BetMGM speaks your language, whether it’s poker, slots, roulette or any other casino game. Register here to play.

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Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.