It has recently come to my attention that many of my readers are in the dark when it comes to some of the poker terminology I use. To address this issue, I have created the Poker Glossary. Please feel free to post comments on blog entries if a word or phrase does not make sense to you, and I will explain as soon as I can and I will add the term to this page. The one thing I will NOT put on here is the high hand rankings. Go buy a deck of cards.
First and foremost, I will explain how cards are communicated. Each card is represented by a number or letter and then a second, lower case letter. 2-9 and T (10), J (jack) Q, K, A represent the denominations. The second, small letter beside the ranking of the card represents the suit. Therefore, the Ah is the ace of hearts, the 7c is the seven of clubs, etc. h=heart, c=club, d=diamond, s=spade. If no suit is given, then it is assumed that the suit does not matter in the explanation of the hand.
Blinds and Antes:
Blinds and antes are the entire reason that poker is played. The are the money that MUST be put into the pot before any cards are dealt, to ensure that the players have some amount to play for. If there were no blinds or antes, then there would be no need to play any hand but AA. If it’s free to just keep seeing cards, then why not wait for the best hand?
An ante is a set amount of cash or chips that every player in the game must post before any cards can be dealt. They are generally used in 7 card stud games and not in Hold’em or Omaha, though you will see them in large tournaments that are No Limit events. The blinds are what’s used to get the action rolling in flop games like Hold’em and Omaha. The player to the immediate left of the dealer must post the small blind, which is generally half of the big blind. The big blind is posted by the player two seats to the left of the dealer. The dealer rotates one seat every hand, so everyone ends up paying the same amount in blinds over time.
One last quick point. In 7 card stud games, the action is started by the player with the lowest face up card. He must make a small initial bet, known as the Bring In. The action then moves onto the player to his immediate left, who can fold, call or complete the bet, which makes it the total bet of one full unit. For example, in a 7 card stud game with $2/$4 limits, everyone would post a .40 cent ante, then the player dealt the lowest card face up would bring in the action with an initial .50 cent bet. Then a player who is showing an Ace face up could complete the bet, making it a total of $2 to call. If your still confused, don’t worry, the next section details the different ways to play poker.
Poker Dealing Variations:
Hold’em = HE
Undoubtedly the most popular form of poker today, HE is played by dealing 2 cards face down to all the players, after which there is a round of betting. The dealer then burns or discards one card and turns over 3 community cards (cards which are used by all the players currently in the hand) known as the flop. Another round of betting, then the dealer discards another card and deals one community card, known as the turn. Another betting round, another discard, and the river is dealt. There is then a final betting round after and if two or more players are still left in the pot after all the betting has been completed, they must table their hands to see which is better. The process then repeats.
Omaha = O
Omaha is very similar to Hold’em. The game is set up exactly the same way, however each player is dealt 4 cards to start. The only other difference is that players MUST use 2 cards from their hand, and 3 from the board. Being dealt 2222 may look great for a moment, but all you actually have is a pair of 2s with NO chance of improving.
7 card Stud, or just Stud
The former most popular poker variation, 7 card stud is dealt very different from omaha and hold’em. Each player is dealt 2 cards face down and 1 face up to start. There is then a round of betting, followed by another face up card, known as 4th street. Another round of betting, then 5th street, face up. Betting, 6th street face up. Betting, 7th street face DOWN, one more betting round, then if two or more players are left, they most show their face down cards to determine who wins the hand.
5 card Draw
The form of poker that most of us played as kids. Players are dealt 5 cards, a round of betting ensues, then players are allowed to discard as many cards as they like and draw from the deck. There is normally 1 draw or 3 draws, though some home games deviate from this. In the case of one draw, their is a round of betting post draw after players table their hands. In triple draw there are 3 drawing rounds with betting after each round.
Now that you understand how the different games are dealt, you must understand that not all of these games use the same hand rankings all the time.
High Ball = this is normal poker, where a pair beats nothing, 2 pair beats a pair, and so on. Flushes and straights count.
Low Ball = this style is where you want to achieve the LOWEST hand possible. Generally A2345 is considered the lowest hand (aces are considered 1), straights and flushes don’t matter.
2-7 Low Ball = a different low ball variation, this one using 23457 as the lowest hand. Straights and flushes DO count.
Hi/Lo Split = this is where players compete for the high AND the low pot simultaneously. After the hand has been completely played through, if two people are left in the pot they show their hands and the pot is split in half, half going to the winning high hand and half going to the winning low hand. It is important to note that the low hand is generally required to be an 8 low or better, as otherwise EVERY pot would be split. If there is no low hand then the high hand gets the entire pot. You can also “scoop” the pot, which is win both the high and the low. Scooping is very profitable.
Limit, Pot-limit and No-limit variations:
Each poker game uses a specific betting style, which must be one of the above 3.
No-limit = NL
No limit means exactly what it says, there is no limit on the amount you can bet on any given hand at any given time. The only limit you have is the amount of money or chips you have on the table in front of you.
Pot-limit = PL
Pot limit is very similar to NL. You can bet any amount you want on a hand, as long as the total amount of your bet does not exceed the amount of money already in the middle. What this essentially means is that it is cheaper to get involved with hands initially, but in later rounds when the pot is larger you will face bets that are of similar size to the NL variation.
Limit is the assumed betting style when PL and NL are not designated in the games name or acronym. Limit means that there is a limit on the amount you can bet from round to round. The first rounds of betting are all done with one betting unit, and the later rounds are done with 2. For example, say the limits in a hold’em game are $2/$4. This means that in the first 2 betting rounds players can bet or raise $2, while in the later rounds they can bet or raise $4. No variation is allowed.
Games are sometimes represented by acronyms. An example would be PLO, Pot Limit Omaha. Others simply have their own names. Stud Low for example, is commonly known as Razz, and 2-7 Lowball refers to 2-7 low 5 card draw. There are also MIXED games, such as HORSE, which stands for Hold’em, Omaha Hi/Lo Split, Razz, Stud Hi, Stud Hi/Lo split.
In poker, your position in relation to your opponents is very important, especially in HE and O variations of the game. The later you have to act in a hand, the more information you can gain before having to make a decision. The following is the catagories I break position down into (note that this is for a full, 10 handed game of Hold’em or Omaha).
SB = Small blind, the worst position. You are 2nd last to act pre-flop yes, but you are FIRST to act on every subsequent decision. Not a good spot, and its made worse by you having to put a half unit bet out before seeing your cards.
BB = Big blind, the second worst position. You are last to act preflop but you will either be first or second in acting postflop. Also made worse by having to put a full unit bet out before seeing any cards.
UTG = Under the gun. This is the first person to act preflop, and is again, a HORRIBLE position to be in.
EP = Early position. This term encompasses the 2 seats to the left of the UTG player. Not the worst positions to be in, but still not great.
MP = Middle position. These are the 2 seats to the left of the EP players, not a bad spot to be in and you can often raise from here to ensure that all those to act after you fold, giving you the best position for the rest of the hand.
LP = Late position. The 2 seats to the RIGHT of the dealer button, the closest to the button being known as the Cutoff (CO) seat depending on who’s doing the talking.
D = Dealer or button. This is the best of all the positions. No matter what, you will be last to act on every betting round post flop. This gives you an unbelievable advantage a lot of the time, and you will notice that when I describe my hands, I will often be on the button or in late position.
The Slang (in no particular order):
Pre-flop – the betting round that happens before any community cards are dealt in Hold’em and Omaha
Post-flop/Post-turn – the betting rounds after the flop
Garbage – horrible starting cards
Steal – raising with the sole intention of winning the pot without cards, generally done pre-flop in tournaments when the blinds are high enough to make it profitable
Bad Beat – when a begins the hand with the best cards, then gets beaten when his opponent out draws him (makes a better hand) at some point before the hand is over
Suckout – see bad beat
Rivered – see bad beat, however this term only applies when the bad beat comes on the river card
Coin Flip – a hand where both players have approximately a 50/50 chance of winning
Bankroll – the amount of money you have set asside for exclusive poker or gambling use. It’s generally treated like a bank account, but poor management can turn a great player into an unprofitable one.
Pocket X (where X stands for a card denomination) – this applies when you are dealt 2 cards of the same value face down. For example, JJ is pocket jacks.