Beginner’s Poker Terminology
Whether you are a complete newcomer to poker or simply looking to brush up on your skills, knowing the vocabulary used to describe the key features of a poker game is vital. Learning the poker terms always a good place to start!
By the end of this article, you will know exactly what some of the most common poker terms and phrases mean – helping you to super-charge your understanding of the game and improve your play accordingly.
Whether you win or lose at poker will ultimately be decided by the strength of your hand relative to those of your opponents.
Sure, there’s bluffing and other strategies designed to manipulate the order of things, but when the cards are placed on the table at the end of the betting action, the best hand will take the pot.
It’s essential that you know the ranking order of the various poker hands, so here’s how they score from weakest to strongest:
- High card: No pairs, no flushes – just your highest-value card leading the way.
- Pair: Two cards of the same numerical value.
- Two pair: Two sets of pairs.
- Three of a kind: Three cards of the same numerical value.
- Straight: Five cards of consecutive numerical value – e.g., 2-3-4-5-6.
- Flush: Five cards of the same suit.
- Full house: A three of a kind and a pair to create a five-card full house.
- Four of a kind: Four cards of the same numerical value.
- Straight flush: Five cards of the same suit and consecutive numerical value.
- Royal flush: A straight flush, but specifically 10-J-Q-K-A.
Most poker tournaments utilize a blinds system to prevent players from simply folding every hand and reaching the paid places.
The blinds move around the table, with the player typically to the right of the dealer paying the big blind and the player to the right of them the small blind (half the value of the big blind).
Usually, the size of the blinds will increase at regular time intervals.
At the start of each poker hand, players are dealt two cards. You have a range of options available – fold, call, raise, bet or check – depending on what has happened already in that betting round.
Once this action has been completed, the dealer will set down three cards in the middle of the table – this is known as the flop.
After the flop has been made, there is another round of betting – will you check, call, raise or bet?
Once all bets have been made post-flop, the dealer will place the fourth card in the middle of the table – this is known as the turn.
After the turn, there’s another betting round in which the action begins to heat up.
Once confirmed, the fifth and final card is placed in the middle – this is the river card.
A final wagering round takes place, and if two or more players are left in when the final call is made, their cards are revealed to show who has won, based on the rankings system outlined earlier in this article.
A pair is a poker hand that features two cards of the same numerical value.
A straight is a poker hand in which the five cards are adjoined numerically, such as 7-8-9-10-J. Aces can be high or low in a straight.
A flush is a poker hand in which all of the cards are of the same suit.
A royal flush is a very specific poker hand. It is made up of the cards 10-J-Q-K-A, which all must be of the same suit. The royal flush is an unbeatable hand in poker.
Here’s a common question from poker beginners: what happens if two or more players have the same rank of hand?
Here, it’s the kicker card of each player that will determine the destination of the pot. Let’s say that we have two players tied with a pair of kings as their final hand. To differentiate them, we then look at their next highest card – the kicker – to decide the winner. So, a pair of kings with a queen kicker beats a pair of kings with a jack kicker, for example.
If the players have the same kicker card, then the winner will be the player with the next best kicker in the hand – if both have the exact same hand, then the pot is split equally.
Remember that aces can be high in poker, so this is – numerically speaking – the best kicker card in the deck.
A short-handed game of poker is typically described as one with fewer than six players.
The opposite of short-handed poker is often called ‘full ring’, which denotes that every seat at the table is taken.
You may hear the term ‘short-handed’ used in poker from a strategic standpoint. Players will typically deploy different tactics when there are only a few rivals to compete against.
As you become more experienced in playing poker, you will begin to notice which of the players at your table is a fish – that is, they are inexperienced, make poor decisions or can be considered a ‘recreational’ player rather than an experienced one.
Of course, you will start out as a fish yourself, but by reading up on poker strategies and percentage plays, you can improve your game beyond that basic level.
It’s usually easy to beat fish as they are more predictable and straightforward to read, but beware the perils of playing against a fish: sometimes their ill-advised plays can lead to bad beats for more knowledgeable players!
A straddle bet in poker is effectively placing a big blind even when you’re not in a position to have to do so.
The idea behind the straddle is to up the stakes in any given pot. It’s placed before seeing your cards though, so only the most action-orientated players will place a straddle.
If you’ve familiarized yourself with a few poker terms, and you’re eager to learn the Basic Rules of Poker, we have you covered!