Poker terminology and abbreviations

by ~ June 3rd, 2008. Filed under: Instructional posts.

* Modified February 23rd, 2009 *

Some poker terminology and abbreviations, particularly as used in my blog posts. General focus is on Hold’Em games. Not everything is covered here, and explanations of how the game is played are only given where necessary to explain the definition of the term.

I’ll keep adding to this as I think of terms that I’ve forgotten. If you think I’ve missed something, or have a question, leave a comment or send an email.

Term, Alternative names, (Abbreviation) – Definition

Before the hand:

  • Blind – Amount that is required to be paid into the pot before any cards are dealt. Paid by players “in the blinds” or in both the big blind and small blind positions.
  • Big Blind – the full blind cost
  • Small Blind – 1/2 the blind cost. This may be a rounded amount. If the big blind is $0.25 the small blind may be either $0.10 or $0.15
  • Ante – Additional amounts that must be paid by all players before the cards are dealt. Standard requirement for games such as Stud, but also applicable to Hold’Em tournaments in the later stages.

By seating position:

  • Dealer, or Button – player who, in a home game, deals the cards to each player, starting with the player immediately to the dealer’s left. In a casino or on-line this player doesn’t actually deal the cards, but a circular piece (like a big button) with the letter “D” printed on it will be placed in front of this player to indicate who has the dealer position.
  • Small blind (SB) – Player who gets the first card from the dealer. Before the cards are dealt, the SB must pay 1/2 the big blind cost into the pot
  • Big blind (BB) – Player next after the SB. Before the cards are dealt, the BB must pay a full blind cost into the pot
  • Under the gun (UTG) – Player next after the BB. After the cards are dealt, UTG is the first player who has to decide whether to call, fold, or raise.
  • Under the gun+1 (UTG+1) – Next player after UTG
  • Middle position 1 (MP1) – Next player after UTG+1
  • Middle position 2 (MP2) – Next player after MP1
  • Middle position 3, or Hijack (MP3) – Next player after MP2
  • CutOff (CO) – Last person before the dealer

Positions closest to the dealer and the blinds are the most important for consideration, so when the table has fewer players, the position names from the middle are removed first. If the table has only 8 players, there will be no MP3. If only 7, no MP2. If only 6, no UTG+1. If only 5, no MP1.

Other table related:

  • Late position, early position – Relative positioning term. Late might mean the hijack, cutoff and dealer, early might include UTG positions and the blinds.
  • OOP Out of position. Postflop the person who is OOP must act before other players that are still in the hand.
  • Short table – Fewer than the normal amount of players at the table. Can be used to refer to later in a tournament and some players have been knocked out or a ring game where there are fewer players at the game, either by accident or by design. Short tables mean that there are fewer hands to compete with so weaker hands will win, and generally you should be playing more frequently because the blinds will circulate the table more often.
  • Orbit – Each full rotation of the dealer spot around the table is one orbit.

Rounds of cards/betting:

  • Flop, or First street – Group of 3 community cards dealt face up
  • Turn, or second street – Next community card, dealt face up
  • River, or third street – Last community card, dealt face up. The term “street” is used more often in other games such as Stud where there are five streets.
  • Preflop – The betting activity that occurs after the pocket cards have been dealt and before the flop is dealt.
  • Postflop – Collective term referring to the flop, turn, and river, ie. anything that happens after the flop cards have been dealt out. Strategists sometimes focus separately on preflop and postflop play.
  • Board – Generic name for whatever community cards have been dealt to that point. ie. “After the turn, the board showed both a flush and a straight draw”

Betting options:

  • Raise – Increase the amount of money that your opponents must pay in order to continue in the hand
  • Bet – same as a raise except this term applies only when no previous bet has been made. Once a bet has been made, any subsequent increase during the round is called a raise.
  • Call – Putting the minimum amount of money into the pot in order to continue to play the hand. Preflop you must call the big blind, or call any raises that have been made before it gets to be your turn.
  • Check – When you are not required to put any more money into a hand in order to continue, and you choose not to put more money in, then you check. This happens if you are in the BB preflop and there are no raises, or postflop and no one has made a bet yet.
  • Fold – Decline to call and take no further part in the hand
  • Re-raise – To raise a previous raise
  • Min-Raise (MR) – To raise the minimum amount. Applies only to pot limit or no limit games because limit poker allows only one bet size.
  • 3 -bet – To go to a third cost level in one round of betting. Preflop the blind amount is considered a bet. If someone raises the cost and then that amount is subsequently raised again, that re-raise is considered a 3-bet.
  • 4-bet – To make a fourth cost level in one round of betting. Also could be called a re-re-raise or a re-raise of the original raise.
  • 3-bet light, 4-bet light – To make 3-bets or 4-bets with weaker cards than might ordinarily be expected. Done by aggressive players, especially when the table is short, or the opposing players are weak, or where the table is very aggressive. An aggressive table may 3-bet with 87s, so you’re good to 4-bet light with AQ to counter that aggression.
  • All-in, or shove, or push – To put all one’s remaining chips into the pot.
  • Limp – To just call the blind preflop
  • Muck – In a live game, the collection of cards that are out of play. When you fold your hand, you put them into the muck. Also used as a verb; if you lose you don’t have to show your cards and you “muck” them. In online poker the mucked cards at showdown are usually available to see if you check the hand history.

Other elements:

  • Ring game, cash game – A poker game that is open for people to sit down and play whenever there is a vacant seat. Usually defined either by the blind costs; ie. $1/$2, or sometimes by 100 BBs which is often the maximum buy-in ie. $200.
  • Tournament – a game where there is a set amount that you pay to play. All players are given the same amount of starting chips, and when you have no more chips you are eliminated. The player at the end who has all the chips is the winner.
  • Rebuy tournament – A tournament where for a certain period of time you can rebuy chips. Often these play very loose and wild during the rebuy period as players take chances to try to build a big stack
  • Satellite tournament (Satty)– A tournament where the prize(s) is a seat in another bigger tournament.
  • Sit and Go (SnG) – a tournament with a fixed number of players that starts whenever the full complement of players are signed up to play.
  • Bubble – the point in a tournament when the next player to be eliminated is the last one who will not get money.
  • ITM – In The Money. After the bubble is burst, all remaining players will receive some money.
  • Stack – the amount of chips that each player has
  • Big stack, small or short stack – a player with a larger than average amount, a player with less than the average amount. Similar to Deep Stack/Shallow Stack. Deep Stack usually refers to ring games, specifically where all the players in a hand have at least 100 BBs, but some tournaments are called Deep Stack because the starting chips are more, relative to the starting blinds.
  • Buy-in – The amount of money that is exchanged for chips in order to play. At a ring game there will often be a minimum and a maximum buy-in. At a tournament there will be a fixed amount to buy-in in order to play.
  • Rebuy – to buy more chips to play with. In a ring game this happens whenever a player wants to have some more chips to play with up to the table maximum. This is not allowed in tournaments unless it is a special rebuy tournament.
  • M – a term in tournaments used to refer to a stack size in comparison to the pot size before any betting starts. If the blinds are 200/100 and 6 players are on the table and each have to ante 25, the pot is 200 + 100 + 25*6 = 450. Therefore a player with 4,500 chips has an M of 10 (4,500 / 450). What M tells you is how many orbits you can go before being blinded out. The smaller the M value, the more desperate to pick up some chips.
  • ICM – Independent Chip Model, a theory for determining the correct play in a tournament, especially a Sit and Go. Part of the theory includes the thought that the value of chips above the average are worth less than the chips below the average because the low stack needs to hang on to those chips to survive whereas a player with more chips can afford to lose some in an attempt to get further ahead.
  • Multitabler – Online players who play more than one table at the same time.
  • Rake, juice – percentage of the pot that the poker site or casino takes. If the hand is ended preflop usually the site takes no rake. Often the calculation of bonus points or of deposit bonus earned is based on the rake. Juice refers to rake on tournaments or sit and goes where there is no rake on a hand by hand basis, but there is an extra cost to buying in that the site takes, ie. in a $5 + .50 tournament $5 from each player goes towards the prize pool and 0.50 goes to the site or casino. In a fundraiser often the rake is 50% where half the buyin goes to the charity. Rake percentages otherwise tend to be higher percentages at lower stakes and lower percentages at higher stakes because in real dollars compared to system usage the higher stakes players are contributing a larger amount. This is important at sites like Full Tilt where the lowest cash table buyin currently has a very high rake making it more difficult to be a winning player because the site is taking more each hand. (edit Feb ’08: Full Tilt has recently added lower stakes tables and lowered their rake structure a bit)

Playing styles:

  • Tight – Plays few hands preflop
  • Loose – Plays many hands preflop
  • Aggressive – Bets or raises often rather than calling
  • Passive – Calls often rather than betting or raising
  • Weak – Folds to bets or raises often
  • Maniac – Raises/bets often no matter how strong his hand is
  • TAG – Tight-Aggressive player. Plays only his best hands preflop and then is aggressive with them. Best style for beginners as it helps to keep them out of difficult situations while getting value for the good hands.
  • LAG – Loose-Aggressive player. Plays many hand preflop and is aggressive with them. Makes it difficult for his opponents to determine when he really has a premium hand. Wins many small pots with his aggression and also wins big with his premium hands because his opponent’s may believe he is bluffing.
  • Calling station – Rarely folds.
  • Nit – Plays only the most premium hands. Often very aggressive with them. Often multitabling. When they raise call them with pocket pairs or suited connectors as they’re likely only playing big pairs or AK, maybe AQ. May be able to push them off dangerous boards.
  • Fish – General derogatory name for a bad player or easy prey, sometimes refers more to a calling station type player than any other style
  • Shark – General reference to a good player, or at least better than the other players at the table; a “shark amongst fish”
  • Donkey – General derogatory name for a bad player
  • Donk – Comes from donkey, but refers to the move of betting into the preflop raiser from out of position. For example, you raise from late position, the big blind calls and on the flop the big blind bets first, either indicating that he has a hand or is betting that you missed the flop.
  • Brick – a card that isn’t likely to affect the strength of anyone’s hand, ie. Flop is AQ4 and the turn is a 8. The 8 doesn’t help a flush or straight draw and only helps an unlikely card combination like A8 or Q8.

PokerTracker/HEM abbreviations:

  • VP$IP – Voluntarily Put $ In Pot. Percentage of times that the player put money into the pot voluntarily preflop. Does not include the BB if just checked, but does include completing from the SB. A tight player has a low VP$IP, a loose player has a high VP$IP.
  • PFR – Preflop Raise. Percentage of times that the player raises preflop when he plays.
  • BB/100 – Big Bets (not big blinds) won per 100 hands, this is the standard win rate value that is used for comparisons. Big bets comes from Limit Holdem and is equal to 2 big blinds, so the other version is bb/100 which means big blinds per 100 hands. Make sure you’re comparing apples to apples as BB/100 is half bb/100. BB/100 is still the standard measurement even though most people nowadays play No Limit.


  • OESD – Open ended straight draw. If you have 98 and the flop is T72, a J or 6 will give you a straight, so the draw is open at both ends.
  • Inside straight draw, Gut shot draw – Straight draw with one card missing in between the cards. If you have 98 and the flop is T62, only a 7 will fill your straight.
  • Double gut shot draw, Belly buster draw – A situation where there are two different value cards that can come and give you two different straights. If you hold 78 and the flop is 46T, then a 5 will give you a 4,5,6,7,8 straight but a 9 will give you a 6,7,8,9,T straight.
  • Wraparound straight draw – in Omaha where you have 4 hole cards you can have more than one possibility to complete a straight. If you hold 9876 and the flop is T72, a J, 9, 8, or a 6 will give you a straight.
  • Boat – Full house
  • Connectors – Two cards in sequence such as 87. Can be suited (of the same suit) or offsuit. Gapped connectors have a gap in between the cards such as 86 or 85.
  • T9s, T9o – the “s” indicates the two cards are of the same suit, the “o” indicates they are not of the same suit or offsuit.
  • Ax – a hand with an Ace and another inconsequential card. Some players can’t fold these no matter how weak the other card is.
  • Bad beat, suck out – a hand where you were significantly ahead but lost
  • Rivered – a verb describing a hand where the river card changed the outcome of the hand. Could also be a suck out or bad beat.

    On-line shorthand:

  • gl – good luck
  • gg – good game; in a tournament when someone is eliminated
  • nh – nice hand
  • n1 – nice one
  • ul – unlucky
  • wtf – what the fu**
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