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Poker Terms: Texas Hold’em & Beyond

The best thing about Poker is that there’s always something new to learn! Zynga Poker players and new players alike can up their poker game by learning the ins and outs of terms like building a bankroll and running some bluffs! There seems to be no end to the jargon and unique terms that come with playing the game.

From gameplay to the names of hands to some of poker’s unique culture, the game’s glossary is deep and comes with interesting history and stories. It’s also important to remember that poker is actually a family of games and some of these feature terms and aspects that may not actually be found in other games or table scenarios.

Keep reading to learn some of poker’s key terms, game variations, and unique hand names.

Poker Game Variations

Here’s a look at some of the most popular versions of poker:

Texas Hold’em

This is the most popular game in poker and is featured prominently in major events like the World Series of Poker and World Poker Tour. Each player is dealt two cards and, as outlined above, there are two forced bets called blinds before the action begins.

Before the Flop is dealt (three community cards every player can use to build the best five-card hand), a player must call the blind, fold, or raise. The player to the left of the big blind acts first before the flop, and then the action moves to the person to the left of the dealer button after the flop.

As outlined above, the button rotates around the table and denotes which player would have been the dealer. This is where the casino’s dealer starts distributing cards. After the flop, players can bet or check to another player. Players can also raise once a bet has been made. In No Limit Hold’em that includes all of a player’s chips.

Betting continues on the Turn card (the fourth community card) and then on the River (the fifth and final community card dealt). If a player is called on the River, both the player and their remaining opponents opponents turn their cards up to determine the winner – also known as the showdown. One thing to remember – a player in Texas Hold’em can use both, one, or none of their cards to make a hand (a key difference from Omaha). Sometimes the board may actually have the best hand.

Omaha

This game is similar to Texas Hold’em but players are dealt four cards and there are a few more twists. Betting follows the same pattern as traditional Hold’em, but Omaha is often played as a Limit or Pot-Limit game (meaning players can only bet up to the size of the pot).

Another difference is that players can only use two, and only two, of their hole cards. Not one, three, four, or zero. Those two cards are used in conjunction with three community cards to build the best five-card poker hand.

Omaha tends to produce higher hand values than in Texas Hold’em because players receive twice the number of cards. Thus, players must be willing to fold bigger hands more regularly. Another version is Omaha Hi-Lo (8 or better), which is a split-pot game. This means a player can use any two cards for a high hand and any two for a low hand. One player may get half of the pot with a high hand and another player wins half with the low.

However, there is a rule where a player’s five-card low hand must be no higher than an 8 (referred to as “8 or better” – such A-2-3-4-8. If the board runs out something like 2-10-3-K-K, obviously there wouldn’t be a low because a five-card low hand can’t be completed. In cases such as these where there isn’t a qualifying low hand, there would be only one winner. Occasionally a player may have both the high and low, and “scoop” the entire pot.

Seven Card Stud

Stud poker is one of the oldest forms of the game and features players receiving a certain number of cards face up and a certain number “in the hole.” This gives other players a chance to gauge what opponents might have or at least what they might be drawing to. 

The seven-card form found popularity in the 20th Century via home games and casinos, but was eventually overtaken in popularity by Texas Hold’em. In Seven Card Stud, players ante before the action begins and are then dealt two cards down and one card up. Players then bet before being dealt a second upcard.

This process continues until players have four cards up. You can also fold your hand at any time to save some chips. Those still in the hand then receive a seventh card down with one final round of betting available. Seven Card Stud is usually played in a fixed limit format and remains popular at series like the World Series of Poker.

A Hi/Lo version is also popular, with players allowed to build two hands with their highest and lowest hands. However, as in Omaha Hi/Lo a player’s low hand cannot be any higher than an 8.

Five Card Draw

This is a bit of an archaic game nowadays and not seen too often in tournaments or casinos, but was a popular game in the Old West of the late 1800s and early 1900s. Draw poker features players receiving a certain number of cards and not being able to see anyone else’s cards.

Players are able to discard and “draw” a certain number of cards to improve their hands. Once betting is complete, players have a showdown and the player with the best hand wins the pot. As the name implies, players initially receive five cards in this game.

Poker Gameplay Terms

  • Ante – This is forced bet that all players have to make before cards are dealt to build a pot right away. This forces players to play for a pot right away, not allowing players to be in the game without contributing some wager. Antes are played in many poker games for cash and in tournaments.

  • Big Blind – This is a forced bet that rotates around the table. The player two seats ahead of the dealer button posts this so players must call, raise, or fold – not just check. This forces action to build the pot. If no one raises ahead of this player, they may simply check.

  • Cash game – Poker played for money where you can sit down and leave at any time. In this format chips represent real cash and whatever you win or lose determines your profits or losses. While called a “cash” game, it is also the most popular form of Zynga Poker and is played with virtual currency. 

  • Dealer Button – In casino-dealt games like Texas Hold’em, this represents where the dealer would be. The dealer deals cards from that location and the button rotates around the table after each hand. This can be an advantageous location as this player acts last after the flop.

  • Flop – This is the placement of three community cards after the pre-flop action. Players can use these cards to make their best five-card hand.

  • Hole Cards – These are the cards a player receives that other players can’t see. These are used in conjunction with community cards in games like Texas Hold’em or with a player’s upcards in games like Seven Card Stud.

  • Limit – A version of poker in which bets are limited to a certain value and the number of raises are often capped as well.

  • No Limit – A version of poker, usually Hold’em tournaments or cash games, in which players can bet all their chips at any time.

  • Pot – This is the term for the accumulated chips that accrue throughout the hand in the center of the table. The player with the best hand during the showdown wins the pot.

  • Pot-Limit – A version of poker in which players can bet up to the size of the pot..

  • River Card (also known as fifth street) – This is the final card dealt after the flop and turn cards have been dealt on the board. Players in Texas Hold’em and Omaha form their best five-card hands using these community cards (although there are some different rules between the two games).

  • Showdown – This is when all betting is complete and there is more than one player remaining. Players show their cards to determine which player has the best hand and who takes the pot.

  • Small blind – This is a forced bet that is half the amount of the big blind. Blinds help build a pot and force players to commit some chips to get in the action. If there are no raises around the table, the small blind simply owes the other 50% of the big blind to see the flop.

  • Tournament – This is a poker competition in which players buy into the event for a certain amount. Chips do not have a real cash value and players hope to keep advancing throughout the tournament, reaching the final table and hopefully winning the event. Most tournaments now pay out the top 10-15% of players with payouts increasing the deep a player gets in the event.

  • Turn Card (also known as fourth street) – This is the fourth community card exposed after betting on the flop is completed.

Poker Hand Nicknames

As creative individuals, poker players have developed a lexicon for some of the hands a player might receive. Some are simply a play on the actual cards themselves and others have an historical meaning, especially referencing the game’s roots in the Old West. Here’s a look at a few:

  • Ace-Ace (A-A) – The best starting hand in poker has received numerous monikers through the years based on the shape, letters themselves, and numerous other references. Some of those include: Bullets, Pocket Rockets, or American Airlines.

  • King-King (K-K) – The second-best hand in poker has its own aliases including: Cowboys, King Kong (or Gorillas), and Elvis Presley. 

  • Jack-Jack (J-J) – A troublesome hand for many, this one has been referred to as Brothers or fish hooks.  

  • Aces and Eights – This may be the best-known hand in poker and is referred to as Dead Man’s Hand. This is the hand that famous Old West lawman and gambler Wild Bill Hickok was believed to have been holding when he was shot in the back during a poker game in Deadwood, South Dakota, in 1876.

  • Eight-Eight (8-8) – The unique shape of these numbers have added to the creativity of their nicknames through the years. Snowmen is probably the most popular but others include: Piano Keys (there are 88 on a piano); or Pretzels.

  • Seven-Seven (7-7) – Several of these are pretty creative as well based on the look of the number seven – Hockey Sticks, Candy Canes, and Walking Sticks.

  • Ace-King (A-K) – This hand comes with one of the best-known nicknames – Big Slick. 

  • Ace-Queen (A-Q) – This hand harkens a bit of Shakespeare with the name Antony and Cleopatra. Other names include Big Chick, Little Slick, Mrs. Slick, or Rocket Queen.

  • Ace-Jack (A-J) – This one references another popular casino game – Blackjack. Other references include Apple Jacks, Hijack, and Ajax.