Whether you’re watching poker on Twitch, listening to a poker podcast, tuning in to live event commentary, or listening to a more experienced player talk through a hand history, you might hear some obscure poker terms that you’re unfamiliar with.
“This guy VPIPs a lot and when he opened he got two callers, both of whom are nits. I’ve been card dead but I wake up with a monster and squeeze it up. They all call but I know they’ve got to take ICM into consideration. I flop air but it’s a very wet board and I have blockers to the nuts so I was hoping my semi-bluff could get some hero folds…”
Yep, poker jargon can get quite confusing if you’re not in the know.
Here, we’ve compiled a glossary of some of the more obscure poker terms for you to refer back to.
Angle shooting is a term used to describe an unethical act at the poker table with the intention of exploiting an opponent. Such angles include acting out of turn intentionally, gesturing that you’re going to call or check in order to gauge your opponent’s reaction, and obscuring the true size of your chip stack, to name a few.
A backdoor draw is a draw that requires both the turn and the river to complete it. For example, if you hold K♣Q♣ on a 2♣6♥J♠ flop, you have two overcards and both backdoor flush and straight draws. A club on the turn would give you a flush draw, while an ace or ten on the turn would give you a straight draw. *see Runner-runner
Blockers are cards that block certain hands your opponent could have, thus making it less likely or impossible that they have certain holdings. For example, if you hold A♣4♠ on a 2♣7♣Q♣ flop, your A♣ blocks them from having the best possible flush. If you hold 10♠10♦ on a 2♣7♠8♦9♥K♦ board, you block them from having the nuts (jack-ten), although it’s not impossible for them to have it. It’s important to understand blockers within your poker strategy.
A brick and mortar casino is a real casino based in a building, rather than an online casino. PokerStars is an online poker room, whereas the Bellagio in Las Vegas has a brick and mortar poker room.
A bum hunter in poker is a player who only plays against opponents that they consider to be much weaker than themselves. Bum hunters usually wait for weak opponents to sit in a game before they join.
Card dead in poker simply refers to long stretches at the table without being dealt strong or even playable starting hands.
To chase in poker means to continue in a pot with a drawing hand, such as an open-ended straight draw, when you don’t have the right pot odds to do so. Essentially, it’s the sunk-cost fallacy: “the phenomenon whereby a person is reluctant to abandon a strategy or course of action because they have invested heavily in it, even when it is clear that abandonment would be more beneficial.”
Chip dumping in poker is an unethical and illegal strategy whereby a player deliberately loses chips to another player, often a friend or someone they are staking in some way. It’s a form of collusion.
A crossbook is a bet made between two players who are both playing in the same event. In tournaments, this usually means whoever cashes for the least owes the other person a percentage of the winning difference between them, while in cash games it’s determined based on the profits over a session or period of time. For example:
- Tom and Diane agree to crossbook for 20% of an EPT Main Event
- Tom cashes for €10,000
- Diane cashes for €40,000
- Tom owes Diane €6,000
- (€40K – €10K = €30K)
- (20% of €30K = €6K)
A donk bet is a bet made by an out-of-position player who was not the last aggressor on the previous street. For example, if the button opens preflop and the big blind defends, then the big blind leads out on the flop rather than checking, they have donk bet.
A hero fold is when a player lays down a strong hand that they would usually call with because they believe their opponent has a stronger one. For example, let’s say you open with K♦K♥ under the gun off 100 big blinds and you’re three-bet by the cutoff. The button then four-bets and the player in the small blind–who has been playing extremely tight–then five-bet shoves all-in for 100 big blinds. If you felt the big blind could only ever have pocket aces, you might hero fold your pocket kings.
ICM stands for independent chip model. This is a model that assigns a monetary value to a chip stack in tournaments and, if followed, will alter the way you play when deep in tournaments in order to ensure you make the most money. For example, if you’re on a final table and there’s a stack much shorter than yours, ICM dictates that you should play extremely cautiously until that stack has been eliminated, ensuring you secure the pay jump.
LAG stands for loose-aggressive. It’s used to describe a player who plays a lot of starting hands (loose) and also plays them aggressively in a bid to apply pressure and outplay their opponents.
In poker, a mechanic (or card mechanic) is a cheater who’s able to manipulate the cards when they’re dealing to ensure either they or an accomplice are dealt a strong hand. Mechanic techniques include false shuffles (it appears they’re shuffling but they’re actually arranging the cards into a certain order) and dealing predetermined cards from the bottom of the deck (base dealing).
A nit is an extremely tight player who either only seems to play very strong starting hands or is susceptible to pressure during a hand as they’re likely to avoid taking risks.
The nuts in poker is the best possible hand in a given situation. For example, if you have 9♦10♣ on a 6♥7♠8♣ flop, you have the best possible hand with a ten-high straight, i.e. the nuts.
RFI stands for raise first in. A player’s RFI percentage refers to how often they are entering a pot with an open raise, while an RFI range is the range of hands a player should/could be open-raising with.
A runner-runner in poker is when a hand is made by hitting necessary cards on both the turn and river. For example, if Jon is all in with 9♦9♣ on a 2♣3♥10♦ flop but Anne has 10♣10♥, Jon will need a nine on both the turn and river to win (“he needs runner-runner.”) *see Backdoor
A satellite in poker is a tournament in which the prize is entry to another tournament with a higher buy-in.
A semi-bluff is a bet or raise made with a hand that has a good chance of improving on later streets (i.e. has a lot of equity), but isn’t currently strong. Semi-bluffs are made in order to get stronger hands to fold, thus winning the pot there and then without the need to ‘make’ your hand.
A squeeze play or squeeze bet in poker is when you make a large raise when there are two or more players already in the pot. For example, if there’s an open and two callers before the action gets to you, you could squeeze (i.e. make a healthy raise), often with the intention of getting everyone to fold, thus taking down the pot with no further action.
VPIP stands for ‘voluntary put money in pot’. Your VPIP percentage represents the amount of time you put money into a pot preflop (not including posting the blinds). It’s often used to measure how loose or tight a player is playing.
A wet board in poker is a collection of community cards that provide lots of opportunities for players to have made strong hands. For example, a 2♠7♥Q♦ flop is considered a ‘dry board’ as there are no immediate straight draws, flush draws, or obvious two-pair holdings. Whereas a 9♣10♣J♠ flop is considered a ‘wet board’ as there are lots of draws available.