How To Play Poker

America’s Most Puzzling Poker Terms

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Published: May 20, 2024
Written by Global Poker

Poker is a game of skill and strategy, but, as we’ve discovered, half the challenge is understanding the lingo. Here's how to decode the most puzzling of poker terms. You're welcome. 

From the early 19th century riverboats of the Mississippi River to the now 12 million people who play Texas Hold’em, poker has a long history as one of America’s favorite games. 

But, with every evolution of the game, each variation, there’s a new set of poker slang to learn so you can show you’re a serious player.

In a world where 'Advertising' has nothing to do with sales (and neither does Cold Calls) and ‘Nuts’ is what you’re always hoping for, we decided to find out which popular poker terms are leaving players clueless.

What Poker Terms Do Americans Find the Most Puzzling?

From must-know terms to specific strategies, we uncovered the most searched definitions in the poker world. And, in case you want to brush up on your knowledge, we’ve included the definitions themselves.

Global Poker Poker Terms US

1. Advertising  — Have you ever seen a player intentionally act clueless, hoping to lure opponents into making ill-advised bets? That’s advertising in action. Players aim to manipulate their opponents into underestimating them by feigning incompetence, encouraging more aggressive betting.

2. Heads Up — No, we’re not talking about a casual conversation. In poker, “heads up” refers to a game with only two players. It’s mano-a-mano, a duel of wits and nerve.

3. Straddle — Imagine a player boldly doubling the ante before the cards are even dealt. That’s a straddle. It’s a move designed to inject some adrenaline into the game and give the straddler the advantage of acting last before the flop.

4. Set — When you’re dealt a pair in your hand and a matching card appears on the table, you’ve hit a set. It’s a strong hand, often leading to sizable pots.

5. Grinding — Nope! We’re not talking about gears or coffee beans. Grinding in poker refers to the arduous task of playing marathon sessions in pursuit of profit. Grinders are the unsung heroes of the poker world, enduring long hours at the table to eke out a living.

6. Busted — When your chips are gone, you’re busted. Whether in a tournament or a cash game, being busted means you’re out of the action.

7. Rainbow — Picture a flop where all three cards are of different suits, creating no immediate flush possibilities. That’s a rainbow flop, ensuring no player has a draw to a flush...yet.

8. Jam — Feeling bold? Feeling reckless? Go all in with a jam. It’s a high-stakes move where you push all your chips into the center, daring your opponents to match your bet or fold.

9. Cold Call — Have you ever faced a raise and decided to call it coolly? That’s a cold call. It’s a calculated move, signaling that you’re not easily intimidated.

10. River — The climax of the hand, the river, is the fifth and final community card revealed by the dealer. It’s often make-or-break time, where fortunes are won or lost.

11. Trips  — Not a vacation. Trips in poker mean having three of a kind, with two of the cards being community cards and one in your hand.

12. Hit — You’ve hit when that magical card comes and completes your hand. It’s the moment of sweet satisfaction when luck turns in your favor.

13. Deuce — In poker lingo, any card with a rank of two is a deuce. So when someone mentions a deuce, they’re not talking about a devilish hand, just a humble two.

14. Underdog — Every story needs an underdog; in poker, it’s the player with the odds stacked against them. They might be holding weaker cards, but in poker, anything is possible.

15. Tilt — Emotions running high? Making irrational decisions? You might be on tilt. It’s a state of frustration or anger that leads to reckless play and, often, substantial losses.

16. Shove — Another term for going all-in, shoving is about pushing all your chips forward and daring your opponents to match or fold.

17. Ace in the hole — Having a secret weapon, an ace up your sleeve, so to speak, is having an ace in the hole. It’s a hidden advantage waiting to be unleashed.

18. Nit — If you encounter a player who plays cautiously, rarely betting or taking risks, you might have stumbled upon a nit. They’re conservative, careful, and often frustrating to play against.

19. Nuts — Picture the ultimate hand, the unbeatable combination. That’s the nuts. When you have the nuts, victory is practically assured.

20. Crack — Beating a formidable hand, such as pocket aces, is cracking the nuts. It’s a moment of triumph, turning the tables on your opponent’s seemingly unbeatable hand.

21. Brick — Not every card that hits the table is a game-changer. Some are just bricks, cards that don’t seem to help anyone’s hand.

22. Trap — Have you ever pretended to be weak to lure your opponents into a trap? That’s trapping. It’s a cunning strategy for enticing others to overcommit to the pot.

23. Backdoor — When you need precisely two consecutive cards on the turn and river to complete a strong hand, you’re chasing a backdoor draw. It’s a long shot, but sometimes, luck favors the bold.

24. Counterfeit — Imagine having a solid hand, only for a subsequent card to render it worthless. That’s being counterfeited. It’s a cruel twist of fate that can turn victory into defeat.

25. Quads — Four of a kind, a hand so rare and powerful that it’s the envy of every poker player. When you hit quads, the poker gods are smiling upon you.

Is Advertising Overplayed?

Up in #1, Advertising isn’t a standard term, but a specific strategy. Seems like everyone wants to know how to use it. So, a little tip: be ready for it. Expect it. And maybe try one of the strategies further down on the list to catch your opponents off guard. 

The Rise of the One-on-One Game

When you think of poker, you probably imagine a table full of people. But it seems poker games are getting more intimate, with Heads Up in second. Perhaps it’s couples or smaller groups of friends, but people are dueling it out, one on one. 

What States Are Most Puzzled By Poker Terms?

Based on the overall highest and lowest search volumes of states. The Least Poker Savvy State Award goes to New York. Perhaps the high-flying finance-types in the Big Apple know more about stocks than poker. 

And the Most Poker Savvy State? Idaho. 

Surprised it’s not Nevada? Well, even the pros need to brush up on their knowledge sometimes.American map detailing most poker obsessed cities





The Poker-Obsessed States Do Their Research

States with the more bustling poker scenes, like California, New York and New Jersey may not be as poker savvy as you’d expect. We wonder if they’re the type to sneak in a phone so they can cram before the big game. Perhaps they’re more afraid of looking like an amateur than other states. 

Wyoming, Vermont, and Alaska are also puzzled by a lot of poker terms, ranked low on our list.

Intelligence Doesn’t Equal Poker Knowledge

While a 2018 study showed that Massachusetts and New Jersey residents are among the smartest in the USA, they definitely need to sharpen their poker slang.

Especially since Massachusetts was listed in the top 10 poker-obsessed states in a recent survey by VGW. It’s time to get studying. 


To determine which poker term is the most puzzling to Americans, we used Google Keyword Planner to extract search volume data for the top 25 slang terms across the keyword variations. If multiple variations of the same term were in the top 25, we averaged the search volume.

We did this on a country-wide level for the entirety of the United States and on a state-by-state basis, with the data covering March 2022 to February 2024.  

To find the top 3 states, we standardized the search volume data by calculating the proportion of searches per 100,000 people within each state's population