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Gambling Terminology and Jargon

The gambling industry is surrounded by lots of specialised terms and phrases that have developed over time. Casino players love to come up with idioms and phrases to describe common experiences or superstitions surrounding good and bad luck. If you’re new to this world, all this jargon can sound like a foreign language. This extensive glossary will guide you through all the most common gambling terminology and gambling phrases you might encounter. It’s also worth bookmarking this page to be used a reference later, should you come across a new casino gambling term you’re unfamiliar with.

Casino Gambling Terms: The Essentials

The following list of gambling phrases are considered by our experts to be absolutely essential. You really can’t live without this vocabulary if you plan to play casino games online or in a land-based casino. The gambling terminology on this page has been listed in alphabetical order.

The Essentials
Advance-Deposit Wagering Advanced-deposit wagering, often referred to as ADW, is the practice of requiring players to fund an account or virtual wallet before placing bets. It is the basis for all online gambling.
Advantage Gambling Also commonly referred to as ‘advantage play’, advantage gambling is the practice of gaining an advantage whilst gambling. Unlike cheating, which is illegal, advantage gamblers, known as advantage players (Aps), operate within the rules of the game by using techniques such as card counting.
Ante An ante is a stake or wager that must be placed before players receive any cards. Most common in poker and casino card games.
Arbitrage Betting Arbitrage betting, most common in sports betting, arises either when several bookmakers price markets very differently, or make mistakes. In these incidents, players can place several bets on opposing markets to guarantee a profit whatever the outcome of the event. The practice of finding these loopholes is called arbitrage betting.
Beginner’s Luck The idea that novice players are luckier than experienced players. Is somewhat of a phenomenon in gambling circles. The idea that a beginner can outperform an experienced player is counter-intuitive, and thus can only be explained by ‘beginner’s luck’.
Bookie/Bookmaker An organisation or individual that accepts bets on sporting events such as horse racing, football and tennis. Bookmakers receive and pay out wagers at odds agreed at the time of betting.
Boxcars The in the game of craps, rolling two sixes is often referred to as ‘boxcars’ due to the six dots resembling a freight train. The score is also often dubbed ‘midnight’.
Breaking the Bank Refers to a situation in which a player has won a sum greater than that total reserves of a given casino table, and thus the total amount it can pay out. Whilst impossible online, it is theoretically possible as land-based casinos still using physical chips.
Burn Card The practice of taking the top card and dealing it face down during a casino card game or at a poker table. The card is removed from the game and is thus effectively ‘burned’. Burning the top card is used as a measure to prevent cheating by marking cards.
Bust In blackjack, holding a hand that has a value greater than 21 results in going ‘bust’. Bust hands are immediately lost, regardless of previous or future play at the table.
Card Counting An advantage gambling technique used in blackjack involving keeping a running count of the deck in play to determine how likely a winning hand is to be dealt. Whilst not illegal, card counting is strictly frowned upon in casinos.
Casino Token A collective term used to describe chips, cheques, plates or coins used in casinos instead of hard currency. Casino tokens of several values are often used which can be bought or cashed at any time.
Chinese Auction The practice of selling tickets to a raffle-style competition to win specific prizes. In a Chinese auction, each prize has its own ‘hat’ or pool or tickets from which the winner is drawn.
Coin Board Also known as a merchandise board, coin boards are a scratch card style game where players purchase tickets and pull open tabs to reveal hidden numbers. If the numbers match the game board, the player wins a prize.
Comps Comping is a practice typically done at Las Vegas casinos to encourage players to gamble. Patrons staking large sums of cash are often rewarded with complimentary hotel rooms, food vouchers, refunded drinks tabs or branded casino merchandise.
Croupier A croupier is a casino employee hired to take control of a gambling table or game. Croupiers collect and pay our bets, as well as deal cards and operate roulette wheels.
Dealer Similar to a croupier but the term is only used for card game assistants. In poker, ‘the dealer’ can refer to the player from whom the cards are dealt to the left of, although paying playing do not actually deal cards themselves.
Double or Nothing The practice of offering to re-do a lost bet. Losing again results in doubling losses, but a win the second time around means breaking even, and this no debts will need to paid. In the UK, the idea is also known as ‘double or quits’.
Double Down To place a bet which is the same size as the initial bet. This term is often used in blackjack.
En Prison A rule in roulette where players can receive their entire stake back if the wheel lands on zero, providing the original bet was for even money. En Prison is a variation of the La Partage rule
End-of-the-Day Betting Effect A psychological theory which refers to the tendency for players to take higher risks during the end of a betting session to make up earlier losses. The behaviour has been observed, in particular, at horse racing events where players would increase their bet sizes for races later in the day.
Even Money A bet or wager in which the odds pay 1:1 (even money). A bet or £10 returns £20 – the £10 original stake plus £10 profit. Common even money bets include red or black on a roulette wheel and blackjack on a Pontoon table.
Expected Value A term from probability theory that describes the average value of a random variable. A typical example from the world of gambling is the roll of a dice. The expected value is 3.5, because the average of all outcomes of a roll is close to this value.
Face Cards In a standard deck of playing cards used for casino gambling games, Jack, Queen, King are referred to as ‘face cards’ as they bear the images of human faces.
Gambler’s Conceit The idea or fallacy that one has the ability to stop gambling whilst still engaged in it. Often express by announcing, “I’ll quit when I’m ahead”, the term was described by behavioural economist David J. Ewing.
Gambler’s Fallacy Refers to the popular idea that previous results have a bearing over future events, especially in gambling games. A typical example is that if the last five spins have landed on a red number then the next spin is more likely to be black. Gambler’s fallacy is the basis for several betting strategies such as martingale. It includes the idea that certain tables are ‘hot’ or ‘cold’ or that a slot machines is ‘due’ a payout.
Gambler’s Ruin In modern gambling, refers to the statistical concept of house edge and how a persistent gambler with finite wealth will eventually go bankrupt if he/she plays for a long enough period of time.
George/Real George A player who tips the dealer very often; A good tipper.
Getting Out Stakes This slang term is used by British and Irish horse racing fans to describe the final event in a schedule day of races. The term is closely linked to the end-of-the-day betting effect.
Groom Porter Term used to describe the owner or operator of a gaming hall or casino. Originates from 1700s when groom porters were the keepers of the king’s furnishings in his bedchamber in return for remuneration.
Handicapping Handicapping is the practice of apply an advantage of disadvantage to betting market in order to offer increased odds. It is very common in sports betting where there is a strong favourite.
High Roller A gambler who typically bets large stakes. High Rollers are often ‘comped’ by casinos due to the size of their bankrolls. The theory being that eventually they will lose sums larger than the cost of the comps.
Hit An instruction given by players to the dealer to indicate that an extra card is desired. Most commonly used in blackjack, players can also signal for ‘a hit’ by tapping the table next to their cards.
Holdout A device used for cheating during card games. Mostly manufactured during the 19th century, holdout devices were designed to temporarily take a card out of the game by concealing in upon one’s person.
Hole Card This term refers to the card which is hidden from view, meaning neither the player nor the dealer can see the card value.
Hole Carding A term used to describe the practice of obtaining the value of cards that are supposed to be hidden from view/dealt in the hole. It often involves the use of mirrors or using an accomplice to stand behind the dealer and peak as cards are dealt.
House Edge This is a percentage of the wager that represents the average value of the profit advantage the casino has over the players. Seen in various casino games, in practice this percentage means that, out of a 100 wagered, the casino will win 1.35% (when based on an example of French Roulette, for instance). House edges differ based on game and also based on variations.
Inverse Gambler’s Fallacy The opposite of the Gambler’s Fallacy, this term is used to describe the idea that a particular outcome of a spin, hand or a roll of dice came up thanks to a number of previous spins, hands or rolls of dice. For instance, it would be false to assume that a winning combination must have come after many previous attempts. It is a fallacy because you are just as likely to roll a double 6 in dice on the first try as on the 50th.
Jackpot The grand prize that can be won in a game is the jackpot. It can be one single fixed amount, or you may sometimes see two or three sizes/levels of the jackpot.
Late Betting Late betting is an oft-shunned attempt to bet after the dealer has announced that no more bets may be placed. This tactic is pretty much impossible in online casinos, where closing the bets happens through a software command, meaning the player won’t be able to click and place a wager past a certain point, instead being prompted to wait for the next round.
Line Bet In slot games, a line bet refers to the wager placed per single payline. In games with multiple paylines, this amount is multiplied by the total number of active lines to determine the cumulative bet for the upcoming spin.
Locals Casino This type of casino aims to attract mainly residents of a particular area rather than tourists or visitors. From locales with just a few machines to full-scale gambling resorts, locals casinos might also offer a somewhat expanded roster of games including bingo or low limit games.
Low Roller The opposite of a high roller; a low stakes gambler without a penchant for flashy casino antics.
Martingale (Betting System) This is an approach to placing bets by which the player doubles the bet after every loss in order to recover previous losses and win a profit. This strategy is used by many roulette players and often touted as the go-to betting system. Nevertheless, it’s not a fool-proof strategy as the outcome of previous wagers has absolutely no bearing on what result comes up next.
Miraclebet Also referred to as arbitrage betting, this term refers to placing different bets with different bookmakers and thereby working with the different bookies’ individual opinions on predicted outcome or errors. Mainly used in sports betting, miraclebets are viewed unfavourably by many operators, even going as far as players employing people to bet on their behalf in order to not be detected.
Muck This term can refer to the stack of discarded cards in a game of poker, whether folded cards of players or the dealer’s burned cards. “Mucking” is the action of discarding your folded cards face down and putting them in the muck, thereby preventing other players from seeing what cards have already been dealt. In other contexts, mucking can refer to cheating in card games by concealing cards or using sleights of hand to otherwise trick other players.
Odds Compiler This is the person appointed by a bookmaker who sets the odds for events through various analyses and statistical computation. Often, intuition and experience play a role in setting the odds, meaning the odds compiler must monitor various pre- and post-betting event factors.
Oscar’s Grind This betting systems is most often used in games where even money bets are involved, for instance when playing black/red or even/odd in a game of roulette. According to the Oscar’s Grind principles, if a player wins a bet, the next wager should be one unit bigger than the previous bet. If a bet loses, your next wager should be of the same size.
Parimutuel Betting Applied mainly to sports betting events, this betting system, also called ‘pool betting’, dates back to the second half of the 19th century and involves gamblers betting against other gamblers instead of the house. Gamblers betting on a particular event pool their wagers together, and the house commission is deducted. The gamblers with the winning prediction then share the pool. Instead of fixed odds, players are given probable odds based on an analysis of the betting pool itself.
Pit Manager/Pit Boss This is the person responsible for managing and overseeing a casino pit, including supervising the floormen, who in turn supervise individual dealers on the floor.
Progressive Jackpot A type of a jackpot prize which grows in value every time a wager is placed. The so-called jackpot pool increases as punters wager online, until a lucky player strikes the winning combination and claims the grand total available at that precise moment. Clearing the jackpot pool sets the jackpot back to 0.
Provably Fair Provably fair algorithms are often used in online casinos to verify the fairness of operator. After a player places a bet, the operator will verify each transaction of the game with software algorithms and random number generation, among other factors.
Push In blackjack and its variants, a “push” refers to a situation where both the player and the dealer hold the same hand value – in other words, a tie. This means there’s no winner and, typically, the player will have his bet returned.
Risk Premium This is the financial incentive a gambler would need to opt for a risky option when given a choice between a high-risk decision and a safe one. For instance, when a game show player is given a chance to choose between two boxes with a concealed win of either £0 and £1,000 and an instant payout of £500, a conservative player will only go for the select-a-box choice if the expected value (the average value of the two boxes combined) is larger than the instant payout.
RNG – Random Number Generator RNG refers to a computer-generated algorithm which produces one single random result out of a large pool or possible outcomes. All non-live online casino games are based on fairly calibrated RNG systems, which must also be regularly tested and monitored.
Shill In gambling, shills are people hired to help give credibility to a game or a potential outcome without exposing their affiliation to the casino or those running the game. In other instances, shills may also have to job of disrupting or distracting their target if it appears that he or she may in fact win.
Shoe This is the item used by casino dealers to hold multiple shuffled decks of cards, out of which hands will be dealt. Also referred to as the dealer’s shoe, this tool reduces the time spent on shuffling and improves overall transparency of the gameplay.
Sin City How some people refer to the famed city of Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.
Skimming The illegal (due to lack of official documentation) transferring of money between casinos and players. Skimming is often done to fund organised crime of dodging taxes.
Spread Betting The practice of placing one or several wagers where the payout is depending on the accuracy of the bet, rather than a simple win or lose result common in traditional fixed-odds betting.
Stand In card games like blackjack and its variations, to “stand” means to not accept any more cards from the dealer. You may choose to stand when your hand has reached the desired value.
Sweepstakes Parlour A shop or café that gives away prizes for the purchase of sweepstake tickets. Sweepstakes parlous are common in the southern states of America and typically give away telephone cards or vouchers for internet access.
Table Limit The combined minimum and maximum bets allowed at a particular casino table are known collectively as the table limit. Table limits are used to tentatively manage who plays at a gambling table.
Toke Short for ‘token’; refers to the tip the players may give to the dealer.
Tote betting Refers to wagers placed with the bookmaker The Tote – the only of its kind in the UK to be permitted to offer parimutuel betting.
Va Banque A bet that is equal to the total amount in the game’s ‘bank’. Similar to ‘all-in’ in poker, this term is used in forms of baccarat and the old card games Pharo (or Faro).
Venus Throw In the Ancient Roman game of tali – which translates to knucklebones – the highest possible roll was called a ‘Venus throw’.
Vigorish The amount charged by a bookmaker for accepting a bet. Often referred to simply as ‘the vig’ the term, modern day bookmakers will factor in the Vigorish to the fixed odds.
Wager The amount you bet on one round of gameplay – the same term applies to slot or roulette spins, blackjack hands, and any other casino games.
Wagering Requirements In the larger topic of online casino bonuses, the wagering requirement is the amount of times a player must wager their initial deposit and/or bonus in order to ‘unlock’ any wins that stem from this bonus or the bonus amount itself. Depending on the casino and the type of bonus, you can encounter the requirement to wager a specific sum only once, all the way to 20, 40 or even 50 times. A time restriction might be associated with this requirement – for instance, wager 20x the deposit within one week to qualify for a cashout.
Wild Card/Symbol In some games, this is a designated card that can be used to complete a hand in order to have a winning outcome/value/combination. Also seen in online slots as a “wild”, this symbol can act as a substitute for any other standard tile in a grid and thereby complete a line which would otherwise be missing one symbol. For additional related terms, check out our online slots glossary.
Yo-Leven Then outcome of rolling an 11 in craps. Often referred to simply as ‘Yo’, the term was invented to prevent confusion with outcomes of seven.

Casino Catchphrases

Once you’ve got the casino gambling terms down pat who’s to stop you from expanding your vocabulary to include some more choice words to beef up your gambling antics and persona a bit? Indeed, the deeper you go into the world of gaming, whether online or offline, the more engrossed you become even with the flashier jargon out there. Here are some of our candidates for must-know casino catchphrases for advanced players or those wanting to blend in with the pros.

Catch Phrases
Bad Beat A bad beat occurs when a seemingly bad hand ends up trumping another one, or when a good hand loses to an even better hand.
Crimp A crimp is an intentionally made fold on the corner of a playing card to allow a player to identify it later. Crimping is outlawed in casinos and those caught trying to create crimps on playing cards are punished as card cheats.
Edge Sorting Experienced players with an eye for detail may engage in edge sorting, a technique by which you attempt to guess the value of a card by carefully studying the minute differences and inconsistencies in the card’s edges and backs. This is, of course, not possible when playing in an online casino, where virtual cards are dealt. While many casinos call this technique cheating, many players argue that it’s merely a legitimate way to gain advantage. Though, looking at Phil Ivey’s recent multi-million dollar kerfuffle, are you sure you’d want to run that risk?
Fish “Fish” is a term used by poker players to refer to a newbie without experience or skill, especially when losing a lot of money consistently. Poker players rejoice about catching a “live one” as a fish eventually runs out of resources.
Mechanic In casino slang, this is a dealer who cheats. He/she may have arranged in secret to give a customer or customers an advantage. Obviously, this is illegal.
Monkey Often heard at blackjack tables, it is not completely clear where this term comes from. Nevertheless, it’s a way to call for a 10-value card, in other words, for a face card, in the hopes of completing a blackjack hand. Not sure whether we can lend any truth to the myth, but, supposedly, “monkey” is a mispronunciation of the word “monarchy” – a word often used by Asian gamblers when referring to face cards. In other contexts, “monkey” is a slang used for the value of £500.
Natural A “natural” is a term used in various games and refers to a situation or several situations when a player achieves a particularly good outcome in the shortest and most efficient manner.
Pigeon Are you new to the world of casinos altogether, which lends you an aura of being inexperienced? If so, you might find yourself being referred to as a pigeon by some of the more seasoned players. Want to avoid being an obvious pigeon during your next casino visit? Then browse our guide to all things gambling and familiarise yourself with the biggest casino games out there.
Skin in the Game To have something at stake in a casino game, such as a live wager. The term is also used outside of the gambling world in business and financing to refer to those who have invested interests in achieving a goal.
Snake Eyes An outcome of two in the game of craps. The term refers to the two single dots of the die which resemble a pair of eyes. The creature was chosen due to its association with treachery and betrayal.
Whale Similarly to a high roller, a whale is a gambler who places exceptionally large bets, even a more so than most high rollers.

Gambling Phrases and Sayings

Gambling has been around for ages in the UK, gaining traction in late 1500s when Queen Elizabeth I sanctioned the first national lottery, only to go through several fluctuations in popularity in the following centuries. As is wont for an industry with a long tradition, the gambling culture in the UK almost a tangible phenomenon, with citizens of various generations engaging in at least the occasional punt or two. Though the presence of sports betting is felt the most while out and about, with countless bookmakers on every high street, casino gambling and real-money online bingo and other casual games have taken over in the recent years. Nevertheless, with gambling culture comes not only the jargon but also the societal attitudes, which are sometimes aptly captured in famous sayings and phrases. Here are some examples of our favourites, from UK and beyond.

Infographic containing various famous quotes about gambling

Gambling Slang Around the World

In keeping with our cosmopolitan attitude, it might be a good call to include some of the more global or regional gambling lingo for those among you who can’t wait to board a plane and set off on an international gambling adventure. Additionally, we’ve compiled a set of frequently used abbreviations used by online and offline players.

World Slang
Carpet Joint If you find yourself gambling up a storm in one of the famous upscale casinos in the United States, you will have ended up at a ‘carpet joint.’ This means it’s a fancy casino.
Cold Table/Hot Table When playing craps, a dice game that is hugely popular in the United States, you might encounter a ‘cold table’ or a ‘hot table’. A cold table is one that is currently experiencing a streak of sevens, the least desired number outcome in craps. Cold tables are easy to spot by way of being low energy or empty-ish, while hot tables are quite the opposite. Though there’s no predictable way to foresee good or bad streaks at a table, some superstitious craps players stick to these references to describe the level of action at a given time.
Dolly A casino gambling term commonly used in the US to refer to the marker used in roulette to point out the winning number, on the account of it having a rough outline of a puppet or doll. In contrast, French croupiers typically just point to the winning number on the grid.
D’Alembert Rule A regional betting strategy by which players decrease the bet by one unit after winning, and increase by won after losing.
Juice Same as ‘vigorish’; used often in the United States to refer to the portion of your bet that goes to the bettting operator.
Sawdust Joint This one is best to avoid if you’ve got an expensive taste, as this refers to a less sophisticated gambling locale in the United States.
Slot Walking If you find yourself on a rather desperate side, whether in a sawdust joint or a carpet joint, you might engage in a bit of slot walking – looking for left behind change in slot machines.
AFK Abbreviation used by online casino players to say they are ‘away from keyboard’.
AIPF “All in Pre-Flop”, meaning a player goes all in before the flop is dealt in poker.
B/C and B/F “Bet and call a raise” and “bet and fold to a raise”; also used in poker.
B&M Refers to brick and mortar casinos – in other words, land-based casinos.
FOBT “Fixed odds betting terminal”, FOBT for short, is a betting device found in shops around the UK. Gamblers can place wagers on a number of things, from roulette to bingo to racing or slot machines.
PTL and PTR You can use these abbreviations to refers to the player on the left and player on the right, respectively.