If you ever sat down and played a game of cards in a casino or had a turn at online gambling, you probably noticed some of the unique language thrown around the table. As with any field, the world of gambling has unique slang, and the terminology can be confusing and misleading at times. You’re probably left thinking, ‘What is this gibberish about?’
So, in this article, we have pulled together and demystified some of the casino slang you might encounter as you play.
These terms can be found as you play online slots, table games, live casinos, bingo, and more. If you are interested in online slots in Canada, you can learn more here.
Action: This means a couple of things: the turn of play, how much money you bet or the total bets from the table.
Bankroll: How much money you are prepared to play or have put aside for gambling
Bet/Betting Limit: More common at land-based casinos; this is the maximum you can bet on one hand/game.
Buy-In: This term is mostly specific to poker and has two primary meanings. First, it’s the simple action of exchanging money for chips at a casino. Second, it’s the fee to enter tournaments or sometimes to play at specific tables. They initiate your entry to a tournament and act as the base pot that the casino takes a cut of.
Cage: Commonly known as the cashier's cage, this is where you exchange cash for chips or your chips back for cash.
Card Sharp: This is used to describe someone who is uncannily gifted at card games, usually in a derogatory manner. A card sharp might refer to a cheater or card counters.
Card Washing: This is a shuffling technique used by dealers to ensure proper randomisation of the deck. It’s called ‘card washing’ because the technique involves spreading the cards face down on the table and muddling them with ‘washing’ motions.
Chips: A currency used in brick-and-mortar casinos. To avoid confusion between currencies and having to count money at tables, casinos use coloured discs with different denominations to simplify the betting process.
Cold/Hot: Terms used to describe people who are on losing or winning streaks, respectively.
Comps: Short for ‘complimentary items’, comps are rewards like free alcohol or food to encourage you to keep playing. Sometimes, they also refer to ‘comp points,’ which are loyalty points you can exchange for these same rewards. More common in land-based casinos but available through online VIP schemes, too.
Croupier: The French term for a dealer who hosts table games like Blackjack, Roulette and Poker. A croupier is highly skilled and has specialised knowledge of their games, shuffling cards and hosting players.
Double or Nothing: A term for when you double a lost bet to try and break even — if you lose, you owe double, but if you win, you owe nothing. This is a common term both in and outside of gambling.
Face Cards: The collective name for the picture cards: Jacks, Queens and Kings.
High Roller: Gamblers who bet big and find less entertainment in lower-stakes bets. Often, high rollers are given preferential treatment, especially if they’re regulars at a casino.
House Edge: The concrete advantage a casino has over the players. The opposite is called RTP or ‘return to player.’ This ensures that over time, the casino will make money from their service to pay for business expenses, such as rent, cleaning services, paying staff, etc.
Juice: This term is also sometimes called the rake, the cut, the margin, vig, etc. It is a fee charged by the house for participation in games like poker and craps.
Pit Boss/Manager: This person manages table games in a pit, ensuring everything runs smoothly and monitoring the players and croupiers. They are also responsible for resolving issues like angry players. Pit Bosses are authorities in casinos and should be treated with the utmost respect.
Railbird: A person who is happy to watch all the action from the sidelines and does not participate in the games. Usually demeaning and primarily directed towards women.
Toke: Short for ‘token of appreciation.’ Also commonly known as a sweetener, this is what you call a tip to the croupier. This is not a bribe but encourages your croupier to look after you and help you get the most from their game.
Whale: A high-stakes gambler who bets and gambles big, i.e. hundreds of thousands spent. Whales are a step above a high roller, but this also tends to be a negative term, as whales don’t just spend big but lose big, too. This term is also widely used outside of gambling.
These are some of the most common slang terms, but you could fill a dictionary with these things. So, we have listed some more common gambling terms here too, including some sports betting terms.
Ace in the hole: Stemming from the hole card in poker, this is a hidden advantage a player can use to assure victory. This term is used commonly outside of poker.
Backdoor Cover: When a spread bet is affected by meaningless points scored at the end of a match to cover the spread. This term is specifically for underdogs; the opposite is called a ‘Frontdoor Cover.’ Applies to sports betting, particularly common in American football.
Bad Beat: When a player has the odds in his favour and loses out of the blue. An improbable, unlucky loss.
Buying Points: When a bettor will buy points to adjust a spread or betting odds to their liking.
Chalk: This refers to the favourite to win an outcome.
Closing Line: The final betting line a sportsbook offers before the start of an event.
Cover: In betting, to cover the spread means that a team has beaten the point spread set up by the sportsbook. A favoured team covers when they score more points than required, and an underdog team covers when they lose by fewer points than the spread or win outright.
Crapshoot: Deriving from the game of ‘craps,’ this refers to something with an unpredictable outcome. Used widely in and out of gambling circles.
Eye in the Sky: Refers to the security system installed over a gambling pit to enforce fair behaviour and monitor disputes. Can refer to the cameras installed in the ceiling in a literal sense or the security team behind them.
Face Up: When cards are placed on a table to show their value, it’s we say they’re face up. Commonly used during poker games once players turn their cards to see who has the winning hand.
Favourite/Favour: The side expected to win the outcome. Opposite of an Underdog.
Marker: This is interest-free credit extended to a player at a casino. Usually reserved for VIP players and expected to be repaid swiftly, typically within a month.
Money Line: A bet on which team is selected to win a match, with no bells and whistles. The simplest form of bet you can place.
Odds: The likelihood of an outcome occurring.
Parlay: Also known as an accumulator, a wager that combines multiple bets where all elements must win to cash out.
Payout: The amount of money a player wins from a wager.
Point Spread: Also called a ‘spread,’ where you bet on how many points a team will win or lose by.
Prop Bet: Short for ‘proposition bet,’ This bet is based on a specific event during that event instead of just the outcome. For example, who will score the first point?
Push: The gambling-specific name for a tie where no one wins or loses. This usually results in getting your stake back.
Shark: A skilled card player who preys on less experienced players (called ‘fish’).
Underdog: Specifically in sports betting, the underdog is the team not expected to win. Opposite of the Favourite.
This is just a handful of the hundreds of jargon words you can find in the world of gambling, whether it's at a brick-and-mortar casino or an online sportsbook. You’ll come to understand all of these terms and more as you continue on your gambling journey, but it’s worth familiarising yourself with them quickly. Ease of communication between you, other players and croupiers can only improve your experience.
Next time you step into a casino or boot up your PC to play a few rounds, see if you can use one of these terms. You’ll be feeling like a pro in no time.
If you are looking for an Online Casino in Canada to get you started, click here to check out our review.
DISCLAIMER: We would like to emphasize that gambling is risky and should not be used to resolve financial difficulties. The saying "the house always wins" is worth keeping in mind.
If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, we firmly advise you to call the Gamblers Anonymous at 1-626-960-3500 to speak with an expert about getting assistance and making gambling safer for you or your friends and loved ones. Remember that all gaming websites and instructions are intended for people aged 19 and above.
Some of the casino sites featured on our site may not be available in your location. Check your local regulations to see if internet gambling is permitted in your area.
Check out the following organizations for free gambling addiction resources: