I’ve been fortunate enough to work in casinos for most of my adult life, both as a dealer and a professional gambler. This experience has afforded me a wealth of “industry insider” knowledge, so much so that I feel like I’m speaking another language altogether whenever I have a conversation with a fellow casino connoisseur. Between the basic terms and phrases used on the casino floor, to slang and specialized vocabulary which has been developed by players, gamblers have a whole host of code words and vernacular at their disposal.
When I asked her how many “cheques” she had left after dabbling in roulette, she pulled a checkbook from her purse in confusion. I told her I hoped she had a “spinner” in her next session, but she said she wasn’t planning to play the slots. And don’t get me started on “dimes,” because when I told her I bet one on the Sunday Night Football game, she laughed and offered me a handful of pennies with which to double down.
If you’re a gambler who loves the games, but doesn’t always know what dealers and fellow players are going on about, this page is for you. Below you’ll find a comprehensive glossary of terms, phrases, and slang used by casino denizens everywhere.
Action – A term used to describe having money at risk on a particular wager. When you have a sports bet pending, you’re said to have “action” on the game. Action can also be used to describe the collective wagering activity going on at any one time (i.e. “It’s been a slow week so far, but I expect table game action to pick up in the pit once the weekend arrives”).
Aggregate Limit – Used by casino operators to describe their total monetary liability on any given game type, table, or venue.
Aggregate Winnings – Another term for the total combined winnings paid out by a given game type, table, or venue.
All or Nothing – A type of Keno ticket in which players only win if all or none of their selected numbers are drawn.
Bankroll – A term used by players to describe the sum total of their available wagers (i.e. “I brought a bankroll of $5,000 for the trip”).
Barber Pole – Slang for a stack of chips that includes more than one denomination. Casino chips use different colors for different denominations – $1 chips are typically white, $5 chips are red, $25 chips are green, etc. – so stacking different values together creates a “barber pole” visual effect.
Bet – When used as a noun, bet is an alternative term for wager. As a verb, to bet is to place a wager.
Betting Limit – Also known simply as “limits,” a betting limit is the maximum allowable wager in a given game or table.
Black Book – Maintained by the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB), the “Black Book” is a running registry of players who have been banned from entering any casino in the state due to cheating or other criminal activity.
Buck – Slang term used for any $100 betting increment (i.e. “I fired a buck apiece on tonight’s three hockey games”).
Bug – Slang term used to describe the Joker card used in several table games.
Buy-in – As a noun, the “buy-in” is the amount of money a player uses to enter the game. As a verb, to “buy in” is to purchase chips and enter a game.
Cage – An area of the casino where cashiers exchange chips for cash, and vice-versa. Also known as the Cashier’s Cage.
Capping – In its most common usage, “capping” is the process of cheating the house by placing additional chips on top of a previous bet after a winning wager is confirmed (i.e. “I caught a guy capping today, he tried to slide a $100 chip on top after he saw I went bust”). Another usage for “capping” is shorthand for “handicapping,” or the process of evaluating either side of a sports or race bet to determine which has the highest chance of success.
Card Sharp – An expert-level player proficient at card games like poker or blackjack. Often colloquially confused for “card shark.”
Card Washing – Slang term for a particular style of shuffling cards. When a dealer “washes” the deck, they’ll spread the cards out face down on the felt and mix them up multiple times, before reassembling the newly shuffled deck.
Carpet Joints – Slang term for glitzy and glamorous casino resorts, usually of the 5-star variety, that typically feature wall-to-wall carpeting throughout the property.
Case Bet – Slang term for a bet in which the player has committed their last remaining chips. Poker players refer to the case bet as an “all-in,” so “case bet” applies specifically to table games and/or machines.
Cashier’s Cage – (See cage)
Casino Advantage – Another term for the house edge, or the inherent advantage built into every casino game on the floor. In the game of roulette, using the single-zero wheels popular in Europe offers the casino an advantage of 2.70 percent, while a double-zero “American” style wheel increases the casino advantage to 5.26 percent.
Chase – Slang for the tendency of players attempting to win their money back after a losing wager or session (i.e. “This lady showed up and lost $50 on her first two spins, then spent another $500 chasing it with bad bets”).
Cheques – A historical term used, mostly in Europe, to describe gaming chips. In some poker circles, pro players will refer to their chips as cheques, but in America the term is mostly restricted to casinos staff.
Chips – Circular discs or coins used in lieu of cash while gambling in a casino. Casino chips – except for those used in poker tournaments – hold their equivalent cash value and can be redeemed at the Cashier’s Cage.
Chip Tray – Equipment installed in the dealer area of a casino gaming table where chips are held.
Coat-tail – A slang term for the strategy of mimicking a winning player’s betting patterns, actions, or techniques (i.e. “I didn’t know what I was doing at first, so I just coat-tailed the guy with the most chips until I figured things out”).
Cold – Slang term for a prolonged period of losing (i.e. “A regular I like had been on a nice hot streak all month, but he’s been cold for the last week or so”).
Coloring Up – The process of exchanging several smaller denomination chips for their equivalent in higher denominations. Poker players often color up 20 of the $5 chips in exchange for a single $100 chip to help make room at the table.
Comp – Shorthand for “complimentary.” Comps are any freebies given out by the casino to regular players, including buffet vouchers, tickets to the in-house show, hotel rooms, or even free-play coupons good at the gaming tables or machines.
Cracking the Nut – Slang term for clearing a net profit on your gaming session once all expenses have been accounted for (i.e. “It took two days of grinding, but I managed to clear my nut with a few well-timed sports bets to close out the trip”).
Credits – The virtual equivalent of a chip. Machine games like the slots or video poker use credits in lieu of coins or cash, so 1 credit can equal one quarter, one dollar, $5, etc.
Crossfire – Slang for the irrelevant conversations many dealers have with players; table talk between dealers that doesn’t concern the game.
Croupier – The French word for “dealer.” In the fancier casinos, baccarat and roulette dealers are often referred to as croupiers.
D’Alembert System – One of many progression betting systems. When using the D’Alembert strategy, players will add one unit to their wager size after a previous loss, while subtracting one unit following a win.
Dime – Slang term used for any $1,000 betting increment.
Dirty Money – Slang term used for the pile of chips lost by players which the dealer scoops up after a hand, spin, or roll.
Discard PIle – A tray or designated area where dealers place discards. Called the “muck” in poker, the discard pile can be found in baccarat, blackjack, and most card-based table games.
Dollar – Slang term used for any $100 betting increment (see buck).
Double or Nothing – Any wager that offers an exact return of double on a win and zero on a loss.
Down to the Felt – Slang term for having no chips remaining. Poker players often speak of “felting” an opponent by winning all of their money. When you’re down to the felt in a table game, you can either rebuy or walk away.
Drop – Industry term for the total money won by casinos, or conversely, money lost by players.
Drop Box – The locked box where dealers collect any wagers lost by players, along with personal tips.
Edge – Any advantage held by the casino over the player or vice-versa.
Eighty-Six or ‘86 – Slang for banning a player from the premises (i.e. “He seemed nice at first, but once he called me a X%&#, I had to hit him with the ‘86”). Las Vegas legend holds that the term ’86 came from the city’s era of Mafia control, when cheats were driven out to the desert and deposited in a hole eight feet deep and six feet long.
Eye in the Sky – Slang for the omnipresent overhead cameras and surveillance equipment monitoring every move on the casino floor.
Face Cards – Slang for the “royalty” cards – kings, queens, and jacks – found in the standard 52-card deck.
Firing – Slang for the act of betting, typically in large amounts or in rapid succession (i.e. “I sat down and just started firing away with big bets”).
Fish – Slang for an inexperienced or losing player; used most often in poker as a term of derision.
Flat Betting – A system of betting in which players simply use the same increment on each wager.
Flea – Industry slang used to describe low-level players who agitate casino staff looking for comps.
Foreign – When chips from one casino property or ownership group are brought to another, they are said to be “foreign.”
Front Money – The initial chips or cash used by players to obtain credit from the house.
George – Industry slang for a player who tips dealers and staff generously.
Grind – Used as a verb, “grinding” is the act of playing for a long period of time. Skilled players grind to reduce the role of variance and short-term luck. Used as a noun, the “grind” is a player’s steady pursuit of profit.
Handicapper – A professional sports bettor, or anybody who attempts to use analytics and data to gain an edge at the sportsbook.
Handle – Industry term for the total amount of money wagered.
Hold – Industry term for the total amount of money won by the house in a given game.
Honeymoon Period – Slang for the tendency of new players to experience “beginner’s luck.”
Hot – When a player is winning consistently, they are said to be “hot.”
House – Another term for the casino or operator.
House Edge – The inherent advantage held by the house on a given wager or game (see casino advantage).
Jackpot – The largest possible win in a given game. Typically used in reference to slot machines or video poker.
Juice – Slang for the commission charged by sportsbooks on every wager placed (see vigorish).
Junket – Trips organized by the casinos in which regular players are invited to gamble in exchange for discounted room rates and other comps.
Laying Odds – In gambling parlance, laying odds refers to placing a wager in which your expected return amounts to less than the original bet.
Layout – The area on a gaming table where rules and bet descriptions are displayed.
Load Up – Slang for betting the maximum amount in a machine-based game.
Marker – A loan approved by the casino (i.e. “I was out of cash, but the bosses there know me, so I got a marker for $2,000 more”).
Martingale – A progression betting system in which players double their bet size after any loss.
Mechanic – Slang term used to describe players who use sleight of hand to cheat at cards.
Net Winnings – Total profit earned; payouts minus wagers produces your net winnings.
Nickel – Slang term for any $500 betting increment.
Odds – The most common way of expressing a wager’s probability of success.
Overlay – Industry term for any bet in which the player holds an advantage.
Payout – The money distributed to players after a winning wager.
Payout or Payback Percentage – Method of measuring the overall odds offered by a slot or video poker machine (i.e. “This game has a huge jackpot, but the payback rate is only 92 percent, so I prefer other machines”).
Pips – Slang for the suit symbols (club, diamond, heart, spade) found on a playing card.
Pit – The area on a casino floor reserved for table games like blackjack, craps, and roulette.
Pit Boss – A casino employee tasked with overseeing and supervising the pit.
Ploppy – Industry slang for a poor player who nonetheless advises others on sound strategy.
Press a Bet – Slang for letting a bet ride, or keeping it in place along with the previous winnings.
Progression Betting – A betting strategy based on using preset rules regarding wager size.
Rack – The flat tray used to carry casino chips.
Racinos – Industry term for combination horse racing tracks / casinos.
Railbird – Slang for the observers who hang around the pit watching table games without ever placing a bet.
Rated/Rating – Casinos “rate” players based on their wagering volume, games of choice, and other factors in order to determine comp awards.
Sawbuck – Slang term used for any $10 dollar betting increment.
Sawdust Joint – Slang for “off-Strip” casinos and other low-level casinos where betting minimums are drastically reduced.
Shark or Sharp – Slang term for players who win consistently or possess expert knowledge and skills.
Shill – Casino employees tasked with sitting in games in order to draw real players.
Soft Count – The casino’s running count of money wagered and won via machine voucher.
Spinner – Slang term for a winning session.
Streak Betting – A form of progression betting based on increasing wager sizes during a winning streak and decreasing bets during a losing streak.
Table Hold – Industry term for the total amount of money won by the house during a table game dealer’s 8-hour shift.
Tapping Out – Slang for when a player loses all the money they brought or quits the game entirely.
Toke – Slang term used for any tip given to dealers or casino staff.
Tom – Slang term used for a player who routinely fails to tip.
Tournament – A game format, typically found in poker, in which players buy in for a set amount before playing down to a winner. Tournaments often pay out a percentage of the field, such as the final 10 percent, while using an escalating scale that awards the lion’s share of the prize pool to the first-place finisher. Along with poker, blackjack and video poker are popular tournament vehicles used by modern casinos.
Underlay – Industry slang for any bet that affords unusually poor odds to the player.
Units of Betting – Any wagering increment or denomination used with repetition. The available chips usually define a player’s betting units.
Vigorish – Industry term for the commission attached to sports bets. Usually expressed as (-110), the standard “vig” ensures that players must wager $110 to win $100 in profit on an ostensibly even money wager.
VIP – Acronym for “Very Important Person.” VIP status is typically assigned to celebrities, politicians, and of course, well-heeled regulars who don’t mind losing.
VLT – Acronym for “Video Lottery Terminal.” VLTs are often found built into casino bars, offering video poker, keno, and other electronic games.
Wager – Another word for “bet.”
Whale – Slang term for “high-roller,” or any wealthy regular who has no compunction about risking – and losing – large sums for the sake of entertainment.
White Meat – Industry slang for any profit earned by the house.
Casinos can be a scary place for the uninitiated, what with all that money changing hands while bright lights and strange sirens sound. Throw in the often undecipherable slang bantered about buy dealers, staff, and players alike – and casino rookies can be forgiven for getting lost a time or two before they figure out the lay of the land.
That’s why I put the glossary above together. It’s my hope that everybody who wants to gamble can hit the casino feeling comfortable in their own skin. With that in mind, study the slang entries above before heading out into the wild to try your luck.