Learn to Speak the Language of the Casinos

2 months ago
Learn to Speak the Language of the Casinos
07:33
16 Sep

There are apparently some 6500 languages in the world, and while some are easier to learn than others, the gambling world has its very own lingo that you need to know if you don’t want to be seen as a fish or a mark!

Today we are going to casinofy your vocabulary, or at the very least test your knowledge of the most unusual phrases you’ll hear at the tables.

The ‘fish’ from the opening paragraph is, as most will already know, a new, inexperienced or weak poker player, and that makes you the ‘mark’  - marked out as easy money by the ‘sharks’, professional players.

It’s best not to call each other that out loud, of course, unless you are happy being known as a ‘donkey’ or ‘jolly’.

OK, there’s a lot to cover here, so let’s bash on, and get the possible dodgy situations out of the way first.

If you’re in the casino and hear someone described as a ‘mechanic’, don’t rush to ask them to fix your car – it means that he or she is a card dealer who uses sleight of hand to cheat!

Likewise, someone with a ‘shiner’ is best avoided – not because they have a black eye, but because they have a tiny mirror surreptitiously placed to see unexposed cards.

Someone with no facial hair can still be a ‘beard’ – the name given to someone who places a bet on behalf of another player, who’d rather not be known for various reasons.

Winning craps players are often known as ‘arms’, with a Golden Arm being someone who has rolled the dice for more than an hour without losing.

You probably won’t be laughed at for not using these terms, but if you don’t understand these next few you could be in for a world of trouble!

Naturally, you simply must know the slang terms for different values of money, but that depends on where in the world you are playing. 

A ‘grand’ is £1000 in the UK, also known as a ‘bag’, but $1000 across the pond is known colloquially as a ‘dime’.

A ‘Benjamin’ is $100, but that’s a ‘ton’ or a ‘century’ in  UK parlance. Likewise, Americans don’t place a ‘monkey’ on the table when they’re feeling a bit frisky with a good hand, but that would be a cool £500 bet in London.

If someone bets you a ‘pony’, don’t expect to walk off with a small horse if you win – that’s £25 in England and is thought, as with ‘monkey’, to have returned with British soldiers from India at the turn of the 19th/20th century, where the rupee banknotes had those animals on them.

Everybody knows what ‘beginners luck’ means, but if  Lady Luck does shine on you, then you’ll be expected to be the ‘George’ – that’s the one who gets to tip the dealer at the end of a game or night. If you don’t, you’re a ‘stiff’!

It’s also good to know how to celebrate when you win, but a ‘finale schnapps’ isn’t the way to go - that just means you’re telling the dealer of your bets on numbers 11, 22, 33 In French Roulette.

Of course, you might not want to spend so much if the ‘juice’ is high – and that’s not a non-alcoholic top shelf drink, it’s just the cut the casino takes from a bet. 

Also known as vig, from the Yiddish language word vigorish, the ‘cut’ or ‘take’ is hugely important to gamblers and casinos alike.

Hopefully that’s given you a basic terminology to be getting on with, but as with any language, you have to listen closely and practice it yourself. 

Stick to the simple phrases though – you don’t want to get ‘86’d’ for flashing your ‘nuts’ at the ‘eye in the sky’!


Articles 1971

Andrew from Edinburgh, Scotland, is a professional journalist, international-titled chess master, and avid poker player.Read more

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