What's the Gamble Talk of the Town? Casino Language At Its Weirdest

You might not be a Gambler. Maybe you've never set foot inside a casino to watch the Sharkcards swallow up the small time Fish, chewing through the Cage bars of the House Edge. But you've definitely indulged in some good ol' casino talk, knowingly or not.

The modern casino has all the prerequisites of a digitalized, behemoth world, and that includes a particular and peculiar vernacular.

How we express ourselves inside the sub-culture of a gambling venue is in itself a bet on the progression of a language. Poker jargon has seeped outside the green table into areas that range from legit politics to illicit gangster activities to Buddhist mantras (was it Gandhi who said “Play the hand you're dealt!) to the plain mainstream lexicon.

Without further ado, if you're to put your money where your mouth is, be sure your words are winners.

Below you'll find some verbal ammunition to take the casino by storm and, like NYC poker master Alfonse used to do: Go all in on the flop, Buddy!

Oh, and don't forget your poker face, your p p p poker face! (Disclaimer: Lady Gaga responsible for the additional stammer).

Casino Terms to Get You In the Game

For some unidentified reason, casinos reveal themselves as aquatic worlds. At least at a lexical level. Players are divided into sea life categories, according to their skill and inclination.


A novice player, a weak gambler or a recreational player. It could mean any of the above. If someone describes you as a fish, don’t take it as an insult. There’s nothing fishy about this title, just an affectionate casino expression. However, watch out for the…


If there’s one passion that inspires sharks, that’s an unrelenting appetite for blood. Sharks are the professional gamblers who can smell an anxious duck across the poker table. They prey on the weaker players and engage in high stakes games with the other awe-inspiring sea creatures of the casino. There’s always some small fish to fry on the Strip, after all.


The high-rollers of a gambling den. If you see a helicopter landing in the parking lot of a casino and spilling out a small group of visitors, know they’re the whales that have been brought there at the expense of the casino. In return for such and other lavish comps that casinos put on the table, the whales will carelessly spout millions to the benefit of the house.

Duck Syndrome

You can spot a player suffering from a mild crisis of the duck syndrome from his uncontrollable nervousness. While he will try to give off the impression of calm and composure, his feet will be flapping out of control under the table.

The Cage

The financial hub of a gambling den, all players, fish, sharks, and whales will exchange their chips here for currency.


On the casino stage, shills are the extras. Also known as plants, stooges, or proposition players, shills are essentially poker gamblers who find themselves on the casino payroll. Their job is to sit in on the games to fill the table and draw a crowd. The term is believed to have been inspired by the carnival workers of yesteryear who mingled with the audience, cheerleading for the actors on stage.

Prairie Dogging

Moving away from the underwater landscape, I’m sure we can all agree that casino talk could have been employed more terms from the wasteland of Nevada. After all, the Strip does rub shoulders with the vast desert.

At least we have prairie dogging- a routine among the pokie button slappers who, at the cries of a fortunate player who’s just won the jackpot, will instantly pop up their heads from behind the machines to witness the miracle.

Here’s an exotic habit of the casino fauna that deserves a proper narration from David Attenborough.

Galloping Dominoes

Simply, dice.

Snake Eyes

Toss those galloping dominoes and your worst odds could be the snake eyes. The term defines, quite graphically, the outcome of a single pip on each die (since the two points look like two eyes). If you consider yourself ridden by bad luck, then you’re prone to tossing snake eyes at the craps table.


This one is interesting for its etymology. Usually used in horse racing, punters are bettors or gamblers. One story tracks its origin to the Italian game of punto banco, a version of baccarat in which players who stake against the bank are called Punto (a point) or punters.

In England, the word has taken off the baccarat table into common usage. Now, it can also mean “clients of any business”.

Bingo Wings

Not the most flattering in the exotic dictionary of gambling terms, but definitely the funniest. Consider the trademark audience of a bingo hall- wrinkly old women who can’t help but waving their arms in ecstasy when they turn in a Bingo!

That’s when the notion Bingo Wings must have taken flight. It designates the hanging fat under the swinging arms of those poor old women.

86’d or Eighty-sixed

One last piece of advice. Try not to get yourself 86’d. That’s being thrown out of the casino on the back door for cheating or ungentlemanly behavior.



All in the flop, buddy!

May the flop be with you!, said WSOP champion Doyle Brunson and a veteran of the game. In Texas Hold'em, the first three cards exposed to the players are called the flop, a hand that makes for a force to be reckoned with by all accounts.

In the history of famously silver-tongued poker players, Alfonse was the one to coin the phrase “All in the flop, buddy” not only to explain his strategy of playing almost any 2 cards pre-flop (since either could bring about a monster hand) but also to confuse his opponents with Shakespearian bluffing.

American Airlines

It’s the hand that urged Maverick (Mel Gibson) all the way to the end, despite obnoxious obstacles such as fatally attractive women and flying bullets.

Also called pocket rockets or bullets, American Airlines describes the strongest hand in poker.


In the old days, gamers used to tilt a pinball machine in order to influence the outcome of the match. Out of frustration on the inglorious path the ball seemed to choose, they would physically intervene and shake a victory out of the machine. But the machines learned.

The gamers would be greeted with the word “TILT”, and the win would fall through their fingers, or better said flippers.

As any psychiatrist would be sure to point out, frustration will not lead to a reverse in your fortunes. On the contrary, it will prejudice your chances at a victory. So it goes with poker.

Dealing with a tilt means you're on the verge of a poker-induced breakdown. You are in a state of hyper-emotion and over-aggression where

At this point, you'd better just blow off some steam- in a calm and friendly manner that won't get you 86's.

Below, we’ve added a few quick, honorable mentions in the poker lexicon:

  • Agro - An overly-aggressive poker player.
  • Donk - A fish in poker, or a bad player.
  • Nit - An old-fashioned, traditionalist poker player.
  • Alligator Blood - A card shark with fighting spirit. Much like Rocky Balboa when he won’t allow Apollo Creed to pin him to the ground, instead of rising from the almost dead with a destructive jab.

Our casual familiarity with the gambling and gaming lingo deserves a second thought, if not a total show of the cards.

As the newfound casino vocabulary is making headway into all corners of colloquial language, from the conservative Oxford Dictionary to the more informal online chatting forums or the high stakes articles of the New York Times, gambling terms defy the odds and roll on the tongue sweeter and faster than you can say… jackpot!

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