Gambling Glossary: A Guide to Gambling Terms
Most gambling games are pretty simple, but the terms used to talk about them are not. There's an entire language filled with slang terms that gamblers know, which can be intimidating or confusing to new players. Here's a look at some of the most important terms you'll want to know when you step into the world of live or online gambling.
Ante - A bet made (usually in poker) before a player receives their cards. In poker, this ensures that there is money to play or in every pot and that every player must contribute.
Baccarat - A table game in which players may be on one of two hands: the "player" or "banker" hand. Baccarat is particularly popular among high rollers, but is a simple game to play.
Bankroll - The money a gambler has set aside specifically for gambling purposes. A casual gambler likely won't need a dedicated bankroll at all, while professional gamblers are careful only to gamble with money in their bankroll.
Bet - A single instance of wagering money on a gambling game. Players may be able to make several bets in a single game.
Betting Limits - The limits that have been placed on the amount a player may bet by the casino. In most casinos, you'll see both a minimum and a maximum bet listed for each game.
Blackjack - A table game in which players attempt to beat the dealer by scoring a hand of as close to 21 points without going over. Also, the name of the best hand in the same game (an ace and a ten-point card, for a total of 21).
Bonus - An incentive given to players at online casinos for opening a new account and/or making a deposit. Most bonuses are matching bonuses, meaning that the size of the bonus depends on the size of the deposit being made.
Burn Card - A single card dealt face down at the start of a shoe in most table games, or any time new community cards are revealed in a game of poker. This helps protect the integrity of the game in case one or more players were accidentally able to see the top card.
Casino Advantage - The mathematical edge the casino has over the players. See "House Edge" for more details.
Chips - Tokens used to represent money and make bets during most gambling games. Like paper money or coins, chips will usually come in many different denominations.
Craps - A table game played with dice, in which a shooter attempts to roll certain numbers. Craps is known for having a large number of bets to choose from, meaning various players may be rooting for different results during the game.
Croupier - The term used for the casino employee who is in charge of certain games, particularly roulette and some high stakes tables.
Dealer - The casino employee who deals cards to players and controls the flow of the game. Dealers are used in many common games, like poker, blackjack, and baccarat.
Deuce - Slang for a two, either in terms of cards (such as in the video poker game Deuces Wild) or dice.
Double Down - A bet of equal size to an initial bet, such as in blackjack. In most cases, both bets will now either win or lose together.
Expected Value - The return a player will expect to see on average over the long run on a given bet. The expected value can be positive or negative, depending on whether the bet is profitable or not.
Face Card - Slang term for any playing card with a "face" on it – kings, queens, and jacks.
Fixed Odds - A fixed-odds game is one in which the chances of winning and associated payouts are fixed ahead of time. For instance, a scratch off card is a fixed-odds game, as are the simulated horse racing games that are popular in many online casinos. More broadly, this term technically applies to most table games and slot machines, though it is usually used only for "specialty" games. It does not apply to games like poker and sports betting, where the probability and odds of various events are not strictly known.
Gambling - Betting on an event with an uncertain outcome.
Hit - Taking an additional card, such as in blackjack.
High Roller - A term for a gambler who is known to spend a lot of money in the casino. What qualifies a gambler as a high roller will differ from casino to casino.
Hold - The percentage of money bet by a gambler that the casino expects to keep at the end of a session or day. This depends heavily on how long players typically play a given game. This isn't important for players to know (the house edge on each bet is much more relevant from the player's perspective), but matters greatly to the casino when determining what games are most profitable for them.
Hole Card(s) - Cards that are hidden face down, so that nobody can see them. For instance, the dealer has a hole card in blackjack. In poker, players may have hole cards that they can look at, but which are hidden from view of the other players.
House Edge - The advantage the casino has over the player. This is usually expressed as a percentage of each bet made by the player. For instance, if the house edge is 2%, that means that the player should expect to lose 2% of the amount of money they bet over the long run.
Jackpot - The largest prize available on a slot machine or other games. Typically, the word jackpot is only used for a special prize, such as a progressive prize or one associated with a side bet.
Keno - A game similar to a lottery, in which players choose numbers before a drawing and hope to match them to the numbers drawn by the casino.
Maximum Bet - The most that a casino will allow you to wager in a game. This can apply to a single bet, the total of all bets, or the rules in a game of poker that limit how much a player is allowed to bet or raise on a particular round.
Optimal Strategy - The set of plays that will lead to the player getting the best possible returns from a game. This term is most commonly used in blackjack and video poker (where charts detailing optimal strategy are widely available), though it can apply to any game in which a player must make strategic decisions and the range of possible results can be known mathematically.
Pay Table - The casino's list of payouts for various results in a given game. In many common casino games, casinos can alter the odds by changing the payouts they give players, making examining the pay table an important part of picking the best games or machines.
Push - A bet that results in a tie, so that the player receives their money back but does not win or loss any money.
Random Number Generator (RNG) - A device used to produce a random, unpredictable string of numbers. This is usually done in a multi-stage process involving both algorithms in the device (which are nearly impossible to predict, but not truly random) and outside factors like temperature, air pressure, mouse movements on a site or anything else (which are truly unpredictable). There are many uses for RNGs, but for our purposes, they are mainly used for determining the results of online gambling games in which dice must be rolled, cards must be dealt, or some other random event must occur.
Roulette - A game played using a wheel with a ball that can fall into one of many numbered pockets. The players may make a variety of bets that predict which pocket (or group of pockets) the ball will fall into. There are two variations of this game: American roulette (with two zeroes on the wheel) and European roulette (with just a single zero), with the European version having better odds for the player.
Shoe - A device that can hold several decks worth of playing cards. Shoes are used in games like blackjack to hold the collection of cards that the game is dealt from.
Slot Machine - A game in which players spin reels in order to match combinations of symbols across pre-determined paylines. Older-style slot machines used mechanical or electronic reels, while modern slots use video displays to simulate the reels.
Stand - To sit on the hand one currently has without taking more cards. Most often associated with blackjack, but also used in other games like baccarat.
Video Poker - A machine game that simulates the action of five-card poker games. Players choose to discard and replace cards from their starting hand, and then are paid if they make at least the minimum hand needed to win. Common video poker games include Jacks or Better and Deuces Wild.
Vigorish - The difference between the "fair" odds and the actual odds posted by a bookmaker. Also known as the "vig," this is how sportsbooks maintain an edge against their customers. For instance, both sides of a coin flip may pay out at slightly less than even money, with the difference being the vigorish.
Wagering Requirement - A condition of an online gambling site's bonus offer that requires a player to bet a certain amount of money before claiming their bonus funds. This ensures that players cannot just claim a bonus and immediately cash out.
Whale - A term reserved for extremely high rollers who significantly affect a casino's business by themselves. Some could see being called a whale as a derogatory term, as these are players that the casino expects to make a large profit from.
Wild Card - A card that can substitute for any card value. These are common in poker and video poker, and are sometimes used in other poker-based games as well.