One of the most exciting subcultures that exists today is that of the casino, especially in gambling hubs like Las Vegas or Atlantic City. With that being said, if you aren’t familiar with how business is done, you might be a little overwhelmed by it all.
Before you pack your bags, you should take the time to get a brief education in the language you’ll be exposed to during your trip. Yes, of course, I’m talking about casino lingo!
In this article, I’ll get into some of the slang terms and gambling vocabulary that you might hear when you enter the pit.
1 – Action
Without question, the first word you need to know before walking into any betting establishment—sportsbook or casino, is “action.” It simply refers to money you’re risking on a bet.
Example: “Hey John, you got any action on the Packers game tonight?”
2 – Comps
This one should bring a smile to your face. Comps, short for “complimentary items” are little freebies given out by gambling establishments in order to encourage you to give them your business.
Example: “I always lose at that casino, but at least they give me some comps every time I come in.”
3 – Croupier
Pronounced “croo-pee-ay,” this is a French word that refers to the table dealer. Now, it should be noted that it isn’t commonly used in the US. But you might get some impressed looks if you use it in high-class company.
Keep in mind that you run the risk of also sounding a bit (or more than a bit) pretentious, so feel out the room beforehand.
Example: “Come over and play at this table, the croupier has been entertaining all night.”
4 – Railbird
This one reminded me of someone who hitches their life to a cargo train car and goes along for the ride. In the context of a casino, though, it refers to people who are watching the games being played in a casino.
Whether it’s blackjack, poker, craps, or any number of other table games, railbirds are standing a few feet back taking in the action
Example: “I wish these railbirds would go somewhere else. I’m getting distracted.”
5 – Toke
No smoking in the casino! If you hear this word tossed around at the table, nobody’s trying to light anything up. Rather, it’s another term for a tip.
Let this be your reminder that it’s appropriate to tip your dealer not just at the end of your session, but also if you’re in the midst of a winning streak.
Example: “Man, that dealer really had a good night. I think he walked away with a few hundred in tokes after that huge pot.”
6 – Card Washing
You’ve seen it in action before, but you probably didn’t know it had a specific name. Card washing doesn’t involve any liquid at all, but rather is the practice of spreading all the cards out on the table and shuffling them around face down.
Example: “Call me old-fashioned, but I like card washing better than today’s machines when it comes to shuffling.”
7 – Vig (or Juice)
This one primarily applies to sports betting and baccarat, and craps as well. The vig (sometimes called the “juice”) is the sort of “commission” or “tax” that must be paid to the casino.
While your odds of winning aren’t changed by this, it does mean your “risk-to-win” ratio won’t be exactly 1:1. Such is the price of playing.
Example: “I won three and lost three of my bets today. But with the vig, I’m still down $100.”
8 – Cage
The first time I heard this term I thought I was in trouble. I mean, “the cage” sure sounds more like a jail cell than anything else. The only other context I’d heard it in (in regards to humans) is with UFC fighting—also not something that sounds particularly appealing.
If you haven’t heard this term before, it’s a good one to know because it’s used commonly at casinos. It refers to the payment window where you would go to exchange your chips into money, or vice versa. Unless you lose all of your money, you’re going to be paying a visit here.
While you might not have the opportunity to use some of the other words on this list, you can definitely impress your group members by asking a member of the staff where to find the “cage” when you’re ready to cash out.
Example: “I’m cashing out and there’s a long line at the cage right now, but I’ll meet you at the slot machines after I’m done here.”
9 – Coloring Up
Now, we’re getting a little more advanced. If you really want to feel like a veteran at the table (even if you’re not), this is a great term to bust out when it’s least expected. If you want to “color up,” that means you want to exchange your smaller value chips for higher denominations.
For example, if you have 50 $5 chips ($250 value), you might ask the dealer to give you four $50 chips in exchange for 40 of your $5 chips.
Example: “Man, you’ve got a huge stack of $10 chips over there, might be time for you to color up!”
10 – Flat Betting
Flat betting is a great method when you’re trying to preserve your bankroll. It also allows you to focus on the strategy of the game you’re playing as you aren’t concerning yourself with how much you’re wagering.
Example: “I feel like playing things safe tonight. I’ll probably just flat bet for the whole time I’m at the blackjack table, $25 a hand.”
11 – Eighty-Six
If you’ve worked in the restaurant industry, you’ve almost certainly come across this term before, although it still seems like nobody really knows where it came from. Regardless, you definitely don’t want to hear it applied to you if you’re trying to stick around the casino.
When casino staff says that someone is eighty-sixed (or 86’d if written out), that means they have been given the boot. If could be for any number of reasons, but the bottom line is that they are no longer welcome at that particular establishment.
Example: “I wish we could go to that casino you were talking about, but my buddy was 86’d last year. We’re not really welcome anymore.”
12 – Down to the Felt
If you think getting 86’d is bad, this one might be even worse. When you’re “down to the felt,” that means you’ve lost nearly all your chips on the table.
Example: “We can head out soon, I’ve been down to the felt for 30 minutes anyway.”
So Listen Carefully
Just like anything other type of language, the more time you spend immersed in the “culture,” the easier it becomes to learn. Although for most people, it’s enough just to avoid embarrassment asking someone to clarify what they mean when they use a certain term.
There is lots of other terms that we didn’t cover this time. But we did make a glossary of the slang and jargon you’ll hear at the casino.
The next time you visit a casino, try using some of this lingo and see if you can’t gain the respect of those around you as a seasoned gambler. It’s not going to win you any extra money, but it is going to make you feel more confident in what can be an intimidating and unfamiliar environment.