Every visit to Las Vegas can become an educational experience for gamblers.
Whether you’re trying a new game for the first time, hitting a casino you’ve never been to before, or diving deep into Sin City’s history, you’ll definitely learn something new whenever you’re here.
And one of the most common lessons learned in Las Vegas concerns the various slang terms used by gamblers and casino staff when the games get underway. After nearly nine decades offering an oasis of legalized gambling for all Americans to enjoy, Las Vegas has developed a language all its own.
As a lifelong Las Vegas local, colloquial phrases like this have become embedded in my brain, so much so that I barely notice them any longer. But when I spent some time taking a few pals from out of town on a tour of my favorite gambling halls, I struggled with expressing myself in ways they could easily interpret. For a while there, my buddies even thought I was making a few of the slang terms up on the fly.
That experience made me realize just how much I take my “insider” info for granted living in here. With that in mind, I figured putting together a full glossary of commonly used casino gambling phrases might help visitors feel more comfortable during their next trip to Las Vegas.
86’d (or Eighty-Sixed) – A term used to describe property bans handed out to cheats, excessive drunks, and other undesirable patrons. If you’ve been directed to avoid entering all Caesars Entertainment properties, for example, you’ve just been 86’d.
The origins of this phrase are quite murky, but most people believe that the 86 stems from Sin City’s days as a haven for mobsters, most of whom had no reservations about driving victims 8 miles out into the desert, before burying them 6 feet under the sand.
Action – A term with many meanings, action is typically used to describe any pending wager (i.e. “You placed the chip forward sir, so that bet will be considered action win or lose.”) Gamblers also speak about staying “in action” when referring to getting back in the game. A table game with many people placing large bets is also said to have a lot of action.
Aggregate Limit – Casinos use aggregate limits to put a cap on their liability within any given game or wager. In the case of a 1,000 to 1 bonus jackpot on a game like Let It Ride, for example, the aggregate limit might be set at $100,000. In this case, a player betting $100 on the bonus would win the full share, but if two or more players do so successfully, they’d be forced to split the aggregate limit amount evenly amongst themselves.
All-In – In a poker game with no betting limits, such as No Limit Texas Hold’em, going all-in refers to the act of wagering every chip you have in play.
Ante – The initial bet required to enter a table game like blackjack or baccarat. Alternatively, at the poker table, an ante is any forced bet all players must contribute before the cards can be dealt.
Bankroll – The money a gambler keeps on hand at all times, usually separate from their non-gambling spending money, to use on the tables, machines, or sportsbook.
Bad Beat – Typically used in poker, a bad beat refers to any loss in which the losing player had a higher probability of winning than their opponent. Holding pocket Aces only to lose to an inferior pocket pair like 5-5 would be deemed a bad beat. Similarly, holding a 20 in blackjack only to see the dealer run out five cards to make 21 would be a bad beat.
Beard – When somebody has been 86’d from the casino or sportsbook, they often resort to using a “beard” – or a trusted third party who places bets on their behalf – to stay in the action.
Burn Card – In games like poker or blackjack, the burn card is any card taken from the top of the deck and placed face down before the actual card in play is dealt.
By burning a card before revealing the next one, players and dealers alike ensure that a stacked deck won’t work in the cheater’s favor.
Capping – This term has two meanings, the first of which is simply short for “handicapping,” or the process of picking winners at the sportsbook. Another use for capping involves an act of cheating in which players attempt to “cap” a winning bet with additional chips to increase their payout.
Carpet Joint – Taken from the pre-1950s era when Las Vegas gambling halls had wooden floors sprinkled with sawdust. In 1951, Benny Binion opted to install plush carpet throughout his Horseshoe casino, creating the city’s first carpet joint, in hopes that the luxurious trappings would help to attract high-rollers.
In modern times, a carpet joint typically refers to the ultra-chic 5-star luxury casinos that cater to high-rollers.
Chalk – Whichever side is favored to win a sports bet is often referred to as the chalk.
Check (or Cheque) – As a noun, check or cheque refers to the casino chips used in lieu of cash. As a verb, to check is an action taken at the poker table in which the player declines his option to place the first bet.
Cold Call – At the poker table, cold-calling refers to the act of calling a raise when you haven’t made an initial bet. In other words, when one player in front of you bets, and a second player raises, calling the raise is considered a cold call.
Color Up – Whenever a player or dealer exchanges smaller denomination chips for higher denomination chips of a different color, they’ve colored up. You might slide the dealer a stack of 20 red $5 chips to color up for a single black $100 chip.
Comp – As a noun, a comp is short for “complimentary” and refers to any freebie handed out by the house to reward regular play.
As a verb, to comp is the act of distributing these perks to the player.
Credit – A term used on gaming machines, such as video poker and slot machine games as a substitute for coin denominations. If you slide a $100 bill into a $0.25 video poker machine, you’ll start the game with 400 credits.
Crossfire – A term referring to the small talk made by dealers, either with fellow staff members of players at the table. Often, a dealer mistake will be made in the midst of an intense bout of crossfire which causes them to become distracted.
Croupier – The French word for “dealer,” a croupier is typically found spinning the wheel in the French table game roulette.
Cut Card – In games where a deck of cards, or a shoe containing multiple decks, is used, the dealer uses a special card to cut them after a shuffle. From there, the dealer slides their cut card on the bottom of the deck to prevent players from seeing it when the deck is lifted off the felt.
Dark – As a noun, a dark bet refers to any bet (typically in poker) made before seeing one’s starting hands and/or the community cards. As a verb, dark betting refers to the same action.
Dime – Shorthand for any wager equal to $1,000.
Dirty Stack – Any stack of chips which contains one or more off-colored chips.
Dollar – Shorthand for any wager equal to $100
Double Down – A play used in blackjack, typically on 10 or 11 value starting hands, wherein the player adds a second wager equal to their original wager. From there, the dealer gives the double down player one more card, with winning hands receiving the full 2x payout.
Double Up – Any successful bet which pays out at even money odds to produce a 2x payout. In poker, a player who goes all-in and wins a matching amount from their opponent has doubled up.
In video poker, many machines offer a Double Up side game after winners which allows the player to choose a high card at random in hopes of doubling their initial profit.
Down – Shorthand for the shifts, usually 30 minutes in duration, where a dealer is tasked with running a certain table. If your favorite dealer isn’t at this particular table, waiting a down or two will usually bring them by in short order.
Drop – In casino gambling, the drop refers to any chips collected by the casino after player losses.
Edge – Shorthand for any advantage held during a gambling game. In its most common usage, the house edge refers to the inherent advantage offered to the casino based on a game or wager’s win probability vis a vis its payout. Card counters in blackjack are capable of nullifying the house’s edge, lending themselves a rare player edge in the process.
Even Money – Any payout which is exactly equal to the amount wagered.
Blackjack bets are always paid out at even money, as are the Player bet in blackjack, the “outside” (Red or Black, Odd or Even, Low or High) bets in roulette, and the minimum payable hand in most forms of video poker.
Eye in the Sky – This term refers to the network of overhead security cameras which are trained on the gaming floor at all times. When the floor staff wants to scrutinize a suspected cheater’s playing habits, they’ll call on security staff to use the eye in the sky.
That does it for the A – E segment of my casino gambling glossary, but be sure to check back with the F – M and N – Z pages as well to complete your education. The world of Las Vegas slang can be a bit difficult to wrap your mind around at first glance, but once you’ve studied this three-part glossary, you’ll be betting like a “reg” (that’s clearly short for regular) in no time flat.