Any insular community that serves a specific clientele is sure to develop its own language of slang terms and insider lingo.
That’s especially true for the casino gambling scene in Las Vegas, where decades as the only place to legally play transformed the way Sin City denizens speak with one another. Whether you’re a local like myself, or a regular visitor who calls Las Vegas their home away from home, chances are good you’ve managed to confuse a few folks who aren’t in the know by speaking in slang.
It happened to me recently, as I guided a group of old friends on a tour of the town I call home.
As we hopped from casino to casino, getting our gamble on and generally having a great time, I continually lapsed into that one of a kind Las Vegas vernacular without even noticing. But while I went on about winning a “dime” (shorthand for $1,000) on a perfect parlay (a type of sports bet involving multiple picks that all have to win), or cashing in my “checks” (another word for casino chips) at the cage, I noticed my pals becoming increasingly agitated.
With that in mind, I set to work crafting a comprehensive glossary of gambling slang terms commonly encountered in the casino setting. In case you missed the first two installments, head here for a primer on the A through E section of the alphabet, then check this page for the F through M entries.
When you’re all done catching up, bring it back here to learn about the casino slang terms spanning N through Z.
Natural – When used in blackjack, a natural refers to any Ace + Face card combination which creates a 21 total on the player’s first two cards. When used in baccarat, a natural refers to any 8 or 9 total dealt to the Player or Banker hand on the first two cards. Less commonly used in craps, a natural refers to any 7 or 11 for a winner on the come out roll.
Net Winnings – Also known as profit, your net winnings equal whatever amount you cash out with minus your initial stake (“I started with $200 on video poker and cashed out for $550 for $350 in net winnings”).
Nickel – Shorthand for any wager equal to $500.
Nit – A player who is consistently hesitant to bet more than the minimum, or even back their intuition with a bet in the first place, is known as a nit.
No Action – A term used by sportsbook operators when referring to bets which have been cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances. No action rulings can come down when weather conditions force a game to end before full-time has elapsed; when one side must forfeit, etc.
Nosebleed – When players arrange to gamble for stakes much higher than the posted limits, or even the usual high-stakes limits offered to high-rollers, they’re said to be playing at nosebleed stakes.
Odds – The easiest way to express the possibility of a wager winning versus losing is through the odds.
On a double-zero roulette table, betting on any single number offers true odds of 1 in 38 (or 38:1), as the wheel features 38 spaces and only one winner.
In terms of payouts, odds reflect the ratio of payout to money wagered $20 bet on blackjack with 3 to 2 payout odds produces a $30 payout.
Off the Board (OTB) – In the sportsbook, a bet is considered off the board when the bookmaker ceases accepting action. Bets can come off the board for many reasons, including after sudden injury news removes a star player from the lineup, or when a point spread side is so heavily favored that offering moneyline odds becomes a nonstarter.
Offsuit – At the poker table, a starting hand is considered to be offsuit when it contains two cards of differing suits (Ace of hearts and King of spades, etc.)
On Tilt – When gambling, a player is said to be on tilt when they react overemotionally to a bad beat or big loss. The term’s origins come from pinball machines, as losing players would try to tilt the machines to artificially guide their ball.
Today, tilt is most often associated with poker players who start playing loose and reckless after suffering a hit to their chip stack.
Open-Ended Straight Draw – In poker games like Texas Hold’em, an open-ended straight draw refers to an incomplete hand containing four cards out of five needed for a straight. For example, when holding the 9-10-J-Q, you can now hit an 8 or a King to complete your open-ended straight draw.
Optimal Strategy – For every gambling game, and every possible situation therein, an optimal strategy exists whereby the player can give themselves the best odds of success. Blackjack’s optimal strategy – better known as “basic strategy” – can be purchased at the casino gift shop and brought to the table via handheld cards.
Out(s) – In poker games like Texas Hold’em, a player’s outs are all possible cards which can come to deliver them the winning hand. In the open-ended straight draw entry up above, the deck’s four remaining 8s and four remaining Kings combine to give the player eight outs in total.
Outside Bets – At the roulette table, the betting layout is divided into inside (single numbers and combinations of single numbers) and outside bets. The outside bets refer to even money wagers like Black or Red, Odd or Even, and Low or High, along with Column and Dozen bets.
Overlay – In a poker tournament, the overlay refers to any amount of money the casino must chip in to meet a guaranteed prize pool which entry fees don’t cover.
If the poker room advertises a $500 buy-in tournament with a $100,000 guaranteed prize pool, it needs at least 200 players to show up in order to cover the cost.
Should 150 players show up, however, the casino would be responsible for paying an overlay of $25,000.
Paint – In casino gambling games which use playing cards, the face cards (Jacks, Queens, and Kings) are referred to as paint because of their colorful royalty images.
Parlay – A type of sports bet which offers increased payout odds in exchange for linking multiple wagers together. The caveat for parlay bettors is that all sides, or legs, of the wager must win in order to cash the ticket – which significantly decreases the odds of success.
Past Posting – A form of cheating, past posting involves placing a bet only after the winning outcome has been revealed. Past posters can also choose to add chips to a known winner in hopes of receiving an increased payout.
Payback Percentage – Similar to the house edge metric used on table games, payback percentage reflects the player’s expected return over the long run when playing slot or video poker machines. Payback percentages are based on the ratio between a bet’s win probability and the payout odds awarded on a winner. Slot machine games tend to offer payback percentages between 90-95 percent, which means a player betting $100 over and over in perpetuity can expect to collect $90-$95 in return.
Payline – On a slot machine, the payline refers to any horizontal, diagonal, or zig-zag line crossing the screen. In order to form winning combinations, slot spinners hope to land matching symbols along an activated payline.
Pay Table – On a slot or video poker machine, the pay table is used to showcase all available winning combinations or hands, along with the payouts associated with each winner.
Pigeon – Another word for “fish,” or an inexperienced player who doesn’t know the rules, odds, or optimal strategy for a given game.
Pit – The area of a casino where table games are offered is known as the pit.
Pocket Pair – In poker games which use hole cards, a pocket pair is any paired starting hand (2-2; 7-7; A-A; etc.).
Point Spread – In sports betting, the bookmaker uses a point spread to ensure equal action on both sides of a contest. Based on the gulf between two teams’ relative talent levels, point spreads can range from (-0.5) points to double-digits. In order to win a point spread bet of (-7) when wagering on the favorite, your side must “cover” the spread, or win by 8 or more points.
Conversely, when betting on a point spread underdog of (+7), your bet will be deemed a winner so long as your team doesn’t lose by 8 or more points. And in both examples, a 7-point discrepancy between winner and loser would result in a push.
Press – As a verb, to press your bet is simply to let it ride after a winning wager. For example, if you bet $25 on a game of blackjack and turn a winner for $25 profit, you could press the bet by wagering all $50 on the next hand.
Push – Another word for a tie in which the player’s wager is returned.
Landing a 19 in blackjack while the dealer tables their own 19 results in a push, so the dealer will simply slide your chips back to you before beginning the next hand.
Quads – In poker, quads is shorthand for four of a kind.
Quarter Bet – At the roulette table, a quarter bet is any wager which combines four single-numbers at one time.
Rabbit Hunt – Whenever the dealer elects to show players a card which would’ve been dealt next, had the hand not ended already, they are said to be rabbit hunting.
Rack – Generally used in the poker room, a rack is a clear plastic case used to move chips from one table to another, from the table to the cashier’s cage, etc.
Rake – At a cash game poker table, the rake is the commission charged by a poker room in exchange for furnishing the game.
Most poker rooms cap their rake at $5 per hand, with the rate charged escalating $1 at a time based on the pot’s size. Rake can also refer to the house’s cut taken from every poker tournament entry fee (“The buy-in for this one is $500 plus a $50 rake”).
Railbird – A derisive term for the folks who linger near a table game or poker table simply to “sweat” the action without actually sitting down.
Rainbow – In poker games which use community card boards, a rainbow board refers to any combination of cards which can’t create a flush or flush draw (Ace of spades, King of hearts, 9 of diamonds, 2 of clubs; etc.).
Rating – When a casino assesses your overall level of play – based on time spent gambling, amount of money wagered, and preferred games – they’ll assign you a rating in order to determine how many comps you will receive.
Rat-holing – A form of cheating in which the player surreptitiously removes chips from the table in order to secure themselves a profit. Rat-holing is especially prevalent at the poker table, where one bad beat can cause a player to lose their entire stack in an instant.
Right Way – At the craps table, a player betting on the Pass Line – or on the shooter to win – is said to be a right way bettor.
Scatter Symbol – A special symbol used on slot machine games which serves to generate additional winning combinations on the reels.
Scoop – In poker variants which allow the pot to be split between the best high hand and the best low hand, to scoop is simply to win both halves of the same pot. For example, in Omaha Hi-Lo Eight or Better, holding the A-2-3-4-5 “wheel” straight is the best possible low hand, while also forming a powerful high hand with the potential to scoop most pots.
Set – In poker games which use community card boards, a set refers to three of kind hands when formed by
Square – Any gambler who doesn’t know the odds or proper strategy, or generally takes the incorrect side, is known as a square (see “fish” and “pigeon”).
Toke – Shorthand for tips players give to the dealer or other casino staff.
Turkey – Any uncouth, rude, or belligerent gambler who takes the frustration of losing out on dealers or other casino staff.
Vigorish – Also known as “the vig,” vigorish refers to the commission charged by sportsbooks on every wager they accept.
A (-110) moneyline bet incurs 10 percent vigorish, as bettors who wager $100 can only win $90 in return.
Whale – Synonymous with high-roller, a whale is any gambler who can afford to bet well above the casino’s posted maximum limits.
Wheel – In most poker variants, the wheel refers to the A-2-3-4-5 straight hand.
Wise Guy – In the sports betting community, wise guy refers to professional handicappers who manage to beat the sportsbooks on a consistent basis.
Yo-Leven – At the craps table, dealers will call out “yo-leven” when referring to the number 11. This is done to prevent confusion with 7, which is the game’s key number.
If you made it this far, you should be well-prepared to gamble like a true local the next time you visit Las Vegas. The insider slang and specialized lingo described here – and on the previous posts of this series – isn’t exactly essential, but once you learn it, you’ll never go back to playing like a layman. On your next sojourn to Sin City, be sure to deploy some well-timed jargon to prove your bona fides to the dealers, staff, and fellow players.