Spend enough time on the casino floor and you’re bound to hear slang terminology you’ve never heard before. Chips are called “checks,” free giveaways from the house are “comps,” big spenders are known as “whales,” and bad players are deemed to be “fish.”
Because casino gamblers have created an inclusive society all their own, the casino is home to a wide array of specialized lingo and private parlance. The classic gambling game roulette is no exception, so check out a few of my favorite real money roulette terms often overheard while watching the wheel spin round and round.
If you ever notice a player who stands back awhile, watches to see who is winning the most, then copies the winner’s exact bets, congratulations… you’ve just spotted a roulette “chameleon” in the wild.
Chameleons are superstitious gamblers. who truly believe that they’ll make money simply by mimicking the table’s current chip leader. Of course, that’s not how games of pure chance work, as the odds remain firmly stacked against each player – no matter if they’re winning, losing, or just placing their first bets – before every single spin.
You can’t convince a chameleon of that though, as these players don’t subscribe to statistical reasoning or plain old common sense. Nope, they put their faith in the theory of the “hot hand,” one which holds that a player on a roll tends to stay that way for a while.
But once a chameleon’s muse has run through their streak of good luck, don’t be shocked to see the copycat immediately move on to mirror the latest winner’s moves. Chameleons try to make roulette’s decision making as easy as it can possibly be by letting other players choose the bets.
Once their target has spread a few chips around the table on inside and outside wagers, the chameleon does nothing more than drop their own chips right on top. Should the winner’s hot run continue, the chameleon cashes in along with them. And when the winner becomes a newly minted loser, the chameleon just jumps aboard the next train and keeps right on riding.
The effectiveness of this “strategy,” like all attempts to apply skill to roulette for that matter, is questionable to say the least. Nonetheless, once you start keeping an eye out for roulette chameleons, you’ll notice every table in Las Vegas seems to have their own prowling around.
Speaking of sneaky reptiles, a “Snake” bet in roulette refers to a specific combination of single-number inside bets placed simultaneously – 1, 5, 9, 12, 14, 16, 19, 23, 27, 30, 32, and 34.
Snake bets aren’t always allowed depending on the house rules, but most Las Vegas casinos will let you fire away. And rather than jam up fellow players and the croupier by placing chips on 12 different spots on the layout, you can simply slide your bet on the lower righthand corner of the 34 space.
Roulette offers similar 12-number bets like the Column and the Dozen, which also pay out at a 2 to 1 rate.
Another funky wagering option many roulette novices don’t even know about is called the “Basket” bet.
Also known as the “Top Line” bet, this one sees the player place chips on the 00*, 0, 1, 2, and 3 spaces in hopes of earning a 6 to 1 payout.
*On single-zero “European” roulette wheels, the Basket bet covers the 0, 1, 2, and 3 while paying 8 to 1.
For those brave souls who dance with the devil by betting on the 00 and 0 green “house spaces,” a Basket bet is a great way to straddle the proverbial fence. Sure, you’re still betting against the Red or Black players at the table, but you can still win with a 1, 2, or 3 so everyone stays happy.
Because so many chips get splashed around a roulette table ahead of each spin, casinos can’t exactly let everyone use their standard table game chips.
Just imagine six people, all armed with identical red $5 chips, claiming that it was their stack that sits on the winning number. A scene like that would quickly devolve into chaos, so casinos use a special set of “wheel chips” that can only be found at the roulette table.
Whether you come with cash money or standard casino chips, you’ll need to exchange that currency for wheel chips (AKA “wheel checks”) to get in the game. A roulette croupier’s station comes equipped with wheel chips adorned in up to 10 different colors, and every player present gets their own color.
Thus, when the betting layout is blanketed with dozens, or even hundreds, of wheel chips, the croupier can easily distinguish who has won on which wagers.
Wheel chips look and feel quite differently than regular casino chips too. They seem to be lighter, softer, and more nondescript, lacking the usual logos and dollar-sign denominations. That’s because wheel chips are simply meant to serve as placeholders, signifiers that let the croupier know whose wagers are whose with a quick glance.
Wheel chips are assigned with a $1 denomination, but as winning players build their stacks, they can be swapped out with standard $5, $25, or $100 chips. From there, the croupier must remember which players are using wheel chips while the big bettor deploys ordinary ones.
While we’re on the subject of chips, whether you’re playing with wheel chips or otherwise, please stick to 20-chip “stacks” at all times.
Accordingly, when they assemble your new castle of winnings after a favorable outcome, the croupier will slide over clean 20-chip stacks. This process helps move the payout process along much more quickly, which in turn gets the wheel spinning that much sooner.
Roulette regulars like to refer to the game’s signature spinning ivory ball as “the pill.”
The name most likely derives from the white coloration of most roulette balls, which invariably resemble pills while clashing with the red, black, and green wheel.
You won’t hear many players use this obscure piece of roulette slang, but when the ball skips the table and hits the floor, a call of “pill down!” can often be heard from the croupier.
A holdover from the traditional French form of single-zero roulette, the “En Prison” rule translates literally to “in prison.”
En Prison comes into play whenever a player backs an even money bet like Red / Black, Odd / Even, or High / Low and the ball lands on the green 0 space. Should this unfortunate event occur, the croupier will place a special marker on the chips which should be lost. Those chips remain “in prison” until the next spin.
If the player’s original even money wager turns a winner on this second spin, they get their bet back – but no payout to go along with it. And if the player’s original bet loses again, the casino releases those chips straight into its own custody as a loss.
En Prison is a roulette variation of another European rule known as “La Partage” (“the sharing), which forgoes the second spin and simply returns one-half of an even money bet when 0 strikes.
Now You Know Casino Roulette Slang
Roulette has survived as a gambler’s favorite for several centuries and counting, and over that time, players have developed a language all their own. Thanks to the French influence on roulette’s early development, and American innovations along the way, a modern roulette table is the casino’s melting pot.
If you’ve ever found yourself wondering what one of these casino slang words above really means, I hope this page serves you well the next time you try wrangling the wheel.