Author: May Thawdar Oo
Idioms are the bane of every language student as well as every novice gambler. They act as the spice that brings unmistakable flavor and panache to words.
What makes idiomatic expressions so important, anyway?
Now then, imagine it’s your first time in Las Vegas. As you can expect, the place is buzzing, but you can overhear conversations loud and clear.
You hear someone talking about “chicken dinners” at the craps table. Over by the blackjack tables, you hear someone asking the dealer for a “hit.” A hit of what?
“Hit me,” he says to the dealer, much to your consternation. Why would anybody ask to get hit?
It’s all Greek to you. You scratch your head in total bewilderment. You know you know your English, but you can’t seem to translate the words or the context they said for some reason.
Congratulations! You’ve just had your gambling idiom cherry popped. It happens to all of us.
And, if you don’t understand the most common gambling idioms and phrases, it’ll always be Greek to you. You’ll always be on the outside looking in, unable to make sense of a language you know you understand, as others converse in their seemingly coded language.
And as always, we’re here to help you out. But first, here is a teaser to the full list of idioms that you’ll be reading later on:
What Are Idioms, Anyway?
People have been gambling since time immemorial.
Therefore, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that this piece of human behavior has had an effect on the human lexicon.
For instance, many common gambling idioms and phrases have made it into colloquial English.
In fact, you might just find that you have been using them unwittingly without ever realizing their connection with gambling.
See, idioms are phrases that we hear and use daily. They are unique to cultures, peoples, and regions, making them difficult to pick up if you’ve never heard them being used before.
The gambling world is no different – walk through a casino, spend some time on an iGaming site, or watch a sporting event, and you’ll see or hear countless idioms being used.
Some of the terms you may have heard come from card games such as blackjack and poker, as well as online casino and sports betting terms. We’ve done a previous feature on US and UK sports betting terms and glossary here, which you may find useful.
From terms like “raising the stakes,” having an “ace in the hole,” or “betting the farm,” we all seem to have absorbed and used idioms stemming from the long history that man has had with gambling.
And, if you’re just starting, you’ve come to the right place to learn your ABC’s of the gambling world.
Here is our list of the 15 most common gambling idioms and phrases you need to make sense out of the chatter.
1. “Ace in the hole”
Meaning: Refers to an unseen advantage you hold over others that you can leverage at the right time. Typically used in poker games, as an Ace is a beneficial card to hold.
“Phil Ivey is in a good spot to win this pot. He’s already got an ace in the hole, and we can expect him to play it to perfection against the opposition, seeing as there are already two aces on the board.”
2. “All bets are off”
Meaning: Used when the conditions have changed and the outcome is now hard to predict. Could also mean that current bets will be considered null and void.
“Barcelona is playing without Lionel Messi. And they are playing with one man down against an in-form and full-strength Bayern Munich squad that looks like it can score at will. All bets are off on this one.”
3. “Bet/betting the farm”
Meaning: A throwback from early 20th-century gambling parlance when gamblers used to wager their assets such as real estate to fund or to pay off gambling debts. Refers to risking everything in the hope of winning a bet.
“I bet the farm on Donald Trump winning the 2020 United States Presidential Elections because the odds my sportsbook offered were irresistible. Needless to say, my finances are wrecked.”
4. “Down to the wire”
Meaning: This idiom first came about from horseracing events. Back then, it was a common practice to stretch a wire across the finish line, which would break as they crossed it. Refers to a race whose winner is too close to call or otherwise heading towards an unpredictable result.
“It’s anybody’s ballgame as we enter stoppage time. Expect this edition of the Old Firm to go down to the wire.”
5. “Hit the jackpot”
Meaning: Used to refer to someone who got lucky and got exactly what they desired. It may refer to doing something that brings triumph.
“Boy, the Lakers sure hit the jackpot when they brought Anthony Davis in from New Orleans.”
6. “In the cards”
Meaning: Something that is predicted to happen (e.g., an outcome or result). This idiom originated from tarot practitioners who read the future based on the cards they deal.
“You’ve won 12 straight baccarat hands. A big night is in the cards for you!”
7. “Luck of the draw”
Meaning: Having the luck of the draw refers to winning a competition wherein the winner is picked at random.
“The Netherlands drew a group featuring North Macedonia, Kazakhstan, and Angola. Talk about getting the luck of the draw – they should top that group easily.”
8. “No dice”
Meaning: A term used to express refusal to accept or agree to a particular thing or indicate something that has zero chance to succeed.
“Manchester United thought they could spend their way to the Premier League title during the Mourinho years. No dice – they’ll be mediocre for a long, long time.” (Sorry, dear ManU fans.)
9. “Play (your) cards right”
Meaning: Refers to leveraging a situation to your best possible advantage to increase the likelihood of a positive result.
“LeBron James is playing out of his mind at age 36. If he plays his cards right, he could surpass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the all-time leading scorer in NBA history.”
10. “Put your money where your mouth is”
Meaning: Backing up one’s statements or opinions with a financial wager or by taking an action.
“Conor McGregor talked big game against Floyd Mayweather. He lost, but he sure put his money where his mouth is and gave Mayweather all he could handle.”
11. “Play the percentages”
Meaning: To wager on an outcome that is most likely to occur or based on statistical percentages.
“Don’t overthink who’s going to win between Manchester City and Sunderland. City have beaten them every single time they faced each other in this competition, so just play the percentages.”
12. “Sweeten the pot”
Meaning: Refers to increasing the amount of the winnings, particularly on a hand in poker.
“Do you want me to play in your casino? Well, sweeten the pot if you do!”
13. ”The cards are stacked against you”
Meaning: Refers to arranging a deck of cards so that a player is exposed to an unfair advantage. Also used to refer to unfavorable conditions for success.
“It’s going to be an uphill battle for relegation-threatened Sheffield United. The Blades’ next three fixtures are against the best teams in the league – the cards are firmly stacked against them.”
14. “Throwing the game”
Meaning: To intentionally lose a contest; typically used in connivance with gamblers.
“Liverpool played so abysmally today they might as well have thrown the game.”
15. “Upping the ante”
Meaning: Refers to increasing the stakes on a particular game; also used to emphasize the importance of something under negotiations.
“Phil Hellmuth really upped the ante against Phil Ivey on that hand by going all in.”
BONUS: “Winner, winner, chicken dinner!”
Meaning: A term used by dealers and fellow players to congratulate you on a successful jaunt to the tables. The term is thought to have come from the casinos of Las Vegas, where a full chicken dinner can be had for $2.
“Winner, winner, chicken dinner! Congratulations on your big win at the craps table today!”
We hope you’ve learned something from our top English gambling idioms.
Accurately using them will help you get the most out of your experience next time you’re at an online or brick-and-mortar casino or sportsbook.
Moreover, idioms help you gain an even deeper insight and sense of community with people who speak your language.
The same is true when it comes to creating content that represents your iGaming brand; accurately using linguistic terms and idioms is a reflection of your professionalism and quality of work as a brand.
One of the ways brands can achieve a consistent, coherent, and above all engaging content marketing strategy is by working with an established and trustworthy iGaming content writing service for online casinos and sportsbooks like Translation Royale.
We have had years of experience providing creative content writing for iGaming businesses the world over. Get in touch with us if you need to up your iGaming content game with a professional touch.
How did you like May Thawdar Oo’s blog post “15 Gambling Idioms Every Newbie Should Know”? Let us know in the comments if you have anything to add, have another content idea for iGaming blog posts, or just want to say “hello.” 🙂