Winner Winner, Chicken Dinner – And Other Casino Lingo

Winner Winner, Chicken Dinner – And Other Casino Lingo

By Alex J. Coyne © 2018 Great Bridge Links

You hear some pretty weird phrases around the gambling table. Ever wondered what any of them mean or where on earth they come from? Here are some iconic gambling sayings and idioms and their origins.

Winner Winner, Chicken Dinner!

“Winner winner, chicken dinner!” is often yelled around the table in victory – and you might have heard it in a few gambling movies, too. Apparently the story goes back to the earlier days of Las Vegas, when you could reportedly buy a full chicken dinner for the low price of $1.79 at most casinos, while the maximum return on a bet at most tables was $2. So, if you won, you could walk straight over and get a chicken dinner with some cash left over.

Being on a Heater

Referring to someone as a “heater” – or simply being “on a heater” means a short, concise gambling hot streak and is usually something you’ll hear around the poker tables. Of course, it’s related to similar terms like being on a hot streak, going cold or spotting a hot or cold table.

An Ace in the Hole

In traditional stud poker, the face-down card dealt to the player is referred to as the “hole card”. Having an ace in the hole means that you have something advantageous hidden away in your bag of tricks, around the gambling table or not. In addition to that, you might also play your ace, have an ace up your sleeve or be within an ace of. (Historically, an “ace” meant the smallest possible amount.)

Cashing in Your Chips

Cashing in your chips is a good thing: It means that you reap the rewards of something. Of course, it’s self-explanatory that it comes from taking your chips or casino membership card and turning your winnings into cash.

Being “Above Board”

Being “above board” means that something is legitimate and transparent. It originates with card games, where players’ hands have to be kept on top of the table where the dealer can see them – or “above board”. This is also the origin of passing someone a bribe “under the table”.

It’s a menagerie!

Casino lingo often uses words from the animal world to describe players:


If you are new to gambling you may well be referred to as a ‘fish’.


Lingo for a competent player who may appear to be a fish early on.


Term used to describe VIP players that bet very large happily losing millions in the casino seemingly without a care in the world. There are only around 250 ‘whales’ in the world.


Another term that you certainly don’t want to be called in the casino, or anywhere for that matter. A Turkey refers to someone who acts unpleasantly towards the dealer, usually because they are losing or think they know the rules better.


Casino jargon for a player who is not knowledgeable about the games.


An observer who hangs around a gaming table. His intention may be to ‘lift’ chips from other non-suspecting players


If you hear this term being used in a casino, be alert. A junket refers to a group of experienced, high rolling players who have been flown in especially on a charted plane at the casinos expense.

Card Washing

This is a term for a method of shuffling the cards where the cards are placed face down on the table by the dealer and ‘sloshed around’ like a washing machine before dealing a new game.

And now, some quotes:

Eat your betting money but don’t bet your eating money. –Unknown

If you must play, decide upon three things at the start: the rules of the game, the stakes, and the quitting time.

This one is reported as a Chinese proverb, and it’s most definitely applicable to everyday life as much as is the gambling room floor.

Life is like a game in which God shuffles the cards, the devil deals them and we have to play the trumps.

This Yugoslavian proverb refers to life in general and was too creative to omit.

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