How The Wild West Influenced Modern Gambling Terms

By:

Posted: December 8, 2023

Updated: December 8, 2023

Seeing a group of cowboys sitting at a card table in a dark and smokey saloon is a common trope in many Hollywood Wild West movies. With the New World opening up to Europeans, many bought playing cards with them. Being one of the most popular pastimes, it's no surprise that many of today's gambling terms and slang come from the early American pioneers.

Image source: National Archives at College Park, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The impact of Wild West slang on gambling terms is profound. While gambling phrases have seamlessly integrated into everyday language, their origins often trace back to the rough vernacular of the old Western era. You don’t need to be a casino player to grasp the meaning behind expressions like “take a chance,” “poker face,” or “showdown.” But their roots are firmly planted in the colloquialisms of the Wild West, where an array of terms and phrases found their inception. In this article, we will delve into the captivating backstory of Wild West gambling terms, exploring their evolution and enduring influence on modern-day casino gaming. From the origins of the word “gamble” itself to the transformation of casino chips, and from the legend of poker gambling terms to the naming of blackjack, we will unravel the fascinating connections between the Wild West and the world of gambling. Join us on this journey through history as we uncover the intriguing origins of the gambling lexicon that continues to shape the language of chance and fortune today.

The Origins Of Modern Gambling Terms

The impact of Wild West slang on gambling terms is profound. While gambling phrases have seamlessly integrated into everyday language, their origins often trace back to the rough vernacular of the old Western era. You don’t need to be a casino player to grasp the meaning behind expressions like “take a chance,” “poker face,” or “showdown.” But their roots are firmly planted in the colloquialisms of the Wild West, where an array of terms and phrases found their inception.

For a start, let’s consider the word “gamble” itself. Initially representing any risky endeavour, its transformation into a specific reference to the act of gambling unfolded among card players in frontier saloons by 1879. The remarkable notion that contemporary online poker players draw influence from the spoken legacy of those resilient pioneers is truly astounding. Let’s dive deeper into the captivating backstory of Wild West gambling terms.

bet365 Casino Welcome Bonus

Bet £10 & Get £30 in Free Bets

Bet £10 & Get £30 in Free Bets for new customers at bet365. Min deposit requirement. Free Bets are paid as Bet Credits and are available for use upon settlement of bets to value of qualifying deposit. Min odds, bet and payment method exclusions apply. Returns exclude Bet Credits stake. Time limits and T&Cs apply. Registration required.

The Evolution Of Casino Chips

The evolution of gaming currency unveils a fascinating history. Engaging in online casino games at one of the best online casino sites in the UK like bet365 Casino, or poker variants like Texas Hold’em familiarises players with casino chips. These are the fundamental markers representing the stakes in games of chance. However, the original rendition of these chips was markedly different. Their origins trace back to the Wild West era, primarily used by Faro players, a popular card game of that time. Essentially, in Faro, players would wager against the banker, predicting the sequence of card appearances. These bets were placed using diverse items termed as “chips.”

gambling terms
Casino chips have adopted different shapes and sizes over the years.

Initially, these chips encompassed various small, valuable objects, spanning from gold or silver nuggets to coins and paper currency. To impose order amidst this diversity, gambling establishments endeavoured to establish standardised regulations. While cheaper saloons employed tokens crafted from paper and shellac, more upscale venues fashioned their distinctive tokens from ivory or bone. Despite efforts to regulate chip values, tensions soared when the “chips were down!”

Considering the high-stakes ambiance at casino tables, it’s no surprise that legendary Wild West figures frequented Faro tables. Notable names like Wild Bill Hickock and John Henry “Doc” Holliday, overseeing a Faro bank at Alhambra Saloon in Tombstone, Arizona, resonate within this captivating history. The notable presence of Wyatt Earp, a gambler and lawman, further elevates the lore, having witnessed the moment when outlaws “cashed in their chips.”

Legend Of Poker Gambling Terms

Tales within the realm of poker lore reveal a transformation in gambling culture. The advent of standard round casino chips emerged during the 1880s. This coincided with the wane of Faro’s popularity and the ascent of poker. Today it’s revered as one of the most popular casino games globally. Not only is it a cherished live dealer game online, but poker also boasts an extensive lexicon of gambling terms, probably surpassing any other casino game. Its universal appeal owes much to its simplistic rules, concise rounds, and captivating gameplay.

The very name “poker” bears the imprint of the Wild West gambling era, journeying from New Orleans up the Mississippi River, permeating the saloons and establishments in mining camps and frontier towns. If you’ve enjoyed a hand or two in casino poker games, concepts like face cards, straights, and full houses resonate, showing the significance of maintaining a “poker face” for bluffing, enhancing stakes during the “ante,” leading to the ultimate “showdown.” These poker gambling terms remain deeply rooted in the rugged days of the frontier and persist as integral facets of contemporary live and online poker.

Amidst the array of old gambling terms, some find less frequent usage. For instance, the “dead man’s hand,” comprising two aces, two 8s, and an additional card, commemorates the hand Wild Bill held when Jack McCall fatally shot him in 1876. Terms like “Calamity Jane” for the queen of spades and “four-flusher” depicting a cheater or deceiver enrich the lexicon. Meanwhile, “pass the buck,” originating from Wild West casino poker. In this, a “buck” denoted a bone-handled knife used to track game action. Passing the deal involved literally transferring the buck to the next player. Presently, the expression signifies shifting responsibility onto another individual.

Craps And Its Gambling Terms

Putting poker terms aside, numerous dice game gambling terms have their origins intertwined with the Wild West legacy. Among these, “craps” stands out as the world’s most prevalent dice game, accessible both in online live casinos and renowned land-based establishments. Much like poker, American-style craps found its roots in Louisiana. The peculiar nomenclature, “craps,” finds its origins in the archaic Cajun French term “craps,” derived from “crabs,” British slang denoting unfavourable dice throws. The correlation between “crabs” and the numbers two and three remains enigmatic, a mystery hardly pondered upon in the Wild West. Instead, their concern revolved around the risk of “crapping out,” experiencing a loss with throws of two, three, or 12. 

These gambling terms first surfaced in 1835, preceding the use of “high roller,” signifying extravagant spenders. Perhaps, the high rollers of the era needed to amass their fortunes before venturing into craps wagering. Today, high rollers and casino whales grace gaming tables across various platforms, be it online or in traditional gaming establishments.

The Naming Of Blackjack

Among the most favoured casino table games, whether in physical or online casinos, is blackjack. It entices both seasoned high rollers and novices, offering a blend of chance and skill, striving to outlast opponents in a straightforward yet gratifying manner. The origin of blackjack’s name weaves a legend from the Wild West, intricately linked with the narrative of the Klondike gold miners. Before the Klondike Gold Rush of 1896–1899, this card game was known as “Vingt-Un” or “Twenty-One.” Legend has it that Klondike miners had a unique rule: a 10:1 bonus if a player held the ace of spades along with a jack of clubs or spades (dubbed a “black jack”). While the bonus eventually faded into obscurity, the gambling terms remained, quickly gaining widespread popularity.

Evidently, the old Western gambling slang employed to describe casino games was remarkably accurate. The foundational terminology of the game also took shape during that era, persisting to this day where decisions like “hit,” “stand,” or “fold” remain pivotal. In fact, it’s irrespective of whether one engages in blackjack in an online casino or at a physical table.

bet365 Casino Welcome Bonus

Bet £10 & Get £30 in Free Bets

Bet £10 & Get £30 in Free Bets for new customers at bet365. Min deposit requirement. Free Bets are paid as Bet Credits and are available for use upon settlement of bets to value of qualifying deposit. Min odds, bet and payment method exclusions apply. Returns exclude Bet Credits stake. Time limits and T&Cs apply. Registration required.

Jackpots And Jokers 

Life in the Wild West held no certainties. A severe climate and a relentless environment ensured that, no matter the meticulousness of one’s preparations, vigilance against the “joker in the pack” remained imperative. This vibrant character made its initial appearance in poker references back in 1868. Also recognized as the wild card, the joker possessed the unique ability to substitute for any standard deck card. Its introduction injected an element of disorder into the game, catching players off guard whenever it appeared, disrupting the game’s rhythm. Present-day casino poker and online poker tournaments typically exclude jokers or wild cards. However, they resurface in an alternate form within online casino slots. The wild symbols on the reels serve the same function as the jokers in historic Western casino games.

gambling terms
Joker posses some unique abilities that come in handy in certain situations

According to online casino news from the UK, the link between poker and slots exists through the concept of the “jackpot,” originally a poker gambling term from 1881 denoting accumulated antes when no player’s opening hand contained two jacks or higher. These antes pooled into a substantial pot for the eventual winner, contingent on the absence of formidable opening hands across the table. Today, a jackpot signifies any substantial win—a stroke of exceptional luck to achieve.

Try Gambling Terms With bet365 Casino

The evolution of gambling has come a long way from the perilous Wild West days. While the old Western gambling terms still retain some relevance, contemporary online casino gaming eliminates concerns about being swindled by cheats or exploited by unscrupulous gamblers. You can explore a diverse array of high-quality online casino games within a secure, responsible setting at bet365 Casino. Here, the deck is always fair – thanks to cutting-edge random number generators (RNGs). Even better, there’s no fear that a bad loser will pull out a revolver!

Try your new skills at bet365 Casino!

 

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments