Full transparency here, the CasinoPlay crew are speaking about the English language as that is the language we are definitely most comfortable with. We’re positive there are words in other languages that also reflect our species’ fascination with language (and maybe we’ll do an article focusing on that) but for now we want to show all our gambling fans and followers that gambling has insinuated itself into many facets of our lives – including our (English) language.
Gambling – as we shown in various articles covering the history, the facts, and the quotes – has been a huge part of humanity’s journey to this technological era. There are hundreds of theories and opinions on when, why, and where gambling first started but the general consensus is that it was long ago, it definitely has something to do with the pattern-recognition parts (and pleasure centres) of our brains, and Mesopotamia, China, and Egypt feature quite prominently in backtracking the earliest known examples of gambling (these are actually pre-written history, about 3,000-odd years ago, so we are working with some serious connect-the-dots when we don’t even have all the dots theories here).
Whatever the origins, gambling is an inherent part of the human psyche, so much so that it has seeped into our entertainment, our leisure time, our financial world (aren’t stockbrokers just highly paid gamblers?), and our language.
Any gambling fan, online or brick-and-mortar or just social-around-the-kitchen-table, knows the phrases that we are often confronted with: holding your cards close to your chest, beating a dead horse, all bets are off, ace in the hole.
These phrases are awesome examples of how even non-gamblers use the idioms from Lady Luck’s very own dictionary to add colour or gravitas or drama to their speech. But we are looking at 5 words that are often used but not often understood to have their basis in the world of chance.
Aboveboard (also above-board and above board) is a word that means in a fair, open, and honest manner. If you are doing business you want that business to be aboveboard, to know that you are engaging in a legal undertaking that has no hidden catches or complications, no ‘under the table’ transactions (unless you’re a politician, any politician from any country, in which case the deals are not so much under the table as they are below the floorboards, through the basement, and digging for all they’re worth).
What a lot of people don’t realise is that aboveboard actually comes from the world of cards where honest players will always hold their cards above the table (above the board) so the other players know they aren’t cheating.
It’s the mirror of ‘under the table’ used above to denote shady dealing and hidden cards.
Aboveboard has been used since the 16th century to refer to open and honest dealings and people.
Blackjack players will know the term ‘double down’. At the blackjack table, players can choose to double down on their bet where they double their stake but receive only one card in return. It’s a risky move but, for the confident player (or the pro card counter) can significantly increase the win if successful.
In common usage, double down refers to taking a risk to increase reward, or to become more tenacious or zealous regarding to a position. For example, a politician caught in a lie can either choose to come clean or choose to double down and blame an opponent.
Double down can be viewed as either a positive or a negative depending on the context. It’s very similar to going “all in” where you throw fate to the winds and rely on fortune to carry you through. The biggest difference is that “all in” is, literally, the final throw of the dice whereas “double down” can be an isolated and repeated event.
See how our gambling terms make their way into our thinking, writing, and talking?
Poker face (or Pokerface as Lady Gaga would have it) is probably the most well-known gambling word in the world. As a symbol of what a true poker ace is capable of, the poker face is definitely the ultimate reflection of a word that has transcended the gaming table and worked its way into our collective consciousness.
Poker players know that the bluff is a sneaky way of beating your opponents. They also know that most players have a “tell”, an unconscious tic or habit or other indication that can alert opponents to what sort of hand they are holding.
The poker face is the stoic, no show-no tell, deadpan face that the best poker players can pull off. It is a face that doesn’t give away any hint of a person’s emotions or thoughts. They give away nothing. No smile, no subtle stroking of the beard like an old-timey villain, not even a widening of the pupils (this last one is not really true because that’s an involuntary movement and the reason why a lot of poker players wear sunglasses!).
Nevertheless, a poker face is crucial to the bluff in poker, and it has become a staple in the world of business and negotiations as well.
While it may sound like it’s describing a situation that’s gone to cr*@, crapshoot actually means something with an unpredictable outcome. A business venture, for example, may be a crapshoot if there are unknowable risks associated with it (opening a restaurant as lockdown hits is a good example). You could be successful, or you could fail spectacularly.
Filling in all C’s on a multiple-choice exam is a crapshoot: chances are you’ll get some answers right, but enough to actually pass the test? Who knows?
The word comes from the game of craps, that famous dice game where the outcome is based on a player shooting craps to win or lose – and the total reliance on luck or the shooters skill for the non-shooting players.
Anyone who has ever dabbled in the stock market or just overheard financial people talking about stocks and bonds and money stuff like that (we honestly have no idea what the heck goes on, just that it really seems to us that these Wall Street types are just engaged in another form of gambling but one that affects the lives of millions of people and it’s all apparently legal somehow no matter if they win or lose or make profits or ruin global economies anyway that’s our rant over).
Back to blue chip.
Anyone who has ever dabbled in the stock market or just overheard financial people talking about stocks and bonds and money stuff like that will have heard the word blue chip. It’s used to refer to an investment or portfolio or business with an outstanding record of success or profitability. And (oh the irony) it has its basis in the world of gambling!
It’s our favourite TIL word. Blue chip actually comes from the practice of using red and blue chips in games like poker and faro and roulette. The blue chips were high value chips while the red chips were lower value chips. In the business world, blue chip refers to those undertakings that are seen as being more valuable to investors.
And there you have it, 5 gambling words that we see in use every day around the world. And proof that our favourite hobby is far more influential than we ever realised. Whether you’re a South African gambler who likes playing from home at your favourite online casino, or you enjoy getting dressed up and hitting the big land-based casino on the weekends, whether you play just for fun or take your real money gambling real seriously, we do have one gambling phrase that we urge you to take to heart and spread far and wide: