A-Z of Gambling Terminology

If you're new to the worlds of gambling and betting, it can be overwhelming trying to learn all of the language that is casually thrown around. has compiled together some of the most common betting terms you might encounter as you start to play both online and in brick and mortar casinos.

Action- Money wagered by a player during a game.

Against the spread- Betting on the underdog and the points given to it by the oddsmaker in a sports bet.

All-in- In poker, betting your entire stack of chips.

Ante- In poker, a bet required of players before any cards are dealt.

ATS- See 'Against the spread'.

Bad beat- To end up losing a bet when odds seem to be heavily in your favour.

Beard- See 'Runner'.

Blind- In poker, the blinds (small and big) are the two players to the dealers left at are required to ante up and put bets into the pot before any cards are dealt.

Board- The community cards in a poker game that everyone can comprise their hand from.

Bookmaker- Someone who takes and manages bets and payouts for sports and other events. Also called a bookie.

Burn- After shuffling, the burying of the top card of the deck before dealing.

Buy-in- The amount it costs to play in a card tournament.

Buy points- Paying an additional amount of money to receive additional points or more in your favour in a pointspread bet.

Call- In poker, to match/bet the same amount as the previous bet.

Card counting- Mainly in blackjack, a strategy used to determine what cards are likely to be dealt next by keeping a running tally of which high-value cards have been dealt versus which still remain the deck. While not explicitly illegal, many casinos will eject players they suspect to be counting cards.

Chalk- In sports betting, slang referring to the favourite.

Check- In poker, to pass on the opportunity to bet (if no bet is required of you).

Community cards- Cards dealt in the center of the table of which all players can compose their hand from.

Cover- In sports betting, a win by beating the pointspread by the set number of points.

Crimp- Bending or otherwise making a small defect on a card to be able to identify what it is when face down.

Croupier- A dealer in a gambling game. More commonly used to refer to those dealers operating roulette and baccarat games.

Cut- The practice of allowing the player to the dealer's right to take a random segment of the deck off the top and have it moved to the bottom. Used to prevent possible cheating and purposeful ordering of the cards by the dealer. Once the cut is complete, the cards are dealt.

Dealer- The person who shuffles and deals the cards.

Dog- In sports betting, the underdog, or the team as determined by the oddsmaker as most likely to lose.

Draw- In card games, staying in a hand with the hopes that you will improve or complete your hand. E.g., holding two spades and having two come out on the flop would be a flush draw.

Even money- A bet with 1:1 odds where the player and the house have the same probability of winning the bet.

Expected value- The amount a player could expect to win or lose if betting the same amount on the same odds repeatedly. Sometimes referred to as EV.

Favourite- The team or competitor most likely to win in a sports bet, as determined by the oddsmaker.

Fish- A novice gambler that regularly loses money.

Flop- The first three community cards dealt in a poker hand.

Future bet- A sports bet on the outcome of a future event, such as the winner of a sports championship before the season or competition begins.

Gambler's conceit- The idea that a gambler will be able to stop risky behaviour (i.e., continuous gambling) while they are participating in it. A common example would the expression "I'll quit when I'm ahead."

Gambler's fallacy- The (false) idea that if a result has happened rarely in the past, it is more likely to occur in the future.

Handicapping- In sports betting, the act of the oddsmaker configuring the odds to try and get even action wagered on both teams or all competitors.

High roller- A gambler that wagers large amounts of money.

Juice- The commission the casino or sportsbook takes on your bets.

Kicker- In poker, the high card that breaks a tie between otherwise identical hands.

Laying the odds- A bet in which players would win more than the amount they wagered. The opposite of taking the odds.

Martingale system- A betting system in which you follow up a winning bet with a bet of that same amount, and a losing bet with a bet double the amount you just lost.

Moneyline- Betting on the outright winner in a sports event, as opposed to betting the pointspread.

Muck- In poker, 'mucking' refers to throwing your unwanted hands into the middle of the table or 'muck' pile.

Nuts- The best possible hand you can hold in a given situation.

Odds- The possibility of winning a gambling bet. In some games and in sports betting this is often written as a series of two numbers (e.g., 2:1 odds). This means betting the second number (C$1) will win you the first number (C$2).

Off-suit- Pocket cards that are not the same suit.

Opening line- The initial odds offered for wagering on a sporting event.

Over-pair- In Texas Hold 'Em, having a pair of hole cards that is larger than all of the community cards.

Parlay- In sports betting, a bet on at least two teams in which every bet must be correct for a payout.

Pit boss- The manager of several gaming tables in a casino.

Pocket cards- The cards you hold that only you can see.

Pointspread- In sports betting, the margin of victory for the favourite as determined by the sportsbook. Can be bet against or with.

Pot- The total amount of money wagered in a poker game.

Pot committed- A situation in poker where you have put so much money into the pot that it doesn't make sense to fold.

Press- Betting an amount larger than you normally would.

Progressive jackpot- A jackpot that increases in small increments with every bet placed until the jacpot is won. Common in slot machine games.

Proposition bet- Odds offered by a sportsbook on the likelihood of various occurrences to happen during a game or event.

Push- When a bet ends in a tie and no money is exchanged. Most commonly seen in sports betting.

Raise- Betting more than the minimum required to bet.

River- The last of the five community cards dealt in poker.

Runner- Someone that places a bet on the behalf of someone else.

Shark- A player that is especially good at cards/gambling and prays on weaker players, sometimes called 'fish'.

Sit and go- A poker tournament where there is no set start time. Play begins when a designated amount of players (usually around 10) have all "sat" and paid the buy in.    

Splashing the pot- Throwing chips into the pot recklessly as opposed to placing them in neat stacks that are easy to count.

Sportsbook- An organization that creates the odds for sports wagering and accepts bets for sporting events.

Steam- Heavy action on one particular team or competitor in a sports bet.

Straight up- In sports betting, a wager for a team or competitor to win outright (as opposed to on a pointspread).

String bet- Making a bet in a card game in multiple motions as opposed to all at once. Strictly prohibited.

Suit- One of four categories playing cards are separated into: spades, hearts, diamonds, and clubs.

Suited- Cards in a hand that are of the same suit.

Table limit- The minimum and maximum amount of money players can wager in a casino game.

Taking the odds- A bet in which players would win less than the amount they wagered. The opposite of laying the odds.

Taking the points- In sports betting, wagering on the underdog and the points "given" to it in the pointspread.

Tell- An unintentional clue provided by a card player that hints at what cards they may or may not be holding.

Totals bet- A sports bet that predicts the combined point total of both teams.

Turn- The fourth and second-to-last community card dealt in a poker hand.

Trips- Three of a kind.

Turbo- A type of poker tournament where the blinds increase at a faster rate than normal.

Underdog- The team or competitor most likely to lose in a sports bet, as determined by the oddsmaker.

Vigorish -See 'juice'.

Wager- Any type of bet.