Gambling Words and Expressions That Made Their Way Into Our Vocabulary

min read
People playing casino games.
BetMGM Jun 17, 2024, 11:07 AM

What word comes to mind when you’re trying to devise a solution to a problem and a fantastic idea suddenly pops into your head? “Bingo!” When you’re teaching someone how to do something new, and they’re surprisingly good at it following their first try? “Beginner’s luck!” Or when you find a $10 bill in the back pocket of an old pair of pants? “Jackpot!”

Over the years, plenty of words and events have made their way out of the casino and into our everyday vocabulary. But what do some of these gambling phrases and casino expressions mean? From which land-based and online casino games do they originate? How have these gambling sayings evolved to become a part of colloquial English? Read on to find out more about some of the most common parts of gambling vocabulary that people use in everyday conversations.

Ace in the Hole

If you play casino table games, you probably know the term “hole card.” This is an important term used in blackjack and poker games to describe the face-down card that is dealt to you at the beginning of the game and is meant to remain hidden from all the other players at the table. Players use their hole cards in combination with the community cards (cards placed face-up on the table) to form the best possible hand. 

So, what does it mean to have an ace in the hole? Because an ace is usually seen as a good card to have, this betting phrase is used in day-to-day conversations to refer to a hidden advantage – a secret weapon that you keep concealed until the opportune moment, much like a hole card in poker. 

“In a job interview, mentioning your years of experience can be your ace in the hole when explaining why you’re the right candidate for the position.”

(Having) An Ace Up Your Sleeve

This phrase is another popular term that is used to describe a hidden advantage or a secret plan that you will use to gain an edge when the right moment presents itself – like having a hidden trump card in a game. 

“In the negotiation, I had an ace up my sleeve – a unique, exclusive offer that I knew would seal the deal.”

Beginner’s Luck

If you’ve ever played casino table games or online slots with a beginner, you might have come to find that they often enjoy a notable winning streak. And they do this despite only having recently learned the rules or having played only a few rounds! It’s this inexplicable streak of luck that led to the coining of the gambling term “beginner’s luck” in land-based and online casinos. Outside the casino, “beginner’s luck” is now used to describe an unexplained stroke of luck when starting something new and doing a good job.

“She recently opened her first restaurant, which has enjoyed plenty of success – I’ve put it down to beginner’s luck.”

The Cards Are Stacked Against You

Not all unexplained strokes of luck are good. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try or how well-prepared you are, things just don’t go your way. When you’re having a streak of bad luck, you’ll probably hear this common phrase in gambling slang, “the cards are stacked against you.” 

When someone stacks the cards, this player is purposefully arranging a deck of cards so that they have a better chance of winning. So, to stack the cards against someone is to purposefully arrange the deck of cards so that the player in question will lose the game. Outside of the poker room, this casino saying basically implies that there is an outside force that is affecting your circumstances, giving you a disadvantage, or making you less likely to succeed.  

“With the team’s star player injured and a championship game against their biggest rival in the near future, it seems like the cards are stacked against them.”


When playing bingo in a bingo hall or at a casino, it’s tradition to yell “Bingo!” if you’ve managed to mark off all the numbers on your card, letting everyone know you’ve won. In everyday life, many people use the word “bingo” when expressing their satisfaction with a sudden positive event or outcome.

“The software analyzes all the data and, bingo! You’ve got all the details needed to help you make improvements to your business.”

Poker Face

While a poker face isn’t actually necessary when you play poker in a live casino online setting, it’s crucial when playing this casino table game in a traditional casino. People-reading is a skill that can make or break someone’s poker game and have a heavy influence on their decisions to fold, raise, or call. Therefore, perfecting your poker face is vital in making it difficult for other players to “read” your emotions. As such, a “poker face” is a must in many different situations in daily life where you want to keep people guessing.

“I had to negotiate a lower price with my supplier and made sure I went into it with my well-practiced poker face!”

Double Down

Double down is a phrase you’ll often say at the blackjack table when doubling your bet before one more card is drawn in addition to the cards already dealt. In everyday life, doubling down refers to committing to a risky strategy in pursuit of a reward.

“Even though the odds of acceptance were against her, she doubled down and submitted her application to the university.”


As all gamblers know, a jackpot is a high-value cash prize that can be won when playing casino games. Away from the casino, the term is often used to describe a happy or profitable “win.”

“I found those shoes I’ve been wanting on sale for thirty percent off at the store this morning. Jackpot!”

Bet Your Bottom Dollar

When gambling and reaching the end of your bankroll, you’ll bet what remains only if you’re feeling extremely confident that you’re going to win. This is referred to as “betting your bottom dollar,” and it extends outside of the casino too. You can “bet your bottom dollar” when you decide to take a risk but feel confident that the odds are in your favor for a positive outcome.

“He resigned to go work at that start-up company? You can bet your bottom dollar that he’ll be back!”

Tapping Out

In most casino games, you “tap out” when you no longer want to play or place any further bets. You’re also considered “tapped out” when you reach the end of your bankroll. In real life, tapping out refers to withdrawing from a situation, often one in which you initially invested a lot of your time or money.

“I tried my best to get it going, but the business isn’t working as I’d hoped. I’m tapping out.”  

All Bets Are Off

The phrase “all bets are off” stems from the sports betting world and horse racing, specifically. It’s used to communicate that the bookmaker is no longer taking any new bets. This means that already placed bets become null and void due to certain conditions having changed or the race being canceled. Away from the horse track, people now use this phrase when it’s impossible to predict an outcome.

“All bets are off on who will win the singing competition – it’s way too close to call!”

Play Your Cards Right

This term is used in two similar ways, to describe when a well-thought-out plan is executed successfully or to describe acting in a way that anticipates others’ reactions so that you can get the outcome you want. 

The term is fairly self-explanatory – when you’re playing poker, for example, you need to use logic and reasoning to execute the right poker strategy to help you win the game. In life, playing your cards right is all about making the right choices and taking the right steps to achieve success.

“When it comes to investments, you need to play your cards right to maximize your returns.”

When the Chips Are Down

“When the chips are down” is an idiomatic expression that usually refers to a situation where things are not going well. It’s a phrase used to describe tough times or serious situations when you’re dealing with difficulties or setbacks, and all hope seems lost. It stems from the part of a game when all the bets have been placed, and there’s nothing left to do except wait. 

“Even when the chips are down, she always manages to stay positive and find a way to overcome obstacles.”

Pull Out the Ace

The ace is considered the most valuable card in many land-based and online casino games, so by pulling out an ace at a crucial moment, there’s a good chance of securing a win. In real life, you would use the phrase “pull out an ace” to communicate that you’re about to do something strategic and unexpected to get ahead.

“Just before the finish line, Joan pulled out her ace and gave one final push to overtake her opponents and win the medal.”

Play Casino Games at BetMGM

Are you looking for the best casino games to play online from the comfort of your home? BetMGM is where you’ll find them. Along with classic skill-based casino table games and live dealer casino games, we also specialize in online casino slots, jackpot slots, variety games, arcade games, and more.

Take a few minutes to register via our convenient mobile portal whenever you’re ready to explore our ever-growing gaming menu.

Actress Vanessa Hudgens flipping casino chips next to the text "The King of Casinos"
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Our BetMGM editors and authors are casino experts with a wealth of knowledge of the online casino industry at all levels. Their coverage includes company news, game reviews, how-to instructional articles, strategy guides, and editorials showcasing BetMGM’s superior product and game library.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are casino experts with a wealth of knowledge of the online casino industry at all levels. Their coverage includes company news, game reviews, how-to instructional articles, strategy guides, and editorials showcasing BetMGM’s superior product and game library.