Page 10 - Southern California Gaming Guide •  April 2020
P. 10

It’s in the Cards Gambling Idioms in Everyday Speech  by Maya Winkler There are many gambling idioms that we all use in talking and writing everyday, but most of us aren’t aware of where they come from. An idiom is a commonly used expression whose meaning doesn’t relate to the literal meaning of the words—like “painting the town red,”“raining cats and dogs,” etc. I spent some time teaching English as a Second Language and idioms always caused confusion to students. which were new at that time. And carnival contests often paid off in cigars. Double Down Double down means to increase the commitment you give to a situation, and in return, increase the rewards it will bring. This phrase originates in Blackjack, when players may be given the opportunity to double their bet for the chance of a greater reward. Pass the Buck We all know “pass the buck” is a common idiom that means to shift responsibility. But why, would handing someone a dollar bill indicate that responsibility is transferred? In high-stakes gaming halls and riverboats in the nineteenth century, the “buck” was a poker term designating the marker that was placed in front of the player whose turn it was to deal the next hand. Rotating the dealer was done to vary the order of betting and keep one person from dealing all the time, transferring the disadvantages of being the first to bet, and also to cut down on the chances of cheating. During the heyday of poker at that time, the marker used was often a hunting knife whose handle was made of a buck’s horn, hence “passing the buck.” The Buck Stops Here In the Old West, silver dollars often replaced buckhorn knives as tokens, and they took on the slang name “buck.” Former President Harry S. Truman, a well-known poker player, adopted the now-famous motto for his presidency, “The buck stops here,” meaning that the ultimate responsibility rested with him. Pressing Your Luck This was an expression your parents might have used when you were misbehaving. They had no idea that “pressing your luck” was actually a gambling metaphor. “Pressing” means to increase a bet. “Pressing your luck” means taking your original bet plus winnings and risking it all, going for broke, raising the stakes, putting it all on the line. We use so many gambling expressions everyday. It’s in the cards, you know! So I’m putting my cards on the table and hedging my bets that you don’t know most of the popular gambling idioms below have their roots in one of the world’s favorite card games: poker. Many words and phrases have made the journey from the poker table into our everyday conversation and writing. The high-risk energy of the game has made unique poker and card game expressions a part of everyday English language usage. Here are just a few, along with their origins. Bet Your Bottom Dollar and Bet Your Boots These phrases became synonymous with any bet that was supposedly worth a special risk. Its origin is in the American West in the nineteenth century, when basic necessities included a horse, a gun, boots, and money, usually in that order. In poker,the“bottomdollar”wasthelastcoinleftina previously tall stack. A poker hand had to be very good to bet your bottom dollar. If the bet failed, then your boots were your next bet. And then your gun and horse might be necessary to get the boots and money back! Hit the Jackpot To “hit the jackpot” is an idiom we use all the time, in and out of the casino. It implies the element of luck, and dates back to its roots as a metaphor about playing slots. But the word “jackpot” originally came from nineteenth century draw poker. Each player contributed a minimum bet (ante) before the cards were dealt. At least one player had to have a pair of jacks or better for the round to continue. If no one had the minimum hand, then the cards were collected, and the antes were held for the next pot. Two or more rounds with no jacks or better opening hand would build a nice prize. Then the players hoped to hit the “jack-pot.” Above Board Are you always above board—open, honest, not secret—in your dealings? Originally, players showed their honesty in poker (and other card games) by keeping their hands above the board/ table, hence the term, “above board.” Blue Chip Stock Why is a top-tier, sure-thing stock called “blue chip”? Poker chips are white, red, and blue, and the blue chips are the most valuable. Ace in the Hole An “ace in the hole” is used to refer to a hidden resource that’s being saved until it can be most effective. The origin of this term comes from Blackjack when a dealer’s hole card (the one facing down) is an ace. Players who only can see an upturned 10 will be praying that the dealer doesn’t have an ace as his hole card, as this would mean he had Blackjack and would win the hand.  PAGE 10 SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA GAMING GUIDE APRIL 2020 Close, But No Cigar If you are one symbol short on a slot jackpot, you’re “close, but no cigar.” Cigars were typical prizes in the nineteenth century for winnings on slot machines, 

   8   9   10   11   12