Must-know casino terms and their meaning for beginners

Have you ever found yourself sitting at a blackjack table, too intimidated to make a move because you didn’t understand the lingo? Or maybe you were spinning the reels of a slot machine, not quite sure what a payline was.

If so, don’t feel bad. The world of gambling has its own unique language, filled with all kinds of strange and mysterious terms that can be confusing for beginners. That’s why we’ve decided to compile a comprehensive list of some of the most common casino terms out there.

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By the time you’re finished reading this blog post, you’ll have a much better understanding of the terminology used in casinos—both online and off. So grab your reading glasses and get ready to learn!

A is for… Action

In a casino context, “action” refers to a player’s current bet or wager. For example, if you’re sitting at a roulette table and place a chip on the number 17, that chip represents your “action.” If the ball lands on 17, you win your bet; if it doesn’t, it’s lost. Simple as that.

B is for… Bankroll

Your bankroll is simply the amount of money you have set aside for gambling purposes. It’s important to establish a bankroll before you start playing (and stick to it!) to avoid spending more than you can afford to lose. Some experts recommend setting aside only discretionary income (money you wouldn’t miss if it were spent elsewhere) for gambling.

C is for… Chips

Chips are small, colorful discs used as gaming pieces in casinos. In a brick-and-mortar casino, you exchange cash for chips at the beginning of your gaming session. Online, of course, you use a digital currency. Regardless of the setting, each chip is assigned a specific monetary value. For instance, a green chip might be worth $25, while a white one is only $2.50. Make sense? Good!

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D is for… Deposit

A deposit, in the context of online gambling, refers to the act of adding funds to your casino account. Most sites will offer a variety of deposit methods, including credit cards, debit cards, e-wallets, and wire transfers. Be sure to choose a method that feels comfortable and secure to you.

E is for… Edge

In the casino world, having an edge means having a statistical advantage over the house (or over other players, in the case of poker). For example, if you’re playing blackjack and you’ve got a strategy down pat, you may have a mathematical edge over the casino. On the flip side, if you’re a poker newbie facing off against a group of seasoned pros, they’ll likely have the edge. Got it?

F is for… Free Spin(s)

We all love free spins, right? They give you a chance to spin the reels of a slot machine without spending any of your own hard-earned cash. Free spins can be earned in a few different ways. Sometimes, they’re offered as a promotional bonus from the casino. Other times, you might win them as part of a slot game’s built-in features.

G is for… Gamble

To gamble is simply to risk money on games of chance, hoping to win more money in return. Gambling can take many forms—visiting a brick-and-mortar casino, playing the lottery, betting on sports, or even just tossing a coin to decide whether to order the shrimp scampi or the grilled chicken. Whatever form it takes, gambling involves risking something of value (your money, in this case) with the hope of gaining something of greater value in return.

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H is for… House Advantage/House Edge

The house advantage (also known as the house edge) is the statistical advantage that the casino has built into its games. This advantage ensures that, over time, the casino will always come out ahead. For example, in traditional Las Vegas blackjack, the house edge is often cited as being around 0.5%. That means for every $100 you bet, the casino will keep about 50 cents in the long run. Bummer, but good to know.

I is for… Inside Bet

When it comes to games like roulette, there are two broad categories of bets: inside bets and outside bets. As you might have guessed, inside bets are placed on numbers inside the main grid of the betting table. These bets offer higher payouts but have a lower probability of winning. For example, you might bet on the lines connecting six numbers, giving you a payout of 5 to 1.

J is for… Jackpot

A jackpot is a big prize that can be won in certain casino games, especially slots and video poker. Jackpots can be either progressive or non-progressive. A progressive jackpot grows larger over time as more people play the game, while a non-progressive jackpot stays at a fixed amount. Winning a jackpot can be a life-changing event… but the odds are usually pretty steep.

K is for… Kenny Rogers

OK, hear me out. Country music legend Kenny Rogers once said, “You gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, and know when to run.” Those lyrics could double as a mantra for smart gambling. The ability to assess the situation and make the right decision (hold, fold, walk, or run) is crucial if you want to come out ahead (or at least minimize your losses).

L is for… Limit

In the context of gambling, a limit refers to either the maximum or minimum amount that can be bet or staked in a particular game or situation. For example, in a poker game, the limit might be $2/$5, which means you can only bet or raise up to that amount during certain stages of the game. Understanding limits is crucial if you want to play responsibly and within your means.

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M is for… Matchup

In the world of sports betting, a matchup refers to the upcoming confrontation between two teams, players, or animals (yes, animal racing is a thing). Before the match begins, bookmakers will assign odds reflecting their assessment of each participant’s chances of winning. Your job (if you choose to accept it) is to analyze the matchup, consider various factors (strengths, weaknesses, recent performance, etc.), and place your bet accordingly.

N is for… Non-Negotiable Credit

Non-negotiable credit is a term you might encounter if you visit a brick-and-mortar casino. Essentially, it refers to temporary credit that the casino extends to a player who has overextended themselves financially. However, unlike negotiable credit (which can be bought or sold by the casino), non-negotiable credit is provided directly by the house and must be paid back in full. Ignoring non-negotiable credit can result in serious consequences, so it’s best to steer clear of it altogether.

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O is for… Odds

Odds are a critical concept in gambling, representing the likelihood of a particular outcome occurring. In American-style casino games, odds are typically expressed as a ratio of wins to loses. For example, in roulette, you might have odds of 35 to 1 of hitting a single number. This means that for every 35 bets you place on that number, you’re likely to win one. In sports betting, odds often reflect the bookmaker’s assessment of each team’s or player’s chance of winning. Lower odds generally mean a higher probability of success, while higher odds represent longer shots.

P is for… Payline

If you enjoy spinning the reels of slot machines, you’re probably familiar with the term “payline.” Simply put, a payline is a virtual line that crosses through the display of a slot machine, indicating where winning symbol combinations occur. Most slots have multiple paylines, which increase the chances of a payout. You typically have to place a bet on each active payline you wish to monitor.

Q is for… Quarter

In the world of gambling, a quarter often refers to a currency unit equal to 25 cents. Why? Well, in the United States, a quarter is a one-quarter dollar coin (technically called a “quarter dollar coin”). These coins are commonly used in slot machines and other casino games to simplify math and reduce the need for coins of smaller denominations.

R is for… Return to Player (RTP)

The return to player ratio, often abbreviated as RTP, tells you how much of your original wagers you can expect to receive back over the long term. This percentage is calculated by dividing the total amount paid out to players by the amount of money the casino has taken in. For example, if a game has an RTP of 95%, that means for every $100 wagered, the casino will pay out $95 in winnings. Please note that RTP is a theoretical number calculated over hundreds of thousands or millions of spins/hands/rolls, and it does not guarantee short-term success.

S is for… Scatter

In the world of slot machines, a scatter is a special symbol (or combination of symbols) that can trigger a bonus feature or payout regardless of where it lands on the reels. Unlike with regular symbols, which usually need to line up in a specific pattern on an active payline, scatters often work by simply appearing enough times on the screen. The exact rules surrounding scatters can vary widely from game to game.

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T is for… Table Game

Table games refer to a wide range of gambling activities that take place on tables rather than individual machines or devices. Blackjack, craps, roulette, baccarat, and poker are all examples of popular table games. These games often involve human dealers or croupiers, as well as social interactions among players. In contrast, slot machines and video poker are generally considered “machine games.”

U is for… Underdog

An underdog is a person, team, or horse (in the case of horse racing) that is perceived as having a lower chance of winning than its opponents. In sports betting, backing the underdog often offers higher odds and potential payouts, but it also carries a greater risk. Whether or not you should bet on the underdog depends on a variety of factors, including your assessment of the participants’ strengths and weaknesses, the reliability of the oddsmakers, and your appetite for risk.

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V is for… Variance

Variance, in the context of gambling, refers to the degree of unpredictability or volatility in a particular game or betting situation. Games with high variance mean that outcomes can swing wildly from win to loss with seemingly no rhyme or reason. Low-variance games, on the other hand, tend to produce more consistent, albeit smaller, wins and losses. As a general rule, players with smaller bankrolls may want to stick to games with low variance to help stretch their funds further.

W is for… Wild

A wild card or wild symbol is a special feature found in many slot machines and card games. Its function varies depending on the game, but generally speaking, a wild card can substitute for other symbols or cards, effectively “standing in” and creating a winning combination where one would not otherwise exist. Some wilds also come with multipliers, boosting the value of the resulting win.

X is for… Expected Value (EV)

Expected value (EV) is a statistical concept that reflects the average outcome you can anticipate over many identical trials or repetitions of a game or bet. To calculate EV, you multiply the probability of a favorable outcome by the amount you stand to gain from that outcome, then add up these products for all possible outcomes. Positive EV indicates a potentially profitable venture, while negative EV means you’re better off avoiding the situation. In gambling, determining EV requires a solid understanding of probabilities and payouts.

Y is for… Yellow

Yellow, in the context of gambling, can refer to a state of heightened awareness or caution. When you see a casino table covered in yellow tape, however, it usually means exactly the opposite. YelLow tape is often used to cordon off areas that have recently been cleaned due to a positive COVID-19 test. Stay safe out there!

Z is for… Zero

In gaming terminology, zero often refers to the number 0, which plays a significant role in popular casino games like roulette. In American roulette, for instance, the wheel has 38 spaces – 1-36 for red and black numbers, and 0 and 00 for green spaces. Hitting a zero isn’t necessarily good or bad – it just depends on whether you’ve placed your bets accordingly.

And there you have it, 52 essential gambling terms to add to your vocabulary. Of course, this list is far from exhaustive, and there are countless other words and phrases specific to gambling. But if you understand the meaning behind these terms, you’ll already be ahead of the game.

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Not sure how to put your newfound knowledge into practice? Check out our guide on for some extra inspiration.


  • Kenny Rogers lyrics are courtesy of
  • Information about casino chip colors and values can be found on the website