Fire behind an 8 ball

The English Language and Gambling: The Ongoing Story

As we saw with the first installment of gambling terms that have made their way firmly into the English language, gambling is a mother lode of terms and individual words that became everyday terms.   While you are perusing our giant collection of jackpot slots, we would like to offer one reason why gambling terms have entered everyday speech in English.

No one can say that Jackpot Capital online casino is just a place to spend some time playing slots or card games.  We are well aware of the contribution gambling has made to our language and we would like to share some thoughts with you.

Colorful Terminology

The first aspect of any word or term entering everyday use is whether it provides some color where there was no color before.  Let us take the term “all bets are off”.  This is a term from roulette and craps where the croupier has to stop betting so the wheel can be spun or the dice thrown. Jackpot Capital casino has great graphics in roulette and craps!

In modern English, “all bets are off” is a very powerful term.  You can almost hear it being shouted as someone is saying that we don’t know how an event will play out.  In recent days, a strong hurricane hovered for hours above the Bahamas in the area just north of Cuba.  A reporter might have said that "all bets are off" when it comes to estimating the damage caused by the storm.  In a very real sense, at that moment "all bets were off" - we really couldn't know the outcome.

Donald Trump

President Trump is running for re-election but the election is still more than a year away.   The economy is the “wild card” in this election.  If the economy remains strong into next November, all bets will be off for the chances of the Democratic challenger to win the election.  However, if the economy falters, all bets may be off for President Trump’s chances to win re-election.

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No Dice

This is another example of a colorful term finding its way into everyday speech.  No dice has actually no meaning in a casino setting.  The craps table always has dice! 

In everyday usage, “no dice” is a very colorful way to say “no”.  It packs a much greater wallop than a simple no.  Once again, you sense the powerfulness of the remark.  It is almost as if the person saying no dice wants others to know how strongly he or she feels about the situation.

In a negotiation, if someone makes such a low bid that you feel a bit insulted at their temerity, you wouldn’t just say “no”; you might look them straight in the eye and say “no dice”.

Behind the 8 Ball

This is a term from pool or billiards.  In fact, these cue and ball games don’t have the term “behind the 8 ball”.   In a game, you might find yourself behind the 8 ball in a very difficult situation but the term isn’t used in actual billiards play.

However, it has a very strong and colorful meaning in everyday speech.  There it means that you are in a very difficult situation, far more difficult than just about to lose a game of pool! 

When an economy falters, many people who invested when times were good find themselves “behind the 8 ball” as their investments falter along with the economy.

When a person becomes very ill, we might say that he or she is “behind the 8 ball”.  We sincerely hope that none of our loyal online casino gamers are ever so ill that they feel that they are behind the 8 ball!

You Bet

On the happier side of things, is the term “you bet”.  This term usually refers to someone reacting positively to an offer, a suggestion, or some other comment.  If someone says, “Would you like two tickets to Sunday’s football game?” most people would begin salivating immediately and would say “you bet” with emphasis!

If a friend suggests trying out the new restaurant that just opened and has received good reviews, you might enthusiastically answer, “you bet”.  The same goes for a suggestion to catch the latest movie.  However, if a man suggests marriage, he probably just wants a simple yes!

To Chip In

This term clearly comes from the casino milieu.  It refers to people contributing money to a good cause.  The good cause may be making a contribution to a walkathon for cancer research or it can be something mundane like chipping in to leave a nice tip to the friendly wait staff.

When a long-time employee retires, the company might give them a nice gift.  Similarly, friends and colleagues may all chip in for a nice gift “from all of us”.

Luck of the Draw

This term comes from poker.  We have spoken recently about video poker which is a variation of five card draw poker.  Draw poker and video poker are what we call skill-chance games.   You need some skill to decide which cards to keep and which to discard.  Once you have made that learned decision, your resulting hand is all in the “luck of the draw”.

In everyday life, we use this term to refer to situations that are at this time out of our control.  From our standpoint, the outcome might be in the hands of the luck of the draw but in a broader sense, as when we or a friend or loved one is about to enter surgery, the outcome might be in the hands of the surgeon and his or her team.

Shell Game

This term comes directly from a street game called the shell game.  In the actual shell game, you have to guess which shell is hiding a stone.  The person running the game is quick and usually fools even the most observant players.

In everyday use, a shell game is also called a bait and switch where an offer that you thought was ironclad turns out to have been just a ruse to get you to make a high counter offer.


Another term from the world of negotiations is “kicker”.  In poker, this is a card that determines the outcome of a hand if the basic holdings are equal.  If both players have a pair of aces, then the player with the higher kicker wins the hand.

In negotiations, a kicker is often a last minute ploy to change the nature of the negotiation in the favor of the person “holding the kicker”.

Vibrant English

As we said in an earlier article, English is a very flexible language.  Not only does English take words from other languages, it also takes words from activities.  Gambling is merely one of many such activities.

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