7 Basic Gambling Terms You Should Learn Today

By Randy Ray in Casino
| April 5, 2020 1:51 am PDT
7 Basic Gambling Terms You Should Learn Today

Basic gambling terms are important for players of every experience level to understand. It’s good to be reminded of the origins of commonly used terms. The more you read about gambling, the more you’ll realize that familiar terms can have more complex meanings.

If you’re new to gambling, this list will provide you with the meaning of words you’ve probably heard before but weren’t certain about. For the experienced gambler, some of the terms on this list will be a refresher. Certain terms can seem evident from their name, while others are hardly spoken out loud but you’ll often read.

What exactly does hedging your bets mean? What is vigorish, and why does the house or a bookmaker collect it? What does it mean when a game is gaffed? Read on to discover the answer to these and other questions. I’ve put together a list of 7 basic gambling terms to understand and why they’re important.

1. Progressive Jackpots

A jackpot is a particular type of winning payout in a gambling game. Jackpots have a much lower likelihood of being hit. A progressive jackpot increases each time a game is played and the jackpot is not hit. This can be after every round of a game or at the end of each gaming day.

Progressive jackpots can be found in everything from slots to bingo. Jackpots are easily recognizable by large tickers on the casino floor. One of the most common are jackpots offered on particular banks of slot machines. With each successive pull of the arm, the jackpot increases until one lucky player hits the right combination of symbols.

Card games can also have progressive jackpots. These are often in the form of a player making a “high hand.” High hand jackpots are paid out when a player wins with the highest hand possible. Sometimes high hand jackpots don’t payout unless a specific requirement is met, such as a royal flush with spades, for instance.

For more about slot machines with progressive jackpots, check out this page.

2. Hedging

Think of hedging as covering yourself from potential losses in gambling. It is no different than hedging your investments or other risks. It is not always possible to hedge your bets when gambling but there are scenarios where hedging is the right thing to do. Or at least worth considering.

There are many online bet-hedging calculators. The devices can calculate risk and recommend bets in response to failed initial bets. One of the best methods of effectively making hedge bets is to balance lay and back wagers, a common feature of sports betting.

Other forms of bet-hedging are possible in other gambling games. Some card games will offer side bets that can offset a player’s losses. Hedge bets are also possible in craps and roulette. A player looking to hedge their bets can’t do so without having a good understanding of their game of choice.

3. House Edge

A house edge is a bias built into a gambling game to create an advantage for the dealer, bookmaker, or casino. Think of it as the mark-up a store charges to make a profit. House advantage is built into the system to guarantee the casino or bookmaker can continue to provide the service (while making a profit).

Although a skilled player can diminish house advantage, they will never completely overcome it. It also depends on the game being played. Some games of chance have a tactical element where the player’s skill can determine how much they can minimize the house’s advantage. Many gambling games have very few tactical elements, and by design, players are unable to overcome their disadvantage.

Casinos and bookmakers will offer odds below the standard mathematical outcome for a player’s success. For example, the roll of a standard dice would provide a 1/6 probability of hitting a number. However, a casino may offer four times the amount wagered as payout, providing the casino with a guaranteed advantage.

Bookmakers offer point spreads and odds below the natural amount to ensure an advantage.

For a broader understanding of the house edge, take a look at this detailed explanation.

4. Vigorish

Vigorish is the money a bookmaker or casino makes due to the house advantage. It has numerous different names, but you’ll often read it as the house’s “take” or “edge.” Since the collection of vigorish is essential to some gambling operations, you’ll see it referred to as the “house advantage,” a term used to describe the practice and the physical profit collected.

An easy way to understand how gambling providers calculate profit and risk is the idea of overround. By calculating the probabilities across all wagers and games played, the provider reaches a collective likelihood of over 100% success. This means if a bookmaker pays out to one customer, he guarantees that he will be profiting above that amount from other customers.

In the case of bookmakers, you can think of vigorish as a commission for services. Vigorish applied to other casino games takes different forms. In baccarat, players usually pay a 5% commission on the dealer’s hand, which has a higher likelihood of winning. If a player continues betting on the dealer’s hand, the casino will continue to collect a commission, mitigating the house’s losses.

Similar rules are applied in many poker games with the house collecting a scaled commission fee on pots.

5. Gaffed

When a game is said to be gaffed, it’s implied that the outcome is predetermined to the house’s advantage. There are many synonyms, but it is most plainly put by saying a game is rigged. This can take many different forms, depending on the game being played. Before modern gaming regulation, it was much easier for gambling providers to ensure a distinct house advantage, not through odds but through tricks we would consider under-handed today.

Thanks to modern regulation, players don’t have to worry as much about rigged gaming. There is an assumption that gambling providers are following industry standards and rules. A casino will provide a more balanced gaming experience than a carnival or fair, which has little or no gaming regulation.

In poker and other card games, gaffing can take the form of deck-staking, angling, or sleight of hand. In roulette, a wheel can be controlled via foot pedals to provide the desired outcome for the house. In table games where bets are placed by players, wagers can be moved to a losing position in the chaos of the game. Match-fixing is gaffing a sports game to facilitate the desired outcome.

Reputable gambling institutions do not engage in gaffing. Modern casinos are inspected by gaming regulators who enforce uniform standards of fairness. And the reason casinos don’t need to rig games anyway is because they’re already guaranteed a profit through the house edge.

If you’re concerned about finding a reliable place for your online wagering, check out our vetted list of the safest casino sites.   

6. Croupier

A croupier is an individual who assists in the conduct of a game. Not all casino employees are croupiers. Only employees who directly engage in the function of games are croupiers. This includes all dealers and table bankers.

The term “croupier” is of French origin. It originally referred to participants who stood behind a gambler at play and provided funds and assistance. It later became used to refer to a casino employee who dealt cards or provided distribution of bets and payouts.

Potential croupiers begin their careers by learning the rules and gameplay of less complicated games. Some games that offer a higher house advantage are good training for new croupiers as a mistake could provide less of a loss for the house. In the US, new croupiers are trained on blackjack. In Europe, it is common for croupiers to be trained on roulette first.

7. Betting Strategy

A betting strategy is a system players use to maximize the chances of winning money. Betting strategies can be complex or simple. Some elaborate systems may require an advanced knowledge of probabilities and statistics.

As a rule, having an understanding of the best betting strategy for skill-based games separates the casual gambler from the more dedicated player. For example, playing blackjack without an understanding of basic blackjack strategy means you’ll be facing a higher house edge.

The conscientious casino player will generally consider strategy before playing a game where money is involved. An effective strategy can come only from a reasonable understanding of the game’s mechanics, wagering options, and math. Betting strategy not only encompasses smart wagering but methods of play. In general, betting systems attempt to reduce the houses edge to create an advantage for the player.

For most casino games, there’s no way to completely overcome the house edge through any betting strategies, but even just having a good understanding of which bets have the highest house edge and knowing which bets to avoid goes a long way.

For sports betting and poker, using solid betting strategies can lead to long term profit.


Understanding basic gambling terms can help make you a better gambler. It’s easy to take aspects of games that seem straightforward for granted.

It can be a very frustrating experience playing a game you don’t understand and hearing terms used that make little sense. This can intimidate players and take the fun out of the experience. Having a larger gambling vocabulary can empower the player to be confident and increase enjoyment. Remember these terms and continue to learn more to increase your advantage at the casino or sportsbook.



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