Fun Facts about Gambling: Where do Casino Games get their Names?
There are a lot of English words that make us wonder – why do they call it that? The casino gambling industry is no different. All over the US and Canada, we find uniquely named casino games that most of us never even think to question the origins of.
For example, why do they call it poker, or craps, or baccarat?
Fun Facts About Gambling – The Name Game
Every game that’s been around for any
considerable length of time has an origin. It’s that historic
background that reveals the reasoning behind its name. We’ll take a
quick look into the origins of some of the most popular and oddly
named games to see just why we call them that.
Why is it called Poker?
This is one of the most commonly asked
questions of all. Why “poker”? Did card players used to
keep a stick on hand to poke anyone who didn’t know it was their
turn? No, of course not. This name actually has roots that go back to
several regions of Europe.
Poker refers to a range of card games in which
players compete against one another to achieve a high ranking hand,
or at least convince others that they have the higher ranking
hand (i.e. bluff). Centuries ago, Germans played a game called Pochspiel. The first half, “poch”, comes
from the word “poque”, which means to brag, boast, or
bluff, and “spiel” means game. So essentially, it was a
The french called similar card games “poque”,
derived from the same German word. As these games made their way
across the ocean to North America, the name naturally altered to what
we known now as “poker”.
Oh Crap, that’s quite a name!
Another common question is where did the name
“Craps” come from? What an odd name for a game – at
least by English standards. But of course, the game did not originate
in any English-speaking land. It actually came from French sailors,
who referred to any roll of two dice as “crabs”.
As these Frenchman made their way into New
Orleans, the game quickly spread up the Mississippi on riverboats.
Due to the thicker accents of the French, the English-speaking men of
the time thought they were saying “craps”. It stuck…
Origins of Baccarat name
Baccarat (pronounced bah-kuh-rah, not back-a-rat), comes from Italy, where the word translates to
“zero”. That name was chosen by the Italians because every time
two cards combine to total ten (10) or more, the ten becomes zero
(0). If dealt 3+8, the total is 11, therefore 10 is dropped to zero
and the total becomes 1. Thus the name Zero – in Italian, Baccarat
– made sense.
What about Roulette?
Similar to the origins of Baccarat, Roulette’s name was chosen by its French creators who named the game after its most endearing quality – its wheel. The French word roulette translates to “little wheel” in English.
Does Omaha Hold’em come from Nebraska?
No, it does not. So where did the game of Omaha
Hold’em – a derivative of Texas Hold’em – get its
name? This particular poker game existed for a while under various
monikers at first. There was a similar game known as “Twice-Three”
played in the central states. Down south, and especially in Oklahoma,
they played a five-card poker game known as “Two by Four”.
When it first appeared in Las Vegas, the owner
of the Golden Nugget decided to call it Nugget Hold’em. It caught on
quickly, and other Vegas casinos wanted to offer it, too, but they
could hardly call it by the same name, promoting their competition.
So instead, they brainstormed. What they came up with was Omaha
Hold’em. It had the same catchy sound as Texas Hold’em, naturally
referencing that variant as its parent, while still carrying a
uniqueness all its own.
Last but not least…why Blackjack?
As we all know, any 2-card combination that
adds up to 21 – i.e. any Ace + 10-point value card – is called a
“blackjack”. But why? Originally, the game was simply
known as “Vingt-un” in France, or “Vingt-et-un”
in Spain, both of which translate to “21”. So why did it
evolve from this to “blackjack”?
When North American casinos first offered the
game, the needed a catch to interest players. They instated a special
bonus payout of 10-to-1 for any player who achieved a two-card 21
with the Ace of Spades and a Black Jack. They changed the name to Blackjack, and used this bonus payout to promote the game. The
bonus wasn’t much of a draw, and was soon dropped from the rules, but
the name stuck.
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Adalene Lucas: is our jack of all trades here at DBC. She is a skilled coder, gambler, writer and webmaster. She lives in Manitoba where she enjoys the lush landscapes and camping near Tulabi Falls. Nature gives her inspiration to write. When she's not immersed in nature, her favorite words are "game theory". She lives with her husband and their two Labradors, Kophy and Whisper.