22 Jul

Interesting Origins of Casino Game Names

Fun Facts about Gambling: Where do Casino Games get their Names?

Fun Facts about Gambling: Where did 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.

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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 “bluffing game”.

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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