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Understanding Pokies: A Guide to Australian Slang

Pokies are the most common type of casino game. Also known as slots or slot machines, they’re very common in Australia in physical casinos, gaming venues, and online casino sites. They’re simple yet compelling casino games that are very diverse and varied. They have countless themed and unique features that enhance the gameplay and give you more chances of winning.

People love to play online pokies for real money in Australia. They simply can’t get enough of these casino games, which come in creative, imaginative themes and have many exciting special features. Some 4% of Australians play them at least once a week. This article examines why pokies are so-called in Australia but not in any other country.

Where Did the Term ‘Pokie’ Come From?

‘Pokie’ is a slang term for ‘poker machine’ or just ‘poker’. For many Aussies, it’s the go-to word to describe what the rest of the world calls slot machines or just slots. A common feature of Australian slang is to shorten words or phrases. Some slang words in Australia that meet this criterion include ‘rellies’ (relatives) and ‘mozzie’ (mosquito).

If ‘pokie’ comes from ‘poker’, how come it’s used to describe slot machines and not games of poker? In the early 20th century, slot machines were gaining popularity throughout Australia. The poker machine – i.e. a gaming machine that lets you play poker – was already famous. Slot machines would be placed near the poker machines in many gaming venues.

Back then, there wasn’t much difference between a poker machine and a slot one. Therefore, people began using the term ‘pokies’ to refer to both. They offered different gaming experiences, but they looked similar enough and were in the same place. The word ‘pokies’ continued to be used for slot machines and poker.

Over time, as slots became more popular, people started associating ‘pokies’ with slot machines more than poker machines. Nowadays, when most people talk about the game called pokies in Australia, they are referring to slots.

Poker, as you know, is a card game where you try to form the highest-ranking poker hand possible. Video poker machines use video screens to run games. They’re not to be confused with video poker, which is separate from standard poker.

With video poker games, you’re presented with five cards, and you can decide whether to keep each one or replace it with another random card. You aim to form the best poker hand you can, though you can only act on each card once, and all swaps are done simultaneously.

Other Names for Pokies

We’ve established that Australians call slots ‘pokies’. But are there any other names for these casino games? Yes, there are. Pretty much every land-based casino around the world has a collection of slots. Most of them are video slots that use video screens. Before video technology became widespread, a typical slot machine was a physical piece of machinery. It had a large drum with the reels printed onto it.

On the side of the machine, there would be a large lever that you would pull to spin the drum. When it came to a stop, the row of symbols that appeared in the winning area determined whether you won or lost. These slot games were commonly known as ‘one-armed bandits’. Though this name has died out somewhat due to video slots replacing drum-based ones, you’ll still come across a slot that occasionally uses the ‘one-armed bandit’ name.

There’s also the term ‘fruit machine’. This originated in the early 20th century, as many of the slot machine games in production back then had fruits as symbols. These included cherries, oranges, lemons, watermelons, and bananas. Even though today’s online slots can come in practically any theme, some of them are designed with the fruit theme to recreate the classic fruit machine experience. The term ‘fruit machine’ was common in the UK and elsewhere. Nowadays, British people refer to them as ‘slots’.

Other Casino-Related Aussie Slang Terms

Aussies have local slang for almost everything. While ‘pokie’ is just about the most common Australian slang word to do with casinos and gambling, there are some others too. Check out the list below for some examples of casino-specific terms and slang words you may hear in an Australian casino:

  • Carpet. This is the area of any sort of gambling venue where the pokies can be found. In some places, the carpet on the floor is a bright colour so as to attract people’s attention and encourage them to come and play.
  • Punter. This is quite a well-known term not just in Australia but in other countries too. It simply refers to anyone who’s placing a bet on something. The expression ‘have a punt’ means taking a risk on something.
  • Strewth. If an Aussie wins suddenly, they might cry out, ‘Strewth!’ This word is, an expression of shock or surprise, and it’s very similar to ‘crikey’.
  • Two-Up. A widespread gambling game that many Australians traditionally play on Anzac Day, the national day that pays tribute to soldiers who have died in wars. Two-up has one person flip two coins. The players have to guess whether the coins will both land heads-up (obverse), both land tails-up (reverse), or one heads and one tails (Ewan).
  • Hooked. You’ll probably know this one – it means addicted. While many Australians enjoy gambling as a sensible hobby, some spend too much time and money gambling. Fortunately, help is readily available; every online casino has a responsible gambling page with links to addiction charities.
  • Choc a bloc/Chockers. If an Aussie describes a casino as being choc a bloc or chockers, they simply mean the place is full of people.
  • Aggro. This is an abbreviation of ‘aggressive’ in Australia. Some people might feel this way when playing high-stakes casino games, but it’s always best to keep your emotions in check when you gamble. 
  • Rapt. If you’ve just landed a big win on video poker machines or any other game, you’ll probably be very rapt. Rapt is similar in meaning to happy.
  • Whinge. On the other hand, if video poker games or any other casino games take your money from you, you’ll have every right to whinge; this is a common term in Australia that means to complain about something.

How Pokies Work

We’ve looked at Australian pokies slang and now we’ll give you a quick run-through of how pokies actually work. Each one has a grid made up of reels (columns) and rows. Each reel has a strip of symbols on it. Whenever you play, you spin the reels, and when they come to a stop, the grid will have a random assortment of symbols on it.

If enough matching symbols land on a payline, a fixed line going across the grid, you’ll win and be paid. Your payout depends on the size of your bet, the symbol(s) you’ve succeeded with and the number of winning symbols on each payline.

Most online pokies have special features such as free spins, respins, progressive jackpots, and pick-me games and casino bonuses. Video slots you’ll find at land-based casinos also come with all sorts of features. Some are triggered randomly, while others come into play after certain conditions are met, e.g. landing enough scatter symbols.

Almost all Australian online casinos have at least a few hundred online slots for players to try their luck. You’ll find that every casino and many pubs and other venues have their fair share of Australian slot machines. Most of the physical slots use video screens, though there are still some classic gaming machines in the style of the one-armed bandit you may find.


Slots are called pokies in Australia because slot machines were commonly placed by poker machines; people would refer to both types of games as ‘pokies’. This Australian term is used throughout Australia and in New Zealand too.

If you like the sound of pokies, join an Australian online casino and play some today. Or head to your nearest land-based Aussie casino and play some slot machines there. Gambling is a big part of Australian culture and you’ll see what makes it so appealing if you decide to play some pokies.