As a gambler, chances are, you may have stumbled across a term Pokies before. It may have been in online casinos, maybe your companions have mentioned it or maybe you are from Australia, in which case you probably don’t need an explanation. However this article is for all the people who haven’t heard the term previously. In this article we will take a look at the etymology of the term, it’s likeliest roots and dive into the Australian slang terms a little bit. Here we go!
So, to give a full picture of how this word came about lets have a little look at Australian culture and the history of pokies in Australia. Back in the early 1900’s first pokie machines appeared in Australian cities. Even though they were still to be legalised they were quite popular with local gamblers. In 1953 Aristocrat, an Australian company assigned their employee by the name of Joe Heywood, with the task of designing a home-grown gambling machine. Obviously, seeing the huge potential for profit in this new way of gambling, the business savvy owners of the company could not miss such an opportunity. This is how the “Clubman” came about. “Clubman” being the first Australian game machine developed locally. In 1955 the “Clubman” was replaced with the “Clubmaster”. These were the precursors to what later became known as pokies in Australia. This happened more than half a century after Charles Fey invented the first commercially successful slot machine.
Later on, this past time only grew to receive an almost iconic status in Australia, it would never be as iconic as say an emu or an kangaroo, however it definitely became a household name over there. Partly the legislation to make pokies legal in 1955 by the government of New South Wales was responsible for bringing this past time into the masses. Slot machines of the time were quite basic, at the time having no lights on the display for example, nonetheless they took the Australian gambling public by storm. Much stayed the same for the coming few decades, until, in the 1980’s new developments in gaming technology came about and the first video poker machines rolled off the production line. In essence that was the first big leap forward from the original machine invented by Charles Fey. With the new innovation you had lots of bells and whistles coming along, multiple reels, chances to win free spins, lights, noises… you name it. This only made the experience more enticing for gamblers.
The 1990’s witnessed the appearance of the first online casinos, and with it gambling became even more accessible to people. Now, all you needed was a computer and an internet connection and you could enjoy playing in the comfort of your own home. No need to drive down to the casino or the pub anymore. As for pokies, one notable game was released in 2004 by the gaming giant Microgaming called “Thunderstruck” – Most likely a play on the famous Australian band’s song name. Now this game has become a true classic among the ranks of gambling connoisseurs. As the time went by, with the development of smartphones and tablets, pokies turned mobile. You can enjoy hundreds of different slots games on any smart device from any part of the globe at any time. It’s quite extraordinary, to be quite honest.
Nowdays and meaning
Now, Aussies like some things to be as big as the outback, like their v8’s, cold pints and steaks on the barbie. However, when it comes to their words, most of the time its an all Australian habit to make them as diminutive as possible. So, for example: relatives – “rellies”, afternoon – “arvo”, service station – “servo”. Even something as iconic as the Kangaroo is usually referred to as a “roo” or a “joey”. You probably get the picture now. Australians just can’t help themselves, it’s a part of the culture.
And so, if you can imagine, an average Australian who goes to the “servo” to get some petrol in order to go see his “rellies” in the “arvo”. He is surely not going to be referring to a poker/slot machine, as just that. Seeing how there tends to be a local spin on things poker machine became a “pokie”. Most likely from the “pok” in poker chips. And now you know. Mind you, if you mention something like a “slot machine” you will still be understood by the locals, and even if you ask “where are the nearest one armed bandits I can play on” you will still, surely be pointed towards the closest pub or a club that has just that, so you can enjoy playing pokies.
Australia is not the only country that has its own slang for slots. England for example uses “fruit machine” as a term for the exact same thing. Obviously this term comes from the fruits you see on the spinning reels as you play. Although in every country that speaks her majesty’s language slot machines or poker machines are universally understood. Hence why pokies is just a quirky Australian and New Zealand slang. And closing this article, I would like to wish all of you luck, doesn’t matter whether you play pokies or slots. May lady luck be on your side.