Why do people in Australia call slot games pokies?

Varied terminology can often confuse people in different regions, especially when it comes to popular hobbies and pastimes, which inevitably means that gaming can produce myriad words and phrases that may not be understood in certain countries. 

Arguably the best example is found in Australia, where slot machines are typically referred to as “pokies” by players. But how did this come to be? Well, to provide the answer we must go back over 100 years in time, when inventors in the late 1800s came up with mechanical gaming machines.

Origins and regional naming preferences

According to the history books, the very first slot machine was created by Sittman and Pitt of Brooklyn, New York. Their original machine contained five spinning drums with 50 playing cards glued to the surface, quickly becoming popular in bars around the city. Players inserted a nickel and pulled the lever, awarded prizes whenever good poker hands aligned.

Essentially, these were mechanical poker machines, which earned the name slot machine because of the aperture where players would insert coins. The first automated slot machine was the invention of Charles Fey in San Francisco, who came up with the Liberty Bell around the same time, featuring different symbols like the iconic bell and horseshoes.

The popularity of these gaming machines quickly swept around the world. Using fruit symbols on the spinning reels, British players took to calling them fruit machines. Likewise, the act of pulling a lever also coined the one-armed-bandit name for other machines. But card symbols continued to feature in many variants, including those appearing in Australia.

Likewise, some of these machines continued to award prizes according to poker hands, including five or three card flushes, depending on how many reels the gaming device had. Many had just three reels, therefore three-of-a-kind symbols could also win jackpots, before technology advanced and mechanical reels were replaced by video screens.

But wherever these games appeared and even as technology improved, people in different regions continue to use many of the original and antiquated names, even these days whenever playing such games at online casinos. But rather than embrace a more global name for slots, gaming sites have actually welcomed the uniqueness of regional terminologies.

How the pokies name stuck in Australia

For those who didn’t already know, Australians do have a fondness for shortening and abbreviating words. Calling barbeques “barbies” and mosquitos “mozzies” are perhaps two of the most famous, therefore when poker machines and slots first appeared there, it makes sense they quickly came up with “pokies” to describe the spinning reels. 

Nobody can put a date to the term first being coined, although it is believed to have started around the early 1900s. Now they have become the most popular kind of casino game, people gambling in Australia for real money tend to be quite choosy, seeking out safe and reputable sites hosting the broadest selection of pokies. 

This means that getting reviews is always an important consideration, highlighting which sites have the biggest choice of games available, alongside those featuring appealing bonus and free spin offers. But pokies aren’t simply based around the classic game of poker these days. They are themed around all manner of topics and ideas, making them instantly appealing to players who prefer varied entertainment niches. 

These can include hit movies and TV shows, music and literature, plus anything else that game developers can think of that gets people spinning the reels. This actually reflects the merging of gaming with other entertainment spheres, especially during the last couple of decades, now many people consume their favourite entertainment online and via mobile devices.

But whatever the theme, the traditional origins of these games continues to remain present, as people in different regions continue to use their preferred names. This is also why the poker machine origins will never be forgotten in Australia, where people will undoubtedly continue referring to slot machines as pokies.

Nakoa Davis