The gambling machines that are called “slot machines” in America and much of the rest of the world have been called “pokies” or “pokie machines” in Australia and New Zealand for as long as anyone can remember. The first of this type of machine was developed in the USA.
It was coin operated, so it was called a “slot machine”. Why then are they called “pokies” on this side of the world? Well, it’s not a large leap to get from “pokies” to “poker” – we can assume they were once called “poker machines”.
This was then abbrieviated to “pokie machines” and then just “pokies”, as happens with so many words down under. “Pokies” just rolls of the tongue much more easily! But why “poker machines” in the first place? After all, one does not exactly play poker on a pokie machine.
It’s Not About Poking!
Although we cannot be entirely sure why New Zealanders and Australians have their own unique term for what are called “slots” or “slot machines” almost everywhere else, there are a number of theories.
Some people (usually those visiting Australia or New Zealand from else where) think that “mobile pokies NZ” only refer to the machines you have to “poke” to get them to spin. However, almost all pokies today use video screens rather than actual mechanical spinning reels. You may be thinking that the term might have originated because the original mechanical machines did have to be “poked” and the name just stuck. However, we have established that it is much more likely that the word comes from “poker”. You don’t really “poke” mechanical spinning reels anyway. So we can scrap that theory.
Poker Machines for Poker?
A much more likely theory is that the first “pokie machines” in Australia and New Zealand did actually offer poker type games, rather than spinning reel games. Card combinations used in poker had to be produced in order to win. When the games we know today began appearing on similar machines, they were in the same room as the machines that actually did offer poker, and so the term’s meaning widened to include all such machines.
As time went on, the term simply caught on. It’s not hard to see why – it’s fun to say, and has a distinct Australasian flavour. As machines offering poker diminished in popularity, due to the boom in online poker, “pokies” began to refer primarily to slot machines. Of course, today even pokies are offered online! However, it seems this term is here to stay, whether referring to actual pokie machines, or similar games played on the Internet.
Other Slang Terms From Around The World
Although “slot machines” is the most common term for pokies, there are other slang terms for them around the world, that might give “pokies” a run for its money. In England, although the term “slots” is used, you will also hear them referred to as “fruit machines”, and in Scotland, they are frequently called “puggys”. In some places they are occasionally called “one-armed bandits”! However, no other country has a term as iconic and widely used as “pokies”, so New Zealand and Australia seem to be leading the game on this one!