Where Did the Term ‘Jackpot’ Originate From?


Many people dream of one day winning the elusive jackpot – that big bonus that rewards the player thousands of dollars in prize money. From casinos and sportsbooks to lotteries and scratch cards, jackpots have become a common theme in everyday life.

There are many different types of jackpots in the world, ranging from a few hundred dollars to the multi-millions. Some games have set jackpots that never change while others have progressive jackpots the increase over time. In many countries around the world the lottery jackpot rolls over if nobody wins, resulting in prizes in the hundreds of millions! 

As technology has progressed, gambling has moved online and now many people play at digital casinos. Websites like casinosx.com host detailed lists of online casinos where players can find all the best jackpots.

But where did the term jackpot originate from?

Way back in the late 1800s, gamblers used to play a version of poker called “Jacks or Better”. The game is similar to five-card draw poker, except that each player must have at least a pair of jacks or better to open betting in the first round. Essentially, this means that any hand that could beat a pair of tens would be good enough to start betting.

Once someone has opened the betting then the rest of the players can match, raise, or fold – irrelevant of their hand’s value. If nobody in the group of players has jacks or better, then the entire hand is re-dealt. Once all the cards are dealt and all betting rounds have finished, players can now show their hands. However, unlike in normal poker, a player must have at least three-of-kind or better to win. If nobody has three-of-kind or better, then all the money in the pot stays and a new round starts.

A three-of-kind hand isn’t very common in poker so it happened fairly often that rounds went by without anybody winning. If nobody won a round for several games, the pot would grow and grow. Eventually, this big central pot became known as the ‘jack pot’. This is where the name came from and was the first ever example of a progressive jackpot in gambling.

Modern day

Nowadays, the term jackpot has been co-opted by casinos and applied to a wide range of games. Funnily enough, it is seldom used in poker these days and is most commonly attributed to the big prize on a lottery or slot machine. Casinos, lotteries, scatch cards, and bingo halls all around the world now use the term jackpot to refer to any big prize. It’s often seen in advertising, promotions and competitions for everything from cars to holidays.

People even use the term colloquially to describe a new job with a big salary or when they do well in the stock market. Suffice it to say, if something is described as the ‘jackpot’, it’s probably going to be something good.

So next time you take your chances on a big jackpot win, remember the poker players of the old days trying their best to get three-of-kind. If you want some more interesting poker trivia, read about why the last card in Texas Hold’em is called ‘the river’.