What are Pokies? Full breakdown of Pokies explained

Some places in the world call slot machines “pokies.” This guide will cover everything you need to know about the term and why this is the case.

Even those who don’t actively play them generally know about slot machines. What you may not have realized is that in Australia/New Zealand, they aren’t called by that name. They are referred to as “pokies” instead. The history behind the name is fascinating.

Slot machines are almost universally known. The simple game involves any number of lines and symbols. You pull a lever or push a button, the symbols spin around, and the hope is that several of those symbols come together to create a winning combination.

What you may not have realized is that slots aren’t called the same thing all around the world. In Australia and New Zealand, they go by another name: pokies. What’s the story behind the name? Let’s take a deeper dive into the history of “pokies.”

What are Pokies? Where Did the Name Come From?

Simply put, the term comes from video poker machines. Poker machines grew in prominence during the 1970s and 1980s, eventually reaching places like Australia. The Aussies have their own unique slang for popular terms and this is not different.

The term “pokie” is shorthand for “poker machine.” This is a common occurrence as you can see with things like mosquito (“mozzie”), relative (“rellie”), etc. If anything, the confusion comes from the fact that the name references poker machines and not slot machines.

This seems like one of those “it’s just how it has always been” things. Even early advertising in Australia calls them “pokies.” The term has stuck, carried into the online realm, and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Pokies, both physical and online, continue to be popular in Australia and New Zealand.

A Brief History of Pokies

It is believed that the very first slot machine was developed in 1894. San Francisco’s Charles Fay, calling it the Liberty Bell, created the foundation for the game that we know today. It featured three spinning reels, a fully automated payout system, and a single pay line. Even some of the symbols are familiar today.

Slot machines made their first appearance in Australia in the early 1900s. They were illegal but still quite popular with the gambling crowd. After decades, the Australian company Aristocrat developed the first Aussie-style game in 1953. “The Clubman” would remain popular for two years before ultimately being replaced by “The Clubmaster” in 1955.

The government of NSW would legalize gaming machines just a year later, allowing registered clubs to carry them. Gambling in Australia would be forever changed, with pokies becoming a hit despite their basic nature. Though we picture slots with flashing lights and sounds, those wouldn’t hit the Australian scene for several years.

The landscape changed only slightly for pokies in the next few decades. Jackpots were relatively small and there was zero interaction other than pulling the handle. These machines were nothing like the ones we are familiar with today.

Introduction of Video Slots

A major change to the pokie scene came in the mid-1980s. Though they were created in 1976, video slots would not come to prominence on the continent for nearly a decade. It was easily the biggest development in slots since Fey’s initial creation.

Video pokies took the step up from three reels to five. More importantly, jackpots increased, and the free/bonus spin feature became an option. It was essentially the leap into the modern pokies that Aussies are familiar with today.

The 1990s saw major growth in the video pokie industry. Several Australian states officially allowed for poker machines to be used in pubs. The availability of games jumped exponentially in Queensland in 1992, South Australia in 1994, and NSW in 1997.

Today, pokies are as commonplace as can be. Thousands of gaming fans enjoy playing both traditional and video pokies, plus the online scene (more below) is as popular as ever.

Online Pokies

With the rise of the internet, the gambling scene followed. The first online casinos came to be in the early 1990s. For Aussies, it offered a brand-new way to enjoy pokies. The Gaming Club became one of the first online casinos to hit the scene and it is still going strong today.

When it comes to online casinos in Australia, it took a bit more time. Game developer Microgaming brought Thunderstruck to the continent in 2004, providing the first Australian style pokie in the online realm. From there, hundreds of titles came down the pike to provide a full array of choices.

Pokies have now moved into the next phase: mobile gaming. Across the globe, online casino fans can now play on mobile devices from anywhere within a specific geographic area. Aussies can play pokies at home or on the go, creating an endless supply of action.


What is a pokie?

A pokie is a slang term for a slot machine. It is a play on video poker machines, sometimes called “cardies.” Rather than saying “poker machine,” it was cut down to “pokie,” the preferred slang even today.

When did video slots become a thing?

Though they didn’t become prominent until the 1980s, the first video slot machine came to be in 1976. It was created by Fortune Coin Co., a Las Vegas-based company. They have since become a staple in both virtual and brick-and-mortar casinos.

Is there a better chance to win in person versus online when it comes to slots/pokies?

The return to player (RTP) rate is consistent across virtual and physical machines. That number is a percentage determined by the average that is returned to the player over a large number of spins. Some players confuse RTP and apply it over a much smaller sample size, producing a greater variance in results.

Is there any other gambling-related slang used by Aussies?

Video poker machines are referred to as “cardies” in both clubs and pubs. Some believe that the term pre-dates “pokies.” It is interesting to note that the slang term is local to Australia and New Zealand, not used anywhere else in the world.

Noah has worked in the iGaming space for more than five years, first as a freelancer and now as part of Duluth Media. He’s experienced in all facets of the industry and has covered plenty of sports.

Latest Articles

More Casino Guides