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Railbird Definition

Poker Railbirds

by Jesse Knight
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Railbird
Railbird - A mildly derogatory term for a player who frequently watches poker games from the rail rather than playing in them.


Because casinos typically allow players and non-players to mingle freely, it can sometimes get crowded on the casino floor. For this reason, casinos frequently establish a viewing area from which non players can watch the action. The viewing area often runs outside of the perimeter of the playing area and is separated by a metal railing or some similar barrier. This is simply referred to as the rail. In an effort to provide the best viewing angle, and to keep non players from clogging up the casino floor, this area is often elevated above the casino floor, so that people who are on the rail can look down on the action. This has led to the gamming area on the casino floor being nicknamed “the pit.”

Smaller casinos may spread their poker games somewhere on the casino floor. Larger casinos will have a separate poker room, designed exclusively for ring game and tournament play. When the poker room is on the casino floor, players may watch the action from the casino railing. If the poker room is separate from the casino floor, it will usually have its own independent railing or viewing area. This is an area where out-of-action or out-of-luck players tend to congregate, like birds. Degenerates, the unlucky losers, and those without funds to play on often socialize and empathize with each other from the rail. These people are often viewed as the dregs of the casino.

The people who are constantly “on the rail,” are frequently referred to as “railbirds.” This roughly equivocates to “bum.” Many railbirds are terrible poker players, degenerate gamblers, or alcoholics. Some will attempt to borrow or hustle in order to obtain funds to gamble on. Some have even given up hope of getting back action and come only to socialize, drink coffee, and watch the games. Players who are chronically eliminated from tournament play early on, yet remain to socialize and watch the action, also are sometimes referred to as railbirds.

Railbirds are viewed as a nuisance by most players. Many have lost money in bad business deals or loans to railbirds whom they thought were respectable, and do not have patience for degenerates. Railbirds routinely receive treatment from players who are in action which ranges from indifference to scorn. However, all railbirds are not viewed the same or are treated with the same level of scorn. Players who are on limited funds are often on the rail for short periods while they replenish their bankroll. These players can end up on the rail because their funds are limited or because they do not have knowledge about or control over the way they bet. This person is more accepted and less likely to be treated with scorn than someone who is chronically on the rail and never plays. True railbirds are poorly tolerated, add little or no money to the economy, and will often scam or hustle to get back into action.

Usage: On The Rail, Poker Rail, Railbirding

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