Saturday, July 17, 2010


Can anybody give me a plausible explanation for how the word fade came into its current usage in the poker world? For those who haven't heard or noticed the word, it is used to mean avoid or dodge. He will win the hand if he can fade a king on the river. Cardgrrl tells me that her Oxford English Dictionary shows no usage in other fields that would easily explain how it got ported to this meaning in poker. (However, it's a first-edition OED, so perhaps the more recent version has something newer that would help.)

I find this one of the most baffling terms in poker.


Grange95 said...

I think this term is a crossover from sports gambling, where "fade" means "to bet against". E.g., "I'm fading Mike's picks." or "I'm fading the Cowboys."

Rakewell said...

OK, but at the risk of sounding like a four-year-old's endless succession of "why?" questions, how did it acquire that meaning in sports betting? It still seems to be utterly different than how it is used in any other context, so that it's not obvious why people would have chosen to use it that way.

Kirk Thompson said...

This one bugs me too.

Clearly it made the jump into the poker room from the sports book.

The word's origin is from latin via vulgar french and arises from the same source word as the modern english word fatuous. It stands to reason that the active verb "to fade" might at some time have meant "to render impotent".

The dictionary also says that fade is also an active verb meaning "to cause to vanish". However, I can't think of any other instance of the word "fade" appearing as an active verb anywhere besides photoshop and poker. So it's appearance in wagering could just as easily be a loan word, a bastardization of "evade", etc.

kg_bettor said...

Dictionary of slang has several interesting entries:

fade(noun, 3rd entry): a departure, an escape.

So you 'escape' with the pot.

fade(verb, 1st entry): 1: (gambling) ... to bet against the player ...; 5: to put up with, to manage something.

You're betting against the player hitting his outs; you managed to avoid being unlucky.

Finally, this one is a stretch:
fade(verb, 2nd entry): 8: to remain sufficiently silent not to be noticed.

Thereby not prompting the poker gods into smiting you.


Mark T said...

It's been in use that way a long time in craps, too, as evidenced by the classic line from the "Rockin the Boat" song from Guys and Dolls, based on Damon Runyon's works of the 1930's:

"And there I stood, and I hollered 'Someone fade me!'"


In craps, it's a bit more specific, about essentially covering bets. You can therefore see how it directly jumps from there to sports/poker: in craps, if you're fading the come out roll of a shooter, you clearly have to avoid a 7, so fading it means avoiding it. From there, it expands just a bit to mean "avoiding a negative gambling outcome".

I can venture a guess as to how it came about in craps, but it's just a guess.

Apparently, in some (many?) cases, craps bets needed to be faded by multiple people to cover the bets - so a shooter would wait until he could rustle up enough people on the other side of his shoot to cover his wager. Each additional person who covers part of the wager in essence "fades" the remaining size or impact of the wager itself, and it becomes less imposing for others to cover.

If I want to wager $1000 on a craps roll, and that is too daunting a sum for anyone to cover, having someone cover $100 of it "fades" the wager down to only $900 - it "reduces the impact or apparent size by a slight amount", which would naturally yield the verb "fade".

It's just a guess. But seeing as how the earliest gambling origins I can find date to craps, it would make a bit of sense.

David said...

Poker Grump,

I've been lurking and really enjoy reading your blog. I am not a poker player, but enjoy watching the game and reading blogs. Thanks for what you do and keep it up! Also, I love reading Cardgrrl, but she changed her site and I have no idea where her new blog is. Also, Hurricane Mikey. I do not know if you'd like his blog, but he is a good writer. Keep up the reat wrk!

Rakewell said...

Anonymous said...

John said...

Not sure but I also daytrade stocks and futures as do many poker players and in trading "fading the open or fade the open" can mean the reversal of a very short term trend

NT said...

It occurs to me that this may be something derived from Cockney rhyming slang: "fade" for "evade," perhaps.