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Playing Card Nicknames: Nines and Tens

by Michael Wiesenberg |  Published: Nov 13, 2013


Michael WiesenbergNicknames. Almost everything of value has them. That goes for playing cards. This series lists and explains many you have heard — and some you haven’t. So far we’ve looked at deuces through eights. Now we continue with individual ranks.

A 9 is sometimes called a 9-spot.

You may hear a 9 called a niner or a neener. That’s just because those names sound similar.

Nina is also heard. And, since poker players like to extend names, Nina Ross. I couldn’t find anything in a Google search about the derivation of the name. (Other than a circular Wiktionary reference to The Official Dictionary of Poker.) According to the Urban Dictionary, Nina Ross is a 9mm handgun, but that has nothing to do with playing cards. Likely the cardroom usage preceded the gangster usage.

Another name for a 9 is a pothook. A pothook is an S-shaped hook for hanging pots and kettles over an open fire; if you twist the top, a 9 sort of resembles that.

A Specific 9

Sometimes specific cards have special names. In the 9 rank, at least one card has its own name, two names, actually, but they’re both for the same card and have the same derivation.

The 9Diamond Suit is known as the Scourge of Scotland. The name arose because every ninth Scottish king was (supposedly) a tyrant, and diamonds were a symbol of Scotland. The card is also called the Curse of Scotland.

These are all speculations and which is the true origin, as in the nicknames of some other playing cards, may never be known for sure.


A 10 is sometimes called a 10-spot.

A 10 is sometimes represented in print as T. Printed text that doesn’t use symbols might, for example, use Ts for the 10Spade Suit.

Since a dime is 10 cents, a 10 is sometimes called a dime. You also hear sawbuck, which comes from the slang for $10 or a $10 bill. Where that came from is old $10 bills included an X, the Roman numeral for 10. An X resembles one of the ends of a real sawbuck, which is an old name for a wooden device made with crossed pieces of wood that look like the letter X, that is, a form of sawhorse. Such devices support wood that is being sawed. Since sawbuck as the slang for $10 is sometimes familiarized to sawski, that name is also applied to the playing card.

A 10 can be called a Bo Derek, though that term is more commonly applied to the hold’em hand 10-10. The name comes from the star of the movie 10.

The card is sometimes called Tennessee, from the pronunciation. You hear the term more often as a lowball player announcing his hand than a naming of the specific card. An alliterative extension is Tennessee Toddy; someone saying this is usually announcing his hand.

Two or more 10s are sometimes rendered tension. This usage is imitative, and it should probably be spelled ’ten-SHUN, because it imitates the military command “Attention!”

A term associated with 10s is miles. In high poker, miles is part of a phrase describing a set (also called three of a kind, especially in five-card draw) (or, rarely, four of a kind), using total point value, usually preceded by a number divisible by three. That is, 30 miles means three 10s, and nine miles means three 3s. I cite the term here since miles is more associated with 10s than any other rank. Since poker players like to embellish names, you’ll hear 30 dirty miles, 30 miles of rough road, 30 days in the county jail, etcetera.

A Specific 10

In the 10 rank, at least one card has its own name.

The 10Diamond Suit is sometimes called big casino. The name comes from the game of casino, which is a card-accumulating game of Italian origin whose only interest to poker players is the names given to two of its cards, big casino and little casino. (Earlier we saw that the latter is the 2Spade Suit.) For both, the spelling is also cassino.


Cards 10 or lower, that is, any card that is not a face card, are sometimes called whiteskins. They are so called because these cards have no color and show more white than face cards.♠

Michael Wiesenberg has been a columnist for Card Player since 1988. He has written or edited many books about poker, and has also written extensively about computers and computer languages. Wiesenberg constructs crossword puzzle collections for Puzzazz, a free interactive puzzle app for mobile devices and word puzzles for the mobile app Quote Unquote by Tiny Bite Games. Send approval, admonishments, and appeals for answers to