What is ‘Go South’?
To Go South means to disappear, and in poker it can be applied to players, to cards and to chips or cash. The phrase is most often associated with poker cheats. If a card is said to go South, it means it was removed from the table so it could be introduced at a later time. Chips and cash can also go South and be removed from the table. If a player is said to go South, they have run out on a debt or vanished with cash belonging to the house or the players.
‘Go South’ Explained
In general terminology, go South or to go South is a common slang term describing a person who has intentionally vanished. It is an American term, associated with the idea of crossing the Mexican border to evade US authorities. A wanted criminal will often go South to escape arrest, for example. The phrase has been adopted into wider language, describing anyone who runs out when trouble hits, or tries to avoid justice by skipping out on their obligations.
In casinos, a player who is said to go South has committed some act of dishonesty and then disappeared before they can be challenged. It often relates to a player who welches on a bet or a loan. For example, if two players go cow and one leaves with their winnings before splitting them fairly, they have gone South.
Sometimes the term is applied to cards, chips and cash removed from the table by cheats. A card that goes South or gets removed from the game can be added back later, when it makes a better hand. Removing chips from the table which do not belong to the player is theft; removing the player’s own chips from the table so others cannot win them back fairly is also prohibited in most forms of poker.