What is ‘Nailing’?
‘Nailing’ usually refers to a cheating technique applied by poker and blackjack players. The player marks cards in their possession with a slight fingernail indentation, often on the card’s reverse so it is hard to spot. They might also mark the edge of the card so it can be spotted in the deck even when shuffled into the pack.
‘Nailing’ frequently refers to a cheating technique which is used in the casino or in home card games. It is a relatively basic strategy, where the player makes a mark on one or more cards with their fingernail in order to identify them later. If done right, the marks are barely visible – especially when made on the reverse of a card. Nailing is illegal because it gives players a clear advantage over the house and the table.
Players might ‘nail’ the cards when they fall into their hand, in order to set them for a partner or to make use of them in a later game. The deck might also be ‘nailed’ before play begins, by a dishonest dealer or another casino member who is working on the scam. Nailing is one of the more obvious and less high-tech forms of cheating, and it has become rare due to a high chance of detection plus a risk of inaccuracy – nail marks can also happen accidentally through improper handling of cards.
In modern slang, to ‘nail’ something means to get it right, to succeed and do well. If a player says they are ‘nailing’ the game, they might mean they are on a winning streak and picking up good pots or wager returns. If a player makes particularly good decisions on a hand and plays it right during every turn to take the win, they might be said to have ‘nailed’ that hand or game.