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What is a 'Pigeon'?

In gambling, the term pigeon usually refers to someone who is new to the game of poker, or who is generally an unsophisticated, naive or 'easy' player. Easy to beat, they are known as 'easy prey' by more experienced gamblers, giving rise to the term pigeon as a bird which is known for its stupidity, lack of finesse and as easy prey for carnivorous birds and land predators. A North American term, it can also refer to someone who is the victim of confidence tricks.

'Pigeon' Explained

The term pigeon is a widely used Americanism, sometimes used to describe an opponent in sports (such as tennis) who is repeatedly beaten by a vastly better player, giving rise to the phrase: "if you keep beating a player, they become your pigeon". Generally taken to mean a gullible, easily fooled person, it can also describe someone who has been swindled in gambling either by a cardsharp or shark who may be more skilled, or someone who cheats and performs sleight of hand to gain an advantage.Pigeon is a term that is thought to derive from the roaring 1920s in the USA, when card games and confidence tricksters were in their heyday. A closely related term, 'pigeon drop' refers to a type of sleight of hand or confidence game where cash may be extracted from a victim as collateral to leverage a supposed share in a larger sum of discovered money, gambling winnings or illegal profits, which then turn out to be non-existent. The idea is that a junior or trainee swindler is themselves tricked into performing a naive act of extraction from an unknowing victim in the hope of gaining access to a group's wider winnings, but may simply be helping to top up the pot for no gain.In the 1930s a pigeon drop then took on the meaning of a swindle, where a wallet is dropped in front of an intended victim - or pigeon. Another variation featured in popular films is where a confidence trickster persuades a victim that he has discovered a large amount of money that he will share with the victim if they first offer him a smaller sum as a show of good faith.