What is a ‘Railbird’?
If a person in the casino is described as a ‘railbird’, this means they spend a lot of time ‘at the rail’ or around the edge of the casino table games, watching the games and trying to get in on the action. The term railbird is often used to describe poker fans who enjoy spectating from the gallery, as well as players who like to watch how others play.
‘Railbird’ is a poker phrase used to describe somebody who spends a lot of time ‘at the rail’ or ‘on the rail’. This rail is a physical barrier between the non-players and players during a game of poker. It surrounds the table or the playing area, preventing people crossing and interrupting, disrupting or tampering with the game. ‘Railbird’ is, therefore, a common slang term for a poker fan – somebody who spends a lot of time watching the game live, and who likes to get up close to the action. Railbirds might also be players who are waiting for a spot at the table and who are watching play closely until they get to enter and try their own luck.
Some poker players do not like to be watched and scrutinised, as this can give away how they play and what their tactics are. Railbirds might use their position to learn about the different casino regulars so that they can use the information later when they get a chance to come to the tables. They are also used by ‘professional gamblers’ or seasoned cheats to pass information about the hands of others. Because it is easy for partnerships to cheat when games are watched, standing at the rail is discouraged and players are instead asked to join the seating gallery – usually above and away from the tables so the players cannot communicate with them.