Gambling Saying…? 
Posted: 04 April 2008 04:33 PM   [ Ignore ]
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What and where did the old gambling saying come from and what does it mean..?

“Winner Winner, Chicken Dinner”

No one I know has any idea.....

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Posted: 04 April 2008 11:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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None of the sources I’ve found can date this before 1975. The consensus is that when casinos in Las Vegas were in a particularly competitive period they would vie for customers just as banks offer free toasters to people who open new accounts. Back then a chicken dinner in the casino business was priced at just under $2.00. In those days the most common bet was $2.00, and in an attempt to attract players to place bets, the stickman at roulette or craps would shout the phrase. In short, it was shilling for players at an underpopulated table by telling wandering innocents that they could win a chicken dinner by playing.

* Just found somebody who remembers that it was used in much the same way at The Aqueduct Racecourse in New York in 1954. The most common bet on a horse was two bucks and even a pretty bad payoff would provide you the price of the restaurant’s chicken dinner, priced on the menu at about a dollar. In either case, everyone seems to remember that the chicken dinners were not only the least expensive meals on the menus, but were uniformly awful.

“Winner Winner, Chicken Dinner” has now become a catchphrase for anyone who wins in sports, gambling, trivia, and other pastimes, especially someone who wasn’t expected to win. FWIW, I am deeply suspicious about this origin of the phrase, but a chicken dinner is a powerful incentive.

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Posted: 05 April 2008 06:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Sounds like a hyper-explanation to me too. A simple nonsense rhyme is sufficient to “explain” it.

What are the early citations? I can’t find anything earlier than 1997.

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Posted: 05 April 2008 06:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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A brief discussion on Metafilter.

Several posters maintain that it’s a casino stickman’s call. Earliest cite given there is 1995 from Google Groups.

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Posted: 05 April 2008 08:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Searching Google News Archive only gives very recent results for ("winner chicken dinner"), however I also searched on winner “chicken dinner”.  There seems to be a long time association of the winners of contests being feted at a chicken dinner in their honor and the “chicken dinner” is not a plate of chicken for one person but a dinner event where chicken is served.  For example, here’s a hit from 1910 (complete with scanning errors):
“Subscription - Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette - NewspaperArchive - May 1, 1910
It is figured that the crowd -thai will cheer the winner at the Emeryville race ... Chicken dinner to be pftld by losers. “

This does nothing to date the phrase, but it’s a possibility that the original idea behind it might have been “Here’s a winner - let’s have a party in his honor” rather than “Here’s a winner - give him a drumstick”.

[ Edited: 05 April 2008 08:46 AM by Myridon ]
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Posted: 05 April 2008 11:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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My spouse has spent 47 of her 50 years in Nevada. She describes her youth a “casino urchin” (Her family was in the casino coffee shop business.) and as a young accountant worked summers in casinos. She says she had never heard “Winner Winner, Chicken Dinner” until I asked her a few minutes ago.

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