When you win in Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds, you see the message: “Winner Winner Chicken Dinner”. That’s...weird. So where’d it come from?
It’s a line you may be familiar with if you’ve been to Vegas, or indeed if you’ve played any of PlayerUnknown’s previous mod work. “‘Winner Winner Chicken Dinner’ has been used in my Battle Royale game-modes since way back in the ARMA 2 DayZ Battle Royale mod”, PU told Nathan in an interview just after E3. “We do intend to keep it as it has become part of the game mode over the last 4 years.”
But where did it come from? PU didn’t invent it it. It didn’t come from that terrible movie you may only now remember seeing it in. It did not, as the quickest Google search may tell you, hail from Las Vegas casinos either (though that answer at least gets the chicken dinner part right).
No, for the best answer on the internet, we’re instead going to turn to our pals at Deadspin, who for entirely unrelated reasons looked into the history of the term back in 2009. Speaking with David Guzman, co-author of a book called A Guide to Craps Lingo from Snake Eyes to Muleteeth, they were told:
“’Winner Winner Chicken Dinner’ came from alley craps back in the Depression. They used to play craps in alleys and didn’t always use [money], but if they did it use [money] and they where winning, it meant they they could afford chicken for dinner that night.” The literature on the subject is limited, however, and Guzman allows that “Winner winner chicken dinner” may have roots in Cockney rhyming slang.
That last part certainly seems possible; I’ve heard a number of older Australians use the term in relation to sports, with “Chicken Dinner” taking the place of “Winner” in rhyming slang.
So there you have it. While the absolute origins of the term may be lost in the fog of unrecorded British slang, its more immediate meaning definitely has its roots in 20th century gambling. So next time you win in Battlegrounds and feel like you got lucky, well, maybe that was the point...