Green’s Dictionary of Slang

punter n.

[? Sp. ponto, a point, or ponte, the player against the bank]

1. a gambler, on cards, dice, horses, dogs etc.

[UK]E. Phillips New World of Words (6th edn) n.p.: Punter, a Term us’d at the Game of Cards call’d Basset.
[UK]T. Lucas Lives of the Gamesters (1930) 240: Punter, a Term for every one of the Gamesters that play.
[UK]Sporting Mag. Mar. III 321/1: Ponte, French. Punter, English, from punto, Italian for a point. The player at Faro [...] is called so from punting, or staking his money on the number of points a card contains.
[UK]Thackeray Vanity Fair III 263: She was at home with everybody in the place, pedlars, punters, tumblers, students and all.
[Aus]Bell’s Life in Victoria (Melbourne) 4 July 4/4: [T]here is no more integrity among ‘punters’ than compassion in a hungry tiger.
[UK]G.A. Sala Gaslight and Daylight 175: The poor little ‘punters’ one sees at Hombourg and Baden-Baden – men with ‘systems’ [...] who would have always won fifty thousand florins to a dead certainty.
[UK]Sl. Dict. 262: Punter a small professional backer of horses.
[UK]Sporting Times 1 Nov. 2/5: I’m a backer — nicknamed punter — and of fortune I’m a hunter.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 22 Oct. 14/1: In spite of the well-known fact that early two-year-old form is more reliable than any other, punters generally let Lady Betty alone for the Nursery Handicap on Saturday.
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 19 Aug. 6/3: Quite a little army of silver punters seem to be under the impression that ‘Maori’ still carries on business.
[UK]M. Williams Round London 139: The hard part of the case is that the punter has not brought his misfortune upon himself.
[Aus]Sydney Sportsman (Surry Hills, NSW) 14 Dec. 1/7: The word 'punter' was originally applied to one who played against the banker or dealer, as in baccarat .
[UK]Sporting Times 25 Mar. 1/5: ‘A Punter——Holloway!’ Punts with the warders, in dumplings, we suppose?
[US]Salt Lake Herald (UT) 26 Mar. 5/1: Hardy Downing [...] translates the Australian slang in the above as follows: ‘Ikeys’ are bookmakers; a ‘punter’ is a small better; ‘magging’ is eqivalent to the term ‘kidding’.
[Aus]‘Banjo’ Paterson ‘Done for the Double’ in Three Elephant Power 136: Among the throng the heaviest punter is a fat lady with diamond earrings.
[UK]C.G. Gordon Crooks of the Und. 68: One wide-awake punter [...] realised I was knocking, he gave the alarm.
[US]R. Chandler ‘Guns At Cyrano’s’ in Red Wind (1946) 211: Maybe it’s some Spring Street punter’s idea of how to make himself a little easy dough.
[Aus]L. Glassop Lucky Palmer 3: Usually a few punters went across to the Grand for a drink after each race.
[UK]F. Norman Fings I i: An’ you find some punters, or we’ve ’ad it.
[UK]R. Cook Crust on its Uppers 23: He really could [...] stick a fork (he did this once) into the hand of a moody punter at a chemmy game.
[UK]P. Theroux Family Arsenal 165: He was a heavy punter – always showing off with his money and talking about his connections.
[Aus]R.G. Barrett Real Thing 9: The club was locked up [...] and the punters had drfited away.
[UK]S. Armitage ‘The Stuff’ in Zoom 68: One punter surfaced in the ship-canal / having shed a pair of concrete-slippers.
[Aus]G. Disher Deathdeal [ebook] [T]he gawking five-dollar punters, pensioners and loudmouths.
[UK]Indep. Mag. 6 Aug. 18: Danny’s a big punter.
[Aus]M.B. ‘Chopper’ Read Chopper 4 57: It seems Mike Alexander is still a keen punter.

2. (Aus.) a small-time, cautious gambler.

[Aus]Stephens & O’Brien Materials for a Dict. of Aus. Sl. [unpub. ms.] 118: PUNTER: betting slang a small cautious better [...] In contradistinction to a ‘plunger’.

3. (N.Z.) a pickpocket’s assistant.

[Aus]Baker N.Z. Sl.
[NZ]McGill Reed Dict. of N.Z. Sl. 164: punter A pickpocket’s assistant with the job of distracting the target.

4. the victim of a confidence trickster’s schemes.

[UK]P. Allingham Cheapjack 187: But when the grafter decides that it is time for him to get the punter’s money, he leans casually against the stall. [Ibid.] 320: Punter, a grafter’s customer, client or victim.
[UK]R. Cook Crust on its Uppers 21: The real morries [...] flying dodgy kites with each other at bent spielers till the punter [...] outs his kiting-book too and scribbles a straight one.
G.F. Newman Price viii 253: They were three card tricksters. Their patter never changed, but still punters stood for it.

5. a generic term for a member of the general public, particularly when in the role of customer, esp. of a prostitute, a casino and other slightly ‘shady’ enterprises.

[UK]X. Petulengro Romany Life 203: They were fairly good ‘punters’ for my pills.
[UK]S. Jackson Indiscreet Guide to Soho 65: The professional tarts [...] rarely pay for a drink and some club proprietors encourage them to bring in their ‘punters’ or clients.
[Aus]F.J. Hardy Yarns of Billy Borker 102: Mad punters, they were, that’s when they had any money.
[UK]G.F. Newman You Flash Bastard 15: There had been rumours that Manso in his time had put money into that judge for various favours. While a lot of punters would doubt the corruptibility of a judge [...] Sneed knew just how well-founded those rumours were.
[UK]Flame: a Life on the Game 80: That was part of the psychology. When the punters get there, they find it’s nicer than they had imagined.
[US]Hip-Hop Connection Dec. 28: The diverse range of punters who bought that massive international hit.
[UK]Guardian 27 Jan. 19: They have insulted the punters, the ordinary gay people who bought their tickets and simply wanted a day out without being abused.
[Aus] L. Redhead ‘Grassed’ in Crime Factory: Hard Labour [ebook] The Sydney punters couldn’t get enough of [...] the dakka.

6. (Scot. gang) a gang member.

[UK](con. mid-1960s) J. Patrick Glasgow Gang Observed 235: Punter – a gang member.