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Why are the steemit whales called “whales”?
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A "whale" in cryptocurrency slang simply means the person on steemit is "a bigger fish than most of the other fish". Sort of like the old saying "a big fish in a small pond".

The term "whale" originates from gambling. According to realonlinegambling.com, competitive poker players would use marine-inspired categories to describe a person's playing skill and how much they had to wager. Regular small-wager players were "fish" and the expert players who preyed on the regulars were "sharks". Following this pattern "whales" are the largest creature.

http://www.realonlinegambling.com/terms/whale/
http://www.realonlinegambling.com/terms/shark/
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