Blackjack Terms

Posted by Cliff Spiller . Last updated:

Just like many gambling games, blackjack is surrounded by unique words and it’s own language.

Understanding the rules and terminology will make your blackjack playing experience more pleasant, win or lose.

The basic concept of blackjack is simple. You’re dealt two cards face-up and the dealer is dealt one card face-up and one card face-down. The object is to beat the dealer’s hand total without going over 21 or let the dealer go over 21. If your hand exceeds 21, you bust and lose the hand.

Whether you play blackjack online or in a local casino the game is the same, except for a couple of minor rule changes from casino to casino.

To make sure you fully understand the game and are prepared for an enjoyable experience (and to ensure you aren’t the ‘clueless’ one at the table) here’s a comprehensive glossary of blackjack terms:

Blackjack Glossary

Ace Neutralized

Ace neutralized is a term used in card counting circles describing a system that doesn’t assign a number to aces for the regular count. In many ace neutralized counts the system employs a side count of aces.


 When counting cards to gain an edge over the house, ace reckoned means the count uses a minus number for all aces. For example, aces are – 1 in Hi Lo.


This is the total amount of all bets placed. Let’s say you’ve placed 100 bets at $100 per hand. The total action amount would be $10,000 at that point. It can also mean the current hand amount or all bets on the table.

Back Counting

Many card counters begin their count prior to sitting down at the table. Back counting is simply counting cards prior to joining the game. The purpose of this is so the player knows to jump into the game when the deck is favorable to the player.

Backed Off

The casino has a right to ban players from playing any game if they feel that player has an edge over the house or for any other reason. Usually a player that’s backed off can play other games unless they’re read the trespass act. In that case they’re banned from the casino.

Balanced Count

When counting cards, if the value of counting down an entire deck equals zero, gamblers call that a balanced count. The Hi Lo is a common balanced count system.


This is the amount of money a gambler has available to gamble.


When the casino determines a player – for whatever reason – should no longer be allowed to play in that casino, they are marked down as barred, typically for life.

Basic Strategy

Playing basic strategy blackjack means to hit, stand, double, and split your cards based on what makes the most sense mathematically.


The amount the gambler risks on a hand of blackjack.

Bet Sizing

When the deck is in your favor, the optimal play is to bet bigger. When the deck is in the dealer’s favor, the optimal play is to bet smaller. When you do this, it’s called bet sizing.

Bet Spread

This is the ratio between the bettor’s smallest and largest wagers. For example, if your smallest bet is $20 and your largest bet is $100, your bet spread would be 1 to 5.

Big Player (BP)

Big bettor for a blackjack team also called a gorilla.

Black Book

This isn’t the book you keep with a list of women you’ve slept with. This is the casino’s naughty list of players that are banned from the casino.


When you receive an ace and a face card (10, Jack, King, or Queen), you have a blackjack and cannot lose the hand. Most casinos pay blackjacks at 3 to 2 but some only pay 6 to 5.


$100 denomination chips in nearly every casino are black, or referred to as “black chips” by the dealers.

Burn Card

Before a dealer begins dealing a shoe or a new dealer takes over the table, the card on the top of the deck will be burned, which means it’s placed along with the other unused cards.


If your hand exceeds 21, you bust and lose the hand. Conversely, if the dealer exceeds 21 and busts, you win as long as you didn’t also bust. If you’re sitting on a weak 16 and the dealer makes a 22, you win even with a lousy hand.

Bust Card

This is the card that gets the dealer above 21. When the dealer busts, all players that didn’t bust win the hand. If the dealer shows a 16 and draws a 7, the 7 is the bust card.

Buy In

The amount you hand the dealer in exchange for casino chips.

Card Counting

Counting cards is a mathematical system that helps give players an edge over the house. It’s not illegal to count cards, but the casino has a right to ban players if they catch them counting cards.

 Cashier’s Cage

This is where you will cash out your casino chips at the end of a gambling session.


No, these aren’t the edible kind. Chips are what you exchange your money for. A chip only has value in the casino.

 Chip Tray

This is the tray in front of the dealer that collects the chips players lose and is used to distribute chips to players when they win.


Many card counters like to use a counter whose specific task is to count cards for the main player. This person often bets small and only sits down at the table for the purpose of being the card counter. The counter relays betting information to a big player or other team member who places large wagers.


This is the person that works for the casino and deals you the cards, pays your winnings in chips, or takes your chips away when you lose.

Discard Rack

This is a clear plastic device used to hold the used cards and burn cards.

Double Down

After being dealt the first 2 cards, you may opt to double down, which means placing another bet the size of your original bet to receive just 1 more card. Most players do this when they have a 10 or 11 and the dealer is holding a low card. For example, if you have a 6 – 5 (11) and the dealer is showing a 5, the smart play is to double down because the odds are in your favor.

Eighty Six (86)

When a person is 86’ed from the casino, it means they’re banned from entering the building. This term is also often used in restaurants to represent a lack of an item on the menu that day.


The expected value of a play. To determine EV you need to consider the outcome if the play was repeated hundreds of times. + EV (positive expected value) means the player has an edge. – EV (negative expected value) means the house has an edge.


If the dealer’s face down card is accidentally viewed by the players, that is referred to as an exposed card.

Face Cards

These are cards that are valued at ten in blackjack (ten, jack, king, queen). Other than the ace, they represent the most valuable cards for players.

First Base

The player sitting closest to the dealer’s left shoulder. This person is the first to act once each player has been dealt two cards.


If you’re sneaky you can try first-basing which means being able to see the dealer’s face-down card (hole card) as it’s dealt from first base.

Flat Bet

When someone flat bets, they’re wagering the same amount on every hand.

Free Roll

Many casinos offer promotions to get you to the blackjack table. They’ll give away a free bet, or free roll, where you don’t have to risk any money to win.

Front Loading

If you’re able to see the dealer’s hole card from the front of the table, the casino calls that front loading.

Griffin Agency

This was an investigative and detective agency that casinos hired to help them spot cheaters and those that may be of threat to their business. They went bankrupt in 2005.

Handheld Game

A handheld game is when a dealer deals straight from her hand, as opposed to out of a shoe. This is how games with only 1 to 2 decks are dealt.

Hard Total

A card total for a hand that doesn’t include an ace.

Head On or Heads Up

If there are no other players at the table, it’s just you versus the dealer.


If the casino considers you a possible card counter, they will watch you closely. Whenever the pit personnel are watching you it’s called heat.

Hi Lo

A popular card counting system.


To ask the dealer for another card in order to improve your hand.

Hole Card

The dealer only shows 1 card to the players. The other card is face-down, which is also called the hole card.

Hole Card Play

If your dealer is lazy or sloppy, you can take advantage of him if he accidentally shows his hole card. That’s what professional gamblers refer to as hole card play.


A host is an employee of the casino that takes care of the gamblers and awards them comps based on their rate of play.

Illustrious 18

The 18 most important index plays for card counters using the Hi Lo System.


Players can risk an additional amount which must be exactly half their bet if the dealer is showing an ace. If the dealer has a blackjack, the player breaks even on the hand. This is insurance against a blackjack. However, it’s a sucker bet.


A junket is when the casino comps your trip to the casino. This is done for high rollers in order to get them to the casino.

Kelly System Betting

A method professional gamblers use to size their bets based on their edge.

Loaded Deck

When a deck or shoe has certain cards, usually face card,  purposely removed.


A marker is an agreed upon amount of money the casino will give you in chips in exchange for your agreement to pay the house back.

Martingale System

A system some players prefer using where they double the lost bet amount on the following hand or hands. For example, if you bet $25 on the first hand and lose, by using the Martingale System, you would then place a $50 wager on the next hand.


A mathematical chart of index numbers showing the correct number at which to deviate from the normal card counting strategy.


Cheaters who manipulate cards or other aspects of a game are called mechanics. Card counters aren’t mechanics.

Multi-Level Count

When counting cards, if the number you add or subtract exceed +1 or -1, you’re using a multi-level count.

Multi Parameter System

More advanced card counters will use a multi-parameter system where they keep a separate count for aces and one for all remaining cards.


This is a way of saying you were dealt a blackjack.


$5 denomination chips.


The cards that have yet to be used in the game.


A jack, king, or queen. These cards have a value of 10, although the player would also be pleased to receive a 10 which has the same value.


Two cards of the same value (i.e. 2 – 2, 5 – 5, 7 – 7).

Pat Hand

Usually when you’re dealt a hand of 17-21, you should stand pat as the odds are against you improving to a better hand. The dealer will always stand pat at 17-21.

Pays the Table

If every player at the table wins, the dealer will pay the table. So if all players are sitting on a 19 or above and the dealer ends up with an 18, the dealer will pay them all, or pay the table.


If the dealer’s face-up card is an ace, the dealer must peek at the hole card to see if she has a blackjack before allowing players to act.

Pit Boss

This is the term the casino uses to refer to the floor manager for table games.


Poor is a term card counters use to refer to a certain card value that has a short supply of cards remaining in the deck. For example, if a large percentage of the face cards have been used, the deck is poor of 10’s.

Positive Count

This is where the player has an edge over the house because there are more face cards remaining in the deck than low cards. Any time there are a plethora of face cards remaining, it’s best to bet big.

Preferential Shuffling

To minimize the player’s ability to count cards, the dealer may be instructed to use preferential shuffling, which means he shuffles the deck early.


When gamblers are on a hot streak, they may press their luck by letting it ride or betting big to ride the hot streak. This sounds like a good idea, but it’s usually a good way of losing it all.


When the dealer and player end up with the same value hand, the player pushes. The player’s bet is returned.


When the deck has a large amount of a certain value of cards, the deck is said to be rich in that value.


$25 denomination chips.


RC is an acronym used by card counters for running count, or the current card count.


In most casinos, $5 denomination chips are the color red. If a player asks for all reds, it means they want the entire amount of their buy-in in $5 chips.


Players receive comps for room (R), food (F), and beverage (B). This is a silly acronym the casino often uses.


Every hand that is dealt, the action goes all around the table. One round is the same as one hand.


This is an acronym for Risk of ruin. Risk of ruin is the possibility you’ll go broke over a set period of time or before reaching a certain goal. It’s determined by the expected edge, variance, and bet sizing in comparison to the size of your bankroll.

Selective Memory

When a player is losing, they often feel as if they never win a hand. They simply forget about all the winning hands they were dealt and only remember the ones they lost.


Casinos separate their shifts into 3 8-hour blocks throughout the day.


When someone working for the casino encourages players to enter a game, telling them the game is ‘hot’.


The contraption in which the cards to be used are placed.

Shuffle Tracking

If you want to gain an edge over the house, pay close attention to where certain cards are placed during shuffling in order to estimate where in the deck those cards are located. Much harder than it sounds, but can be done by some skilled players.


Many casinos still use silver coins or silver chips for $1 denomination chips.

Six Deck Shoe

A shoe that has a total of six decks.

Soft Hand

A soft hand is any hand with an ace. For example, if you’re dealt ace – 7, you have a soft 18.

Soft Total

When the ace value represents an 11. It’s soft because you can change the value to a 1 if you need to avoid going over 21 when you hit.


When dealt two cards of the same value, players may split the cards. You must place a secondary bet of the same value as the original bet. Your two cards will be split up and you will then draw to two separate hands.


When a blackjack player or companion is attempting to spy on the dealer’s hole card from elsewhere. After they see the card they relay the information to a player at the table.


Card counters often hire spotters. They count the cards and use signals to inform the player of the shoe’s current count.


Once you’ve made the best possible hand, you will stand. That means you don’t ask the dealer for additional cards.


When a player is angry, usually from a loss, they often bet big in order to win back their losses. This is also referred to as ‘tilting’.


When the player is dealt a 12-16 without an ace as part of the hand. It’s referred to as a stiff hand because the player can bust when taking a hit with an unlucky card.


The casino big wigs.


After the cards are dealt, if the player feels they have very little chance of winning, they may forfeit their hand in exchange for receiving half the bet back. Some casinos don’t allow players to surrender.

Third Base

The last player to act before the dealer flips over the hole card. This player sits to the left of the other players.


This is the term casinos use to refer to a tip given to the dealer by a player.

Unbalanced Count

A card counting system that doesn’t end up at zero after counting through a complete deck of cards is an unbalanced count system. The Red 7 is a well-known unbalanced count.

Up Card

This is the dealer’s card that is exposed to the players and is placed above the hole card.


When a player only plays hands when the shoe has a positive count. The reason they do this is because shoes with a positive count give the player a better chance of winning any given hand.


When a patron in the casino hits any jackpot that exceeds $1,200, they’re given a W2-G tax form to fill out.

Cliff Spiller

Cliff Spiller is a veteran casino writer with decades of experience writing online casino reviews and game guides. His betting strategy articles, and gambling news updates have been a fixture in the industry since 2004.

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