Glossary for Blackjack Players

Like many other betting games, blackjack comprises many specific terms and words; you could say it has it's very own language.

Understanding the words and phrases will make your blackjack playing experience easier and more enjoyable, whether you win or lose.

The central idea of blackjack is straightforward. You're dealt two cards face-up, while the dealer receives one card face-up and one card face-down. The goal is to beat the value of the dealer’s hand without going over 21. If  your hand surpasses 21, you bust and lose. 

On the whole, whether you play blackjack online or in a land casino, phrases and associated words are pretty much the same. To ensure you have a full understanding of the game and are set up for an enjoyable experience (and to ensure you aren't the 'confused' player at the table) here's an extensive glossary of blackjack terms.

 

Action

The total amount of money a player has wagered during a playing session. For example, 20 bets at €5 means action of €100. 

 

Back Counting

Counting cards without playing; usually so that the card counter can decide an advantageous time to jump into the game, or call in another player to join the game. 

Backed Off

The casino has the option to prohibit players from playing a particular game, without barring them from the premises, if they feel that the player has the edge over the house, or for some other explanation. Often, the player can continue to play other games, just not the game that has caused them to be backed off. 

Bankroll

The designated amount of funds the player has allotted to gambling. 

Barred

When a player is permanently prohibited from playing at, or entering, a casino. 

Basic Strategy

A fundamental methodology and collection of actions that will offer the best odds off the top of the deck. These actions vary when different rules are applied to the game. 

Bet

The sum the player chances on a hand of blackjack.

Bet Sizing

Optimally betting in relation to your advantage, i.e., betting higher when your hand has a greater probability of winning. 

Bet Spread

This is the ratio between the player’s smallest and largest bets. For example, if your smallest wager is €20 and your biggest wager is €100, your bet spread would be 1 to 5.

Black Book

The casino’s list of players barred from the premises. 

Blackjack

The best possible hand in the game blackjack, made up of an ace and a card valued at 10 (namely, 10, J, Q, K). Most casinos pay blackjacks at 3 to 2.

Burn Card

Before a dealer starts managing a fresh shoe of cards, or when another dealer assumes control over the table, the top card on the deck will be discarded, or  “burned”.

Bust

When a hand surpasses 21, whether player or dealer, the person holding that hand is bust and loses. 

Bust Card

This is the card that pushes the player over 21. So, if the player has 16 and draws a 7, the is the bust card.

Buy-in

The exchange of cash for gambling chips at the table.

 

Card Counting

A system used to keep track of the cards that have been played and discarded, used to give players an advantage over the house as it allows players to understand the probability of what card will be drawn next.

Cashier's Cage

The area in the casino where chips are exchanged for cash.

Chips

Tokens used to make wagers in casino games; cash is exchanged for chips which are used at the table.

Chip Tray

The tray used to hold chips for the dealer.

 

Dealer

The casino employee who deals cards, dishes out chips and ensures the smooth-running of the game.

Discard Rack

A clear plastic device used to hold discarded cards. 

Double Down

Having reviewed his hand, a player can ‘Double’ by placing an additional bet equal to his original bet, subsequently drawing one additional card only. Can only be used on the first two cards.

 

Even Money

When the dealer shows an ace and the player has a blackjack, the player can opt to take their winnings before the dealer looks at his other card, for even money that is paid immediately at 1:1.

 

Face Cards

Cards that have pictures on them - Jack, Queen, King - and are valued at 10.

First Base

The seat that is located to the dealer’s left; first to receive cards.

Flat Bet

Betting the same amount, hand after hand, regardless of the cards dealt.

Free Roll

A situation with no risk, i.e. a free bet/wager, normally offered by a casino to get players to the table. 

 

Handheld Game

The dealer holds the cards in their hands as opposed to a shoe. 

Hard Total

The value of the cards in a hand, with Ace counting as 1.

Head On or Heads Up

One player alone at the table versus the dealer.

Hit

To ask the dealer for another card.

Hole Card

The dealer’s card which remains face down until players have resolved their hands.

 

Insurance

When the dealer shows an ace, the player can choose to place a side bet of up to half the value of the original bet. If the dealer has blackjack, the bet pays 2:1. 

 

Marker

When the player runs out of cash and chips, they can sign an IOU to the casino in exchange for chips.

 

Natural

Receiving 21 - a blackjack.

 

Pair

Two cards of a similar worth, including face cards.

Pat Hand

A hand of 17 or over, because typically you’d stand pat.

 

Face Up Blackjack

All cards are dealt up for everyone to see.

 

Pit Boss

The casino supervisor for table games.

 

Push

A tie; the player and dealer have the same value hands. In many games, the player has their wager returned, neither winning nor losing money.

 

Reds

$5 chips.

Round

The round starts with no cards on the table and ends when all bets have been paid out. 

ROR

This is an abbreviation for Risk of Ruin. The mathematical chance of losing your entire bankroll. 

 

Shoe

The device containing the decks of cards that are to be used in the game.

Soft Hand

A hand containing an Ace that is valued at 11. You cannot go bust if you hit as the Ace can change to a 1, hence a soft hand.

Split

When the player receives two cards of equal value, they can split into two separate hands, matching their original bet on the secondary hand. Each hand is played separately.

Stand

To stop receiving cards from the dealer. Also, stick in the blackjack variant Pontoon.

Stiff

Any hard hand where it’s possible to exceed 21 by drawing another card, namely 12,13,14,15 or 16.

Surrender

To give up your hand and recover half your initial bet.

 

Third Base

Located to the dealer’s right, the spot that is last to bet.

 

Up Card

The dealer’s card that is face up. 

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