Blackjack Terms / Glossary

No one likes to be the beginner, the guy that doesn’t get it. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing or what game you’re playing — you want to fit in. The best way to fit in at the blackjack table is to first learn the rules so you don’t have to ask "What does xxx mean?" or "What is a xxx". The next best thing to do is learn the terminology — the lingo that people use at the blackjack table.That’s what I’m going to help you with now. What you’ll find below are over 100 different terms used in blackjack. In fact, many of these terms are universal gambling terms. Once you learn them you’ll have a leg up on any game that you want to learn how to play.

6-5 Blackjack Payout: An alternative payout amount to the traditional 3-2 payout. The 6-5 payout pays $3 less (for a $10 hand) than the 3-2 payout, increasing the house edge by 1.5%.

5, 6, 7 Card Charlie: A term used to describe when a player has hit their hand 5, 6 or 7 times without busting. This rule favors the players, which is why you won’t see it offered in many casinos.

2 through 6 Blackjack Bet: A side-bet that pays when the dealer’s up cards are a 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6 and the player has a natural blackjack. A blackjack of hearts will payout 40:1, and all others will payout 8:1. This side-bet has a house edge of 7.5%.

A-J Blackjack Bonus: A bonus that pays when a natural blackjack consists of an ace and jack. An ace/jack of spades will pay 50:1, any suited ace/jack will pay 25:1 and all other combos will pay 2.5:1.

Ace Tracking: When a player tries to figure out when an ace will be dealt based on the cards dealt to the other players.

Ace Adjustment: When the player adjusts his bet sizing in conjunction with how many aces he thinks is left in the deck. When the deck is "ace rich" players will increase their bet sizing. When the deck is "ace poor" they will decrease their bet sizing.

Ace-Five Count: A card counting strategy. Starting with a fresh shoe and a count of 0, you will want to subtract 1 for every ace, and for ever 5-point card you will want to add 1. Increase your bets with counts of +2 or more and decrease your bets when your count is below +1.

Ace Side Count: When a player keeps a separate count for only the aces, so that he can determine how ace-rich or ace-poor the deck is.

Ace Poor: A deck that has fewer aces in it is known to be "ace-poor."

Ace Neutral Count: A counting strategy that does not count aces. This strategy is ideal for single and double deck games.

Ace Rich: A deck with lots of aces is known to be "ace-rich."

Advantage: The edge the house has over the player, or vice versa. Usually written as a percentage.

Back Counting: Refers to a player that will stand behind the table and count cards. Once the count has reached a point where the advantage is in the player’s favor, he will sit down. Also known as "wonging."

Balance Count: When the count, in whatever counting strategy you’re using, is at 0.

Bar / Barring a Player: A player that the casino has banned from playing blackjack.

Basic Blackjack Strategy: A mathematic system that, when used, minimizes the houses’ edge. Usually available as a chart, these can be found online (to print), or at the blackjack tables.

Bet Spread: The range of bet sizing a player may make. For example, a bet spread of $5-$25 would mean that at a minimum you bet $5 per hand, and at a maximum you bet $25.

Blackjack: A hand valued at 21 points.

Blackjack Bankroll: An amount of money set aside for playing blackjack.

Bonanza Side Bet: A $1 side-bet made on the outcome of the player being dealt a hand valued at 20 points and the dealer a 10 point card (face up). Payouts vary from 10:1 to 25,000:1.

Bonus Spin Blackjack Bet: A side-bet that pays when the player is dealt a blackjack. Payouts are determined by a wheel that is spun before the hand begins, and consists of multipliers including 5, 15, 25, 20, 10 and 100x.

Buster Blackjack: A side-bet that pays when the dealer busts. The payouts vary depending on how many cards it took for the dealer to bust. The more cards it took the higher the payout.

Burn Card: The top card after the deck has been shuffled and cut. The burn card is placed at the bottom of the deck and is not dealt to players.

Bust / Busting: When the player and/or dealers’ hand exceeds 21 points.

Cage: The cashier.

Card Counting: Keeping track of different cards (aces, 5 and 10-point cards usually) to determine what cards are left in the deck that will improve your hand so you can alter your betting strategy. Popular card counting systems include the hi-lo, hi-opt I and hi-opt II.

Caribbean 21 Blackjack: A variation of blackjack that uses 8 52-card decks. Aces are always "hard," meaning that they always count as 1 point.

Chinese Blackjack: A variant of blackjack that is played the same as traditional blackjack, with one exception. Aces will carry different values depending on how many cards a player has been dealt.

Card Counting: Refers to various strategies that advanced blackjack players use to reduce the house edge. Most card counting strategies revolve around keeping track of aces, 5 and 10-point cards.

Cold Deck: Refers to a deck that has fewer aces and 10-point cards — cards that help players make blackjacks.

California Blackjack: A blackjack variation that uses 6 decks with the joker cards included. The joker is used as a wild card.

Color Up: When a lower denomination of chips are exchanged for a higher denomination of chips. For example, $5 chips are exchanged for $10 chips.

Camouflage: Describes various strategies players use to disguise the fact that they’re counting cards.

Comps: Refers to incentives and bonuses given to players (from the casinos) as a way to say "thank you" for spending money and/or being loyal.

Dare Any Pair: A side-bet that pays when a player is dealt a pair. Payouts depend on the number of decks in play.

Dealer: The casino employee that deals cards, keeps the game moving and takes/pays out bets.

Dealing Seconds: A method of cheating. The dealer deals the second card from the top to avoid helping a player, or to help himself.

Deck Penetration: Refers to how much of the deck is used before the dealer reshuffles.

Deviation: Deviating or moving away from basic strategy. Also refers to the amount of variation there may be from the "mean" or "average" in data that you collect and analyze.

Discards: Refers to cards that are not in play anymore.

Double / Doubling Down: A play where the player matches his original bet in exchange for (only) one more card. Then the player is forced to stand. When you’re allowed to double down will depend on the casino and the rules they use.

Doubles After Split: A rule (in more than one game) that allows players to double down after splitting a pair.

Double Deck: A game that is using two (2) decks of cards.

Double Exposure Blackjack: A variation of blackjack. Both the player and dealers’ cards are dealt face up. Players can only split hands once and all ties are player losses.

Downtown Vegas Blackjack: A variation of blackjack. Players can split up to 3 hands and double down at any time.

Draw / Drawing: When a player is hitting their hand. They’re "drawing" to a higher valued hand.

Drop: A deposit made by the dealer.

Early Surrender: When a player gives up half his bet to avoid losing the entire bet to a dealer 21.

Edge: Refers to the edge the house has over the players, or vice versa. Can also be applied to slots, video poker, roulette, craps, poker, etc.

End Play: The last few hands dealt/played before the deck is reshuffled.

EV / Expected Value / Expectation: The long term expectation for any given action. Usually written in terms of dollars.

Even Money: A payout that meets the wager. For example, a payout of $1 when a $1 bet was made would be even money.

Eye in the Sky: The cameras placed on the ceiling of a casino so that casino personal can make sure the casino is running smoothly and to spot cheaters.

Face Cards: Refers to kings, queens and jacks, all 10-point cards.

Face Up Card: The cards dealt face up.

False Shuffle: A cheating method used by dealers to prevent randomizing the deck.

First Base: The first seat at the blackjack table, starting on the right side.

Flat Betting: When a player makes the same bet without regard to the count.

Griffin Book: A book that contains a list of players blacklisted from casinos. Reasons vary from card counting to cheating.

Griffin Investigations: Private investigators that locate and expose cheaters and card counters. Known for stopping the MIT blackjack team and for creating the Griffin Book / database.

Hard Hand / Total: A hand that does not contain an ace, or a hand where the ace is used as 1 point.

Heads-Up: Describes a table with only one player (and the dealer).

Hi-Lo: A card counting system. +1 is assigned to cards 2-6, 0 for cards 7-9 and -1 for all face cards and aces.

Hi-Opt I: Same as the hi-lo count, except that 2s and As are given no value.

Hi-Opt II: A more complicated variation of the hi-lo and hi-opt I system.

High Stakes: Describes the games that are more expensive to play (per hand). $500 per hand would be considered by many as "high stakes."

High Roller: Someone that plays high stakes blackjack.

Hit: To ask for another card. Also referred to as drawing.

Hole Card: Cards that are dealt face down.

House: Another name for casino.

Index Number: Numbers that will tell players when it’s ok to deviate from basic blackjack strategy.

Insurance: An additional bet from the player that is half the size of their original bet, made to protect the player from losing his entire bet should the dealer have a (natural) blackjack.

Junket: A travel package for a group of players put together and paid for by the casino.

Kelly Betting: A betting strategy that says that players should be a percentage of their bankroll relative to the size of the edge they have in the game they’re playing.

Kelly Criterion: A mathematical formula — f = (bp – q) / b — that explains the Kelly Betting theory.

Knock Out: A card counting system that is identical to the hi-lo system, except that 7s are counted as +1. This system was designed to be easier for players to use. It’s less effective, though.

Late Surrender: A rule that allows players to surrender after seeing the dealer’s hole card.

Level: A system that categorizes how easy a card counting system is to use.

Mechanic: A player that cheats at blackjack using sleight of hand.

Money Plays: A play using real cash instead of chips.

Multi-Deck / Multiple Deck: Blackjack games where more than one deck is being used.

Natural (21 / Blackjack): When the player and/or dealer is dealt two cards adding up to 21 points.

Paint: Another term for face card. Refers to cards with pictures on them — jack, queen and king.

Past Post: A method of cheating where a player will add money to his wager after a hand is completed.

Pat Hand: A made hand.

Pit: The area surrounded by casino games.

Pit Boss: The casino employee that oversees the dealers and action on the floor. The pit boss handles disputes, complaints, etc.

Playing Efficiency: Refers to the accuracy of a card counting system.

Plus Minus: A nickname for the hi-lo card counting system.

Point Count: Refers to the value of the count (positive or negative).

Positive Count: When the count is +1 or higher.

Preferential Shuffle: When the deck is shuffled before all the cards are used. This is a strategy used to reduce the advantage of card counters.

Progression Betting: A betting system that increases when a player is winning and decreases when he is losing. Similar to the Martingale system.

Progressive Blackjack: A blackjack game with a side-bet. Part of the side-bet goes to a jackpot that is won when the winning combination is hit. Jackpots can vary from tens to millions of dollars.

Proportional Betting: Betting sizes made in relation to your advantage in the game. Also known as Kelly Betting or the Kelly Criterion.

Push: A tie between the dealer and player.

Rat Holing: A term to describe players that take chips off the table to disguise how much money they’ve won.

Red 7 Count: A counting system that uses both the KO and hi-lo system.

Re-split: When a player splits a hand more than once.

Rider Bet: A bet on a hand by someone not involved in the game. Also referred to as the "over the shoulder" bet.

Running Count: Also known as the point count. It’s the total number of points that has been calculated since the beginning of the deck.

Session: The amount of time a player has spent playing blackjack.

Shill: Out of uniform casino employees that sit down at empty tables to attract other players. Also known as prop players.

Shoe Game: Multiple deck tables dealt out of shoes.

Shuffle Master: A machine that shuffles cards for the dealers.

Shuffle Tracking: A method that players use to keep track of the high and low cards that have been discarded.

Side Count: Counts made in addition to traditional counting systems — aces and fives, for example.

Soft Hand: A hand consisting of an ace valued at 11 points.

Soft Double: A double down on a soft hand.

Stand: To stand pat.

Standard Deviation: How often an outcome will deviate from the average. This is used to determine variations in strategies and bankroll management in blackjack.

Stiff Hand: Hands that can bust if another card is added (12+).

Stop Loss Limit: A dollar amount a player is willing to lose before quitting.

Surrender: When a player gives up the hand they were dealt and are given half their bet back.

(Tag) Team Play: A group of players playing against the house.

Third Base: The first seat at the blackjack table if starting from the left side. The last player to receive his cards. Also known as the Anchorman.

Tipping: Gratuity paid to the dealer. Also known as a toke.

The Big Player: The player (on the team) that bets the big amounts when the count is in favor of the players.

The Gorilla: The player (on the team) that plays according to hand signals given to them from their teammates.

The Spotter: The player (on the team) that keeps a low profile, uses basic strategy and counts cards. This player signals the Big Player to start betting once the count is in their favor.

True Count: A running count divided by the number of decks left in the shoe. Usually estimated to the nearest half or full deck.

Up Card: Cards that are dealt face up that can be seen by everyone.

Unbalanced Count: A count where the positive and negative cards are not equal.

Unit: A term that describes a player’s betting amount. For example, if each of your bets are $10, $10 would be 1 unit.

Uston Count: A range of card counting strategies with difficulty varying from levels 1 to 3. Named after Ken Uston.

Variance: Refers to the ups and downs players will experience playing blackjack.

Vig: A term that describes the house’s cut, commission or fees.

Wonging: See Back Counting.

Win Rate: A player’s average hourly rate.

Whale: Describes a player that spends a lot of money at the casino. Also known as high rollers.

Zen Count: A level 2 card counting system from Arnold Snyder.