Blackjack Terminology

Terminology used in Blackjack

Before we start the terminology list, let us remind you that no matter what your level is, this can be handy reference, to refresh your knowledge of what the terms mean. The terms, words and expressions below, are widely used in all sorts of Blackjack games. You can also read the list to get tips on how you can excel more and more in your playing. With the mastering of the terms, you will master the game further too.

Given that Blackjack is immensely popular the world over, the terminology used when it is played is popular as well. Being knowledgeable about the terms will aid you in your winning your hand. With it, you can understand each of the moves in the course of the game.

Blackjack Terminology

In the explanations you come across the words he, or his, or him, these are used to make explanations simpler, but they apply to both gentlemen and ladies.

Knowing the terms, and, too, the rules, will help to play successfully. So after learning the basic terms, or brushing up your knowledge of them, please also remember the following:

Before you start gaming, you must see the sign on the table, beside the Dealer. There you will see how the running of the game is done, what the dealer does, etc. Use that information, too, and check in the terms wherever you need.

One more rule is helpful. If the game course develops so that you start being dealt losing hands, better take a break to relax, and thus regain your concentration.


21, or Twenty-One: The other name the game is known by; also, the total you must strive for in it.

5-6-7 Card Charlie: A combination of 5, 6, or 7 cards which total 21, or less, taken together.

Action: The total bet amount made for a specific time period. The comps you get will be based on it in the Blackjack session.

Action Jackson:  If a player plays for hours, he is an Action Jackson.

Anchorman: The player sitting closest to the dealer's right. The anchorman is dealt the last, before the dealer. Not recommended for novices. If you choose that position, do not let the other players confuse you. The best position which is auspicious for card counters.

Automatic Shuffle Machine: The machine doing the shuffling after penetration point, or cut card is reached. Differs from a Continuous Shuffle Machine.

Back Counting: Counting when not in the game, and usually waiting to join the gaming when the opportunity comes.

Back Line: A wager held among players, discouraged by casinos, as nothing comes to the house.

Back of the House: The casino areas for staff; not for players: the cashier’s office, the vault, the areas inside the tables.

Backing Up: Reconstructing done to the original hand. It is done by the dealer to prove the total.

Bankroll: The starting money for a player, money used to bet. Often used to mean buy-in. The chips in the dealer’s rack is the house bankroll. "To bankroll" means to give a player money for betting.

Bar: To exclude a player from the specific game, or from the speciifc casino.

Barber Pole: A bet with chips of diverse denominations, also referred to as Rainbow Bet.

Basic Strategy: A computer-based playing method for Blackjack, easy to memorize without card counting. In fact it is a mathematical system, with the goal of bringing the house edge to the lowest.

Batch Shuffle Machine: A machine using two card sets. One set is used for the shoe; the other set is shuffled continuously. This machine is different from an Automatic Shuffle Machine.

Betting Limits: The wagers that are minimum and maximum at a table, allowed by the house. The limits can be, too, the ones applicable for all the casino tables.

Terminology used in Blackjack

Betting Ratio: The comparison between the highest and the lowest bets by a player; can be useful for exposing card counters.

Betting the Count: Betting a number of units that equals the current count value.

Blackjack: A hand of an Ace plus a 10-value card (10, Jack, King, Queen). The total is 21 and usual pay is 3-2, except after Aces splitting. Payout rules vary for casinos. Please also read about Payout Ratios.

Bottom Dealing: Usually a cheating method; in it, the dealer deals a card, or cards, taken from the deck bottom.

Break – Broke: Taking "hits”to get your total to over 21. That is an immediately losing hand.

Break Down: Dividing a chips stack to make counting easy. Breaking down can be by color, and then the stacks of the same color can be broken into amounts that can easily be totaled.

Breaking Hand, or Breakable Hand: A hand in which breaking, or going over 21, can be accomplished with a one-card draw.

BSE: Abbreviation for Basic Strategy Edge.

Burn Card or Cards: The first card, or cards, in a deck which is newly shuffled, and not dealt, but discarded immediately. Such cards are not usually shown face up, and that can affect card counting.

Burned: Discarded: used about the first card after deck cutting, so the player cannot see the card’s value.

Bust, or Busted: A losing hand in which the value is over 21. If a new card brings your total to over 21, you "bust".

Bust Hand: A hand with a total of 12 or higher which can "bust" in the following hit. Or a hand which, if hit, will likely bust.

Bust Out: Leave the game after losing your whole stake.

Buy In: The money amount, in cash or chips) you use to enter the game.

Cage: The cashier's cage, where you can redeem chips for cash, cash checks, get credit, etc.

Card Sharp, or Card Shark: An expert on cards.

Charlie: See more in 5-6-7 Card Charlie

Cheque: The same as a chip.

Chip: A plastic disk substituting money and used to bet. Denominations usually include $1, $5, $25, $100, $500.

Comp: Complimentary. If you bet large amounts, you get comps like a free room or food.

Continuous Shuffle Machine (CSM): The machine which shuffles cards continuously; also used as the shoe. After several hands the discards go into the machine, and are shuffled into the deck again. Differs from Automatic Shuffle Machine.

Counting Cards: The player’s ability to memorize the cards played, and judge which cards have remained in the shoe. By counting the player can grasp when the game is becoming favorable for him, so that he can, accordingly, place larger bets or change his strategy. Many casinos will send players doing it away, though this practice of counting is not illegal.

Cut: To split the deck before dealing.

Cut Card : A solid plastic colored card the dealer gives to a player to cut the deck after shuffling.

D9: Double on 9, or double on 10, or double on 11; only for hard hands.

D10: Double on 10, or double on 11; only for hard hands.

Deal: To give out the cards in a hand.

Double Down: Double the initial bet and get just one more card. After that, no more hits are allowed. Double Down applies for the first two cards. The signal meant for the dealer, when a player wants to Double Down, is when the player doubles his bet.

Double Down Rescue: Only for non-standard Blackjack variations, e.g Spanish 21. You can take back the last bet portion you have doubled, forfeit the other half, and end the hand. Another term is Surrender.

Double Double Down: Only for non-standard Blackjack variations, e.g. Spanish 21. You can take hits following the first Double Down, by doubling your bet for one more hit.

Double for Less: Double Down for a lesser amount than your original bet. But typically you can raise by any amount up to your original bet.

Double On Anything (DOA): This doubling is done on your first two cards.

Draw: Add a card, or take a hit, to get nearer 21, but not exceed it. Another term is "hit".

Drop Percentage: The win percentage for the casino expected, on basis of house percentage. Or the player’s first stake that he will finally lose. The percentage is about 20%.

Early Surrender: Surrender even when there is a Blackjack with the dealer.

Even Money: When you have a Blackjack, and for the dealer an Ace is showing, there is a potentiality of a Blackjack. When the dealer pays your Blackjack 1-1, not 3-2, that is Even Money, and your payout is guaranteed, though lesser than expected. Refer also to Payout Ratios.

Face Card: A Jack, or Queen, or King, with a value of 10.

First Base: That is the first seat, to the dealer’s left. The player sitting there is the first to act on his hand.

Flat Bet: This bet is never changed by you. Opposite to is Progressive Bet.

Foreign Chip: That chip is issued by one casino, and then can be accepted by another casino as cash.

Full No Peek: When the dealer does not check for Blackjack until before all the players have had turns, no matter what the dealer’s up card is. Compare with “No Peek" and "Peek".

Grinder: A player betting small.

Blackjack Terminology Explained

Hard Count : True face value for a hand.

Hard Hand: A hand with no Ace, or an Ace which can be counted as 1 only. Compare with Soft Hand.

Head On: Playing with the dealer only, one on one.

Heads Up: Playing with the dealer only, one on one.

High Roller: A player placing large bets.

Hit, or Hit Me -- To add a card to the hand when you want to approach 21, but not go over. You can say "hit me", or scrape your cards on the table.

Hole Card: It is dealt always face down, usually the first card the dealer takes.

House: The casino.

House Edge (Percentage): The casino's percentage, or advantage in the game. That is the mathematical edge that the casino will have, so the probability for winning is the edge, or the advantage. When the casino wins, the player loses. You will find the advantage shown in terms of percentage. For players, the advantage comes when a strategy is applied, so the player can reduce the casino’s, or house’s, edge.

Late Surrender: Allowed only after the dealer has done the checking for a Blackjack. If it is seen he has Blackjack, the effect for the player is losing the entire bet. The opposite situation has a less unfavorable effect for the player: he loses half his bet.

Marker: Also IOU: credit line by the casino provided for a player.

Mid-Shoe Entry: When a player enters the game in progress. Card counters can benefit from it.

Natural: The Natural is the total 21 you get for the first two cards that are dealt for you, an Ace plus a 10-point card.

No Peek: When the dealer does not check for Blackjack if the card up is 10, or sometimes 10 or Ace. Read, too, "Full No Peek" and "Peek".

Pair: Formed by a player’s first two cards when they have the same number.

Pit: The area which is enclosed between the gaming tables.

Point Count: In card counting, the net counted at the hand’s end, of the cards played in that hand.

Preferential Shuffling: Making the deck to be less favorable for you and the other the players. It is not done when it is unfavorable.

Press: To increase your bet size. See more at Progressive Betting below.

Progressive Betting: A bet increase system. Players can double bets after wins, reduce them following losses, or, after 3 wins consecutively, return to the original bet.

Push: A tie, made between the dealer and the player, when no money will change hands.

Rainbow Bet: A bet with chips having diverse denominations. Or a stack of chips with different colors, stacked improperly. Another term is Barber Pole.

Rich Deck: A deck which is partial and has an excessively high percentage of Aces and ten point cards.

Resplitting of Aces (RSA): Resplitting of Aces allowed.

Running Count: Refers to card counting. Done from the start of the deck or shoe. This counting is possible after the cards have been exposed.

S17: All 17’s for the dealer, soft or hard.

Scratch: It is done on the table, when you want to request a hit.

Second Base: A player sitting between other players, who is not the first or the last, or sitting dead center and directly opposite the dealer.

Second Dealing : Generally a cheating technique: the dealer deals not the first, but the second card.

Settlement: The end of the hand and the bet payout.

Seven Card Charlie: Refer to 5-6-7 Card Charlie.

Shill: An employee for the house pretending to be a player and betting to attract customers. Shills can be easily noticed: they follow the same rules as the dealer.

Shiner: A device with reflective properties, whose purpose is to enable the glimpsing at the hole card of the dealer.

Shoe: A box where up to eight card decks are kept. The shoe is used in multi-deck games.

Shuffle: Remix the cards, typically by cutting and riffling them.

Shuffle Up: Shuffle prematurely, to harass a player that attract suspicion as a possible card counter. That is done before the cut card appears. Refer also to Preferential Shuffling.

Silver: Silver dollars, or metal tokens for gaming used instead of $1 chips at some casinos.

Single Deck: One deck comprising 52 cards.

Six Card Charlie: Refer to 5-6-7 Card Charlie.

Size Into: To use a chips stack which has been counted already; that is a measure for another, not counted yet, stack.

SME10: Means that only the same tens can be split.

Soft Hand: When the player has an Ace counted as 11, the hand is soft. The player cannot bust by means of taking one more card. 11 plus any other card will always total less than 21 or equal to it. Compare with Hard Hand.

Soft Game: A game with many unskilled players taking part.

Spanish Deck: A deck having 48 cards, like standard decks, but without without the tens.

Split Hand: The player can make two autonomous hands. One begins with two cards with identical value. For the second hand, a new bet is made, and is played separately.

Split Pairs: When the player’s first two cards have identical values. The player adds a new bet, identical to the original bet, to the second hand. The hands are played individually. Your doubling the bet is a signal for the dealer that you intend to Split the pair. For Split Aces, only one hit for each is allowed.

Spooking: When the player stands behind the dealer, with the aim of taking getting a peek of the hole card, to give information to another player of the table; a cheating technique.

Spread: Place more than one bet, before the card dealing.

Spread The Deck: The cards on the table are arranged face up, spread out, so players can check the decks are complete. That is a typical action in the opening of a table.

Stack: A stack comprises 20 chips in the rack.

Stake: The starting amount for the player, the amount he is going to bet with.

Stand: Also called Stay. Indicates the player’s satisfaction with his hand, so that the player wants no more hits. When you want to request a stand, you sweep your hand, with the palm down. Or, when you are holding cards, you pit the cards on the table, with a corner that is tucked under your bet.

Stay: Refer to Stand.

Steaming: The making of mistakes when a player is upset.

Stiff: A hand which could go bust, or total over 21, when one more card is added. With a stiff, the chance of winning is small, no matter how the hand is played.

Straighten The Rack: To order the chips in the rack, in 20-chip stacks, to enable the pit boss to easily count their total value.

Strategy: The strategy for playing which can minimize the house edge, with no card counting, no dealer tells, or no shuffle tracking.

Stripping Tthe Deck: Shuffling in which a couple of cards are dropped alternately, from the deck top and the deck bottom.

Suit: Refers to any of the four catefories for cards: Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs, Spades.

Suited: Having the identical suit.

Surrender: Available in some casinos; must be done before any hits are taken. For more details, read about Early Surrender and Late Surrender.

Tell Play: Watching the dealer’s expressions and body language, to guess his hand.

Third Base: At the table, the last seat, in the position immediately located to the dealer’s right. The player there will act the last. Other names are Anchor, or Hot Corner.

Toke: To tip the dealer.

Up Card: The dealer’s Face Up card in his original hand. It is an important one, and players must factor it in, when they plan their further course of playing.


As you play, you will find more terms, and you will pick more terms, especially slang ones. The list above is an attempt for the basic terminology.

Some terms are easy to grasp, even for a novice. By and by you will learn the essential terms. The game can often get intense, so knowing the proper terms will help you not to lose your confidence. Then you will stay in control of decisions in the game.

For more practice, you can also look for movies showing the game, like the “21” movie. Blackjack becomes increasingly more understandable when you know what language is used, so each opportunity to revise or learn terms is to your benefit.