Blackjack Glossary: Terms, Expressions, Slang and Lingo

Table of Contents

Blackjack is the most popular casino game in the entire world. But being that popular does not make it easy and simple. There are numerous terms, strategies, moves, and techniques blackjack players can use to tip the odds in their favor when betting against casinos. Many blackjack masters wrote and published books detailing the game and the ways to beat both the game and the casinos. 

Here is a list of over 120 terms with descriptions and explanations that every blackjack player must know about:

0

86’d

When a blackjack player is 86’d by a casino, it means the player is banned and no longer allowed to enter that casino property anymore.

A

Ace

In blackjack, ace cards are counted as both one and eleven.

Ace Side Count

Card counting method where players can memorize how many aces have been played out.

Ace Rich/Ace Poor

Ace Rich deck stands for a deck that has more aces than a regular, statistically probable deck. Ace Poor deck is the very opposite.

Action

The betting money gets called out by the game host. Action can represent the total sum of bets or a singular wager amount.

Advantage

Statistical chance someone has over someone. In a blackjack community, the advantage is held by the casino due to the higher mathematical chances that the player’s bets won’t win out.

Advantage Player

A blackjack player who turns the advantage to his or her side by card counting, which is explained further down the list.

Al Francesco

Called “The Godfather of Blackjack”, he is a gambling strategist hailed for original and successful card counting strategies of team play concept, big player strategy, and drop card method.

Anchorman

The Anchorman represents the final player before the turn ends and the dealer starts a new round. Such a position allows maximum input of intel about the bets, players, cards, and potential moves.

B

Back Counting

An action of counting cards as a spectator, not as a blackjack player. It can be useful when negative counting (more on that later).

Back Off

Similar to getting 86’d, “back off” from the casino means they want the player to lay off playing blackjack at their casino. This still leaves the possibility of playing other gambling games.

Bankroll

The amount of money a player is willing to bet in a game of blackjack. It never includes additional money.

Balanced Count

A card counting strategy where the balance of negative cards is equal to the balance of positive cards. At the end of the full deck, the balance must amount to zero.

Barber Pole

A name given to the technique of sorting out colored betting chips. Lowest lowest-value chip goes on top and the highest-value chip goes on the bottom so that both players and dealers understand the wager as easily as possible. 

Basic Strategy

The standard blackjack playing strategy. There is no card counting involved and the player focuses on the cards in their hands and the face-up card from the dealer.

Bet Spread

It stands for the minimum-to-maximum bets a player is limited to make during the game. For example, 1-4 Bet Spread means there is a minimum of one bet by the player and a maximum of four bets during one game. A bigger spread means more potential winnings, but also more interest attracted from the casino staff.

Big Player

A card-counting method was invented by the aforementioned Al Francesco. In this method, one member of the card-counting team makes big bets only when the count favors him. 

Black Book

A list of banned blackjack players. Nowadays, it's not a book but an online database.

Black Chip

A chip worth 100 dollars.

Brown/Chocolate Chip

A chip worth 5000 dollars!

Burn Card

That first card after a new deck shuffle gets discarded and placed face-down.

Bust

When playing blackjack, the goal is that your cards’ sum is close to or equal to 21. And when the player’s hand or the dealer’s hand goes above 21, it’s a bust. Hence sometimes blackjack is also called 21.

Bust Card

That final card that tips the player’s or dealer’s hand above 21.

C

Cage

Casino location where players can buy and acquire betting chips. Visually resembling a bank or a bank safe, hence the name.

Camouflage

A number of ways players can hide their blackjack skills to appear inept or unskilled to casino staff so they won’t be removed from the table, the game and/or the casino.  

Card Sharp

Nickname for card experts and blackjack maestros.

Card Counting

Multiple different systems exist where players try to memorize and count high and low cards that have been played already in order to mathematically deduce the right moment to bet when there are favorable odds. 

Carnival Games

Casino Games similar to Blackjack. The most popular ones are Let It Ride, Ultimate Texas Hold’em, and Mississippi Stud.  

Cash Transaction Report (CTR)

Obligatory report the casino must make to the FBI when there are cash transactions above 10,000 dollars in one business day to one casino player.

Charlie Rule

A blackjack rule that automatically wins the game if a player has a card value under 21 even with five cards in hand. There are multiple variations on this rule, ranging from 6-card Charlie to 10-card Charlie, and in some casinos a natural blackjack will still win the game against a standard 5-card Charlie.

Color Up

A process of exchanging numerous chips for higher-value chips that are in different colors. For example, instead of having 50 Black Chips, a player can color up to 1 Brown/Chocolate chip.

Cut Card

This Card is made of plastic, placed inside a deck, and used by casino dealers as an indication to reshuffle the deck of cards.

CVCX

A software designed by Norm Wattenberger to simulate players’ bets, bet spreads, card counting, and risk. It is also called Casino Verite Chapter X.

D

D9/DA2/DAS rules

The D9 rule means the player can only double on hands that are 9,10 or 11 in value.

The DA2 rule means the player can double any two cards.

The DAS rule or Double-After-Split rule stands for doubling down on one or both sets of cards when a player splits his hand in two and receives additional cards for both sets. If used at the right time, it can lead to major bet wins. 

Dealing Seconds

Another cheating dealer technique is where the dealer can deal the second card in the deck if the first one could bring an advantage to the player. Made practically impossible by the inclusion of the shoe (later explained).

Deck Penetration

The percentage of cards that are played out before the dealer reshuffles the deck.

Deviations

Moments when the player decides to deviate from the basic strategy because the EV has changed. EV will be explained further below.

Discard Tray

Used by the dealer as a place to put discarded or played-out game cards. Keeps the game table clean and helps focus everyone on the game. 

Double Down

One of the best-known bets in blackjack. Most casinos allow the player to double down only when the first two cards have been dealt, not later. After that, the dealer will give the player only one new card until the very end of the game. The player then waits for the dealer’s hand to see if the bet has paid off. Doubling down is very risky, but the double payout is extremely tempting.

Double Exposure

Unique variant of the casino blackjack. In Double Exposure, the dealer’s first two cards are positioned face up and the player knows much more intel than in a standard game of blackjack. However, this variant plays without Insurance or Surrender options.

Don Johnson

Professional Blackjack gambler who won over 15 million dollars from casinos during 2011 without any card counting strategies.

E

Early Surrender

Old Atlanta strategy that is hardly used anywhere in the world where players give up after being dealt the first two cards, but before the dealer checks for blackjack. 

Edward Thorp

Called “The Father of Card Counting”, Edward Thorp is a mathematics professor, hedge fund manager, and blackjack researcher who wrote a book “Beat the Dealer” where he explained how card counting can beat the odds of the house (casino) against the player.

Even Money Bet

Side bet which the dealer offers if the player has a blackjack (ten-value card + Ace) and the dealer has an Ace as a face-up card. This side bet ensures that the player wins the same amount that he/she bet, which can be useful if the dealer has a blackjack too that would win the game for the dealer.

Expected Value (EV)

EV is a constantly changing value of a certain time period in a blackjack game. It is based on how much the player’s hand is worth in situations during the  game.

Eye in the Sky

Casino cameras that are placed on monitor seats, tables, hallways, and casino restaurants. The Eye in the Sky checks on players, guests, and spectators in order to catch those who are involved in illegal or unallowed behavior at a casino.

F

False Shuffle

Cheating technique by the dealer when he/she intentionally manipulates deck shuffling so that it is not random.

First Base

The seat on the far left of the dealer’s table. The player sitting at first base gets the first cards and gets to play each hand first.

First-basing

A controversial technique with which the player sitting at first base can gaze at the face-down cards the dealer is dealing to other players if the dealer is not very careful. Explained in detail in the book “The Counter” by Kevin Blackwood.

Flat Bet

Flat betting allows players to keep a consistent strategy by betting the same amounts from their bankroll on every successive game. 

Four Horsemen of Aberdeen

James McDermott, Herbert Maisel, Wilbert Cantey, and Roger Baldwin were four US Army engineers who are credited as creators of the Basic Strategy. Named after the army facility Aberdeen Proving Ground where the four men met and took an interest in blackjack.

G

Graveyard Shift

Dealer’s work shift which often included late night or early morning hours. For example, Las Vegas casino dealers mostly work from 4 A.M. to 12 P.M.

Green Chip

A chip worth 25 dollars.

Griffin Book

It was a popular black book of card counters and casino fraudsters led from the 1960s by the Griffin Investigations who later went bankrupt after losing a libel case against Michael Russo and James Grosjean in the early 2000s. 

H

Half-Shoe

An instruction by the casino to the dealer to cut the shoe (later explained) in half. Also called 50% deck penetration.

Hard Hand

When a player has a hand without an Ace. Or with an Ace that is valued only as 1 and not 11.

Hard Total

Total sum of cards in the player’s hand which counts Ace as 1.

Heads Up

No other blackjack players on the table, only one player and the dealer.

High Roller

A term to describe a (blackjack) gambler who always bets high amounts of money.

Hit

Player’s instruction to the dealer for another card. It can be expressed verbally or with a simple finger tap on the blackjack table.

HIT 17 (H17) Rule

A dealer must take a hit if he/she gets a soft 17 hand (will be explained further down the list). This rule increases a player's chance to win as the dealer can go bust with the wrong next card. 

Hole Card

The dealer draws his/her first card face-up, and the second card is placed face-down. The dealer shortly peeks at that hole card and only reveals it when the hand completes a blackjack.

Hole-Carding

A play that can bring the player a big advantage over the dealer and the casino. Similar to first-basing, hole-carding stands for having a chance to peek at the dealer’s hole card at the right time and acquire valuable information.

I

Ian Andersen

Blackjack expert and Hall Of Famer, Andersen is the author of books Turning the Tables Las Vegas and Burning the Tables in Las Vegas in which he details high-stake card counting.   

Index

Refers to the integers (whole numbers) standing indicated by the deviations from the Basic Strategy. Based on these indexes, players decide when it’s best to change their blackjack strategy.

Insurance

If the dealer’s face-up card is an Ace, a side bet is offered to the player to insure him/her if the dealer’s hand ends up being a blackjack.

J

James Grosjean

Youngest ever Blackjack Hall of Famer, gambling expert, and book author best known for winning a litigation battle against Griffin Investigations, effectively bankrupting them and driving them out of business.

John Chang

Ran the MIT Blackjack team consisting of students and ex-students who won blackjack games against casinos from the 1980s to early 2000s by card counting, shuffle tracking, and ace sequencing. 

Joker

A blackjack variant where a singular Joker card is inserted into the deck. The value of the Joker card is whatever value (possible within the game) the player needs to win blackjack. 

Julian Braun

Called by many blackjack sites a “Blackjack Scholar”, Braun was an IBM programmer who took Edward Thorp’s findings and created more precise calculations that improved blackjack strategies. Later, he helped develop HI-Opt I and HI-Opt II counting systems.

K

Kelly Betting

A betting formula invented in the 1950s by John Larry Kelly, Jr. that is used to determine the most optimal bet sizes.

Ken Uston

A blackjack icon who perfected team play at card counting. After winning millions of dollars, he was banned from casinos until he filed a lawsuit and made sure that New Jersey casinos could not ban players simply for card counting.

L

Late Surrender

This allows the player to take back half of the bet when the dealer shows the hand. However, if the dealer has blackjack, the player cannot use late surrender.

Lawrence Revere

He was a professional blackjack player, casino pit boss, and like many of the icons in this glossary, author of books with card counting techniques that were hugely popular before his death in the late 70s. Today, those card-counting strategies are mostly obsolete.

M

Marker

A credit maximum that casinos loan gamblers has zero interest but must be repaid through a bank account in a short amount of time, usually 30 days.

Max Rubin

Gambling expert and gambling analyst who wrote a book on maximizing casino benefits with as little betting as possible. Also works as an advisor to casinos on how to spot cheating techniques from players.

Money Plays

When the casino allows the player to start with cash, rather than with betting chips.

MSE

Stands for Mid Shoe Entry. A player can enter the game at any period during the shoe (more on that term later).

N

N0/N-zero

This term is not very popular among blackjack players, but it stands for the amount of playing needed for the player to have at least an 84% chance to break even and recoup the initial bet. 

Natural (blackjack hand)

Natural 21 or natural blackjack means that the player received an Ace and a 10-point card in his/hers first two cards. If the dealer doesn’t have blackjack, too, the player wins 50% of the bet. Because the house rules for this hand most often stand at 3:2. 

Negative count

Indicates that there are more higher cards in the dealer’s deck.

NDAS Rule

No Double After Split. The player cannot double down after splitting the hand.

NMSE

No Mid Shoe Entry. The player cannot enter the game at any period during the shoe and must enter the game at the beginning. 

NRSA

No Re-Split Aces. Makes the player’s odds much lower against the casino and the dealer.

P

Pink Chip

A chip worth 2.50 dollars.

Pit Boss

Casino manager who delegates and supervises casino tables and casino dealers. 

Preferential Shuffle

An option by the casino to reshuffle the deck whenever they deem necessary. It can ruin the player's card-counting strategies.

Ploppy

A slang term indicating a player without the necessary skills to compete who runs on luck, superstition, or chance. The term was coined by gambling author Frank Scoblete. But nowadays it is used in an insulting and degrading fashion.

Pontoon

Automatic victory for the player happens when he/she draws an Ace with a King/Queen/Jack in the first two cards. 

Purple/Barney Chip

A chip worth 500 dollars.

Push

A tie happens when both the player and the dealer have hands that are equal in value. Nobody wins and nobody loses. 

R

Resplitting Aces

A common strategy in blackjack where players can resplit aces to have up to four hands from the initial one. Some casinos will allow only one splitting.

2460 words + 50/100 words introduction

Richard Munchkin

Writer, director, producer, pit boss, dealer, and full-time professional blackjack player, Munchkin wrote Gambling Wizards where he interviewed famous gamblers. He is famous for putting himself through college by winning backgammon and poker tournaments.

Red Chip

A chip worth 5 dollars.

Risk of Ruin (ROR)

ROR represents the mathematical probability of a player losing its total bankroll.

Round

In blackjack, the game first begins with players giving their bets before a hand is dealt to everyone included. Once the players have played their hands and the bets have been paid out to the dealer, the round ends. 

RSA

Resplit Aces (allowed). Increases the odds of players against the casino.

Running Count

Stands for the total sum of the count, of both positive and negative cards, throughout the game.

S

Session

Stands for the time spent engaged in a casino game of blackjack.

Shill

A casino employee placed at the blackjack table whose job is to provoke and motivate visitors into wagering and betting.

Shoe

A specific device used by the dealer that holds all the decks for a game of blackjack.

Shoe Game

Represents a blackjack game played from the shoe. Usually, the shoe is used for multiple blackjack sessions, while one deck or two deck games are dealt by hand without using the shoe.

Shuffle-tracking

Player strategy that can give an advantage against the casino. A technique that involves the player carefully observing played-out cards to deduce how reshuffling will impact future card dealing.

Soft 17 Hand

A hand with an Ace which is counted as 11. For example, a 6 and an Ace is a soft 17 hand, but also a 2,2,2 and Ace; and 3,3 and Ace. 

Soft Hand

A hand with an Ace which can be counted as 1 or 11. However, the player counts, if with that Ace, the hand doesn’t go over 21, it is called a soft hand.

Soft Total

Similar to Soft Hand, Soft Total is the complete number of cards in the player’s hand that does not go over 21.

Spanish 21

Blackjack variant where all numbered 10s are removed from decks. This leaves only 48 cards in each deck, but the player can still use the King, Queen, and Jack cards. 

Split

This move, mentioned earlier in different variations, is something a player can do only when the first two cards are of the same value.

Spooking

An illegal technique of intentionally spooking the dealer through a non-playing helper so that the player can check out the dealer's hole card better or longer.

Stand

The opposite of hit (receiving a new card). When the player chooses to stand, it means the dealer does not give him/her a card. 

Stand 17 (S17) Rule

Dealer must stand with a soft 17 hand. This rule decreases a player's chance to win as the dealer won’t have to draw the next card and potentially go bust. 

Stanford Wong

Blackjack Hall of Famer and author, Wong coined a new technique called “wonging” which took advantage of Mid Shoe Entry by observing tables without playing or betting and entering the game only when there are favorable odds of winning. 

Stiff Hand

When the total value of the cards in hand is from 12 to 16 any new card can bust the player.

Surrender

A player decides to drop out of the game before the end. It takes away half the player’s bet, but at least doesn’t risk the entire amount for the game.

Super Fun 21

A variant of blackjack where the player automatically wins if the player’s hand has six cards or more with a total value of 20. The player who manages that wins, even if the dealer has blackjack. 

T

Third Base

A different name for the Anchorman. By some, the most influential player position.

Toke

Toke or tip, also called toking or tipping. Experience gamblers use it to thank fantastic dealers for their gamesmanship and quality game management.

Tommy Hyland

Blackjack player, card counting expert, and Blackjack Hall of Famer, he is a leader of the longest-running and most successful blackjack team in the world - for more than 25 years. 

True Count

The whole deck count. Players can find out the True Count by dividing Running Count by the number of decks left to be used for games.

Two-round

Casino’s instruction to dealers to deal only two rounds before a reshuffle. It keeps players constantly on edge and is hard to take the advantage back from the casino.

U

Unit

Player’s standard bet amount. It also covers the player’s reputation and confidence. Some players will bet multiple units while some would bet only one unit per game.

Up Card

The first drawn dealer card that is placed face-up.

W

Whale

Casino term for a high-roller player.

Y

Yellow/Orange/Pumpkin Chip

A chip worth 1000 dollars.

Conclusion

It is worth noting that while these are most of the known and popular terms for blackjack, the best recommendation for amateur players and blackjack enthusiasts is to keep improving their game and continue learning and reading about all there is about blackjack year in and year out.

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