Blackjack Glossary

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The purpose of The Blackjack Player’s Virtual Glossary is to provide both experienced and inexperienced players with a well written, authoritative reference that explains the interesting and colorful terminology encountered in the world of Blackjack Tournament play.

Following, you will find the vital inside words and phrases associated with Blackjack wherever it is played on the planet.  Most of them are right here. In addition, you will receive many solid hints on how to improve your play, and increase your winnings.  In effect, you just select whatever you need.

A sound grasp of the players’ vocabulary will not only enable you to better understand and enjoy your favorite sporting activities, but will also make you a better, more complete player.


Action – a general gambling term that refers to the total amount of money wagered within a specific period of time.  For example, ten bets, of 20 dollars each, amount to $200.00 of action. The term, action, typically refers to a wager of any kind.  The word, action, may also be used in much the same way that a movie director uses it. For example, if a player appears to be unaware that it is his turn to play, the dealer may say, “Your action, sir.”

Active Player – a player who is playing a hand during a Blackjack game, as opposed to someone who occupies a seat at the table, but is sitting out a hand.

Alpo – a dog, puppy or underdog, i.e., the team, side or contestant in any given event considered to be the least likely to win.

Anchor – the last player to the button holder’s right at the Blackjack table.


Back Counting – to count cards in Blackjack and wait for the count to become favorable before sitting down to play.  Back counting is usually done while standing behind the active players in the game.

Balanced Count – any counting system in Blackjack, which begins at zero when the cards are shuffled, and ends at zero when all cards in the deck(s) have been exposed.  Most counting systems use a balanced count.

Bad Beat – a tough loss, e.g., when winning points are scored against your wager in the dying seconds of an event, or your horse loses by a nose, after leading all the way, or to have a blackjack hand, that is an obvious underdog, beat a heavily favored hand.  A normal reaction of a losing player is to mumble something about dumb luck.

Banker – the dealer, or the player, who books the action of the other bettors at the table during a card game.

Bankroll – the total available chips held by the player.

Basic Strategy – a playing system adopted by a player with the idea of optimizing his edge over the house in the longer term.  Most strategies take into account the player’s cards and the dealer’s exposed card(s).

Basic Strategy (Blackjack) – a predetermined set of decisions a player should make to maximize his average gain or expectation, while he is playing a single hand against a deck(s) of cards. 

Bet – the amount of chips the player wagers on a card hand, or other game or sport.

Bet Spread – the ratio between the maximum and minimum bet size.  A game using $50.00 maximum bets and $5.00 minimum bets is using a 10:1 bet spread.

Betting Limit – the set minimum and/or maximum amount of chips that the player can wager on a single bet.  The player cannot bet less than the minimum or more than the maximum amount posted.

Blackjack – an ace and any card having a point value of ten dealt as the initial two cards to a player or a dealer, except that this shall not include an ace and a ten point value card dealt to a player who has split pairs.

BR – an abbreviation for bankroll.

Buck – a $100.00 wager.

Bust – to go over the total of twenty-one in the game of Blackjack.  If the player busts, he loses.


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Card Counting – keeping track of all cards that have been played since the shuffle.

Card Shark – a person who is an expert at cards.

Card Weight – the value assigned to each card face in a counting system.  This weight is added to the count as each new card is exposed. Weights are usually small integer values like minus one, plus one or plus two. 

Case – the last card of a certain rank in the deck, e.g., the case ten would be the last ten in the deck(s).

Cashier’s Cage – the place in a casino where players may redeem casino chips for cash, cash checks, or arrange credit.  It is often referred to as, the cage, for short.

Check – a term for a chip in casino gambling.  It also refers to the word, check, used by a poker player, who does not wish to bet on a round of cards, but wishes to stay in the game with an option to call or raise later in the betting round. 

Chips – round tokens that are used in tournaments.

Cold – a term for a player on a losing streak

Count – a number that represents the player’s estimate of how favorable or unfavorable the non-dealt cards in the deck may be. 

Counter – a player who counts cards.

Crack – to beat a hand, i.e., typically a big hand. 


Deal – to distribute the cards during a hand.

Dealer – deals the cards in the tournament.

Dime – the sum of $1000.00. 

Discard Tray – a tray on the dealer’s right side that holds all the cards that have been played or discarded.

Dollar – the sum of $100.00. 

Dollar Bet – a $100.00 wager.

Double Bet – a wager that is twice the amount of the player’s usual wager.

Double Down – to double the original bet in Blackjack in exchange for receiving only one more card.  To do this, the player turns over his first two cards and places an equal bet alongside the original bet.

Down Card – a card that has been dealt face-down on the Blackjack table.

Due For – a term referring to a contestant or team that is considered to be overdue for a win or loss in their next contest or sports event.  It could also refer to a losing player who is overdue for a good hand. The, due for, wager is a favorite strategy of many players.


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Edge – an advantage over an opponent, or the house, in any wager, or it can be the advantage that the casino has on any given wager.

Even Money (Blackjack) – when the player takes insurance even while holding a Blackjack.  This results in a clear net gain of one bet. Some casinos will allow the player to be paid without actually placing such an insurance bet.  This is called, taking even money. Also, see insurance. 


Face Cards – the jack, queen, and king of any suit of cards.

Favorite – the contestant, competing in any given event, that is considered to be the most talented or, otherwise, has the best chance to win.

Firing – the wagering of large sums of money, i.e., a player who does so is said to be firing.

First Base – the position on the far left of the dealer at the start of each hand at the Blackjack table is considered to be first base, and is the first position dealt during play

Flat Bet – a bet of the same amount on successive hands, which the player does not vary i.e., if the player makes a flat bet of five dollars, he is betting five dollars on each and every hand without changing the betting amount from one hand to the next.


Get Down – make a wager. 

Going Down – losing a wager, or series of wagers.

Green – the most common color used for $25.00 chips.

Grinder – a player who wagers small money.


Hand – the cards that the player holds

Hard Hand – any hand in Blackjack valued at eleven that does not contain an ace, or in which any ace held is counted as one and not as eleven.  This is also called a hard total.

Hit (Blackjack) – the card received from the dealer in Blackjack, when the player says, hit me, or otherwise indicates the need for an additional card.  Along with deciding whether or not to stand on a total card count, whether to take a hit or not is the most common decision a player must make during the game of Blackjack.

Holding Your Own – the result of breaking even, i.e., neither winning nor losing, during a wager, or series of wagers.

Hole-Card – any dealt card, which is played face-down on the table.  The definition most often refers to the dealer’s single, face-down card.

Hot – a player who is on a winning streak or a slot machine that is paying out.

House – a term for the establishment that runs a game.


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Insurance – a side bet in Blackjack of up to one half the original bet, that is offered only when the dealer’s up-card is an ace.  The insurance bet wins double, i.e., 2:1, if the dealer has a natural, but loses if the dealer does not. Also see even money. 


Layout – the imprinted surface of a gaming table, which shows all the areas where bets can be placed.

Limit – the maximum wager accepted in the game

Lock – an easy winner, or a clear no-lose situation. 

Longshot – an extreme underdog.

Loyalty Points – points earned toward prizes for playing at our site.


Natural – a two-card hand of twenty-one points in Blackjack, or a two-card total of eight, or nine, in Baccarat. 

Nickel – a $500.00 wager.

Nickels – a casino term for chips with a five-dollar denomination.


Odds – the ratio between the amount to be paid to the winning player and the amount bet.


Pat Hand – a good Blackjack hand worth at least 17 points.  The player, in such cases, is said to have a pat hand.

Payoff – the winning return or payout the player receives on a wager.

Player – a person playing in a tournament

Point Count – the net value of the card count at the end of a hand.  This is a card counting term.

Point Total – the total value of cards in a hand.

Press – to wager a greater amount than usual.

Press a Bet (Press) – to increase a bet by doubling it.

Pressing – wagering winnings along with the original bet.  A player is pressing a bet when he lets winnings ride.

Puppy – an underdog, Alpo or dog. 

Push – a tie hand between a dealer and a player where no money changes hands.  A push in the game of Blackjack occurs when both the player and the dealer have legitimate hands with the same total points. 


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Quarters – a term for chips of a twenty-five dollar denomination.


Rank – the numerical playing value of each card in a set of cards, as opposed to its suit.

Red – the most common color used for $5.00 chips.

Rich Deck – a partial deck that has a disproportionately high percentage of face cards and aces.

Round of Play – a period of play commencing with the removal of the first card from the shoe or shuffling device by the dealer and concluding when the dealer, after drawing the last card, announces a result and if applicable, pays out winnings.

Running Count – the total count of the weights of all cards that have been exposed since the cards were shuffled, i.e., from the beginning of a deck, or shoe.  The running count is updated by the value of the point count after each hand. 


Session – a series of plays during any gambling game.

Settlement – the last stage of any particular bet.  Either, the dealer takes the player’s chips, pays out player winnings or in the case of a push, exchanges no chips with him.

Shoe – a plastic or wooden box for holding and dealing multiple decks of cards used in Baccarat and Blackjack.  The shoe can hold up to eight decks of cards and is designed to enable a dealer to slide out one card at a time.

Short – a slang term for Alpo, puppy, dog or underdog.  It is often expressed as, the short.

Short Stack – a stack of chips in front of a player that is smaller than the stacks of the other players at the table.  If a player has $10.00 in front of him, and everybody else at the table has over $100.00, he is playing on a short stack.

Shuffle – to mix the order of the cards by hand prior to the start of a game.  The dealer normally does the shuffling.

Shuffle Tracking – a system used by card counters to predict which sections of the deck/shoe will be favorable to the player.  Shuffle tracking is based on studying the locations of favorable sections of the previous deck/shoe, as well as the method used by the dealer to shuffle the cards.

Shuffling Device – a card shuffling machine approved by the Casino Control Authority for use in the game of Blackjack, but does not include a multi-shuffler.

Side Count – a count in addition to the main count, usually involving a single card face, e.g., ace side count.

Soft Hand – any hand in Blackjack that contains an ace counted as eleven, without having the value of the hand exceed 21.  It is always possible to draw one card to a soft hand without busting. 

Split Hand – a hand in Blackjack, consisting of two dealt cards of the same rank, that is split to form two independent hands.  The split hand is played as two separate hands after the player adds a new bet to the second hand.

Spread Limit – a betting structure in which a player may bet any amount, within a set range, on every betting round.  A typical spread limit structure is $2.00 to $6.00, where a player may bet as little as $2.00 or as much as $6.00 on every betting round.

Stand – to refrain from taking another card in Blackjack; to stop at the current total and await the dealer’s total to see if the hand wins, loses or ties that of the dealer.  Along with taking a hit card, whether to stand or not is the most common decision a player must make during the game of Blackjack.

Standoff – a tie in cards between players, or among one or more players and the house.  When referring to a wager, it means that it shall neither win nor lose.

Star – a rating given to certain high performers. 

Stiff – a hand in Blackjack that is not pat, and may bust if hit once.  Stiffs include a hard twelve through sixteen. A stiff hand has a small chance of winning regardless of how it is played. 

Strategy Variation – varying a basic strategy when the count indicates that it is profitable to do so. 

Square – an unsophisticated player.

Surrender – to give up half the value of a bet for the privilege of not playing out a hand of Blackjack.  Some hands, such as a 16 against the dealer’s 10, are so bad that surrender is less costly than playing the hand.


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Tapped Out – a condition experienced by players who are broke (busted).  It is a common result of pressing.

Ten Poor – a deck that has a lower than average density of tens and face cards.

Ten Rich – a deck that has a higher than average density of tens and face cards. 

Third Base – the last player to the button’s right at the Blackjack table.

True Count – an adjustment to the running count, in order to account for the number of cards left to be dealt in the deck or shoe.  The true count usually is determined by dividing the running count by the number of undealt decks, or half-decks. 


Unbalanced Count – any counting system where a count starts or ends on a non-zero value.  Red seven is an example of an unbalanced count. Also, see balanced count. 

Underdog – the contestant in any given event considered the least likely to win.  See also short, puppy, Alpo, or dog.

Under the Gun – the position of the player who acts first on a betting round.

Unit – the dollar amount of a basic bet, i.e., one chip.

Up Card – the first card the Blackjack dealer deals himself that he places face-up for all players to see before they play their hands.  The player’s decision to draw or stand involves some consideration of the dealer’s up card. 


Victory Points – accumulate Victory Points to play in special free games

Void – means invalid with no result.


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