Blackjack Terms Explained

Casino card games can be tricky to understand. Not because the games are difficult, but because there’s so much terminology involved. When it comes to blackjack terms, there is a lot to get your head around. To make your life easier, we have put together this short glossary explaining what different blackjack terms mean and what they are for.

Blackjack Terms

86’d – An American slang term referring to when someone is thrown out from a casino for card counting.

Banker – The person looking after the money.

Balanced Count – A system of card counting that balances plus and minus playing cards. In this type of system, if the deck were counted down to the base the final amount would be zero.

Blackjack – A card game in which players must try to score 21 without going over it. The best possible hand in a game of Blackjack is using an ace and a card valued at 10 (i.e. 10, J, Q, K).

Bust – Going over the total of 21 – this means you lose.

Bust Card – The specific card that makes the person’s hand go over 21.

Basic Strategy – A blackjack strategy that will give you the best chance of winning. It’s a set of rules that tell you what you should do in any situation based on the odds of you winning or losing. Basic strategy is displayed visually on a chart to help you commit it to memory.

Card Counting – The art of remembering which cards have already been played from the pack and subsequently working out the probability of the draw. The idea is that if you know what cards are likely to come next, you gain an edge over the house.

Cut Card – A brightly coloured plastic marker card that shows where the person dealing must shuffle the cards (or shoe) again. It’s main purpose is to stop the bottom card of the deck being visible during play.

Double Down – Once a player has seen their first card in blackjack, they are allowed to ‘Double’ or ‘Double Down’. Doubling down is where you place another bet of the same amount as your first bet and then take another card. This is clearly something you’d do if you were confident of winning.

Even Money – This is when the house odds let you can win as much back as you bet. For example, if you tie with the dealer.

First Base – The gambling area to the dealer’s left-hand side. This is the first part of the table to receive cards.

Five Card Charlie – When you’re dealt five cards all in one hand without going ‘bust’. This is not very common, but sometimes casinos may offer 2:1 odds for it.

Hard Hand – Any hand that does not contain an ace presently being counted as 11.

Hit – or ‘twist‘ To ask the dealer for another card. If that extra card makes the total over 21, then the player is ‘bust’.

Hole Card – This is the second card to be dealt with the person dealing. That is dealt face down without being shown to any players until the point that they have had their go.

Insurance – If the dealer holds an ace, the players can place a side bet. The bet is half the value of the original bet and acts as insurance if the dealer wins. If the dealer gets blackjack, the player’s bet is given back, as well as the value of the first bet.

Natural – When you get a total of 21 using the first and second card e.g. ace + ten. This is sometimes known as “natural 21”.

Penetration – The percentage of cards dealt before the dealer reshuffles. The figure is unimportant to most players, but for card counters, knowing how many cards are left in the pack is useful.

Pitch Game – This is a game of blackjack where cards are dealt from the hand of the dealer using 1 or 2 decks of cards.

Push – Another word for a tiebreak situation. For instance, when the dealer and player have the same hands with the same total score.

Shoe – A box designed to hold multiple decks of playing cards at once. A shoe makes it easier for the dealer to handle the cards as he or she deals them out.

Shoe Game – The term used for a blackjack game where the cards are all dealt from a shoe. A shoe can hold up to eight decks of cards.

Soft Hand – A hand containing an ace valued at 11 (rather than one).

Split – When both of your cards are the same, you can ‘split’ and place a bet on each card. This leaves you with two hands to play with.

Stand – To stay with your current hand and not request any further cards.

Stiff – Any type of hard hand with the chance of getting 21 with one more card. This includes hands totalling 12, 13, 14, 15 or 16.

Steaming – A blackjack term referring to when somebody is hung up on with how their hand has come out. As a result, the player loses control of their emotions and becomes aggressive and reckless.

Surrender – To surrender is to abandon your hand while taking back half of your original stake.

Third Base – The betting spot found to the dealer’s right side which is last to act.

Up Card – The first card that the dealer turns over from the pack.

So there you have it – a short run down of the blackjack terms you’re most likely to come across in a casino. Now you’ve got your head around them, and you can get back to enjoying the game unphased by jargon.