Blackjack Terminology and Slang

Written by: Joe Falchetti , Expert in Online Casinos, Sports Betting, and Poker

Do you know what an Anchorman is? What about a Pat Hand? Or what, precisely, does it mean to be 86’d? If you don’t, welcome to my glossary of blackjack terms.

I’ll give you a complete list of definitions of the most common words, old-school sayings, phrases, and concepts you’ll come across at the casino.

Blackjack Terms A – Z

Use the Buttons Below to Jump to the Definitions in Alphabetical Order

Terms From # to B


Another name for blackjack is 21. It is also the highest-valued hand you can have without busting.


A player is “86’d” if the casino removes them from a table or asks them to leave the establishment. That usually only happens if a player is rude or has been suspected of cheating.


The “A” card with one pip is the ace. It is the most powerful card in blackjack and can count as 1 or 11, depending on the other cards in your hand.

Ace Neutralized

An ace-neutralized count is a system that doesn’t calculate in aces for a running or true count. When counting with this method, you track the aces separately.

Ace Poor

A shoe is ace-poor when it produces fewer aces than expected at a certain point in the count.

Ace Reckoned

An ace-reckoned count is a system that factors the ace as a -1 in the running count.

Ace Rich

A shoe is ace-rich when it produces more aces than expected at a certain point in the count.


The action is the amount of money you wager in a given blackjack session. It also refers to the amount of cash being bet on any particular hand.

Advantage Player (AP)

An advantage player is anyone that uses bonuses, mathematical strategy, and advanced tactics like card counting to gain an edge over the house.

Anchor / Anchorman

The anchor spot is the last filled seat to act before the dealer. The anchorman is the person in that seat.

Back Counting

Back counting is when card counters analyze a table before taking a seat. They want to determine when the running count is at its best, so they can enter the game opportunely. This tactic allows them to make larger bets without looking like an advantage player.

Backed Off

Getting backed off is when the casino asks you to stop playing at a table. They may do this to players caught counting cards or doing something else that gives them an extra edge.

Balanced Count

Card counters refer to a running count of zero as a balanced count. Additionally, a balanced card-counting system results in an even count at the end of the shoe.


A bankroll is the total amount of money a player has assigned for gambling purposes.


If you are barred from a casino, you are permanently banned from playing there. They typically only do this if you’ve been caught cheating or counting cards for advantage play.

Some establishments take this ban very seriously. In some cases, returning to the property after being barred could even result in trespassing charges.

Basic Strategy

Blackjack’s basic strategy is the mathematically correct time to hit, stand, double, split, or surrender in any given situation. There is even a chart that tells you what decisions to make based on your and the dealer’s starting cards.


Your bet is the amount you wager on a hand.

Bet Sizing

Bet sizing is when you alter the amount you bet based on additional information. Many card counting systems have bet sizing factors built in so you increase or decrease your wagers with the count.

Alternately, you may be flat betting to manage your bankroll but decide to up the stakes after increasing your chip stack.

Bet Spread

The bet spread is the difference between a player’s largest and smallest bet.

Big Player

The big player is the member of a blackjack team that sits down and starts betting big when the count is good.


Game – The game of blackjack is a casino card game that players win by having a higher total than the dealer without going over 21.

Hand – The best possible blackjack hand is a natural blackjack. It occurs when a player gets an ace and a ten, jack, queen, or king on their first two cards.

Black Book

The casino’s black book is their list of banned players.

Blackjack Team

A blackjack team is a group of people who cooperatively play in a casino. Each person has a role and a specific job to assist the team.

Burn Card

A burn card is a discarded card that isn’t used in any hands. When a table gets a new dealer or the shoe gets shuffled, they will burn the card on the very top of the deck.


A bust occurs when a player’s or dealer’s cards add up to a value greater than 21, resulting in an instant loss.

Bust Card

The bust card is the one that results in the player or dealer reaching a hand value over 21.

Buy-In / Ante

A buy-in is an amount a player wagers to join a blackjack hand.

Terms from C to E

Card Counting

Card counting is an advanced strategy that aims to predict the next card in the shoe by keeping note of all the cards that have been played to that point.


Chips are clay or plastic discs that have a monetary value in the casino. You use them when you place your bets.

Chip Tray

The chip tray is the rack where the dealer keeps the table’s chips. It has organized rows of colored chips of all denominations and is usually near them on the felt.

Cold Shoe / Cold Deck

A cold deck or shoe is what players say when a string of bad cards gets dealt.

Color Up

Coloring up is when a player asks the dealer to exchange several smaller-valued chips for one of the larger denominations.

Continuous Shuffling Machines (CSMs)

Continuous shuffling machines automatically shuffle discards back into the shoe after every hand. These devices prevent card counting and even affect the house edge when you play with the basic strategy.


The counter is a blackjack team member who determines the running count of a deck. They are in charge of signaling to other teammates when to place bigger or smaller bets.

Cut Card

The cut card is a plastic card that is used to split the deck. It remains on the bottom of the deck after the cut, so no card gets revealed to anyone.

Cutting the Deck

Cutting the deck is the act of switching the order of two segments of cards in a deck or shoe. The dealer determines the spot to cut a deck by asking one player to insert the cut card anywhere they wish in the stack of newly shuffled cards.


The dealer is a casino employee that handles the cards and manages the money at the table. They remove your bets if you lose and award you chips if you win. The dealer also operates the game according to the table and house rules.

Deck Penetration

Sometimes referred to as “pen,” deck penetration is the percentage of cards a casino plays out of a shoe before reshuffling the cards and starting over.


A deviation is any play that doesn’t follow the best basic strategy. Sometimes players deviate from the chart based on a gut feeling or a favorable running count.


All cards from the previous rounds and any burnt cards are the discards. They sit in a stack off to the side until the shoe gets depleted, and they get shuffled back into the deck.

Double / Double Down

Doubling down is when you double your wager for one additional card to get added to your hand. You can only do this after seeing your cards. Plus, some casinos only allow it on specific hand values.

Early Surrender

Early surrender lets you recover half of your original wager by discarding your hand, and can be done before the dealer peeks at their hand for blackjack.

Even Money

Even money, also 1:1 or 1-to-1 payout, is any prize that pays equal to your bet. At most tables, non-natural blackjack wins pay even money.

Expected Value (EV)

The expected value of a particular play is the mathematically calculated advantage you should see, whether positive or negative.

Terms from F to K

Face Cards

Jacks, queens, and kings of all suits are called face cards. They have a value of ten in blackjack.

First Base

The first base seat at the blackjack table is where the first player to act sits. This position is on the dealer’s left-hand side. First-basing is a technique some players use to try to see the dealer’s down card by sitting in this position.

First Basing

First-basing is a technique where a player tries to see the dealer’s down card when sitting in the first base position.

Flat Bet

Flat betting is making the same bet every hand.

Halfing the Shoe

Halfing the shoe is when the casino asks the dealer of a table to cut the remaining shoe in half. It effectively kills any running counts. They may do this when they suspect advantage players are gaining an edge over a specific table.

Handheld Game

A handheld game is any table where the dealer holds the cards and deals directly without a shoe. These are usually single or double-deck blackjack games.

Hard Hand

A hard hand is one without an ace or one with an ace that must have a value of 1 to avoid busting.

Hard Total

The hard total is the value of a hard hand.


Heads-up gameplay is when only the dealer and one player are competing against each other.


The high-low, or hi-lo, is a popular card counting system.

All 10s, face cards, and aces subtract -1 from the count. The 7, 8, and 9 cards are neutral, counting as zero, and do not change the count. Any card below 7 adds +1 to the running count.

The deck is good when the running count is high, indicating more high-valued cards remain in the shoe.


When you hit, you’re asking for and receiving another card from the dealer to add to your hand’s value. You can indicate your intent to hit in land-based casino blackjack by tapping the table.

Hit 17

Hit 17 is a nickname for the rule that requires a dealer to hit on soft 17.

Hole Card

The dealer’s second card that’s dealt face down, or not dealt at all in European blackjack, is their hole card. It is not revealed until all players have acted on their own hands.

Hole Carding

Hole carding is when someone gets a look at the dealer’s face-down card.

House Edge

The house edge is a percentage of money that the casino expects to make from a game. This number gets factored over thousands of hands based on the table’s rules and the game’s statistic probabilities.

The Illustrious 18

The illustrious 18 is a list of plays card counters make in a particular situation. These moves vary from the basic strategy when there is a specific running or true count.


A term used in card counting, an index shows a mathematically statistic time when a player should deviate from the basic strategy based on the running or true count.


Players can make an insurance bet when the dealer has an ace as their up card. This bet generally pays 2 to 1 if the dealer hits a natural blackjack.

Note: Insurance is a sucker bet, as the house has a major edge, and players should never make it in any circumstances.

Terms from L to P

Late Surrender

Late surrender lets you recover half of your original wager by discarding your hand, but only after the dealer peeks at their hand for a possible blackjack.

Live Blackjack

Live blackjack is an online format that lets you play real money games at HD streaming tables with real human dealers and actual cards from a shoe.

Loaded Deck

A loaded deck has had the face cards purposefully removed.

Match Play

Match play is a type of promotional coupon that some land-based casinos offer for table games.

You let the dealer know you want to use it on a particular hand, and the house will double your winnings if you bet the specified value and win.

Martingale System

The Martingale betting system is a popular incremental betting strategy. Its basic premise is that you double your wager every time you lose. When you win, you reset the stakes back to the starting amount.

Ultimately, the winning hand wins back all previous losses in the current string, and you win on the original bet. However, increasing your wagers exponentially in this way requires a massive bankroll.

Mid-Shoe Entry (MSE)

Mid-shoe entry is when you start playing at a table in the middle of a shoe instead of waiting for a new shuffle.


Mechanics are players that augment or mark cards to make them identifiable. They do this to gain extra information on unseen cards and cheat.

Multi-Deck Games

Multi-deck blackjack games have more than one deck in the shoe. The number of decks the game uses affects the house edge. It is common for tables to use six or eight decks at once.

Multi-Level Count

A multi-level card counting system assigns values great than one to certain cards in the deck. For example, an 8 or 9 might subtract -1 from the count, while face cards subtract -2.

Natural / Natural Blackjack

When a player’s first two cards are an Ace and any 10-valued card, they have a natural blackjack, sometimes simply called a natural. This hand usually pays out 3:2 or 6:5, while other 21-valued wins only pay even money.


Jacks, Queens, or Kings are referred to as paint due to the graphics displayed on the card face.


A pair is two of the same ranked cards, not necessarily of the same suit. For example, if your hand consists of the queen of hearts and the queen of spades, you have a pair of queens.

Pat Hand

If your first two cards are a hard 17 or greater, you have a pat hand and should stand. This term started at the poker table and has crept its way into blackjack.

Pays the Table

The dealer “pays the table” when every player wins.


When the dealer has an ace card face up, they peek at their hole card to see if they have blackjack. All players’ hands without a natural blackjack get forfeited if they do.

Note: Most tables in modern brick-and-mortar casinos have an auto-detection device so that the dealer doesn’t need to actually peek at the card.


In a casino, the table game area is called the pit.

Pit Boss

Pit bosses oversee and regulate the gameplay that happens in the pit. Unlike the dealer, who focuses on a single table, pit bosses manage several tables.

Plopper / Ploppy

Derived from “plopping down” into a seat, players are ploppy if they don’t play with a winning strategy.

Positive Count

A positive count in most card counting systems indicates that more high-valued cards remain in the deck.

Preferential Shuffle

A preferential shuffle is when the casino decides to shuffle the cards back into the shoe at any time that doesn’t follow their standard schedule. They usually do this to kill any running counts when they suspect card counters are gaining an edge.


A press, or pressing an advantage, is when a player starts making larger bets after a string of wins.


A push occurs when a player and the dealer have the same total value at the end of a hand. The player doesn’t lose or win, and their bet gets returned to them.

Terms from Q to S

Real Money Blackjack

Real money blackjack is an online format where you play games at digital tables over the internet, keep what you win, and can withdraw the balance from your account.

Risk of Ruin (ROR)

Your risk of ruin is your mathematical chance of losing your entire chip stack based on your current betting strategy. It is a term often used in bankroll management.


A round or hand of blackjack is all the actions that take place from when players place their bets to the dealer paying the winners.

Running Count (RC)

In card counting, a running count is the current positive or negative number associated with the shoe based on the system they are using.

Note: Adjusting this count for the number of decks in play is the true count.


The shoe is a transparent angled box that stores the shuffled and cut decks of cards being used for gameplay. It sits on the table and makes it easy for the dealer to pull cards from the top of the deck.

Shuffle Tracking

Shuffle tracking is when you try to follow a chunk of high-value cards through a shuffle and into the next shoe to gain an advantage.

Soft Hand

A soft hand has an ace valued at 11. For example, an A and a 6 is a soft 17.

If you hit with a soft hand and bust, the ace can become a 1-valued card, changing the total value of your hand and preventing you from losing.

That turns the previously soft hand into a hard hand.

Soft Total

A soft total is the value of the cards in a soft hand that includes an ace that can be used as 11 without busting.


Splitting is when you double your wager to break a pair of cards into two separate hands.

The dealer will give each new hand an extra card from the shoe, providing you with two 2-card hands to play independently.


Spooking is when a blackjack team or player has someone trying to view a dealer’s hole card from elsewhere in the casino.


The spotter is a blackjack team member that counts the cards and indicates to other teammates when the deck is good and when to place larger bets.


A player stands to indicate they are done making actions and will stay with the value they currently have to compete with the dealer.

Stand 17

Stand 17 is a nickname for the rule that requires a dealer to stand on soft 17.

Stiff Hand

A stiff hand is any starting two cards with a value between 12 and 16. The basic strategy might say to hit, but several cards can automatically bust the hand.

Sucker Bet

Sucker bets are appealing at first glance but have a high house edge. For the best odds of winning, you should never take insurance or most other side bets.


Surrendering is giving up a hand before the dealer reveals his cards so you can recoup half of your original wager.

You’re effectively folding your hand when you think you will likely lose so you can save some of your bet.

This rule is only available at some tables.

Terms from T to Z


A toke is another word for a monetary tip to the dealer. Tips are not mandatory, but they are a good-faith gesture, especially after a winning session.

True Count

The true count is an adjusted running count that factors in the number of decks in the shoe. You can calculate this number by dividing the running count by the number of remaining decks.

For example, four decks remain in the shoe in a 6-deck game where two decks worth of cards have already been discarded. If the running count is +5, the true count is five divided by four, or +1.25.

Two Round

A two-round table is one where the dealer only deals two hands at a time before shuffling the cards.

Unbalanced Count

An unbalanced count is any card counting system that doesn’t equal zero at the end of the shoe.

Up Card

The card the players can see in the dealer’s hand after the initial deal is the up-card.

Use Our Blackjack Glossary to Play Like a Pro

There’s no doubt that blackjack brings a lot of fun, but it also has some new words and expressions that you should know to enjoy the game.

Knowing the lingo is helpful whether you’re playing blackjack online or in Vegas with a group of friends. Keep this page handy to look up any jargon you hear and breeze through the tables and casinos!

Joe Falchetti

Joe Falchetti Expert in Online Casinos, Sports Betting, and Poker

Joe Falchetti, aka Smokey Joe, is a former professional poker player who has been a part of the online gambling and sports betting world for almost two decades. He's a full-time sports bettor and specialized writer featured in CBS Sports and and linked to by the New York Times.

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