Blackjack Terms

blackjack terms guideUse this blackjack terms guide to learn the definitions of the most commonly used language when playing blackjack. You could encounter these blackjack terms while playing at a brick-and-mortar or online casino, so be sure to know what each of them means.

You can check out our real money blackjack guide for more in-depth information about some of these common blackjack terms. These definitions will help you understand this popular casino card game much better.

Ace Neutralized

This term is used by card counters when using a system that doesn’t count aces to determine their running and true count. A separate count is used in this particular system to keep track of the aces in the deck.

Ace Reckoned

When counting cards, this term refers to counting the ace as a -1 in the running count.


This refers to the amount of cash a player has wagered in a given blackjack session. It also refers to the amount of cash being bet in any particular hand.

Back Counting

Card counters will often analyse a table before taking a seat, determining when the running count is at its best. This is referred to as back counting. They can then enter the game at the most opportune time and make larger bets without looking like a counter.

Backed Off

If players are card counting or doing something else that gives them an extra edge while playing blackjack, they can be backed off. The casino has the right to stop them from playing and remove them from the casino.

Balanced Count

Card counters refer to a zero running count as a balanced count. If the count isn’t balanced when all cards have been dealt then the counter has made a mistake or may be using an unbalanced count method.


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


A casino can mark a player as being barred, which means they’re no longer allowed in the casino and could be charged with trespassing if they do enter. This will usually occur when a player has been caught cheating or card counting on numerous occasions.

Basic Strategy

A strategy used to determine what action to take in any situation that can arise at the blackjack table. A basic strategy card outlines to a player whether to hit, stand, double, split, or surrender, in any given situation.


The amount a player wagers on a hand.

Bet Sizing

Altering the bet size based on the current state of the deck is called bet sizing. When the deck is in the player’s favor with more tens and aces, bets should be larger. Alternatively, when the deck is full of lower cards and is in favor of the house, then the player should make smaller bets.

Bet Spread

A bet spread is the difference between a player’s largest and smallest bet. So if their largest bet is $100 and smallest is $10, then the bet spread is 1 to 10.

Big Player

A blackjack team that is counting cards will have the main player sit down to bet big when the count is good. This player is called the Big Player and will be able to count and play themselves.


  • A card game that players win by having a higher total than the dealer without going over 21 or not going over 21 and having the dealer go over 21.
  • The best possible hand in blackjack is a natural blackjack. This occurs when a player is dealt an ace and a ten, jack, queen or king.


A bust occurs when a player’s or dealer’s cards add up to a total over 21, resulting in an instant loss. When a player busts they lose their bet immediately. If a dealer busts, then all remaining player’s win no matter what hand value they hold.

Bust Card

This is the card which results in the player or dealer reaching a count over 21.

Burn Card

When a dealer starts at a new table, or a new shoe is being used, the card on the very top of the deck will be burnt. This means it is placed in the muck pile or plastic container and isn’t used by any player or the dealer.


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

Card Counting

Card Counting iconPlayers can count cards that have been shown and used on the table to determine a running count. This is done by assigning certain cards a -1, 0 or +1 value, or other values depending on the card counting method. When the deck is determined to be favorable based on the running or true count, a player can make larger bets. It isn’t illegal or cheating, but casinos strongly dislike it as it gives the player the edge.


Variety iconThese are clay or plastic discs that have a monetary value in the casino and they’re used when players make their bets. Players are also paid out in chips which must then be taken to the casino cage to be converted back into cash.

Chip Tray

This refers to a tray in front of the dealer which is used to keep chips that players have lost, pay out players when they win, and also distribute chips to players when they buy in with cash.

Continuous Shuffling Machines or CSMs

Many casinos have started using continuous shuffling machines. The dealer will feed used cards back into the machine after each hand, meaning no manual shuffling is required. If a player is using basic strategy, then the house edge is slightly less when a continuous shuffling machine is in use.


Blackjack teams will assign a counter who has the job of determining the running count of a deck and signalling to the other player or players when to bet big or small. They will flat bet while they’re on the table and follow basic strategy.

Cut Card

This is a plastic card which is used to split the deck and cover the bottom card so that it isn’t revealed to players or the dealer. Often the dealer will select a player to put the cut card into the deck.

Cutting the Deck

The dealer will often ask a player at the table to take the cut card and place it at any place they wish to cut the decks and randomize its order.


An employee at the casino that deals the cards and manages chips at the table. This includes removing a bet from the player when they lose and awarding chips to a player when they win. The dealer also manages the game according to the table and house rules.

Double or Double Down

Double down iconThis play can be used after the player has been dealt the first two cards only. Once a player has seen their cards they can choose to place an additional equal bet to their first and draw only one more card. This is a powerful move, especially when you have a hand value of 10 or 11 after your first two cards are dealt as it allows you to double your bet based on more information. Casinos have different rules for doubling down with some only allowing it on certain hand values.

Even Money

If a player gets a natural blackjack and the dealer’s up card is an ace, even money is offered to the player instead of the standard 3:2 or 6:5 blackjack payout. This means the player can get even money now and avoid having a push if the dealer also achieves a blackjack. This is a sucker bet as the dealer won’t get a natural blackjack enough times to cover the odds offered.

Even money can also refer to the standard payout in blackjack when your hand total beats that of the dealer, or the dealer busts while you still hold a hand.

Expected Value or EV

The expected value of a particular play is either positive or negative. This refers to the value that you’ll get out of making that bet in the long run. It doesn’t mean you’ll win or lose every time making that move, but on a long enough timeline you’ll come out positively or negatively.

Face Cards

Kings, Queens, and Jacks are referred to as face cards in pretty much all card games. They have a value of ten in blackjack.

First Base

The first place to receive cards and the first player to act. This position is located to the dealer’s left-hand side. First-basing is a technique used by some players where they’ll try to see the dealer’s down card by sitting in this position.

Flat Bet

The same bet every hand no matter what by a particular player is considered a flat bet..

Hand Held Game

In single and double deck blackjack games the dealer will hold the cards and deal directly with their hand, known as a handheld game, instead of a shoe, which is used in games with three decks or more.

Hard Hand

The total value of the player’s hand when it doesn’t contain an Ace, or the Ace is being used with a value of 1 to avoid busting.


When only the dealer and one player are competing against each other.


A popular card counting system in which 7, 8, and 9 are given a 0 value. Cards higher than 9 including an ace are assigned a -1 value, and cards below 7 are given a +1 value. The deck is good when the running count is high.


Asking for and receiving another card from the dealer. In live blackjack, this is usually indicated by tapping the table, or sweeping your cards towards you in single or double deck games.

Hole Card

The dealer’s second card which is dealt face down, or not at all if you’re playing European blackjack. It’s not revealed until all players have acted on their own hands.

Illustrious 18 (credit: Don Schlesinger)

18 plays that card counters will make in a particular situation and with a particular count that varies from basic strategy.


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 makes their blackjack. However, it is considered a sucker bet, as the house has a major edge, and players should never make it in any circumstances.

Loaded Deck

If face cards are purposefully removed from a deck or shoe, this is referred to as a loaded deck.

Match Play

A coupon that is often offered by casinos to be used on blackjack tables. The coupon will be match play of a certain value meaning that you can bet that value and your winnings are doubled if you win that particular hand.

Martingale System

If you make a $10 bet and lose, then double your bet the next hand to $20 and win, you’ll make back all your losses and win the original bet amount. By following the Martingale System, players keep doubling their bet until they win. This system requires a huge bankroll and can be disastrous, particularly when playing roulette.


Players that cheat by augmenting and marking cards or cheat in some other way are known as mechanics. This is illegal, as opposed to card counting which is perfectly legal but generally not tolerated in casinos.

Multi-Level Count

A card counting system where higher and lower values than the single level -1, 0 and +1 are used for certain cards. These counting systems are far more complex and difficult to implement and use.

Natural Blackjack or Natural

When a player is dealt an Ace and a Ten, Jack, Queen, or King initially, this is referred to as a natural blackjack or just a natural.


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


Refers to two cards of the same rank, such as two Queens.

Pat Hand

If players are dealt two cards with a high value, usually more than a hard 17, they hold a pat hand which means they would stand no matter what. This is actually a poker term that has crept into blackjack.

Pays the Table

If every player on the table beats the dealer’s hand, or the dealer busts and all players on the table still have a hand, then the dealer pays the table.


When the dealer has an ace card face up they will peek at the down card to see if it has a value of ten, which means the dealer has a blackjack and all player’s hands will be forfeited, unless they have a blackjack themselves. Most tables in brick and mortar casinos have an auto detection device so that the dealer won’t even know what the card is, with a green light indicating a blackjack and a red light indicating something else.


Card counters will use this term when referring to a lack of supply of a certain card left in the deck. A deck would be poor of aces if most of these had been seen and used.

Positive Count

In card counting circles a positive count is when you want to get your money on the table. It means a lot of low cards have been used and the deck still holds a lot of the high cards.


If a player is hitting all the cards and winning constantly they will sometimes press their supposed advantage and start making larger bets. More often than not, this is a bad idea and should be avoided.


A push occurs when a player and the dealer have the same total value at the end of a hand. The player neither loses nor wins and their bet is returned to them.


The opposite of poor, as explained above. If the deck still has a lot of Aces left, it would be rich in Aces.


From when a dealer deals the first card to when the last player wins or loses their bet, this is called a round. It can also be referred to as a hand.

Running Count or RC

Card counters will have a running count or RC in their mind based on the values of the cards they have seen and the card counting system they’re using. They may convert this into a true count depending on the system they use.


This is the device in which the decks of cards are stored and dealt by the dealer.

Soft Hand

If a player holds a hand with an ace and its value is considered as 11 at that point in time, then you’re holding a soft hand. For example, if a player or dealer is holding an ace and a six then this is considered a soft 17. Once the value of an ace in a hand is dropped to 1 to avoid busting, the hand is now a hard hand.


If a player is dealt two cards of the same rank, such as two eights, they can be split and then played separately with an additional bet made at the same value as the original bet.


If a blackjack team or player has someone trying to view a dealer’s hole card from elsewhere in the casino or area, this is called spooking.


Like a counter, this player will count the cards and indicate to their accomplices when the deck is good and larger bets should be made.


To indicate that the player doesn’t want any additional cards and will stay with the value they currently have to compete with the dealer.


If a player is dealt a value between 12 and 16 with their first two cards, it is considered a stiff hand, as they can bust instantly by hitting and receiving an unlucky card.


Surrender iconTo give up your hand while receiving half your initial bet. The most common surrender is when a player is dealt a hand with a value of 16 and the dealer has an ace or ten-valued up card. Surrendering is not available on many tables these days as it reduces the house edge for the casino.

Third Base

The last place on the table to act which is located on the dealer’s right-hand side. This position is considered powerful, especially when counting cards. It can also be beneficial for players as they will see all the action before them, and it gives players longer to think through what action to take.

Unbalanced Count

A system of card counting which is simpler because no conversion is required from the running count to the true count. The unbalanced count won’t equal zero once all cards are dealt, but it makes it much easier to determine when to bet large or small. Some of the more popular unbalanced count systems are the K-O card count and the Zen II card counting method.

Up Card

This is the card that the dealer shows in their hand when initially dealing out cards.

Other blackjack terms resources include:

About the Author
Neil White

Neil White - Editor in Chief

His drive and passion for casinos and the most popular games keep him in touch with the latest news and interests to provide the best for his readers.