Blackjack Glossary

Cards and chips on the blackjack table.

Blackjack can be one of the easiest casino games to pick up for a beginner but there’s still a fair amount of jargon involved in advanced play. Below is our blackjack glossary of all the terms that you might encounter during your time at the tables. 

Advantage Play – A playing style that uses certain quirks of the game to give the player an edge over the casino or dealer. Advantage play is notable for not being against the rules yet it’s still discouraged. Repeat or very successful advantage players may be banned or otherwise removed from the casino. See Card Counting.

Basic Strategy – Blackjack can be played in an ideal way. This means taking certain movies in certain scenarios. This is different from Advantage Play as the Basic Strategy cannot be used to overcome the House Edge. The Basic Strategy can help the play learn when to Hit or Stand or Double Down, for example.

Bankroll – The bankroll is how much money the player has to place bets with. Of course, this varies from person to person but effective bankroll management is one of the most important skills for beginners to learn, regardless of how much money they have.

Blackjack – A hand worth 21. This term describes the combination of a card with a value of ten (10, K, Q, J) and an Ace. It’s a winning hand. See also Natural.

Box – The physical area in front of a player in which cards and chips are placed. In both online blackjack and the game played at bricks and mortar casinos, the box will have outlines to place cards within.

Burn Card – This is the dealer’s first card, which is placed face-down. At the outset of the game, the player is not allowed to see the value of the burn card. See, also, Up Card.

Bust – A hand with a value of more than 21. It’s a losing hand.

Card Counting – This is a way of keeping track of which cards have been dealt by memorizing them. Card counting is based upon the idea that cards with a low value, such as 2, 3, 4 etc. give the dealer a greater chance of winning, while high-value cards like 10, K, Q, etc. benefit the player. The cards that have already been played determine the player’s next move.

Cold Deck – One of a pair of rather unscientific blackjack terms that describe a type of deck. This one is unlucky. See, also, Hot Deck.

Dealer – In blackjack, the dealer is both the source of every card and the player’s opponent. A dealer is allowed to make many of the same moves as the player.

Double Down – Place a bet of the same value as the original stake (doubling it) on the condition that you can only draw one more card. Players only have one chance to use this move, namely, on the first two cards. Learn the best times to double down from our blackjack strategy guide.

Even Money – a type of Insurance bet.

Hand – The cards that you have to play with.

Hard Hand – In a hard hand, an Ace must count as a card with a value of 1 to prevent the player from busting. Alternatively, this term can also describe a hand that does not have an ace. See, also, Soft Hand.

Hit – A request for an additional card. The player’s hand must not exceed 21.

Hot Deck – A deck of cards that is perceived as being lucky.

House Edge – In every casino game, the house has a small advantage over the player. While usually a fixed number, the house edge can vary with player ability, as a newcomer who isn’t using the basic strategy will have a lower chance of winning than somebody who is. In blackjack, the house edge is usually around 1%. 

Insurance – A bet on whether the dealer has a hand worth 21 or not. This wager can be placed if the dealer shows an ace. The bet must be a maximum of half their initial stake. The player wins at 2:1 if the dealer has blackjack but loses if they have any other value. The player can also opt for Even Money if they have blackjack and the dealer shows an ace. This returns a payment of 1:1 if the dealer also ends on a blackjack.

Natural – Also known as a blackjack, this is a two-card hand with a value of 21.

Ploppy – Much like the fish in poker, ploppies are poor or inexperienced blackjack players.

Push – A tie. All bets are returned.

Side Bet – The only blackjack definition on this list that doesn’t actually require playing blackjack, a side bet is a bet on the outcome of a blackjack game. A good example is a 21+3 bet, in which an observer bets on a pair of player cards and a single dealer card. A side bet must be made before the game begins.

Split – If a player is dealt two cards of the same value, they can split. This means breaking their hand up into two and placing bets on each one. 

Shoe – A shoe is a wooden or plastic box that holds multiple decks of cards. Devices such as these and continuous shuffling machines are designed to increase fairness and prevent the dealer or player from influencing the game.

Stand – Do not request any more cards.

Soft Hand – As opposed to the hard hand, where the Ace is valued at 1, a soft hand includes an ace that is valued at 11. 

Surrender – Players surrender when they give up on the first turn. This move isn’t possible later in the game. Surrendered players have half their stake returned.

Up Card – The Up Card is the opposite of the Burn Card. It’s the one card in the dealer’s hand that the player is allowed to see.


Did you know?

Did you know that blackjack insurance isn’t based on your own hand? Instead, it pays you if the dealer gets a blackjack hand on their initial two cards. This optional bet pays out at 2 to 1 and is designed to let you break even in the case of the dealer getting 21.

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Ross O’Connor has been working in the online gaming industry for over a decade. Over that time he has written countless articles on related topics including casino and game reviews, gaming strategy and casino industry news, for a wide variety of online publications.

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