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This is the alternative name for Blackjack - so named because the cards in your hand need to total as close to 21 as possible without going over.

21 + 3

A blackjack side bet that is particularly popular at online casinos. A bet is made using your two cards and the dealer’s upcard. The bet wins if these cards form three of a kind, a straight, a flush, or a straight flush.


An ace can be worth 1 or 11 in blackjack, making it the most useful card in the deck. Land a 10-value card along with an ace and that’s Blackjack!

Ace Poor

A counting term, ace poor means fewer aces than statistics would suggest have been dealt up to this point.

Ace Rich

In card counting, a game where an above-average number of aces has been dealt is said to be ace rich.


The amount of money that has been bet, either on a single hand or across a full blackjack session. This can apply just to you, or to all players at the table.


The edge that one competitor has over another. In terms of casinos, this is usually stated as the house edge. However, card counters can turn the advantage to the player in some cases.

Anchor / Anchorman

The anchorman is the last player at a table to act before the dealer. As blackjack is essentially player vs dealer, it’s arguable whether there is any strategic advantage or disadvantage to being in this position.

Balanced Count

This is part of a card counting system that values positive and negative cards equally. If the running count at the end of a deck of cards is zero, then it’s a balanced count.


Your bankroll is the money you have to gamble with. It might go up and down as the rounds progress so make sure you have an end point in place so you don’t lose more than you were willing to.

Basic Strategy

This is the term used for players who know and apply the actions that will bring them the best odds. For example, knowing when to stand, hit, split or use insurance.

Bet Sizing

Bet sizing, put simply, is adjusting the amount you are wagering depending on strategy. This could be due to a direct betting strategy, such as doubling your bets when you’re up, or connected to card counting.

Bet Spread

This is the difference between a player’s highest and lowest bet values.


Well done, you've won! This namesake two-card hand consists of an ace and any 10-value card. You will almost always get a bigger payout for Blackjack than a general win.


This is the area in front of each player where bets are placed. There will be outlines for your cards and chips.

blackjack box
Burn Card

The dealer discards the top card before dealing. This is a safety measure known as burning a card. The idea here is to ensure there’s no way the player(s) can know the first card dealt from the deck.


This is not what you want to hear; your hand total has gone over 21 and you have lost your bet. If the dealer busts, however, that’s good news for you!


To buy-in to an online blackjack game, you simply make your first bet. There will usually be a buy-in minimum, so ensure this suits your budget before playing.


Camouflage betting is a land-based casino term related to card counting. To camouflage your betting is to look like you’re playing recreationally, while actually raising your bet when the count is good. If you're card counting, camouflage betting is as vital a skill as actually being able to maintain the count.

Chip Down

Want to play it safe? Chip down to lower your wager from the amount you bet during the last hand.

Chip Up

Feeling on a roll? Chip up to increase your wager from the amount you bet during the last hand.

Cold Deck

This is not something you want to hear too often. A cold deck is a deck of cards that has dealt several awful hands in a row. The hope is that this deck will ‘heat up’ and become a ‘Hot Deck’ - but that’s never a guarantee.

Color up

To exchange your lower denomination chips for higher-value ones. It is seen as good etiquette to do this before leaving a blackjack table, as it may stop the dealer from running out of lower-value chips.

Count / Counting Cards

Counting cards can give you an edge when playing blackjack. Mentally recording the previous cards and maintaining a count can help to work out the probability of future card trends. Do it right, and you know when you’ve got a hot deck, which is when you raise your bets. There are many card counting strategies to try.


This stands for Continuous Shuffling Machine which brick-and-mortar casinos use to shuffle used cards back into the deck. This can make it harder if you're wanting to count cards as the deck penetration will be very low.


CVCX, or Casino Verite Chapter X to its friends, is a complex card counting software developed by the author (and arguably father) of "Modern Blackjack", Norm Wattenberger. Most casino counters utilize this software to help simulate bet spreads and more.


A D9 rule means you can only double on hands that value 9, 10, or 11. These are the hands most likely to benefit from doubling if you land a 10 or an ace. Only hard hands can be doubled in a D9 game.


A DA2 rule means you can double any two cards. This means any value, and both soft and hard hands can be doubled.


This stands for Double After Split, meaning you can double down on your bet after you've split a pair. For example, if you split two 7s, and end up with a 7-3 hand, you can then double that hand to see if you land a 10 value card and get the value up to a hard 20.


In blackjack, you play against the dealer as opposed to other players. This means the dealer has two functions. First, dealing the cards, and second, being your opponent for the game.

Deck Penetration

Deck penetration refers to how many hands are dealt before the dealer reshuffles the deck. The longer the time between shuffles, the easier it is to count the cards.


These are cards that were dealt in previous hands, which have since been discarded. This usually isn’t a thing with free or online games, but discards can be present in live dealer blackjack.


This stands for Double on Any and refers to players being able to double any first two cards. This includes doubling after splitting.

Double Down

Double your bet for one additional card. You won't be able to hit again but if you win, you've won double your original wager. This is best done with a hand that values 9, 10, or 11.

Double Exposure

Double exposure is a blackjack variant where both the dealer’s cards are dealt face up. While it’s easier for the player to make decisions, surrender and insurance options are not available in these types of games.

Early Surrender

You can forfeit your hand and halve your bet before the dealer checks for blackjack. This is offered if the dealer’s one upcard shows an ace or 10 value. See Surrender.

Entry-Level Card Counting System

As the name suggests, this is the easiest form of card-counting and is how most counters start. Simply assign a positive, negative, or zero value to each card from the deck.


This stands for Expected Value and is a mathematical equation that can help with maximizing your bets and spotting trends over the course of play.

Even Money

You have the option to take a 1 to 1 payout on your bet if you have Blackjack and the dealer has an ace.

Face Cards

A card that is a Jack, Queen, or King of any suit. Put simply, the cards with faces on! See Paint.

First Base

The first base player is the opposite to the anchorman, being the first player to receive cards from the shoe on a hand.

Five-Card Charlie

Five-Card Charlie is a five-card blackjack hand that does not exceed 21. In some games, a Five-Card Charlie is valued higher than an equal hand with fewer cards, meaning the hand wins in the case of a draw.

Flat Betting

You are betting the same amount for each hand consistently over a full game or at least a long period.


This refers to the cards you are holding for a round of blackjack.

Hand Spreading

Hand spreading is to play two hands at once. While this will not change your odds, it does double the number of hands you can play per hour.

Hard Hand

A hard hand does not include an ace. This means there is only one possible value amongst your cards - as opposed to two possibilities with a soft hand.

Blackjack Hard Hand
Hard Total

A hard hand is a hand that does not contain an ace. This means there is only one possible total value of the hand, the hard total.

Heads Up

This is a game between just one player and the dealer. Most online games are played in this way, outside of live dealer options.

High Roller

This is the term for a big spender. High rollers are those with the bank balance to bet big, and either win big or lose it all without repercussion. Online and land-based casinos love these players and will go out of their way to treat them well.

Hi-Lo Counting

A popular way to count cards, Hi-Lo is also one of the simplest. For each card that has been played you assign a value that you then track as the game progresses. Most card counting strategies are based on some variation of Hi-Lo counting.


The option to take another card if you don’t believe your hand will beat the dealer's as it stands. Remember that you’ll bust if your new card takes your hand value over 21.

Hit 17 / H17

The dealer must hit if their hand value is 17, even in a hard hand.

Hole Card

A face-down card. In blackjack, only the dealer has a hole card, with one card being up and the other down.

Blackjack hole card
Hot Deck

The opposite of a cold deck, a hot deck is one that has seen several excellent, consecutive hands be dealt. For card counters, this is what the wait is for. For other players, it’s just a lucky run.

House Edge

The house edge is the level of advantage the house (or casino) has over the player. This is typically based on the skill level of the player. For more experienced players, this can be as low as 0.5% if using basic strategy. However, those new to the game might be looking at a 2% house edge.

Illustrious 18

These are 18 different variations of blackjack strategy, developed by mathematician Don Schlesinger. These variants allow players to adjust strategy during play to make the most out of their opportunities.

Index Number

An index number is a variable number that card counters use to alter strategy. The index number will, for example, suggest standing over hitting if many high-value cards remain in the deck.

Insurance Bet

An insurance bet is a side bet which is only possible if the dealer's upcard is an ace. Essentially, it secures your loss against a potential Blackjack from the dealer. The bet is usually half of your original wager and pays 2 to 1.

Kelly Betting

Kelly Betting or the Kelly Criterion is a betting system created by J.L. Kelly Jr. This formula helps advanced players determine the perfect size for a bet at any point during a blackjack game.

Knock Out Count

Known as the simplest card counting system, the KO Count focuses solely on a running count as opposed to a true count. Simple, yet effective, it accounts for multiple decks and is a great way to start learning card counting.

Late Surrender (LS)

You can surrender your hand and half your bet after the dealer checks for blackjack.

Loaded deck

This is a deck that is heavy in high-value cards. This puts you at an advantage as doubles and splits are more likely to end in wins, and the dealer is unable to do either.

Martingale System

The Martingale System is a way to keep doubling your bet after each loss in order to win back those losses and your initial wager. This can become unsustainable very quickly and essentially requires an infinite bankroll to be ensured to work. Not recommended!

Money Management

Be careful to manage your bank balance to ensure you are never betting cash you can’t afford to lose. Managing your bets, wins, and when to step away is hugely important.


A monkey is a term for a face card in blackjack - the term is regularly used in Asian culture.


Usually while playing blackjack, there will be more than one deck in the shoe to reduce players’ ability to count cards. The more decks there are, the harder it is to count cards. Find out more about card counting in our strategy guide.

Natural Blackjack / Natural

A natural Blackjack is a 21 gained with an ace and a 10-value card dealt immediately. Almost all blackjack games will give a higher value win for a natural Blackjack. In most games, splitting 10s or aces and then landing Blackjack does not count as natural.


This stands for No Doubling After Splitting. This can put you at a disadvantage, especially if you have a loaded deck.

Negative Count

When card counting, if the count is less than zero then it is a negative count. This is when you bet low and play the waiting game.

No Win

There is no win here today - either the dealer has won or it's a push and you get your bet back.


This stands for No Resplitting Aces. If you split aces, and one of those aces has another ace dealt onto it, you cannot then split that second pair.


You might hear some players crying out to "see some paint". They're looking for a face card with a value of 10.

Blackjack paint

A two-card hand containing equal value cards. You might choose to split these and create two separate hands. See Split Play for how to maximize your bet.

Pat Hand

A solid hand that doesn't require a hit - usually a hand that values 17 to 21. The term originated in poker but is now used in blackjack and various other card games.

Perfect Play

To play your hand according to the widely accepted blackjack strategy.


A term used by experienced players for beginners or less experienced players at the table. Ploppies tend to not understand strategy and are, therefore, popular with the casino as they are more likely to lose hands.


A poor deck is how card-counters refer to the decks in the shoe being low on high-value cards. Doubling and splitting are less likely to result in wins here, and the count is probably negative.

Positive Count

A positive count is when the count at a table goes over zero. Here is when card counters start betting higher. The higher over zero a count goes, the more potential there is to win.

Progressive Betting

Progressive betting is not a strategy we recommend as it calls for doubling your bet every time you lose until you win. This is only good for those who have an infinite bankroll.


It’s a draw between you and the dealer. You will get your stake back, but you don’t win any additional money.


This refers to splitting your cards twice. For example, let’s say you have a pair of 10s, you split them, and then one of those 10s has another 10 land on it. If you were to then split this second pair of 10s, that would be a resplit. Learn more about splitting pairs.


A rich deck is a card counters dream. Rich responds to the most loaded of loaded decks, and card counters will be betting high.

Risk of Ruin (RoR)

Risk of Ruin is a fairly intense way of explaining the RTP (Return To Player) and is basically how likely you are to lose. For example, if you bet your entire worth on a coin flip, your Risk of Ruin is 50%.


A rare blackjack rule that allows players to resplit aces. This can lead to three (or more) potential hands that land unnatural Blackjacks, so most casinos will not allow it.

Running Count

The running count is the card counters bread and butter. Here, you are counting low-value and high-value cards to get a negative or positive count. The latter meaning the deck is hot and it’s time to bet big.


This is the box on the table that the cards are placed in and dealt from. The name comes from a time when the boxes looked like high-heeled shoes. The shoe tends to be a little more aesthetically subtle these days.

Side Bet

A side bet is a wager made on a blackjack game, not in the blackjack game. 21+3 is a popular side bet and involves betting on a player’s two cards and one of the dealers to try and create a winning poker hand.

Single Deck

In a single deck game, you’ll be playing with just one deck of cards in the shoe. This is a card-counter’s dream, especially if deck penetration is high.

Sit and Go

These are probably the most casual tournaments you can find. With a range of buy-in amounts, they’re suitable for Ploppies and Whales alike. The tournament starts when enough players arrive at the table, and the rules and length of play are flexible.

Soft Double

Soft doubling is when you double a hand that has an ace in it. This is rarely advisable. The rule of 9 states if your non-ace card and the dealer’s upcard make up 9 or more, you shouldn’t soft double.

Soft Hand

This is when your hand contains an ace - which can be valued at either 1 or 11. Essentially there are two possible values in a single hand. For example, if you have ace and a 4, you have both 5 and 15 in your hand simultaneously.

Blackjack soft hand
Soft Total

A soft total is a value of a hand with an ace in it. For example, ace and 6 is a soft 17, but it’s also a soft 7. Soft hands are useful as you basically have two different hands in one to bet with.

Split Play

If you have two cards of equal value (two aces for example), you can choose to split them and add a bet against each. You will only be able to hit once on each but if you win, you'll have doubled your bet.

Blackjack split play

To stand is to choose not to take any additional cards. This is done when you think you’ll beat the dealer, or when taking another card would make the risk of a bust too high.

Stand 17

Stand 17 is a rule that you’ll find at many blackjack tables, both online and in brick-and-mortar casinos. It means if the value of the dealer’s hand reaches 17 or over, they must stand, regardless of what the players’ hands are showing.

Standing Hand

This is a hand you should never hit on. A Jack-9 (19) and a 10-Queen (20) are excellent examples. Usually, if a hard hand is valued at 17 or up, it’s a standing hand.


You have the same hand value as the dealer. Also known as push or no win. Your initial wager will be returned but you don't win anything extra.


Your hand is close to exceeding 21, especially if you draw another card - usually around the 12 to 16 mark. This is the hardest hand to deal with in terms of blackjack strategy.


Not got a great hand? Use surrender to forfeit half of your bet and get the other half back. See Early Surrender and Late Surrender.

Third Base

Another term for an anchorman, third base is the last player who is dealt cards and makes decisions before the dealer.

True Count

In complex card counting strategies, you don’t only have a running count, you also have a true count. The true count adjusts the running count for how many decks remain in the shoe, preventing false-positive counts resulting in mistakes.

Unbalanced Card-Counting System

An unbalanced card counting system attaches different values to positive and negative cards. The system is called unbalanced because if you were to count a full 52 deck of cards, you wouldn’t end up at zero.


The dealer's one visible card. This is vital for strategy, as, with some hands, your decision to hit or stand will depend on what card the dealer is showing.

Blackjack upcard

The variance (or volatility) of a game doesn’t describe the odds of winning, but more the game’s behavior. High variance games will pay out less frequently but in big amounts. Blackjack is a lower variance game, where wins are regular, but you’re never going to be winning 100x your stake on a single hand.


Whales are the high rollers amongst high rollers. These big-budget players will bet high every time - because they can afford to. Unlike poker, a less experienced player’s chances of winning are not reduced if there’s a whale at the table.

Win Rate

The win rate is a percentage that denotes how likely you are to win a game. In blackjack, when played with strategy and no counting, the win rate is 42.22%, while a push occurs 8.48% of the time leaving 49.10% for losses.

Zen Count

The Zen count is another of those card counting systems. Positive and negative values do not match, but they are split in a way that means counting a full deck would end you up at zero.

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