Glossary of Blackjack Terms
86’d: Getting told by a casino that you are being trespassed from their property. Usually, this is the direct consequence of using your brain to make wise decisions with your money. Sometimes they try and get you to sign paperwork.
Ace: In Blackjack, an Ace card (A) can be counted as both a value of 1, or 11.
Action: The amount of money that’s been bet. Can refer to an aggregate of the total amounts of bets made over a certain period of time, or it can refer to the amount in play on a particular wager. Usually said by a host or pitboss, wearing a ROLEX and expensive (looking) suit. “That guy’s giving us good action.”
Advantage: The statistically theoretical edge one side has over the other, usually expressed as a percentage of the wager. Usually the casino has the advantage, but card counting can give the player the advantage.
Advantage Player: A gambler who uses strategy to gain a mathematical advantage over the casino.
Al Francesco: Pioneer of team play. Taught Ken Uston how to count cards.
Back Counting: Counting cards from behind the table as a spectator. Back counting is a great tactic to avoid negative counts. Sometimes referred to as “wonging.”
Here’s an awesome story on Back Counting from our own high limit card counting professional, “Loudon Ofton”.
Back Off: When the casino asks you not to play blackjack anymore. This is usually delivered in the form of a statement like “your game is to strong for us” and sometimes delivered with the good news that “you are welcome to play any other game, just not 21.” Not to be confused with being 86’d.
Balanced Count: A card counting system in which the sum of the negative cards is equal to the sum of positive cards. If the running count at the end of a full deck equals zero, it is a balanced count.
For more info on card balanced and unbalanced counts, check out our Card Counting Systems chart.
Bankroll: The amount of funds available for wagering. Sometimes refers to the total amount of money available to gamble with, but can also refer to the amount available in a given playing session or for a given time period.
For more on how to figure out your bankroll, read Colin’s article “Recommended Blackjack Bankroll.”
Barred: Permanently prohibited from a property. Used by card counters for when they have been 86’d from a casino, though it can apply to other properties. I.e. “I was eating so much food they had to bar me from the buffet.”
For more information on being barred and what casinos can and can’t do, read Ben’s article “Can Casinos Hurt You?”
Basic Strategy: The optimal playing strategy for blackjack. The easiest way to find out if someone knows “basic” is to ask them what to do with a soft 18. If they tell you anything that is not on the chart or use words like “sometimes”, “usually”, or “depends” you know they are a fraud.
For more information on basic strategy check out our Blackjack Strategy Charts.
Bet Spread: The amount of the maximum and minimum bets a player is making during a blackjack playing session. A 1-5 bet spread means that the player is betting a minimum of 1 unit per hand and a maximum of 5 units per hand. When counting, the larger the spread the more money you expect to make.
Big Player: A member of a card counting team who makes a big bets when the count is favorable. They depend on “spotters” to call them in. This play is used for cover only. Invented by BJ Hall of Fame member Al Fransesco, made famous by Ken Uston, and the MIT team.
Black Book: A nickname referring to a list of banned players. At this point, it is rarely a book, but an online database.
Black Chip: $100 chip.
Blackjack (game): Blackjack, also known as twenty-one, is the most widely played casino banking game in the world. For info on the hand of the same name, see Natural.
Brown/Chocolate Chip: $5000 chip.
Burn Card: The first card of a new deck after the shuffle and cut. The dealer usually puts this face down in the discard tray. Often times a card is burned when a new dealer comes in.
For a Loudon Ofton article on how to deal with casino mistakes with burn cards, click here.
Bust: When a player’s or dealer’s hand exceeds 21.
Bust Card: The individual card that results in the player’s or dealer’s hand going over 21.
Camouflage: Anything a skilled gambler does to conceal their activities from the casino. Camouflage can include mixing in playing and betting behavior that mimics typical gamblers, or using disguises, appearing to be drunk, or any number of other possible ploys intended to throw the casino’s scrutiny off.
Card Counting: A strategy for establishing an edge in the game of Blackjack by tracking the ratio of high cards to low cards that have already been played. A card counter raises his bet when the deck offers favorable odds to the player, and lowers his bet when the deck offers less-than-favorable odds to the player. There are multiple card counting systems with varying degrees of efficiency.
For more info about what it takes to be a successful card counter, read Colin’s article, “Characteristics of a Successful Card Counter.”
Carnival Games: Other table games such as 3 Card Poker, Mississippi Stud, Ultimate Texas Hold-em, etc.
Cash Transaction Report (CTR):A report any financial institution in the US (such as a bank or a casino) is required to fill out when a patron has an aggregate cash transaction greater than $10,000 in a single business day. By law, the casino must obtain ID from the player as part of completing the paperwork. The information goes to the FBI and other government agencies in an effort to thwart money laundering. As long as you pay your taxes, there’s nothing to worry about.
Cut Card: A plastic card used to cut the deck after shuffling. The dealer reshuffles the deck after reaching the cut card when dealing hands.
CVCX: Casino Verite Chapter X. Software by Norm Wattenberger where the majority of card counters use to sim their bet spreads, risk, and EV.
D9: Double only 9,10,11. Cannot double down on soft hands.
DA2: Double any two cards.
DAS: Double After Split (verses: NDAS, which is NO Double After Split). A rule that is a benefit to the player that allows you to double down after you split a hand.
Deck Penetration: The percentage of cards played out of a deck or a shoe before reshuffling. Referred to as “pen” and is usually the main source of fodder for dirty jokes and references when a group of card counters get together (especially male?).
For more information on deck penetration and its impact on card counting, click here.
Deviations: A playing deviation is changing from Basic Strategy at certain times based upon the count.
Double: This playing decision will require the player to increase their bet on the hand to double it’s original value. It then requires the dealer to deal only one more card to the player’s Blackjack hand.
Don Johnson: One of the most successful AP’s in history and did it without counting cards. Took $15 million in 6 months. To learn more, watch: The Player: Secrets of a Vegas Whale. Also listen to his Gambling with an Edge podcast.
Early Surrender: To surrender or give up after a player receives their first two cards but before the dealer checks for a blackjack. Player loses half of their bet. This existed in Atlantic City during “the Experiment”, but hardly exists anywhere in the world.
Edward Thorp: “Father of Card Counting”.
Even Money: A wagering proposition with even odds – the bettor stands to lose or win the same amount of money. When a player has a Natural hand, and the Dealer has an Ace Up card, that player may request and receive an 1:1 payout on his hand.
Expected Value (EV): The statistical amount that any given time period is worth. Even though results rarely equal a player’s expected value in the short run, the Expected Value is the amount a hand is theoretically “worth.” Given enough time, actual results will inevitably catch up with Expected Value.
First Base: The seat on the dealer’s far left. The first hand will always be dealt to first-base.
First-basing: Being able to spot the dealer’s hole card from first base.
Flat Bet: Betting the same amount of money on each successive hand.
The Four Horsemen of Aberdeen: Roger Baldwin, Wilbert Cantey, Herbert Maisel, James McDermott. Pioneering work in developing the first accurate blackjack basic strategy.
Green Chip: $25 chip.
Griffin Book: A book of suspected card counters and casino “cheaters” provided to casinos by Griffin Investigations. These guys went out of business because they were so poorly run and thought about the game with less simplicity than a caveman thinks about a rock.
For more information on the Griffin Book, check out Loudon Ofton’s History of Blackjack.
Half-Shoe: When casino tells the dealer to cut the shoe in half (50% penetration), effectively destroying your edge.
Hard Hand: Hand without an Ace, or with an Ace but only as a value of 1.
Hard Total: The total of any number of cards in a hand, counting Aces as 1.
Heads Up: Playing without any other players at the table.
Hit: This playing decision will require the dealer to deal another card onto the player’s Blackjack hand.
HIT 17 (H17): A rule in blackjack that requires the dealer to take a hit when they have a soft 17. Compare this to the Stand 17 rule, which requires the dealer to stand on a soft 17.
Ian Andersen: Wrote books on camouflage play.
Hole-Carding: The ability to see the dealer flashing the hole card and use that as a strategy. In layman’s terms, you can see what the dealer second face-down card is. Usually hole-carding is done with carnival games. It has one of the highest edges against the casino as an advantage play.
Insurance: Insurance is a side bet that the dealer has a blackjack (natural) and is treated independently of the main wager. It pays 2:1 (meaning that the player receives two dollars for every dollar bet) and is available when the dealer’s exposed card is an ace.
James Grosjean: Author of Beyond Counting. Worked with Keith Taft. Grosjean’s lawsuit was directly responsible for bankrupting the Griffin Agency.
John Chang: Manager of the MIT blackjack team.
Julian Braun: Did programming for the top authors. Developed all of Revere’s systems and Hi-Opt systems.
Kelly Betting: An optimal betting strategy derived from the Kelly Criterion formula.
For more on the math you can read this article.
Ken Uston: Author of The Big Player, which caused a falling out with Al Francesco for exposing team play to the public. Responsible for New Jersey unable to ban card counters.
Lawrence Revere: coined the “True Count”.
LS (or SR): Late surrender. You may surrender your hand to receive half your bet.
Max Ruben: Author of Comp City. Manager of Barona.
MSE: Mid-shoe Entry. You may start playing at any point during the shoe.
N0: N-zero. The number of rounds it takes to overcome 2/3’s of the variance.
Natural (blackjack hand): A player who receives an Ace and a 10-point card as the initial two cards on a deal is said to have a “natural 21” or a “blackjack”. Depending on the house rules, this hand is usually awarded 3:2 on the player’s bet. I.e. Player bets $10 and is paid $15.
NDAS: No Double After Split (verses: DAS=Double After Split).
NMSE: No Mid-shoe Entry. You may only start playing at the beginning of a shoe (therefore, you cannot wong in).
NRSA: No resplit aces.
Pink Chip: $2.50 chip.
Preferential Shuffle: When the casino decides to shuffle up whenever they wish, usually when you press your bets. Effectively destroys your edge.
Ploppy: Your typical sucker blackjack player. Originally coined by Frank Scoblete to describe people who plop down at a Blackjack table without the ability to count cards and play with a winning strategy.
Purple/Barney Chip: $500 chip.
Richard Munchkin: Author of Gambling Wizards. Hosts Gambling with an Edge podcast.
Red Chip: $5 chip.
Risk of Ruin (ROR): The mathematical chance of losing one’s entire bankroll.
For more information Risk of Ruin click here.
Round: In Blackjack, a Round starts with no cards on the table, and the player’s bets being placed. A hand is dealt to every player, and the dealer, and the Round ends when those hands have been played through, and the player’s bets have been paid out.
RSA: Resplit aces.
Running Count: The total value of the count, positive or negative, at any given time. This is the overall total used to calculate the true count.
Shoe: A dealing shoe or dealer’s shoe is a gaming device, used by casinos, to hold multiple decks of playing cards.
Shoe Game: A blackjack game dealt from a shoe. Multiple deck games are almost always shoe games, while many single and double deck games are often dealt by hand.
For information shoes and various shuffle machines, click here.
Shuffle-tracking: An advantage play strategy for hand-shuffled games where you compose the decks for the next shoe, steering slugs of high-cards towards the front of the deck and betting big from the start. Much harder for casinos to detect this. Terms such as track-zone, play-zone, NRS formula, plugs, pseudo-decks, 1-pass or 2-pass R&R (riffle and restack) are all related to shuffle-tracking. Read Arnold Snyder’s Shuffle-tracking cookbook for more information.
Soft Hand: Hand with an Ace that doubles as 1 or 11. There is no way you can bust if you hit.
Soft Total: The total of any number of cards in a hand, which includes an Ace which can use it’s 11 value, without exceeding 21. Ex. Hand: Ace, 4. This hand’s Soft Total would be 15. It can also be counted as a Hard 5.
Split: This playing decision is available to the player only when the first two cards dealt to any hand are of equal value. Ex. 8,8, A,A, K,10. Normally, a player can split his hands up to four times.
Spooking: A strategy of hole-carding where one player “spooks” and communicates that info to their team. Not strictly legal.
Stand: This playing decision will refuse the dealer from dealing another card onto the player’s Blackjack hand.
Stand 17 (s17): A rule in blackjack that requires the dealer to stand when sitting on a Soft 17. Compare this rule to Hit 17, which requires the dealer to hit when sitting on a Soft 17.
Here’s more information on the difference between Stand 17 and Hit 17.
Stanford Wong: Revealed a table-hopping style now known as “wonging”
Surrender: This playing decision, when available, allows the player to give up half of the bet, in order to not be required to continue playing the hand, potentially losing the entire original bet.
Surveillance Information Network (SIN): Connected to Biometrica (http://www.biometrica.com/index.html) SIN is a surveillance tool that contains a database of casino threats (cheats, advantage players, etc). This system also has an email alert system that informs casinos with a flyer when “undesirables” are located in the area.
Check out our interview with a Surveillance Expert on card counting, surveillance, and avoiding detection, click here.
Tommy Hyland: Running the longest-lasting and most successful blackjack team in history.
For more on Tommy check out our Biography of Tommy Hyland.
True Count: The count per deck. You can calculate this but dividing the Running Count by the number of decks left to be dealt.
Two-round: When the casino tells the dealer to only deal two rounds and then shuffle. Effectively destroys your edge.
Wonging: To back count and only bet when you have the edge. Named after Stanford Wong.
Yellow/Orange/Pumpkin Chip: $1000 chip.