Glossary of Blackjack Terms

Card Counting and 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.

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.

To find out the house advantage of the Blackjack game at your local casino, check out our Blackjack Calculator.

P.S. This is what we had to use to calculate the casino advantage in the olden days.

Advantage Player:  A gambler who uses strategy to gain a mathematical advantage over the casino.

For more information on what it takes to become an advantage player, click here.

And this is what you look like when you’re an advantage player…  😉

Math behind advantage play and blackjack

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.

Blackjack Terms - Backoff

Here’s a an undercover video of Colin getting backed off at a casino.

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 Bankroll Size Blackjack


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 optimum 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 every 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:

Blackjack 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.

For more information on using bet spreads click here.

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.

For a story about the first time Colin was the “Big Player”, click here.

Black Book: A nickname referring to a list of banned players. At this point, it is rarely a book, but an online database.

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.

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Card Counting: A strategy for getting the edge at 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.”

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.

To read about when Colin and Ben’s blackjack team had $110,000 seized by the US Government, click here. (-;

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.

DAS: Double After Split (verses: NDAS, which is NO Double After Split). A rule that is a benefit to the player that allowes 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.

For more information on deviations check out the Stand 17 chart here and check out the Hit 17 chart here.

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.

Even Money: The equivalent of buying insurance when the player is dealt a blackjack. If the player were to buy insurance and the dealer were to go through all the motions of checking their hand for blackjack as well as the take/pay procedure, the player.

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.

For more information on Expected Value click here.

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.

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.

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.

Check out the H17 deviation chart here.

NDAS: No Double After Split (verses: DAS=Double After Split).

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.

Risk of Ruin: The mathematical chance of losing one’s entire bankroll. Also referred to as ROR.

For more information Risk of Ruin click here

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 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.

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.

Surveillance Information Network (SIN): Connected to Biometrica ( 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.

True Count: The count per deck. You can calculate this but dividing the running count by the number of decks left to be dealt.

Wonging: To back count and only bet when you have the edge. Named after Stanford Wong.