Blackjack glossary and terminology

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As the most popular casino game across the globe, blackjack has plenty of slang and jargon. As either a newbie or an experienced player, it is imperative to recognise the most common phrases used at the blackjack table in order to become a more knowledgeable online and offline player, and to accurately understand each move.

Bust – A losing hand which goes over 21 in total, also known as breaking.

The Bust Card – The card dealt which pushes the hand’s total over 21. For example, you’re sitting on 12 and are dealt a 10. Don’t you just hate when that happens! The 10 pushes your total to 22 and is therefore considered the bust card.

Double Down – The option to double your initial wager (after seeing your hand) and receive only one additional card. For example, you have bet an initial $5 and your two-card hand totals 11 (made up of a six and a five). You opt to double down (place another $5 bet) and receive a King as your one additional card. You’ve hit 21 and win $10.

Face Cards – All Jacks, Queens and Kings, which are valued at 10 points.

Face Down Blackjack – A variation on the traditional blackjack where all cards (dealer and player) are dealt face down, and only the person in control of their own hand can see the cards. This makes decisions significantly harder for the player and is sometimes used in tournaments, but it often comes with other rules which benefit the player.

Face Up Blackjack – The version of the standard game where the dealer’s cards are always face up so we can see both of the his/her cards (also known as Double Exposure). This puts us in a slightly better position, and greatly affects how we play out our own hand. However, this game style will often force our hand. If the dealer is showing a Queen and an Eight, and we have a Jack and a Seven, we are going to have to hit to have any chance of beating the dealer.

Five-Card Charlie – Simply means drawing five cards without busting (going over 21). Some variants of blackjack will immediately pay you out (1:1 odds) if you are dealt a five-card Charlie, while other will not. We suggest finding a casino which does. On average, such a hand occurs once in every 50 hands. Obviously, a six, seven, eight, nine and 10 card-Charlie occur far less often than a five card-Charlie.

Hand– The cards the player or the dealer are holding.

Hard Hand – Any hand without an Ace with a total greater than 11, or a hand with an Ace forced to be valued at one. For example, a hand which comprises the following cards is considered a hard hand: a Five, Eight and an Ace (totalling a hard 14).

Hit – When the player asks to receive another card, often signalled with a knock on the table if playing at a land-based casino. Also known as drawing.

House Edge – The advantage (usually noted as a percentage) the casino holds over a player in any given game.

Hole Card – This refers to the face-down card the dealer draws, if playing such a version.

Insurance – A side bet made to insure against the dealer hitting a blackjack. It only becomes available when the dealer’s up-card (first card) is an Ace. The payout is 2:1 and the chances of the dealer’s second card being a card valued at 10 is fairly high (nearly one-third). It is an attractive, although not necessarily wise bet. Note: you can only bet half of your original stake when taking insurance.

Push – When the player and dealer have hands with the same total, also known as a stand-off, leading to a tie (no one wins or loses).

Shoe – The gaming device used by dealers which holds multiple decks of playing cards.

Soft Hand – Any hand with an Ace, where the Ace can be used as either one or 11 points. For instance, a two-card hand of a six and an Ace (worth seven or 17), or a three-card hand of a two, three and an Ace (worth six or 16).

Split – An option where if the player’s first two cards dealt are of the same value, he/she can separate his/her cards in to two different hands, and play each one on its own merits. If choosing to split, one must put down another bet of the same amount as the original bet wagered in order to cover the new hand. Some versions of blackjack will allow you to split all cards of equal value (for example, a King and a 10), while other versions will only allow you to split matching cards (Kings and Kings). Additionally, depending on the style of the game, you may or may not be able to continue splitting if you draw another card of equal value on a hand already split.

Stand – To refrain from taking additional cards and stick with the current total of your hand.

Stiff – Any hard hand where it’s possible to exceed 21 with the next card drawn.

Surrender – An offer in some games which allows the player to give up his/her hand and retrieve half of their original wager. Usually only offered in face-up blackjack.

Up-card – The dealer’s first card which is always facing up for the player to see; the exposed card.