Blackjack is an incredibly fun card game that can also be very rewarding. It is actually one of the only casino games that have a house edge lower than 1%, meaning you are less likely to lose while playing blackjack than roulette or video slots, for example.
If you’re new to blackjack, we suggest that you first brush up on its rules. Even though they are simple and easy to learn, you need to be familiar with all blackjack rules if you want to play the game effectively. A part of learning blackjack rules also consists of learning blackjack terms.
So, in this article, we are going to go over the full blackjack glossary to get you familiar with all the blackjack terms and rules, so you can truly feel like a pro when you start playing the game.
Dealing the Cards
Every round of blackjack starts with betting. Before the cards are dealt, each player must place their chips in an area marked on the table called the box. The dealer then deals the cards by drawing them from the shoe, which is a device that can hold multiple card decks. Contrary to the shoe game, if the cards are dealt directly from the dealer’s hand, you are playing a pitch game.
Alongside playing cards, the shoe will also contain a cut card, a plastic card that signals the dealer to reshuffle the cards. There’s also something called penetration, which is a percentage number that indicates how many cards or decks will be dealt before reshuffling. For example, a deck can have 70% penetration, meaning that only 30% of the cards are left before reshuffling.
The first player to receive the cards (sitting immediately left of the dealer) is on a seat called the first base. On the other hand, the player who is last to act (sitting immediately right of the dealer) is on a seat called the third base.
Apart from dealing the cards to all the players, the dealer will also deal two cards to himself, one facing down and one facing up. The card facing up is called the upcard, while the one facing down is referred to as the hole card.
As you probably know by now, the goal of blackjack is to beat the dealer’s hand by having a higher total then them while not exceeding 21. If you do go over 21, that’s called a bust, and you will lose your stake regardless of what the dealer holds. The individual card that results in a bust is called a bust card. If you’re lucky enough to get exactly 21 on your first two cards, that’s called a natural, or simply — blackjack.
If your first two cards don’t contain an ace or have an ace that counts as 1, you have a hard total, which is not to be confused with a hard hand that indicates that there’s a possibility of you busting if you choose to hit. This is also sometimes called a stiff. If you have a hand where the ace counts as 11, that’s called a soft total.
After the cards are dealt to everybody, each of the players needs to act and choose one of the five available options:
- Hit — drawing another card to extend their total
- Stand — choosing to not to receive any additional cards
- Split — choosing to split the pairs (two cards of the same rank) and play them separately
- Double (also called double down) — doubling the bet and receiving only one card for the rest of the round
- Surrender — abandoning the cards and getting half of the stake back
These blackjack action calls are just there to indicate what the moves are called. When you’re playing the game, you’re not actually going to say “hit” or “stand”, but will instead give the dealer a corresponding hand signal.
To hit, tap the table with your finger. To stand, wave your hand over your hard. Doubling down and splitting involves you placing additional chips on the table, but not in the same way. If you want to double down, place the chips outside the betting box and point with one finger. For splitting, you will also place your wager beside the original bet and outside the box, but this time you need to create a “V” shape using two fingers.
There are two side bets in the game of blackjack. One is called insurance and can be used when the dealer’s upcard is showing an ace. With this bet, you are insuring yourself from the dealer getting a blackjack.
There’s also even money, which is a version of the insurance bet that you make when you have a blackjack and the dealer is showing an ace. This is to insure yourself of getting paid if you’re worried that the dealer might land a blackjack, thus ending the round in a push.
Decreasing your bet from the previous round is called chipping down, while increasing the wager means you have chipped up.
Other Blackjack Terms and Rules
If both you and the dealer have the same exact hand value after the round ends, the outcome is called a push and no money exchanges hands. This term is often used in other casino games when indicating a tie. When the player and the dealer have the same hand total before the round ends, that’s called a standoff.
Players who are more serious about blackjack use various strategies, the most popular one being the basic strategy. If you play a round of blackjack exactly according to the widely accepted strategy, you will have completed a perfect play.
There’s also something called card counting, which helps you better predict the outcome of each round. However, while it might not be illegal, card counting is frowned upon by casinos, which is why they might ask you to leave their premises if you’re caught counting cards. This is called getting 86’d.