Blackjack Glossary of Terms

Key Blackjack Terms:

Here are the core terms you’ll need to familiarize yourself with in order to deal Blackjack and understand the flow of the game. After a few practice hands, you’ll pick them up quickly.  


Hand showing an Ace and a King which is Blackjack or 21

This isn’t just the name of the game, but it’s also the best hand in the game. A “Blackjack” hand is a two-card hand that totals twenty-one points. If a player is dealt a 21 right from the start, they win instantly unless the dealer himself also draws a 21 on the first two cards.


Example of a bust in Blackjack

When a player’s hand exceeds 21 points, they have busted. You or the player cannot bust on the first two cards, but an unlucky hit can cause the dealer or the player to exceed the 21-point limit.

When a player busts, they lose their bet no matter what happens to the dealer or the other players at the table.

If the dealer hits and his or her card count exceeds 21, they lose, and all remaining players win their bet.

Double Down

Doubling down in Blackjack is another way of the player telling the dealer “double or nothing.” In particular, it means that the player wants to double their bet on the next card dealt to them. The player is not allowed to take another card after the double down card is drawn.

In addition, the player is only allowed to double down on the first two cards, meaning that they have to make this play based on their original hand.

More about this strategy can be found here.


Taking a hit simply means asking the dealer for another card from the deck. If the player’s hand is lower than they would like, he or she can hit as many times as allowed to try and draw closer to twenty-one. 

Hole Card

The dealer only shows one card in the face-up position. The face-down card that the players can’t see is called the hole card. The dealer is the only participant that is allowed to have a face-down card in their hand.


When a dealer’s shown card is an ace, representing a 1 or 11, many casinos will give players the option to purchase insurance. For an additional side-bet equal to half of the player’s original bet, they can insure themselves against a dealer Blackjack. If the dealer’s downcard turns out to be a 10, the player loses their original bet, but is paid out 2-to-1 on the insurance. In simple terms, the player makes even money on their original bet.


A push is a standard gambling term that means a “tie.” In 21, if the dealer and one or more of the players finish the hand with the same point total, the bet is a push and you simply give back what the player (or players) gambled.

It can also refer to a null result, which can occur if there is a misdeal during play or another interruption that forces the end of the hand. In these cases, the rule is “all bets push” and every player gets their original wager back from the dealer.

While dealing errors are uncommon, they occasionally happen. Don’t be surprised if players at the table vocally express their frustration or even disgust that the game has been disrupted.


You’ll occasionally hear people refer to “the shoe” as the tall deck of cards used by the dealer to disperse each hand. However, the term “shoe” more accurately refers to the automatic dealing machine that most casinos use to dispense the cards when more than a single deck is being used. This confusion doesn’t mean that a player isn’t educated about the game, but rather it’s another colloquialism you’ll hear around the table particularly with the dealer and frequent players.


In the event that the dealer gives a player two cards with the same value, that player may split their single hand into two separate hands. 


A stand is the opposite of a hit meaning that the player does not want to draw any additional cards from the dealer. Standing ends that player’s turn, and can be done at any time.


If a player has concluded that their luck has run out on a particular hand, they can surrender the game before seeing the dealer’s downcard (or any other cards dealt with subsequent players, for that matter). If the player chooses to surrender, he or she gets to keep half of their bet.

The Blackjack Table

Tables don’t exactly come in a standard form, but they all share the same elements. Typically, they seat between five and seven players, but the game can go on with even a single player and the dealer. Tables are lined with soft felt, usually in the same attractive green shades of poker and craps tables. Some of them will have built-in cupholders, ashtrays, and even slots for your poker chips. Other than cards, chips, drinks, and maybe your cigarettes, you shouldn’t place anything else on the surface of the table in a casino.

Top view of a Blackjack table showing betting circle for each player, information about insurance, and casino policy about dealer must hit on soft 17

Each seat at the table will have a small frame printed on the felt where the players’ cards are to be dealt. Sometimes, this is accompanied by a circular frame where you’re supposed to place the chips representing your bet often referred to as the betting circle. If the table doesn’t have these round frames, the typical custom is to place your chips in front of your hand between the cards and the dealer. Many resorts will offer their own side bets to entice the players to throw down more money, and these are often accompanied by another circular frame to keep your primary bet separate from the side bet.

Casino-style tables often have more markings around the dealer position. To the dealer’s left (facing you) you’ll see the shoe, or deck. These days, most casinos use automatic dealing machines to dispense each card when the previous one is dealt quickly. To the dealer’s right, they’ll usually have a small slot attached to a lockbox under the table where they can securely stash the cash they collect as players join the game or existing players buy more chips. Finally, there’s another spot directly in front of the dealer where the dealer’s hand goes.

When playing Blackjack, most of the time the tables will have arched lettering between the player and dealer hands that inform the players of the table’s payout rules. Usually, this will read something along the lines of “Blackjack pays 3 to 2” meaning you get 1.5 times your bet for hitting 21 off the deal. The casino is free to use other payout schemes, but this is by far the most common payout you’ll see.