A Glossary of 56 Gambling Terms (Casino Terminology)

Gambling, like many other activities, has its own set of terms that not everyone understands. This glossary of gambling terms is intended to be comprehensive and expanding. I’ll update it with new terms periodically.

A

Action – The amount of money you’re risking at any given time or that you’ve risked during a session.

Here’s an example of “action” used in a sentence: “The casino often gave him a lot of money in comps because of the large amount of action he brought to the blackjack table.”

Advantage player – A gambler who uses insight into the conditions of the game to get a statistical edge over the opponent (usually the casino).

Here’s an example of “advantage player” used in a sentence: “Not all advantage players count cards in blackjack, but many of them do.”

Anchor – The last player to act at the table. This is also “third base”. The anchor sits on the far left of the table, or the far right if you’re the dealer.

Here’s an example of “anchor” used in a sentence: “It’s a common myth that the anchor at the blackjack table can screw up the player’s chances by making a bad decision.”

B

Balanced – A card counting system where the count at the end of a deck returns to 0.

Here’s an example of “balanced” used in a sentence: “I prefer to use balanced card counting systems like the Hi-Lo System when I play blackjack.”

Bar – To forbid a player from playing blackjack at a casino because he’s counting cards.

Here’s an example of “bar” used in a sentence: “I was barred from 3 different casinos in Las Vegas on my last trip.”

Blackjack – A 2-card hand totaling 21. A blackjack is also called a “natural”, and it usually pays off at 3 to 2. Some casinos only pay 6 to 5 or even money for a blackjack, though. They’re lame.

Here’s an example of “blackjack” used in a sentence: “When there are a lot of 10s and aces in the deck compared to lower value cards, your probability of getting a blackjack increases.”:

Bust – To get a hand totaling 22 or more points. It’s an automatic loss if you bust.

Here’s an example of “bust” used in a sentence: “I was hoping the dealer would bust on her total of 16, but she got lucky and drew a 5 as her next card.”

C

Card counter – Someone who counts cards to get an edge at blackjack.

Here’s an example of “card counter” used in a sentence: “She was a card counter, but she wasn’t a good one.”

Count cards – To track the ratio of high cards and low cards left in the deck by paying attention to the cards that have already been played.

Here’s an example of “count cards” used in a sentence: “If you’re going to count cards, you need to practice at home first.”

D

Dealer – The person at the casino who shuffles and deals the cards to the players.

Here’s an example of “dealer” used in a sentence: “The dealer was a beautiful woman, but she was rude, so I didn’t tip her much.”

Dealer tell – The tendency that some dealers have to give away their hole card. Dealer tells in blackjack are similar to player tells in poker.

Here’s an example of “dealer tell” used in a sentence: “He used a combination of dealer tells and card counting to get an edge at most casinos.”

Deck – The standard 52 card set that’s the basic foundation of a blackjack game. Many games use multiple decks.

Here’s an example of “deck” used in a sentence: “A single deck blackjack game offers a lower house edge than a game with multiple decks.

Double down – To take one more card and double the size of your bet. The option is only available on your 1st 2 cards. In some casinos, you can only double down on certain totals.

Here’s an example of “double down” used in a sentence: “You should always double down if you have a total of 11, unless the dealer has a 10 or an ace showing.”

Draw – To take an additional card. Roughly synonymous with “hit”.

Here’s an example of “draw” used in a sentence: “It would be unusual to draw to a hand with such a high total.”

E

Early surrender – An optional rule where you can forfeit half your bet and give up your right to playing the hand. With “early” surrender, you’re allowed to decide before the dealer checks her hand for blackjack.

Here’s an example of “early surrender” used in a sentence: “Most casinos don’t allow early surrender any more. Late surrender is the order of the day.”

Edge – The percentage of a bet that a player or the casino is likely to win on average in the long run.

Here’s an example of “edge” used in a sentence: “Advantage gamblers often only play when they have an edge over the casino. This means they have ways of overcoming the house edge that average players don’t know how to use.”

F

Favorable deck – A deck with a proportionally higher number of 10s and aces as compared to lower point cards. The increased chance of getting a blackjack results in a higher expected value, because a natural pays off at 3 to 2.

Here’s an example of “favorable deck” used in a sentence: “I haven’t seen a favorable deck all night, so I’ve just been flat betting.”

First base – The seat on the far left of the dealer and the first player to act.

Here’s an example of “first base” used in a sentence: “I was sitting at first base, and ever now and then I could catch a glimpse of the sloppy dealer’s hole card.”

Five card Charlie – An optional rule at some casinos where a 5 card hand that doesn’t bust is treated like a blackjack or a “natural”.

Here’s an example of “five card Charlie” used in a sentence: “I was excited to learn that the casino had a five card Charlie rule in effect.”

Flat bet – To bet the same amount on every hand. The amount of that bet is considered one unit.

Here’s an example of “flat betting” used in a sentence: “Flat betting is one way to make sure you never get an edge over the casino–even if you’re counting cards.”

Floorman – The person at the casino supervising the dealers.

Here’s an example of “floorman” used in a sentence: “The dealer made a mistake in my payout and had to call the floorman over for help.”

G

H

Hand – The cards that you or the dealer are playing.

Here’s an example of “hand” used in a sentence: “I had several lousy hands in a row, but I kept getting lucky with my draws.”

Hard total – A total where an ace either isn’t involved or must be counted as 1 to avoid going bust.

Here’s an example of “hard total” used in a sentence: “A hard total of 16 is my least favorite hand to play.”

Heads up – Playing with you and the dealer when no one else is at the table.

Here’s an example of “heads up” used in a sentence: “I was playing heads up with the dealer, so I was getting in way more hands per hour than usual.”

High roller – A gambler who bets for high stakes.

Here’s an example of “high roller” used in a sentence: “There was a high roller at the table, and the women were flocking to him like he was Brad Pitt or something.”

Hit – To take an additional card.

Here’s an example of “hit” used in a sentence: “I had a feeling the next card would be a 5, so I hit the total of 16 even though it was a deviation from basic strategy. I went bust, though.”

Hole card – The dealer’s face down card.

Here’s an example of “hole card” used in a sentence: “I often assume that the dealer’s hole card is a 10, since there are more cards worth 10 in the deck than any other value.”

House – The casino.

Here’s an example of “house” used in a sentence: “The house always wins in blackjack, unless you’re an advantage player.”

I

Insurance – An optional side bet that you can only make if the dealer has an ace showing. If the dealer has a blackjack, you win the insurance bet. (You still lose the original bet on your hand.)

Here’s an example of “insurance” used in a sentence: “Insurance is a sucker bet–unless you’re counting cards.”

J

K

L

M

Marker – A piece of paper showing what you owe a casino when it extends you credit.

Here’s an example of “marker” used in a sentence: “They already gave me one marker for $1000, but I don’t think my credit’s good enough for a 2nd one.”

Mucker – A blackjack cheater who adds 10s and aces to the deck.

Here’s an example of “mucker” used in a sentence: “You’ll rarely find muckers at modern blackjack games.”

Multiple decks – A blackjack game that uses more than one deck at a time to deal from.

Here’s an example of “multiple decks” used in a sentence: “You’ll get a bigger edge counting cards if you avoid games using multiple decks.”

N

Natural – A 2-card hand totaling 21. Synonymous with “blackjack”.

Here’s an example of “natural” used in a sentence: “I knew I was more likely to be dealt a natural. The dealer had already dealt all the 5s and the 6s, and no aces. So I raised my bet considerably.”

Nickels – Chips worth $5 each.

Here’s an example of “nickels” used in a sentence: “Dealer, could I trade these nickels in and color up?”

O

P

Paint – A face card.

Here’s an example of “pain” used in a sentence: “I got an ace for my first card, and I was sure hoping for a paint for my next card. I didn’t have to wait long, either.”

Pat hand – A hard total of 17 or higher.

Here’s an example of “pat hand” used in a sentence: “A pat hand is one time you should stand, no matter what. That’s what basic strategy tells us, anyway.”

Penetration – How deeply into the deck the dealer goes before reshuffling.

Here’s an example of “penetration” used in a sentence: “I found a great blackjack game with 50% penetration at the casino last Saturday night.”

Pit boss – The casino employee who oversees both the floormen and the blackjack dealers.

Here’s an example of “pit boss” used in a sentence: “When I count cards, I do my best to avoid attracting ANY attention from the pit boss.”

Push – A tie.

Here’s an example of “push” used in a sentence: “When there’s a push, you get your original bet back, but no winnings.”

Q

Quarters – $25 chips.

Here’s an example of “quarters” used in a sentence: “I was playing for nickels, but occasionally the count was high enough to warrant betting some quarters.”

R

Round – The entire action from start to finish after one deal of the cards.

Here’s an example of “round” used in a sentence: “The dealer busted in that round, and none of the players had busted, so the casino paid out some serious money.”

S

Shoe – A device that holds multiple decks of cards at a blackjack table.

Here’s  an example of “shoe” used in a sentence: “There were still at least 3 decks left in the shoe at that point.”

Shuffle – To randomize the cards in the deck before a blackjack deal.

Here’s an example of “shuffle” used in a sentence: “There was a time when blackjack dealers shuffled cards by hand, but now a lot of casinos use shuffling machines.”

Single deck – A blackjack game that’s dealt from one deck of cards, as opposed to a multiple deck game.

Here’s an example of “single deck” used in a sentence: “You can still find single deck blackjack games at some of the off Strip casinos in Las Vegas.”

Soft total – A hand with an ace in it that counts as an 11 without busting.

Here’s an example of “soft total” used in a sentence: “You tend to play soft totals more aggressively than hard totals, as a general rule.”

Split – To take a pair of cards that are the same and start 2 new blackjack hands with them. This requires an extra bet, and it’s only an option if the 2 cards are of the same rank.

Here’s an example of “split” used in a sentence: “You should always split aces and 8s, but never split 4s, 5s, or 10s.”

Stand – To decline additional cards and use the total you have versus the dealer.

Here’s an example of “stand” used in a sentence: “I had a total of 15, but the dealer was showing a 5, so I decided to stand pat.”

Stiff card – A 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 face-up in the dealer’s hand is a stiff card. The dealer has a better than usual chance of going bust if he has one of these cards.

Here’s an example of “stiff card” used in a sentence: “I only stood on that total of 15 because the dealer had a stiff card.”

Stiff hand – A hand that’s likely to bust, with a total of 12, 13, 14, 15, or 16.

Here’s an example of “stiff hand” used in a sentence: “When deciding the optimal play on a stiff hand, you have to choose the option that is going to result in the lowest expected loss. It’s too much to hope for a decision which will result in an expected win.”

Surrender – To give up half your bet and any chance at winning the hand.

Here’s an example of “surrender” used in a sentence: “I don’t usually surrender, but the situations where it’s the correct move are rare anyway.”

T

Ten – Any card worth 10 points. This includes the 10s, but also the jack, queen, and king.

Here’s an example of “ten” used in a sentence: “The deck was rich in 10s, so it made sense to take insurance in that situation. You would never take insurance if a deck were ten poor.”

Third base – The seat farthest to the dealer’s right. It’s also the last player to act during a round of blackjack.

Here’s an example of “third base” used in a sentence: “I was sitting at first base, but the only seat available to my wife was third base, on the other side of the table.”

Toke – A tip that’s paid to the dealer.

Here’s an example of “toke” used in a sentence: “I only toke dealers who are friendly and polite. I have no patience for rude blackjack dealers.”

U

Unfavorable deck – A deck with proportionally more low-value cards than 10s or aces.

Here’s an example of “unfavorable deck” used in a sentence: “Any time you face an unfavorable deck, you should start flat betting until it becomes favorable again.”

Unit – The standard size of your lowest bet.

Here’s an example of “unit” used in a sentence: “If you’re counting cards, you’ll bet multiple units when the count is in your favor.”

Up card – The dealer’s face up card (as opposed to his “hole card).

Here’s an example of “up card” used in a sentence:  “The dealer’s up card was a 6, so I assumed he had a better chance of going bust than usual.”

V

W

X

Y

Z

Finally

If I’ve left out any gambling terms I should have explained, please let me know in the comments.

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