Become Bilingual: Learn the Language of Blackjack

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Image via Flickr by Aaron Jacobs

Ready to learn the exciting game of blackjack? Just like any game, before you can learn the rules, you have to understand the terminology. Here’s a quick primer to words you’ll hear when you sit down at the blackjack table.

Hit and Stand

These two words are used as you are building your blackjack hand. When you say, “hit,” you are asking the dealer for another card. On the other hand, “stand” means that you are satisfied with the cards you are holding. Players usually stand on a hand totaling 17 or more.

Double/Double Down

After you place your initial bet, the casino may let you double it after you’ve received your first two cards. Doubling down is a great way to increase your winnings if you’re holding a favorable hand. It’s a good idea to consider the dealer’s up card before doubling your bet, however. Most casinos have very clear rules about when and/or which two cards players may double down.


When you are dealt a pair in your original hand, you can split them, and play them as two separate hands. Splitting automatically doubles your bet, of course, but it also gives you an extra chance to beat the dealer. As a general rule, you should always split pairs of aces and eights.; these two cards have a higher probability of becoming winning hands.


When the dealer’s face up card is an ace, most casinos let players place an even-money bet equal to half of the initial bet that the dealer will get blackjack. The insurance bet seems like a good idea, but in practice, it’s not really a good idea. You still have to play your hand and initial bet, and if the dealer doesn’t get blackjack, you risk losing twice. Experienced blackjack players rarely place insurance bets.

Hard Hand/Soft Hand

A hand is considered soft or hard based on whether or not it contains an ace. A hand with an ace is considered soft, because the ace can be counted as either 11 or one. A hard hand is not as flexible as a soft hand because the card total is fixed. A player with a soft hand has more options to get to 21.

Surrender and Bust

Both of these terms mean you’re out of the game. A player surrenders when he doesn’t like the cards in his hands. A player who surrenders loses only half of his bet. Surrendering is a good decision in certain cases, but many novice players surrender far too often. A player goes bust when a hit pushes his card total over 21. The entire bet is lost when you go bust.

Cashing In

This is one of the most important words to learn and remember when playing blackjack. When a player cashes in, he exchanges his chips for cash, and ends his play. Successful blackjack players set limits for themselves about the amount of money they will risk at any session, and when they will cash in their winnings.

Now that you know the language of blackjack, learning the rules are a snap. With a little practice, you’ll play like a pro.

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