The History of Blackjack

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Blackjack is one of the most popular and loved casino games of all time and available at online and brick-and-mortar casinos the world over. The game’s origin is still under much debate, but thanks to modern technology, it is available to play wherever you are, whether from the comfort of your home or while on the move.

The history of blackjack is something of a mystery among researchers. Even today, it is still not 100 percent clear where the game originated, although many theories have been in circulation for years. The most common consensus, however, is that blackjack does not have a definitive date of conception and has, instead, been developed over many years into the game it is today.

One of the most widely agreed upon theories is that blackjack evolved from the French game Vingt-et-un, which translates to twenty-one. Blackjack also features elements of other games during this time, including the French Quinze and the Italian Sette e Mezzo. But, the oldest forefather of blackjack seems to be the Spanish game Trente-un, translated to Thirty-one. All of these games involved cards with values, with the goal being to reach a certain number without going over


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The Origins of Blackjack

It is said that blackjack made its American debut in the 18th century, having been brought to the country by French colonists. The game, at the time, was called 21, and while similar to blackjack as we know it today, there were some distinct differences. For example, this version featured a second betting round, and, in some cases, the dealer's second card was visible to players.

While the game gained in popularity in America, the gambling bans in France meant it did not develop further or expand in the country. By the time the 20th century rolled around, the game was still going strong, having gained popularity in Nevada after the state legalised gambling in 1931. It was around this time that its name changed from '21' to blackjack. The legalisation of gambling meant that certain rules had to be put in place to ensure fairness, therefore standardised game rules were introduced.

Blackjack and Card Counting

It was around 1950 when card counters became a fixture at blackjack tables. One of the most famous card counters of that time was Jess Marcum, who was kicked out of many casinos due to his underhanded tricks and tactics to beat the house edge. Soon, strategies started circulating to help players keep track of the cards and reduce the house edge. Mathematician Edward O. Thorp devised the ten-count system using computers to find out whether keeping track of the cards could improve his chances of winning. This system became a big hit, resulting in Thorp writing a book of his findings, which became a New York bestseller.

 

Card Counting and Casinos

Card counting was, of course, not good for casinos. Due to its popularity, casinos had to look at what could be done to stop card counters from beating the house edge. One way casinos dealt with the issue was to increase the number of decks used on the game. By the time 1963 came around, casinos were openly embracing card counters as they realised that these new strategies meant new and often inexperienced players would try their luck at casinos. This meant more feet through the door, boosting the profits many of these casinos thought they would lose through card counting. Some casinos even handed out basic strategies to help players, lulling them into a false sense of security and ultimately resulting in the house still winning.

Online Blackjack

Despite card counting and the issues that came with it, both for casinos and players, blackjack continued to become one of the most popular card games played privately or at casinos. Soon, the advancement of technology meant that online casinos were fast becoming a popular option for players looking for the fun and excitement of gambling without having to leave their home. The first online casinos offered the standard version of the game, although soon a wide variety of options became available to suit all needs and preferences. Each of these variants offered the same basic idea but with different rules and some new and exciting features.

While online casinos provided a great platform for players to enjoy a variety of blackjack and other games, it did not offer the same exciting atmosphere as land-based casinos. Many players missed this aspect of gaming, so live casinos were developed to offer players some of that thrilling gambling ambiance. Live casinos offering live blackjack games became all the rage, allowing players to compete with real life players in real time, anywhere in the world.


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Blackjack Today

Today, Blackjack is one of the most popular games at online and land-based casinos alike. One of the most distinct rules of blackjack is that it is played against the dealer and not other players, with the object being to reach 21 points without going bust. There are many varieties of blackjack available to suit all needs and preferences, with some of the biggest and most respected online casinos offering a wide range of variants.

The Future of Blackjack

Gambling is certainly evolving alongside technology. While blackjack remains a popular staple at online and land-based casinos, the advancement of technology means that the face of gambling is constantly changing. A good example would be that players can now enjoy live blackjack tournaments anywhere in the world, while players on the move can still partake in all the thrill of gambling directly from their mobile devices. With so much happening in the world of gaming, we can definitely look forward to some exciting innovations in the future.

Fun Facts about Blackjack

With such a long, interesting and complex history, it’s no wonder that the origins of the game remain elusive, even among historians and researchers. That said, there are some interesting facts and titbits that you might not know about this world-renowned card game.

Did Blackjack Originate in Rome?

According to some researchers, blackjack originated in Ancient Rome. While it’s true that the Romans were avid gamblers, there is no hard evidence to suggest that this is the case. What inspired this theory? Historians believed that the ancient Romans played a game similar to blackjack using wooden blocks, which developed into the modern version we know today. Whether this is true or not will likely never be proven.

Blackjack with a Different Name

The game was only named blackjack around the 1930s. Before then, it was referred to simply as 21, becoming even more popular once gambling became legal in Nevada. The reason for the name change? Some casinos started to offer a hand with a black jack to tempt more players to join their tables. While the feature was discontinued, the name stuck.

Blackjack in the Movies

Blackjack has inspired the imaginations of gambling enthusiasts all over the world, including film makers. The tension, excitement and thrill that comes along with a blackjack game is the stuff of legends and makes for some fascinating movie scenes. Some of the most notable movies in history feature blackjack scenes, including the classic Dustin Hoffman vehicle Rain Man.

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Last Updated: November 13, 2018