Blackjack has quickly become one of the most beloved casino games today and can be found virtually everywhere – online or off!
However, blackjack didn’t become what we know and love today until the 20th century when books like Beat the Dealer by Edward O Thorp advocated card counting techniques to lessen casinos’ edge and increase players’ odds of victory.
Though its precise roots remain debated, most researchers believe that Blackjack evolved from an earlier card game called 21. It is thought to have first gained popularity in France (known as Vingt-Un) and Spain (where it was called Ventiuna).
Named for its cards with two Aces and a Black Jack on each, blackjack was likely given its moniker when casinos started offering promotional bonuses to promote this particular card combination. Some casinos even paid 10 to 1 odds when an Ace and Black Jack were part of a hand.
Miguel de Cervantes, best known for writing Don Quixote, first referenced this card game in 1601 or 1602. His short story entitled Rinconete y Cortadillo appeared in Novelas Ejemplares collection of tales published that year.
Blackjack has long been one of the most beloved table games in casinos, typically being one of the first seen upon entering and providing multiple tables with different rules and stakes for play. Its popularity skyrocketed during the latter part of the 20th Century after Ken Uston published his book Bringing Down the House as the basis of 21 based on this movie, providing blackjack with a major boost and introducing basic strategy – an effective method to lower house edge significantly – into mainstream culture.
Historians believe the Spanish game Vingt-et-Un was one of the earliest predecessors to blackjack, first referenced in an account written by Miguel de Cervantes for Novelas Ejemplares published in 1613.
Blackjack offers many variations that offer players new and engaging experiences, from increasing or decreasing house edges, to adding or subtracting decks altogether.
Blackjack’s predecessor was Vingt-un (meaning 21), although its roots can also be found in card games such as French ‘Chemin de Fer’, Spanish ‘One and Thirty’ and Italian ‘Baccara’. First references of these card games date back to the 1500s when priest wrote about Vingt-un and Miguel de Cervantes mentioned a variation called trentiuna in one of his novels ejemplares Rinconete y Cortadillo.
As the game gained more traction, players developed strategies to counter the casino’s advantage – one being card counting; this method involves analyzing the ratio between high cards and low ones and betting accordingly.
Blackjack is a game of skill which allows players to increase their odds against the house by employing card counting strategies, typically placing smaller bets until a favorable proportion of high cards appears, at which point increasing them significantly. Casinos use multiple decks which they frequently shuffle; to protect players and avoid this strategy.
As part of America’s rapid expansion, blackjack became increasingly popular and was played at saloons and riverboat casinos along the Mississippi. At this point, blackjack switched from being known as 21 to Blackjack; possibly due to casino promotions featuring bonus payouts for hand containing an Ace and black Jack (spades or clubs); though this bonus soon expired while its name remained.
As gambling became a more prevalent activity among cowboys, miners, and other workers in America, blackjack became one of the most widely played casino games at saloons and riverboat casinos. Craps was also widely enjoyed.
In the 1950s, blackjack was still known as 21, although casinos started offering bonus payouts for hand combinations including either a black jack (Jack of Spades or Clubs) and an ace. This promotion eventually was discontinued, while its name remained. Around this same time mathematicians such as Edward O Thorp began publishing books advocating card counting techniques to reduce casino house edges; this caused alarm among casinos who knew smart, disciplined players could defeat them.