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History of Blackjack – From 16th Century France to Modern-Day Las Vegas

Staff Writer 02/22/2024 Blog 10 views

Blackjack is one of the most popular casino games. It provides the perfect mix of simplicity, strategy, and chance, and also boasts fair odds compared to other casino classics.

In the 21st century, blackjack is widely available at online gambling sites as a feature table game -transformed into well-known variants, such as Classic, Double Deck, and Single Deck blackjack. However, the card game wasn’t always known around the world. In fact, blackjack in its current form only truly rose to fame in the 20th century.

The history of blackjack, like many card games, is shrouded in mystery. It’s difficult to accurately trace the exact moment a particular game was born. Rather, blackjack evolved from earlier similar games that involved aiming to make a certain value of cards.

Let’s delve deeper into the history of blackjack.

From Roman Times to Vingt-un

In 16th-17th century France, a card game rose to popularity known as “vingt-un”. The aim of this game was to make a value of 21. Other rules differed, but it seems reasonable to start here as a direct parent of blackjack.

Similar games were evolving across Europe. In Spain, a game that translates as “One and Thirty” was being played in which the aim was to make as close to 31 as possible using at least three cards.

The first written record of blackjack also came from Spain. An author called Miguel de Cervantes wrote a novel that was published in 1605, Don Quixote,  which mentioned a game called “veintiuna” with very similar rules to modern day blackjack. A dealer keeps the game flowing, the aim is to reach 21 without going over, and aces are worth 1 or 11.

Early 1800s – Blackjack reaches America

In the early 1800s, these early iterations of blackjack reached North America, brought to the continent by French colonists, where it took on the name “21”.

At this point, the game was getting much closer to what we know today, but there were still some differences to the rules. For example, the dealer was the only person who could double and there were additional betting rounds in between cards.

Still, blackjack found its home in gaming halls such as those in New Orleans, gaining popularity throughout the century.

Blackjack takes its name

It wasn’t until 1889 that we first see the name “blackjack” used. Casinos decided to add an enticing bonus, a 10-1 payout when players held a black jack card along with an ace.

As well as referencing the card itself, the name blackjack may also pay homage to the Klondike gold rush. Blackjack was a word used for zincblende ore, which was an indicator that gold or silver could be nearby. The term blackjack in the game could reference the idea of striking gold with that particular hand.

In any case, blackjack became the name for the card game formerly known as 21. Its popularity stepped up another level in 1931 when casinos were legalized in Las Vegas. Blackjack quickly found its place in America’s biggest casinos, as well as continuing to delight gamers over in its home continent of Europe.

Blackjack in the modern day

After it became a staple in Vegas in the 1900s, blackjack has since undergone a number of variations in rule changes. For example, in some games the payout for blackjack has been reduced to 6-5, increasing the house edge to around 1.4 percent.

Other changes has also sought to bump up the casino’s advantage. Typically, casino games now involve multiple decks, which in itself slightly increases their edge, as well as going some way to counteracting card counting.

A number of side bets are also now available, such as betting on pairs and other hands, which can bring excitement for players as well as increasing bet amounts for those who take part.

Playing blackjack online

Perhaps the main change when it comes to blackjack in the modern day, is the rise of online casinos which host dozens of tables at any given time. Players can sign up for legitimate casino sites and find a blackjack game whenever they want, around the clock.

Online casinos can offer many more tables than would be possible in a casino, so they often have different blackjack variations to choose, from traditional European roulette to blackjack games with side bets and bonuses.

The latest evolution of online blackjack is live dealer, which bridge the gap between the live and online environment by broadcasting human dealt games to online players in real time. Players still enjoy the accessibility of online blackjack, but with a more social and real life feel.

Blackjack also still remains a popular table game in casinos across Europe and Vegas. It’s common to find a table or two even in a smaller local casino. But it’s astounding that the history of blackjack has taken us from 16th century Europe all the way to international online casino sites.

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