The History Of Blackjack
Blackjack is a game that is found in casinos, the aim is to get as close to 21 and beat the dealer's hand.
10:19 10 September 2021
It is played in land-based casinos as well as online casinos. It is becoming more popular online in recent years thanks to the comfort and ease of online gambling. To try it out for yourself, play blackjack here.
But where did it come from, and how did it begin? Well, the origins are still debated today, however researchers in this agree that the game likely originated in French casinos around 1700. The French cards were called ‘Vingt-et-Un’, which means ‘twenty-one’. However, there are more theories, and plenty of history that makes us wonder if it really started here, or if perhaps it came into being before then.
Hop in your time machine and travel back in time with us through the history of blackjack.
The origins of blackjack.
As well as the theory that blackjack originated in France during the 1700s, there is also a theory that it is an invention of the Romans. This theory does have some traction as Romans were infamously passionate gamblers, however, this theory is not confirmed as a 100% truth.
It is believed that the Romans would have played this game with wooden blocks that have different numbers painted on them instead of cards, as cards did not exist back then. When thought of like this, it is entirely possible that early blackjack may well have been a Roman invention.
When we consider the version that flowered in the 1700s in France, aside from the varying versions of Vingt-et-Un the popularity of this card game expanded through North America quickly. It made it to the American shores in the 18th Century with the arrival of French colonists. Yet, while the game could not spread or develop in the 19th Century, it did evolve and gain popularity in the United States.
In 1820, blackjack was seen in New Orleans at legalized gambling halls. At this time, the rules of the game were different to what they are now, the game took time to develop and bud through years of expansion to become what we now know as modern day blackjack. An example of one of the ways in which the game changed, in the earlier renditions of blackjack the dealer was allowed to double.
It was around this time as well that the world saw one of the most skilled dealers come into being, Eleanor Dumont. Eleanor was a French immigrant who came to the US, she travelled until she decided to open a gambling hall in Nevada City, California. She named the place Vingt-et-Un, how apt.
People travelled all over the US to try their luck against Eleanor, simply because she was not only skilled but a rarity in card dealers.
Blackjack in the present day.
Whether you think blackjack was invented by the Romans, or by the French, the result of the past has brought us to the blackjack we play today. However, even in the 20th century, the precursor of blackjack was still known as 21 in Nevada. But, during this era, the game name changed to Blackjack, and now gambling halls and casinos needed a way to promote this game.
One technique they turned to was offering bonus payouts, one of these was rather unique, where you would be paid extra if a black jack (such as a jack of spades or clubs) was dealt alongside the ace of spades.
Slowly, the game grew in popularity thanks to this unique way of promoting, and while these “black-jack” bonus payouts started to dwindle and disappear, the informal name they had inspired stuck and henceforth the game became ‘blackjack’.
Yet, have the rules changed? They have, following the legalization of gambling the rules of blackjack changed, defined by the Nevada Gaming Commission.
The growth of blackjack.
Over time, blackjack saw multiple changes. First, the game changed from using one hand-held deck to two hand-held decks, then a four-deck shoe, and then six, and then eight. Then there is also a shuffle machine where the dealer uses only two or fewer of six decks at a time and places them inside to be shuffled. This machine came into existence when casinos decided that time spent shuffling was time wasted, and they brought it into being to reduce the time wasted doing so.
Then there are the rule changes that the game was. One of these was the dealer hitting on a soft 17 total and players not being able to double after a split. However, the main variation of this game has been the increase in the amount of decks used. Obviously, the inclusion of more decks is to benefit the casino and increase the house edge. Not only this, but using both the machine and more than one deck means that the cards would be more evenly dispersed. It also meant that there was less of a chance that the player would be in a mathematically over-advantageous position. These changes were all to the benefit of the house.
One of the more recent changes that has been seen in blackjack is how casinos have introduced gimmicky side bets in order to lure players to bet more money per hand. This means bets such as lucky lady side bets, or three card poker hand side bets which will give high payouts, but happen rarely. As these bets are not regularly played, this is something else that is advantageous to the casino.
Finally, we cannot talk about the history and evolution of blackjack without noting its shift into the online world. Casinos and gambling have taken the internet by storm, and now, more and more people choose to gamble online rather than at land-based casinos. Blackjack is very available online, and the game is basically the same, without having to sit at a table with the dealer. It is all virtual, and you can still scoop up the big bucks online, like you might in a land-based casino.