As is the case for other card games, there is quite a rich history of blackjack. It has evolved and changed so much over time and continues to do so. To further fuel the appeal of blackjack, today there are exciting virtual variants, some of which are among the most popular games in online casinos.
Popular as it is, though, how did it develop into what is the contemporary blackjack we know? Go on a journey to the past with LV BET to turn back time and discover how this exciting card game evolved!
THE ORIGIN OF BLACKJACK — HOW BLACKJACK HISTORY BEGAN
The history of blackjack is controversial, with many historians, authors and players diverging important dates and places. One theory is that the game dates back to Roman times, as, in ancient Rome, gambling was a popular pastime. This theory stipulates that the game was played with wooden blocks instead of the paper playing cards we are used to in today’s version of blackjack.
That said, although the first written references about this popular game date back to the 17th century, it wasn’t until the 18th century that French casinos began hosting blackjack tables. What is certain is that blackjack comes from the French game Vingt-et-Un, which translates to ‘Twenty-One’.
While the French were unfolding this soon-to-be classic, other games like it were, in fact, widely played. Alongside Vingt-et-Un, the Italian game Seven-and-a-Half was somewhat similar; the objective was to have seven and a half points, exceeding which would bust the hand. Heading west, the Spaniards and Irish would also have a card game called One-and-Thirty, whose main objective was to reach 31, similar to a regular blackjack game.
Unable to flourish in France, French colonists took the game to American shores, specifically New Orleans, where its popularity soared in the then recently-legalised gambling halls and spread like wildfire. During this time, the game rules were different from the contemporary version — only the dealer was allowed to double down, for instance.
Around the same time, one of the most famous card dealers, Eleanor Dumont, shows up to leave her mark on the history of blackjack. Immigrating to America from France, she happened to be quite a skilled dealer, travelling around the US until opening a gambling hall she named Vingt-et-Un in Nevada City, California. As a woman dealer in card games, she was considered rare among card dealers — people flocked to Nevada City from all over the country to play against her!
THE AMERICAN DREAM — THE BIRTH OF BLACKJACK
Although the game has its origins in Europe, it was in America that the game evolved, becoming an almost instant success. In an attempt to encourage more and more players to try blackjack, many casinos slightly altered their rules. They began paying a 10:1 payout when a player’s initial two playing cards were either a jack of clubs or a jack of spades, together with an ace of spades. As a result of this change, Americans started calling the game ‘blackjack’.
But if you think the blackjack game has stayed the same old card game since its creation, think again. The game rules have changed substantially over the years, especially after casinos became legalised worldwide. It was mainly in America, where the game got traction and became one of the favourites in land-based casinos such as Atlantic City. Today, Atlantic City casinos even have their own variant: Atlantic City Blackjack!
As the love for blackjack grew, it made its way to Nevada in 1931, where it now was referred to by a different name, Twenty-One. Legal gambling was allowed during this time, so many casinos included special bets to attract even more players. These bets were similar to the popular blackjack side bets we know today, while others were lost to time.
Venues made quite a lot of money off players having to act before the dealer. If a player’s hand exceeded 21, the player’s bet would automatically be lost regardless of what the dealer had in hand. Soon enough, the casinos realised this was too much of an advantage against players, and they feared the interest in the game would die. Therefore, they implemented a few more favourable blackjack rules for players.
A 3:2 payout on a ‘natural’ blackjack and the options of doubling down and splitting pairs were introduced — this gave a great advantage for players over the house, as they could apply a better blackjack strategy to minimise the casino house’s edge and maximise their winning potential.
BLACKJACK AND ITS ORIGINS IN FRENCH CASINOS
The most accepted and believed version of the story is that blackjack showed up circa 1700 somewhere in France under the name ‘Vingt-et-Un’, meaning 21. The playing cards used likely derived from playing cards for another card game popular at the time, Chemin de Fer. It was also played at the French Royal Court during the reign of King Louis XV.
TOP BLACKJACK PLAYERS
Some of the top blackjack players in the Blackjack Hall of Fame include:
- Al Francesco
- Peter Griffin
- Stanford Wong
- Ken Uston
- James Grosjean
- Bill Benter
- Don Johnson
- Anthony Curtis
- Richard W. Munchkin
- Zeljko Ranogajec
STRATEGY IN BLACKJACK — HOW DID IT START?
These blackjack rule changes significantly increased blackjack’s popularity, even though the game’s math remained a mystery to both the casino and players alike. Many casino owners believed it was virtually impossible for the complicated game to be mathematically analysed by anyone.
However, this belief was shattered to pieces around 1956 when the so-called ‘Four Horsemen of Aberdeen’ crunched the numbers with their large brains and archaic hand calculators; they came up with a blackjack basic strategy that players could somewhat easily apply to increase the winning chances against the house.
But despite the efforts of James McDermott, Wilbert Cantey, Herbert Maisel, and Roger Baldwin to educate players back then, it was only in the year 2008 that recognition came along with the Blackjack Hall of Fame praising them for their accomplishments.
The ultimate of all books on blackjack tips was published in 1962 when Professor Edward Thorp used his expertise in mathematics to create a card-counting strategy outlined in his best-selling book ‘Beat the Dealer‘.
Scared of suffering misfortunes thanks to the book’s revelations, the country’s casinos over-hauled many blackjack rules to counteract the strategy.
COUNTING CARDS IN BLACKJACK
It is essential to remember that casinos will likely use more than one deck of playing cards. In fact, some will use four, six, or even eight decks. This is to try to stop the practice of ‘card counting‘: when a player tracks the flow of individual playing cards to gain an advantage.
When a player has an idea where a specific card or cards may be, it enables them to better guess what playing cards might be dealt to them, or to others. This makes it more likely that they will end up with a winning hand.
As the blackjack game grew in popularity, more players developed strategies. Somewhere around the early ’50s, Jess Marcum, a nuclear physicist, decided to quit his well-paid job to play professional blackjack, and came up with the first rudimentary counting systems for playing cards. Later on, in the 1960s, Dr Edward Thorp went further in the subject and published a book on his card-counting system, known as the ‘Ten Count‘.
The ‘Ten Count’ system gained popularity in almost no time. Alarmed at this phenomenon, casinos in Las Vegas and elsewhere implemented house rules on their casino tables, allowing players to double down only on two cards totalling 11 and disallowing a pair of aces to be split.
These swift changes angered players, and as a result, they turned to other games. After seeing this colossal fiasco, casinos had no choice but to revert back to the standard rules, with one significant but essential change: instead of dealing hand-held, single-deck games, they switched to a four-deck game. After this episode, multiple-deck blackjack games became more or less the norm in all casinos, with this number even going up to eight decks of playing cards depending on the table.
Card counting isn’t illegal, but if a casino suspects a player, they will probably ban them from the premises and inform other casinos nearby. Because of the multiple decks used by most casinos, they use a shoe to hold the playing cards, which is why you may see the term ‘shoe game‘ being used in some gambling establishments.
21 – MORE THAN A NUMBER
The Twenty-One card game, or blackjack as we know it, features up to eight standard decks of 52 playing cards each. But no matter how many decks are used in the game, blackjack card values are constant, making it very easy to work out your hand total at any given time.
Cards two through nine take their face values, while 10, J, Q and K are worth 10 points. The value of the ace in blackjack can be either one or 11, making it a super valuable card since it offers more flexibility.
Here’s how to determine whether an ace will count as one or 11:
- The ace is always valued at 11 unless this would bring the hand’s total over 21. In this case, the ace will count as one.
- A hand of A-A can only have one ace at 11; the other must count as one. However, if you have two aces, you should consider splitting — A-A is considered one of the most advantageous splits in the game.
Dealers deal the first two cards for each player, and only the dealer can draw cards. The game’s objective is to beat the dealer.
There are three ways to beat the dealer in a game of blackjack:
- By getting a higher card value than the dealer, without exceeding 21.
- If the dealer’s hand goes over 21.
- By hitting a blackjack (scoring a card value of exactly 21) on your first two cards while the dealer doesn’t have a blackjack.
On the other hand, the dealer will win the round in these two situations:
- If your card value exceeds 21.
- If the dealer’s card value exceeds yours at the end of the round.
In the event of a tie, the hands push. This means the hands have the same rank, so a game is neither won nor lost, and the bet is returned to the player.
There were many changes before we got to the rules of blackjack we have nowadays, but they would soon change once more with the advent of the internet.
ONLINE BLACKJACK — A NEW ERA OF CARD GAMES
Allegedly, the first online gambling website began around 1995, offering only poker and later introduced blackjack. But, this was still during the first steps of the internet. Since then, a lot has changed, with online casinos providing convenience and speed.
There are many advantages to an online blackjack hand, including playing anytime without having to actually go to a physical casino. Online casinos may offer better rules for players than land-based casinos, which is an excellent point to consider when looking for a place to play blackjack.
Playing blackjack online has many benefits that players can take advantage of, one of them being the RNG version of blackjack. This is a stripped-down version of blackjack, meaning it would not have any bonus features you might encounter when playing other online blackjack games.
However, with the RNG version, players can access the demo mode, allowing them to play blackjack online for free! The way this would work is, upon accessing the demo, players would be set up with a set amount of virtual cash, predetermined by the game’s developer. Thus, they could be more comfortable playing classic blackjack without using real cash.
LIVE BLACKJACK — A GAME WITH REAL DEALERS
Playing live blackjack isn’t simply a matter of leaving your fate up to a Random Number Generator (RNG). While there aren’t any sure-fire ways of winning on any casino game out there, it’s a matter of making calculated decisions to get the most out of your dealt cards while reducing the house edge tactically.
Live casinos didn’t get their start until the mid-2000s, and they were relatively rare initially. As the internet grew, so did the Live Casino scene. Smartphones were around the corner, and so more internet bandwidth was needed. Enter Evolution: a provider that needs no introduction today. By 2010, Evolution was winning awards, and from 2013 to 2017, it opened a new studio every year. Its reach is unparalleled and has gone to define Live Casino games as we know it.
What makes a Live Casino so unique? When playing blackjack at a Live Casino, you experience all the glitz and glam associated with iconic Las Vegas casinos from the comfort of your own home.
With Live Casino play, you join thousands of other players on tables, competing worldwide! But it doesn’t stop there, as Live Casinos also include a Live Chat feature that allows you to interact with all the other players and the live dealer too!
The basic rules of blackjack online are simple. Place a bet during the allotted time frame, and watch your cards be dealt by the live dealer. Once you have reviewed your hand, more options will be displayed on the screen for you to choose from, such as doubling down your bet, hitting or standing. Different variations of online blackjack come with various options, so be sure to read about them in the game rules.
Nowadays, the best game providers are constantly refining their games to run flawlessly on compatible mobile devices. This means you can rest assured that you can play live blackjack online at your favourite Live Casino wherever you may be.
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Remember, gambling should always be fun, which means making careful decisions about how to spend your free time and money.
CONCLUSION — IS IT JUST A CARD GAME?
While it is a game of chance, you will find that this game is also about skill and strategy. The history of blackjack shows us just how long the road has been.
You may know the game’s rules, but do you know how to play with a good hand? Or that playing with a basic blackjack strategy can reduce the house edge? If the answer to these questions is “No,” check out our LV BET Casino blog to find a guide for every aspect of this massive card staple!
✅ Where did the name blackjack come from?
Originally called ‘Twenty-One’ (‘Vingt-et-Un’ in French) or pontoon, the game gained popularity in the gambling halls of 18th-century New Orleans thanks to French colonists. The New Orleans gambling halls needed means of promoting these new games, often awarding bonus payouts for playing a jack of clubs or spades along with the ace of spades, hence the term ‘black jack’.
✅ Are Vingt-et-Un and blackjack the same card game?
No, Vingt-et-Un is an ancestor of the contemporary blackjack game, played at the French Royal Court during the reign of King Louis XV and French colonists in New Orleans.
✅ What is an Optimal Blackjack Strategy?
The basic blackjack strategy is arguably the optimum strategy to pick up during a game. It is often recommended for beginners as it is a mathematically calculated set of decisions that may help them make the best possible decision, no matter what cards the dealer deals to them. With this basic strategy, players can potentially slice the house edge in half and bring it down to as low as 0.20%. For this reason, this system is considered the best blackjack strategy to adopt.
✅ What are other popular card games?
The other most popular card games are poker and baccarat.
✅ Who invented blackjack card counting?
The earliest card-counting systems were developed by nuclear physicist Jess Marcum, and the first book on card-counting techniques was written by Dr Edward Thorp. Becoming a card counter is not recommended, however, as this method is banned from most gambling venues.