The Evolution of Blackjack: Unveiling the Rich History

Blackjack, a skill, strategy, and chance game, has captivated players worldwide for centuries. The history of Blackjack is vague, with various theories and stories attempting to unveil its origins. 

In this article, we will look into the intriguing history of Blackjack, from its beginning to its modern-day significance.

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Highlights of the Article

  • The Spanish played the earliest version called “Trente-Un.”
  • The earliest reference to a comparable game is in Cervantes’ early 17th-century Don Quixote. 
  • Twenty-one, or “ving-et-un,” was another precursor to Blackjack in early French casinos.
  • Blackjack was inspired by a French game that required ability and strategy to achieve nine called “Chemin de Fer.”
  • In the 1800s, it was thought the French colonists brought French Ferme to New Orleans.
  • Las Vegas became the world’s gambling capital in the 1940s, marking a significant milestone in Blackjack history.
  • The Blackjack Hall of Fame was created in 2002 to honor players and developers who have shaped the community.

Timeline of History of Blackjack

The theories regarding the game’s origins are as varied as the game itself. Cervantes’ work Don Quixote, written in the early 17th century, contains one of the oldest allusions to a similar game. 

A card game called “venting,” translating to “twenty-one” in Spanish is said to be part of history. The rules differ slightly from the modern form but this early mention gives insight into Blackjack’s origins.

The 1400s

In the 1400s, Blackjack wasn’t called that name until later. Another game was when the Spanish played a similar game known as Trente-Un. 

This game, “Thirty-one,” was focused on matching a hand value approaching thirty-one without going over. Although not Blackjack, the game laid the framework for later editions’ numerical objectives.

The Early 16th and 17th Centuries

The French Casinos

The effect of France on the evolution of Blackjack goes beyond Ving-et-un. The country’s long gambling history provided games that helped shape the game we know today.

Vingt-et-un

Another significant forerunner to Blackjack is “ving-et-un,” which translates to twenty-one. During the early 17th century, this game became popular in French casinos. 

Vingt-et-un’s goal was to get as close to 21 as possible without going over. Blackjack’s development relied on this French connection. The game was popular among French aristocrats.

How to Play Ving-Et-Un
  1. Collect a standard 52-deck card.
  2. Assign a point value to each card.
    1. Number cards 2-10 are for their face value.
    2. Face cards (King, Queen, Jack) are worth 10 points apiece;
    3. Ace is either 1 or 11 points, depending on the players.
  3. Choose the ‘dealer’ for the first round. This can be done via mutual consent or a random technique like drawing cards.
  4. Before the start of the round, each participant put their bets. The sum of the bets might be agreed upon in advance.
  5. The dealer shuffles the deck and hands two face-up cards up to each player, including themselves. The dealer’s second card is frequently dealt face down.
  6. Starting from the left of the dealer and working clockwise, each player takes turns selecting whether to “hit” (get an additional card) or “stand” (not receive any more cards).
  7. The goal is to come close to 21 but not beyond.
    1. If the hand reaches beyond 21, they ‘bust’ and lose the round.
  8. After each player has done their turn, the dealer exposes their face-down card.
  9. The dealer must obey the “house rules.” Typically, the dealer hits on a hand total of 16 or less and stands on a hand total of 17 or more.
    1. All players who have not previously busted instantly win the round if the dealer busts.
    2. If the dealer does not bust, each player’s card is compared—the person with the highest total wins.
  10. When the round ends, the dealer collects the lost bets and pays out the winning bet. The cards are then reshuffled, and new round starts.

Vingt-et-un quickly entered popular culture, appearing in works such as Miguel de Cervantes’ Rinconete y Cortadillo.

Chemin de Fer

A famous French game focused on reaching nine demonstrated elements of skill and strategy that were subsequently included in Blackjack.

Known as Chernay or Shimmy, this card game can go up to 12 players to try to get a hand total of nine with two or three face-up cards on a kidney-shaped table.

French Ferme

The strategic components of Blackjack were influenced by French Ferme, a banking game in which players competed for the biggest score.

The convergence of these games and influences resulted in the development of Blackjack as we know it today. 

Differences between Chemin de fer and French Ferme:

CategoryChemin de FerFrench Ferme
Objective
  • Have the most points overall or come the closest to nine to win.
  • The most points overall or the closest number to nine will win.
Deck
  • 6 decks of cards
  • 52-decks of card
Banker
  • Players alternate turns
  • Dealer acts as the banker
Betting
  • Players can bank on their own hand or the banker’s.
  • Players can only bet on their own hand
Card Values
  • Ace: 1 point
  • 2-9: Face value
  • 10 and face cards: no value
  • Ace: 1 point
  • 2-10: Face value
  • Face cards: no value
Third Card Rule
  • Players have the choice to draw a third card based on specific conditions.
  • All players may or may not draw a third card based on specific conditions.
Drawing Rules
  • Banker draws according to predetermined rules set before the game begins.
  • Dealer may or may not draw a third card based on specific conditions.
Payouts
  • Winner receives a 1:1 reward.
  • A 5% commission will be taken from the pot money if the banker prevails.
  • Winner receives a 1:1 reward. 
Player’s Role
  • Players can opt to be the banker or the player.
  • Players can only be the player.
Popularity
  • Popular in Europe and certain parts of Asia.
  • Popular in France and some European countries.
Strategy
  • Players can decide to draw a third card based on their hands and the banker’s.
  • A third card cannot be drawn at the discretion of the player. They are limited to placing bets.

The 1800s

It is believed that French colonists are thought to have brought it to the United States. It quickly acquired popularity, especially in New Orleans, around 1820.

In the US, gambling was restricted. Blackjack and other casino games flourished in Las Vegas when Nevada legalized gambling in 1931.

It was during this period that the game was popularized by Eleanor Dumont, a French gambler.

The American Blackjack Rules were created in 1825. These rules vary slightly from the original Vingt-Un rules, incorporating ideas such as breaking pairs and doubling down.

Blackjack Gets Its Name

In 1899, it was named “Blackjack.”

When American casinos started giving a 10-to-1 payout for a hand with a Jack of Clubs or Spades and an Ace of Spades, the name was modified.

Although the advertising was brief, “Blackjack” became synonymous with the game.

The 1900s

In the 1900s, Blackjack’s popularity and impact in the gambling business changed. The prohibition ended, Las Vegas casinos opened, and card counting was devised.

Blackjack Shines in the Mainstream Culture

Blackjack’s success enhanced its cultural presence. The game appeared in novels, movies, and casinos worldwide.

Blackjack’s reputation as a classic casino game was enhanced by movies like “Rain Man” and “21,” which showcased its excitement and intrigue.

End of Prohibition

The repeal of gambling prohibition in the United States in 1933 was one of the significant events that changed the gambling setup. 

With the legalization of alcohol, establishments known as speakeasies were converted into casinos, giving gamblers a new way to engage in their favorite past times. 

These casinos attracted both recreational gamblers and seasoned pros, and they became the center for many gaming activities, including Blackjack.

Introduction to Las Vegas Casino

In the 1940s, a significant milestone in the history of Blackjack occurred with the rise of Las Vegas as the world’s gambling capital.

Blackjack became one of the most played games on casino floors as the city expanded and the number of casinos increased, due to its high win rate of 43%.

Growth and Emergence of Blackjack

Blackjack saw impressive growth in revenue and player base during the 1900s. The game’s simplicity and strategic complexity appealed to both seasoned gamblers and beginners, sustaining its popularity.

The 2000s

Internet and online gambling changed Blackjack in the 2000s. Blackjack became the most popular online casino game due to its convenience of playing from home.

Online and land-based casinos are adding video Blackjack machines. These machines’ fast-paced and solo gaming appealed to individual gamblers.

Despite the rise of other types of Blackjack, such as online and video, the classic version remains the most popular. The communal quality of playing at a real table has lured players of all kinds.

The Blackjack Hall of Fame

It was in 2002 that the Blackjack Hall of Fame was established

The award sought to honor players who have had a significant influence on the community, whether by their prowess or their hand in the game’s advancement.

Below are the Top 10 Blackjack players of all time:

  • Al Francesco – He won $5,000 per year each year when the time he was active
  • Arnold Snyder – Along with Radar, they won $85,000
  • Peter Griffin – He became a member of the Hall of Fame for being a mathematician who calculated the percentage disadvantage at around 2% of average Blackjack players.
  • Edward Thorp – A math genius. He earned a total of $800 million.
  • Ken Uston – He was famous for winning $60,000 in one game.
  • Tommy Hyland – A legendary player who formed a team with a total bankroll of $16,000
  • Stanford Wong – He quickly gained $150 by playing $1 to $4 minimums with his $300 bankroll which made him the fastest earner.
  • Max Rubin – He’s a renowned Blackjack player and comedian. He has earned $10 million by playing Blackjack.
  • Lawrence Revere – Regarded as the true “Master of Blackjack” because of his best-selling book “Playing Blackjack As A Business”
  • Roger Baldwin – Known as “Groundbreaker on Blackjack Strategy.” he won $129,000.

Blackjack parties also grew popular in the 2000s. Amateurs and experts competed and socialized at these events. Blackjack gatherings allow participants to bond over the game’s long history.

Final Words

Blackjack’s long and fascinating history has had a lasting impression on the gaming and entertainment industries including the largest casinos in the world.

Blackjack has continuously captivated players with its simple but strategic gameplay, from its beginnings in the back alleys of French casinos to its current state.

Additionally, Blackjack has an impact outside of the gambling tables. Its appropriation into popular culture-like in novels, films, and internet mediums-has solidified its position as a cultural symbol.

Numerous players have enjoyed the thrill of the game while attempting to defeat the dealer and win.

FAQ

Why is it called Blackjack?

It requires a player to be given a hand totaling 21, consisting of the Ace of Spades and either Jack of Clubs or Jack of Spades.

What is the history of basic strategy Blackjack?

The basic strategy dates back to the 1950s when mathematicians and statisticians devise a probability-based strategy to maximize players’ decisions.

What is the main goal of Blackjack?

The fundamental aim of Blackjack is to have a hand value that is closer to 21 than the dealer’s hand without surpassing 21.

Is Blackjack mostly luck?

While randomness plays a considerable part in individual hands, Blackjack is a game where ability and technique may impact long-term outcomes.

What is the secret of Blackjack?

The secret to winning Blackjack in understanding and implementing optimum playing decisions based on the game’s particular rules and odds.