Blackjack is a gambling card game popular in casinos throughout the world.
It is the most widely played casino banking game in the world and descends from a global family of casino banking games known as Twenty-One.
Players hope to get a total card value of 21 or to come closer to it, without going over, than the dealer, against whom all betting is done. For this purpose aces count as 1 or 11, face cards as 10, and the rest at their index value. A hand counting 21 on the first two cards (an ace and a 10 or face card) is called a natural or a blackjack. Suits are irrelevant. In most varieties of the game, a player receiving two cards ofthe same rank may split them, receiving a second card for each, and play the two hands independently of each other. Another common rule is to allow “doubling down” with two cards that total 11 (in some variants 11 or 10)—the player doubles the bet, turns up the cards, and takes one more card facedown. In some games a player wins extra by getting five cards without “going bust” (going over 21).
The origins of Blackjack is still under debate, but researchers agree that Blackjack probably originated in the French casinos around 1700. The French cards were called “Vingt-et-Un,” which translates to “Twenty-one.” These cards are probably derived from card games Chemin de Fer, which were popular at that time. The card game was played at the French Royal Court during the reign of King Louis XV.
There is actually a theory that Blackjack is an invention by the Romans. The theory stands because Romans loved to gamble, but it is not confirmed. It is believed that Romans played this game with wooden blocks with different numbers painted on them, instead of paper cards.
The earliest written reference to a card game named twenty-one is in the Spanish short story Rinconete y Cortadillo by Miguel de Cervantes, which was published in the 1613 collection Novelas ejemplares and believed to have been written between 1601 and 1602.
The first record of the game in France occurs in 1888 and in Britain during the 1770s and 1780s, but the first rules appear in Britain in 1800 under the name of Vingt-Un. Twenty-One, still known then as Vingt-Un, appeared in the United States in the early 1800s. The first American rules were an 1825 reprint of the 1800 English rules. English Vingt-Un later developed into an American variant in its own right which was renamed blackjack around 1899.
According to popular myth, when Vingt-Un was introduced into the United States, gambling houses offered bonus payouts to stimulate players’ interest. One such bonus was a ten-to-one payout if the player’s hand consisted of the ace of spades and a black jack (either the jack of clubs or the jack of spades). This hand was called a “blackjack”, and the name stuck even after the ten-to-one bonus was withdrawn.
French card historian Thierry Depaulis debunks this story, showing that prospectors during the Klondike Gold Rush (1896–99) gave the name blackjack to the game of American Vingt-Un, the bonus being the usual ace and any 10-point card. Since ‘blackjack’ also refers to the mineral zincblende, which was often associated with gold or silver deposits, he suggests that the mineral name was transferred by prospectors to the top bonus hand. He was unable to find any historical evidence for a special bonus for having the combination of an ace with a black jack.
It wasn’t until 1931 that Nevada lawmakers legalized gambling and blackjack, in particular. The rules of the game were fairly standardized from that date – and the origins of a dusty city in the middle of a desert was set in stone: Las Vegas.
Mathematics can be very useful when you play Blackjack. In the 1950s, Roger Baldwin published “The Optimum Strategy of Blackjack”. That was the first attempt to help players build a basic strategy, naturally to give them a higher chance of winning. But Baldwin did not have modern computer systems at his disposal.
In the 1990s came the Internet, and things were about to go stratospheric for all casino games, including poker. Online gambling became a thing, with online casinos springing up all over the place. Blackjack remained as popular on the virtual casino tables as it is on land.
In 2002, professional gamblers around the world were invited to nominate great blackjack players for admission into the Blackjack Hall of Fame. Seven members were inducted in 2002, with new people inducted every year after. The Hall of Fame is at the Barona Casino in San Diego. Members include Edward O. Thorp, author of the 1960s book Beat the Dealer – Ken Uston, who popularized the concept of team play – Arnold Snyder, author and editor of the Blackjack Forum trade journal; and Stanford Wong, author and popularizer of “Wonging”.
The longest time spent dealing blackjack is 51 hours 33 minutes by Stephen De Raffaele (Malta) between 24–27 August 2001 at the Oracle Casino, Qawra, Malta.
The largest functioning blackjack table measured 206.85 m (2,226 ft 6 in) in surface area and was created by the Viejas Casino (USA) in Alpine, California, on 13 September 2013. In celebrate of the Viejas Casino’s 21st anniversary, one hand of blackjack was played by six guests of the casino and a dealer using oversized casino chips and cards that matched the enormous scale of the table.