Skip to main content

History of Blackjack

S. Stoynova (editor) |

Brief Introduction to Blackjack’s Origin

History of BlackjackThe popular card game of blackjack has come a long way since its inception. Nowadays, you can come across different variants of the game, with smaller or more drastic rule variations ultimately tilting the scales in favor of the house or the player. In addition to the game itself, the way blackjack is played has also changed, with certain advantage play strategies being frowned upon by land-based casinos or simply becoming impractical when playing online.

To fully understand how blackjack has evolved throughout the years, we would like to take a look at the game’s history. That said, we would like to note that the origins of the game remain unknown, but there are plenty of theories as to how the card game came to be. In this article, we will cover several popular beliefs about the origin of blackjack, hopefully giving the readers answers to some questions about the game of 21.

Blackjack Origins

Blackjack game in the pastAs already indicated, the exact origins of the game are hard to be determined. It is believed that in ancient times, the Romans used to play a game that resembled to some extent blackjack. In the past, many different card games were invented in various parts of the world and as a result, it is possible that they have influenced each other. The first written evidence of blackjack can be found in a short story, written by the prominent Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes in the beginning of the 1600s. The game mentioned in it was called “Ventiuna” which is twenty one in Spanish. This is the reason why many historians consider that blackjack was invented in the 17th century at the latest as they derive its origins from this Spanish game.

The game is also said to have a relation with other popular games – the French Vingt-et-un and the Italian Seven and a Half. The reason why many historians believe that Seven and a Half has something to do with blackjack is that its main goal was to form a hand whose total value had to be closest to 7 ½ as possible. If players exceeded this amount, they “busted” which makes the game very similar to the blackjack that is known today.

On the other hand, Vingt-et-un is a French game that is translated as twenty one. It was played in the French casinos around the 1600s and its main goal was to have a hand total as close as possible to 21, without exceeding it. It is also believed that the name blackjack originated from exactly this game, in particular from the highest hand which was a Jack and an Ace.

The difference between blackjack and Vingt-et-un was that the latter required players to place their bets after every round and the only one who could double down was the dealer.

Evolution of Blackjack

Blackjack in America in the 30sLater on, in the 1800s, the many variations of blackjack reached America, even though back then gambling was prohibited. Perhaps, because of the huge interest in them, in 1931 the State of Nevada became the first territory which made gambling legal. The casinos quickly gained in popularity as many of them offered an exclusive bonus for a “natural” card combination.

If players had the strongest hand that consisted of an Ace of spades and one of the two black Jacks, they got paid 10/1. As the time passed by, blackjack became one of the most played casino games which gave the casinos the opportunity to take advantage of this huge interest and remove this beneficial payout. Nowadays, most blackjack games pay 3:2 when players get this lucky combination.

Blackjack is one of the few casino games which have evolved greatly during the years. As a result, it is no surprise that it has a number of interesting variations. All of them offer players the chance to diversify their gaming experience and enjoy the new features and additional rules the versions have. Some casinos adjusted the game according to their players’ needs and made sure that all types of gamblers, regardless of their betting habits and experience, could play. It was possible to find various tables that offered different betting limits and as a result, the game became suitable for everyone.

History of Blackjack Strategies

A photo of the famous matematician John ScarneAs blackjack is a card game, many people started to suspect that its outcome can be influenced by a reliable strategy. Some of the first people who tried to determine the pattern the game follows were two mathematicians – John Scarne and Julian Braun. They take credit for many of the blackjack strategies that are still used today. Their theories have greatly contributed to the development of some of the basic and advanced strategies. They proved that it is possible to derive valuable information from the pattern the game follows and this way, make wiser moves. After their findings blackjack wasn’t the same any more as many gamblers started to seek a way to improve their game. They learned how to make better betting choices and moves, depending on the total value of their hand. And indeed many of them managed to decrease the house edge and win more.

As a result, the casinos had to impose a countermeasure in order to make the game work in their favor again. The number of the decks was increased many times in an attempt to stop players from gaining advantage. Initially, the game was played with a single pack of cards, however nowadays it can be very hard to find such a version. Most casinos offer blackjack that utilizes 6 or 8 decks.

History of Card Counting

The first Blackjack card counter in the world - Edward ThorpOne of the most widespread strategies known today is the card counting one. It is used by hundreds of players worldwide who attempt to improve their game and decrease the house edge. The card counting was created by the mathematician Edward Thorp and it works best if applied along with the basic strategy. Its principle is simple – it provides valuable information about the ratio of the cards and it predicts to some extent whether the upcoming cards would be high value or low value ones.

Therefore, players can use this information to make wiser bets. For instance, if they know that there are more high value cards remaining in the deck, they can place bigger amounts for their bets as the chances that they will get a strong hand are good enough. This way, players have the chance to gain advantage and manage to achieve the desired win.

Throughout the years a great number of card counting systems have been developed so that all types of players, even inexperienced ones, can learn it.


ConclusionThe exact origins of blackjack are highly disputed as it resembles some other old card games in three different countries – France, Spain and Italy. Since it first appeared, the game has undergone so many major changes and it has been developed significantly. Nowadays, a number of exciting variations can be played in every reputable brick and mortar casino as well as online. It is a game that requires both luck and skills which is the reason why throughout the years, a number of strategies have been created. Thanks to them, players can gain advantage over the casino and become consistent winners in the long term.