History for card games can be a little confusing. We often have a hard time deciding on where the card games originated from, but we do have some general ideas. It is hard to trace the origins of any game because history didn’t necessarily think it was important enough to record.
Blackjack is one of the popular casino games under the category of card games. The Blackjack game is also known as ‘twenty-one, ‘Vingt-en-un and Pontoon in different parts of the world. Blackjack is popular among the casino players due to the opportunity to win the game by utilizing gambling skills and the card counting prospects.
The first time that the game of “twenty-one” was referenced in literature was in the early 1600s in a book written by Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote, called Ronconete y Cortadillo, about gambling cheaters in Seville. The book mentions a game called “Veintiuna”, which is Spanish for twenty-one. The game, according to Cervantes, is played without tens like present-day Spanish 21, and Aces are worth either 1 point or 11 points.
Many believe that blackjack started in the 17th century. The game is also said to have started in France. The original name was Vingt et Un meaning 21.There are other games with similar names and rules, so we believe that blackjack is a root of Vingt et Un, though Vingt et Un can be from some other origin.
There are differences between Blackjack and Vingt et Un. The dealer is allowed to double and you bet after each round in Vingt et Un, which is not like the American version of Blackjack. Blackjack got its name from having the black of spades for the ace and the jack. The goal is the same in any of the versions of Blackjack that you can find in today’s world. You need to have a total of 21 to win. You get a better payout if you get the natural blackjack.
During the 17th century there was a game in Italy referred to as Seven and a half. This game was played with face cards, the 7, 8, and 9 cards as well. You were to make a hand of seven and a half points. The 7, 8, and 9 were valued at one, which the face cards were a half a point. In Seven and a Half the King, with diamonds, was a wild card. The players who went over 7 and 1/2 were considered busted and lost the round.
It was about a hundred years later (in the early 1800’s) that the game of 21 made its way to America. This game immediately became popular, especially amongst gamblers. It was here that the name “Blackjack” was developed. The original version of the game incorporated an aspect where if your first two cards dealt to you were the Jack of spades and the Ace of spades you would be paid out at 10 to 1. So everyone was hoping to be dealt that black Jack. This is no longer practiced in today’s blackjack games.
In the US there were no laws against gambling, and unfortunately France had quite a few laws at the time. This made it easier for those who loved to play to get on a ship and gamble. Gamblers were starting to develop tips on how to play and win. In the 19th century things changed in the US. The games, such as blackjack and other gambling games were outlawed. They felt it brought on more crime.
During this period Blackjack was played without knowledge by secret clubs. They had to meet in secret, avoid the police, and make sure that those playing were invited and trustworthy. The restrictions in the 1920’s grew more and more pronounced, but in 1931 Las Vegas opened as a legal means to gamble. Some see this as a way to make it more interesting, because you can’t just play it anywhere like you can play it in a casino.
It was in the 1950’s when Roger Baldwin published a paper called “The Optimum Strategy of Blackjack”. This was the very first attempt to use mathematics to form a basic strategy which would reduce the houses edge and give players a better chance at winning. Although Baldwin’s efforts are recognizable, he didn’t have the proper technologies to take his theory to the next step.
Edward Thorp was the next person to try and dispel the fallacies regarding the game and come up with the strategy in statistics that would work out better. In 1962 he finally published his findings with the card counting theory.
These books, especially the 1962 book, was on the list for New York Times best sellers. In history this is perhaps the most defining moment for blackjack as many wanted to learn how to successfully play the game. The casinos were not exactly happy with the published material, which meant they had to change a few ways of doing things such as shuffling the cards a little early. After the 1962 book ‘Beat the Dealer’ was released, this caused more casino worry and the eventual changes
Over the next few years the casinos found that they needed to change something, they were definitely not making any and in some cases losing a lot of money because of the new ways to beat the dealer at blackjack. Since blackjack was so popular they couldn’t get rid of the game altogether, they would go out of business. So to regain their house advantage, the casinos had to change the rules. However the players didn’t respond well and many stopped coming to casinos and protested against the changes. So the casinos were defeated again and had to bring back the original rules.
Over the years however, the casinos managed to find ways around card counting practices and maintain the original structure of the game. These practices are still used today and come in the form of using multiple decks and frequent shuffling practices. The player could now use their basic strategy to increase their odds but the house now regained control of their odds.
Today the casinos around the world are very fair and carry out strict laws against cheating and card counting practices.