Blackjack wasn’t always the popular game it is today and its origins are, like so many casino games, are not entirely certain. It’s speculated that the game, in its original form, was a combination of three other games; namely Baccarat, Seven-And-A-Half and Vingt-et-Un (21 in the Americas and Pontoon in Australia). How it made its way across the oceans, into land casinos and onto the web is an interesting tale. Our game history page tells it.
Casino blackjack games are among today’s most popular casino games and are available in nearly all land and online casinos. Basic blackjack has been played for centuries and its reach has spanned the globe. It is a game that requires mathematical knowledge, luck and courage. This unique combination appeals to players and has helped both casino blackjack and blackjack online achieve the widespread popularity they enjoy.
Still, the question remains: What is the history of casino blackjack and blackjack online?
Black Jack Game History—European Roots
Many historians set the beginnings of modern blackjack history in seventeenth-century Europe. It is believed that French players sat in the salons of noble lords and took part in a game called “vingt-et-un” (French for “twenty-one”). At the same time, legendary Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes, creator of the iconic characters Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, wrote a story about a great blackjack cheat and his sidekick, both of whom were skilled at the game of “veintiuna” (Spanish for “twenty-one”). Further east, a similar game called “sette e mezzo” (Italian for “seven and a half”) came into vogue among Italian nobility. In all of these cases, if the player’s hand exceeded the set value of 21, that player “busted” and lost his hand.
Black Jack Game History—Hello Vegas!
As with many modern card games, immigrants brought the basic blackjack game to the Americas. Blackjack, poker and faro flourished as explorers, entrepreneurs and gamblers made their way west.
In 1931, a small Nevada town, desperate for revenue during the Great Depression, made blackjack history when it legalized gambling and established the forerunners of modern casinos. That town was Las Vegas and the card game that attracted the most players was casino blackjack. In fact, the name “blackjack” came from a rule that allowed players to win ten times their original bet if their first two cards were an ace and jack of spades (a “black jack”).
Black Jack Game History—Counting Cards & Blackjack Charts
In 1962, a young mathematician named Edward O. Thorp employed a primitive digital computer to analyze typical blackjack hand distributions. Using his research and the computer simulations he programmed, he developed what casino and blackjack online players now call “basic blackjack strategy” and became one of the most prominent figures in modern blackjack history.
Thorp created early versions of the blackjack charts players use today to determine when they should hit, stand, split pairs and double down. He also pioneered the idea of “counting cards” by proposing that an observant player could track which cards had been dealt and change their bets according to the cards left in the deck. He published all of these findings in his groundbreaking book, Beat the Dealer.
Black Jack Game History—College Kids Master Blackjack Cheat Scheme
In the 1980s and 1990s, a group of students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) applied Thorp’s teachings when they created the infamous “MIT Blackjack Teams”. These groups employed basic blackjack strategy, counting cards, blackjack charts and team play to win millions from casinos all over the world. Their efforts were documented in the book “Breaking Vegas” and the hit movie “21”.
As a result of these card-counting schemes, casinos updated their blackjack policies.
In the mid-1990s, software developers began creating computerized blackjack games that could be played via the internet. Now, anyone with a computer, an internet connection and a credit card can play blackjack online at any time, day or night. These online blackjack games have taken the original version of the game to heights of popularity not previously seen in blackjack history.
Famous Blackjack Quotes
Blackjack is the only casino game an amateur can learn to play and at which he can definitely win. ~ Lawrence Revere, author, Playing Blackjack as a Business.
I love blackjack. But I'm not addicted to gambling. I'm addicted to sitting in a semi circle. ~ Mitch Hedberg, comedian
I'm not into anything bad. Just blackjack. ~ Frankie Muniz, actor