The precise history of Blackjack is unknown, but historians of the matter tend to agree that the game probably originated sometime in the 1700s in French casinos. French colonists are believed to have spread the popularity of Blackjack to North America. A similar game, called “One and Thirty” is Spanish in origin and also believed to be an influence in modern Blackjack as we know it. Another theory as to the origins of modern Blackjack is attributed to the Romans, which are historically known to have loved gambling and are believed to have played a game with similar aims as Blackjack, but instead of using cards, they used numbered blocks. This theory, however, has never been conclusively proven.
Also known as “21”, the purpose of the game is to get as close to the number 21 with a hand of cards without going over. Played against a dealer, players wager whether they think they will get closer to the number 21 than the dealer. If the player goes over, the dealer wins and takes the wager, if the dealer goes over, the player wins, and usually doubles his or her money. Getting all of the cards in their hand to total exactly 21 is an instant win, while a hand which ends up being equal to that of the dealer’s is called a “push”, which is basically a draw, so no money is lost and no money is won.
When the game first appeared in Nevada casinos in the early 1930s, it was still referred to as “21”. According to historical accounts, casinos tried to draw in more people with an offer to pay 10-1 if any player of 21 was able to reach the winning number with a combination of the Ace of Spades and either of the two black colored Jacks in the deck, the Jack of Clubs or the Jack of Spades. Casinos eventually ended this form of payout, but the name “Blackjack” stuck.
The creation of the game of modern Blackjack can be attributed to no single person or culture, as the game has developed over centuries and even continues to keep evolving. Variations of the game of Blackjack have appeared as Spanish 21, Pontoon, Elimination Blackjack, Chinese Blackjack, Blackjack Switch; and the list goes on. Some 113 variations of Blackjack exist, but all are rooted in the basic principles of basic Blackjack.
Blackjack has long been a favorite among gamblers and amateurs alike because of the fact that, with a few simple methods of keeping track of cards already played, it’s possible to tip the scales in favor of the player. These methods, which take into account the probability that certain cards will be played next, are collectively referred to as “card counting”. While not technically illegal or cheating, a person suspected of card counting runs the risk of being banned by casinos. Perhaps the only aspect of the history of Blackjack as colorful as the creation of the game are the techniques used by scammers to cheat casinos out of millions of dollars. Methods have included the use of multi person teams, bribing dealers, and even electronic devices worn under the gambler’s clothing. Historically, however, the odds have always been, and probably will continue to always be in the house’s favor.