The Real History of Blackjack is Here

Last updated on 25th November 2020

Published: 18/01/2020

Categories: Blackjack Articles

history of blackjack card game

Blackjack might be one of the most popular live casino games played today, but its origins are still a subject of debate. I was just reading a few journals and thought that it would be a great idea to throw some light on the history of blackjack and how this game actually emerged.

The Origin of Blackjack

Blackjack is an ancient game whose origin dates back to several centuries before it became a popular choice for gamblers in modern casinos. Today, it’s played in various casinos worldwide including Las Vegas.

If one were to go by the book written by Miguel de CervantesRinconete y Cortadillo, it’s believed that the history of Blackjack was first scripted in 17th century Spain. Also, in the book, several references are made to “Twenty One,” which by the way is believed to be the name Blackjack held back then.

In Twenty One, players gambled to get a better hand than the dealer. It was played with the Spanish Deck, also called the Baraja española and shared the game strategy and rules with modern Blackjack.

Twenty One rose to fame in France in the late 17th century. The game was by then known as “vingt-et-un.” 

It was eventually introduced in the States by the French colonists. By 1931, after gambling was legalised in Nevada, it already had the attention of serious gamblers. Initially, the US casinos introduced bonus payouts to woo diehard gamblers.

The bonus included a payout of 10-to-1 for players with Blackjack & Ace of Spades in their hand. The game slowly came to be known as Blackjack. Once again, the history of Blackjack was written with a name that stayed long after casinos withdrew the ten-to-one bonus.

The Genesis of Blackjack

The timeline when Blackjack originated continues to remain controversial and hotly debated even today. Much of the earlier discussion was centered on Romans who historians believed had used wooden blocks for gambling.

Later, Italians were speculated to be the inventors of Blackjack because the game had its centuries-old footprint in Italy as well. While speculations were rife about the game’s true origin, it was in Spain where roots of Blackjack stayed prominent because of its historical mention in a 16th century book by a Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes.

Also, because the Spanish 21 is a game based on Blackjack that’s still played across the world to this day.

Irrespective of who invented Blackjack, gamblers from Rome, Italy, and Spain enjoyed gambling and took it along with them in their expeditions. When the French got involved, Blackjack spread its presence from Europe to Latin America.

The modern version of the game that we know today originated from Nevada where gambling was legal since 1931.

The Modern Blackjack

In America, “twenty-one” simply caught on with gamblers soon after it was introduced by colonists. By late 1931, brick and mortar casinos in Nevada were offering players a new game that was becoming quite popular.

In a marketing effort by the American casinos, a special bonus was offered to get players interested in the new game. Many offered a 10-1 bonus to players who dealt “Jack of Spades” or “Jack of Clubs” with “Ace of Spades.”

The trick worked and people were gambling harder at casinos to try their luck at big payouts. Therefore, the history of blackjack was rewritten with the coinage of the name “Blackjack.” In the end, the name stayed, while the bonus didn’t.

However, these days, new online casinos are offering bonuses to players scoring a Blackjack hand. They’re constantly running promotions across the Internet to attract gamblers.

history of blackjack game

Blackjack as a Pop Cult

The buzz around Blackjack soon materialised into books & movies. Many of which became popular and runaway hit at cinemas. More serious gamblers were relying upon technical literature to try their hand at the game.

In the later years, the interest in Blackjack and gambling, in general, began to grow with movies based on casinos. Since the 1980’s, movies like “Rain Man”, “The Last Casino”, “Croupier”, and “The Hangover” have become box-office hits with award-winning actors immortalising their roles.

Understanding moviegoer’s sentiments towards casinos, many writers and directors scripted movies based on casinos where actors played Baccarat, Craps, and Roulette, apart from Blackjack.

However, one movie that stood out as a critically acclaimed motion picture is the “Rain Man.” The movie’s plot is something to obsess. In the movie, the lead actor, played by Tom Cruise, abducts his autistic brother (Dustin Hoffman) to win money by counting cards at Vegas. 

The movie was scripted so well that it swept the audience off their feet with a stellar performance of both lead actors. 

“Rain Man” was pure awe to watch and even got people interested in the game itself. The movie was partly credited for popularising Blackjack.

Undoubtedly, the silver screen is responsible for promulgating casinos and gambling to moviegoers. The pop culture behind casinos became more familiar to the masses through movies based on gambling. It gave people an up-close experience of what happens in Vegas.

Variations in Blackjack

Did you know that Blackjack or ‘twenty-one’ has several variations with nearly identical rules? The history of Blackjack is rich because it was exported to other countries by the 17th century colonists and later transformed into multiple variations like:

  • Surrender
  • Vegas Downtown
  • Atlantic City
  • Match Play 21
  • Pontoon
  • Super Fun 21
  • Spanish 21 Blackjack
  • Vegas Strip Blackjack
  • Double Exposure
  • Switch

Fun Fact: In the year 1956, Roger Baldwin, James McDermott, Herbert Maisel, and Wilbert Cantey got a paper published in the Journal of American Statistical Association with the title “The Optimum Strategy”.

The paper was the first-ever attempt in the history of Blackjack to create a mathematically sound playing strategy for winning Blackjack hand.

Later on, the published paper became the basis for all future attempts to beat the house with a lucky hand. In 1963, ‘Beat the Dealer’ was published by Ed Thorp. The book was written after he verified the basic game strategy using Baldwin’s calculations.

Blackjack is an addictive game if you’ve the wit and grit to make money. The simplicity of this online casino game has enabled it to live on for centuries, making it a top favourite among gamblers from Europe to ASEAN to Latin America.

Now that you’ve understood the history of Blackjack through this blog, it’s time to play for you to play at any one of these top-rated online casinos.