The History of Blackjack

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A Brief History

The early days of Blackjack are still a bit cloudy and pinpointing its true origin is still up for debate. Various versions of the game have been traced back to France, Spain, and some even believe that the ancient Romans were the initial inventors; however, the most popular researcher-led opinion shows us that blackjack most likely came about in France during the turn of the 17th century. The French were already keen card players and there was a game known as Vingt-en-Un, which translates to twenty-one, that gives us a strong indication that blackjack was born in France. It did not take long for card games to become an everyday activity in the social lives of Europeans and eventually, French colonists took these gaming ideas and Vingt-en-Un to North America in the 18th century.

Digging Deeper

Vingt-en-Un Breaks Into America

New Orleans soon became the hub of this new and exciting card game with the opening of legalized gambling halls documented in 1820. The popularity of the game exploded across America and there is even an old Blackjack fable that speaks of a lady who moved to America from France, who went by the name of Eleanor Dumont – who was also known as “Madame Mustache” due to a strip of hair above her top lip! A talented dealer with a love for card games, it was believed that Eleanor opened up her own high-end gambling hall in Nevada City by the name of Vingt-et-Un. Rich men were said to have traveled from all over America to play against Eleanor. Her business, some are led to believe, sowed the seeds for the legendary Vegas gambling experience that we all know today!

The Casino Revolution

The 20th century gave birth to the casino revolution and it is here that we see the name ‘Blackjack’ take hold from its previously known ‘21’ and ‘Vingt-en-Un’ monikers. The game quickly became a firm favorite with casino gamblers around the world. Huge numbers traveled to Nevada and to many of the casinos springing up in and around Europe. It was fair to say that blackjack was firmly on the map when the Nevada Gaming Commission documented the game with its full set of rules which are, in fact, still in use today. Fast forward to the 1950’s and we find the first instances of the infamous card counting strategy coming into play. Funnily enough, card counting wasn’t something that bothered the casinos at first and dealers were even known to suggest the ‘best play’ to paying punters; however, its popularity and the number of people using the strategy continued to grow, with a large helping hand from the various Hollywood movies based on the game. The likes of Rain Man and, in particular, 21 managed to mislead the public into thinking that card counting was a ‘get rich quick scheme’ that anyone could take advantage of. This is certainly not the case and there is a lot more to it than what these movies depict, however, the casinos decided to wage war against the card counters and many known culprits, teams and individuals, were banned from casinos across the land.

Online Gaming & The Future For Blackjack

A new century and another new chapter for blackjack is currently being written. The birth of the internet and online gaming took blackjack to even higher levels of popularity than ever before. The fact that anyone can open up a casino on their mobile phone and play a whole range of games has put the likes of blackjack into the hands and homes of billions of people. There are now countless versions of online blackjack that you can play and enjoy such as Super 7’s, Multi Hand VIP, and of course the good old Classic Blackjack. The online environment is full of innovation and potential and there are plenty more new designs to come in the future with the exciting VR technology just around the corner. There is no denying that Blackjack has become one of the most famous of all the casino games, so much so that even Hollywood could not resist its charm. It still manages to catch the hearts and imagination of gamblers and the public in general, from those early days in 17th century France to the online iGaming environment today. Blackjack still reigns king of the casino!

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Snyder, Arnold.  Big Book of Blackjack.  Cardoza, 2006.

The featured image in this article, a photograph by BuickCenturyDriver of a Blackjack hand, an Ace of clubs and a 10 of diamonds, has been released into the public domain worldwide by the copyright holder of this work.

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About Author

Abdul Alhazred

“But I don’t want to go among mad people," Alice remarked. "Oh, you can’t help that," said the Cat: "we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad." "How do you know I’m mad?" said Alice. "You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn’t have come here.” ― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland