Blackjack is one of the most simple yet best loved casino games around and is a card game enjoyed by many. But where, when and how did it all begin? Here we take a look at the history of blackjack.
The exact history of this great game is, as with that of many casino games, inexact and uncertain. What is universally accepted is that it developed from the French game Vingt-et-Un – 21 in English. In Spain the same game was called Ventiuna, meaning the same, and although the game was mentioned in classical Spanish literature as far back as 1602, it only became widespread at the start of the 18th century.
The roots of the game may actually go back even further, however, with some suggesting blackjack ultimately evolved out of a Roman gambling activity that used numbered wooden blocks, whilst a more credible tale suggests a Spanish game called 31 was invented in 1440. It is thought that this game may have merged and melded with chemin de fer, a variant of bacarrat and ultimately ended up with 21 and then blackjack. I did say this history was uncertain!
What is better documented is the rise of 21 in the 18th century, the game being played by travelling European merchants, as well as in continental casinos. The game made its way over the Atlantic with European immigrants at the end of the 18th century and quickly became popular in the US too.
However, at this stage the game was still 21, blackjack only really evolving at the start of the 20th century. The extra reward for a “natural”, a 21 made with just two cards, was introduced and when gambling was legalized in America in the 1930s Nevada casinos introduced an even bigger payout for a “natural” made with the ace of spades and a black jack. That paid out at a generous 10/1 and the game, and the name, grew rapidly.
Whilst both the game and the name would endure, that 10/1 payout was short-lived and casinos reverted to the original 3/2 bonus for any two-card 21. Since that change blackjack has remained largely the same, although as with almost all aspects of life modern technology has impacted on blackjack.
Nowadays online blackjack and live dealer blackjack are massively popular and growing all the time. The low house edge of blackjack, combined with the element of skill, or at least player decision, as well as new online progressive and bonus blackjack games means that blackjack may have an uncertain past but its future is certainly assured.