The History of Blackjack and How It Came To Be
Blackjack, One of the Most Popular Casino Games
The facts about how and where blackjack has originated are pretty much vague. Several different theories have been proclaimed about the history of blackjack, but none of them has been accepted as the truest one by historians. Furthermore, historians themselves have disputed one another about where the game appeared first and how it appeared. Because of that, here we will talk about the different tales of the origins and history of blackjack.
There is one thing about which historians do agree: that the concept of playing with cards has originated in China in the 7th century. But, they believe blackjack was not one of the games that the Chinese invented. In fact, the general whereabouts of blackjack are believed to be in Europe. Europe is the place where the history of blackjack began.
Some say that it was from Egypt that blackjack came into Europe. This is mainly because 15th century Egyptians had playing cards that are very much similar to those that we use today. Their decks had 52 cards and four suits, and they had three types of face cards like we do today. Instead of King, Queen and Jack, they had King, Deputy King and Under Deputy. The Deputy King is obviously the Queen, the second most powerful person in the kingdom. Technically she is the deputy of the king when he goes into war etc, while the Under Deputy is obviously the Jack.
What is more interesting is that in the later centuries (16th, 17th and 18th) there existed a card game that was very similar to blackjack with rules similar to modern day blackjack. The history of blackjack gives us one reference of this game in a 1891 book by Baxter Wray. In it he talks about a game called Twenty One (‘Vingt-Un’ in French). According to the book, the game was very trendy at that time.
In this book he theorizes that due to its name the game must be from France. But, he has no definite proof of when and where it was invented. He also says that the game didn’t differentiate much in the time of playing from the time that it was invented.
How Blackjack Evolved
The commonly accepted history of blackjack tells us that Vingt-Un is the predecessor of modern blackjack. It was different in that each player had to place a bet before being dealt a card. This meant that each time when a player wanted to receive a card, he had to place a bet, and not just at the beginning of the dealing as today. Also, players were not allowed to double down, only the dealer could. But, there is another game that people think has influenced the creation of blackjack, and this one was from Spain. It was called Thirty One. The goal in this game was to reach 31 points with not more than 3 cards.
Anyway, when Vingt-Un was brought to America by European immigrants, it was called Twenty One. The name that we know today, Blackjack, was applied to the game in the early 30s of the 20th century when gambling was legalized in Nevada. There was a special bet offered called Blackjack that paid 10 to 1. You won the bet when you had a hand consisted of an Ace of spades and a Jack, which had to be black no matter if it is spades or clubs. Hence the name Blackjack. In time this name stuck and the game itself was known as blackjack.
The Value of the Ace
Blackjack has one unique card that very few other card games have: the Ace. Here, the Ace can be valued 1 or 11 depending on the hand value. This adds great flexibility when playing. However, this wasn’t always the case, because in the past the Ace was valued only 1.
Interestingly, in medieval times, the Ace was considered bad luck because of its lowest value. One of the more popular theories as to how the Ace became the strongest card includes the Church. The Church’s belief was that there is only One that is stronger than the King, which is God. Therefore they requested for the Ace to be given a higher value than the King card in order to reflect this holy notion. This theory has not been proved as absolutely viable, but the history of blackjack gives us one reference to this in a book published in 1778 called “Soldier’s Almanac, Bible and Prayerbook”. There the Ace is said to be the God in a deck of cards.
There is another interesting story, to which there is no evidence if it was the cause for changing the value of the Ace. This story compares the Ace with the French Revolution. The French Revolution was characterized by the peasants, which were the lowest class in the French society. They were the one class that helped the French Revolution and took the King of his throne. This is very similar to the Ace, which is both the lowest valued card, but can also be the one card that can beat the King. However, experts in the history of blackjack believe that this is only a comparison. It is most likely that the dual value of the Ace existed before the French revolution.
Several decades ago Blackjack was only Blackjack. Today, Blackjack can be Blackjack Switch, Blackjack Surrender, Pontoon, Spanish 21 and a dozen other variations. The best thing is that all of today’s blackjack variations can be found at online casinos, which is one of the reasons why we love online casinos.
Each of these variations is featuring unique characteristics, although the principle is the same as in standard blackjack: beating the dealer with a hand closest to 21. For example, in Spanish 21 the player always wins if he obtains a soft or hard blackjack hand, no matter if the dealer has a blackjack too. Also, you are allowed to split your cards up to four different hands thus you get four additional bets.
Today, Blackjack Switch will go down in the history of blackjack as one of the more popular variations. It can be found at casinos powered by Playtech, a long-standing casino software company and one of the leaders in the online casino gaming industry. In Blackjack Switch you play with two separate hands on default. However, you are allowed to switch the top cards of the hands between them if you feel that that way you can make two or at least one stronger hand than what you had before.
Card Counting In the History of Blackjack
Card Counting was a big thing a couple of decades ago, when lots of scientists, mathematicians, professors, students, and blackjack enthusiasts wrote books and provided theories about card counting in blackjack. Some of them went a step further and tried to implement card counting in Las Vegas in an attempt to beat the casinos, even though card counting was strictly forbidden by the casinos themselves.
One of the most famous professors that will be remembered in the history of blackjack in relation to card counting was Dr. Edward Thorp, a distinguished professor at UCLA and MIT and Master of Physics and Doctor of Mathematics. He was fascinated that he could apply mathematics in blackjack and thus develop the perfect technique to beat casinos by significantly reducing the house edge. He developed a system, called the Ten Count System, with which he tried to keep a count of all the cards played and those left in the deck. He tested this system by gambling in Las Vegas, and did that with the help of another expert in mathematics, Claude Elwood Shannon. Shannon was not just a mathematician, but also a fan of blackjack. What they found out was that card counting is very much possible and soon they became successful blackjack players. They were so good that casinos began restricting their access to blackjack games, after which Thorp published a book in 1962, called “Beat the Dealer”. The book became very popular because everyone wanted to beat the dealer.
In time many other mathematicians inspired by Thorp developed their own card counting strategies. Some of them even more accurate then Thorp’s system, although all of them came to life thanks to the first system introduced by Thorp. Nevertheless, in the history of blackjack Dr. Edward Thorp is still regarded as the father of card counting. He was even inducted into the Blackjack Hall of Fame in 2002 in Lakeside California. This honor was due to his contribution to the game. He is the sole reason why today casinos employ different measures to stop blackjack players from card counting.
One of the more legendary blackjack card counting cases was when a group of MIT students managed to strip casinos from millions of dollars just by counting cards. This happened in a period of twelve years. Their success was even turned into a blockbuster Hollywood movie with Kevin Spacey in the role of their professor. The movie was titled “21”.
Today, you can easily play blackjack for real money without even leaving your home. This shows how much the gambling world has evolved. You just need to have an Internet connection and you are on.
Online casinos have much more exciting variations, and plus you can play them anytime and anywhere if you use a Smartphone or tablet to play online casino blackjack. Furthermore, online casinos offer blackjack games with much favorable house edge, the bet limits are much better and there are exciting rewards and VIP programs with which online casino players that continually use the casino are rewarded for their loyalty. With online casinos you will never ever have to go to a land-based casino again.