Blackjack History - A Look at the Origins of Blackjack

An examination of the history of blackjack, how blackjack originated and developed and the rise of online blackjack.

Origins of Blackjack

Several games are said to have contributed to blackjack, as it is known today.

  • The French gambling games ‘chemin de fer and ‘French ferme’ are said to have inspired blackjack.
  • The Italian game ‘seven and a half’ contributed the concept of going bust.
  • The Spanish game ‘one and thirty’ also played a role in the creation of blackjack.

From these games arose a game ‘vingt-et-un’, the French for twenty-one, which became extremely popular in the French casinos of the 18th century. The game was named vingt-et-un because the players and the dealer went bust on getting a hand value of more than twenty-one. The French took this game to the United States in the 19th century. In order to attract players to this new game the casinos offered bonus payouts. A payout of 10 to 1 was offered for a dealt hand containing the jack and ace of spades. This hand was called blackjack. Today blackjack is a hand that contains any ace and any card of value ten.

The Casino Beaters

In the second half of the twentieth century blackjack became extremely popular because of the exploits of certain persons who devised means to beat the casino. The pioneer was a mathematics professor from MIT named Edward Thorp. His theory was based on keeping track of the cards that had been dealt and were out of play. This came to be known as card counting. Thorp developed models of card counting which he tested on the computer. Impressed with Thorp’s work Emmanuel Kimmel gave him a bankroll of $10,000 in 1961, which he doubled in the casinos of Nevada.

In the 1970s card counting became computerized. Keith Taft developed a miniature computer that could be worn without detection and that could play perfect blackjack based on card counting. He and Ken Uston got together to win huge sums in Atlantic City. The casinos then denied them entry. Taft and Uston went to court and got a verdict in their favor. Meanwhile the casinos nullified card counting by introducing multiple decks with shuffling machines.

But the players would not give up easily. Stanford Wong was able to predict the patterns of card distribution from the early shuffling machines and was able to make a lot of money. He was so popular that card counting became known as ‘wonging’. The casinos were then forced to make more sophisticated shuffling machines.

Electronic Blackjack

Online gambling brought blackjack into the homes of people. Because this game involves both luck and skill it is extremely popular with online players. Blackjack rules vary from casino to casino but in online blackjack players can opt for choose from the rules sitting at home. Today blackjack can be played on mobile phones as well.

Gaming companies are introducing versions of blackjack that are unconventional. High Streak European Blackjack Gold offers a side bet that gives enhanced payouts for consecutive wins. Bonus Blackjack Gold has revived the original blackjack for the ace and jack of spades but with a payout of 50 to 1.