History of Blackjack

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Blackjack cards Ace and Ten

From Las Vegas to New Jersey, there have always been some card counters who have tried to outsmart the dealers and pit bosses in a card game. They have been “wonging,” shuffle tracking, hole card peeking and even developing special software to increase their odds. Of course, the majority of such cardsharps have either been busted in the middle of the game or else the rules were amended afterward to avoid cheating. So if by any chance you’re hesitating about what game we’re talking about here, the answer is of course: blackjack!

But of course, the rules of blackjack didn’t exactly evolve overnight. On the contrary, the history of this game is something experts have been studying for decades, as they’ve been trying to figure out where it originated. Whatever the origins of the game may be, blackjack has always had a tremendous influence on the gambling industry!

Early Days

Today, many theories floating around about the roots of blackjack. Some of the wildest theories tend to state that it came from the Roman Empire. And as history shows, Romans were pretty risk-loving, thrill-seeking people! They are rumored to have played something like today’s modern game of blackjack with numbered wooden blocks; but there is no clear evidence and compelling evidence of this, either way!

But what if the game actually emerged in Spain, instead? This is actually a very real possibility, as there is a Spanish equivalent of it called “One and Thirty,” where players have to collect 31 with the minimum three card hand.

However, nothing here really comes close to the tale about the favorite game of the Knights of the Temple! Some historians tend to think that the oldest variation of the game of blackjack was introduced in France by these fellows in the early 15th century. Then after the Knights were persecuted by the Crown, the game spread all over the country, where it was known as Vingt-et-Un. Some of its variations also appeared in Italy at the same time, under the name of Sette e Mezzo.

The New World

History Old cards of HungaryThe 1700s brought a new life to the game. The Vingt-et-Un boom in France spread it to other continents. Oh, this great New World! It had so much to offer back then! French colonists were the first to introduce blackjack to American culture. The rules of the old versions do differ from the current one, as the dealer was the only person to double the bet; and in some casinos, he was obliged to show the first card for the players to bet. The number of card decks was lower than today as well! It was very often the case that standard blackjack used one card deck, and new gamblers were allowed to join an ongoing game before it finished.

There were just far too many possibilities for card counters and swindlers to win back in those days! And so, because of the wide variety of tricks and stunts they pulled, the low number of decks and the absence of any proper control over the game, many people found it was easy enough to crash the casinos, provided only they made reasonable efforts to game the system.

It was the great city of Nevada that was among the first not to prosecute gamblers; so here, the game of 21 became the main attraction. And everyone was thrilled down to their very bones as Madam Mustache entered the city! Known for her rare skills, she was famous for being the best blackjack dealer of her time. Despite scooping tons of huge bankrolls, this woman was never successfully prosecuted for card counting, and she improved the game by increasing the house edge. Men from all over the country tried their luck with the one and only female dealer; and by the end of the Gold Rush, Madame Mustache was to end up with a huge fortune, along with hundreds of blackjack players eagerly waiting the game with her. However, her mysterious death in 1879 brought an abrupt end to her career. Allegedly, she committed suicide because of the debt she was in after one of her games!

The 20th Century

Even Prohibition wasn’t able to stop this game! In 1931, the great state of Nevada legalized gambling, and thousands of visitors flooded its casinos to play blackjack. With a lavish payout of 10:1 for players who got an ace of spades or a blackjack, the city definitely succeeded in making gambling more appealing to professional punters and ordinary laymen alike! However, the Nevada Gaming Commission soon amended the rules on gambling, in order to standardize them and make them uniform.

The Dawn of Card Counting

As the game progressed, card counting became one of the real cornerstone tactics for those who were really motivated to crush the blackjack tables! This became popular at the beginning of the 1950s, as this was the time the first pioneers of card counting appeared. Among the first of these exciting mavericks was James Mascun, whose blackjack strategy led to many casinos kicking him out! However, the first major breakthrough came from Baldwin, Maisel, Cantey, and McDermott, who wrote an important book entitled “Playing Blackjack to Win.” It soon became a bestseller, which taught players how to keep track of cards and reduce the house edge.

The card counting only became a truly prosperous venture with the fundamental work of E.Thorp, which was called “Beat the Dealer.” This writer managed to develop an innovative ten-count system. This brilliant mathematical mind had many devoted followers, who all made serious efforts to apply his theory in practice. Stanford Wong, Ken Utson, Al Francesco – all of these avid gamblers based their techniques on Thorp’s studies and developed their own winning strategies, and even went on to write their own guides for those laymen who wanted to become real cardsharps.

But do you think that was all? Well, no such luck, as card counting teams were the next exciting phenomenon to appear on the scene! The first person to take it to the new level was Al Francesco. In 1971, together with his brother, he had been counting cards. Francesco’s brother would exhaust the deck with a set of small bets; and when the moment finally came, Al Francesco would enter the game, wagering at least $100. One thing led to another and then within a few years, there were teams practicing card counting all around the country. For example, the famous MIT team scooped millions in Nevada and Atlantic City casinos over the years, finally becoming one of the most wanted groups in gambling.

Casinos were careful to keep themselves ahead of the curve, and so they made sure they took full advantage of the fashionable new trend of card counting! There were some new shoes with at least 8 card decks included, which made it impossible to make a count; the multi-hand blackjack became popular, thereby eliminating the single-hand on-deck version; hopping into the game before the current shoe is exhausted was forbidden to prevent “back-counting,” and strict surveillance was conducted both by the casinos’ administration and specially hired investigation agencies. The most frustrating thing in this regard was the fact that in some cases, the courts didn’t recognize card counting as unlawful behavior; and so they let it slide.

So in order to prevail in the battle for the house edge, casinos made a huge step in blackjack diversification. Nowadays, there are dozens of variations of the game: from European blackjack to Pontoon! So those who decide to play blackjack for money can choose from a huge list of variations, both offline and online.

New Era

The Age of the Internet has managed to bring blackjack into every home. Which is great, because after all, there’s nothing better than an online blackjack game on a nice sunny day! And so, with the help of online casinos, it has finally become possible to beat dealers all over the world and earn real money.

Nowadays, everyone may enjoy free online blackjack or play it for real money. But if by any chance you miss the thrill of the brick-and-mortar casino, there is always the option of playing with the live dealer. Fortunately, the number of hands you can play is unlimited, as well as the time you actually choose to spend on your blackjack games online!

Imagine if you were able to do some interesting side bets like 21+3 or a bonus bet ton increase your odds – well wish no more, this all can be done online! Or are you just fed up with the table they’ve offered you? Don’t worry, playing online allows you to switch the table as well! And if you haven’t dealt with two dealers simultaneously there is a possibility to arrange such venue virtually. One of them will deal the cards, and the other one will entertain you both!

Modern gambling helps to play and win blackjack online fair and square. And this is the best possible way of practicing for newbies before you finally enter a real-life casino. But while you’re at it, be sure to remember some of the great masters of the past and the techniques they used, so you can increase your odds of winning and finally lower that pesky house edge!

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