Blackjack History

Blackjack evolved from several medieval gambling games, notably the French games of 'chemin de fer and 'French ferme' and the Spanish game of 'one and thirty'. The blackjack rule of going bust can be traced to an Italian game called ‘seven and a half’. A version resembling the present blackjack game was first played in the 1700s in the French casinos of that time. The game was called 'vingt-et-un', the French for twenty-one, which referred to the hand value over which the player and dealer bust.

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A century later blackjack entered the United States. Initially the game was not very popular and the casinos gave bonus payouts for certain hands. If the player was dealt the jack of spades and the ace of spades he was paid out as 10 to 1. This is how the name blackjack was given to the game. Today the blackjack hand need not have any black card nor have any jack. A dealt hand of any ace and any card of value ten is referred to as blackjack and pays out as 3 to 2.

After the initial lull the popularity of blackjack began to soar. The last fifty years have been particularly eventful for blackjack history. This is because of a constant tussle between blackjack players and the blackjack casinos. Edward Thorp of MIT researched the mathematics of blackjack in 1961. He proposed that if one kept track of the cards that had gone out of play one could gain sufficient advantage to beat the house. This concept came to be known as blackjack card counting. He first verified his theory doing computer simulations and financed by Kimmel he went to Nevada, where he easily doubled his bankroll of $10,000. However card counting in real time is very difficult for the best and out of reach of normal blackjack players, so casinos were not worried. But then came Keith Taft in the 1970s. He developed a miniature computer that could be hidden in ones clothing. The computer sent wireless signals to a larger computer that relayed back the correct blackjack strategy. Taft teamed up with Uston and raked up millions of dollars in Atlantic City casinos. Eventually they were denied entry. A court case ensued in which card counting was declared legal. The blackjack casinos hit back by introducing shuffling machines with frequent shuffling of multiple decks. For a while parity between blackjack players and the casinos was restored. Then came Stanford Wong who deciphered the continuous shuffling machines. Casinos plugged the loophole by improving the shuffling machines.

The introduction of online blackjack casinos in the 1990s saw a new chapter in the history of blackjack. The number of blackjack players began to grow exponentially. Today players can play blackjack on their mobile phones. The question on everyone's mind is "What next?"