The History of Blackjack – The 21 Card Game Through Centuries

blackjack history

5 minutes

Last Updated: December 7, 2022

Blackjack is a massively popular game that’s played and enjoyed by millions of gambling enthusiasts worldwide.

But, despite being so prevalent in all corners of the globe, it’s still not clear when and where the game was invented.

It’s commonly accepted blackjack draws its origins back to the early 1700s and that the game has evolved through the centuries into what it is today.

These days, you can play blackjack in brick and mortar venues around the globe as well as online on sites like Live Casino Singapore, but this wasn’t always the case.

To better understand how this 21 card game has become so widespread, we’ll walk through blackjack’s history pages.

The 1700s and Earlier- Blackjack’s First Steps

It’s believed that blackjack took the form we know today in the early 1700s, as there is historical information that the game was played in the French Royal Court during the rule of King Louis XV. However, blackjack’s roots go far earlier.

The Italian card games “Trente-un,” “Sette e Mezzo,” and “Quinze” are all thought to have had a significant influence on creating blackjack. All three of these games originated sometime in the 15th or 16th century.

In these games, the main objective was to draw cards as close as possible to a predetermined value without going over it.

Some of these games even used flexible values for the Ace card. Over the centuries, these three card games influenced the creation of “Vingt-et-un” in France. In English, this directly translates as “21.”

The 1800s – Popularization of Blackjack in the US

With the gambling ban in France at that time, fans of “Vingt-et-un” didn’t have many places they could enjoy the game. So, in the late 1700s, French colonists brought the game to America.

Still, the version of blackjack they brought overseas had some noticeable differences from the game we know and love today.

For example, there still weren’t strict rules on whether the blackjack dealers should hit up to 16 or stand on 17 or higher.

history of blackjack

With gambling being a big part of the US culture at the time, blackjack quickly found its way into the first legalized casinos in the early and mid-19th century.

The game became a hit among house-banked and player-banked games. It continued to spread across the country, and by the 1900s, it was one of the most popular gambling games in the United States.

The 1900s – Blackjack in Las Vegas

After the end of the prohibition and the boom of gambling in the early 1930s, blackjack led the way as one of the flagship games of the emerging industry.

At that time, it was still known simply as “21,” even when it was introduced to the first Las Vegas casinos.

A few years later, in an effort to make the game more streamlined and approachable to the broader audience, the regulatory bodies standardized the game rules into what we know today.

At this point, some casinos offered a very enticing 10:1 payout for every player who managed to reach 21 points with an Ace of Spades and one of the two black Jacks.

Although this rewarding payout was only short-lived, the name Blackjack quickly became synonymous with the game.

The 1950s – The Outset of Card Counting

In the 1950s, the first card counters began exploiting this strategy all across casinos in Nevada. However, this strategy went on relatively unknown until the early 60s and Edward O. Thorp’s book “Beat the Dealer.”

A mathematician by profession, Thorpe created the so-called “ten-count system”, which worked perfectly with the game, as blackjack was only played with a single deck at the time.

Although still a good read, the tips from the book would be very challenging to apply in some of today’s modern blackjack games, most of which include multiple decks.

The Second Half of the 20th Century – Blackjack Going Mainstream

From the early 1970s to the late 1990s, blackjack experienced immense growth and was a staple of the gambling industry in Vegas and many other casinos across the globe.

In the 70s, the first professional blackjack players started coming up, with players like Al Francesco bringing up card counting to a whole new level.

Blackjack as a game became very popular in mainstream culture. Many people started playing it in home games, and there were countless gambling movies made featuring the exciting 21-card game.

A prime example of this is the iconic 80s movie Rain Man, which glamourized card counting in the game.

The 2000s – Emergence of Online Blackjack

In the late 1990s and the early 2000s, the first online blackjack games started coming up as more and more people began using the Internet. The first online casinos offered streamlined and straightforward versions of blackjack.

As years went by, online casinos started introducing new and innovative blackjack variations. These new versions included unique and exciting side bets or even gameplay elements that change the blackjack fundamentals as we know them.

blackjack through the ages

By the early 2010s, online blackjack has become more convenient and approachable than regular blackjack. But, it still suffered from one disadvantage.

Playing online blackjack games simply wasn’t as immersive as the real thing. This remained the fact until the first online live blackjack tables.

Online Live Blackjack – The Mark of a New Gambling Era

The increased popularity of online blackjack prompted online casinos to innovate and push the limits of online gambling.

This resulted in the invention of live online blackjack tables, identical to those you could play at in a real casino. Online live blackjack tables introduced a set of very apparent advantages over all other gambling channels.

Streaming directly from the gambling provider’s studios, the high-quality live blackjack games offered the best of both worlds.

You could experience the real thing and watch real dealers shuffling and dealing cards while they interact with you, all from the comfort of your favorite chair.

This brings us to today. There are more blackjack games today than ever before, as online casinos and gaming providers are constantly innovating and producing new and engaging content.

Plus, with the popularization of Virtual Reality headsets, we can only wait in expectation to see the new heights blackjack will reach with this technology.

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