The History of Blackjack

Blackjack table showing blackjack of Ace and Ten.

Blackjack is comfortably the most widely played casino table game on the planet. A card game based largely on probability and chance, it has enchanted generations of casino players in land-based casinos – and online casinos too.

On this page, we’ll delve deeper into the origins of the game, looking at the main inspirations for what became blackjack, before investigating its enduring popularity to this day.

The Origins of Blackjack

The roots of blackjack can be traced back to France in the 18th century. During the 1700s, the French enjoyed a card game known as “Vingt et Un” – 21 in French. This would go on to lay the foundations of the modern-day version of blackjack.

Vingt et Un

Some say the origins of Vingt et Un can also be traced to Spain in the 17th century. A Spanish dictionary published in 1611 says playing cards are used for popular games like “Veinte y Uno” – 21 in Spanish.

The first formal record of Vingt et Un in France dates back to 1768. It was listed in Mercure de France, described as a fashionable yet “very old” game, further suggesting that the game could well have been conceived by the Spaniards.

Bearing similarities to the game of blackjack, as players were still tasked with achieving a hand value as close to 21 as possible, without exceeding it.

How Blackjack Was Originally Played

In Vingt et Un, players were dealt cards from a standard 52-card deck. All face cards i.e. Kings, Queens, and Jacks, were assigned values of ten, with all other numbered cards given their face value.

Aces have always been a versatile card since the earliest days of Vingt et Un. These could be valued as one or 11, whichever value was most useful. The game’s popularity rapidly expanded throughout mainland Europe and into the UK, captivating players with its fusion of luck and strategy.

The Arrival of Blackjack on US Soil

Legend has it that blackjack made its way across the Atlantic Ocean in the 19th century during the Klondike Gold Rush, more than two decades prior to the First World War. It was brought over by French colonists and immigrants. After an initial lukewarm from locals, the game quickly gained traction in the burgeoning gaming establishments of New Orleans and other riverboat casinos along the Mississippi River in the “Deep South”.

Over time, the game evolved to incorporate new rules and variations, reflecting the diverse cultural influences of its players.

What Gave Blackjack its Name?

Although this game arrived on US soil as Vingt et Un, it quickly acquired a new nickname. Early American casinos began to add new features to switch-up the gameplay of Vingt et Un. This included a unique bonus payout. To entice new players, casinos offered a special prize for hands that featured the ace of spades and either of the two black jacks – the jack of spades or clubs.

As so many enjoyed the bonus feature, it’s no surprise the game eventually embraced the “blackjack” nickname, cementing it within the gaming lexicon forever.

Why is Blackjack so Popular?

The enduring popularity of blackjack can be linked to multiple factors. Firstly, its simple yet engaging gameplay. Blackjack is accessible to players of all skill levels. It’s easy to pick up for even novice card players.

Secondly, the objective of reaching 21, combined with strategic, probability-based decisions on when to hit, stand, or double down, offers a blend of chance and strategy.

Blackjack’s Evolution into an Online Casino Phenomenon

In the last decade, blackjack has cemented itself as a core component of the game libraries of leading online casinos. Fully responsive, mobile-first gameplay has made online blackjack more accessible than ever. Players can now enjoy the game wherever they are, at any time of the day or night.

There are new variants to online blackjack all the time too. The leading online casino software providers are working hard to add an extra dimension to blackjack’s core gameplay. Live dealer blackjack games also help to create authentic experiences which look and feel like a casino floor.

Put simply, as long as there’s cards to be dealt and prizes to be won, blackjack will continue to hold its place as one of the best-loved games of chance in the world.

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