Blackjack History

Blackjack School

Most modern popular card games have an ambiguous history that makes it difficult for historians to be able to agree on their exact origin and the exact way in which they came to be the exciting card gambling games they are today.

Blackjack is no different and while its recent history from the past 300 years or so is rarely disputed, it is rather the history of more ancient games that formed the basis for blackjack that is often debated. As we consider ourselves blackjack experts and not qualified gaming historians we will share with you all historical blackjack info we know and leave you to be the judge which version of history sounds more reliable.

Early Card Games

Generally speaking the roots of the earliest card games can be traced back to ancient China, when back in the 9th century during the rule of the Tang Dynasty and are referenced in literature from the era where Princess Tongchang is described to be an early incarnation of playing cards.

The invention of sheets of papers instead of the previously used paper rolls allowed the creation of different sized printed playing cards. The ancient Chinese playing cards were referred to as “money cards” and were divided into four suits with symbols on them. Later numbers were added to the symbols to denote a hierarchy of cards values.

Playing cards made it to Europe by the late 14th century probably by the traveling Mamluk tribe from Egypt and the cards they brought with them had 52 cards in a deck with symbols similar to suits used on Tarot cards like Cups, Swords, Coins and Staves. There is even documented evidence of playing cards getting banned in Switzerland in 1367AD.

End of the Middle Ages and Beyond

Playing cards enjoy a rapid spread throughout Europe and have reached many royal courts during the 14th century. The cards were printed by hand and varied from country to country in the number of suits per deck and types of suits. The four suits used today all over the world, Hearts, Diamonds, Spades and Clubs originated from late 15th century France.

During the 15th century Europeans also changed the court cards or face cards, as they are referred to today, to represent European royalty and by today the common playing card deck has a Queen and King and a prince, often referred to as a Jack.

The 17th Century

Gaming historians agree that blackjack can first be traced to 17th century France where a game called Vingt et Un was played in casinos. The name Vingt et Un means “21” in French and earlier versions say it means “Twenty and A”.

Vingt et Un is identical to blackjack except for minor rule differences such as in Vingt et Un only allowing the dealer to double. It is believed that Vingt et Un developed from other French games such as Chemin de Fer and French Ferme.

The Evolution into Blackjack

The game continued to grow in popularity over the centuries but it was not until the 19th century when French immigrants brought the game to Louisiana and its gambling capital New Orleans, where many Americans referred to it as simply “21”.

The name blackjack came about later when the State of Nevada legalized gambling and the casinos who wanted to draw players to the game offered a special promotion of a higher payout when a player as dealt the Jack of Spades and Ace of Spades as the two initial cards and the game was nicknamed blackjack as a result.

Online Blackjack

The boom in internet businesses towards the late 1990’s and the migration of many land-based businesses onto the online arena, coupled with great advances in game programming and faster internet connection has propelled online casinos onto the front line of ecommerce businesses.

Many new players discovered blackjack and realized that it is a skill-based game that enables those who master it to make hefty profits when playing against the casino.

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