International History of Blackjack

Blackjack School

Blackjack is the most popular card gambling game, after poker. It is played in casinos all over the world and is offered in all online casinos. It is an exciting game that combines elements of luck and skill in equal measures and enables those who master basic blackjack strategy to play against the casino with greater success.

The exact origin of the game is unclear and game historians tend to attribute its origin to several different games from various countries and continents around the world. Nowadays the common belief is that the game developed from many different games, each time reaching a different country that added something new to the mix.

Here is a brief history of countries that are associated with the game of blackjack:

Ancient China was the birthplace of playing cards that were used for entertainment and later on betting around the 10th century by the Tang dynasty and later on by the Song Dynasty. The Chinese are known for their love of gambling games and have quickly developed many competitive and gambling card games.

From China it is believed that playing cards traveled with merchants heading to various locations in Asia, Africa and Europe. The cards reached the Middle East and became popular with the Mamluk people in Egypt. The Mamluk people were also traveling merchants who brought playing cards to Europe towards the end of the Middle Ages.

Around the 15th century a Spanish game by the name of ‘Thirty One’ or ‘One and Thirty’ was played with the objective of reaching a total cards value of 31 using a minimum of three cards. The concept of the game is very similar to blackjack and many believe it played a role in the creation of blackjack.

Another reference to Spain as a contributor to the creation of blackjack in a Spanish game called ‘Veintiuno’ which is Spanish for 21, and is referenced in Miguel Cervantes’s writings from the 17th century.

A game called ‘Trentuno’ meaning 31 in Italian is referenced in Italian literature since the early years of the 15th century. This game had a numerical goal similar to the Spanish ‘Thirty One’ and is also considered as an early version of blackjack.

Another Italian game it is believed to be one of blackjack predecessors is ‘Sette e mezzo’ meaning ‘Seven and a half’ in Italian. The game developed in the 17th century but is still popular in Italy, where in many parts of the country it is played as a traditional Christmas game. The objective is to reach 7.5 points by using face cards valued at half a point and regular cards were worth a point. Only 40 cards were used and the King of Diamonds could substitute any other card.

Most believe that the game blackjack is a direct descendent of the French game Vignt Et Un (meaning 21 in French). The game developed and became very popular in the 17th century and it is believed that its earliest predecessors were ‘Chemin de Fer’ and ‘French Ferme’.

United States
The game traveled with French immigrants to Louisiana where it was adopted by New Orleans casinos and gambling boats and the Americans simply referred to the game as 21. Only later when casino owner wanted to attract gamblers to this new game offered a special payout for hitting a two card hand consisting a Jack and Aces of spades did the name blackjack caught on.

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