History of Blackjack Rules

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The game of blackjack went through many reincarnations after developing from many different games, without its true origin or date of creation ever being discovered. Different countries claiming to be responsible for the creating of the game but no one version of the truth can be authenticated.

Today blackjack is played in many different variants that have different fixed rules. The main objective of the game is to beat the dealer’s hand without going bust. Different common blackjack rules have developed over the years and are still used when playing different types of blackjack.

Below is a review of the development of different blackjack rules and their origin:

The ‘Target Number’ Concept

The concept of hitting a ‘target number’ as the main objective of the game is not new and it was established by gaming historians that the earliest known game that used the concept of a target number was the Italian game ‘Thirty One’ that had the objective of reaching a total hand value of 31 with at least three cards. A reference to this game can be found in an anti-gambling oration by the Italian monk Bernadine in the year 1440.

Other games that use this concept are Baccarat, invented in the 15th century and aims for the target number of 9. Later games include the Italian ‘Seven and a Half’ with a target number of 7.5 and ‘Quinse’ with the 15 as a target number.

The Bust Rule

The French game ‘Vingt et Un’ that developed in the 18th century is considered the direct ancestor of blackjack. The game is believed to be a modified version of ‘Thirty One’ as players at the time wanted to play a faster game so they lowered the target number from 31 to 21 making the game quicker to play by enabling reaching a winning hand with just two cards.

Playing up to 21 created a great chance of going over the target number and therefore busting out of the game. As players wanted to speed up the game but still have a justification for drawing more cards with reasonable risk; they started counting Aces as 1 or 11. This gave them greater flexibility with regards to drawing additional cards.

Modern blackjack games usually follow the same rules as ‘Vingt et Un’ with the exception of the Insurance rule that is not present in the French game.

The Insurance Rule

The insurance option first appears in the French game ‘Trente et Quarante’ (Thirty and Forty) that was commonly played in the 18th century and was sometimes referred to as ‘Rouge et Noir’ (Red and Black). It was a popular game in Monte Carlo, French and Italian casinos.

Players would make bets on either the black row or red row and cards would be drawn for each row; black cards in the black row and red cards in the red row. The winning row is the one that hit a total hand value of 31 or as close to 31 as possible without going over the total row value of 40.

A tie between the two rows was called ‘Refait’ and if a ‘Refait’ happened when both rows were valued at 31 the Banker will take half of all the wagers. Players were given the option to ‘buy insurance’ against a possible ‘Refait’ at 31 by paying an insurance fee of 5% of the amount they wagered.

In Conclusion

We can see that what led to the development of the modern blackjack game are Italian and French games. Both nations can be credited with contributing to the invention of such a challenging and unique game that offers players all the thrills of a game of chance and all the challenges of a game of skill.

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