History of Blackjack


The oldest known accounts of gambling occurred in ancient China around 2300 BC. In 900 AD The Chinese were also the first to bring the world playing cards. The French get the credit for the standard 52 deck of cards used today. They also brought us the wonderful game of blackjack!

Origins of Blackjack

There is some disagreement about the exact origin of blackjack. Most believe it began around the beginning of the 18th century in France, evolving out of French games such as chemin de fer and French Ferme. Others believe the history of blackjack originated in French casinos around the 1700’s where it was called vingt-et-une (twenty-and-one.) Regardless of the origin of the game, the name blackjack came from an early bet that paid 10 to 1 if the player’s first two cards were a Jack of spades and an Ace of spaces. Unfortunately this payoff no longer exists in modern day blackjack.

The history of blackjack progressed to the United States in the 19th century. It was mainly popular in the emerging American West. In 1931, gambling was legalized in Las Vegas, where blackjack became one of the staples of the new casino scene.

Evolution of Strategy

Mathematician Roger Baldwin published the first effort to apply mathematical principles to blackjack in 1956. His paper was entitled “The Optimum Strategy in Blackjack” and was published in the Journal of the American Statistical Association. The paper explored the probability and statistics of blackjack and developed a theory on how a player could reduce the house advantage.

In 1962, Professor Edward O. Thorp took Baldwin’s discoveries and developed the first card counting techniques, the “Ten-Count” system. Thorp’s book, “Beat the Dealer”, became extremely popular and made the New York Times bestseller list. A number of casinos responded by changing their blackjack rules. People refused to play by the new rules and the casinos quickly reverted back to the original rules.

Since then the casinos have found ways to increase their advantage and increase the complexity of card counting. Today’s casinos use multiple decks, shuffling machines, and frequent and early shuffling among other changes. Despite these changes blackjack still stands as one of the most popular casino games as it has throughout its history.