History of Blackjack – Gambling With An Edge

This post is syndicated by the Las Vegas Advisor for the 888 casino group. Anthony Curtis comments on the 888 article introduced and linked to on this page.

A.C. says: This is a solid treatment of the debated history of blackjack. I say debated, because I’ve looked into this history, predominantly for my contribution to our book The Art of Gambling Through the Ages, and there are several versions and disagreements. One of the opinions I most trust is that of David Schwartz, who’s referenced in this article, so this is as good a version as you’re likely to find. Sean Chaffin covers the early work done on playing blackjack optimally, including the first basic strategy developed by the “Four Horsemen” (four Army engineers stationed at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland) and, soon after, the concept of card counting published in Edward O. Thorp’s Beat the Dealer. The article concludes with a mention of playing blackjack online. It should be noted that the casino edge in most online games can’t be overcome; the decks are reshuffled after every hand, thus removing the “dependent-trials” aspect that makes it possible to beat them. Then again, minimums tend to be much lower and those who play casually for entertainment might appreciate not having to push out the $15-per-hand that has become the norm in the Las Vegas casinos.

History of Blackjack

It’s a seemingly simple game, but blackjack has numerous intricacies and strategies that set it apart. The game is regularly seen as gamblers’ favorite table game and can be found at casinos around the world as well as in numerous online casinos.

Players seem to love the fun vibe at the table and the smooth, quick-paced play. The game offers plenty of action and a decent chance at lowering the house edge with strategic play – and even better for those who can count cards. Along with plenty of fun, the game has a deep history that traces this card game back to the 15th and 16th century.

Many gaming historians believe blackjack probably came from an earlier version of a Spanish game that became known as vingt-un (French for “21”) in England and France. The goal was to accrue 21 points and that game is believed to have derived from the Spanish game veintiuna (Spanish for “21”).

This game was probably being played by the 16th century and is first mentioned in print by famed Spanish author and early gambler Miguel de Cervantes. His short story “Rinconete y Cortadillo” from 1601 features card cheats involved in a game where players hope to achieve 21 points with aces worth 1 or 11 as in today’s modern blackjack.

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