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Blackjack Origins

Originally From France

Some have heard of, and played, French games like Chemin de Fer and French Ferme; these are the games Blackjack is thought to have derived from. There was a longstanding history of Blackjack playing in France about a century before the game made its way to the United States in the 19th century. Vingt-en-un (twenty-one Fr.) was the name by which it appeared in French casinos, and a few small things were actually different besides the name. First of all, only the dealer could double, and, secondly, players bet following every round. The term "Black Jack" was assigned by the English because the best suite of cards was a Jack and a Spade of Aces.

Other Countries' Blackjack Games

In Italy, they played something called Seven and a Half, rules are very similar to Blackjack rules. You use just the face cards, all worth half of a point, and 7s, 8s and 9s, which are worth one. The wildcard is the diamond King. Exceeding seven and a half points is called making a "bust," a term now used in Blackjack for exceeding twenty-one.

Blackjack Comes to America

Throughout the history of Blackjack, many have played it, but perhaps not so many as do today in the United States. It first hit North American shores following France's revolutionary war. A few things have changed about the game to make winning more predictable. After gambling became legal in the U.S. (1931) and Las Vegas was founded, Richard Baldwin, with some help, did a scientific study on Blackjack (1953). Three years later, he and his team published the "Optimum Strategy in Blackjack," the first book about blackjack strategy in the history of Blackjack. However, theirs was very basic compared with that published in another six years by Professor Edward O. Thorp, entitled "Beat the Dealer."

Blackjack in Perspective

The global history of blackjack has given it several names- it's still "Vingt-en-un" in France, but it's Twenty-one" in some places and "Pontoon" in others. To us in America, it's just Blackjack, and its popularity stems from the fact that players can win by using their gambling and card counting acumen to get as close to twenty-one as they can without passing it, which would mean committing a "bust" and forfeiting their bets. The history of blackjack does not stop with today. It will probably continue to be a favorite casino card game for many years to come.