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The History and Evolution of Blackjack

The History and Evolution of Blackjack

There are a number of games to choose from when you walk into a Casino. The bright lights and dazzling offers are enough to have your head in a spin and leave you wondering which one will be the most fulfilling and enjoyable gamble. You’ll no doubt be encouraged to play the slots with enticing free drinks offers, and poker has become very rock n roll, but the historic game of blackjack arguably stands out as the most thrilling. It’s also the most widely played casino game in the world.

The joy of the game lies in its simplicity meaning you can learn some simple rules which can make you a much better player rather quickly. You’ll then have a very good chance of scooping the prizes at the table whenever you sit down. Blackjack is actually just the American name for the globally popular card game known as Twenty-One and the aim of the game is to beat the dealer. Interestingly, unlike poker, you don’t compete against your fellow players at the table.

The origins of the game remain up for debate but what seems certain is that we can pinpoint a general location as being Spain and France. The city of Seville is where the games first written documentation happen in a tale by Don Quixote writer Miguel de Cervantes. In his story Rinconete y Cortadillo, published in 1601, the two main characters are very good at playing veintiuna (Which is Spanish for 21)

However, the modern game is probably most closely related to the French casinos of the very early eighteen hundreds where the game of Vingt-et-Un (which is French for 21) first derived from other popular card games of the time including Chemin de Fer and French Ferme.

It’s when the game spread to North America through french colonists that the name of blackjack began to take hold. It’s thought that early gambling establishments there offered bonus payouts to stimulate interest and one such bonus arrangement was a ten to one payout if the players hand was an ace of spades and a black jack - either the jack of clubs of the jack of spades. This particular bonus was actually quickly withdrawn but by then the name had stuck - ‘blackjack’. It now refers to any hand of an ace plus a ten or face card regardless of suits of colours.

You beat the dealer by getting 21 points on your first two cards, reaching a final score higher than the dealer without exceeding 21 points or by letting the dealer draw additional cards until their hand exceeds 21.

One fact that hasn’t changed through time is that to play the game well it is crucial to know how each card is valued and players must familiarise themselves with the rules of the game as quickly as possible. In the modern day game the ace in the pack can be used as either 1 or 11 (whichever number best suits your hand at the time) and the numbered cards in the set are their face value. Finally, the jack, king and queen cards are all worth 10.

To start a game, you place your bet to confirm how much you are prepared to gamble. You are then dealt two face up cards by the dealer and after that it’s time to evaluate your hand. Crucially at this stage, and while both your cards are visible, only one of the dealers two own dealt cards is visible.

Depending on the combined total of your two cards it’s time to either ‘stand’ whereby you chose not to take any additional cards. ‘Hit’ which means you then receive another card/s. ‘Double-down’ means you double your original bet and receive one additional card. Then there’s ‘split’ which means you add an additional bet to turn two cards of the same value into two separate hands. Finally, if you receive an Ace and a 10 card you’ve achieved ‘blackjack’

To help you with your decision making, there’s an optimal decision to be taken for each hand you are dealt and pro players call this ‘basic strategy’ Once everyone in the game has completed playing their hand the dealer will then reveal his second card. A this point your hand will be evaluated against the dealers and if it’s the closest to 21 between the dealer's hand other players on the table you win.

What’s remarkable then is that it seems blackjack was actually not created by any person in particular. Its evolution has happened over centuries and it continues to evolve and grow today with the onset of the games online popularity. Sites like megareel now offer players the chance to play in the comfort of their own homes and interestingly the same skills are required when playing on and offline.

Whether playing on a real table or online playing good blackjack is about strategically considering all the possibilities and choosing the move that statistically gives you the best expected return. There’s a plethora of basic skills which will help novice players when they play blackjack. 

One of the most notable, perhaps slightly more advanced skills is that of counting cards. It helps to give the player the knowledge of whether the next card being dealt out will give an advantage to them or the dealer. It requires observational, maths and recall skills. The actual method is quite simple and stems from the idea that when there are lots of 10 point cards left in the deck it favours the player. 

Simply by keeping track of all of the cards that are being dealt means the player should be able to work out situations when there are actually more 10 point cards still to come. The idea is then to bet heavily when the odds are the best. There’s a challenge though, whether playing on or offline the player needs to keep track of everything as it happens in a quick, real-time game situation.

One of the most misunderstood of the strategies in blackjack is surrendering because lots of players think it's backing down.In fact, quite the opposite is true and it’s an intelligent move that, if used well, is a very shrewd move in the place of others. After being dealt your first two cards you might think it’s too difficult to make it up close to 21 for example and helpfully the option is their to forfeit playing your hand altogether. It means you lose half of your wager but you’ve still saved funds for future games.