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The History of Blackjack

Blackjack is now known all over the world as one of the most popular casino games. Here at Mega Reel, you can enjoy online games of blackjack along with countless other games such as slots or roulette. There are more than 500 for you to enjoy! But how did such a humble card game like blackjack come to be praised internationally? The history of blackjack goes further back than you might think…

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It’s All in the Cards

You can’t play a game of blackjack without cards, even if they are online in modern times! The first playing cards were invented a long time ago, all the way back in ancient China in the year 900 AD. They used woodblock printing to print their cards, although the images on each card were very different to what we see today. It wasn’t until the 14th century in Europe that playing cards began to become a little more familiar to us, using suits of coins, cups, and swords. When the printing press began to take off in the 5th century, it wasn’t long till the first deck of cards was printed. People have been using cards to gamble for a very long time.

The Origin of Blackjack

It’s hard to know precisely when blackjack came about, but most sources agree that it emerged around 1700 in French casinos. Around then it was named ‘Vingt-et-Un’, a French word that translates to the other popular name for blackjack ‘twenty one’.

But it’s possible that blackjack existed even earlier than that. In the early 17th century book ‘Rinconete y Cortadillo’ there is a scene where the main character play a game called veintiuna. Veintiuna is the Spanish word for twenty one.

In addition to this, there is also a more dubious theory that blackjack goes even as far back as the Romans. Some people have suggested that the Romans played their own version of blackjack using wooden blocks. While there is little evidence for this, it’s clear to see that gambling and blackjack have existed in many different forms for a long time.

From these theories alone, it’s clear that the origins of blackjack are mysterious and go back far further than many sources suggest…

Blackjack and Gambling before Legalisation

Blackjack was so popular that it began to spread from Europe to America before it was even legalised. At first, the only legalised games were the house-backed blackjack games that took place in New Orleans in 1820.

The tale of Eleanor Dumont tells of a woman who showed up in Nevada City, California during this period and enjoyed success banking and dealing the game to all those she met. Despite the nickname ‘Madame Moustache’ that came about due to her hairy top lip, she was said to be a great beauty and kept men coming back and back again to play blackjack with her. The gold rush going on throughout America only amplified the frenzy surrounding these below board blackjack games and it made Eleanor Dumont a lot of money. Even before it had been legalised, blackjack was taking the world by storm.

But it wasn’t in 1931 in Nevada that blackjack was officially established as a legal gambling game and it could really begin to take off.

Blackjack becomes popular in America

Following 1931, there was no stopping the game of blackjack. Some casinos began to offer payouts of 10:1 if you got a hand with the ace of spades and a blackjack to attract people into trying their hand at the game. From there, the world began to get hooked.

Something else needed to emerge if blackjack was going to continue to grow in popularity: a standardised set of rules. In 1959, the Nevada Gaming Commission was set up and the standardised rules set by that commission are still in use today.

Blackjack Card Counting and how this changed the game

In 1950, card counting took off in the world of blackjack. Blackjack players first used card counting as a strategy to try to defeat the house’s advantage. Card counting involves counting the cards shown to try determine the probability of the next hand dealt from the house. The 1962 book named ‘Beat the Dealer’ by Edward Thorp was a huge hit and inspired tons of players around the world to adopt this strategy when playing blackjack.

Electronic Gambling using Card-Counting and Blackjack

Everything changed in 1977 when Ken Uston’s blackjack team managed to insert card-counting devices into their shoes. The devices were so small that at first they went unnoticed and the team actually managed to win over $100,000! However, eventually their winning streak took a dive when they were found out and turned over to the FBI. Their lucky streak wasn’t quite at an end, however. The FBI ruled that it wasn’t a cheating device as it simply used the rules of blackjack to win and didn’t break any laws. Ken Uston became famous as a legendary blackjack player and changed the history of blackjack forever.

Online Casinos, Gambling, and Blackjack

The game of blackjack shifted forever after online casinos made their debut. From around 1996 onwards, blackjack started to appear in these casinos in its classic, time-tested form. Online casinos even began to add to this, adding new variations and spins on the game that encouraged more and more new players to sign up.

The future of Blackjack

But where will blackjack go next? Well, it’s easy to see that there are hundreds of options ready and waiting for players today online. For blackjack, slots, and roulette, check out any of our fantastic games and click here.

It’s clear that in time blackjack will only thrive online. Some eager players have even suggested that the game might become playable with virtual reality to give a more authentic casino experience. Whichever hand the future might deal, it’s clear that blackjack is here to stay.