The History of the Blackjack in Casinos

The History of the Blackjack in Casinos

Published Date · March 31, 2022 · Last Updated · Dec. 14, 2022 ·Read Time · 5 mins

Blackjack is a highly sophisticated yet easy game to follow. Loved by many across the globe, dating back many centuries, the game has evolved to become one of the most widely-played casino games today. Every casino in the UK – big or small – features this game. Surprisingly the origins of blackjack aren’t entirely agreed upon. Some say the game’s beginnings lie with French casinos in around 1700. The game used to be called Vingt-et-Un, which translates to twenty-one (21) in English. Many firmly believe it was “extracted” from then-popular French card games like French Ferme and Chemin de Fer. According to another popular belief, the Romans also liked to play this game (or something like) using wooden blocks. When it started becoming popular in the 18th century, casinos would provide special bets to attract more players. One popular bet was the 10-to-1 odds of a participant holding a Jack of clubs or spades with an Ace. With time, casinos gradually got rid of this bet, but the name Blackjack stood the test of time. In this article, we discuss the origins of blackjack via noteworthy events.

Blackjacks Growth in Popularity 

French elites and royal courts thoroughly enjoyed Vingt-et-Un, Napoleon Bonaparte, and King Louis XV’s mistress included. Napoleon enjoyed playing the game during his leisure time. He would often play it to relax or celebrate after a victorious battle. Rumour also has it that he disallowed card games among his soldiers because he thought they would distract them from their duties. The game’s popularity eventually brought it to North America. Around the late 18th century, French Colonists saw the legalisation of the first banked game in New Orleans. Later in 1931, Blackjack evolved to become the card game staple it is now when Nevada received its gambling state legalisation. Owing to the European colonisation period, Blackjack became increasingly more popular worldwide. As of now, more than 140 countries feature this card game. Talk about double standards, Napoleon!

Card Counting

Edward Thorp’s “Ten Count System” is largely credited with the rise of Card Counting in blackjack. The Card Counting blackjack strategy came into operation somewhere around the 60s. Players would use the strategy to determine whether the next hand would offer a relative edge to the player or the dealer. Gamblers would use the strategy to try to overturn the game’s house edge. They usually did such a thing by tallying both low and high-valued cards that the participants could see. The Card Counting Strategy helped reduce potential losses when the overall count did not appear favourable. An interesting bit of trivia is that the Card Counting method was also called card reading. That is since it involved obtaining an adequate count on the number to maximise trick winning. 

Edward Thorp’s Contributions

Edward Oakley Thorp is an American mathematics professor who taught at MIT. Thorp is also responsible for inventing the card counting system. He used the mid-1900s (20th century) computers to determine whether tracking the cards would offer an edge over the game. He then visited Las Vegas casinos to give his theories a test run. It turns out his theories worked – he won so much money he was eventually banned from playing. He published his conclusions and rules in his book “Beat the Dealer” in 1962. That was when card counting rose in popularity. At one point, Las Vegas casinos were not doing well as the card counting technique was in full swing. That was when the Griffin Agency stepped in. In 1967, a Las Vegas private investigator came up with the idea of publishing a book featuring infamous card counters and gambling cheats. In addition, the agency aimed to offer investigative and surveillance services to casinos. The efforts successfully revealed many players gambling under false names and aliases.


Atlantic City

Atlantic City saw the legalisation of gambling in 1976. Atlantic City’s first legal casino, i.e., the Resorts International, was established in 1978. Only four years later, in 1982, Ken Uston, a renowned blackjack player, won a lawsuit against casinos in Atlantic City. The end result of this was that New Jersey-based casinos became prohibited by law from kicking out players. Another legal proceeding led to casinos requesting the Control Commission to let them limit bets if they involved counting cards.

Modern Day Blackjack

In the contemporary blackjack era, many things have changed over the past two decades. The increasing reach and popularity of the internet led to many land-based casinos going online, providing digital versions of their games to gamblers. Popular modern casinos, much like land-based casinos, also offer a secure environment for gamblers to play blackjack. Players get several payment options, making deposits and withdrawals easier for them. Online casinos also feature advanced live dealer versions of the game, offering players a close-to-reality experience, all the safety measures included. While the modern version of blackjack features the usual fifty-two-card pack, newer variations of the game also feature more decks. In fact, in many blackjack versions, players can shuffle several decks together. With millions playing online blackjack games daily, it is obvious that the digital world is the future of this game.

Blackjack Trivia to Impress your Friends

  • Blackjack is one of the oldest gambling games, dating back to the late 16th/17th century.
  • The game offers the best odds, with a house edge of 0.5 to 1 per cent on a card deck. The odds also do not change based on the number of participants.
  • In the game, an ace card with any card counting as ten, i.e., Jack, King, or Queen, is a “Blackjack.”
  • Al Francesco, an American blackjack player, came up with the concept of Blackjack teams.

Blackjack and Beyond

To this day, blackjack remains a favourite among avid gamblers. From the relatively simple rules to the complex strategies, blackjack is the perfect game for many, whether they are beginners or seasoned veterans. Since blackjack involves elements of skill and luck, many guides and strategies to become successful have surfaced over the years. Since the game itself is so versatile and simple, playing it online can be just as exciting online as it is in real life. The game has significantly evolved since its advent, now featuring many new thrilling variations for eager players. 

Considering the game has been around for so many centuries, you could rightly say it has truly stood the test of time. Combine this with the rise of online casinos and the growing popularity of live and online blackjack. It’s pretty safe to say that blackjack is not going to disappear anytime soon!

Learn more about this game by reading our Blackjack Guide !


Phoebe Greenwood

Content Writer