Why is Blackjack Called Blackjack?
Written by Phoebe
Published date · Nov. 1, 2021 | Last Updated · Dec. 14, 2022 | Read Time: 2 mins
If you play blackjack, chances are you haven’t given much consideration to why the game is called blackjack. This is why.
When “21” arrived in the United States, casinos needed the means to promote the game. As a result, they introduced bonus payments, such as one that paid out more if a blackjack (a jack of spades or clubs) was dealt with an ace of spades.
The additional payouts became less common as the game grew in popularity (it’s the most popular casino card game in the world), and the informal moniker, blackjack, became the one that remained.
The Origins of Blackjack
The origins of Blackjack is still under debate, but researchers agree that Blackjack probably originated in the French casinos around 1700. The French cards were called “Vingt-et-Un,” literally translating to “Twenty-one.” These cards are probably derived from card games Chemin de Fer, which were popular at that time. The card game was played at the French Royal Court during the reign of King Louis XV.
There is a theory that Blackjack is an invention by the Romans. The theory stands because Romans loved to gamble, but it is not confirmed. It is believed that Romans played this game with wooden blocks with different numbers painted on them instead of paper cards that make up blackjack hands.
Despite many different versions of Vingt-et-Un, the popularity of the card games expanded throughout North America. The card game made it to the American shore in the 18th century with the help of French colonists. The game couldn’t spread and develop in France in the 19th century. However, during this time, the game evolved and gained popularity in America. The game would be seen in New Orleans in 1820 at the legalised gambling halls. Interesting enough, during this time, the rules were different than the contemporary Blackjack we now know. For instance, in the earlier form of Blackjack, only the dealer was allowed to double.
Also, during this time, there was a tale of Eleanor Dumont. She was born in France and immigrated to America. She was a skilled dealer and travelled around until she opened a gambling hall in Nevada City, California. Ironically, the place was named Vingt-et-Un. People were coming from around the country to play against Eleanor because she was considered a rarity between car dealers.
In the 20th century, the precursor of the Blackjack was still called 21 in some areas of the world.
But it was during this time the card game 21 has changed its name to Blackjack. Gambling halls and casinos needed a way to promote the game. So they offered bonus payouts to improve the blackjack odds for players, including one that paid extra if a blackjack (a jack of spades or clubs) was dealt along with an ace of spades. As the game became more popular, the bonus payouts became less common, but the informal name was already stuck.
The rules have also changed following the legalisation of gambling. Although defined by the Gambling Commission, the game rules are still used nowadays.