Blackjack is a popular casino game, largely thanks to the mixture of skill and chance involved. In terms of the house edge, it is the best casino game for gamblers to play, as if the correct basic Blackjack strategy is followed closely, the edge will usually be under 1%.
The history of Blackjack is a little cloudy. It is widely accepted by historians that the game first appeared in France at the beginning of the 17th century, possibly slightly earlier. The first written reference to the game is by the author of “Don Quixote”, Miguel de Cervantes. He wrote a short story around 1601 about a group of cheats who play a game known as “veintiuna”, “twenty-one” in Spanish, which is remarkably similar to Blackjack as it is played today.
The name “Blackjack” is believed to have come from the USA, where casinos attempted to boost the popularity of the original French “Vingt-et-un” by offering a bonus payout of 10-1 to any player making a natural 21 using the Ace of Spades and either of the black Jacks in the deck. The name stuck even after this bonus was removed.
Blackjack history is littered with stories of professional gamblers and teams of players attempting to gain a mathematical advantage in the game. Ideas for basic strategy are thought to have been devised not long after the French Revolution , in the early 19th century. In 1953 the first major study of the game was started, resulting in the publication of Roger Baldwin’s “Optimum Strategy in Blackjack”, in 1956.
Edward O. Thorpe took advantage of more modern technology and applied more sophisticated techniques to develop the work started by Baldwin, eventually publishing “Beat the Dealer” in 1962, which featured the first Blackjack card counting system. Not long after publication, casinos attempted to protect themselves and changed the rules of the game, boosting Blackjack’s profile no end.
Arguably the most famous group of card counters were the MIT Blackjack Team, inspiration for the 2008 movie “21”, who successfully beat casinos at Blackjack for millions of dollars throughout the 1980s and 90s. It is thought that more than 70 people featured in the team, carrying out various roles.
Blackjack is as popular today as it ever was, thanks to the internet, where players can play the game from the comfort of their own home and take advantage of numerous bonuses offered by online casinos.