The World of Playing Cards Logo
Published February 11, 2010 Updated July 29, 2023

History of Blackjack

Over the years the origin of Blackjack, like many other games, has eluded researchers for a long time and which continues to be hotly debated to this day.

History Blackjack Add to Collection

Over the years the origin of Blackjack, like many other games, has eluded researchers for a long time and which continues to be hotly debated to this day. Till date there has been no clear consensus, but most agree it probably originated in French casinos around 1700, where it was called Vingt-et-Un which, translated, means twenty-one. Most believe it was probably derived from the French card games, Chemin de Fer, and French Ferme, which were in vogue at that time.

card players

Another of its version was prevalent in Spain, which was called 'One and Thirty'. The basic rule of the Spanish version was to reach 31 with a minimum of three cards.

A theory that’s also doing the rounds is that Blackjack was an invention by the Romans. It is believed that Romans used to play this game with wooden blocks of different numerical values. This theory holds some weight as Romans loved gambling, but that by no means confirms the theory.

Among the various versions of the game, 'Vingt-et-Un’ or ‘21’ continued to grow in popularity and reach. It gradually spread to North America thanks to French colonists and soon after it was played throughout the continent. The rules of Blackjack were then different from those of modern or contemporary Blackjack. Just to elaborate, in this form of Blackjack, only the dealer was permitted to double. Also, a betting round was there between each of the playing cards dealt.

The game was still termed ‘21’ when it gained popularity in Nevada in 1931 as the State first chose to make gambling legal. To draw more people to the game, some casinos then offered a special bet: A hand featuring either of the black jacks (the Jack of Spades or that of Clubs) plus the Ace of Spades would pay 10-to-1 odds on the lucky player’s bet. Although casinos later discontinued this peculiar payout, the name ‘blackjack’ or ‘black jack’ remained, as the game is known today.

Five of Clubs: “Watson’s card”. The name has nothing to do with Sherlock Holmes but refers to a famous gambler who is supposed to have won £10,000 at Faro through his wager in connection with this card.

Blackjack was not conceived by any one person at one definite point of time. On the contrary, blackjack has evolved over centuries; it continues to evolve and grow even today, thanks to the Internet. Fuelling its popularity the online casino industry has developed various versions of the game which has truly revolutionized it.

Now a few reputed casino operators have started an innovative and far more enjoyable concept of this game: live blackjack game with real dealers. Live Blackjack is the most advanced way to play your favourite casino game right in the comfort of your home, without having to go a long way to a field-based casino.

Sources:

Wikipedia: Blackjack

avatar
1440 Articles

By Simon Wintle

Member since February 01, 1996

Founder and editor of the World of Playing Cards since 1996. He is a former committee member of the IPCS and was graphics editor of The Playing-Card journal for many years. He has lived at various times in Chile, England and Wales and is currently living in Extremadura, Spain. Simon's first limited edition pack of playing cards was a replica of a seventeenth century traditional English pack, which he produced from woodblocks and stencils.


Related Articles

Woodblock and Stencil King of Diamonds

Woodblock and Stencil King of Diamonds

A limited edition art print of the King of Diamonds 1984 woodblock joker.

Woodblock and Stencil Queen of Clubs

Woodblock and Stencil Queen of Clubs

A limited edition art print of the Queen of Clubs 1984 woodblock joker.

Woodblock and Stencil Jack of Clubs

Woodblock and Stencil Jack of Clubs

A limited edition art print of the Jack of Clubs 1984 woodblock joker.

Woodblock and Stencil Joker

Woodblock and Stencil Joker

A limited edition art print of the 1984 woodblock joker.

Ganjifa - Playing Cards from India

Ganjifa - Playing Cards from India

Indian playing cards, known as Ganjifa, feature intricate designs with twelve suits and are traditio...

The Henry Hart Puzzle

The Henry Hart Puzzle

Explore the intricate history and unique design variations of Henry Hart's playing cards, tracing th...

1647 Sevilla 1647 reproduction

Sevilla 1647 reproduction

Facsimile of Spanish-suited pack produced in Sevilla, Spain, 1647.

Why our playing-cards look the way they do

Why our playing-cards look the way they do

Analysis of early playing card designs: origins, suit differences, standardization, technological ad...

Introduction to Collecting Themes

Introduction to Collecting Themes

Playing cards can be broadly categorised into standard and non-standard designs, with collectors app...

2021 Le Monde Primitif Tarot

Le Monde Primitif Tarot

Facsimile edition produced by Morena Poltronieri & Ernesto Fazioli of Museo Internazionale dei Taroc...

75: Early American cards

75: Early American cards

An overview of some of the early cards made in the United States.

1450 Early German playing cards

Early German playing cards

Some early examples of popular German playing cards from the XV and XVI centuries.

1650 The Parisian Tarot

The Parisian Tarot

The “Parisian Tarot”, early 1600s, with imagery and design synthesizing several influences.

73: Fakes, Forgeries and Tax Evasion

73: Fakes, Forgeries and Tax Evasion

When there are official taxes to pay, people will find a way to avoid paying them - often illegally....

Russian Playing Card History - From the Beginnings to 1917

Russian Playing Card History - From the Beginnings to 1917

An in-depth review of the history of card-playing, gambling, legislation, manufacture and taxation o...

1798 Russian Playing Card Monopoly

Russian Playing Card Monopoly

The Russian Playing Card Monopoly was established in March 1798 with all revenue going to support th...

1760 Trappola cards from Prague

Trappola cards from Prague

15 Trappola playing cards possibly made by Johann Ziser of Prague, c1760.

Languedoc pattern

Languedoc pattern

The old Languedoc pattern was known at the beginning of the seventeenth century, if not before.

1785 Pierre Roiné Aluette

Pierre Roiné Aluette

Archaic form of Aluette published by Pierre Roiné, Nantes, c.1785.

1880 Dutch costume playing cards from an unknown maker

Dutch costume playing cards from an unknown maker

Another pack of Dutch costume playing cards c.1880.

1613 Portuguese-suited cards

Portuguese-suited cards

Portuguese-suited cards with dragon aces, made in Italy, 1613.

Antoine de Logiriera

Antoine de Logiriera

Archaic Spanish-suited playing cards published in Toulouse by Antoine de Logiriera (1495-1518).

1860 Dutch costume playing cards

Dutch costume playing cards

Dutch costume playing cards made for the Dutch market in the second half of the 19th century.

1705 Royal Cards Reign of Queen Anne

Royal Cards Reign of Queen Anne

“Royal Cards Reign of Queen Anne” cover historical events, both honourable and treacherous, during t...

72: The Ace of Spades

72: The Ace of Spades

In standard English packs the Ace of Spades is associated with decorative designs. This is a histori...

Dubois

Dubois

Dubois card makers from Liège in the Walloon Region of Belgium.

Playing Cards: A Secret History

Playing Cards: A Secret History

Playing Cards: A Secret History

A. Camoin & Cie

A. Camoin & Cie

This deck was inherited from ancestors, it has has a family history surrounding it. Details of the l...

History of Playing Cards explained in 5 Minutes

History of Playing Cards explained in 5 Minutes

Video by Art of Impossible. In this video you will get a short overview of the most important histor...

1584 Toledo, 1584

Toledo, 1584

Archaic Spanish-suited deck with 48 cards made in Toledo in 1584.

The Most Popular Card Games in Casinos

The Most Popular Card Games in Casinos

The Most Popular Card Games in Casinos by Katelyn Oakley.

1500 Gambling and Vice in the Middle Ages

Gambling and Vice in the Middle Ages

Gambling and Vice in the Hours of Charles V: card-playing in the local tavern

“Deck with French suits”

“Deck with French suits”

A facsimile of an early 19th century French-suited deck from the collection of F.X. Schmid.

Jeu Mythologique

Jeu Mythologique

“Jeu Mythologique” facsimile 18th century pack by J M Simon, 1983.

1888 Heraldic playing cards

Heraldic playing cards

Reproduction of Richard Blome’s Heraldic playing cards, 1684, presented to lady guests at WCMPC Summ...

1698 Le Jeu de la Guerre

Le Jeu de la Guerre

Facsimile of “Le Jeu de la Guerre” designed by Gilles de la Boissière in 1698.

1864 Corner Indices

Corner Indices

Corner Indices were a major innovation in playing card production.

1800 Baraja Carlos IV by Félix Solesio, 1800

Baraja Carlos IV by Félix Solesio, 1800

Baraja Carlos IV, Félix Solesio en la Real Fábrica de Macharaviaya, 1800.

71: Woodblock and stencil: the hearts

71: Woodblock and stencil: the hearts

A presentation of the main characteristics of the wood-block courts of the heart suit.

70: Woodblock and stencil : the spade courts

70: Woodblock and stencil : the spade courts

This is a presentation in a more straightforward fashion of the work done by Paul Bostock and me in ...

66: Adverts and related material 1862-1900

66: Adverts and related material 1862-1900

Some further material relating to cards from nineteenth and twentieth century periodicals.

1878 Tyrolean Playing Cards

Tyrolean Playing Cards

Facsimile of patriotic 1878 Tyrolean playing cards published by Piatnik in 1992.

65: Adverts and related documents 1684-1877

65: Adverts and related documents 1684-1877

Here are a few early advertisements relating to cards from newspapers 1684-1759 and a number of late...

1796 Prisoners of War

Prisoners of War

Hand-made playing cards by French prisoners of war in Porchester Castle, Hampshire, c.1796.