ver 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.
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.
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.
A limited edition art print of the Jack of Hearts 1984 woodblock joker.
A limited edition art print of the Queen of Clubs 1984 woodblock joker.
A limited edition art print of the Jack of Clubs 1984 woodblock joker.
Some early examples of popular German playing cards from the XV and XVI centuries.
The “Parisian Tarot”, early 1600s, with imagery and design synthesizing several influences.
When there are official taxes to pay, people will find a way to avoid paying them - often illegally....
An in-depth review of the history of card-playing, gambling, legislation, manufacture and taxation o...
The Russian Playing Card Monopoly was established in March 1798 with all revenue going to support th...
15 Trappola playing cards possibly made by Johann Ziser of Prague, c1760.
The old Languedoc pattern was known at the beginning of the seventeenth century, if not before.
Another pack of Dutch costume playing cards c.1880.
Archaic Spanish-suited playing cards published in Toulouse by Antoine de Logiriera (1495-1518).
Dutch costume playing cards made for the Dutch market in the second half of the 19th century.
“Royal Cards Reign of Queen Anne” cover historical events, both honourable and treacherous, during t...
In standard English packs the Ace of Spades is associated with decorative designs. This is a histori...
This deck was inherited from ancestors, it has has a family history surrounding it. Details of the l...
Video by Art of Impossible. In this video you will get a short overview of the most important histor...
Gambling and Vice in the Hours of Charles V: card-playing in the local tavern
A facsimile of an early 19th century French-suited deck from the collection of F.X. Schmid.
Reproduction of Richard Blome’s Heraldic playing cards, 1684, presented to lady guests at WCMPC Summ...
Baraja Carlos IV, Félix Solesio en la Real Fábrica de Macharaviaya, 1800.
A presentation of the main characteristics of the wood-block courts of the heart suit.
This is a presentation in a more straightforward fashion of the work done by Paul Bostock and me in ...
Some further material relating to cards from nineteenth and twentieth century periodicals.
Facsimile of patriotic 1878 Tyrolean playing cards published by Piatnik in 1992.
Here are a few early advertisements relating to cards from newspapers 1684-1759 and a number of late...
Hand-made playing cards by French prisoners of war in Porchester Castle, Hampshire, c.1796.
A continuation of the development of the off-spring of the Paris patterns and a few examples of how ...
A great many regional patterns were exported from France and subsequently copied elsewhere. Some of ...
Continuing our look at the figures from the regional patterns of France.
On page 11 I illustrated several examples of the regional French patterns from Sylvia Mann's collect...
Facsimile of Tarot de Marseille by Iohann Christoph Hes, Augsburg, c.1750.