The History of Blackjack
The history of blackjack is a minefield of claim and counter-claim between different groups of historians, researchers and gambling aficionados. The simple fact is that the game has evolved into its current format under a vast array of different influences and cultures, form ancient Rome to modern-day Nevada.
The earliest some people claim that a game resembling blackjack was played is ancient Rome. We have plenty of evidence that the Romans were keen gamblers (look how popular the chariot races were). It is true that we also know that they played counting games with numbered wooden blocks but it is impossible to link these to any modern card game, let alone blackjack.
The trail goes cold during the middle ages until the earliest game with a strong resemblance to the modern game emerges in France around 1700. This game was called vingt-et-un, which is French for 21, which marks out the most important aspect of the game we know today. Interestingly there was also a Spanish variant called “One and Thirty” in which, you guessed it, the aim was to reach 31, but starting with three cards instead of the two we see today.
The game spread from the casinos of France to the new world, including the French colonies in North America. From these areas the game steadily spread throughout the entire region. There were still some elements of the game which were slightly different to today's. The most notable of these is that there used to be betting rounds between each card dealt, somewhat like in poker today. Another one was that only the dealer could “double up”.
The game at this time was still known as “Twenty-One” in English, which begs the obvious question: why is it called blackjack when the black jacks aren't special cards? For the answer to this question we have to look at Nevada in the early 1930's. In order to attract more punters to the tables some casinos ran a special bet that any hand containing a black jack and the ace of spades would get a 10-to-1 payout. This offer was soon dropped, but, as we can see, the name has stuck.
Even today blackjack continues to evolve, with many casinos offering special payments along the lines of the one above for particular card combinations. What's more, there are variations on the numbers of decks used and also restrictions on when a player can stand and when they can hit.
The most recent evolution of the game has been through the advent of the online casino. Here the game is played along all the principles of the game but in a virtual world. It can be played gratis for fun or to learn the rudiments of the game or for cold hard cash. The very latest development is Blackjack played via a live video feed to a casino.
In short, we cannot say that the game of blackjack sprung fully formed from the mind of any one individual, instead it has developed continually over the last 300 years. Given the huge number of online gambling sites we can expect to see this carry on for many years to come.
How to play Blackjack
Blackjack may be the most iconic of all card games. Due to its simple rules and fast pace it is one of the most popular casino games and it is now becoming increasingly common to play it online. So, if you want to start playing, the rules are explained below. To start playing at a great casino we recommend a visit at Spin Palace.
The aim of blackjack is to get as close to, but not to exceed, 21. You achieve this by adding together the numerical values of the cards you are dealt. If you go past 21 then you “go bust” and the dealer wins.
In order to get to 21, you add together the face value of ALL the cards in your hand. All the picture cards, jack through king, are worth ten points while aces are worth either one or eleven. In this case the player has a free choice as to which value to choose depending on the other cards in their hand.
Once you start playing, you will probably want to make it more interesting by introducing some betting. In blackjack, you bet only against the dealer, not the other players and you must place your bet before the first two cards are dealt. These two cards are dealt face up so that everyone can see each other's cards. There is one exception, however, the dealer has only card facing up and the other one facing down.
You now have four options:
1) To stand/stick – you are happy with your two cards and you don't want any more.
2) To hit/twist – you want another card in order to get closer to 21. You only receive one card at a time and in some versions if you have five cards and still be under 21 you can't take any more.
3) To split – if you are dealt a pair you can split them into two separate hands and play them as such. This is a more advanced tactic.
4) To double down – as the name suggests, you double your initial bet and receive one additional card.
After each player has either gone bust or decided to stand on their hands, the dealer reveals his hidden card. The dealer then plays his hand in the same way as everyone else, trying to get as close as possible to 21. In fact, in many casinos, the dealer will simply be following instructions on when to stand and when to hit. If at the end of the game your hand is higher than the dealer's, and under 21, you receive an even money payout. But if you are lucky enough to have been dealt a picture and an ace, you will receive a 1.5 payout on your stake.
And that's it. You are now ready to start playing. You may want to wait a while before donning a tux and strolling into the plushest Monte Carlo casino, but you can start to play online to sharpen you skills and set you on your way to that big win.