The History and Development of Blackjack

BlackjackBy James Albert.

Thrilling, strategic, and most importantly simple to grasp, it is easy to understand why blackjack is one of the most popular casino cards in the world. The rules of this card game are straightforward. Each player must beat the dealer by having a hand that is higher than the dealer’s but does not exceed 21. Face cards (Jack, Queen, King) are worth 10, an Ace is either 1 or 11 depending on your hand, and 2 to 10 possess their face value. After being dealt two cards, the player can decide whether to receive another card or stick with their original two cards. If a player does surpass 21, they go “bust” automatically losing. In this article, we’ll discuss the history and development of blackjack including its origins, variations and influence on popular culture.

History of Blackjack

Blackjack, or 21, was thought to have originated from a French game by the same name called “Vingt-et-un”. In the late 16th Century, the “Vingt-et-un” became increasingly popular in casinos, especially after becoming an established form of entertainment with the French elites, even enjoyed by Napoleon himself. A similar game was known in Spain, “One and Thirty”, apart from the objective was to reach 31. While in Italy, they had “Sette e Mezzo” translated as seven and a half. Due to its wide popularity, several variations of the game were played throughout Europe and America. The name “blackjack” was believed to have stemmed from a special bonus payout that some casinos offered, if a player won beginning with a Jack and Ace of spades.

Development of Blackjack

French settlers were said to have brought the game to American casinos in the 19th Century. In 1931, the game’s popularity was massively boosted on account of the legalization of gambling in Nevada, leading to the development of the casino city, Las Vegas. During this time, the game went through many changes and variations, quickly becoming one of the most widely recognized card games, not just in America but worldwide. One variation, “Double Exposure”, included players being able to see the dealer’s cards which increased their odds, however, other rule changes negated this potential player advantage.  Significantly, American and European blackjack differ in the number of decks used, as well as the amount and disclosure of the dealer’s cards. The introduction of multiple decks, for example, was another change that increased the difficulty of the game.

Blackjack in Popular Culture

When it comes to gambling, blackjack has remained a classic within the industry attracting a large variety of novice to experienced players. Often referenced in popular culture, the game has continued to stay relevant in the modern age, especially in films and video games. The premise of the game has even been the subject of a few prestigious films such as 21 – based on the hit book by Ben Mezrich – and Rain Man. While scenes in various films depict characters playing blackjack in the classic casino setting, for instance, the iconic James Bond in License to Kill. Additionally, popular video games such as Red Dead Redemption feature the game in various saloons and camps around the map. Grand Theft Auto V: San Andreas also contained many casinos in which blackjack could be played.

The Evolution of Blackjack in the Digital Age

In recent years, blackjack’s popularity has grown as the world of online casinos has skyrocketed. Online blackjack has become increasingly widespread, with online casinos such as offering their own range of game variations. The ease of engaging with such games at home has attracted further players, eliminating the need to travel to a casino. Live dealer blackjack has become particularly popular allowing players to have an immersive, interactive, and real-time experience as if they were in an actual casino. It is exciting to consider the future prospects of blackjack, seeing how much it has progressed from the early days of the game into the digital age.


From the courts of the French elite, the Nevadan tables to the online transformation, blackjack has remained a classic within casinos. Aside from a few slight variations, the game’s premise has remained the same owing to its simplicity and timelessness.

For more information on the history of blackjack be sure to check out the Blackjack History section of the Blackjack Review Network.


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