Although blackjack is one of the biggest card and casino games on the planet, and is up there with poker, slots and roulette for dominating the casino floor, its origins are still very much illusive and debatable. The only thing that many historians agree on when it comes to blackjack’s history is that it probably originated in France or Spain, where many other games were also created and where gambling was king for a number of centuries.
Blackjack is also known as “21”, and this was probably the name that was first given to the game. The first recorded mention of it is by the Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes, who himself was a keen gambler. He wrote about the game of “21” in a short story about three men who tried to cheat their way to a small fortune, much like the many modern tales of card-sharks and whizz kids who think they can beat the house by counting cards or using more nefarious means.
Other games that may have inspired blackjack’s creation include a similar game in Spain whereby players try to reach a total score of 31, and a game that the Romans used to play with blocks on which numbers had been etched. The truth is that the modern game of blackjack is unlikely to have been inspired by either of these. It is not a complicated game and is one that you can easily imagine a gambler, or a group of gamblers, creating from scratch to pass the time. As it can be beneficial to casinos, it is also possible that it was created by a casino in an effort to give the punters a game where they thought the odds were in their favor, but there the house was still considerably on top.
Blackjack, which was still called “21” at this time, made it to American shores around the turn of the twentieth century, maybe as late as the 1920s when the country was undergoing a gambling boom. It hit Nevada in 1931 when gambling was legalized, and to lure punters into the casino a special bet was added to the game of “21” whereby those with an ace and a picture card automatically won. This special bet was called “blackjack” and was where the name began.
It seems fitting that blackjack was given its name in the Las Vegas casinos, a place where it would find a welcoming home for the next 70 years and counting. Blackjack may be a simple game, one that lacks the intricacies of poker and the complex betting system of both roulette and craps, but it is this simplicity that has helped it to become one of the most popular casino games in the world. These days you can play blackjack in any casino around the world, and there are also plenty of online destinations willing to take your money. This is an age-old game created by gamblers, and it is a game that has served gamblers and casinos for several hundreds years, and will continue to do so for many years to come.