The History of Blackjack: How This Legendary Game Was Born

min read
a green felt blackjack table set up in a casino with playing cards and stacks of poker chips, a pair of red aces stand against the poker chips and a black chair in the back
BetMGM Jan 17, 2024, 5:40 AM

Blackjack, the beloved game of casinos worldwide, with legions of patrons who compete with passion both on traditional tables and online casino games, has a rich and fascinating history spanning various eras and cultures. 

This classic game is now popular among patrons of casino games online. Though it may seem straightforward, starting with just two cards per hand, it’s not just a game for entertainment. It has deep roots in military settings, with soldiers during World War II finding solace and fun in the game.

This article will take you on a fascinating journey through blackjack history, explore basic strategies, and delve into the intriguing realm of odds and probability in casino online betting. Get ready to uncover the secrets behind this iconic game, enhance your blackjack skills, and learn more about the fascinating history of online casinos.

Blackjack and “Vingt-Un”

For a brief history of blackjack as we know it today, we must go to 16th-century France, when a popular game called “vingt-un” was doing the rounds. Vingt-un was the favorite game of the royal court and the French elite, such as King Louis XV’s mistress. Even the military leader and emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte, enjoyed it. The game was so popular that Napoleon prohibited his soldiers from playing to maintain their focus on the battlefront. It’s impossible to know who invented blackjack, but its roots are firmly in Europe. In fact, the history of most popular casino games starts in Europe.

Spain had its own version called ”One and Thirty,” where the goal was to reach 31 with at least three cards. A theory also suggests that the Romans invented blackjack, playing with wooden blocks representing different numerical values. Though this attribution is unconfirmed, the Romans certainly were known for their love of gambling.

In any case, French colonists brought the original blackjack game to America in the early 1800s, where it was referred to as 21 after it underwent rule revisions. Its popularity spread throughout North America, with New Orleans being a significant hub for the game in legalized gambling halls. During this period, the rules differed from modern blackjack, with only the dealer being able to double.

An intriguing figure from this time was Eleanor Dumont, a skilled dealer from France who eventually opened a gambling hall named Vingt-un in Nevada City, California. Her reputation drew players from all over the country, seeking to challenge her skills at the card table. As blackjack evolved and gained popularity in America, it transformed, leading to the game being among the casino table games of today.

How the Legendary Blackjack Was Born

As mentioned earlier, the origins of blackjack date back to ancient Rome. Its journey through history intertwined with the Napoleonic wars and American colonialism. It has truly stood the test of time, making its way from traditional tables to the virtual screens of computers through live dealer casino games.

In the 19th century, specifically 1899, the iconic game found its place in history under a name everyone can recognize: blackjack. In a bid to generate interest in this lesser-known game, the early American casinos devised a special bonus: a remarkable 10-to-1 payout for players who landed the ace of spades alongside a blackjack.

So, why is it called blackjack, and how did blackjack get its name?

The name traces back to the famous Klondike gold rush. “Blackjack” was a term used to describe zincblende ore, a mineral often indicating the presence of valuable gold and silver deposits. Holding the blackjack card was believed to be a sign of a winning hand in the making.

The history of blackjack’s iconic name is a story that brings together the allure of the gold rush, the thrill of the bonus, and the adventure of the prospectors. The game’s unwavering popularity through the ages can be attributed to its simplicity, fair odds against the house, and the range of strategies available.

First Written Traces of Blackjack

While the game’s origins trace back to the early 17th century, the first written record is found in Miguel de Cervantes’ story “Rinconete y Cortadillo” from 1600. Within the pages of his collection “Novelas Ejemplares,” Cervantes depicts a game called “veintiuna” and introduces a group of skilled card cheaters from Seville.

In this captivating tale, the game’s objective is clear: reach a total of 21 without surpassing it. The value of the ace can be either 1 or 11, with a dealer overseeing the flow of cards. These early accounts shed light on the early origins and rules of the game, providing a glimpse into the fascinating history of blackjack.

But since it found its place in modern history, one iconic figure in the world of blackjack is Edward O. Thorp, a brilliant mathematician who revolutionized the game with his book “Beat the Dealer.”

He unveiled the secrets of card counting, inspiring countless players to try their luck at beating the casinos. As a result, casinos offering variety games, including blackjack, have amended the rules of blackjack to counteract this technique, adding an extra layer of challenge and excitement. The extra layers are how the rules of the games came to be. 

These rules apply to online blackjack live dealer games and in-person casino games.

Blackjack Strategies for Beginners

So, you’re ready to dive into the exciting world of blackjack — after all, someone has to win, right? Well, here are the best blackjack strategies for help newcomers like you step up to the blackjack table with confidence.

Before you take a seat and start playing, here are some important factors to consider:

  • Take it easy at the blackjack table and start small to get a feel for the game.
  • Before making any moves, check the dealer’s up card — knowing if it’s good or bad can significantly influence your strategy.
  • Avoid falling for the insurance bet trap unless you’re counting cards.
  • Don’t be swayed by gambler’s myths, as your decisions are independent of others at the table. 
  • Lastly, set a limit for your losses while keeping your potential winnings open.

Stay smart and enjoy the thrill of blackjack without getting burned.

Blackjack Odds and Probability

In blackjack, the house always has an advantage over players, even if they master the basic strategy. This is because players have to act first; if they bust, they lose regardless of whether the dealer also busts. However, players have the tools to reduce the house edge significantly.

House Odds and Bust Probability

There’s a clever strategy you can use to assess the dealer’s chances of success before you even take a look at your own cards. The key is to focus on their potential to go bust, which would secure an instant win for you. It may seem like a game of luck, but by making some calculations, you can estimate the average bust rate based on the dealer’s first card, known as the up card. To help you remember this valuable tactic, here’s a handy cheat sheet: 

  • Up card: The first card is drawn face up.
  • Bust-out: A hand value exceeding the value of 21.
Dealer Up Card Bust Rates
2 35.30%
3 37.56%
4 40.28%
5 42.89%
6 42.08%
7 25.99%
8 23.86%
9 23.34%
10 21.43%
A 11.65%

Player Odds and Bust Probability

Just like you analyzed the dealer’s hand, you can apply the same strategy to evaluate your own hand and determine your chances of success. The main distinction is that you know your two-card hand from the start. Unlike the dealer, your goal is to minimize the risk of going bust when you decide to hit. To help you make the most of your two-card hand, here’s another useful table to reference:

Hit: Adds an additional card to the value.

Player Hand Value Overall Odds of Going Bust from a Hit
11 and under 0%
12 31%
13 39%
14 56%
15 58%
16 62%
17 69%
18 77%
19 85%
20 92%
21 100%

Odds of Winning 

In the thrilling game of blackjack, the question remains: How often can you expect to emerge victorious? These are the odds for each possible outcome when the moment of truth arrives:

Player Odds of Winning Dealer Odds of Winning Draw Odds (Tied Game)
42.22% 49.10% 8.48%

Use the History To Win at BetMGM

Blackjack, a game with a rich history spanning continents, has captivated players across the globe. Its timeless appeal has made it a favorite in both physical and online casinos. As the game evolved to meet the demands of modern players by incorporating advanced technology, such as HD cameras, interactive platforms, and live dealers, it has maintained its exhilarating essence.

Whether you play in a traditional casino or online, the odds and probabilities remain essentially the same. The allure of this legendary game continues to attract newcomers and thrill experienced players alike. 

So why wait? If you’re ready to embark on an unforgettable blackjack adventure, don’t hesitate to register at BetMGM and join the ranks of passionate players who find joy and excitement in this legendary game.

If you want to expand your choice of games, explore our library of online slots, jackpot slots, bingo games, and sports betting. And if you have questions about deposits and withdrawals, the best blackjack side bets to make, or require some guidance on poker, check out the BetMGM blog.

Actress Vanessa Hudgens flipping casino chips next to the text "The King of Casinos"
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Our BetMGM editors and authors are casino experts with a wealth of knowledge of the online casino industry at all levels. Their coverage includes company news, game reviews, how-to instructional articles, strategy guides, and editorials showcasing BetMGM’s superior product and game library.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are casino experts with a wealth of knowledge of the online casino industry at all levels. Their coverage includes company news, game reviews, how-to instructional articles, strategy guides, and editorials showcasing BetMGM’s superior product and game library.