Blackjack features prominently in virtually every online casino currently in business. Being that it uses simple, easy to understand rules, and has extremely quick turnaround times, the majority of modern casino game players engage in blackjack to some degree, or have at least tried it out.
Few even think about the fact that a casino will have blackjack on offer, and generally just assume it will be an option. This makes blackjack not only one of the most played casino games on the planet, but also one of the most played card games of all kinds.
But where did blackjack originate, and how long has it been around? The truth is that this is a question that does not have a solid answer, since there is no one person said to have invented the game at any given point in history. What is known, however, is that blackjack, or 21, as it is also known, has been around since the 1600s.
A Story About Cheaters
The first known mention of the game of 21 is in a short story by Miguel de Cervantes, the Spanish author more commonly known for writing Don Quixote. In his lesser-known short story titled Rinconete y Cortadillo, the two central characters are proficient at cheating in casino games. More specifically, they are proficient in cheating at a game that can only be 21.
Since the story was written in the early 1600s, we know that blackjack has been around for at least this long. That is a staggering amount of time for a card game to have been around, especially since game remains virtually unchanged.
The more recent mentions of the game are in French casinos, in the 1700s. Again, but for a few modest variations, the game is all but exactly the same as the current game of blackjack we know today. But how did it travel from Europe to the rest of the world?
When French colonialists began to visit what is today the United States of America, the game travelled with them, and it was not long before 21 was adopted by locals. At this time, however, the game was not played in American casinos, mostly because there were no casinos in America. Gambling was not legal.
The Origins of The Name Blackjack
Nevada was the first American state to legalise gambling in 1931. Nevada, of course, is the home of Las Vegas, and it was here that the game of 21 really took off. Initially the game was still referred to as 21, but in an interesting twist of fate casino owners decided to offer an extra incentive, one that would lure players to try out the new card game.
It was declared that if a player won at 21 using a blackjack, which was an ace of spades and a black jack, either a jack of spades or clubs, they would get paid out 10 to 1. The game soon started to be referred to as blackjack, and although the initial rule that created the name was long since dropped, the name stuck, and is still used today.
Blackjack In Modern Culture
Interestingly, blackjack is not just a game that has a firm place in online casinos; it has also played a part in modern culture, with myths, legends and stories that use the game as a central theme. Many novels and short stories have been written using blackjack as a plot device, with characters that are either caught up in the games addictive nature, or are pulling some kind of scam.
Popular movies, such as the comedy Austin Powers, have also used blackjack as a way to engage audiences. This in itself stands as testimony to how well known the game is worldwide, and how common it is to assume that people in general understand the rules. In the case of Austin Powers, however, the jokes arise from how badly some people play the game. Austin chooses to stand on a very low value hand, apparently as a display of how he likes to live dangerously. His opponent, however, hits on a high value hand and succeeds. That the joke works indicates the prominence of blackjack in modern culture.
Today blackjack is, as has already been said, one of the most popular card games on the planet. Be you in central Europe, or sitting on the southern most tips of the globe in Australia or South Africa, the locals will be keen on taking out a deck of cards and having a game. The nature of casinos may be rapidly changing, with online casinos becoming the preferred way to play casino games, but staples such as blackjack seem set to be with us for some time.