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How Blackjack became so Popular

Published:

6 Feb 2019

The game of blackjack has long been considered one of the main draws for a casino, with tens of thousands often changing hands on a regular basis, though it is the easy-to-understand nature of the game, that means it can also be played privately as well.

Every casino in the world offers blackjack, with the biggest and most prestigious ones offering into the hundreds in line with demand, while online blackjack is exploding. However, this highly popular game started many hundreds of years before.

Roman Rule sparks beginning of blackjack

It is widely believed that the game of blackjack started during the Roman occupation of Europe around 700BC with numerical values being assigned to wooden blocks in order to play and keep score, while stakes would vary from money, horses, slaves, land and even wives.

It was seen as a popular pastime, especially for soldiers during encampment while on crusades, though it was money which was the main accepted form of stake in these circumstances.

When considered, it isn’t that much of a surprise that blackjack originated during the Roman era. Chariot racing and gladiator battles were just two of the events where currency changed hands between different parties and it was no different with blackjack.

Introduction of playing cards clarifies rules

During the mid-15th century the invention of playing cards by Johannes Gutenberg made the game much easier and even more popular, especially in the first casinos. According to some historians, there is an argument that the game blackjack was a modified version of the game ‘31’ which originated in Italy, however, a similar one was also played in Spain, carrying the name ‘21’.

It is this, which it’s believed the game of blackjack is based on, due to the players needing to total that exact number to beat the dealer and one another to guarantee that they win each game.

As such, playing cards helped to make it easier to understand the game, regardless of which country claimed to have invented it. Values of some of the cards have changed over the years, with question marks over the value of the ‘Ace card’, however, playing cards certainly helped to lay the groundwork for the game that is so widely popular today.

French claim and American popularisation

Despite the Italian’s and Spanish claiming that they discovered the game of blackjack, it wasn’t until some centuries later (the 18th century to be precise) that France laid claim to the discovery of the game during the French Revolution.

The French version is understood to mirror today’s game far more both in rules and context, plus it was given the name ‘Vingt-et-Un” (the French word for twenty-one).

Credit though, can certainly be given to France for introducing it to America, and by extension, the world during the 19th century. It was in the United States, where the name ‘blackjack’ was born.

This was because when an Ace of Spades with either a Jack of Clubs or a Jack of Spades (all black) appeared in the player’s first hand, it had the best payout. It was in America where the game really surged and featured heavily during the illegal gambling rackets.

Many still call the game ‘21’ today, as well as blackjack, while the term ‘pontoon’ has also been used to describe it in UK, where the phrases “stick” and “twist” are used in place of “hit” and “stand” respectively.

Online explosion of Blackjack

As touched on, it is online where the game of blackjack really shows how popular it is among gamblers. Every online casino and sportsbook has numerous blackjack offerings with different themes to entice gamblers who have interests in various aspects of pop/celebrity culture.

Furthermore, live games are also available, allowing participants to play in real time against others from around the world, using a live dealer that each player can see. This is just the latest move by online casinos to expand their offering and blackjack only keeps growing in popularity.