What is the History and Origin of Blackjack, and Why is it Called that?

You are already familiar with how to play Blackjack at a casino, but have you ever pondered the origin of the game’s name? There is a fascinating tale behind the origin of the term “blackjack.” Next time you play with your buddies, you’ll have a humorous tale to share.

Blackjack is a widely played and popular card game. However, most individuals play this casino game without considering its history or why it is named blackjack. People from around the globe now play blackjack with live dealer for recreation or real money.

However, how did the game begin? To comprehend this, we must travel back in time and investigate the history of blackjack.

Let’s go on a journey to discover what blackjack is, its history and its origin, and why it is called blackjack.

The history of blackjack

Card games have traditionally received less attention from history than wars, plagues, and kings and queens. Unfortunately, this means that we do not know much about the origins of blackjack. Some individuals believe that it may be traced back to Ancient Rome, while others feel that it originated in Europe later on. 

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Undoubtedly, card games have been around for a very long time! Given that the goal of blackjack is to get 21 points, it is not surprising that early versions of the game were referred to as Twenty-One. In reality, the earliest mention of the card game known as Twenty-One is in a 1601 or 1602 novel by Miguel Cervantes, Spain’s most renowned author. 

The novella Rinconcete y Cortadillo describes card cheaters playing the game Veintiuna, which linguists will recognize as the Spanish word for twenty-one. It shows that the game was already well-known and popular on the Iberian Peninsula at this time. 

Veintiuna was popular enough to spread. However, it is unknown if this early version resembled the online blackjack we play today. It gained popularity in France, where its name was translated as Vingt-Un. Currently, the French and Spanish also refer to games like blackjack. What happened then?

Vingt-Un crosses the pond.

Here is where things get more intriguing. Europeans brought Vingt-Un to the United States during the 19th century, and it originally gained popularity during the Klondike Gold Rush. Prospectors utilized card games to unwind after spending long days hoping for good fortune, and Vingt-Un quickly gained popularity. 

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The Jack of Spades (literally a blackjack) is a unique bonus card, according to a popular urban legend that asserts the origin of the term “blackjack.” Nonetheless, this is not true. This myth has been disproved by Thierry Depaulis, a French historian who specialized in card games (what a cool career!). As cute as the term blackjack may seem, it has nothing to do with the jack.

Why the game is called Blackjack

It is a fascinating subject of study how the so-called card game 21 progressively became known as blackjack. Consequently, the United States had anti-gambling statutes in place, which were relaxed in the early nineteenth century. 

After then, Nevada legalized gambling, and a new game was introduced in American casinos. However, patrons were somewhat hesitant to play the game; so, casinos devised ways to assist the game gain popularity.

As a method of drawing additional players to the table, one of the techniques explored was to provide bonuses and rewards to the winners. Out of these rewards, there was a ‘blackjack bonus’ with a 20:1 payout, suggesting that the player’s initial wager was multiplied by ten if he won with an ace of spades and any blackjack. Jack of spades and jack of clubs was the blackjacks.

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The game became so popular as a result of these methods and the blackjack bonus that the tables began to be referred to as blackjack tables. Eventually, long after the 10:1 bonus was discontinued, ‘Twenty-One’ evolved into blackjack. It continues to this day, but the rules have altered somewhat.

How Blackjack Got Its Name

During World War I, casinos allegedly offered substantial prizes to players who won with the first Ace of Spades hand and a “black” Jack, according to some academics. The Jack of Spades or Clubs was often referred to as Black Jack. Essentially, the objective was to get the “Black Jack.”

Therefore, the word blackjack may be credited to American casinos that gave additional bonuses to encourage players to participate in the game. One of the incentive payments was the remarkable 10 to 1 bonus that a player’s hand received for having an ace of spades and a “blackjack” or jack of spades or clubs.

Despite the eventual removal of this award, the name assigned to this card combo persisted. It is also the name of one of the most popular card games played in land-based and online casinos today.

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