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History of Blackjack

It is difficult to confirm the origin of Blackjack however many believe it began in France and during the 17th Century.
Vingt et Un (meaning 21 in French) was indeed being played in the French casinos at this time and so while Blackjack may not originated from there, it was believed that Vingt et Un is one of the roots of Blackjack.

Vingt en Un and blackjack are very similar. In Vingt en Un only the dealer is allowed to double and the players would bet after each round which is not the same in the American version of Blackjack. Blackjack got its name when you were awarded a special payout when one hand was made up of a jack and ace of spades. Today this is referred to as the natural blackjack and you still get a special payout.

During the 17th Century a game called Seven and a half was played. The cards used in this game consisted of all face cards as well as the 7, 8 and 9. Your objective was to make a hand of seven and a half. The regular cards 7, 8 and 9 equaled 1 point and the face cards half a point. The King of diamonds was referred to as a wild card and could represent any value. If a player went over seven and a half points they were "busted" and lost the round. ItÂs believed that this is where the term "busted" is derived from.

Shortly after the French Revolution, Blackjack was taken to North America. At this time there were no gambling laws in the US whereas France had quite a few laws against gambling. As a result those who loved to play got on ships to gamble. Tips on how to play and win began to develop. During the 19th century blackjack and other gambling games were outlawed in the US, under the belief that it increased crime.

Blackjack continued to be played in secret clubs. The players met secretly avoiding the police and only people that were deemed trustworthy were invited to play. The restrictions grew and became more pronounced in the 1920s. However in 1931, Las Vegas was opened and became a legal mean to gamble. A lot of people believe this made the game more interesting as you couldn´t just play it anywhere.

Some players began to study the different aspects to find a winning strategy for the game. In 1953 Roger Baldwin and few other players began to test their strategies. The first strategy manual based on statistics was published.

The information was helpful, but they lacked the technology to get further down in the game. In 1962 Edward Thorp came up with a statistical strategy that worked better. His findings including the card counting theory were then published.

These books made it to the list for New York Times best sellers. This was a defining moment for Blackjack players could now learn how to play the game successfully. Obviously the casinos were not happy with this published material and so they decided to make a few changes (e.g. shuffling the cards earlier) especially after the "Beat the Dealer" book was released in 1962.

Luckily for the casinos "Beat the Dealer" by Thorp was full of mathematics that most people don´t understand. The majority of blackjack players didn´t like the changes made in the casinos due to the release of the book. After a lot of player complaints and the casinos realizing the uselessness of the book they reverted to the old rules. From the 60´s through to 8´s blackjack became the most popular game.

Numerous individuals have tried to work out a winning strategy that can be used by regular people to beat the casino. Julian Braun an IBM employee used computer knowledge as well as the blackjack rules to try and work out a winning strategy. Another person by the name of Lawrence Revere offered tips for blackjack.

Ken Uston was the first to make a lot of money. He released several books on Blackjack to the public including associates to help him. The associates had mini computers placed in their shoes that would be used to get them a win. A complex and difficult system to understand but the result was upwards of $300,000 from Nevada casinos.

There have been groups since Uston using the card counting method or computer chips. A team known as the MIT Blackjack Team got away with several millions in the 90´s. When they were discovered in 1997 they were thrown out of Las Vegas and banned from other casinos. An investigation company called Griffin identified the card counters at the time and stopped the cheating. A few people do still try and cheat but without much success due to the technology casinos have these days.

Blackjack can be found in North America, Australia, Europe and the UK. You´ll find both land based casinos as well as online casinos.

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