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Blackjack History - Learn the history of blackjack

As with most card games, the exact history of the game of blackjack is forever being disputed and the true history can only be speculation.  The game of blackjack is speculated to have been developed by the French and is said to have stemmed from two famous French games called “chemin de fer” and “French femme”.  After a bit of evolution in the game, in and around the 1700’s, the French were playing Blackjack, similar to as we know it today, but they called their version “vingt-et-un” (literally translated to mean twenty-one). 

It was about a hundred years later (in the early 1800’s) that the game of 21 made its way to America.  This game immediately became popular, especially amongst gamblers.  It was here that the name “Blackjack” was developed.  The original version of the game incorporated an aspect where if your first two cards dealt to you were the Jack of spades and the Ace of spades you would be paid out at 10 to 1. So everyone was hoping to be dealt that black Jack.  This is no longer practiced in today’s blackjack games, but is an interesting explanation of where the name came from.     

Over the last century, the idea of gambling has gone from being illegal to legal to illegal again and finally in the 1930’s the state of Nevada made gambling legal and established a number of casino’s and betting rooms where players could come and enjoy their favorite casino games in an organized and controlled manner.  Amongst these games was blackjack, and it quickly become a favorite in casinos (and still is today).  In the years to follow, a number of other states and countries around the world legalized this past time and the love for blackjack grew even more.

It was in the 1950’s when Roger Baldwin published a paper called “The Optimum Strategy of Blackjack”.  This was the very first attempt to use mathematics to form a basic strategy which would reduce the houses edge and give players a better chance at winning.  Although Baldwin’s efforts are recognizable, he didn’t have the proper technologies (computing systems) to take his theory to the next step.

About a decade later, Dr. Edward Thorp, expanded on Baldwins theory and created an application of mathematics that he used to analyze blackjack odds and to develop a card counting system.  This was the first time card counting was acknowledged and Thorp published his discoveries in a book titled “Beat the Dealer”.  This book taught players tricks of the game that would make their odds equal to the dealers.  The book was a best seller and absolutely got the attention of the casino.

Over the next few years the casinos found that they needed to change something, they were definitely not making any and in some cases losing a lot of money because of the new ways to beat the dealer at blackjack.  Since blackjack was so popular they couldn’t get rid of the game altogether, they would go out of business.  So to regain their house advantage, the casinos had to change the rules.  However the players didn’t respond well and many stopped coming to casinos and protested against the changes.  So the casinos were defeated again and had to bring back the original rules.

Over the years however, the casinos managed to find ways around card counting practices and maintain the original structure of the game.  These practices are still used today and come in the form of using multiple decks and frequent shuffling practices.  The player could now use their basic strategy to increase their odds but the house now regained control of their odds. 

Today the casinos around the world are very fair and carry out strict laws against cheating and card counting practices.  But there are still people out there who believe that they can beat the casino and figure out ways to get around the obstacles that have been put into place.  There is a book titled “Bringing down the House” that was written in 2002 that discusses the true story of a group of MIT students who used sophisticated computer analysis, card counting techniques and very intense training to win millions at the blackjack tables in casinos around the country. 

As the population gets smarter the casinos also get smarter and trying to beat them at blackjack and/or other casino games are in reality a lost cause. However, the great thing about Blackjack compared to other casino games is the aspect of skill that has been incorporated with luck of the draw.  Your chances at coming home a winner of Blackjack are much better than in any other game, such as roulette or craps.  Just remember that casino games are mainly meant for entertainment purposes, you may end up with a buck or two but expect the casinos to come out the big winner. 

 
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