The origins of blackjack can be traced to certain French gambling games such as ‘chemin de fer and ‘French ferme’. The concept of going bust is believed to have come from the Italian game ‘seven and a half’. The Spanish game ‘one and thirty also contributed in the evolution of blackjack. Blackjack as we know it was first played in the French casinos in the 1700s. The French called it ‘vingt-et-un’, meaning twenty-one.
The game came to the United States in the 1800s. In order to popularize the game casinos offered bonus payouts. One such bet was the player getting the jack of spades and the ace of spades as the dealt cards. This bet was called blackjack and paid out as 10 to 1. While the blackjack now consists of any ace and any card of value ten, and pays out as 3 to 2, the name has stuck.
The modern history of blackjack has been played out in the United States and is a tussle between the gamblers and the casinos.
Edward Thorp, a PhD in mathematics and a lecturer at MIT, introduced card counting to blackjack. In 1961 he presented a paper in which he discussed models he had tested on the computer. Financed by Emmanuel Kimmel, Thorp went to Nevada to test his technique in a real environment. He more than doubled his bankroll of $10,000.
Ken Uston used card-counting techniques to make a packet in the early 1970s. Keith Taft had developed a computer that played perfect blackjack and could be worn without anyone detecting it. Uston and Taft teamed up to win millions of dollars in Atlantic City casinos before being denied entry. They went to court, which judged card counting to be legal. The casinos retaliated by introduced multiple decks, shuffling machines, and frequent and early shuffling in order to counter card counting and so the odds were restored.
The next person to expand the theories of blackjack was Stanford Wong, who is referred to as the Godfather of blackjack. One of his noteworthy achievements is beating the early versions of the Continuous Shuffling Machines, introduced by casinos to offset card counting. In fact ‘wonging’ has become slang for card counting. The Continuous Shuffling Machines have undergone improvements but some players still believe that their shuffle patterns can be recognized and they can be defeated.
In the 1990s a team of MIT students, known as the MIT Blackjack Club, proved that blackjack was beatable, by winning millions of dollars from Las Vegas casinos.
With the introduction of Internet gambling in the mid 1990s there was an explosion of blackjack players. The refinement of the Random Number Generator and development of gaming software brought blackjack from casinos to homes. Trainer games helped new players to learn the strategies of blackjack. Demonstration games enabled many players to play for free. In the last few years the presentation of the online games has reached a high level of sophistication with audiovisual special effects and animation.