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blackjack history


Useful blackjack links:
[ blackjack strategy ] [ blackjack rules ] [ the history of cards ] [ the history of gambling ]


Playing cards are believed to have been invented in China and/or India sometime around 900 AD. The Chinese are thought to have originated card games when they began shuffling paper money (another Chinese invention) into various combinations. In China today, the general term for playing cards means "paper tickets". The contemporary 52 card deck used in the U.S. was originally called the "French Pack" (circa 1600's) which was later adopted by the English and subsequently the Americans.

The history of the blackjack card game itself is still disputed but was probably spawned from other French games such as "chemin de fer" and "French Ferme", although blackjack is also claimed by both Italy and Spain as well. The game blackjack originated in French casinos around 1700 where it was called "vingt-et-un" ("twenty-and-one") and has been played in the U.S. since the 1800's. The game is named blackjack because if a player got a Jack of Spades and an Ace of Spades as the first two cards (Spade being the color black of course), the player was additionally remunerated.

In the early days of western card rooms, poker and craps were the preferred games of the high rollers and 21(blackjack) as it was played at the time had not really caught on. To make the game more enticing some clubs began offering a whopping 10 to 1 payout to any player who got a very special hand on his first two cards: Ace of Spades plus a Jack of Clubs or or Jack of Spades -- thus "21" became "blackjack" because of those two cards. Nowadays the payout of 3 to 2 (150%) is standard in most casinos, regardless of which face card accompanies the Ace. But the game remained more or less unchanged until the early days of the computer age. It took the high-powered number crunching of mathematicians like Edward Thorpe to prove that the house edge could be virtually eliminated. Thorpe and others calculated the one optimal play for every possible card combination. This set of moves became known as Basic Strategy and has been the basis of all legitimate winning blackjack methods.

But casinos did not sit idly by as Basic Strategy began eroding their advantage. They developed ways to counteract players' latest ammunition. These include multiple decks, shuffling machines, frequent and early shuffling, player tracking computers and more. But savvy players can beat even these techniques, especially with card counting.

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Useful blackjack links:
[ blackjack strategy ] [ blackjack rules ] [ the history of gambling ]
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