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Blackjack History

The History of Blackjack

Poker and the slots are always thought of as American "inventions" — as American as apple pie — but other casino gambling games, like roulette and blackjack, are undeniably as French as the croissant. The earliest version of blackjack harks back to France of the 18th century, where it was known as "vingt-et-un" (French for "twenty-one").

During the next century, French colonists brought the game of vingt-et-un across the ocean to Canada and the United States, and the game started making regular appearances in North American casinos in the early twentieth century.

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From Vingt-et-Un to Black Jack

Despite its popularity in Europe, the game did not immediately take off in the U.S. and the rules were changed slightly to make the odds more favourable to the player. One such rule change was the addition of a 10:1 bonus payout if a player drew the jack of spades together with the ace of spades as his first two cards. Thus history was made and the game became known forever after as "black jack" or "blackjack." The huge surge in the popularity of blackjack in the U.S. can be traced directly back to the legalization of gambling in the state of Nevada in the early 1930's. Las Vegas became synonymous with blackjack (and vice versa) and the game became the gambling town's most enduring image.

The Development of Blackjack Basic Strategy

Blackjack has always fascinated statisticians and by the 1950s they realized that the game offers the player better odds than previously believed. At that time, a team of mathematicians known as The Four Horsemen published an article titled "The Optimum Strategy in Blackjack," in which they used probability theories and statistics to illustrate ways in which blackjack players could be more successful. Although the Four Horsemen's article made only a small ripple on the waters of the blackjack scene at the time, their theories were, in fact, the basis for what is now known as "The Blackjack Basic Strategy."

The person who is generally credited for the black jack basic strategy is Professor Edward Thorp, who published his ideas (based on the Four Horsemen's theories) in 1962 in a best-selling book called "Beat the Dealer." "Beat the Dealer" also introduced the idea of card counting as a strategy in blackjack, and is thought of as a major landmark in blackjack history. Thorp's book catapulted the game of blackjack to new levels of popularity, but the casinos changed the rules in order to protect their odds. In order to keep the house edge, they introduced multiple-deck games and card-shuffling machines, which made it harder for card counters to keep track of the cards that had been dealt.

The wide use of computers once again galvanized the concept of basic blackjack strategy. An IBM employee by the name of Julian Braun wrote "How to Play Winning Blackjack," further building on the theories of the Four Horsemen and Professor Thorp. As computers developed, so did blackjack strategy. Blackjack basic strategy is based on the mathematics of the game and it has been tested and refined through computer simulations. When it is followed correctly, it reduces the house edge to a minimum, which is usually about one-half of a percent. This basic strategy helps the player make decisions about when to hit and when to stand based on the cards he and the dealer have been dealt. By playing this blackjack basic strategy — by following the chart exactly — the player can play on nearly even terms with the house.

Online Blackjack Takes Off

Until the 1990s, the blackjack basic strategy chart had to be memorized, as casinos did not allow computers or even written charts across the threshold. Online casinos revolutionized the game of blackjack so that anyone can play blackjack now and refer to a basic blackjack strategy chart as they play the game on their computer. Blackjack — more than any other gambling game — has made a seamless and successful move to cyberspace and the online casino.

Thousands of people now enjoy playing blackjack online. One of the advantages of playing blackjack online is that the Internet casinos allow you to play for free. This allows you to practice your blackjack game and your blackjack strategy before you start playing blackjack for real money. When you do play blackjack online for real money, the odds and the payouts are the same as at the casino, so you are not losing anything. Another advantage, as already noted, is that you can keep your blackjack basic strategy chart by your side and refer to it whenever you want. Online blackjack has become one of the most popular games at many online casinos, and, in fact, it is the specialty of the house here at Wild Jack Casino.

Blackjack History in the Blackjack Hall of Fame

The giants of blackjack history are enshrined in the Blackjack Hall of Fame in southern California. There are the great thinkers — like Edward O. Thorpe and Peter Griffin — who have advanced our knowledge of the game of blackjack, the great players — like Ken Uston and Tommy Hyland — who have won tons of real money at the real-life blackjack tables, and the great communicators — like Arnold Snyder and Max Rubin — who have spread the blackjack gospel to the public.

The members of the Blackjack Hall of Fame run the gamut from the Four Horsemen, who did the seminal work on blackjack strategy in the 1950s, to James Grosjean, the best active blackjack player today. The Blackjack Hall of Fame also contains a museum with various historical blackjack exhibits and artifacts. In a very real sense, the Blackjack Hall of Fame embodies the history of blackjack.

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