The Origins of Blackjack

By | July 2, 2022

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The dealer pulls blackjack and beats the table. Source: (Getty Images)

 If you’ve ever walked through the doors of a casino, you know the feeling it gives you. There's an immediate thrill you get, and the prospect of winning it big feels like a real possibility. Within a few hours - or at times mere minutes - you know exactly how your night is going to go. You’re either leaving with a pocket full of chips or regretting you ever left your house One of the most popular games around the world today is Blackjack. It’s simple, suspenseful, and it doesn’t take all night to play. It even has its own rulebook called “basic strategy,” that gives players suggestions on how to play each hand. The origins of Blackjack are a bit vague, some credit it to the Romans, others say it was the French. One thing we know for sure, nothing lights up a gambler’s eyes like a game of 21.

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A sketch of a gambling house in Deadwood, SD. Source: (Getty Images)

The Romans were notorious for their love of gambling. They would roll dice, play early forms of backgammon, and gamble on various other board games they had invented. Some even credit the Romans with inventing an early form of Blackjack, using numbered wooden blocks rather than cards. There is little to substantiate this theory, but there’s no question Roman gambling culture persisted, and would eventually bleed into the rest of Europe.

Fast forward some centuries later and the French have begun playing a game they call “Vingt-et Un” meaning 21. In the 1700s French casinos featured different versions of this game, and while they were likely much different than modern Blackjack they surely share similarities. French colonists would bring their games of 21 to the American colonies in that same century. By the 1820s, the game had gained significant popularity in the city of New Orleans - which would make sense considering the city’s large population of French immigrants.