Playing Blackjack At A Casino

Early Origins

Like most other casino games, the history of blackjack is quite long. A few centuries long, in fact. The game we know as blackjack today has changed quite a lot from the original version.

In other words, the very first version of blackjack was somewhat different to the modern one. However, it had enough of the same core features that it can still be classed as blackjack.

So where does the blackjack timeline begin? The earliest mention of the game is in the short story ‘Rinconete y Cortadillo’, found in the book Novelas Ejemplares by Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes.

This book was published in 1601 or 1602. In the short story, the two main characters are cheaters who play the game ‘veintiuno’ (which translates as ‘twenty-one’).

It’s mentioned that when playing this game, the goal is to get to 21 but without going over this number. Also, the ace card can be worth either 1 or 11.

These are two rules that the modern version of blackjack still has. It’s safe to say that the game was being played around the beginning of the 17th century.

The first record of it being played in casinos comes from around the start of the 18th century in France. It was called ‘Vingt-et-Un’ (French for ‘21’).

What’s interesting is that there was an earlier French game called ‘Ferme’ in which up to a dozen players tried to get as close to 16 as possible. This game had a lot in common with blackjack.

There was also a Spanish game called ‘One and Thirty’ where you had to reach 31 using at least three cards. This could have been a development of the game mentioned in Miguel de Cervantes’s short story.

Blackjack games spread from mainland Europe to Britain and the US in the 19th century. By the end of the century, the name ‘Blackjack’ was being used for the game, and its rules were mostly in line with today’s.

The Invention and Impact of Basic Strategy

If you’ve played blackjack yourself, there’s a good chance you’ll know about basic strategy. This is a cheat sheet of sorts that tells you what the best move to make is.

It was first published in the article ‘The Optimum Strategy in Blackjack’, which appeared in the Journal of the American Statistical Association. There wasn’t just one writer of this article; there were four.

These four men, collectively known as The Horsemen, were Roger Baldwin, Wilbert Cantey, Herbert Maisel and James McDermott. They were interested in the statistics and mathematics behind blackjack.

Basic strategy comes in the form of a table. You use the dealer’s face-up card and your own two cards to see what move is statistically best for you. There’s a basic strategy table for every version of blackjack.

It’s a very useful resource for people learning to play the game. It’s also useful for those wanting to perfect their strategy and hopefully make a profit.

The best blackjack sites give players as much information as possible about the game. This includes running through basic strategy and providing examples of tables for players to use.

The Card Counting Revolution

What popularised basic strategy was the publication of the book Beat the Dealer in 1963. In this, writer Ed Thorp, an American math professor and blackjack researcher, verified the strategy, confirming that it suggested the optimal moves.

This attracted a lot more people to the game. They saw blackjack not as a game of luck, but as a game where there was a guarantee you could make the best move, no matter what.

Since you could always play optimally by using basic strategy, you could, in theory, have a decent chance of winning. When compared to an entirely luck-based game like roulette, blackjack seemed more appealing.

While basic strategy was a great help, some people wanted to go further. They tried to find a more effective way of beating the game and improving the player’s chances of winning.

This is how card counting became popular. It’s a blackjack strategy that involves keeping track of what cards have come up and using this knowledge to work out who has the advantage.

The strategy isn’t about remembering every single individual card that’s appeared. Instead, it assigns a point value to each card. As the game progresses, you keep score and use this to determine your moves.

That’s just a basic summary of card counting. It’s somewhat complex, though many people have been able to use it successfully and make a profit from playing blackjack.

In fact, people have been banned from casinos for using the card counting technique. While it’s not technically illegal in the UK, in the US, it’s against the law to count cards using an external device or person.

Casinos are well aware of card counting and will ban anyone who they think is trying to use the technique. This is despite the fact that the technique never guarantees a win.

Employees, including croupiers overseeing blackjack games, keep an eye on players and look out for signs they’re counting cards. People also monitor CCTV footage and pay attention to suspicious players.

The technique became even more well known thanks to various books and films. A prime example is the 2008 film 21, about six MIT students who won millions from Las Vegas casinos by card counting.

The film is based on the book Bringing Down the House by Ben Mezrich. While it’s non-fiction as it’s supposedly based on real-life events, it’s said to have various inaccuracies and made-up details.

But what about online blackjack? Can you count cards in digital versions of the game? The answer, to put it simply, is no. The reason you can’t use the technique is because decks are regularly shuffled.

Blackjack games, even digital ones, typically use 6-8 decks. The act of shuffling the decks after a round essentially makes card counting pointless.

This is also true for live versions of the game, which you’ll find at most online casinos. These are real-life games you can take part in through your online casino account.

The croupier typically shuffles the decks of cards after every round to prevent players from counting cards. No matter how you play blackjack, there’s no point in trying to count cards.

To sum up, card counting is frowned upon by casinos. If you practise it, there’s a good chance the establishment will find out sooner or later and ban you from the premises.

The thing is, Thorp’s book actually became a hindrance more than a help. Since it popularised card counting, the result was that lots of people tried it and casinos decided to take action.

If the technique hadn’t been popularised, there’s a chance it might not be something worthy of a ban today. But casinos around the world know all about it and don’t want players to use it.

Modern Blackjack

Today, blackjack is a hugely popular game that millions of people around the world enjoy playing. There are two main versions of it: real-life and online.

Real-life games of blackjack are played in land-based casinos, gaming venues, social clubs and more. In these games, someone acts as the dealer while everyone else is a player who’s trying to beat the dealer to 21.

As for online blackjack, it works a bit differently, as the dealer is an automated computer program that, just like real-life dealers, has to follow set rules.

Then there are live dealer blackjack games. As mentioned previously, these use a real-life croupier and physical equipment, with people able to take part through their casino accounts.

One of the latest innovations is virtual reality blackjack. This is where someone wears a VR helmet and is made to think they’re in a casino where they can play digital versions of blackjack.
The game has come a long way. There’s no telling where it might be heading next!

About the author

James Gibson, Guest Author at

Name James Gibson
Job Freelance Writer Specialising in iGaming

James Gibson is a freelance content writer with passion for slot and game guides. He proclaims responsible gambling and aims at providing accurate and confirmed information.

Moderation is key. Gambling is best enjoyed when you stick to limits and you’re the one in control.

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