Sunday, July 3, 2022

How Blackjack Got Its Name

Even if you’re an avid blackjack player, have you ever given much thought to how it got its name?

When the game made it to America, physical gambling halls needed some sort of cool way to promote the game. So, they offered bonus payouts, like one that paid extra if a jack of clubs or spades (called a black jack) was dealt alongside an ace of spades.

As the game’s popularity grew, those bonus payouts began to dwindle, and the informal name of blackjack just seemed to stick. Today, blackjack is one of the most popular casino card games in the world – both at online casinos and land-based gambling establishments.

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Where It All Began

Before blackjack became what we know it as today, it was actually a popular game in France in the 1700s. Its French name, Vingt-et-un is translated as “21.”

There are other types of blackjack, too. For one, it’s a small oak tree that has black bark and is most commonly found in the U.S. There’s a leather-covered club called a blackjack. There’s even a type of weed called blackjack.

If that’s not enough, the name also refers to a certain type of mineral, called a sphalerite, a blackjack drinking cup, and it was once a term used to describe a pirate ship’s renowned skull and crossbones flags.

Okay, But What About The Blackjack Card Game?

All those items are well and good, but we’re talking about the card game. In one study around how the game’s name came about, it was discovered that during the 1800s, the United States had a few anti-gambling policies in place that had been wavered. Nevada then legalized gambling and the popular card game was introduced in casinos across the state. Patrons were reluctant, at first, so casinos, as we mentioned, had to come up with fun ways to grow the game’s popularity.

Besides giving out bonuses and payouts to winners, the “blackjack” bonus itself had a whopping 20:1 payout, which meant that the player’s steak became ten-fold if he or she won by getting an ace of spades and a blackjack (the jack of clubs or jack of spades).

These ploys to get punters interested in the game – especially the blackjack bonuses – worked, and the casino tables started being called blackjack tables exclusively. A long way down the line after the 10:1 bonus had stopped, “Twenty One” was rebranded as Blackjack, and it continues to go by this name to this day.

Hedging Your Blackjack Bets

We can’t talk about blackjack and how the game got its name without talking about card counting and how to learn blackjack strategy.

Firstly, card counting is a well-known card game technique used in an effort to increase your edge against the house.

In 1949, Jess Marcum, the first person to come up with the idea of card counting in a way to turn the house edge in his favor, headed off to Las Vegas with his friends for a weekend. He spent his weekend closely studying and observing the game at casinos. In those days, blackjack was played with just one deck of cards. As a result, Marcum realized that if you could keep track of the count of cards, it might just be possible to walk away a winner.

Fast forward to 1957 and four avid blackjack players, Herbert Maisel, Roger Baldwin, James McDermott and Wilbert Cantey published a book on blackjack card counting strategies. Their book was called “Playing Blackjack to Win,” but it was really Edward Thorps’ book, titled “Beat the Dealer” that properly introduced players to mathematical card counting strategies that players still use today to try and boost their winning chances.

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