As with most other casino and card games, nobody knows exactly when and where blackjack was really invented. It is very likely a slightly modified, refined form of the French games “Chemin de Fer” and “French Ferme”. What is known, however, is that it was introduced in French casinos around 1700, where it became known as “Vingt-et-Un” (“Twenty-one”).
The name Blackjack developed from the jackpot – the special prize – which the player received when his first two cards were Jack of Spades and Ace of Spades. The game was introduced in the USA in the 19th century and was first mentioned in 1887 in the “American Hoyle”. It was originally played in private circles but found its way into the gambling halls of Evansville, Indiana by 1910.
The First Strategy
The first blackjack strategy guide, “The Optimum Strategy in Blackjack” (in English: “The best blackjack strategy”) was published in 1956 by Roger Baldwin. He used statistics and probability calculations to find the optimal way to reduce the house edge. The 10-page guide with its mathematical calculations was published in the Journal of the American Statistical Association. However, it was very difficult to work out an optimal strategy without the help of a computer.
The Einstein Of Blackjack
Professor Edward O. Thorp picked up the sheet of paper that Roger Baldwin had dropped. He adapted his strategies and developed and refined them even further. Thorp also went a step further and introduced the first card counting techniques. Unfortunately, his first technique, “Ten Count”, was so difficult to grasp that it never really found its way into the general public. In 1963, when he published his thoughts, strategies and card counting methods in his book “Beat the Dealer”, Thorp was nicknamed “The Einstein of Blackjack”. The book was so popular that it stayed on the New York Times bestseller list for an entire week. As a result, the casinos got nervous and started changing their rules. But that fell back on her when the public subsequently boycotted gambling and reintroduced the old rules. However, they tried to improve the odds of winning in their favor by introducing multiple decks of cards, automatic card shufflers, and various shuffling techniques.
Computers Provide More Precise Information
Numerous others followed in Thorps’ footsteps and now also used the computer to do more and more accurate calculations for blackjack.
Stanford Wong, the new guru after Thorp, published Professional Blackjack, a book that became a bible for beginners and experts.
Julian Braun, an IBM employee, spent hours running blackjack simulations on IBM’s mainframes. His conclusions and ideas on card counting later appeared in the second editions of Beat the Dealer and Playing Blackjack as a Business by Lawrence Regere.
In 1977, Ken Uston assembled a team of blackjack players. They used five tiny computers that they hid in your shoes. With the help of these computers, the team’s experience, and the data they gathered, they made over a hundred thousand dollars in no time. One of the computers was subsequently seized by the FBI, but since the information used was already known, the computers could not be officially classified as fraudulent.
Ken Uston became known as Mr. Blackjack after appearing on American television program “60 Minutes” in 1981, successfully suing Atlantic City casinos for banning card counters. You can read the story of Ken Uston in his book “The Big Player”.