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The Game of Blackjack

The Game of Blackjack

The Game of Blackjack
It was in 1440, in Germany, when gambling with cards was first introduced. Most of the games created had the objective of drawing game cards to have a certain value to win the game. Even though the relationship of the old games to current games remain unknown, it is obvious that blackjack emerged from some of these historical games. Baccarat, with the magic number of 9, appeared in Italy about 1490, followed by the game of seven and a half, which seems to be the first game where the player automatically lost if they went over the desired number. The game of one and thirty was first played sometime before 1570 in Spain, and the Duke of Wellington, the Marquis of Queensbury, and Prime Minister of Disraeli, all played quinze (15) in Crockford’s, the famous English casino, which flourished between 1827 and 1844. From France came trente et quarante (30 and 40), and finally vingt un, or vingt et un (21 or 20 and 1), which crossed the Atlantic ocean, and was listed in the American Hoyle of 1875. As first played in the United States, it was a private game, but by 1910, tables for twenty-one were being offered in the gambling parlors of Evansville, Indiana. Acceptance was slow, and to stimulate interest in 1912, operators offered to pay 3 to 2 for any count of 21 in the first two cards, and 10 to 1 if the 21 consisted of the ace of spades and either the jack of spades or the jack of clubs. This hand was called, of course, blackjack. The 10-to-1 payoff was soon eliminated, but the term remained, first as the name of any two-card 21 hand, and subsequently as the name of the game itself, although twenty-one would have been more appropriate. By 1919, tables covered with green material and emblazoned in gold letter announcing “Blackjack Pays Odds of 3 to 2″ were being manufactured in Chicago and appeared in gambling halls throughout the country. The popularity of the game grew slowly until gambling was legalized in Nevada in 1931, and blackjack soon became the third-most-successful game, outstripping faro, but trailing both roulette and craps. Because of the prohibitive casino edge of 5.26% in roulette, discouraged players drifted away from the game, and by 1948 blackjack had become the second-biggest casino moneymaker. This continued until 1956, when a book was published by Baldwin, Cantey, Maisel, and McDermott, containing a nearly perfect basic strategy, followed in 1962 by Edward O. Thorp’s book, which refined the strategy and added a counting system. Now, for the first time, the sophisticated gambler could learn to play nearly even with the house, and perhaps with a slight edge in their favor. This scientifically developed information sparked a nationwide interest in blackjack that has made it the number one game in American casinos today. Because the table is less than half the size of those required for craps, roulette, or baccarat, with a corresponding reduction in both number of players and casino personnel, blackjack is far less intimidating to the beginning player. Couple this with the simplicity of the basic rules, both the player and the dealer draw cards, and whoever comes closest to 21, without going over, wins.

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