The game of “twenty-one”, otherwise known as Blackjack does not have a set origin. To this day, historians continue to debate where the game first originated. From the time periods to the geographical origins of Blackjack – the game is still surrounded in quite a bit of mystery. But perhaps it’s this same mysterious backdrop that makes it so alluring! Some claim that Blackjack was first seen in Spain during the 17th century since this was the first time the game was referenced in literature. An author by the name of Miguel de Cervantes mentions a game called Veintiuna (twenty-one in Spanish) in his book Ronconete y Cortadillo, a novel about Seville gambling cheaters. His description of Veintiuna is very similar to the rules of our modern Blackjack.
Others argue that the game did not become popular until the 18th century in France. In the early 1700s, a game similar to blackjack, known as Vingt-et-Un (French for twenty-one), became a popular casino card game. During this time, a game called One and Thirty was reaching popularity in Spain and is a close approximation to the game we know as Blackjack. The objective of the game was to reach a sum of 31 using three or more cards.
Another group of historians suggests that an early version of Blackjack dates back to the Roman Empire. Though concrete evidence of the game during this time period is non-existent, historians believe that the Romans, who were great fans of gambling, played a game similar to Blackjack using numbered wooden blocks.
We may never know where the game truly originated, but we do know it did not make its way to North America until the early 1800s, brought here by French colonists. Though very similar to modern-day Blackjack, 19th century Blackjack did have some variations in gameplay. For example, only the dealer could double and we have fewer betting rounds during each hand than they played with in the 1800s.
Avid Blackjack enthusiasts may also be interested to know that despite its longevity in the gambling world across the globe, Blackjack was far from a popular casino game when it was first introduced in North America. The cause of its unpopularity was due to the low payouts of the game. Once casinos began offering a 10:1 payout for players who successfully scored a 21-point hand using the Black Jack and the Ace of Spades, the game rose in popularity and garnered a new name for itself; Blackjack was born.