The game of Blackjack, also known as Twenty-one, Pontoon or Vingt-et-un (twenty-one in French) is the most widely played casino banking game in the world. The popularity of the game is helped by the basic rules, which are easy to learn, the mix of skill and chance and the publicity surrounding card counting.
The actual origin of the game is unknown although there is evidence of a game very similar to Blackjack being played in Spain during the early seventeenth century. Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes, who was also a gambler, wrote story called “Rinconete y Cortadillo” that followed the plight of two cheaters who were proficient at cheating at a game called “ventinua”, which is Spanish for twenty-one.
The aim of the game was to reach a total of twenty-one, without busting, with the player being able to count jacks, queens and kings as 10 points and aces as one or 11. The book was written between 1601 and 1602 and is the earliest known text documenting the game.
Eventually the game of twenty-one reached the United States of America but it was not very well received in the gambling houses that spread it. In an attempt to attract customers, many establishments offered special bonuses including a popular one where the player received a 10-to-1 payout if their two cards were the Ace of Spades and one of the black Jacks, either spades or clubs. These specific hands were called Blackjack and although the bonuses were abolished when the game became more popular, the name stuck. In today’s modern game a “natural” or “Blackjack” is simply a hand containing an ace plus a ten-value card.