Derived from old French card games like "Chemin de Fer" and "French Ferme," the game of blackjack made its first appearance in French casinos around 1700. In France, blackjack is called "Vingt-et-Un," which means "Twenty-and-A." The game garnered it's now-common name of "blackjack" because when a player received a Jack of Spades and an Ace of Spades as the first two cards that were dealt to them, they would win an additional amount of money. Blackjack became popular in the United States around the 1800's and continues to be the most popular casino table game to date.
Roger Baldwin wrote a paper in 1956 titled The Optimum Strategy in Blackjack. The paper was published by the Journal of the American Statistical Association and helped changed blackjack history forever. This paper was the first of it's kind to apply mathematical theory to the game of blackjack. Baldwin used probability, statistics, and calculators to show methods of reducing the casino advantage in blackjack. The paper was approximately 10 pages long and mainly consisted of mathematics and how they applied to card games.
In 1962, Professor Edward O. Thorp, who is often referred to as the "Einstein of Blackjack", touched up the basic strategy that Baldwin had worked on and added the first known techniques of the now infamous tactics of card counting. Professor Throp published a famous book in 1963 called Beat the Dealer. The book was a national best seller. The casinos were affected so strongly by this book that they began to modify the game rules making it more difficult for players to win. Once again, the advantage had shifted back to the casino when they began changing the rules. It was during this time that casinos began introducing automatic card shuffling machines and multiple deck blackjack.
The next author to publish a famous book on blackjack was Stanford Wong, who wrote Professional Blackjack. This title used computer simulation to teach blackjack strategy and was designed for both beginning and advanced players. This book quickly became the standard blackjack bible for anyone who wanted to learn or master the game.
Another large contributor to blackjack history was Julian Braun, a former IBM employee. Braun, a computer wizard, programmed thousands of lines of code for an IBM mainframe system, to simulate basic strategy. He developed new strategies for both basic strategy and card counting, which were published in the 2nd edition of Beat the Dealer.
Electronic card counting devices were introduced in 1977 when Ken Uston's blackjack team built five pocket-sized computer devices that slid into their shoes. The team won over $100,000 in a short amout of time, as they assumed would happen, but eventually one of the computers was found and turned into the FBI. This computer device simply used public blackjack information, such as basic strategy, so the FBI ruled that it was not a cheating device. 60 Minutes, a popular news television show on CBS, aired an episode featuring Uston on their show in 1981 which lead to challenging casinos in Atlantic City on not allowing card counters to play. Ken Uston wrote a book called The Big Player which details all of his work in blackjack.
In the early 1990's another famous card counting group called the MIT Blackjack Team formed, continuing in the tradition of basic strategy and counting techniques, but without any computerized assistance. This team won hundreds of thousands of dollars over a short amount of time. Eventually casinos caught the group of card counters and they were barred from casinos across the globe.
This is blackjack history in a nutshell. To this day, blackjack remains the most popular and heavily played table game offered by casinos.See also: