I’ve been writing about blackjack so often … a friend recently asked me, “hey man, how did it all start? How old is the game?”
The French are usually credited for inventing Blackjack, believed to be an offshoot of French card games “chemin de fer” and “French Ferme”. The game “vingt-et-un” (twenty-and-one) originated in French casinos around 1700 A.D., and migrated to the United States in the 1800’s.
Vingt-et-un (21) while sounding similar to Blackjack, was actually quite different. The goal was to reach a “natural” with cards totaling 21, but the cards were dealt in rounds followed by betting on each round. Only the dealer could Double and if he got a Natural, the other players would pay him triple.
Another game which may have contributed to Blackjack as we know it is the Italian game “Seven and a Half”. This game was played with only 8’s, 9’s, 10’s and face cards, with face cards counting as the “half”. The King of Diamonds was wild. This is reputed to be the first game where the player would automatically “bust” if the cards totaled over the desired number of “seven and a half”.
The Spanish game “One and Thirty” had similarities to Blackjack, though the desired total was 31 rather than 21, and the game was played with 3 cards instead of 2.