History of Blackjack
China home to one of the oldest cultures in the world is where the first accounts of gambling derive from in 2300 BC. Ancient Greece also took part in gambling but illegally.
Playing cards, however was also invented in China but not until 900 AD. Chinese people began to shuffle paper money into various combinations and in China today the term for playing cards means paper tickets.The 52 card deck as we know it was originally called the French Pack. Blackjack actually originated from French games such as "chemin de fer" and "French Ferme" and was first played in French casinos in about 1700 where it was called "vingt-et-un" (twenty-and-one). It has been played in the U.S.A since the 1800's after they, along with England adopted the 52 card deck.
Blackjack got its name from one of the winning hands, a Jack of Spades and an Ace of Spades. If a player was to get this, they not only won but also got an additional reward.
In 1910 Nevada made gambling illegal out West until 1931 when it was reintroduced legally and blackjack became one of the key games offered in casinos. Atlantic City and New Jersey were allowed to play legitimately from 1978 and in 1989, only two states had legalised gambling. Since 1989 about 20 states have now got casinos in them, such as Colorado and Mississippi river boats along with many American Indian's operating casinos on their reservations.
The first effort to apply science to blackjack began in 1953. It culminated in 1956 when Roger Baldwin wrote a paper in the Journal of the American Statistical Association titled "The Optimum Strategy in BlackJack". These mathematicians used scientific probability and statistical theory to reduce the house advantage. Although the title of their paper was 'optimum strategy', in reality it wasn't the best solution as it could have utilized more computational refinement.
Professor Edward Thorp continued where Baldwin and company left off. In 1962, Thorp refined their basic strategy and developed the first known card counting techniques. He published his results in "Beat the Dealer", a book that became so popular that for a week in 1963 it was on the New York Times best seller list. The book also scared the hell out of the casinos.
The casinos were so affected by "Beat the Dealer" that they began to alter the rules of the game to make it harder for the players to win. This lasted only a short period as people protested by not playing the new style blackjack. The unfavourable rules consequently resulted in a loss of income for the casinos. Of course, not making money is a sin for a casino, so they quickly reverted back to the original rules. As Thorp's "Ten-Count" method wasn't easy to master and many people didn't really understand it anyway, the casinos made a bundle from the game's newly gained popularity thanks to Thorp's book and all the media attention it generated.
Another major contribution to the history of playing blackjack is Julian Braun, who worked at IBM. His thousands of lines of computer code and hours of blackjack simulation on IBM mainframe computers resulted in The Basic Strategy, and a number of card counting techniques. His conclusions were used in a 2nd edition of Beat the Dealer, and later in Lawrence Revere's 1977 book "Playing BlackJack as a Business".
More recently, Ken Uston used five miniature computers built into the shoes of his playing team in 1977 to win hundreds thousands or dollars each month. These computers were for card counting, statistical analysis and combined with cunning team play, managed to out smart the casinos. Eventually one of the miniature computers was confiscated and sent to the FBI. The feds decided that the computer used public information on BlackJack playing and was not a cheating device. You may have seen this story in a movie made about his BlackJack exploits detailed in his book "The Big Player". Ken was also featured on a 1981 Sixty Minutes show and helped lead a successful legal challenge to prevent Atlantic City casinos from barring card counters.
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