Blackjack – Origins, Rules and Terminology

Blackjack

Blackjack is a comparing card game that’s widely played at both land-based and online casinos. Also known as Twenty One, the game is even more popular than poker.

Basic Rules of Blackjack

A game of Blackjack usually comprises several players who compete against the dealer. Participants are dealt two cards, either face up or face down.

The main objective is to get 21 or as close to it as possible, through the sum value of the first two cards, OR to reach a score that’s higher than the dealer’s hand without going beyond 21, OR allow the dealer to go bust by drawing additional cards until his hand exceeds 21.

Card values correspond with their numbers from 2 through to 10 while Jack, Queen and King (face cards) are worth ten. Aces can be worth either one or eleven. A blackjack comprises a picture card and Ace.  Players are permitted to draw additional cards to improve the value of their hand.

Once all hands have been completed, it’s the turn of the dealer who must reveal cards until they total at least 17 or more points. However, a dealer’s hand cannot be completed should all players bust or one or more hit a blackjack.

History of Blackjack

The earliest recorded reference to a value-based card came can be found in a 16th century novella entitled, Novelas Ejemplares. Written by Don Quixote author Miguel de Cervantes, it tells the story of a pair of gamblers who cheat at a game called Veintuiana (Twenty-One), in which the object is to reach 21 points via a deck of Baraja cards.

In addition to Veintuiana, there were a collection of value based card games which proved popular throughout Europe during the 16th century. These included Trente-un (Spain), Sette e Mezzo (Italy) and Quinze (France).

Each variant required players to draw cards to get as close to a certain value as possible. However, the general consensus is that modern blackjack more closely derives from the French 17th century game, Vingt-et-Un which was played at the Royal Court of King Louis XV

Blackjack in America

Blackjack was introduced to America in the 18th century by French colonists. Known as 21, the game comprised an extra round of betting between the dealing of cards. It was also common practice for the dealer’s second card to visible to players.

Additionally, the dealer could use his own strategy when producing the cards. This practice was eventually phased out to be replaced with the contemporary blackjack rules that are still in use today, requiring the dealer to hit up to 16 and stand on 17 or above.

As with roulette, blackjack flourished in the illegal gambling dens of New Orleans during the 1820s However, the game eventually took on a wider appeal, gaining popularity in Nevada and beyond. By the 1930s the game, which was still known as 21, became one of the most popular casino games, helped no end by the favourable payout odds offered by casinos.

Online Blackjack Variants

Internet blackjack originates from the electric arcade video consoles of the 1990s. As with all traditional casino table games, technological advancements mean that it can now be played in web browsers. The game’s massive appeal has resulted in the introduction of numerous variants which can be played in most good online casinos. These include:

  • American Blackjack – the dealer is dealt two cards, one of which is face down (hole card) but is permitted to peak at the card if there’s a chance of blackjack. If one emerges, the dealer collects all bets.
  • European Blackjack – the dealer is dealt one card face up and receives the second after all player hands are complete.
  • Multi-Hand Blackjack – up to five hands of two face up cards may be used
  • Double Exposure Blackjack – dealer receives two face-up cards as part of the initial deal

Blackjack Terminology

86’d – removed by casino for suspect play

Anchorman/third baseman – player in the last seat at the table who is last to act

Barring – refusing a player permission to play

Basic Strategy – actions that offer the best odds of the top of a deck

Blackjack – automatic winning hand featuring an ace and 10-value card

Bust – a hand totalling more than 21 points

Card Counter – player who can keep track of cards as they’re dealt

Dealer – casino employee who deals the cards.

Deck – deck of 52 cards

Double Down – doubling one’s bet with one card left to come

Draw –drawing another card in addition to an original hand

Early Surrender – surrendering half a bet while the dealer checks for blackjack

First Baseman – player in the first seat of the table who is first to act

Five Card Charlie – winning hand that contains five cards

Flat Bet – betting the same amount for every hand

Hand – original cards dealt to a player

Hard Total – a hand in which there is no ace, or the ace is counted as one point

Head-to-Head – one-on-one play between dealer and single player

Hit – requesting an extra card in addition to an original hand

Hole Card – dealer’s unseen card

Insurance – optional bet which can be made should the dealer show an ace

Multiple Deck – a game consisting of multiple decks

Natural – slang term for blackjack

Paint – term for jacks, queens and kings

Pat Hand – holding hand of 17 or more

Penetration – number/fraction representing how many cards/decks are dealt before shuffling in comparison to total number of cards/decks in play

Pitch Game – game dealt from hand of dealer using 1 or 2 decks

Penetration – number of card the dealer deals out before shuffling

Push – tie between a player and the dealer

Round – a complete phase in play where everybody has acted on their hands

Single-Deck – blackjack game using one deck of cards

Snapper – slang term for blackjack

Soft Total – hand containing an ace with a value of 11

Splitting Pairs – split identically-ranked cards to play as separate hands

Stand – decision not take any more cards

Stiff Card – card ranked from 2 to 6

Stiff Hand – hand totaling 12 – 16

Ten-Value Card – any card worth 10 points

Tip/Toke – gratuity given to a dealer by a player

Twenty-One – original name for blackjack

Unit – standard bet size.

Up Card – dealer’s exposed card (American, Professional Roulette)