The origin of the game of Blackjack, like many other casino games, is still debatable. Nonetheless, most people agree the game of Blackjack originated in France in its land-based casinos in the 1700s. The game was called Vingt-et-Un. Vingt-et-Un is a French word that translates to twenty-one (21) in English, which is how players still use to refer to blackjack to this day. Some researchers believe that the game was derived from other card games that were popular in France at the time. These French games were French Ferme & Chemin de Fer, which had many similar rules and procedures.
Though Blackjack is thought to originate from France, the game was first referenced in a novel written in the 1600s by Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes. In the book, he describes two characters playing a card game that was named Veintiuno (Vingt-et-Un) and the rules of the game were pretty similar if not the exact rules of Blackjack. Players dealt cards and the purpose was to get a hand total that is close to twenty-one without busting over that number. In this game, the Aces counted as 1 point or 11, just like modern day Blackjack. The book was written in the early 17th century, which adds credibility to the theory that the game originated in Spain. Later on, the game of Blackjack traveled throughout Europe, however, leaving the most prominent tracks in Spain and France. Eventually the game was introduced to the US.
Among the different versions of Blackjack, Vingt-et-Un (21) was that spread the most. It started to gradually to appear in North America with the French colonists. However, the rules of Vingt-et-Un at that time differed slightly from modern day Blackjack. For example, the dealer was the only person permitted to double down and there was wagering rounds between each dealt card.
The game became very popular in Nevada as it was the first state to legalize gambling in 1931.
At that time, the game was still named 21. In order for the casinos to attract players and encourage them to play the game, they offered the chance to place a special bet. This bet would pay players 10: 1 if they got a blackjack with a Jack of Clubs or Spades, along with an Ace of Spades. This is where the Blackjack name came from.