Besides poker, blackjack is probably the other card game that most people associate with casinos. The game is both sophisticated and straightforward, so its massive popularity among players is no wonder. Considering its long history, it is no surprise that there are so many peculiarities and interesting facts about blackjack. Here are a few that most gamblers probably do not know about.
- The first mention of Blackjack dates back to 1602. A collection of short stories written by Miguel Cervantes featured a description of a card game whose objective was to hit 21.
- The name “blackjack” was created in American casinos. In the original version, drawing an Ace of Spades together with a Jack of Spades or Clubs was typically called “blackjack.” Such hand used to come with a payout of 10 to 1, but casinos quickly changed the offered prize. However, the name of the game has stuck around.
- The “shoe” used for storing cards was invented in Cuba back in the ’50s. As casino owners suspected the players of cheating, they devised the “shoe” to keep the cards hidden. The early version resembled a woman’s high heel, and that is how the device got its name.
- There is a small mirror which is located on the dealer’s side of a Blackjack table in a casino, often called a “peeper” or a “peeker.” The mirror helps the dealers look at their own face-down card without accidentally revealing it to the player.
- Another way casinos hinder potential cheaters is by using a translucent red tray for discards. Sometimes, players would mark the cards with certain inks that would be invisible to the naked eye. However, the red trays combined with special glasses, allow casino’s personnel to identify any unusual daubs on the cards.
- Blackjack has a hall of fame located in San Diego at the Barona Casino. The members cannot play at the casino, but they are welcome to free accommodation, food, and drinks for life.
- Some players might not know that blackjack has an exceptionally low house edge. Compared to most gambling games, its 1% edge is incredible. Sometimes, the number can get even lower (0.3%), but it usually depends on a player’s level of skill.
- Since the dealer goes last, they will always have a slight edge over the player. This is why gamblers end their blackjack games successfully 44% of the time, while the dealers win 48% of all hands.
- Mathematically speaking, 16 is the worst hand a blackjack player can receive. Lower hands are less likely to make you bust, while higher scores can often mean outright wins. Since the dealer’s hand is 18 on average, you should probably draw another card when faced with an initial score of 16.
- After 21 and 20, the third-best hand in blackjack is actually 11. Such hand allows you to hit once without risking a bust, while at the same time allowing you to build a strong hand. With an initial score of 11, your odds of hitting 19 or more are 46.2%, while you have a 30.8% chance of getting 21.
- Taking “insurance” is a bad idea. This is a side bet that is only possible to make when the dealer has an Ace showing. The insurance wager is half the size of the original bet, and it does not serve the player. It is always a negative expectation bet, so it’s better to avoid it.
- Card counting is legal. Although you might believe otherwise, card counting is a perfectly regular strategy that many successful blackjack players employ. However, casinos usually have the right to ban players if they are too obvious.
- The book that played a significant role in the present-day popularity of blackjack is Edward O. Thorp’s “Beat the Dealer.” This book, published in 1962, showed why blackjack is called a game of skill and how to increase your odds of winning. Thorp has since achieved great success as a hedge fund manager.
- Al Francesco created the blackjack “team play” concept. But after he attempted to use Thorp’s strategies, many casinos have banned him. However, he did not give up on gambling. Francesco put together a team of seven players where six worked as “counters,” while the last one was the “Big Player” who received signals from the others. The team operated for six years and earned a lot of money in the process.
- Although Francesco had created the strategy, it was the MIT team that has perfected it. The group of MIT graduates has even inspired a famous movie with their success in the ’80s. Their leader was Bill Kaplan, and most reports estimate that the team won millions following his rules.
- The biggest blackjack win in the recorded history amounted to $15 million. It was a professional gambler, Don Johnson, who won the money in just six months during 2010 and 2011. He played at three different Atlantic City casinos, which offered him favorable conditions to increase his odds.
- Blackjack is the most popular table game among American players. Once, roulette held that title, and afterward, craps. However, in the 1960s and ’70s, blackjack started gaining popularity and overtook all other table games. When it comes to revenue, slots are still far more lucrative.
- Blackjack was one of Napoleon Bonaparte’s favorite pastimes. Back in the 18th-century France, a game called Vingt-et-un (21) reached even the elite. Napoleon was among its most avid players, and historians believe that the French leader played the early version of blackjack during his exile.
- The object of the game isn’t to get to 21. Thinking that typically leads to strategy mistakes and poor performance. Instead, players should always aim to beat the dealer. Pay attention to their face-up card when you are making a crucial decision.
- If you were wondering why the standard deck of cards looks the way it does, we have some trivia for you. The 52 cards represent the 52 weeks in a year, while the four suits represent four seasons. There are 13 different cards in each suit, just as there are 13 lunar cycles. Finally, the total value of all cards (+ the Joker) is 365, which is the number of days in a year.
Since it is one of the oldest casino games, there are a lot of interesting facts about blackjack. Over the years, the game has managed to attract regular folk, professionals, and even royalty. Our list highlighted some of the most surprising aspects of this staple card game as well as a few remarkable events in its centuries-long history. Hopefully, it has helped you learn something new about the fascinating game that is blackjack.