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Blackjack History

When a player held a Jack of Spades and an Ace of Spades as the first two cards, the player was paid extra, Spades being black and Jack being a vital card gave the game its name Blackjack. Although the exact origins of Blackjack are unknown it is commonly believed to have derived from other French games such as "chemin de fer" and "French Ferme". The card game Blackjack appeared in French casinos around the 1700, where it was called "vingt-et-un" ("twenty one").

Although Nevada was the first state to legalize casino gambling in 1931, it is thought that Blackjack was played in the US as early as the 1800's, then in 1978 casino gambling was legalized in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and since then some other states followed the trend.

Until aprox the 1960's players were, for the most part, not aware of the basic strategy for Blackjack and because of this the casinos reaped unheard of profits from the Blackjack tables, that is untill the year 1956 when things began to change for the Casinos, Blackjack players had begun to study both the table and the cards shown and ushered in the new era of Blackjack stratgeties and card counters!

The first recognized effort to apply mathematics to Blackjack was recorded in 1956, when Roger Baldwin published a paper in the Journal of the American Statistical Association entitled "The Optimum Strategy in Blackjack". In 1962 Professor Edward O. Thorp refined basic strategy and developed the first card counting techniques. He published his results in a book that became so popular that for a week in 1963 it was on the New York Times best-seller list "Beat the Dealer". Because of this book a number of casinos changed their Blackjack rules, giving themselves an even greater advantage than they had previously enjoyed. But this didn't last for long, because people protested by refusing to play the game with the unfavorable rules, casinos quickly responded by going back to the original rules.

Over the next few years, more books and more systems devoted to winning Blackjack were published in fact some proposed to provide enough information to allow the reader to live off the profits of their efforts, publications such as Lawrence Revere's "Playing Blackjack As A Business" and Stanley Roberts' also helped to share the wealth with his winning systems in his book "Winning Blackjack". Soon Blackjack began to compete with craps as the most popular casino game in the state of Nevada.

In the 1970's computers which could perform a million-hand Blackjack simulations allowed players to produce sophisticated game strategies and many scientists, mathematicians, university professors, and other intellectuals began writing books on the game. Soon it became evident that Casinos were afraid that scientific, computer-devised systems would have harmful effect on their potential profits. and many changed their games from single deck to multiple-deck games in the 1970's to counteract the computer strategies.

A living legend of the period indeed worth mentioning was Ken Uston, who used five computers that were built into the shoes of members of his playing team in 1977. The gamblers won over a hundred thousand dollars in a very short time, but one of the computers was confiscated and sent to the FBI. The FBI experts concluded that the computer used public information on Blackjack playing and was not a cheating device. As a result of his astounding success, Uston was barred from at least seven of the major Las Vegas casinos and sued them for violating his civil rights. He was found dead in a rented apartment in Paris in 1987, the cause of death remaining undetermined.

With Uston's success a new era in casino Blackjack commenced. The casinos became alarmed at the huge sums of money players in teams could win at their tables. The pattern was quite simple: one player would signal when the deck was favorable and then the "red player" would come and wager five hundred or a thousand dollars and always be betting in this positive situation. Some of the casinos, which were already implementing four deck games, started introducing five-deck games; others went to six- and even eight-deck games. The game became tough for the average player. What made the game more complicated still was the fact that, not only were most casinos using multiple decks, but most of them were also cutting off one and a half or two decks, that is, they were not dealing all the cards out of the shoe.

Presently, the casinos are willing to experiment with multiple decks and with cutting off a lot of cards while monitoring the amount of profit. Some casinos which have noticed a drop off in the number of players have gone back to more single-deck tables. Others have introduced more favorable rules in order to attract more play while retaining the same number of decks. At the present time, Blackjack playing conditions in most Nevada casinos are very tough, particularly for the newcomer.

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