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A Brief History of Blackjack

The origin of playing cards dates back to 900 A.D. China. Gambling was thought to have originated in China, as well, around 2300 B.C. Although there is some debate around the origins of blackjack, it is generally thought to be based on other early French card games and first appeared in French casinos in the 1700s. At that time blackjack was referred to at “vingt et un” or 21 – a name that still survives today. Blackjack was been played in the U.S. since the 1800s. The term Blackjack refers to a hand consisting of the ace of spades and the jack of spades and rewarding the player accordingly.


In the west, gambling was legal up to from the mid 1800s to 1910 at which time, Nevada made in illegal to gamble. Nevada legalized casino gambling in 1931 and blackjack became the most popular game at Las Vegas casinos. Casino gambling was legalized in Atlantic City, New Jersey in the late 1970s. As of 1989 only 2 states had legalized casino gambling and since then smaller casinos have been established in over 20 states. Today, casinos are popular among Native American reservations.

Beat The Dealer

The first card counting techniques were developed by Professor Edward Thorpe in his 1963 book, “Beat the Dealer”. He expanded upon Roger Baldwin’s application of mathematics to the game called “Basic Strategy”. Thorpe’s book scared the casino’s who made dramatic changes to the rules of the game. Players left the game in droves and casinos were forced to revert to the old rules.

MIT Blackjack Team

In the mid 1990s, a small group of math and science whizzes from MIT took their recreational after school blackjack club and developed a highly sophisticated system that would eventually allow them to consistently beat the dealers at blackjack tables throughout the U.S. They took casino gambling to a whole new level!

The MIT blackjack team’s strategy was based on card counters who would signal other players that a table was “hot”. The team used “spotters” to quietly play and consistently bet the minimum while counting the cards played. “Back spotters” would watch the game and count card from behind the players. The team employed “Big Player” who would bet big and count cards as well. “Gorilla” players simply bet big and didn’t count at all. Once the card count became positive for the team they would use secret gestures to tell the big players and gorillas that a table was “hot” and to bet big.

They managed to go undetected by casino security, succeeding for many years and winning millions of dollars. Eventually a private investigation company hired to track unwanted winning players for casinos in Las Vegas was able to gather identities of some of the MIT blackjack team members after noticing some of the same faces together outside of the casinos, of those who appeared not to know each other inside the casino. It was also discovered that one of the members of the MIT blackjack team sold a list of names to the casinos for $25 000. The high life soon came to an end.

A movie based on the best selling book “Bringing Down the House” is currently being produced by Kevin Spacey who is also reported to be playing a supporting role in the movie. A short story based on the book appeared in the September 2002 issue of Wired magazine.

Online Gambling

Gambling became a whole new ball game with the development of the Internet in the 1990s. Players can now enjoy their favorite casino games from the comfort of their home. Although players can usually find just about any casino game online to choose, online blackjack still remains one of the most popular. Not only do players have numerous sites and games to choose from, there are also lots of opportunities to play free online blackjack and other free online games. A great way to prepare you for the challenge of a land based casino.








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