Today Blackjack (also called Pontoon or Twenty-one) is one of the most popular casino games in the world, judging by the high attendance of cool sites like Web Blackjack Lounge. The limited number of decisions a player can make (Hit, Stand, Double, Split and Surrender) account for a surprising large number of variations.
Remember the movie Rain Man with Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruize? Playing the role of Tom’s autistic brother, Dustin uses card-counting in a famous casino scene. Blackjack owes part of its popularity to the buzz over the advantage that card-counting gives to the player.
Add to that the decision-making skill and the element of chance, and you have a winning combination. Interestingly, when blackjack arrived to US (as Twenty-one), it was not overly popular, which prompted casinos to offer a bigger payout (10:1) for a hand consisting of the ace of spades and either the Jack of clubs or a Jack of Spades. The 10:1 bonus did not last long, but the black ace/Jack combination, called the “blackjack“, gave the game its name.
Blackjack is not to be confused with the British game Black Jack or Twenty-one which is offered in some casinos (it is similar to blackjack, but with appalling returns for the player).
Miguel de Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote, was the first writer to describe the game in a book (as veintiuna — twenty-one in Spanish).