The history of most of the card games we know today, is sketchy to say the least. We know from early records that playing cards were being used in China and/or India and/or Egypt as early as 900AD. At first they may have been used as a form or currency, mystical power, or social entertainment, and later used as markers in games simulating battle maneuvers.
Some scholars believe cards originated in India as a derivation of chess. Others insist the Chinese were first, having originated one type, which they apparently derived from paper money, and another from the ancient game of dominoes. While the dispute goes on, it is significant that, in China today, the general term for playing cards means, paper tickets.
Over the centuries, playing cards and card games gradually were introduced into the Middle East, then Europe, and finally North America. The first mention of playing cards in Europe dates from the 13th and 14th centuries, and the earliest known examples were usually hand-painted paper. As a result, the cost of a single deck was prohibitive, and its use was, therefore, restricted to the aristocracy.
In 1397, however, a decree was issued in Paris forbidding the playing of cards by working people on workdays. This seems to indicate that cards were available to the working class, and by then being mass-produced, probably by wood-block printing, before the invention of the printing press. During the 15th century, wood-block cards were designed in Germany and exported in great numbers. With the advances in printing, card playing increased in popularity.
The exact history of the game of Blackjack, itself, is still somewhat cloudy, but most agree it probably originated in French casinos around 1700, where it was called Vingt-et- Un which, translated, means twenty-one. Many agree it is was probably derived from the French card games, Chemin de Fer, and French Ferme, which were in vogue at that time. It was introduced into the United States during the 1800's and has been played in North America since. Early in its rise in popularity, the contemporary 52 card deck used in England was referred to, not surprisingly, as the French Pack, but was later adopted by the United States and others, becoming known as Blackjack. You might well ask then, how did the playing of Blackjack develop into a serious gambling game?
The earliest forms of gambling are said to have appeared in China around 2300 B.C. Gambling also was very popular in Ancient Greece, even though it was illegal. Gambling has been a part of the human experience ever since. The gradual acceptance of games of chance using playing cards was a very natural outgrowth of many and varied antiquated human pastimes.
Gambling was legal in western United States from the 1850's to 1910 until the state of Nevada, ironically, made it a felony to operate a gambling game. In 1931, Nevada then legalized casino gambling with Blackjack becoming one of the primary games of chance offered to gamblers.
In the early days of western gambling halls, poker and craps were the preferred games of the high rollers and Twenty-One, as it was played at the time, had not really caught on. To make the game more enticing some clubs began offering a tempting ten to one payout to any player who got a very special hand on his first two cards, i.e., an ace of spades plus a black jack, i.e., a jack of clubs or jack of spades. Thus, the game of Twenty-One became Blackjack because of those particular cards. Nowadays, the payout of three to two, or 150 percent is standard in most casinos, regardless of which face card accompanies the ace.
In 1978, casino gambling was legalized in Atlantic City, New Jersey. By 1989, only two states had legalized casino gambling. Since then, literally hundreds of casinos have sprung up online and offshore, while over 20 states have opened a number of small independent casinos in places such as Black Hawk and Cripple Creek, Colorado, and in river boats on the Mississippi.
Approximately, 70 North American Native reservations operate, or are building casinos as well. In addition to the United States, countries operating casinos include France, England, Monaco (Monte Carlo), Canada, Central and South America, and many of the islands in the Caribbean. A player, nowadays, can find one or more active Blackjack tables in any one of these locations.