During World War One, blackjack was the most popular, even more popular than poker as the game of choice for the soldiers. In World War One the game was a private rather than a banking game which was the choice of the GI’s in World War Two. Legend has it that the biggest sum of money won by a Blackjack banker in the Armed Forces during the Second World War was approx. $137 500. The story credits an Army corporal in the Pacific theater with the win. The story credits his occupation before the war in Chicago as a Blackjack dealer.
The history of blackjack, like Poker and Gin Rummy is clouded. Italy, France and Spain have claimed to be the birth place of this game. The French allege a blood relationship with Vingt-Un and Trente et Quarante. The Spanish say it is an adaptation of their One and Thirty. And the Italians insist that it is a slightly modified form of either Baccarat or Seven and a Half. These last two games have the closest similarity to Blackjack.
In France the first recorded mentioning of this game is found as "vingt-et-un" (twenty and one) in the seventeenth century. Just like with the rest of games we do not know precise origin of Blackjack and there are only guesses left as to what is the true beginning of this excellent game. Blackjack is thought to have descended from other alike French games but as the gambling games are built upon precise and well balanced calculations, this is very unlikely. Casino games seldom mutate one into another all on their own.
Blackjack is a very popular card game in Russia, where it's traditionally called "21" or "Ochko" ("the hole"). The game is not just played in fashionable casino but is also very popular among the folk, who play it passionately. Other known names for for Blackjack are "pontoon" and "California Aces". The English name "Blackjack" comes from the original French game where a played was rewarded to draw a Jack of spades and an Ace of spades as the first two cards. The first card to draw was Jack and spades is black, hence the name Blackjack.
In 1953 the first attempt to study blackjack was made by Roger Baldwin and his associates, a great turn in the history of blackjack as well. They used statistics theory and calculating methods in order to reduce blackjack's house edge. In 1956 they published their findings in the American Statistical Association under the title "Optimum Strategy in Blackjack", the first ever blackjack strategy guide.
But the tools Baldwin and his associates used were not as sophisticated as needed in order to fully investigate blackjack's statistics. The next step in this road to understand blackjack via math and science was made by Professor Edward O. Thorp. He polished their findings and used new calculating systems and machines. In 1962 Thorp published his book - "Beat the Dealer" - in which there was written down the first actual system - the blackjack card counting system.
"Beat the Dealer" became a huge success and in 1963 it took the first place of the New York Times' seller list of books. Not only Thorp's work had impact on blackjack players and blackjack's history, but it also hit the casinos with terror. Casinos across the US devised plans to reduce the damage and soon after "Beat the Dealer" was written and published they modified the blackjack rules.