By Bruna Freire
Blackjack is but the latest popular variant in a long line of games that are typically referred to as Twenty-One, due to this being the best hand total a player can get in the game. The earliest existing reference to a direct ancestor of blackjack comes from Spain during the late renaissance period. Referred to as Ventiuno, literally Twenty-One, the game was played on a Castilian deck of 48 cards that took influence from Arabic decks that were then arriving in Europe along the silk road trade route. The game made its way across Europe, appearing in France, then Britain, under the French name Vingt-Un.
It was this version that crossed the Atlantic and took root in the United States, where it became known as Blackjack among prospectors of the Klondike gold rush. Over time, Blackjack became the most popular form worldwide. It is said that 75% of all table games played in Las Vegas casinos are blackjack. Around the world, you’ll find countless variations in play style and rule-sets for this classic parlour game.1)Editor note: According to the University of Las Vegas Center for Gaming Research: In 1985, 77% of casino games were blackjack. In 2019, just under 50% were. In 1985, the game accounted for over half of all table game revenues: in 2019, it accounted for 11% of table win.
Below are just a couple for you to explore.
Pontoon is a British card game that shares the same ancestry as Blackjack. It is believed that its novel name is in fact a corruption or mis-translation of the French word Vingt-Un. The game was taken up through co-mingling on the continent and quickly became a favored pastime of the British, who brought it back to their shores.
One clear difference you’ll notice is that a hand of five cards that do not bust is the second most valuable hand in the game, unlike in Blackjack. This is referred to as the Five Card Trick, and it’ll catch you out if you’re coming to Pontoon cold. Another core difference to get used to is the concealment of the dealer’s cards, which remain face down throughout. This affects your ability to strategize, as you’ll be working with less information.
Siebzehn und Vier
This is a German relative of Blackjack that first began to take shape as a distinct game in the lands of Prussia and the Austro-Hungarian empire by the 1850s. The name translates as Seventeen and Four, hinting at its Twenty-One heritage.
This variant is traditionally played on German spielkarten, which features smaller decks numbering between 32 and 36 cards. Additionally, while the suit of hearts remains, diamonds, clubs and spades give way to leaves, acorns and bells. Siebzehn and Vier, like its French ancestor, also does not allow splitting the hand. This makes more a slower rate of play with less dynamism when compared to the variants below.
” class=”glossaryLink “>Spanish 21
” class=”glossaryLink “>Spanish 21, a licensed game more broadly based on older Twenty-One variants that developed in the Spanish speaking world.
One of the key distinctions in this variant is a side bet commonly referred to as Match the Dealer. In order to win this side bet, the player is required to match the dealer’s up card with one or both of the cards in their initial hand. If the player succeeds, they are entitled to a larger payout on completion of the hand.
” class=”glossaryLink “>Super Fun 21
Another well loved modern variant for you to try, this one’s DNA is that of true Blackjack.
” class=”glossaryLink “>Super Fun 21 was patented as a distinct rule-set in the latter years of the 20th century.
What distinguishes it from other play styles is that
” class=”glossaryLink “>Super Fun 21 forgoes the traditional payout of 3-to-2 in favor of 6-to-5. The player may also split a hand up to a maximum of 4 times and automatically secures a winning hand if they have six or more cards with a total of 20. This makes for a more flexible and dynamic play style in comparison to traditional blackjack and is a popular variant in modern casinos.