You've heard of the world-famous card game, 21, otherwise known as Blackjack. But there's a lot you probably haven't heard about the number twenty-one. Did you know that it's the name of a New York City Restaurant? And that the twenty-first president was Chester A. Arthur? Or how about that twenty-one is the number of spots on a standard die? Here, you'll find all the greatest little known facts about famous number 21.
There are many thoughts on where the game of blackjack originated from and it remains an open dispute. Although the true origin has not yet been agreed on, there are written references that date back to the early 17th century, in both Spain and France. The Spanish author, Miguel de Cervantes perhaps made the most accurate first reference to blackjack when he wrote about two vagabonds working in Seville who were very good at cheating in the game of Ventiuna – which means “twenty-one” in Spanish. The basic object of Ventiuna was to achieve 21 points, without surpassing the number, with an Ace card valued at either 1 or 11 points. The book was written between 1601 and 1602.
Most variations of traditional original blackjack variations were referred to simply as “twenty-one” in the respective language of where the game was being played. Apart from the Spanish version, Vingt-et-un was the French adaptation of the game. Interestingly enough though, the German variation was the only game that was not called 21 but instead “Siebzehn und Vier", which means ‘seventeen and four’. There were similarities between the French and German games, such as that they didn’t allow splitting of hands and an ace could only count as 11. If you landed two aces though – it was considered as a winning hand.
With all of the original games called “twenty-one”, how did it end up being called blackjack? When the game was introduced to gambling houses in the United States, a bonus-rule was introduced in order to attract the attention of players. The bonus paid out 10-to-1 when a hand comprised an ace of spades, along with a jack of clubs or spades. The bonus payout was referred to as blackjack. In later times the 10-to-1 bonus pay was revoked but the term “blackjack” stuck and it was quickly adopted as the new “official” name of the game.
The British variation of Pontoon draws its basic principles from Vingt-et-un and it is played with regular 52-card decks, with between six and eight decks – excluding ten spot cards (pip cards). Cards numbered 2 to 9 count as their face value, with jacks, queens and kings counting as 10. Just as in blackjack, the ace can also count as either 1 or 11. The aim is also to end up with a hand total of 21, or one that beats that of the dealer, but rather than a ‘blackjack’, this is called a Pontoon! The general game terms are different, with “twist” replacing “hit”, “stick” replacing “stand” and “buy” meaning that you double your bet (not double down!). The actual rules of the game vary greatly from one casino to the next but standardly permit players to “buy” on hands featuring 2 and 4 cards, allowing players to “twist” after buying.
Hundreds of 21 trivia books have been written on the blackjack card counting theory and many have attempted to use it as a main strategy to beat the house. Unfortunately, it is not as simple as it sounds, unless you have an above-average IQ and a mathematically-inclined brain! To pull it off you must be able to keep count of the cards that have been used – thus knowing what is still in the deck. In this way you know what to anticipate and how you should strategize your game at that point. Bear in mind that card counting is illegal and so you’ll also have to practice your poker face before you even attempt putting the blackjack card counting theory into practice.
A few fun facts about the number 21 in blackjack is that it has also inspired several game shows, which includes Catch 21 that was hosted by Alfonso Ribeiro. In the game players could win cash prizes by answering questions to earn cards. Gambit was another game show that had an even stronger tie to blackjack. Couples had to collect cards to achieve a total of 21 by answering general trivia questions.
Believe it or not but there is an actual blackjack Hall of Fame situated in San Diego, which was established in 2002. The greatest blackjack players and authors of the best blackjack strategy and card counting books were initiated into the Hall of Fame that very year and each year since, more of the best professional blackjack players are inducted.
It has been documented that there are more than 100 adaptations of the original Twenty-One game today. Some are still only played in private circles, whilst others are popularly enjoyed at land-based casinos. Online casinos are the only gambling venues that also offers additional and exclusive blackjack 21 variations. Enjoy these popular games online or on your mobile at high-ranking casinos where the house-edge works in your favour!
There you have it - everything you thought you'd never need to know about the number twenty-one. Next time you play a game of twenty-one (not the basketball game, or the drinking game, but the classic card game!), remember that there's more to this fascinating number than first meets the eye.
If by now your fingers are itching and you feel like spending some quality time with this remarkable number, why not have a go at an online blackjack table. One of the best ways to get started at an online casino is by claiming the generous welcome packages, which well established casinos occasionally offer. Wild Jack Casino, is such a casino. Specializing in online blackjack games, it grants registered players up to $500 as a welcome package.