Have you ever wondered why blackjack is called what it is when the black jacks in the deck (the Jack of Spades and the Jack of Clubs) don’t have any particular role in the game. They’re the exact same as every other picture card in having a value equal to ten and there is absolutely no difference whether you draw a black or red jack.
So why, exactly, is it called “blackjack”?
The History of Blackjack
Blackjack in its current form actually originated way back at the beginning of the 18th century (if not earlier) in France. It was an immediate hit in Paris’ famous gaming halls and was enjoyed far and wide by everyone from the peasant class through to the highest dignitaries and royalty.
The game’s original French name was Vingt-et-Un, which literally means “Twenty-One” and even when it made its way into the English-speaking world, it was mostly known as “Twenty One”. All the way until the early 20th century. In fact, even now it’s called 21L Blackjack by many players.
So, what changed in those early years of the last century to give the game its current and most popular name?
A New Name for a New Century
In the early 20th century, casinos started offering incentives in the forms of bonuses to draw people to their establishments and, most especially, their lucrative blackjack tables. They introduced several different bonuses to the game of blackjack, depending on the hand you drew, and one of the most popular by far was the “blackjack bonus”.
The way it would work is that if the player makes 21 from an ace and a Jack of Clubs or Jack of Spades in their first hand, they would win double what they would otherwise win. If someone bet $100, on a normal combo of a 10-value card and an ace, they would walk away with $200 (their bet plus a match of their bet), but if that 10-value card was a black jack, they would walk away with $300 (their bet plus a double match of their bet).
In short order the game would be retitled blackjack and that name would stick even once casinos stopped offering these bonuses. And, though it now applies to any combo of a 10-value card and an ace, the name blackjack is still used to refer to that instant-winning hand.