Just about everyone knows and loves the game of Blackjack. The rules are simple, the action is fast, and the house edge is low. What isn’t there to love? But, Blackjack also happens to be one of the oldest and most fascinating casino games. Its origins stretch back centuries, it appears in multiple books, and it also happens to be the foundation of numerous historical eras.
Here are some interesting facts about the game of Blackjack that you probably don’t know.
Going Back Centuries
If you took a guess at how old Blackjack is, what would you say? A few hundred years? Perhaps a century? How about the late 1600s? It isn’t exactly clear where or how the game originated, given that record-keeping at the time wasn’t the best. But what is known is that Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote, knew of it in the late 1600s. How are we so sure? Because he refers to the game Vingt-et-un in a story. Vingt-et-un translates directly to 21, making a pretty strong case for the game of Blackjack existing, at least in some form.
As to where the game came from prior to that is unknown. Scholars tend to agree that the game came about in French casinos of the time, but that’s the best guess anyone can come up with.
From 21 To Blackjack
You’ll agree that 21 is a pretty good name for a game based around the number 21. But if that’s the case, how did anyone start referring to the game as Blackjack?
When the game first found its way to America, via the New Orleans River like most casino games of the time, casinos sought a way to promote the new game. One casino owner came up with the idea that getting a black jack, a jack of spades or clubs, plus an ace, would pay out 10 to 1.
The gimmick got so much attention that, from that point on, every casino goer knew the game as Blackjack. Not only was the name adopted for the game, but the bonus payout stuck as well. So, we’re playing the game Blackjack now from a marketing gimmick centuries ago.
Behold The Peeper
Casinos have a tough time dealing with all the would-be cheaters and schemers. It was common back in the day for cheats to try and catch a peek at the dealer’s hole card. That’s the card dealt face down for the house. Since the dealer must see the hole card before play starts, he or she must bend the card up to get a look. Some cheaters made a scheme around having someone get a peek at the card when the dealer does, thereby gaining an advantage.
To combat the problem, casinos install a mirror under the hole card, allowing the dealer to get an easier look. This mirror is known as the peeper. The peeper is still in use in many casinos around the world. Peepers are not necessary at sites like Big Dollar online casino, of course.
The Ink Trick
Speaking of cheats, another tactic that casinos must look out for is special inks. Some cheats put special ink on cards to mark them, thereby giving an advantage. Sneakily, however, the ink can’t be seen with the naked eye. Sunglasses or contact lenses must be worn, which allows the ink to go unnoticed by everyone except the cheat. How do casinos fight this nefarious tactic?
The translucent discard trays at Blackjack tables have the same properties as the special sunglasses. So, if the cards are marked with ink and put into a discard tray, the ink becomes visible to the dealer. Very smart.
Casinos go to great lengths to avoid anything happening to Blackjack decks while they’re in play. As long as a deck is under careful control it is very difficult for cheaters to do anything nefarious. The card dispenser at every Blackjack table, referred to as a shoe, is part of the precautions. But why is the device called a shoe?
Back in the day card dispensers resembled a fancy high-heeled shoe. Shoes don’t look much like a lady’s high-heeled shoes anymore, but the name stuck.
The Cut Card
If you pay attention to how a dealer handles a deck, you’ll know that the deck gets a shuffle at very specific times. But how does the dealer know when it’s time to shuffle? In each casino deck is a plastic card, referred to as the cut card. When the deck reaches the cut card, the dealer knows that it’s time to shuffle. The deck is then automatically shuffled by a specialised machine before being put back into play.
A cut card is also put on the bottom of the deck. This stops players from getting a peek.
Here is a particularly obscure one. Getting Blackjack is known as getting a snapper in some casinos. Why? Because, back in the day, if players ever got a Blackjack they would snap their cards down on the table in triumph. Today players don’t even touch their cards, so sadly the snapping ritual no longer exists. Though, you can perhaps try to keep the tradition alive by snapping your fingers each time you get a Blackjack.
Our last fact is a steamer. Another that comes from back in the day, some casinos refer to a Blackjack player that is going on an erratic betting spree as a steamer. Or, they’ll say that a player is steaming at the blackjack table. The phrase refers to the old New Orleans steamboats, all of which bellowed enormous amounts of steam when they went into high gear. Normally it is a player that is on a tilt, and trying to turn their luck with foolish bets, that exhibits steaming characteristics.
If a player is on a steam the casino is on high alert. Steaming players were back in the day, and still are today, the most likely to start kicking up a fuss. Only, back in the day the casino would often just throw a steaming player out. The casino establishments of today are much more polite, and will probably just ask the player to take a break.