There have been many card games throughout history. Some of them, like blackjack, stood the test of time and remained popular to this day. While the exact origins of blackjack are unknown, the first written reference of a card game resembling blackjack the most was found in a book by Miguel de Cervantes — a Spanish author known for writing Don Quixote.
Most card games require players to play against each other; however, in order to win in blackjack, you need to beat the dealer. The rules of the game are simple. Each card has its value and you need to make sure you are ahead of the dealer in terms of card value and that the sum of your cards is as close as possible to 21 without exceeding the number. Of course, there are some additional rules to it, but that’s the gist of it.
Blackjack wasn’t always as popular as it is today — it was a group of mathematicians that started to popularize it. Before we get to see where blackjack is today, let’s see how it inspired people to think and form blackjack strategies, as well as Hollywood directors to create excellent movies based on this card game.
Blackjack and Math
A group of mathematicians known as the Baldwin group made blackjack popular by introducing the game to players in a brand new light in 1956. Namely, they invented what we call the basic strategy based on a mathematically correct set of rules. It allowed players to approach the game differently and if the strategy was executed correctly it virtually eliminated the house edge.
Moreover, in the years that followed, a math Ph.D. Ed Thorp published a best-selling paperback called Beat the Dealer. It explained to the general public how to count cards and, statistically, even have the edge over the casino.
Shortly after that, blackjack boomed in popularity and quickly became one of the most popular casino games. However, casinos didn’t worry much about it as the strategy had a significant flaw — it required players to be disciplined and patient, which was something many of them couldn’t accomplish.
Blackjack in Hollywood
While the strategy wasn’t as profitable for some as it was for others, it didn’t prevent blackjack from maintaining its popularity for decades to come. In fact, its popularity continued to spread outside casinos, and eventually, Hollywood decided that it would like to transfer some stories related to this game to the big screen.
The most notable movie based on blackjack is by far 21. It is a 2008 movie by Robert Luketic inspired by the true story of the MIT Blackjack Team — a group of college students who, when faced with financial troubles, decide to go on a mission and beat casinos at their own game using just knowledge and math. However, as is the case with many other gambling-related movies, the plot twists once they get swallowed up by the world of easy money.
The movie was a great success and was ranked number one movie for two weeks after its release in the United States and Canada. It features Hollywood superstars like Kevin Spacey and Laurence Fishburne, as well as Jim Sturgess, Kate Bosworth, Liza Lapira, Aaron Yoo, and Jacob Pitts. Whether you’re a blackjack fan or not, you should most certainly check it out.
Rain Man tells a story of a selfish wheeler-dealer yuppie Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise) and his savant brother Raymond (Dustin Hoffman). This movie isn’t as centered on blackjack as 21 is. Instead, this comedy/drama closely follows the relationship between the two brothers who met only after their father had passed away. As the plot develops, they end up in a Las Vegas casino where you can see the perfect example and the effectiveness of counting cards by a human calculator.
There are many more movies related to blackjack. However, these two are the most popular ones.
Nowadays, blackjack has even more competition than it used to. While it is still on demand in land-based casinos, it is video slots that are favored by players in online casinos. However, blackjack is not only capable of standing its ground — it is also great at adapting to modern times. The best example of that can be seen in online casinos where you can play bitcoin blackjack using this new form of currency.
If you decide to play blackjack in a land-based casino, keep in mind that despite the fact that counting cards made this game popular, casinos tend to ban players who use this technique even though it is not illegal.