Like most games, blackjack wasn't invented at any one time by any one person. Similar games were played in France in the 1700s. One version was knows as Vingt-et-un, which is French for "21." The game traveled to North America with French colonists and spread throughout the continent. It evolved over time, and continues to evolve today.
The game was still called "21" when Nevada first made gambling legal in 1931. To attract more attention to the game, some casinos offered a special bet: A hand that featured the Ace of Spades plus either of the black jacks in the deck (the Jack of Clubs or the Jack of Spades) would pay 10-to-1 odds on the player's bet. Although casinos have long since stopped offering these extra payouts, the name "blackjack" stuck, and today it is one of the most popular table games at casinos around the world.
The rules of blackjack are quite simple, which is a major reason for the game's enduring popularity. The object is to get a hand with a value as close to 21 as possible without going over. A hand that goes over 21 is a bust. The players at a blackjack table do not play against each other; they play against the dealer. Each player only has to beat the dealer's hand.
In blackjack, the suits have no meaning. Number cards have a value equal to their number, while all the picture cards (Jacks, Queens, and Kings) are worth 10. Aces can be worth 11 or one, whichever is more beneficial to the person holding the hand. For example, a hand with an Ace and an Eight is worth 19 (the Ace is valued at 11, known as a soft Ace). A hand with an Ace, a Four, and a Nine is worth 14 (the Ace is valued at one, known as a hard Ace, because if it were valued at 11 the hand would bust).
A blackjack table is a semi-circle. The dealer stands at the center of the straight side, and the players sit around the arc of the circle.
Casino tables have betting limits, usually posted as a minimum and maximum bet. To join a game, a player simply sits down at an open seat and places a bet in the small marked area on the table directly in front of him or her.
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