The origins of blackjack are somewhat wreathed in mystery. As far as many historians are concerned, the earliest version of the game popped up in Spain around 1600. Known at that time as twenty-one, the first reference to this game appears in Miguel de Cervantes’ short story, “Rinconete y Cortadillo.” Characters in that story were proficient at veintiuna (Spanish for twenty-one). Later references to this game were also found in France. When twenty-one migrated to the United States in 1789, a winning hand (an ace and a black jack) was dubbed a “blackjack,” and so the new name stuck.
From this history, two basic variations exist: European and American. In the European version, all players receive two cards and the dealer receives one. The American version involves two face-up cards dealt to each player and then two cards to the dealer, one face-down and one face-up. The dealer is allowed to peek at his face-down card to see if blackjack is possible, automatically nulling all player’s bets.