Not only did Miguel de Cervantes write the great literary work Don Quixote, he’s also credited for having written the oldest documented explanation of blackjack. In 1601 and ’02, Cervantes wrote the short story Rinconete y Cortadillo in his greater work Novelas Ejemplares. Two of the main characters are cheats in Seville, Spain who beat blackjack by using a fixed deck of cards. The game wasn’t called blackjack back then, Cervantes referred to it as ventiuna (Twenty-One in Spanish). According to the story’s explanation, the goal of ventiuna was to get a score as close to 21 as possible, without going over. Just like in today’s game, Aces were worth 1 or 11.
In the 1800s, the game made its way to the US, but failed to generate interest with Americans. To help popularize it, a bonus payout was introduced. Any hand that comprised an Ace and a Jack of spades or clubs (a black jack), earned the player a 10:1 jackpot.
The bonus worked. Blackjack spread like wildfire throughout the States, and eventually dealers stopped offering the 10:1 bonus. But the name, Black Jack, stuck, and people started referring to the game as blackjack instead of Twenty-One.
Now, when you go to a casino, you see all sorts of blackjack variants. At Café Casino, you can play Single-Deck, Double-Deck, Classic, Zappit, Perfect Pairs, and European Blackjack – the kind Cervantes would have played hundreds of years ago in Spain, with a couple modern touches of course.