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Blackjack Featured in Popular Culture

by ReadyBetGo Editor

Blackjack has been featured in many stories throughout the centuries and has been linked to quite a few legendary characters. Its predecessor was the game of 21 (whose origins remain unknown) and theReadyBetGo EditorThere are occasions when we here at ReadyBetGo want to bring you interesting facts about the gambling industry  When something catches our eye, we will publish it for your enjoyment. 
  first written reference that was ever made to the latter was in Miguel de Cervantes’ adventure novel Rinconete y Cortadillo. Following the lives of two daring characters across Spain, Cervantes mentions how they master the veintiuna (21) and trick their opponents as they play with the traditional Spanish baraja (deck of cards).

Having a central role in that story, which was published in 1613, when 21 was brought to the U.S., different attempts were made to popularize it and so, one of the bonus offers that was disseminated was the ten-to-one payout in case the player had a hand that included the ace of spades and a black jack — either one of spades or clubs. Although this bonus soon became unnecessary, as people soon grew fond of this new card game and didn’t require any enticements, what did remain was the name of blackjack instead of 21. And that name remains today.

Blackjack has appeared in popular culture on different occasions; the first being the aforementioned tale by Cervantes. However, it has also been featured in literature many times since, including being mentioned in several best-selling books such as Beat the Dealer by Dr. Edward O. Thorp (published in 1962), The Big Player by Ken Uston (published in 1977), and Ben Mezrich’s famous 2002 story Bringing Down the House, which follows the lives of a blackjack team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The group, which included students from the Harvard Business School, MIT, and Harvard University, came together to develop a series of unbeatable blackjack techniques and strategies. Later on, Mezrich published a second book named Busting Vegas, which, in a much more fictional way, followed the same team during their “strategic investments era”.

As far as films go, blackjack has also been a recurrent element, having been featured in Burt Reynolds’ action movie Heat (1986) and in the legendary Rain Main, whose title character who was portrayed by Dustin Hoffman uses his mathematical skills to win at blackjack, which was released in 2008 and coincidentally was inspired by Bringing Down the House. Different documentaries and television series have also referred to the story of the MIT group on different occasions.

The game of blackjack has also been featured in music as well. In fact, a Ray Charles song was named after it. Blackjack is also mentioned in “Viva Las Vegas”, the famous tune by the one and only Elvis Presley about Sin City. Corb Lund’s song “All I Wanna Do Is Play Cards mentions it, too, and there was even a group in the late 70s and early 80s called Blackjack — whose lead singer was Michael Bolton.

Either in literature, film, or music, for hundreds of years blackjack has been used in popular culture. Though a common game in popular history that some even believe Napoleon liked to play, blackjack will continue to be part of pop culture as, challenging or unpredictable as it might be, it also largely depends on the players’ skills. It is perhaps this element that has made it interesting enough to be featured in different stories since the 17th century.

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