12 Fascinating Facts About Blackjack

Blackjack is one of the most popular games in Las Vegas casinos. The rules are fairly simple, and blackjack has one of the lowest house edges of all casino table games.

Here are 12 fascinating things about blackjack, assuming you use the word “fascinating” very, very loosely.

1. The first written mention of blackjack was in a collection of short stories by Miguel de Cervantes, the author of “Don Quixote.”

2. Blackjack got its name when gambling establishments started marketing a game called “Vingt-et-Un” (French for “21”), a European import, in America. Gambling joints offered bonus payouts to players, and one of the bonuses paid 10-to-1 if the player’s winning hand contained a black jack (spades or clubs). The “blackjack” name stuck.

Bonus trivia: Four suits, four seasons. Thirteen cards of each suit, 13 lunar cycles. Fifty-two cards, 52 weeks in a year. Seeing a pattern?

3. Casino blackjack tables have a small mirror used by dealers to check the “hole card.” The mirror is called a “peeker” or “peeper.”

blackjack peeper
The peeper has a mirror that allows the dealer to see their face-down card without revealing it to players.

4. Blackjack discard trays are translucent and red. The red discard trays are an attempt to thwart cheats who mark cards with inks. The marks are invisible to the naked eye, but can be seen by security personnel wearing tinted sunglasses or special contact lenses.

Blackjack discard tray
A cheat who uses marked cards is called a “paper worker.”

5. Your chances of getting a natural 21, or blackjack, are 4.8%.

6. The card dispenser used at many blackjack tables is called a “shoe.” That’s because early versions of the device looked like a woman’s high heel shoe.

7. A “cut card” is a blank, plastic card inserted into a deck by a player to let the dealer know when the cards need to be shuffled. (See cut cards in the photo below.)

8. When cards are dealt from a shoe, two cut cards are used. As mentioned above, one card denotes it’s time to shuffle. The other card ensures the last card in the shoe can’t be seen by players. The cards between the two cut cards are called the “plug.”

Blackjack plug
We’re pretty sure you’re going to be the only one at your blackjack table who knows what a “plug” is. Try not to gloat.

9. A “snapper” is another name for a natural blackjack (an ace and a face card), presumably because in the early days of blackjack, players would “snap” down their cards upon receiving a blackjack.

10. A blackjack player who’s “steaming” is one who bets erratically because their luck has gone south. It’s like poker players who go “on tilt.”

11. There’s a Blackjack Hall of Fame at the Barona Casino in San Diego. The casino offers inductees free rooms, food and drinks for life in exchange for agreeing to never play at the casino’s tables.

12. One of blackjack’s biggest fans was none other than Napoleon Bonaparte. He played the game regularly, especially after he was exiled in Elba.

Now you know everything there is to know about blackjack. Well, at least some obscure stuff, ensuring you are going to, at some point, take Alex Trebek for a fortune.