Don Quixote is well-known around the world – he is the main character from the old Spanish novel that shares his name. Don Quixote is a retired country gentleman who, being a little bit crazy, decides one day to put on a suit of armor and go have some adventures. One of the best parts of the book sees Don Quixote attacking windmills, which he thought were ferocious giants. The character was conceived by the author Miguel de Cervantes, who wrote the book way back in 1605.
Don Quixote’s tales are the most well known things that Cervantes wrote, but a few years earlier, he published a series of short stories. One of them, called Rinconete y Cortadillo, contains the first known record of the wonderful card game we now know as Blackjack.
Rinconete y Cortadillo is about a couple of young boys who are very poor, and they make their living by playing cards. The game they play is called veintiuna, which is Spanish for twenty-one. The way the game is described in the book suggests that the veintiuna was very much like modern Blackjack!
What’s even more interesting is that the game would have been played with a Spanish deck which has the 10’s removed. That would make veintiuna similar to what we now call Spanish 21. According to Katrina Walker’s book The Pro’s Guide to Spanish 21, this particular form of blackjack, along with its Australian counterpart Pontoon, is statistically the most beatable variation of the game that exists!
This means that more than 400 years ago in Spain, some people were probably making a living playing Spanish 21. Just imagine what those people would think of us playing the game now on the internet! The world has come a long way since then, but in some ways, it has not changed very much at all.