Walk into any casino in America and you are sure to find a game of Baccarat in progress. Baccarat is not only one of the most popular casino games in the United States but is also loved throughout the world.
What is the Baccarat History? When was the game invented and by whom? Who were the first people to play it?
We'll also find out how it has influenced other casino games and take a speculative look into what the future of Baccarat may look like.
Origins of Baccarat
The history of Baccarat is often debated, but most historians agree that it was created in Italy in the 1400s by Felix Falguiere (some sources refer to him as Falguierein).
“Baccara” is the Italian word for zero, and it is believed Falguiere chose “baccara” because tens and face cards are worth nothing. Baccarat, the French name for the game, is now used across the world.
Historians believe that Falguiere based the game on the story of an Etruscan virgin who had to throw a die to determine her fate. The die was nine-sided, and if she rolled an eight or nine, she would become a high priestess. If the die landed on a six or a seven, the virgin would live but would not be allowed to participate in religious or community ceremonies. Any roll below a six would result in the young woman being tossed into the sea to her death.
Felix Falguiere based the initial rules of the game on this story. In the present day, no one is tossed into the sea after rolling a die lower than six, but in a modern-day casino, you will lose the game.
Falguiere may have based the idea for Baccarat on card games that were played on the island of Macau, a special administrative region (SAR) of greater China, located to the south of the Macau Peninsula. As such, some historians are convinced that Baccarat was first invented in China.
According to these historians, in the original version of the game known as “Le Her”, players drew cards and the person with the highest card (the King) won the game.
Whatever version of Baccarat history one chooses to believe, it is agreed that Falguiere gave the game its first set of official rules—rules that are slightly different from those of today's Baccarat.
In the current version of Baccarat, cards are dealt by one dealer; in the 14th century, the game required four dealers and a banker (one of the players).
Bets could be placed against each other and the house. Today, the house is the banker, and all bets are placed against it.
From Italy to France: The evolution of Baccarat and its rise in popularity
It did not take long for the game to be adopted in neighboring France. When 15th-century French soldiers returned from war on the continent, they interacted with Italians and learned how to play Baccarat. When they arrived home, they taught others how to play. It was popularly known as Chemin de Fer or Chemmy.
The game quickly became a favorite among the nobility, and they developed a version of their own. Baccarat Banque, or Baccarat à Deux Tableaux, is a variation that is played in casinos to this day.
King Charles VIII of France was responsible for the game's popularity among aristocrats. It became a favorite, and he invited nobles to play with him because only the wealthy could afford the stakes.
Baccarat was illegal during those times, and some speculate that because the king loved the game so much, he ordered that it be made legal. Some of the proceeds from games were then used to help the poor.
Drawing rooms across the land often had a Baccarat table set up for nobles to play at any time, and every manor had a table dedicated to the game.
The game was firmly entrenched as a popular pastime for the wealthy. Every rich man was a Baccarat master, and there was healthy competition between fellow aristocrats. It was unimportant that Baccarat is a game of luck.
When Napoleon came to power after the French Revolution, the game's popularity began to wane. Although the game was not banned by Napoleon, he disapproved of it because of its association and popularity with the nobility.
Baccarat, along with other gambling games, was eventually banned by Louise Phillipe and remained illegal for the next 70 years. The history of Baccarat, however, did not stop here.
The game made its way across the Channel to England, but rather than appealing to nobility, it was a game that was enjoyed by all. It first appeared in English language accounts in 1866 and was wildly popular.
Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond novels, was a gambling aficionado and included the game in several Bond films.
Another interesting story involved Edward, Prince of Wales. In 1890, he was playing with a partner, Sir William Gordon-Cumming. Sir Gordon-Cumming was accused of cheating at Baccarat. The prince did not say anything in his partner's defense, and William was forced to sign a document stating that he would never again participate in the game.
Gordon-Cumming was not amused, and he sued for defamation. He lost the suit and was kicked out of court. The incident left a bitter taste, and the game eventually fell out of favor in the English court.
Despite its fall in popularity in England, the game was gaining momentum outside of Europe. The British spread it to their colonies in South America and the Caribbean.
It was not just a favorite for colonial officials; it was played in informal settings by locals and became quite popular.
The locals named it Punto Banco, and over time, some of the game's rules were adopted to fit with local cultures.
One of the main changes was that the players could only play against the house—never against each other. Another major change was that the casinos acted as banks.
Baccarat in the New World: How the game came to America
In the Americas, the game's origins can be traced to Argentina, where locals called it Punto y Banca. It then arrived in Cuba where, along with changing some of the rules, players called it Punto Banco or American Baccarat. History was repeating itself.
According to the new rules of American Baccarat, players could only bet against the house, unlike in Europe where they were allowed to bet against each other.
Frances “Tommy” Renzoni was a junior manager at Havana's Capri Hotel and casino. He knew about Baccarat, and he had an idea.
He would bring the game to the casino capital of America: Las Vegas. He had seen how popular the game was in Havana's casinos, and he had a feeling that it would have similar appeal in the United States.
In 1950, Renzoni approached the Sands Hotel to reserve a few tables for Baccarat, and they agreed. The hotel did everything it could to popularize the game.
The Sands created and roped off a Baccarat pit and all dealers wore tuxedos. There was an air of exclusivity to the game that made many visitors want to try it.
According to Renzoni's memoirs, many gamblers took a chance on the game's opening night, resulting in the loss of more than a quarter of a million dollars to the house.
Other Las Vegas casinos also adopted the game, but it was not as popular as games such as Blackjack or craps.
To make it more popular, casinos created Mini-Baccarat—played on the main casino floor—because the pit seemed to intimidate the everyday gambler. Another change in Mini-Baccarat was that instead of using four dealers, this version of the game required a single dealer.
All of these changes made Baccarat more popular. It was more accessible, and the rules were a little easier to follow. Over time, it became the American favorite that it is today.
Modern-day Baccarat: Online gaming and live dealer options
A popular version of Baccarat today is live dealer Baccarat. The live dealer option uses the traditional rules of the game and involves a live dealer who you follow on screen.
This version of the game should not be confused with land-based casino Baccarat, which must be played in an actual casino. In live dealer games, you play on a screen from the comfort of your home.
Everything, including the money you bet and any money you win, is real. All you need to participate in live dealer Baccarat is a stable internet connection and a schedule of game times.
You join the dealer and other players online at a scheduled time, observe the card patterns, and place your bets according to what you see on the table.
Players bet on the hand they think has a chance of winning. They choose either the player or the banker, and both hands receive two cards. The one that comes closest to nine wins the game.
The game is interactive and utilizes a highly developed software platform. Some casinos do not have the necessary infrastructure to support live games, so players should choose their online casino carefully.
Online Baccarat is a little different. Rather than using a dealer, the game uses an automatic random number generator. It involves a player and a banker; the player chooses the side on which they would like to place their bet.
Players can choose between three variations of the online game: Punto Banco, Baccarat Banque, or Chemin de Fer. Each of these versions has slightly different rules; so, if you know how to play one, it does not necessarily mean that you will do well at another.
Baccarat's influence on other casino games: A look at similarities and differences
As Baccarat is one of the oldest casino games, some modern games have borrowed pieces from it. Blackjack is called “the cousin of Baccarat,” but in Blackjack, players aim to have a higher hand than the dealer.
Just like the various versions of Baccarat, Blackjack is a fast-paced game that requires a good mix of luck and strategy.
The rules for Blackjack are quite different than Baccarat, however. The objective of the game is for the player to have a higher hand than the dealer, but his card count must not be over 21. Players compete only against the dealer—not each other—and the card values are also different.
Another game that borrowed from Baccarat is Spanish 21. It is fairly new in the casino scene and has only been around for about 20 years.
Spanish 21 is popular and often played by those who know both Baccarat and Blackjack because the fundamentals are similar.
It is played with Spanish decks of 48 cards, with all 10-point cards removed. This may seem like a disadvantage, but other rules make up for the absence of the 10-card.
It is similar to Baccarat because it relies on card counts.
The Future of Baccarat
As online platforms become more sophisticated, it is expected that more variations of Live Baccarat and Online Baccarat will emerge. This is expected to drive a resurgence in the popularity of the game.
In gambling towns like Las Vegas and New Jersey, easy availability of Online Baccarat will expose more people to the game, not only pushing up online numbers, but also increasing the number of players walking into land-based casinos.
As the game becomes more popular online, it will most likely become less expensive to play—a change from its previous reputation as a game only for high rollers. It will become similar to craps or slots—games that anyone with a few dollars can play.
For these players, it will be important to choose the right casinos for Baccarat. When played correctly, one could end in Biggest Baccarat Wins. They must research to find out what sort of reputation the casino has and whether it offers a variety of games and an easy withdrawal of winnings.
One casino that is highly recommended is Resorts Casino in New Jersey. It uses a NetEnt gaming platform, so all online games are secure and have smooth graphics, a good table design, and uninterrupted gameplay. Players also have a variety of ways that they can withdraw their winnings. In addition to Baccarat, the casino also has hundreds of other popular casino games to entice players.
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