Said to be the biggest card game in the world, Baccarat is a game with a deep history originating in Europe that spread through Asia and recently into the US.
Popular for its numerous appearances in James Bond movies, the game was famously nicknamed “Bond’s game” by English Agent 007 fans. Baccarat is one of the oldest casino games played today and has three other popular variants: punto banco (or "North American baccarat"), baccarat chemin de fer ("chemmy"), and baccarat banque (“à deux tableaux”). Each game has slight differences in varying rules, number of cards, and prizes but the core elements of the game are the same; it’s a comparative game played between two opposing hands, the “player” and the “banker.” Nonetheless, Baccarat is a game with a fascinating story and many different alternatives.
The following is a detailed look into the invention and history of Baccarat, including how the game has evolved from its original form into the modern game played in casinos today.
Origin of Baccarat
While the exact origin of Baccarat is unclear, most believe the game was first invented in 1500s Rome, Italy. Historians say that the game was created by Felix Falguiere. Falguiere named the game “baccara” meaning “zero” in Italian. This is in reference to the value of the cards in the game. In Baccarat, tens, jacks, queens, and kings are all worth zero.
From Italy, the game made its way to France, where it got its widely used pronunciation “Baccarat” which the world adopted. Its quick popularity was a result of Baccarat’s favorite French player, King Charles VIII. The King and his court spread the Baccarat craze among the nobility and wealthy of France. It wasn’t until centuries later that the game gained its immense popularity in casinos and stopped being an exclusive pastime only for the elite.
Chemin de fer, another widely played version of Baccarat, was also created in France in the 19th century. This quicker version is still the most well liked in France. Depending on the country, there are differing versions of the game that are played. The overwhelming majority of casinos in the United States, Canada, and Australia play the version called Punto Banco and is the simplest form of Baccarat.
Early Version of Baccarat vs the Modern Game
Given that the origin of Baccarat is not perfectly clear, there are many different stories as to how the game used to be played. Some say it originated as a game of life or death, where drawing a card lower than a 6 meant a death sentence. It is believed that Italian Baccara created by Felix Falguiere was based on an Etruscan legend. In old Etruscan Rome there was believed to be a virgin woman with golden hair who had to throw a nine sided dice. The result from the throw would determine her fate; 8 or 9 meant she would be crowned a priestess, while 6 or 7 meant she could live but no longer be part of the priestly community, and unfortunately by throwing anything lower than a 6 she would be walked to the sea to drown. Modern assignment of the cards are similar to these, where drawing lower than a 6 still means losing, but thankfully no more drowning.
Others believe that early versions of the game were actually played with tarot cards since Falguiere was a tarot card fanatic. Some versions even combine these two stories. However, the true origin is still unknown.
Nonetheless, earlier versions of Baccarat were likely more complex than the modern game. The most-played game Punto Banco is one of the easiest versions that exist today. Baccarat reached the US in the 19th century and was quickly a hit. As a game of primarily luck rather than skill, it is an attractive card game among players looking to push their chances.
Online Casino Popularity
Baccarat has also taken off massively in the online casino industry. It is one of the most popular online casino games on sites. These online casinos offer e-gamers playing options at any time of the day, 24/7, and can even be enjoyed in live streams. In live feeds, real dealers play with players all over the world, allowing them to immerse themselves in the classic vintage Baccarat card game from the comfort of their homes. Computer versions are also available in which random card generators display hands on the screen in digital graphic form. Anyone can be an easy click away from starting off their first Baccarat game! Bet-free online casinos are also available for Baccarat aficionados.
How to Play Baccarat in a Casino
Here is an easy guide to get your started in Baccarat:
Baccarat is a card game with three possible outcomes: player wins, banker wins, or tie. There are two opposing sides, the player and the banker. The dealer deals two cards for each face up, visible to everyone at the table. Whoever hand totals closest to 9 wins. You choose whether you bet on the player hand or the dealer - you can even bet on both. If you bet on the hand of the banker, a commission is paid to the casino, given that this hand is more probable to win. This commission varies by casino but it is usually about 5-10% of the winnings. Each card has different values; Ace is worth 1, 2 through 9 are worth their face value, and tens, jacks, queens, and kings equal zero. Each casino has further rules about each hand. When you walk up to a table you can ask the dealer for a cheat sheet of the rules if you are unsure at any time.
A number of casinos now even have a shorter and faster version of Baccarat called mini-baccarat. These tables are very similar to blackjack tables and are a lower risk bet. Mini-Baccarat can be a great way to practice playing the game if you have never played!
After learning about the history of the Baccarat, a classic casino game, and the basics of how to play, you are on your way to have your first Bond-style Baccarat game sitting down at one of these iconic tables. Who knows, Baccarat might just be your new go-to game!