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Baccarat History

In the 15th century, Baccarat, a card game, was introduced in France and Italy, reportedly by a famous Italian gambler Felix Falguierein. “Baccarat” comes from the Latin word “Baccara,” which means zero. This is an interesting game; as per the rules of the game, any face card or a ten-value card is counted as zero.

There is a legend that in an ancient time, certainly before the 1st century, the Romans had a strange ritual. It involved a young virgin who would roll a nine-faced dice, each face bearing a God’s name or face and a number. This pagan ritual was certainly a high stakes phenomenon for the young blond virgin, as the dice she would throw would determine her own fate. If she rolled an eight or a nine, she would be promoted to become a priestess at the temple. But, if she rolled a six or a seven, she would be banished from all prayers and religious activities from then. But, this wasn’t even the worst part of the ritual. Apparently, if she rolled anything less than seven, it meant that she was required to walk into the sea and drown herself.

Baccarat is certainly one of the oldest games to feature in casinos today. After its introduction in France in the 15th century, it was played by the nobility for a long time. The masses were not allowed to play it. A few did, however, secretly. A few years later, the game was made legal to be played by everybody and was taxed. The tax collections were used for the socio-economic improvement of the poor. It was banned under Napoleon’s rule, but became very popular soon after that. Then, the casinos mushroomed all over France and the game was featured in most casinos.

Even though not many can write baccarat history with complete confidence and conviction, it is generally accepted that the game was initially played with a pack of tarot cards. It is also believed that Italy and France were the first countries where the game was popular to begin with.

Like most other card games, baccarat too has different versions. Chemin de Fer is its most popular version in France, even today. Chemin de Fer means the “iron way” or the “iron box.” As the cards were placed in an iron box, they named it Chemin de Fer. When the game found its way to Britain, the rules were slightly modified, and the game became “European baccarat.” 

Soon, the French and English migrants took the game with them to the United States and baccarat became a rage there. It was introduced simultaneously with blackjack, and both the games vied for popularity. In the 1950s, Las Vegas Casino owners launched the game again, but with slightly tweaked rules. This is today known as the American Baccarat or the Punto Banco.

As Baccarat was gaining popularity in the United States, it had already achieved widespread acceptance in Europe. The players in Europe were unwilling to adopt the rules of American baccarat or Punto Banco. Similarly, the US players were not very confident with Chemin de Fer or Baccarat Banque. Therefore, most casinos today offer all the three variations. Still, all three versions are similar enough. A player accustomed to one game can easily adapt to the different version.

Though the Americanization of the game, resulting in Punto Banco, was the last major change in the game, the Americans made another contribution to Baccarat history, with the introduction of mini-baccarat. The mini baccarat is actually punto banco at a smaller table. But, it is significant as it takes away the trappings of formality in the game by having the casino dealer handle all the cards. This version was invented more out of necessity than anything else as the full baccarat tables were big, expensive, and difficult to maintain. 

In a casino, the full baccarat table was not able to justify its size and price by the earnings it was bringing in. Also, in the American gaming culture of the 1950s and 1960s, players wanted a casual setting and feel, which was contrary to how baccarat was being projected. In order to attract people back to the baccarat counter, the casino owners introduced a less formal version of the game which was called the mini-baccarat. With the mini-baccarat version, the casinos needed lesser space, lower minimums, and attracted more players. 

When baccarat was first introduced in the Los Angeles Casinos, they tried to give the game the same aura of glamour and exclusivity that was its heritage in Europe. Till today, the game is played in most casinos in a separate, special area or enclosure which is closely guarded and monitored.

The grand and glamorous impression of baccarat attracts many gamblers. But, it still remains a simple game of chance that does not involve a great amount of skill by the player or the dealer. Players sit on any of the 14 open seats at the table as seating does not really affect the play in any manner.

The exclusivity of the game was lost in the 1990s when the game entered a new age. With online baccarat, the game lost its exclusivist luxury and was accessible to all and sundry in the comfort of their homes. Everybody who thought that baccarat was out of their league was not invited and encouraged to play online.

The evolution of the game is still happening and the internet has given a certain fillip to the popularity of the game. The internet is attracting new players and fans to virtual baccarat tables all over the web. All three versions of the game, baccarat banque, chemin de fer, and even the faster mini-baccarat, are available on the internet. There are a few newer versions and variations available at different websites.

This new chapter in the history of the game is certainly exciting and promising about the game’s future. With the birth of the online casino industry, baccarat has become a star offering for all the players in the remote gambling and remote casino industry.

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