The History of Baccarat

Published on: July 28, 2010 

The history of baccarat is perhaps shrouded in more mystery than any other online casino game. An apocryphal story links it to an Etruscan ritual. In this ritual a virgin was made to cast a nine sided dice. There were three outcomes for the virgin. If the dice displayed an eight or nine then the virgin would become a priestess. If the dice displayed a six or seven then the virgin would be allowed to live, but her life would be nothing special. And if the dice displayed five or a lower number then the virgin would have to walk into the sea and drown herself. Online casino players who are familiar with the game of baccarat will be able to see parallels between the myth and the game.  

It is widely accepted, though there is no specific documentation, that baccarat was invented in Italy by a gambler named Felix Falguierein. The game was first played with Tarot cards and not the standard modern playing cards. What one is sure about is that baccarat is the Italian for zero. This is a bit strange because in baccarat a hand valued at zero is the lowest hand and such a hand will almost always lose and never win.

Baccarat in its present form was introduced in France towards the end of the fifteenth century. It was illegal at first and was therefore played secretly by the nobility. Then playing baccarat became legal and the government levied taxes on it and used the funds for the development of the poor. When Napoleon came to power he again made baccarat illegal. The real popularity of baccarat started after it was legalized the second time. Casinos were built across France for playing baccarat on a mass scale. One thing about baccarat is that the game is played differently in different parts of the world. When it was introduced in France baccarat was known as Chemin de Fer and still goes by this name in the modern French casinos.

While baccarat was banned in France it moved to England and started becoming popular there. It gained considerable notoriety when a friend of the son of Queen Victoria was caught in financial troubles over baccarat games. However, in England most people played baccarat for fun rather than as a gambling game. The English version has come to be known as European baccarat.

Everyone has heard of the famous card counters in blackjack games. But there was a famous team of baccarat card counters in France in the early twentieth century. This team was called Greek Syndicate and was led by a gambler named Nico Zographos. They made around five million dollars almost a hundred years ago by counting cards and by reading body language.

Baccarat reached America quite late, only in the middle of the twentieth century. When the Cuban government shut down the casinos in Havana in the 1950s, Tommy Renzoni brought this game to Las Vegas. It was projected as a casino game of the elite and was played in fashionable places that required dress codes. The American version known as Punto Banco is the simplest version of baccarat.

When online casinos were launched at the end of the twentieth century, baccarat naturally found a place there. The online version follows Punto Banco, because in this version the dealer does not exercise his free will.

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