Baccarat is one of the most famous casino games in the world. Still, would you say you know where and how it came into being? Do you know the history of baccarat and how it evolved from the early days to the game we know and love today? If the answer is no, you’re in luck; we’re about to unfold the story of baccarat from its beginnings all the way to the game now known as online baccarat.
What Is Baccarat and How Is It Played?
First things first. Before we dive into the history of baccarat, we need to quickly go over what baccarat is and how it’s played.
Baccarat, also known as baccara, is a card game whereby players are supposed to guess which hand out of the two hands dealt (the player’s and the banker’s hand) will win. There are three possible outcomes: player (player’s hand wins), banker (dealer’s hand wins) and tie.
While this is the broadest description of the baccarat rules, in order to fully understand how to play baccarat, you’ll need to study the intricacies of the game more carefully. Luckily, we’ve written about it in the past so feel free to go back and make sure you’ve mastered the basics before moving on.
The Origin of Baccarat: How It Began in Italy
To begin with, not all historians agree where baccarat originated. While some say baccarat first appeared in France, the most prevalent theory is that it started in Rome, Italy in the 1400s.
The name itself is said to be derived from the word “baccara” which means zero. Additionally, the story goes that it was a man called Felix Falguiere (or Falguierein) who named the game so due to all the face cards and tens being worth zero.
The baccarat of the 15th century featured 4 players where each player took turns to be the banker. What’s interesting is that back then the card deck was made up of tarot cards.
However, the game’s spelling with the t at the end - or baccarat - is the French spelling and nowadays it is far more widespread compared to the original version without the t.
To tie it in with what we said about historians disagreeing on the origins of baccarat, some experts do indeed maintain that the version of baccarat known today was established in the 19th century France; however, other historians state that it was soldiers who brought the game from Italy to France, where it rose to popularity among the French nobility.
Chemin de Fer: From Italy to France
Eventually, as the game reached France, it became known as Chemin de Fer, also referred to as "Chemmy". The name translates to “railway” in English and it is believed the game was named this way because it was the French aristocrats who were privileged enough to travel by train and play the game while onboard.
From France, baccarat spread to England where it became an everyman's game. By the 1950s it was known all over the world thanks to Ian Fleming’s most famous fictional character James Bond being extremely fond of baccarat.
Punto Banco: How Baccarat Spread to America
After Europe, baccarat travelled to America. Firstly, the game spread across South America and the Caribbean where it was named “Punto Banco” (made up of two words: “punto” meaning player and “banco” meaning banker).
Afterwards, the game arrived in Las Vegas thanks to a man named Frances “Tommy” Renzoni. Namely, Tommy was the person who moved the game of baccarat from Cuba to Las Vegas in the 1950s and the rest is history.
Nowadays, both baccarat and online baccarat remain some of the most popular casino games in the world. What’s more, players who like playing their games from the comfort of their homes but enjoy the feel of a real life casino can also engage in a live dealer version of baccarat. Whatever your preference may be, baccarat is as accessible as all the other famous table games, be it blackjack or roulette.
Throughout baccarat game history and to this day the three most popular variants of baccarat are:
- punto banco
- baccarat chemin de fer
- and baccarat banque (or à deux tableaux)
Baccarat in Popular Culture
We’ve already mentioned how baccarat became world famous thanks to one super spy that goes by the name of Bond, James Bond and specifically the 1953 novel (later turned into a motion picture) “Casino Royale”. Baccarat remained a constant throughout several James Bond movies and made an appearance in some of the most well-known Bond films, such as GoldenEye and Dr. No.
Furthermore, baccarat can be seen in “A Hard Day’s Night”, the legendary 1964 film starring none other than The Beatles; TV shows like “CSI: Las Vegas”; and various other movies such as “Rush Hour 3” and “Bob le flambeur”.
The Future of Baccarat
Going over baccarat history begs the question: what is the future of baccarat? Judging by its longevity, we would say the game isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. People still play it around the world, continue to look for and try to master the best baccarat strategies, and enjoy the possibility of beating the “banker” whenever possible. Or maybe they just enjoy feeling like Mr. Bond himself (and who could blame them?).