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Baccarat: A Quick History

Felix Falguierein, who played with Tarot cards in the late 15th century Italy, has been the acclaimed inventor of Baccarat (meaning “Zero” in French, which also happens to be the game’s worst hand, adding a sort of lethal edge to its atmosphere).

During the Franco-Italian war, King Charles VIII brought Baccarat to France from Italy in 1490, through his soldiers, who in all probability must have learnt Baccarat from the Italian civilians. Baccarat was given wide-spread recognition throughout France. This brought about the different variants such as Chemin de Fer and Baccarat en Banque, which were played only by the French Aristocrats and in secrecy because at various time in its history the game has been illegal, just like many forms of gambling.

Baccarat gained momentum and popularity once it reached Europe, and by the 19th century, French and English immigrants had spread the game’s antics to the Americas. Surprisingly though, Americans were not as immediately smitten with the game in the way that the Europeans had been centuries before, at least not at first.

Baccarat’s popularity only soared in America from around the 1950’s, when Tommy Renzoni passed baccarat from the Cubans, to the Las Vegas strip and promoted its possible prominence in the gambling industry. This is where the third version of Baccarat - Punto Banco (Player vs. Banker) came into being and turned out to be the preferred version to play in North America.

Las Vegas encouraged Punto Banco’s primacy by offering the game in VIP lounges for the pleasure of high rollers. This created an atmosphere of mystery and intrigue for the general public, which led to the clichéd idea that Baccarat is for the well-to-do.

Chemin de Fer, anyone?

This is the original version of Baccarat which was introduced to France in 1490. It’s also the variant that is still practiced there and to this day is very popular. During the time of its introduction, the cards were dealt out of an iron box, thus the name Chemin de Fer – meaning “way of iron” or more accurately, “railroad”. The table is oval in shape and seats up to eight clients at one time.

Six decks of cards are used. Play begins to the right of the dealer and continues in an anti-clockwise direction.

The dealer first shuffles all the cards, after which the client to the left of the dealer will then cut the deck.

One of the clients is given the position as the “banker” and will also have to deal the cards. The remaining 7 clients are named “punters”. The banker position will be passed on anti-clockwise and each client (when they become the Banker) will wager his/her bet. The punters (or clients rather,) have the option to say out loud – “go bank” and will then play against the entire existing bank, with your matching bet. Only one client can “go bank”, so being the first to say it is important (if of course you would like to play against the bank), otherwise, if no one says “go bank” then clients place their bets in order. The total of the bets can either be less than the bank, or more in which the bank can choose to either allow bystanders to join and bet up to the amount of the bank or if bets turn out to be greater than the bank, the banker can increase the bank bet to match or remove the bet in the opposite (clockwise) order of play.

Banker shares out four cards face-down, two of which are the bankers and the remaining two cards are communal for the clients. The client, who has offered the highest bet, represents the rest of the clients. An immediate 8 or 9 must be announced and cards must be turned face-up, otherwise if both hands contain neither an 8 nor a 9 – the client can accept a third card, if they wish. The rules from here on out are the same as in Full Scale Baccarat.

From hushed and illegal to the vivacious presence the game has today, Baccarat and its variations is a game of choice for many players. The online casino environment is no different with scores of players clicking away with the chance of great cash rewards.

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