Up until the past couple of decades, baccarat was a game that was reserved for wealthy, elite players. Fortunately, baccarat has shed this reputation thanks in large part to smaller minimum bets being offered and the advent of online baccarat. But it’s still fun taking a look back through baccarat history to see why the game arrived at this elite reputation. This being said, here’s a quick look at the history of baccarat beginning with its origins.
France or Italy?
Like many casino games today, it’s hard to define a starting point in baccarat history. Some people go as far back as Etruscan society (800-100 B.C.), when women threw nine-sided dice to determine if they were a priestess favored by the gods (8, 9), mere ordinary females (6, 7), or should be drowned in the sea (1-5). However, few historians give as much credence to this barbaric ritual as they do to later civilizations in France and/or Italy.
Those who credit Italy with inventing the game believe that fifteenth century gambler Felix Falguirein started baccarat with tarot cards. From here, French soldiers learned baccarat during the Franco-Italian War around 1495 A.D., and took it back with them to France where it became Chemin de fer. Another theory is that baccarat was invented by the French in the seventeenth century when it splintered off of blackjack. Whatever the case may be, we can reasonably assume that the modern game was shaped from the late fifteenth century to seventeenth century.
A Prestigious Game
Regardless of where baccarat was invented, it didn’t take long for the game to become noticed by the French elite. In fact, the widespread popularity of Chemin de fer among French nobility is where its exclusive reputation began.
Around the time of Napoleon’s reign in the early nineteenth century, middle class people began playing the game in illegal gambling houses, but Chemin de fer still retained its privileged aura. Due to this fact, most casinos made the minimum bets in baccarat extremely high, and it stayed this way for a long time.
Around the Globe
As the years advanced, baccarat began spreading to other parts of the globe such as South America, England and across Europe. Wherever Chemin de fer went, it seemed to catch on in the casinos - except for in the United States. When Chemin de fer was brought to the US in the early twentieth century, few people seemed interested in the game.
However, baccarat began popping up in American casinos again in the 1950’s, and this time it stuck. But there were some notable rule changes in Las Vegas casinos, which included the dealer shuffling cards, cards being dealt face-up, and there were only three outcomes to bet on. This differed somewhat from Chemin de fer, where players shuffle and deal the cards, cards are dealt face-down, and players can draw for an extra card.
The Las Vegas version is often called North American baccarat, or Punto Banco, and this game is more commonly played across the world, as compared to the original French version.
Like we mentioned before, baccarat is no longer a game for just the wealthy and elite since lower minimum bets are offered. Of course, this isn’t to say that there aren’t still plenty of casinos and VIP areas where only the most prestigious gamblers play, but for the most part, anybody can enjoy the game. This is especially true of online baccarat because minimum bets are usually $1 or less, which means anybody can play a few hands.
Not surprisingly, both land-based and online baccarat have become extremely popular among players because of the low house edge and simple strategy. In six and eight-deck baccarat, players can lower the house edge to 1.06% simply by betting on the banker every time. Taking this into consideration, if you’re looking for a fun and easy casino game to play, baccarat is definitely a good place to start.