Want to know where and how it all started?


Early beginnings…

The origins of the game of Baccarat date back to as early as the 15th century, and not surprising, there are some debates as to its exact birth place and inventor.  It is universally agreed however, that the game was first invented in either France or Italy.   It's difficult to trace the precise origin of this game mainly because slight variations of it name are used in both countries, each wanting to claim it as their own.  Wherever it was invented, baccara (Italian) or baccarat (French) both translate to “zero” in English – so called because the tens and face cards in Baccarat, which comprise the majority of the deck, are all worth zero.

According to many, the game was first invented in Italy by gambler Felix Falguiere in the middle-ages.  Falguiere based his game on an old Etruscan ritual of the nine gods, who prayed to a blonde virgin on their tiptoes waiting for her to throw a nine-sided die. The result of the toss decided her fate. If she threw an 8 or 9, she would become the priestess; if she threw a 6 or 7, she would be banned from any further religious activities.  If she threw any number less than 6, she would have to walk into the sea.  Good thing the stakes have evolved since then!

Falguiere’s early version of the game is believed to have been played with a deck of Tarot cards and introduced to France around 1490 A.D., where it remained an exclusive game to the French nobility for some time before becoming a casino game, where it evolved into the games of European Baccarat and 'chemin de fer' that are played today.


Introduction in America…

Baccarat’s introduction to America came first in it’s pure European forms, and was not exactly a hit.  Chemin de fer and European baccarat were both brought to America and introduced at the racetrack and spa at Saratoga and the ritzy Palm Beach resort in 1911. Each was met with indifference from the nouveau riche and soon lapsed in popularity.  While both games enjoy very popular status in Europe and Asia, it wasn’t until a variation of these games was brought to America that it really took off. 

‘American Baccarat’, in which the House provides the financial backing for the game owes its immediate lineage to George Raft’s Capri Casino in Havana, Cuba dating from pre-Castro days.  It is thought that this form of the game originated in England and spread to South America before it made its way to the United States in the late 1950s.  Its originator Tommy Renzoni, stated in his (out-of-print) book, Renzoni on Baccarat, that Punto-Banco as it was called in Cuba, was brought to Las Vegas by him in the late 1950s, as Castro was about to take possession of the island.     Renzoni wrote that his game owed it roots to European chemin de fer via Argentina.  He claimed that the night of the game’s first modern American play, the Sands lost $250,000.


The rest of the world…

Baccarat has a history overseas too, which is evidenced by its popularity among the Asian population who visit Las Vegas each year.  In casinos based in the Portuguese territory of Macao, near Hong Kong, the popularity of baccarat is unrivalled. Unlike the heavily ordered and systematic American casinos, these Portuguese tables often allow multiple players to bet on a single spot at the same time, while the expert dealers mentally keep track of each players commission on winning bank bets.

All throughout its history the game remained a pleasant invitation to high rollers and individuals with high social standings. Not requiring much thought or ability, baccarat forced the players to leave everything to chance.


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