The History of the Casino High-Roller Favorite – Baccarat

Baccarat is considered a casino game favorite among many of the world’s elite gamblers. It has a very low house edge of about 1%, and can be found in many exclusive casino VIP areas, which the general public does not have access to. Its origins can be traced back to the Middle Ages, first appearing in the royal courts of Europe, making Baccarat one of the oldest known casino games still around today. This article will take you from Baccarat’s mythical origins all the way through to its modern day practice.

What follows is a detailed history of the game including a brief explanation of how Baccarat was adopted into US casino gaming culture. You’ll also find an overview of Baccarat’s more recent history, transitioning from a brick-and-mortar game into a popular online casino game.


The Middle Ages

There is actually some dispute as to whether Baccarat originated in Italy or France during the 1400s. While there are records showing that French royalty and noblemen played the game, its name is said to be derived from an Italian word – placing its true origins there. Baccarat stands for ‘zero’ in certain ancient Italian dialects, denoting the zero value given to picture cards and 10’s in the game.

King Louis XIV – one of France’s most powerful rulers – banned all forms of gambling, including Baccarat, from his court. As with the majority of prohibition attempts, this ban actually drove the game to become an underground phenomenon and gave rise to the French version of Baccarat played today, known as ‘Baccarat Chemin De Fer’ (or just plain old ‘Chemmy’).

Many superstitions surrounding the game have emerged over the years. Some players have even gone so far as to develop elaborate token systems in specially designed racks to highlight the sequence of wins for player, banker and tie. This system has been reproduced electronically at many land-based and online casinos to ensure that the purists get as authentic a game as possible.

Some go so far as to suggest that Baccarat dates back to the dawn of recorded history in the form of an ancient dice game.


Brick-And-Mortar Casinos

Chemin de Fer was first introduced to the US in Las Vegas during the 1950s. Also known as ‘European Baccarat’, it made its debut in casinos as an exclusive game carrying a high overhead in terms of dealers (three required) and involving complex rules requiring players to take turns in the role of the banker.

While it became somewhat popular among wealthy players, the stakes were far too high for the average recreational gambler. European Baccarat could thus not compete with Blackjack, Roulette or the other popular casino table games found on the main casino floor.

This issue was resolved by simplifying the game and making it possible for a single dealer to run, giving rise to ‘Mini Baccarat’, also known as ‘Punto Banco’. With player actions simplified to include only an initial bet (on the ‘player’, ‘banker’ or ‘tie’) and the dealer controlling the rest of the actions quickly and expertly, it was now possible to play more hands and lower stakes games could be spread. To say that this was a success would be an understatement. Punto Banco, also known as ‘American Baccarat’, is now available in casinos worldwide.

The original Baccarat game is still played in exclusive VIP areas with high-rollers dropping millions of dollars at these tables annually. In fact, Baccarat can have such a high impact on casino revenues that many list the game in their annual accounting reports.


Moving Online

Online casino gaming first appeared in the mid-1990s and has evolved into a quite the impressive industry. Since the early days, which were classified by slow computers and finicky dial-up networks, things have greatly improved. Online Baccarat games now offer quite the user experience on devices ranging from computers to mobile phones, and the faster connection speeds make these gaming sessions smoother and quicker-paced than ever before.

From a player’s perspective, there are some great advantages to playing Baccarat online. Not only can you play from the comfort of your home or office, but you can also play for lower stakes than would be required in a brick-and-mortar casino.

Almost all of the major casino software operators offer Baccarat or Punto Banco as part of their casino game rosters, including online casinos open to US players. If you choose to play online, be sure to compare the various casino sign-up bonuses and loyalty programs offered by competing operators. Furthermore, choosing a casino brand with a longstanding history and solid track record of reliable online payments will give you that added piece of mind, enabling you to enjoy your Baccarat session that much more.