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Where does Baccarat come from?

The origins of Baccarat and Felix Falguiere


The history of Baccarat

Baccarat is a Card game with an intriguing history involving a royal scandals. Here we will take a quick look at where and when Baccarat originated, how it evolved into the game we know today and why it became prevalent around the world.

While the common conception is that Baccarat originated in France, some historians have suggested that the game's roots go back to ancient China and Rome. Pai Gow ("make nine" in English) was a popular game in ancient times that used chips to denote numbers, potentially indicating a link to Baccarat, in which nine is the highest score that can be achieved.

Falguiere named the game Baccara ("zero" in Italian) since most of the cards are worth zero.


Meanwhile, it is claimed that in ancient Rome various games were played that involved rolling a nine-sided die, and those who rolled an eight or nine received prizes.

This has led some to suggest that the importance of the eight or nine (a "natural" in Baccarat) providing the best result may have had a formative influence on the rules of the game.

The first official set of rules for the modern version of Baccarat was devised by a man named Felix Falguiere in 15th century Italy. It is believed that Falguiere was primarily influenced by games such as Macau, today known as a variant of Baccarat, and Le Her.

Le Her was a game in which players drew a card from the deck and the person with the highest value (King was the highest) won.

Falguiere named the game Baccara ("zero" in Italian) due to the fact that most of the cards were worth zero. When the game became popular in France, the French spelling Baccarat was predominantly adopted worldwide.

A royal scandal and James Bond

Baccarat was first brought to France by soldiers returning to the country after conflicts with Italy towards the end of the 15th century. The game quickly became a favorite of the French nobility, who developed their own version called Baccarat Banque, which also became known as Á deux tableaux, and today is considered another variant of Baccarat.

Over time, Baccarat also became popular in casinos and other gambling establishments throughout the country. When these were banned by Louis Phillipe I in 1837, another variant called Chemin de Fer ("railroad" in English) was devised.

Later shortened to Chemmy, this too is believed to have been devised by the nobility in the late 1830s, who were among the first people to ride and use trains in France and played the game as a means of passing the time there.

Baccarat's popularity was boosted by the release of the James Bond novel, Casino Royale.

Throughout the rest of the century, Baccarat gained slow but steady popularity in the rest of Europe. It received particular attention in the UK when it was involved in a royal scandal in 1891, initiated by Sir William Gordon-Cumming filing a libel writ after being accused of cheating during a game organized by Arthur Wilson.

This was not only controversial, as Baccarat had been outlawed in 1886, and the other players in the game were called as witnesses for the subsequent trial.

On the other hand, the game reached North America. The first written reference to Baccarat being played in the United States was in an 1871 New York Times article, which described a gambling clubhouse in Long Branch, New Jersey, mentioning "the Lighthouse spread, Roulette table and Baccarat board."

However, for several decades, Baccarat struggled for attention in the United States against the preference for Blackjack and Craps, to the extent that it was not mentioned in the Assembly Bill that legalized gambling in 1931.

The game's popularity was somewhat boosted by the release of Ian Fleming's James Bond novel Casino Royale in 1953. An instant bestseller, the plot focused primarily on a game of Chemin de Fer between Bond and suspected Soviet spy Le Chiffre and included instructions for readers on the game.

The birth of Punto Banco

Throughout the 1950s, an additional version of Baccarat was developed, originating in the casinos of Havana, Cuba. This was called Punto Banco, the rules of which are explained in our Baccarat guide.

The Sands opened a Punto Banco table in 1959, which lost $250,000 on its opening night.

Unlike Chemin de Fer and Baccarat Banque, where players could simply play against each other, Punto Banco could directly pit players and a house representative against each other for a series of bets each round. As a result, it quickly established itself as the Baccarat format of choice among South American casinos.

Tommy Renzoni, who went on to publish several books on Baccarat, discovered Punto Banco during a visit to the Mar del Plata casino in Argentina and quickly alerted casinos in Las Vegas.

The Sands opened a Punto Banco table in 1959, which lost $250,000 on its opening night (equivalent to $2.2 million in 2020), although they persisted with the game to eventually start generating profits.

However, in the 1970s there were still only 15 Baccarat tables on the entire Las Vegas Strip. As a result, it was promoted as a glamorous game, almost exclusive to the rich and famous.

Casinos often had Baccarat tables in private rooms hidden from the public by velvet curtains and ran them with exorbitant minimum stakes and players sat in expensive leather chairs.

Baccarat nowadays

Baccarat has seen a considerable rise in popularity over the past few decades, largely thanks to the prevalence of online gambling and casinos.

Macau is now considered the center of Baccarat in the world.

The ability to play a wide range of Baccarat games anytime has destroyed its image of exclusivity to a wealthy elite and is now enjoyed by thousands (if not more) of players worldwide on a daily basis.

However, casinos still enjoy many Baccarat players, particularly in Asia.  So, that’s why Baccarat has become so popular in Asian casinos!

Baccarat online: a must-try

One of the most popular games, both in casinos and in literature, is baccarat. This game is characterized for being a card game like blackjack, but with the difference that the objective is to reach a score of 9 and the figures have no value. It is a game where there is a greater chance of beating the house.

When playing baccarat in any version, you can count on several players (some casinos handle up to 14 players per round). In both versions of the game the objective is to get as close as possible to the score of 9, since it is impossible to achieve a 10. Moreover, in this game when this number is reached or exceeded, the tens are eliminated to handle only units.

Regardless of the number of players, the relationship of the game is between the banker and the player. Both the player and the dealer start with two cards face down. The game ends with four possible outcomes: the player wins, the banker wins, the game is tied, or the game is declared void.

How to play baccarat?

To play baccarat it is not necessary to master mathematics. Just keep in mind some rules so that the fun is just that, fun. Some casinos have the option to view the history of cards dealt. This can help to get an idea of what cards the player is likely to draw, so that a better betting strategy can be planned.

All players are dealt two cards face down, with the player who comes closest to a nine winning. If all players have the same total, they tie, and the bet is returned. If no one has an 8 or 9, the value of the player's cards decides how the game continues.

The dealer will make his moves, depending on the value of his cards and the player's third card.

What is betting in Baccarat?

Betting in a game of baccarat is extremely fun and interesting. Unlike other card games, in baccarat there are different ways of betting that allow more chances of winning.

The bets are based on the possible outcomes from the one that offers the biggest advantage and is the most common, to the most unusual and with the least advantage. It is also possible to bet on the play of another player.

The most common bet is the dealer/player bet, where the player bets on whichever of the players involved is close to 9. Other bets can be on the type of cards that are drawn, whether they are of the same value and shape, or that the first two cards have the same number. There is also a bet on how many cards are dealt during the round, and you can bet on a tie.

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