An apocryphal story traces the origin of baccarat to an Italian gambler Felix Falguierein in the middle ages. Then baccarat was played with tarot cards and was said to be based on an old Etruscan ritual. A virgin threw a nine sided die, which decided her fate. If the die showed eight or nine then she became a priestess. If the die showed six or seven, she could live but could not roll the dice again. However if the die showed a number less than six, the virgin had to drown herself in the sea. The game of baccarat simulated similar actions using cards. Hand values of 8 or 9 were almost sure winners, whereas values of 5 or less were very likely to lose. Baccarat means zero in Italian. The worst hand in baccarat has a value of zero. Baccarat is probably the only game that is named after its worst hand.
From Italy baccarat moved to France in 1490 AD. There the game began to take the current form. It was known as Chemin de Fer, meaning railroad. Initially baccarat was restricted to the aristocracy and because it was considered illegal it was played in secrecy. Later the game was legalized and taxed in order to generate revenue for development of the poorer sections of society. Then Napoleon and Louis- Phillipe banned it again. When it was legal again it emerged as a casino game and was played at casinos that were mushrooming all over France.
From France baccarat moved to England. There the game got a boost when the partner of the son of Queen Victoria got into trouble playing it. However in England baccarat was played mainly for fun and under slightly different rules. The game came to be called European Baccarat. Soon baccarat spread to other European countries and to South America. Baccarat came to the United States very late. Tommy Renzoni brought this game to the infamous Dunes casino of Las Vegas in the late 1950s after the Cuban government closed the Havana casinos. The American Version is a combination of European baccarat and Chemin de Fer.
Today baccarat is played all over the world. The rules may vary slightly from country to country and even casino to casino, but the essence is the same. By and large it appeals to high rollers and players with standing in society. In part the attraction towards baccarat has been generated by James Bond movies. Chemin de Fer is the game that James Bond usually plays when he is in casinos. Baccarat has featured in movies like Dr. No, Thunderball, On Her Majesty's Secret Service and GoldenEye. It was central to the plot of the original Casino Royale in which James Bond defeats the villain Le Chiffre in a game of Chemin de Fer in order to prevent him from generating funds needed to pay off his debts. In the new version of Casino Royale, baccarat was replaced by Texas Hold’em poker in deference to the current standing in popularity.
Comparatively recently there have been two developments that have popularized baccarat with low rollers. One development is the introduction of Mini Baccarat. Mini Baccarat follows the American rules but has slightly simplified procedures. The main advantage is that it has significantly lower table limits making it possible for more people to wager. With the proliferation of online casinos online baccarat has become very popular. Now players can wager on this game from the comfort of their homes without placing a foot in exclusive and awesome casinos. The rules of online baccarat are also much simpler. Related articles - How to Play Baccarat - Baccarat Odds and House Edge - Baccarat Betting Systems - Baccarat Betting Strategy