Finding the true origins of many casino games is extremely difficult – some of these games were invented centuries ago and have been significantly modified during that time too. Sources disagree on where Baccarat came from, but the most widely agreed-upon version is that the game was created in Italy in the 15th century.
The inventor was known as Felix Falguiere or Falguierein, and he called the game “Baccara”, which is Italian for Zero – because all the tens and face cards are worth zero. Later, the spelling was changed to the French version, “Baccarat”, and this is the name that became adopted around the world.
There’s an interesting story about the origins of Baccarat, but we won’t repeat it here as its quite dark. A quick search for the “old Etruscan legend” about Baccarat will soon help you find it, if you really want to know.
The Resurgence of Baccarat
Baccarat had been pretty much forgotten by the end of the 20th century in favor of games such as Blackjack and Roulette. Thanks to multiple recent appearances in the media, however, Baccarat has enjoyed a huge resurgence of late. In Macau, Punto Banco accounts for more than 90% of the profits in some casinos!
The most well-known scandal involving Baccarat in recent times was the edge-sorting controversy of 2014, when professional poker player Phil Ivey collected over $25,000,000 from several of the world’s largest casinos using a controversial advantage-play technique.
The Original Baccarat
This variation doesn’t seem to have been played or long – it did reach the casinos, but even they downsized it a little from the original version. Cards were dealt by four different dealers, every one of the eight players could be the banker, and players could place bets against each other as well as against the house.
Chemin de Fer
This is the French offshoot of the original Italian game from where it gained its name. There are many variations between this and “full” Baccarat Rules. Six decks are used instead of Seven, and the croupier is only responsible for shuffling the cards. The cards are distributed by the player who is currently acting as the banker.
Each player gets to be the banker in turns, so the game involves much more active participation by players than the most common variant played today. Cards, Chips, and Cash are passed around the table using a paddle, and cards are dealt face down instead of face up. The decision of whether to draw a third card rests with each player. The order of play is determined by the size of the bets placed by each player. The player who makes the biggest bet plays first, and the others play subsequently in bet size order. You can find this game in high limit rooms in Macau and Las Vegas, but other than that, it is not played much these days.
In this version, one player acts as the dealer for the whole game, unlike Chemin de Fer. Lesser numbers of decks are used in this version of the game. This game can still be found in some European casinos, but again, it is restricted to the high-limit rooms.
The original version of Baccarat never caught on in America, but when it made its way to Cuba, they developed a much simpler version of the game – players now all played against the house only, rather than each other, and the house always acts ask the bank. This form of Baccarat became known as “American Baccarat”.
This was the version involved in Phil Ivey’s edge-sorting scandal. Even with these changed rules, however, Baccarat has just not caught on in America. Casino owners will often market this game in the high-limit rooms only, ad represented as a game for the select few only by setting large minimum bets. Punto Banco uses six to eight decks, and the dealer/croupier does all the shuffling and distribution. Additionally, a complex table of rules is used to determine whether you receive a third card or not – this simplifies the game greatly, and really all you do as a player is watch and wait to hear if you have won or not.
This mini version of the game is still played in the United States and can even be found online in some Live Casinos. There’s a slight discrepancy here – Mini Baccarat is said to require one croupier rather than the three required by the larger version of the game. Whether the original required three or four dealers is irrelevant really, though – Mini Baccarat requires just one dealer.
They act as both the dealer and the banker in ever hand. Players like Mini Baccarat because of the extremely low bet rates. Low rollers enjoy Mini Baccarat, and the table is not roped off like the high-limit only versions of the original Baccarat, where you can find it.
As you can see – the current favorite, Punto Banco, doesn’t resemble the original game very much. What has stayed the same is that you want to be dealt a total of nine, which is a virtually guaranteed win – a push notwithstanding! It’s easy to see why the original games have fallen out of favor – they were simply too complicated for all but the most distinguished high limit rooms, where players can bet up to $250,000 a hand!