Originally designed as a posh game, Baccarat remained the favorite game of high rollers. We have seen reference to Baccarat in Hollywood movies. It was also described as Napoleon’s favorite game. This game had many variations and still manages to capture the attention and interest of wide audience. Baccarat history and facts are filled with interesting trivia and twists. Either way, Baccarat, chemin de fer, or punto banco – however you choose to call it, has eternal appeal.
The Essence of a Game
What 21 is for Blackjack, 9 is for Baccarat. It is a game of two hands playing against each other. The goal is to reach the 8 total. One of the most beautiful moments in playing Baccarat is landing a 9 on the first two cards. This is known as the “natural.”
In case reaching the nine total is not possible, then the second best is to reach the number closest to nine. The good thing is that there are no possibilities to reach the total which is much higher than 9. In Baccarat, if this happens and the total reaches double-digit, the left-hand digit gets simply cut off enabling for the total to lower and return to single digits closer to 9.
If we take a look at different theories surrounding the beginnings of Baccarat, one theory stands out. Namely, a 15th century Italian, Felix Falguiere, took an ancient Etruscan myth about virgins and nine-sided dice and applied it to the game he called Baccarat. The virgins were obliged to throw dice and in case they landed an 8 or a 9, each of them would become priestess. However, if they landed a 6 or a 7, the church would exile them from the community. Throwing a number lower than 6 would have meant death. Falguire used the word “baccara” which meant “zero” in Italian. He chose it because zero-value cards were the most wanted in the deck, with 10s, jacks, queens, and kings all adding 0 to a hand’s total. This legend certainly adds a certain flavor to Baccarat history and facts.
Officially, Baccarat originates from 18th century France, where people referred to it as “Baccarat banque”. In the beginning, one player took the task to bank the game. That same player used to pay out the players, as well as to collect the losing wagers. Thereafter, the game evolved in an interesting direction. The French gave it a bit of flavor in the 19th century and sort of a spin-off appeared, called “Chemin de fer”. Oddly, the new version featured several bankers who took turns. This enabled for sharing of the risk. Simultaneously, it also made the game a bit slower.
Lastly, the version that we all know today, appeared in Havana, Cuba. Logically, there was a drive to make the game more appealing to people who were not ready to bet high amounts of money. Hence, mini baccarat. The Cuban version was called “Punto banco.” Being lively as it is, the atmosphere in Cuba did not accept the slow path of Chemin de fer. Therefore, the game evolved in Cuba to the well-known version where players bet against the house.
This was also the version which the Americans have embraced under the name “Mini baccarat.”
Baccarat appears in James Bond movies, which corresponds amazingly well with its reputation of a mysterious game for high rollers. As a quick reminder, there have been almost 30 Bond movies and casino games are featured in all of them.
Remember “Dr. No” (1962)? Check it out for landing a “natural” and the smooth Bond play of Chemin de fer. Also, the main plot of the Bond movie “Casino Royale” is happening at the Baccarat table.
Additionally, an interesting fact is that Baccarat arrived at Las Vegas in 1959. “The Sands” was the first casino that featured this game. Reportedly, the casino lost $250,000 to players during the first night of playing.
What’s your experience with Baccarat?