History of Baccarat: Roman Virgins to Unique Baccarat Hand Count
Baccarat is a card game whose name suggests simplicity. Baccarat history, however, is the opposite. Its confused, and occasionally lurid origins, lend it an air of intrigue and help to maintain its reputation as a game for high-rollers and the European elite.
The history of Baccarat has been traced back by fans and scholars to locales as far-flung as ancient Rome, China and France, with no definitive theory on its roots emerging the irrefutable winner.
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Baccarat History: Roman virgins and 9-sided dice
Legends and folklore have often been cited in support of these theories. One such legend regarding the origins of Baccarat dates back to the 1st century and tells of a Roman virgin who rolls a nine-sided dice in order to determine whether she will become a high priestess, be banished from religious service or be sacrificed to the Gods. The story is the first written reference to an event similar to a Baccarat game.
Baccarat History: Early Italian influence?
Others claim today’s Baccarat game is an Italian invention, put forth by noted gambler Felix Falguierein in the 15th century. This possible game precursor had similar game rules but was played with Tarot cards as opposed to today’s 52 card deck. An important fact, however, and a plausible link between the two games, is that the standard 52 card deck is organized according to and based on the structure of Tarot cards.
Baccarat History: Chemin de Fer & French nobles
Still others argue that the origins of Baccarat stretch back to France, evidenced by its long history as a game played by nobles and its current proliferation under the name “Chemin de Fer”. It appeared in France in 1490 A.D. and remained a game exclusive to the French nobility for some time before becoming a casino game.
But, while Baccarat is indeed a French word, it is in fact, a derivative of the Italian word “Baccara”, which translates to zero and likely explains why the Baccarat hand is the losing hand among all Baccarat game variations.
Baccarat History: Tiles vs. Tarot Cards
Additional evidence suggests that Baccarat history evolved from Pai Gow, a Chinese tile game. In this game players had to “Pai Gow” – Chinese for “make a nine”. Indeed, it is possible that the game migrated to Italy with merchants from the Far East. It is also possible that its adaptation to a game played with Tarot cards versus tiles was a function of the Italian merchants and pilgrims with whom it was then popular.
Baccarat History: Diplomacy Theory
What is most likely is the fact that all—China, France and Italy—played significant roles in or had a tremendous influence on Baccarat history, whether inventing or enhancing the game.
Baccarat History: Coming to America
In the late 1950’s, Baccarat history reached the shores of the United States of America. The game was introduced to gambling fans in the U.S. when the well-known Dunes Casino hosted its first table. It was touted as a combination of European card game and “Chemin de Fer” and was an immediate hit among casino-goers.
Baccarat History: The final frontier…
Nearly fifty years later, the history of Baccarat hit another high when it was introduced as an online casino game that could be enjoyed anywhere, anytime by anyone. All players needed were a computer and an internet connection.
This radical advance in technology meant that what had once been a game reserved for high-rollers and the jet set was now available to players of more modest means. No longer was a trip to Vegas or Monte Carlo necessary in order to play this popular card game. Instead, one could simply log-in and bet.
This shift was extraordinary in its effect on the game. Its noble roots, which had previously engendered a sense of intimidation among players of “lesser means”, were all but forgotten. The game’s virtual playing field made all things equal.
Today, Baccarat is a staple among casinos online and on land world-over. The game’s simplicity, speed and unique card game rules have made it a favorite among casino patrons looking for camaraderie in a relaxed gaming environment.