Baccarat is perhaps best known as a relative of the more popular blackjack games of Europe and North America, and is actually one of the most popular games in Asia. Much of this has to do with the luck-driven gameplay and lack of sophistication, rather than the emphasis on strategy that many praise for blackjack.
For many years, baccarat has been a key driver of revenue in Macau and Las Vegas. in 2013, VIP baccarat casinos brought in 48.2% of Las Vegas Strip casino revenue. in the third quarter of 2020, 73% of Macau’s gaming revenue came from VIP baccarat. As you can see, baccarat is very important, especially for high-rollers.
Despite the fact that baccarat is a major casino table game, its origins are somewhat obscure. There is little concrete evidence to point to the exact origins of this popular game, but there is enough historical evidence to point us in the right direction.
The Vesta virginity test in Rome
Another non-card game that may have inspired the creators of Baccarat may have been the ancient Roman Vesta virgin test. Those playing certainly didn’t see it as a game where the Vesta virgins needed to roll a six or higher to survive, and a dice roll of eight or nine meant they could go on to become high priestesses.
The use of 9 in these games can be attributed to the human preference for numbers. In India, there are nine influences on Indian astrology, nine of whom are very closely associated with the Chinese dragon. In Egyptian mythology, nine gods formed the nine gods to determine its rulers, while the Sibalba – the triad of the Mayan faith – had nine ranks. Finally, Scandinavian mythology states that there are nine realms in the universe.
The nine links in an ancient Bacchanalian origin story can therefore be considered a coincidence.
The Origin of Baccarat in Italy
There is considerable evidence that the history of baccarat, and indeed the history of all card games, began in Italy. It must therefore appear in the lineage of Baccarat. However, the game known as Macau, played in the 1700s, has more similarities to modern baccarat and is actually sometimes referred to as ‘Italian baccarat‘.
Many people now cite Felix Falguiere in Italy as the starting point for the historical story of baccarat. In this game, then known as ‘Baccarat‘, the value of the tens and face cards was zero, but each of the four players in the game would take a turn as the dealer. It was not long before Baccarat moved to the European capital of gaming, France.
It is thought that soldiers returning from Italy brought the card game back with them in the late 15th century and over time it evolved into two popular games in France. Firstly, the three-player game of Bank Baccarat, and later the two-player game at Chemin de Fer.
Nevertheless, it was not until 1847 that baccarat was first recorded in Charles Van-Tenac’s album, which provides a mathematical analysis of the game and proves that the history of baccarat dates back to at least the mid-1800s. Even though this is regarded as the origin of baccarat, the games played then were not exactly the same as those popular today.
The word ‘baccarat’ first appeared in print in English-speaking countries in January 1886, when it was mentioned in the British Daily Telegraph.
The origins of baccarat as we know it today
The most popular form of baccarat today is Punto Banco, which, of course, translates as “banker” (as described in our extensive baccarat glossary), which was only introduced to the Las Vegas mass market in 1959. At the time, Chemin de Fer was very popular, but the Tommy Renzoni version of the game took off.
The origin of this game of baccarat is said to be the Argentinean casino of Mar del Plata, which was developed less than ten years before it reached Sin City. However, in the 1940s, home bank baccarat was also played in Havana, the Cuban capital. It was this baccarat that had a 1:1 payback and a 0.5% commission on bookmaker bets.
The record for the biggest win in baccarat history was set by Aiko “The Warrior” Kashiwagi, who won a cool $6 million in Atlantic City’s Trump Plaza Casino with a $200,000 per hand bet. Unfortunately for Aiko, he also holds the record for the biggest losing streak in the game, set when he spent $10 million on a high stakes version of the same game in the same casino.