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Feature article - Baccarat
The History of Baccarat. By David Whitmarsh

To many baccarat is an unknown in the casino, you will often see it roped off in exclusive looking areas of the casino and being played by people who look like they know what they are doing and have money to burn. Most people that have even heard of baccarat are unaware of how to play and the origins of this seemingly exclusive game, so I will try to enlighten you.

First off, it is not an exclusive game; it is open to all and is not only very simple it also offers the lowest house advantage in the casino. Its origins are the source of much debate but I will go into what is considered to be the most accepted version.

The French and the Italians both claim that baccarat is their invention it is even thought likely that the earliest roots of the game can be traced back to a pagan ritual. This ritual decided the fate of a young virgin and consisted of nine spirits praying whilst she tossed a nine sided die. If she tossed either an 8 or 9 then she became the priestess of the temple, a 6 or 7, the she was to leave and never partake in any further religious activity but rather scarily if she rolled below a 6 then she had to walk down to the sea and drown herself.

Whether you believe this or not is up to you, what is certainly more believable is that Baccarat (pronounced bac car ah) means zero in Italian, the reason for this being that the most common points score for a card in the game is zero. The Italian gambler Felix Faligurierein is credited in coming up with the first version of the game in the 1480s, this game quickly crossed the north Italian borders and took hold in France.

In France the game was picked up by the nobility and quickly became a game played by those with status and money. The French changed the rules slightly and it became known as Chemin de Fer and this may well be the reason that the French challenge the Italians for ownership of this card game.

So how did we get from Chemin de Fer to modern Baccarat? In the original game of Chemin de Fer in France an important feature was that players were actually allowed to take control of the bank and in order for the casino to make money a commission was charged whenever the banker won. However, this changed when the game moved further north and crossed The Channel into Britain. With these new rules came a new name of European Baccarat and here the casino controls the bank and a dealer is provided.

In the early 20th century the game of Baccarat made its way across the Atlantic to North America where it quickly went out of fashion. In the 1950s it crossed the Atlantic again. However, this time it went south, to Argentina where it became popular in the casinos of Mar del Plata, a haunt of the wealthy in the South America.

Baccarat next headed North to Cuba where it became known as Punto Banco. Further rule changes post Cuba leads us to the American version of Baccarat where players play the casino instead of each other.

And it was just a few years after this that a guy named Tommy Renzoni brought the game to the casino floors of Las Vegas. Here it made a better impression then its first visit but even to this day its air of exclusivity has prevented it from becoming as popular as it really should be, as I stated earlier, it offers the best odds in the casino!

The next obvious step for Baccarat was to move into the online casino realm. Now, without the snobbish air that prevents many people from attempting to even play in casinos, it is a game that is ever increasing in popularity and is fast becoming one of the best places for the intelligent gamblers to be placing their chips.

Try here for information on how to play baccarat and a flash game to practice on - How to Play Baccarat.

About the author:

David Whitmarsh lives in South Korea and, among other things, he maintains a reasonably successful gambling systems and tips website at www.dashelc.com.

[Article submitted August 2009]

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