While most agree that Baccarat is one of the most popular classic casino games of all time, there is much debate about the origins of the game. The name 'baccarat' is the French word for the Italian word 'bacarra' which can be translated as 'nothing' or 'zero'; resulting in world-wide confusion over which nation to credit with the invention of this game.
It is widely believed that the original game of Bacarra (the Italian version) was invented by a gambler named Felix Falguirein ca. 1450; before being introduced into the French gambling scene ca. 1485 by returning French soldiers. However, there is an alternate theory attributing the invention of Baccarat to the French alone, claiming the game was derived as an off-shoot from the popular French game of Vingt-Et-Un, which later became what we now know as Blackjack.
Nonetheless, whether we attribute the invention of Baccarat to the Italians or the French, there is no doubt about the origins of the Baccarat variations Baccarat Banque and Chemin De Fer. Both these versions of the game were invented in France in the 16th century and became a hugely popular past time with the French nobility. Later, during the rule of Napoleon, Baccarat remained a favourite, albeit in illegal gambling establishments. Both Chemin De Fer and Baccarat Banque are explained in depth on our dedicated pages and are known as 'European Baccarat'.
The distinction 'European Baccarat' became necessary when gaming rooms and casinos in the United States adopted the game and created a local version, Punto Banco, also known as 'American Baccarat'. Punto Banco first appeared in the illegal gambling dens of New York in the 1910s but wasn't particularly well received. The true rise of Baccarat in the United States began in the late 1950s when Las Vegas casinos began to incorporate the game in their repertoire. Allegedly the game was introduced into the US scene by a Cuban emigrant by the name of Tommy Renzoni, a theory supported by the Spanish name PuntoBanco which refers to American Baccarat.
Today Baccarat, no matter in which incarnation, is one of the most popular casino games around, whether we choose to enjoy it online or in a land based casino. It is considered the ultimate test of nerves and strategic ability of any serious player. If you are intrigued and would like to try this intense gaming experience for yourself, check out our guides on the rules and different varieties of Baccarat.