The name ‘Baccarat’ is an Italian word that effectively means ‘zero’ when translated into English. The term also has strong French connections and leads to much confusion over the true origins of the game itself. The debate between the French and Italians continues today over who really created the popular card game.
One idea that is continually voiced is that the game of Baccarat actually evolved from a pagan ceremony in the dark ages. The legend says that the ceremony was used to establish the destiny of young virgins within the temple. Nine Gods would pray at the side of the virgin while she tossed a dice with nine sides. If she threw a nine, she would become a Priestess at the temple. A seven or an eight would see the virgin banished from the temple forever. Somewhat unfairly, a score of six or below would see the virgin walk into the sea to die.
Whether the story has any truth in it seems highly unlikely. Perhaps a more realistic explanation comes from a game that used to be played with tarot cards although the first official recorded format of Baccarat comes from the game created by Felix Flagueirein, an Italian gambler who created a version of Baccarat as early as 1480.
The game was introduced to France within a few short years and spread as far afield as China by the turn of the 16th century.
The French claim to the game lies within the realms of the French dynasty, which created a similar game called Chemin de Fer which soon became known as French Baccarat. It is more likely that the game originated with the Italians, but found its current format when adopted by the French nobility.
The game made its way to the British Isles but didn’t make the transition across the Atlantic and into America until the 20th century. Again, the game took on yet another format yet struggled to gain the popularity it enjoyed across Europe to the extent that it passed through South and North America several times before really taking a firm grip on the nation.
Today, Baccarat enjoys a massive following due to the beautifully simple nature of the game. Baccarat game owes much of its rise in fortunes to the series of James Bond films where the hero was regularly seen playing Baccarat at some of Europe’s finest casinos.