- Baccarat History

Baccarat, like many popular games is played with cards. In general, playing cards, are said to have been around for thousands of years, even before the invention of paper itself. There is evidence that this form of entertainment dates back at least 2000 years in ancient china and other Asian cultures. And theory goes that the crusaders of the fourteenth century brought the notion of this type of game back to Europe with them. This era is said to be the time when the first deck of printed cards was made. Later in the century, explorer, Christopher Colombus is said to be responsible for bringing the past time to America.

The four suits weren’t just a design from someone’s imagination but are actually symbolic of the four classes of feudal societies of the time. For example, swords (in the form of Spanish “espadas” or spades) represented the nobility class. The merchant class was represented by a form of coin, a sideways square shape, known today as the diamond symbol. The club was used to symbolize the serfs and finally the heart, the symbol of the church.

The images on the face cards as well had symbolic meaning. Originally, the face cards were representative of actual people (kings and queens and soldiers of the time). For example, the four kings in the deck of cards are said to have been, Charlemagne, Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great and King David. The four queens were portrayals of the infamous Helen of Troy, Joan of Arc, Athena and Rachel. The jacks (as we know them today) were represented by famous knights of the time, Sir Lancelot, Roland, Hodgier Le Danois and Etienne de Vignoles. Over the years different decks were printed depicting other famous people of the specific era.

Around the same time that Colombus traveled to the Americas, it is thought that an early form of Baccarat was being played in Italy. This game was based on a legend referred to as “Nine Gods”. The legend embraces an old ritual of over 2000 years ago in Rome where nine praying gods stood at the toes of a golden-haired virgin who would throw a nine-sided die. If she threw an 8 or a 9 she would automatically be crowned the priestess, if the die landed on 6 or 7 she would no longer hold her religious status and if the die landed on anything five or less she would gracefully walk into the sea. In modern baccarat the same order of numbers also refer to specific actions.

This original game was originally called Baccarat (referring to the number zero – the value of the face cards) and was soon to become known as Baccarat, Baccarat en banque and Chemin de Fer. This game was and is still a very popular game in Europe, especially in France. The French nobility actually declared ownership of the game and kept it to themselves for many years before taking it to public casinos.

The French Upper Class referred to Baccarat, in the 1500’s as chemin de fer, a term referring to the railroad, this version is still very popular today. Over the years, nicknames such as Shimmy and Chemmy were given to the game that later made its way to the boats of the French Riviera. These nicknames are still used by some today, so if you here these names, you now know what they are referring to.

Once the game found its way to South America the wealthy people of Argentina would travel to the casinos to take part in this new and exciting game called Chemin de Fer. Slowly the game gained in popularity and made its way to Cuba. This is where the rules changed slightly and the version referred to as “American Baccarat” came to be. This game became a favorite among the wealthy Cubans and when a casino executive of the Capri Hotel Casino in Havana moved form Cuba and took a position in Nevada’s Sands Hotel casino, in 1958, he convinced his superiors to add the game of Baccarat to their casino.

Today, you will find the game of Baccarat in every casino. The Chemin de Fer version is still the more popular version found in around Europe and the American Baccarat is what you will most likely come across in Las Vegas and other North American Casinos. And keeping up with tradition, although low limit games are available, the game of Baccarat has a sense of wealth attached to it and is enjoyed by many high rollers, the world over.

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