Baccarat is one of the world’s most popular casino games. Its popularity has soared since Macau’s casinos dethroned Las Vegas in 2006. In fact, baccarat accounts for more casino win than any other game. But what is the history behind this iconic card game?
The story of baccarat actually starts in medieval Italy. The game is based on an Etruscan legend about a virgin who had to throw a die. If she threw a nine, she would be elevated to the status of a priestess. If she threw a six, she would be allowed to live but could not participate in religious or community events. If she threw a lower number, she would be banished to the sea to drown. The result of the dice determining her fate is an early example of the game’s randomness, and it was later adapted into the baccarat rules that are still in use today.
In the 19th Century, the Baccarat company was already renowned for its luxurious glassware. Its milky-colored opaline crystal was often compared to fine porcelain. The company’s success at the Great Exhibitions of the period earned it admirers and customers from far afield. The firm’s displays at the 1867 Paris fair and in 1878 of a glass ‘Temple of Mercury’ and a massive 157-light chandelier (known as the “Tuzla”) would help it establish itself as Europe’s leading glass-working manufacturer.
At the same time, the company also produced opulent glassware for palaces and palazzi across the globe. The firm won its first gold medal at the 1855 Exposition Universelle in Paris for a pair of monumental, 90-light candelabra. This and its subsequent shows at the exhibitions of the period led to the firm winning a series of commissions from monarchs, emperors and heads of state across the world.
Today, the game of baccarat is played in high-roller rooms around the world for table minimums of $25, $50 or $100 or more. Players bet on either the Player, Banker or Tie hand to determine which will come closest to nine. A winner of a Player or Banker hand receives a payout of 1 to 1. In Mini-Baccarat, the dealer will draw the third cards for both hands. In the Banker-Player combination, a 5% commission is charged on winning bets.
Baccarat’s popularity has exploded in Asia. It is played in high-roller rooms in several casinos throughout the region, including in Singapore, Macau and Hong Kong. In fact, baccarat now generates more revenue for casinos in the region than any other game, except slots.
The craze for the game may be partly due to its exotic origins, but it is mainly because it offers a simple, elegant and upscale experience. It is a game that does not require any complicated strategies, as the decisions are left to chance and the croupier. In fact, baccarat is one of the few games where you can be assured that the croupier is handling your money with complete discretion.