The Italian word "Baccarat" is defined as "zero" in English - and so is the French word, "Baccarat." Because of this anomaly of the Romance languages, each country wants to claim this elegant and storied card game as its own.
One version of Baccarat's history has the game being invented by an Italian gambler named Felix Falguierein sometime in the middle ages. In this telling of the tale, the game was first played with Tarot cards and was based on an old Etruscan legend of nine gods who watched as a blonde virgin would throw a nine-sided die.
The throw would then determine her fate, with an eight or nine making her the priestess, and a six or seven resulting in her being banned from any further religious rites.
Throwing any number less than six, though, would require that she walk into the sea. No fun!
Noble Game in Renaissance France
Regardless of the veracity of this fanciful tale of the game's development, it is fairly well established that Baccarat was being played in France by 1500. It was a game played exclusively by the nobility, and remained so for many years before finding its way into popular gaming establishments.
Regardless of whether Baccarat was invented in Italy or France, it's clearly a very old one. As it traveled across countries and continents and through the centuries, it naturally developed into various forms with different rule variations.
Today Baccarat is played everywhere on the planet, but in its infancy the French version of Baccarat, called "Chemin de fer," become popular in England, where gamers began to change the rules. It is believed that the game next journeyed to South America, thence to the rest of the world.
In the modern era, it was one Tommy Renzoni who brought this fancy, aristocratic game to the United States. After the Cuban revolution spelled the end of the Havana casinos, gambling moguls regrouped in force in the U.S. and further developed the Nevada casinos.
In the late 1950s, as a combination of European Baccarat and "Chemin de fer," the game was introduced into Las Vegas at the notorious Dunes casino.
Although some rules have been modified in every country and every version, the style has remained pretty much the same. Baccarat has retained its elegance and its illusion of simplicity, and is still one of the most appealing games for high rollers, aristocrats, celebrities and others with high social standing in every society.
In order to further popularize the game, "Mini Baccarat" was invented, using the same basic rules as American baccarat, but with lower table limits and simplified procedures to attract players with average bankrolls. So today, even if you are not a "high roller," you can enjoy the game of classic Baccarat.
Both brick-and-mortar and online casinos offer gamblers the game of Baccarat, which is now most commonly played under the classic rules on the Mini Baccarat table.