Baccarat is one of the most popular casino games available at online as well as land-based gaming establishments. Today, there are three common baccarat play variants: baccarat chemin de fer (railway), baccarat banque (or à deux tableaux), and punto banco (or North American baccarat). The game has gained prominence not only among its enthusiasts, but also in popular culture. For example, the fictional British secret agent James Bond can be spotted playing baccarat chemin de fer in 1953's novel 'Casino Royale.' The game was later featured in several Bond movies.
As is the case with many other gambling games, like blackjack and roulette, tracing baccarat's history is an almost impossible task with no tangible evidence regarding its origins being available. The name of the game, the Italian word 'baccarat,' means 'zero' both in English as well as French. The game is largely believed to be the oldest one among today's casino games. Although the specific origin of baccarat is unknown, some say that the game was first invented by Felix Falguierein, an Italian gambler who lived in the Middle Ages, and was initially played with Tarot cards.
Baccarat history keepers mention a certain medieval myth that is widely attached to the game. Some of them claim that baccarat play is based on an old Etruscan religious ceremony in which a virgin was requested to throw a die with nine sides. The virgin's fate was established based on the number eventually appearing on the die. If she happened to throw an eight or nine, she would have to become a priestess. If she threw a six or a seven, she would be no longer allowed to take part in any religious ceremony. If she threw a five or below, she would have to commit suicide by drowning herself in the sea.
Regardless to whether or not baccarat history has anything to do with the above described ritual, it is known for sure that the game was first played in France somewhere in the fifteenth century AD and was widely popular among French nobles who played it in secret because it was initially announced illegal. Naturally, as the game grew in its popularity the French authorities could no longer ban baccarat. At first, the French called the game 'baccarat en banque,' but many years later, as the game's rules were slightly modified, it became known as 'chemin de fer.'
In the early 20th century, there was a legendary group of gamblers called the 'Greek Syndicate' who played baccarat in Parisian casinos and made incredible amounts of money counting cards and reading body language. Members of the group reigned supreme until World War II put a temporary stop to gambling activities in Europe . However, after the war, the casino lovers resumed play and the game conquered the entire European continent and was widely played, either for money or just for fun.
Baccarat reached the United States in the early 1900s. At first, American gamblers were not swept off their feet by the game. However, fashionable settings, dress codes and the promise of great profit ultimately made the game highly attractive to Americans who named their version of the game 'punto banco.' Today, the game enjoys massive popularity all over the U.S. Unfortunately, a more detailed account on baccarat history is nowhere to be found...
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